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What JRR Tolkien and CS Lewis Taught Me About Friendship

lewistolkiensmileAre your children enamored of Aslan or obsessed with Gandalf?

Do they know that the creators of Narnia and Middle Earth were good friends?

Tell them. It’s really fun to think about.

Colin Duriez’s book, Tolkien and C.S. Lewis: The Gift of Friendship, chronicles the friendship of the men who wrote some of the world’s favorite “fairy stories,” as they would have called the Narnia chronicles and Lord of the Rings trilogy.

The two authors met as colleagues at Oxford before they had published the beloved books that made them famous. When they met, CS Lewis was not yet converted to Christianity.  Some of their earliest discussions were about religion. In fact, CS Lewis credits Tolkien for helping him find his faith.

Tolkien and Lewis were part of a group of Oxford faculty chums called The Inklings who got together often to talk. They worked out their ideas about “fairy stories for adults” that shaped and defined the science fiction and fantasy genres forever. Tolkien read drafts of The Lord of the Rings to CS Lewis, “He had the peculiarity that he liked to be read to,” says Tokien of Lewis. It’s pretty charming to imagine.

CS Lewis said, “Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: ‘What! You too? I thought I was the only one.’” And, truly, his friendship with Tolkien was based on their mutual interest in fantasy and creative myth.

As my kids get older, I hope they make friends based on common interests rather than mean-girl hierarchies and high-school cliques. I hope they find a group of supportive pals to chat with and bounce ideas off of, just like the Inklings did in Oxford. I hope they fall in with people who encourage them.

Tolkien was confident and smart. But even he needed the encouragement of a good friend. He says of Lewis, “The unpayable debt that I owe to him was not ‘influence’ as it is ordinarily understood, but sheer encouragement. He was for long my only audience. Only from him did I ever get the idea that my ‘stuff’ could be more than a private hobby. But for his interest and unceasing eagerness for more I should never have brought the Lord of the Rings to a conclusion.”

Friendship like this is uncommon now, I know. Sometimes the most encouragement you’ll get in a day is a “like” on Facebook. Real friends in real life are becoming more and more priceless. I know because I have some—not many. They are rare and they are treasures. I hope face-to-face friends who communicate with more than 140 characters are still a thing when my kids get older.

More about this book, here.

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