CS Lewis or JRR Tolkien

Well who’s the better Christian writer? CS Lewis or Tolkien? :smiley:

CS Lewis’s essays are powerful and topical in a way that Tolkien is not. But the imaginative scope of Middle Earth sets the standard for all that kind of writing, including the Narnia Chronicles.

I think that Lewis was better as I know more about Lewis’ writings on theology (I’m not sure if Tolkien had any) and because I love the Space trilogy.

J.R.R. Tolkien was a Christian and a writer but not a Christian writer in the sense that C.S. Lewis was. At least I’m unaware of any books written by Tolkien about Christianity, not counting a collection of letters which I’ve seen some excerpts from dealing with religious subjects, but those were private letters not meant for publication, which were published posthumously.

I think Tolkien is superior to Lewis of course in that Tolkien was Catholic and also had a sort of greater, more layered and realistic depth to some of his fiction (especially LOTR). Tolkien’s works, again especially LOTR, have the potential to open your eyes to the world as it is meant to be seen that even Lewis’s Narnia books don’t accomplish. Also Tolkien was a huge influence on Lewis (including on Lewis’s conversion/reversion to Christianity) while I’m unaware of any particular influence in the other direction.

On the other hand I think Lewis probably had the better intellectual background and clearly he wrote far more popular books (numerically speaking, at least), both fiction and nonfiction. Also, though he had some wrong theories Lewis does not seem to have been as prone to bizzare ideas like inherited dispositions for one’s ancestors’ languages or disproportunate rejection of modern technology like Tolkien. Also Tolkien’s works are occasionally morally problematic or at least have the potential to be so, while I’m unaware of problems of the same sort in Lewis.

I would agree Tolkien is the better writer overall, in the sense of having a greater creative imagination (in lyrical prose I think Lewis surpasses him). I’m curious about the morally problematic elements in his works. What did you have in mind?

Well I, like many, can only really compare the two in regards to their works of LOTR and Narnia. While both are qreat I do not think Narnia can compare to LOTR in regards to depth.

For fiction writting comparing C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien I prefer Tolkien. For theological writing I prefer C.S. Lewis. Of the Christian writers of the time I much prefer G.K. Chesterton. G.K. Chesterton’s theolgoical and historical writings are superb, and his primary fiction work the “Father Brown” series is better than Narnia in my opinion.

All three authors are of course very good and I would recommend all their works with the exception of some of C.S. Lewis theological works which while well written, suffer from Protestant errors.

CS Lewis was always the better story teller in my opinion. He added more humor and humanity to his work then Tolkien. I’m sure Tolkien was genius but when I read his stuff I can’t get into the material…I find it a bit boring and dead. When I read CS Lewis I feel I can connect with him on a human level and never get tired or reading his work. It probably comes down to personal preference though. My brother swears by Tolkien but then he’s an Athieist.

Must we choose!?!?!?!?!? :smiley:

Oh come now, Tolkien was a professor at Oxford too. It’s rather like questioning whether a scholar of physics vs a scholar of chemistry has a better intellectual background.

Question really does need more elaboration.

Lewis was a good apologist whereas you’re more likely to quote Tolkien on the study of myth than of theology. Hence, as a non-fiction writer, Lewis wins.

However, Narnia is indeed a preachy piece of work. The prose is good but the themes and cosmology are a little too kiddie now for my taste.

Tolkien however will always be held in high regard for all fantasy fan boys (such as myself). I like his prose. Middle-Earth is obviously more well constructed and explored.

That and you can recognize more fantasy tropes compared to Narnia. :stuck_out_tongue:

And seeing as how I personally prefer fiction to non-fiction, Tolkien wins for me hands down. :cool:

Those that come to mind off the top of my head:

-The idea that Frodo ultimately has permission to use the Ring, and especially the moment when he tells Gollum that if Gollum were to try to take the Ring he, Frodo, would put it on and order him to slay himself, and Gollum would have to do it. This is portrayed as a great, noble moment for Frodo but really it is positively Satanic. Not that I’m at all saying Tolkien was Satanic, but he had a definite laps of moral judgment when he wrote that passage, and there are other lesser ones along that line.

-The idea that the kings of Numenor had the power to choose the moment of their death, and so they chose to die while still in control of their minds and bodies and let their sons reign before they too began to grow old. As the Numenorians degenerated the kings began to “cling to life” even into feebleness, and this is seen as a bad thing. If I recall Aragorn appears to have had this power and did the same thing, chose to die early to avoid old age and to let his son have a longer reign.

-The casual, probably unconscious racism in his works, especially LOTR. Consider for example the black-skinned, red-tongued “troll-men” of the far South and the squint-eyed, flat-faced men who were apparently hybrids between Men and Orcs.

-Arguably, the suicides of Turin and the pregnant Nienor, and in general that whole story whose point seems to be the impossibility of avoiding fate and the triumph of evil. Perhaps Tolkien would have had something to say in defense of the story, like that it is to his corpus of works something like what the book of Ecclesiastes is to the Bible, and indeed the ethic of the story is contradicted especially by LOTR, but still taken by itself it is potentially problematic.

-Arguably, the way lives of Orcs and Trolls seem to have no intrinsic value and should be ended in principle, and that there seems to be no hint of possible redemption for them, though it could be countered that after all they are not supposed to be human or derived from humans, with the possible exception of the Uruk-hai.

-Arguably, an overly fond depiction of drunkenness.

I’m sure I’ll think of others later. Don’t get me wrong, I love Tolkien overall, but you did ask for what I thought was morally problematic in his works. Again, I’m not aware of anything close to this in Lewis, though I think Lewis was sometimes a bit too much of a Platonist.

Tolkien never implies Frodo has ‘permission’ to use the ring nor that using the ring is not massively foolish if continued for an extended time as the ring corrupts what it touches and only beings of extreme power can resist that. Remember Gandalf who is a servant of the ‘gods’ of Middle-Earth the Valar fears it himself. Also Gollum is a real danger to Frodo and Sam in the narrative at that point. Frodo is merely pointing out how much of a hold the ring has over Gollum, you migh also view it as indicating if Frodo carried on down this path it would dominate utterly to in time.

-The idea that the kings of Numenor had the power to choose the moment of their death, and so they chose to die while still in control of their minds and bodies and let their sons reign before they too began to grow old. As the Numenorians degenerated the kings began to “cling to life” even into feebleness, and this is seen as a bad thing. If I recall Aragorn appears to have had this power and did the same thing, chose to die early to avoid old age and to let his son have a longer reign.

No Aragorn was old when he departed from life but sill not weakened. Those of Numenor were given this as a singular gift and it does not apply to all men. Indeed Tolkien also points out in the LOTR when Denethor( who is also of Numenor by ancestry) tries to commit suicide in grief who wrong it would be. Also the Kings of Numenor clung to life in an attempt to never die or recognise they were mortal which was and would be evil. They perverted their humanity and the integrity of their rule.

The casual, probably unconscious racism in his works, especially LOTR. Consider for example the black-skinned, red-tongued “troll-men” of the far South and the squint-eyed, flat-faced men who were apparently hybrids between Men and Orcs.

Consider for example that Orcs are not real and are probably (although Tolkien never made up his mind absolutely on the point) corrupted elves in the universe of Middle-Earth. Consider for example also Legolas and Gimli and their friendship a counter argument against bigotry and racism. Certainly Professor Tolkien had his wee eccentricties and hated foreign cuisine but he wrote several stinging critique of racism in his life.

-Arguably, the suicides of Turin and the pregnant Nienor, and in general that whole story whose point seems to be the impossibility of avoiding fate and the triumph of evil. Perhaps Tolkien would have had something to say in defense of the story, like that it is to his corpus of works something like what the book of Ecclesiastes is to the Bible, and indeed the ethic of the story is contradicted especially by LOTR, but still taken by itself it is potentially problematic.

Evil does not triump in the story of Turin and Nienor, Morgoth sows seeds if you read it carefully that cast him down later, especially when you look at Turin’s extended family tree. That story most strongly reflects old Norse tales of anything in Tolkien’s ouvere. Yet it also includes a notable exchange between Turin’s father and Morgoth in which the former rejects Morgoth’s lies and evils and sees through him for all his great power. Morgoth has great power and centres his attention on Turin who could have avoided him had chosen different paths at times. Morgoth loves to make his victims feel such evil destinies cannot be avoided. Something we are shown is not true on numerous occassions. Also some versions of Tolkien’s plans for the final battle between Morgoth when the returned from the outer void show that it would be Turin’s hand by which he would be utterly defeated and destroyed.

-Arguably, the way lives of Orcs and Trolls seem to have no intrinsic value and should be ended in principle, and that there seems to be no hint of possible redemption for them, though it could be countered that after all they are not supposed to be human or derived from humans, with the possible exception of the Uruk-hai.

This one I will agree on partially with the caveat that human villains like Wormtongue were offered the chance at redemption. Also Boromir who commits a great sin does redeem himself and is honoured by Aragorn for doing so.

-Arguably, an overly fond depiction of drunkenness.

Not of the alcoholic kind, Tolkien is reflecting a bucolic idealised world which draws from what he would have viewed as an ideal England. The characters who drink do so in a convical and civilised manner, they do not start fights or vomit down the highways and byways of Hobbiton for example.

I’m sure I’ll think of others later. Don’t get me wrong, I love Tolkien overall, but you did ask for what I thought was morally problematic in his works. Again, I’m not aware of anything close to this in Lewis, though I think Lewis was sometimes a bit too much of a Platonist.

Lewis uses a large ammount of real Greek myth such as satyrs, the god of drunkeness appears on stage. He references the use of astrology by the good guys. His portrayal of the Calormens has been cited as racist. I disagree with those views but it’s worth notng they are out there.

Better Christian writer? I have no idea but . . . Since I don’t care for fantasy, I prefer C.S. Lewis because he also wrote non-fiction.

So did Tolkien, but much of it is of a decidely specialist bent and not the kind of a wide swathe of readers would pick up. Tolkien was also one of the examiners for papers for the Irish university system for a large part of his career, a piece of trivia I found amusing when I learnt it.

He has an interesting and rather tragic family history as regards his parents and especially his mother who was a convert and fought against fierce family prejudice at times due to her conversion.

http://payingattentiontothesky.files.wordpress.com/2011/07/addisons_walk.jpg?w=450&h=303

Joseph Pearce in his *Tolkien Man and Myth *relates the story of their friendship here.

dj

I read The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe in fifth grade and then read The Screwtape Letters over the summer. From what I remember, I loved The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe and thought that The Screwtape Letters was alright, though I liked some of the “advice” given to Wormwood and still recite some of it to myself in prayer or Mass (mainly the parts of getting distracted).

I’ve never read Tolkien but would love to. I have seen Fellowship of the Ring once and thought it was very well done. I need to re-watch it (and the rest of the films for the first time) again soon. Maybe over Christmas break when I’m home from school. If I like them I’ll read the books. I have all three books in one volume, which makes it a good 1000 page book with not so big print. Not something I can lug around, but I may start to read it now over break.

Personally, whenever I hear a Led Zeppelin song I think of J.R.R. Tolkien and Middle Earth. It has that feel to it, especially “The Battle of Evermore” youtube.com/watch?v=4axrTFBV3cU “Ramble On” even mentions Mordor. Zeppelin makes me want to read LOTR.

Something tells me I should read Tolkien.

Orcs, trolls and other constitutionally evil creatures in Tolkien’s world - including the Uruk-hai - are equivalent to incarnations of damned spirits, whose wills are fixed in evil. They are part of a long (and Catholic) mythological tradition of irremediably evil beings existing in this world, not just in the next. Since we are talking mythology there is no need to ask the question: did the orcs, trolls, etc. have the chance to exercise their free-will and choose to be evil or good? They are personifications, not psychological reconstructions.

Not even the Ainur appear to have fixed wills. Consider Saruman’s fall and Osse’s repentance, and also Manwe’s belief in Melkor’s feigned repentance. I’ve worked out a way to reconcile these things with the idea of angelic fixed wills, via a combination of an idea in Lewis and a statement by Tolkien in The Silmarillion, but certainly the idea of fixed wills does not seem to be prominent in Tolkien. Free will is another matter- it would appear that Elves may not have it since the Great Music functions as fate for them, and if that’s so then if the Orcs were indeed bred from them (which does not appear to be certain) then it may follow that they too have no free will. This line of thinking obviously opens up new grounds for potential criticism though.

JharekCarnelian,

I’m interested in responding to your objections but it’s a bit much for me right now. I’ll try to get back to you sometime this week.

One possibility to consider is that Sauron’s will and power are overshadowing those beings he controls, that is seen clearly with the Nazgul who no longer have any will but to serve their master. It might be surmised that the orcs and trolls also are dominated in this manner. Certainly the appendices imply the trolls are at one point. The Orcs are more problematic indeed and especially as Tolkien never truly decided what they actually were. If they are corrupted elves that raise problems with them turning up in the halls of the dead where Mandos is. Although perhaps such an event would offer them a source of redemption as Tolkien implies on numerous occassions in his work that the elves can be reborn at later points as their fate is tied to that of Arda.

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