J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis were literary giants. They wrote some of the most influential fantasy literature of all time, and Lewis’ apologetic works still inspire people to convert to Christianity.
They were also close friends. As with all friendships, their relationship had its ups and downs. But we can learn plenty from them, especially in this age where we interact more through screens than in person.
Their friendship was based on a love of truth.
Tolkien was Catholic, Lewis was Protestant. They didn’t agree on everything. But they did agree that they were on this earth to pursue and embrace the truth, and that truth has a name: Jesus Christ.
They weren’t afraid to challenge each other to venture further into truth. In fact, Tolkien was partly responsible for Lewis’ conversion to Christianity because he successfully argued its value as the “True Myth.”
They gave each other constructive criticism.
Tolkien and Lewis belonged to an informal group of writers and artists called The Inklings. They met on a regular basis to share their creative works and offer feedback.
Tolkien was instrumental in helping Lewis publish his “space trilogy,” even though he didn’t like the last book, “That Hideous Strength.” He also had a low opinion of the Narnia books. Still, Lewis gave “Tollers” (as he liked to call Tolkien) the encouragement he needed to finish “The Lord of the Rings.”
Today, many people would rather pat their friends on the back and say “good job,” even if their work was atrocious. Tolkien and Lewis knew better. They weren’t afraid to criticize each other’s work.
They made time for each other.
Both men were busy in their professional lives as academics. Tolkien was also married with kids. Yet, they still carved out time for their Inkling meetings each week without sacrificing their other life commitments.
We can look to them as examples of how to use our time. Do we really not have the time for other people, or are we not making the effort?
Unfortunately, the friendship between Tolkien and Lewis cooled in the 1960s, although both men continued to hold the other in high regard. In a letter written to his daughter shortly after Lewis’ death in 1963, Tolkien says:
“So far I have felt the normal feelings of a man of my age – like an old tree that is losing all its leaves one by one: this [Lewis’ death] feels like an axe-blow near the roots. Very sad that we should have been so separated in the last years; but our time of close communion endured in memory for both of us.”
There is so much we can learn from the friendship of Tolkien and Lewis. Let’s examine our own lives and prayerfully discern if there are old friendships to resurrect, current ones to strengthen, and new ones to forge!