An Interview with J.R.R.
I do have the great good
fortune to have Professor Tolkien here in my study.
Good evening Professor, or may
I call you John?'
'Call me anything you like,
Lewis and some of the other Inklings, Charles for instance, call me
'I think John will be fine.
Now, I have been asked to seek your opinion about the connection of
Christianity with Lewis' work and your own writing.'
'I'd prefer not to speak for
Clive. Deuced unfair when the man isn't here to defend himself.
In some ways I believe he was to World-War two England, what Lewis Carrol
was to Victorian England, and J.M.Barrie to the Edwardians.
I mean, by that, that the children in the Narnia Chronicles were much as
those of Wonderland and Never Never Land. They had the comforting security
of home when the adventure was over.'
'Much like the hobbits of your
'Good grief no! Hobbits are
much more complex in nature and a lot more predictable than children.
Besides, there very nearly wasn't a home left for the hobbits to go to in
'An allegory of what almost
happened to England in world war two?'
'I detest allegory in all its
The basis for the Scouring of the Shire was laid down long before those
dark days of Hitler's war. On the other hand it would be fair, I suppose,
to say that an allegorical theme was at least a basis for Clive's Narnia
'Why do you say that?'
'Well, you have Aslan, this
Messianic Lord of the beasts, who allows himself to be sacrificed in order
to save the children, and then rises from the dead to triumph over the
powers of evil. If that isn't an allegory of Christ's death and
transfiguration, then I wasn't Rawlinson Professor of Anglo-Saxon at
'What about your own works
then: Lord of the Rings and the almost biblical Silmarillion?'
'Not closely aligned to any
religious theme really, though there is a general feel of Christian
behaviour in some of the free peoples, and of course the rise of Good over
Evil. Had it not been for the publishers, the whole plot would have been
'How do you mean?'
'My original title: The
Downfall of the Lord of the Rings. They said it was too long and it gave
the ending away. Of course Raynor Unwin was right. Just a moment, match,
ah, last one; that's better. Blessed pipe went out.'
'Getting back to your works and
the Christian theme....'
'I'm Roman Catholic, so yes,
there is some fundamental grounding, though perhaps it's more prevalent in
Leaf By Niggle.'
'That's the one where the
little artist dies and goes to purgatory?'
'More or less. Let's say he
goes through a kind of purging process, that sort of thing. Much the same,
'Death and transfiguration?'
'Purification, the riddance of
all those niggling inhibitions and prohibitions, and the dislike of
obligations forever getting in his way.'
'You mean, Niggle wanted to be
free to complete his paintings.'
'That, and much, much more.
Niggle learned that there was more to the world than his narrow view. He
learned to love life, if you will. And in so learning, he became free of
all those earthly encumbrances.'
'He learned to love his fellow
being too. Parish, I mean.'
'Oh yes, and Parish returned
'So they lived happily ever
'You could say that, or you
could say that they died happily ever after. At any event, alive or dead,
they were happy. The Voices saw to that.'
'Those Voices, the choir of
'I rather thought them more
likely the choir of heavenly accountants..'
'Well, they spent eternity
weighing up the pros and cons of each individual, so I suppose they were,
in a sense, accounting...Or no, appraising might be a better word, damn!'
'Pipe's gone out again. You
wouldn't have a match would you?'
'Um...Try the draw to the right
'Ah! Stout fellow. I didn't
think you smoked.'
'They're for that little kero
heater under the desk.'
'Of course there is
'My idea of the reversal of
catastrophe. I wrote about it in On Fairy-stories.'
'I just happen to have a copy
'Natty little study you have.
Everything within arm's reach of that new fangled thing....'
'The computor? I've learned to
come to grips with it.'
'This how you converse with
that Cook fellow in America? Looks like a glorified typewriter with a
goldfish bowl on top.
Page fifty nine, here; "And lastly there is the oldest and deepest
desire, the Great Escape: the Escape from Death. - But the 'consolation'
of fairy-tales has another aspect than the imaginative satisfaction of
ancient desires. Far more important is the Consolation of the Happy
Ending. Almost I would venture to assert that all complete fairy-stories
must have it. At least I would say that Tragedy is the true form of Drama,
its highest function; but the opposite is true of Fairy-story. Since we do
not appear to possess a word that expresses this opposite-I will call it
The consolation of fairy-stories, the joy of the happy ending: or more
correctly of the good catastrophe, the sudden joyous 'turn'.
It does not deny the existence
of dyscatastrophe, of sorrow and failure: it denies universal final defeat
and in so far is evangelium, giving a glimpse of Joy, Joy beyond the walls
of the world, poignant as grief.
In such stories when the sudden 'turn' comes we get a piercing glimpse of
joy, and heart's desire, that for a moment passes outside the frame, rends
indeed the very web of story, and lets a gleam come through.
The Birth of Christ is the eucatastrophe of Man's history. The
resurrection is the eucatastrophe of the story of Incarnation.
This story begins and ends in
The Christian joy, the Gloria, is of the same kind; but it is
pre-eminently high and glorious. But this story is supreme; and it is
true. Art has been verified. God is the Lord, of angels, and of men-and of
elves. Legend and history have met and fused."'
'That is exceptionally moving.'
'You asked for my opinion. By
the way, I note that your own work, Varlarsaga, has the subtitles: Escape;
'Um, imitation is the highest
form of flattery, but flattery will get you nowhere. I think it's time to
go out for a pint of Old Dark.'
'Fosters lager or Victoria
bitter, more likely.
'Well, perhaps a glass of
claret. Do you need to turn off that contraption?'
'No, it knows what to do. While
we're gone, it will set about sending this interview to Bruce and his
'Don't forget to leave a porch
light on. And, oh, may I keep the matches?'
'Yes John, it's summertime here
Editor - Australia