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A Hobbit, a Wardrobe, and a Great War: How J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis Rediscovered Faith, Friendship, and Heroism in the Cataclysm of 1914-18

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The untold story of how the First World War shaped the lives, faith, and writings of J. R. R. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis The First World War laid waste to a continent and permanently altered the political and religious landscape of the West. For a generation of men and women, it brought the end of innocence—and the end of faith. Yet for J. R. R. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis, the Gr The untold story of how the First World War shaped the lives, faith, and writings of J. R. R. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis The First World War laid waste to a continent and permanently altered the political and religious landscape of the West. For a generation of men and women, it brought the end of innocence—and the end of faith. Yet for J. R. R. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis, the Great War deepened their spiritual quest. Both men served as soldiers on the Western Front, survived the trenches, and used the experience of that conflict to ignite their Christian imagination. Had there been no Great War, there would have been no Hobbit, no Lord of the Rings, no Narnia, and perhaps no conversion to Christianity by C. S. Lewis. Unlike a generation of young writers who lost faith in the God of the Bible, Tolkien and Lewis produced epic stories infused with the themes of guilt and grace, sorrow and consolation. Giving an unabashedly Christian vision of hope in a world tortured by doubt and disillusionment, the two writers created works that changed the course of literature and shaped the faith of millions. This is the first book to explore their work in light of the spiritual crisis sparked by the conflict.


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The untold story of how the First World War shaped the lives, faith, and writings of J. R. R. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis The First World War laid waste to a continent and permanently altered the political and religious landscape of the West. For a generation of men and women, it brought the end of innocence—and the end of faith. Yet for J. R. R. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis, the Gr The untold story of how the First World War shaped the lives, faith, and writings of J. R. R. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis The First World War laid waste to a continent and permanently altered the political and religious landscape of the West. For a generation of men and women, it brought the end of innocence—and the end of faith. Yet for J. R. R. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis, the Great War deepened their spiritual quest. Both men served as soldiers on the Western Front, survived the trenches, and used the experience of that conflict to ignite their Christian imagination. Had there been no Great War, there would have been no Hobbit, no Lord of the Rings, no Narnia, and perhaps no conversion to Christianity by C. S. Lewis. Unlike a generation of young writers who lost faith in the God of the Bible, Tolkien and Lewis produced epic stories infused with the themes of guilt and grace, sorrow and consolation. Giving an unabashedly Christian vision of hope in a world tortured by doubt and disillusionment, the two writers created works that changed the course of literature and shaped the faith of millions. This is the first book to explore their work in light of the spiritual crisis sparked by the conflict.

30 review for A Hobbit, a Wardrobe, and a Great War: How J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis Rediscovered Faith, Friendship, and Heroism in the Cataclysm of 1914-18

  1. 5 out of 5

    Trish

    This book was supposed to explain the relationship between WWI and the origin of Tolkien's and Lewis' most famous works, The Lord of the Rings and The Chronicles of Narnia. It only succeeded somewhat. The author is a professor of history and his interest in WWI (also due to his grandfather having served and the family having a personal story to tell about the war) is apparent. However, maybe due to the fact that the authors can no longer be asked, most is simple speculation. Sure, there are some This book was supposed to explain the relationship between WWI and the origin of Tolkien's and Lewis' most famous works, The Lord of the Rings and The Chronicles of Narnia. It only succeeded somewhat. The author is a professor of history and his interest in WWI (also due to his grandfather having served and the family having a personal story to tell about the war) is apparent. However, maybe due to the fact that the authors can no longer be asked, most is simple speculation. Sure, there are some quotes out of biographies other authors have penned and we sometimes even get snippets from interviews with J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis that are brushing on the subject, but mostly it's an abbreviated account of WWI with the occasional conclusion as to what led the authors to think this or that and incorporate it in their novels (with quotes from the respective novel). That's it. Moreover, the author apparently is religious (and very much so even), with the result that he often blames how Lewis thought in younger years on the man's atheism. To make clear what I mean: Lewis was a man I could not have liked. While he was curious and inquisitive, he constantly complained and whined about life's conditions, later about the war having started and the prospect of him having to leave his studies to fight if he gets drafted. Now, I understand if someone doesn't want to fight, especially in the World Wars, but to bitch and complain before anything has happened and about trivial stuff at that, and (above all) in such an apparently arrogant manner (direct quotes from letters Lewis wrote to his father), all while hundreds of thousands of men, women and children die - that is despicable. It's like sitting nowadays at the table with a squad who just lost half their brothers in a firefight and complaining to them that there is no air condition! There is also lots of repetition in this. Probably because the author ran out of things to say. I liked the description of what people thought and felt at the beginning of (although some assumptions can be disputed, again the author blames "godlessness"), during and after the war. A lot of important historic facts can be found here to put certain events and opinions into perspective too. With that the author succeeded. But then he goes back to blaming atheism for men being insatiable when it comes to power (he even names Darwin for people wanting the betterment of human nature that led to an increase in technology which was then used in the war) and how god/faith alone can save you from the darkness. *rolls eyes* He thus praises Lewis for seeing the light (and Tolkien for making his friend see the light) and returning to faith, becoming an even stouter Christian than he was before and attributes the books to divine will (creative / artistic talent being a gift from god). Oh, and of course only believers know moral (I actually hear this argument from a number of Catholics). Tolkien's and Lewis' stories therefore are only so successful even after all these years because they bring the divine spark back into our lives and because we've missed god's light even if we don't know / admit it. And he also states that heroism (being willing and able to make sacrifices, even if it means your own death) is only possible if you are religious. Honestly, at several points during this book I rolled my eyes so hard that my head hurt. So much for the author, now onto Tolkien and Lewis themselves. Yes, it is remarkable that Tolkien and Lewis were basically the ONLY TWO authors not to write pieces on the world being badbadbad back in the day. Poets, authors and many other artists back then were so disillusioned that there was nothing but depression all around (unsurprisingly). It is great that Tolkien and Lewis found a way to create immortal works that delight readers (me too) with stories of ordinary people instead of special snowflakes that actually do succumb to weakness but prevail through hard work (the author argues that the heroes only prevail because of divine intervention but at least in LOTR there is room for another interpretation). The thing is that I'm an atheist and can enjoy such works completely without any form of faith, thank you very much. Just like I'm capable of living a morally good life without needing the Damocles Sword of eternal torture/damnation over my head to make me do good things. Also, many if not all of the people that started WWI were men of faith, not to mention the Church's role in the propaganda (which the author mentions but not as a negative thing). So one could easily flip this argument around. I have to admit that I like LOTR much more than Narnia. I enjoyed Narnia but to me, LOTR is on a whole different level of literature. Plus, Tolkien doesn't shove religion down our throats as much as Lewis does in at least some of the Narnia stories. But their friendship was as epic as their stories and what they created was vitally important, especially at that time. Also, I agree with most of the opinions they expressed that were quoted here: I, too, think that while war isn't good or desirable, it often is necessary (funny that Lewis made that point, considering his shameful/cowardly proclamations and views at least before he fought at the front lines). I, too, believe that friendship (being able to fully trust another person) is vitally important and an understated side of the World Wars (and that a friendship forged in war is nothing like what civilians call friendship). It is even more tragic to consider that the authors had to see yet another war so shortly after the first (Tolkien's sons fought in WWII too and there were some interesting passages of letters between Christopher Tolkien and his father quoted here). And yes, of course one can see the trenches and the war experience all through LOTR, even throughout Narnia when battles (both internal and external) are described. Both authors make great points about personal courage, perseverance, honour and integrity (again, funny to see this in Lewis' work now that I know of his character, I really didn't like what he wrote to his father). Both works have earned their place on the list of most important / influential literature. Thus, this book was OK. It was not what I hoped it would be (especially since the majority of quotes were from other historians or witnesses about certain aspects of WWI or quotes from books not penned by Tolkien/Lewis), but I got through, learned a bit about the lives and experiences of the authors and what influenced them apart from the war (both studied literature after all). However, no recommendation from me, sorry. Read other (non-fiction) books about WWI (I will, shortly) and then maybe some of the interviews with these authors separately, or simply enjoy their stories and draw your own conclusions - the author of this book didn't do anything else either after all.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Susan

    This is a fascinating look at the experiences of two young men in WWI and how it affected their writing, their faith and their spiritual quest. J.R.R.Tolkien and C.S.Lewis first met at Oxford in 1926, but they shared an experience of the Great War which deepened their friendship. Although I have read Tolkien’s biography, I knew very little about C.S. Lewis and I found this a really illuminating read. Both men grew up in a time that believed deeply in science and the myth of progress. It was also This is a fascinating look at the experiences of two young men in WWI and how it affected their writing, their faith and their spiritual quest. J.R.R.Tolkien and C.S.Lewis first met at Oxford in 1926, but they shared an experience of the Great War which deepened their friendship. Although I have read Tolkien’s biography, I knew very little about C.S. Lewis and I found this a really illuminating read. Both men grew up in a time that believed deeply in science and the myth of progress. It was also a time where religious faith was very much linked with patriotism and a sense of duty. By 1916, Churchill warned against, “futile offensives” that would kill thousands of young men. However, plans were drawn up to take pressure off the French and hopefully achieve a breakthrough. The Battle of the Somme permanently altered Tolkien’s life. By the end of the day there were 19,420 British soldiers killed; among them was Rob Wilson – member of the “Tea Club and Barrovian Society,” which Tolkien started with some close friends. By the end of the war, Tolkien had lost many close friends, as had Lewis, and, in fact, while Tolkien was in hospital recovering from “trench fever,” his regiment sustained enormous casualties and, had he been on the front line, he probably would have been killed. Lewis went to war a little later than Tolkien and arrived at the front on his 19th birthday. While Tolkien was a committed Catholic, Lewis was not a believer when he first joined up. By 1918 he was injured by shrapnel and was sent home – carrying a piece of shrapnel in his chest for the rest of his life and with most of his friends having been killed. The Great War saw a new type of warfare of science and technology devoted to annihilation. The author explains how the terrible experiences both men faced changed them and how, out of the carnage they faced, came Narnia and the Lord of the Rings. There is much about how Lewis became a Christian, how Lewis supported and encouraged Tolkien’s writing and how their literary visions were sketched out with the backdrop of war. I was interested to read, for example, how Tolkien imagined his hobbits to be small to show, “the amazing and unexpected heroism of ordinary men,” as he based them on the soldiers he came across in the trenches. With a post-war world looking to the extremes of communism and fascism for answers, the mythical quality of the writing of both Lewis and Tolkien is timeless and so, as they tried to both make sense of their experience and incorporate it into their writing, they created great works which are still inspirational today. A well written and interesting book which helps explain how important their early experiences were to two great authors.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Matt

    A good book, but a number of flaws keep this from being a truly great book. The first is that there is simply not enough material about the war time experiences of Tolkien and Lewis to form the basis of solid book length treatment. Secondly, the book is just riddled with minor errors that will be easily recognizable to any fan of the books, that somehow escaped the editor. Usually these are in the form of misattributions and simple confusion and misidentification, but they are annoying especially A good book, but a number of flaws keep this from being a truly great book. The first is that there is simply not enough material about the war time experiences of Tolkien and Lewis to form the basis of solid book length treatment. Secondly, the book is just riddled with minor errors that will be easily recognizable to any fan of the books, that somehow escaped the editor. Usually these are in the form of misattributions and simple confusion and misidentification, but they are annoying especially when the author is using and perhaps over relying on the text of the books to prove his points. Thirdly, the approach that the author gives to the text is far too loose for my tastes. If you want to say that a piece of text relates to the author's war time experiences, I'd prefer much more solid evidence. Fourthly, at least for my part, most of the book was well covered ground and well known to me. The unusual focus on the little explored portion of Lewis and Tolkien's life proved mainly to instruct that it is little focused on because there is little definite to say about it. Finally, this book is going to be really of no use whatsoever to a non-Christian audience, as it is far too clear that the author is not merely a historian building a literary and historical case, but is also an evangelist that admires the works as sermons and wishes to expand upon them. Even as a sympathetic ear that agrees that the books work as sermons, and has taught doctrine from them, this inability to choose between the unbiased voice of the historian and the passionate voice of the evangelist is a bit jarring. Still for all that, I can recommend the book to a limited audience of Christian readers that have some knowledge of the works but don't already have a lot of insight in to the minds of the authors who created them. To them, it will likely be a revelation. Even for someone like myself, who have read the works dozens of times, read all manner of unpublished notes by Tolkien, many books of literary criticism and interpretation of the works, and dug into the text in fandom circles to levels that will seem absurd to many, there were still occasionally unlooked for vistas which were like looking out on a well known valley from vantages you'd never seen before. In particular, I was struck by Loconte's interpretation of the mindset of Tolkien after the great war that lead him to create his work. The idea of Tolkien passing through the great war, seeing the broken state of his nation, weeping and then deliberately and consciously taking up the burden of healing his entire nation by bringing them a myth that reflected to them divine revelation just leaves me in renewed awe. Who does that sort of thing? Can you just conceive what the mind must be like that in the middle of its tears says, "My nation is broken. Their myths about themselves have deluded and failed them, and they have no stories of their own to fall back on. I know, I'll give them a new story, a great story, a light to lead them out of this dark place." My jaw hits the floor. The vision of the Good Professor once again humbles all my understanding. It is easy to see why he is often imitated, quite often scorned, occasionally mocked, and yet no one has really come even close to equaling his work.

  4. 5 out of 5

    happy

    With this book, Professor Loconte, looks at the friendship between C.S. Lewis and J.R.R Tolkien, how their experience in the Great War influenced their masterpieces and as a bonus how the ideals of the society in which they were raised motivated them and the contemporaries to willingly join the military and go to the meat grinder that was the Western Front. He also explores how that experience affected the post war society. Professor Loconte first looks at Tolkien and his experiences. While he di With this book, Professor Loconte, looks at the friendship between C.S. Lewis and J.R.R Tolkien, how their experience in the Great War influenced their masterpieces and as a bonus how the ideals of the society in which they were raised motivated them and the contemporaries to willingly join the military and go to the meat grinder that was the Western Front. He also explores how that experience affected the post war society. Professor Loconte first looks at Tolkien and his experiences. While he didn’t volunteer for the Army, he willing went when he was called up. He arrived in France just in time for the slaughter that was the Somme and his unit joined the offensive on the 3rd day. After telling us of his war time experience, the author looks at how the must have affected his writing. Much of this comes from his own letters and diaries, but there is some speculation. For example he quotes Tolkien as saying, “the character of the hobbit was a reflection of the ordinary soldier, steadfast in his duties while suffering in the dreary 'hole in the ground.'" The author speculates the much of the feeling of the battle sequences in Lord to the Rings (LOTR) must have come for his experiences on the Somme, but does not offer any direct quotes for that. In discussing Lewis’ experience, Prof Loconte looks as his journey from Atheism to Christianity. Unlike Tolkien who was and remained a practicing Catholic, Lewis entered the war a confirmed atheist. According to the author, by the time he returned from France, he was at least an agnostic and probably a deist. His journey to becoming a Christian is told and as is Tolkien’s role in it. The author looks at the Christian themes in both of their masterpieces. While Narnia’s Christian’s theme are widely acknowledged, those in LOTR, to my knowledge, are not. In exploring the Christain themes in LOTR the author identifies several. These include good vs evil, the idea that there is someone watching over us, and that we must have help in overcoming evil among others. He also looks at the idea that is something bigger than the individual that is worth fighting for. Prof Loconte says the whole idea of the fellowship of the ring is a prime example. In addition the author looks as Tolkien and Lewis' concept of heroism and how it is depicted in their works. While discussing how the war affected the two men and their writing, the author contrasts and compares them with some of their contemporaries, including Siegfried Sassoon, Wilfred Owen and Robert Graves. All of whom took a different path in their spiritual journey than Tolkien and Lewis. In exploring their paths, Prof Loconte looks at the affect the War had on Christianity and the elite’s, especially the literary circle’s relationship to it. The author gave a presentation on it that was televised on BookTV that in many ways better than the book http://www.c-span.org/video/?326885-1... All in all I enjoyed this book, but I thought it was too short – less than 200 pages and at times had an academic feel. For these reasons I would give it a 3.75 rounded up for good reads.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Cindy Rollins

    Many years ago I fell down the WWI rabbit hole and I still wander there frequently. Recently I took another plunge with A World Undone by G.J. Meyer and this excellent little book. This book referred to many of the books and authors I had already read so it was like visiting old friends. This is an easy conversational read.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Tom

    The Great War shattered the complacency of the West. Flanders’ Fields exploded the myth of Progress, that strange concatenation of Technological and Social Darwinism, of Social Gospel and Hard Science. Dissolution, disillusionment, irony, absurdity, and even worse, ideologies followed. It needs no ghost come from the grave to tell us this. But what has long been noteworthy, if noted little and explored less, is that Tolkien and Lewis are very much WWI writers, too. They fought and feared, suffer The Great War shattered the complacency of the West. Flanders’ Fields exploded the myth of Progress, that strange concatenation of Technological and Social Darwinism, of Social Gospel and Hard Science. Dissolution, disillusionment, irony, absurdity, and even worse, ideologies followed. It needs no ghost come from the grave to tell us this. But what has long been noteworthy, if noted little and explored less, is that Tolkien and Lewis are very much WWI writers, too. They fought and feared, suffered illness and wounds, saw horrors, lost a generation of friends, just as Owen, Sassoon, Blunden, Graves, and so many others did; and just as those others did, they, too, went off to war thinking of their homeland, not in terms of factories and swollen cities, but of the shires and the countryside. Yet they, as the title of this book suggests, did not suffer the same despair and disillusionment; instead they found the stuff of hope and recovery. I regret to say, however, that Professor Loconte’s book does not succeed as well as it might have done in explaining how this came to be so. The first difficulty we encounter is that the author is quite often simply wrong. On page 9, the Ents are said to be marching off to attack, not Saruman, but Sauron. A slip of the pen perhaps, as might easily occur in haste, but usually caught in proof. On page 22 we have more serious errors. The author mistakes Frodo’s vision of Bilbo as “a little wrinkled creature with a hungry face and bony groping hands” (FR 2.i.232) for reality, as if Bilbo were actually “momentarily distorted by his lust for the Ring.” That’s Peter Jackson’s scene, not Tolkien’s. Bilbo no more turns into Gollum here than Sam becomes an orc under similar circumstances in The Tower of Cirith Ungol (RK 6.i.911-12). Both of these scenes show what the Ring is doing to Frodo, making him see those he loves as monsters after his Ring. Now even if this error were merely a matter of interpretation, the other mistake on page 22 is not. The author quotes from The Magician’s Nephew, as anyone even modestly familiar with The Chronicles of Narnia will recognize – I’ve read them only once – but he claims it’s The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. Using the single volume edition of Narnia, which arranges the novels by internal chronology rather than in order of publication, Loconte fails to note the title of the novel written plainly at the top of the page. To this we may compare pages 147-48 where, quoting the same passage from The Magician’s Nephew, the author confuses Digory and Polly, the children of this novel, with the Pevensie children of the other Narnia tales. On page 29 both Tolkien and Lewis are said to have been drafted, but they enlisted (as is later noted for Lewis on page 31). On page 30 Loconte states that Lewis attended Cherbourg School in Malvern, arriving in 1914, but Lewis went there for only one year (hated it) and 1914 was the year he left. On 82 Lewis is said to have been reading E.R. Eddison in or around 1916, but Eddison’s first work to be publicly circulated appeared in 1922. On page 143 we learn that The Fellowship of the Ring first appeared in 1955, not 1954. On page 135 we learn, further, that Bilbo is “a small half-elf creature.” And page 65 informs us that The Lord of the Rings is a “war trilogy,” which joins the dubious to the incorrect. On page 118 the author seems unaware of the difference between The Book of Lost Tales and The Silmarillion. He speaks of “The Fall of Gondolin,” written by Tolkien during the war and incorporated into The Book of Lost Tales, but he quotes the much later and briefer version from The Silmarillion. On page 121 he removes all doubt about his confusion: “By 1923, [Tolkien] had nearly completed The Book of Lost Tales (what he would later call The Silmarillion)....” I can only question whether the author has read The Book of Lost Tales. On page 135 Loconte quotes Tolkien’s account of Lewis’ statement that “[i]f they won’t write the kind of books we want to read…we shall have to write them ourselves.” But in the very next line he makes it sound as if this statement predates the writing of The Hobbit by quite some time (“Eventually. they made good on the pledge. Tolkien began…The Hobbit….” [emphasis mine]). In fact Tolkien had finished writing The Hobbit by early 1933, and the evidence suggests that Lewis made his statement closer to 1936. Moreover, Tolkien and Lewis were talking about novels of time-travel and space-travel, and the books they decided to write became The Lost Road and Out of the Silent Planet (Tolkien, Letters, nos. 257 and 294; The Lost Road, 7-8; Rateliff, The History of the Hobbit [2011] p. xxii). The Hobbit has nothing to do with this statement. What is more regrettable is that by confusing The Silmarillion and The Book of Lost Tales Loconte deprives us of the primary texts most necessary for studying Tolkien’s immediate response to the war. As he himself points out (118-119), Tolkien later saw the writing of The Book of Lost Tales as therapeutic. In 1944 in a letter to his son, Christopher, then in the RAF, he encouraged him to write about what he was going through: “I sense among all your pains…a desire to express your feeling about good, evil, fair, foul in some way: to rationalize it, and prevent it from festering. In my case it generated Morgoth and the History of the Gnomes" (Letters, no. 66, emphasis original). What better place could there have been to begin an exploration of Tolkien’s reaction to the war, and what lessons could we have derived from a study of these writings side by side with those of his contemporaries, like Sassoon and Owen, who saw and felt the same horror but fell instead into bitterness and despair? Here is the beginning of the road that leads to The Lord of the Rings, but we do not get to walk it. And, from this perspective, would not Graves’ Good-Bye to All That (1929), and Claudius novels (1934-35) have made for interesting points of comparison on the way to The Lord of the Rings? Yet we jump straight to the end of this road, and a Tolkien who had had twenty to thirty years to reflect upon and come to understand his youthful experiences. As for what comes in between, The Book of Lost Tales is lost indeed, the World War One poets are scanted, and we receive background and generalizations about Tolkien’s generation drawn from secondary sources. To be fair Loconte is better on Lewis, making more, but not always better, use of his letters, his diaries, and his early poetry. One of those letters, which he quotes (p. 116), reveals another missed opportunity for discussing Lewis alongside the World War One writers. Commenting in 1923 on a tormented fellow veteran who had just died, Lewis wrote: “[i]sn’t it a damned world – and we once thought we could be happy with books and music!” Now here is a sentiment with which to begin an examination of the despair and lost illusions of this world after 1918. It would likely be far easier to make the connections between his early poems, letters, and so on, and those of the World War One writers, since the gap in genre isn’t as great as it is with The Book of Lost Tales. The analysis of Lewis would have facilitated that of Tolkien in this regard. All good interpretations of literature, all good reconstructions of history, rest ultimately on the details that support the arguments advanced by the author. In any work that seeks to combine the literary and the historical an even greater care with the details is essential. More variables require more rigor and more restraint. In this book so many errors present themselves -- ranging from simple, easily verifiable dates gotten wrong, to simple facts of the stories gotten wrong (half-elf?), to the confusion of different works of the very authors who are the subjects of this study – that faith in what Professor Loconte has to say requires a very willing suspension of disbelief. Yet the questions he raises here about Lewis and Tolkien in the context of World War One and its literary and spiritual aftermath are valid, important questions. From them we can learn much not only about Lewis and Tolkien, but by reflection about their contemporaries, about the times in which they all lived, as well as about the times of those of us still within the Great War’s shadow.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Cori

    With the exception of the Bible, no book(s) has impacted my life like The Lord of the Rings trilogy and the seven books of the Narnia series. C.S. Lewis had a strong stance on stories- fantasy in particular. If the literature is good, it will also tell a story to adults and true characteristics of real life will be paralleled in the characters/struggles of the novel. Obviously Lewis and Tolkien did this, arguably, better than any other authors before or after. I loved this book for the backstory With the exception of the Bible, no book(s) has impacted my life like The Lord of the Rings trilogy and the seven books of the Narnia series. C.S. Lewis had a strong stance on stories- fantasy in particular. If the literature is good, it will also tell a story to adults and true characteristics of real life will be paralleled in the characters/struggles of the novel. Obviously Lewis and Tolkien did this, arguably, better than any other authors before or after. I loved this book for the backstory it provided. Parallels between their life experiences in the trenches and their novels made sense in ways I never caught before. I loved finding out that Tolkien wrote Samwise Gamgee to honor the privates and "batmen" that served under him when he was an officer- "they were the true heroes." Lewis wrote Peter's fight with the wolf to mimic his first foray into battle. Tolkien most identified with hobbits and Faramir in that he had no love for war. He also hated machinery destroying the beautiful greenery of his country. That said, much of the book read like a history book with very little mention of the two authors. Worth reading, but it barely scratched the surface of the lives and relationship between the two men. I think I'm also going to look for some biographies. I'd rate this book a PG-13 for strong war-time images and accounts of gore and violence.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Laura

    I'll admit I know shockingly little about WWI. Like many a teenage girl, I went through a season where I read all the WWII fiction I could get my hands on but I never was all that interested in completing my knowledge of history. I found this book fascinating--I knew very little of the WWI history that Loconte recounts in the first few chapters and only had the merest outline of C.S. Lewis' and J.R.R. Tolkien's biographies from that era. I love books like this where the author has done a great d I'll admit I know shockingly little about WWI. Like many a teenage girl, I went through a season where I read all the WWII fiction I could get my hands on but I never was all that interested in completing my knowledge of history. I found this book fascinating--I knew very little of the WWI history that Loconte recounts in the first few chapters and only had the merest outline of C.S. Lewis' and J.R.R. Tolkien's biographies from that era. I love books like this where the author has done a great deal of research & can retell the great themes of that research with clarity and interest. I especially found myself captivated by the chapter That Hideous Strength, as he recalled how the great themes of the Great War informed Lewis' and Tolkien's understanding of how evil works. Not many sign up to do great evil, they simply long for power & expedience, and think they can use evil without being mastered by it. Loconte shows how the moral lessons they learned in war informed the stories they both created. I think he nails exactly what makes these stories so compelling to readers: None of the characters is above "the deceptive allure of power" (160). Each character is a moral agent "vulnerable to temptation and corruption" (164) but nonetheless given responsibility to make choices that will affect the fates of those around them. These are not larger-than-life heroes conquering by the sheer force of their will, but hobbits (modeled after ordinary Englishmen) and children who have to make choices that really do matter. What each man experienced during war adds ballast to the moral weight of their stories.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Jordan

    For a certain group, JRR Tolkien and CS Lewis are such a part of the literary, imaginative, and spiritual landscape that their insights are taken for granted. The timeless qualities of their work have divorced it from any consideration of the time in which the two men lived and wrote. Familiarity has bred contempt. What Joseph Loconte attempts in A Hobbit, a Wardrobe, and a Great War is to place Tolkien and Lewis firmly back into their historical context, to throw their work into relief by looki For a certain group, JRR Tolkien and CS Lewis are such a part of the literary, imaginative, and spiritual landscape that their insights are taken for granted. The timeless qualities of their work have divorced it from any consideration of the time in which the two men lived and wrote. Familiarity has bred contempt. What Joseph Loconte attempts in A Hobbit, a Wardrobe, and a Great War is to place Tolkien and Lewis firmly back into their historical context, to throw their work into relief by looking at the world in which they wrote. Central to all of this is the war. The two men, who became fast friends as professors at Oxford, would seem to have had little in common. Lewis was an Irishman of Ulster Protestant extraction and, by the time he went to war, a confirmed atheist. Tolkien was a devout cradle Catholic reared in England. For both men, the experience that most shaped them was the war. Loconte begins the book by examining the world into which they were born and through which they approached the war. He gives time to explaining the Idea of Progress, the belief in the steady upward march of Europe’s scientific, enlightened culture, and its embodiment in social policies like eugenics. He looks into Freudian psychology and the marriage of the era’s Christianity to nationalism, a union that produced war fever and the demonization of the enemy. Scientific progress, the devaluation of human life, disregard for the soul and spirit, and the prostitution of religion to the nation combined to make World War I uniquely ferocious. Into this war marched millions of young men, and Loconte by no means ignores the rest in his focus on Tolkien and Lewis. He draws examples of how these young men reacted from classic sources like Robert Graves, Wilfred Owen, Siegfried Sassoon, Ernst Jünger, and Erich Maria Remarque. Their testimonials demonstrate the way the war cruelly, almost mechanically, ground down the spirits of the men sent into its trenches. Tolkien and Lewis both suffered. Tolkien served on the Somme, one of the notorious meat grinders of the war, and was eventually invalided out of the fight. Lewis arrived later and, despite distinguished service including the capture of a number of German prisoners, was also wounded and spent months in hospital, out of the action. This experience was, for both of them as for many others, a source of bonding after the war. References to it in their letters and papers are numerous; it formed part of a shared vocabulary that informed and gave body to their imaginations. Loconte does an excellent job of demonstrating this by drawing on their writings, not just well-known works like The Hobbit or The Chronicles of Narnia, but their academic work, letters, and diaries. I have to admit that I was skeptical about some of this at first, as a few of the examples seemed to be little more than superficial comparisons of events in, for example, The Lord of the Rings to conditions on the Somme. But Loconte digs deep and provides explicit comparisons from the writers themselves. Tolkien is particularly forthcoming about the influence of the war on his fiction: “My ‘Sam Gamgee’ is indeed a reflection of the English soldier, of the privates and batmen I knew in the 1914 war, and recognized as so far superior to myself” (xvii). And again, “The Dead Marshes . . . owe something to Northern France after the Battle of the Somme” (74). But beyond simply providing inspiration for specific scenes or landscapes in their work, the war gave Tolkien and Lewis thematic material, friendship, loss, and the desperate courage that makes up real heroism foremost among them. Both men lost friends in the war. Virtually the entirety of a prewar club to which Tolkien had belonged was killed off one by one in the fighting. Lewis saw an older sergeant, a man who had become “almost like a father” to the young officer, senselessly killed in what may have been a friendly fire incident. Like Tolkien, he lost many of his school friends and fellow officers as well. “Nearly all my friends in the Battalion are gone” (99-100). It was well after the war in the quiet environs of Oxford that Tolkien and Lewis met and formed their famous friendship. Under the influence of Tolkien and others, Lewis--by now an agnostic--moved to a vague theism and finally Christianity. It was this friendship that made both men so productive and gave the world their still-beloved and timeless work. Loconte’s book has two great strengths. First, it vividly depicts the reality of World War I combat in general and the actions in which Tolkien and Lewis were involved specifically. I’ve read a number of biographies of both men, and they tend to skimp on detail about their combat experience. (I assume this is because most of these bios were written by literary scholars; in addition to being a fan of Tolkien and Lewis, I’m a military historian, so this book scratched an itch I’ve been feeling for a while.) Like the rest of their generation, Tolkien and Lewis were shaped in profound ways by the horror of the war, and Loconte does an excellent job of showing that. Second, the focus in the early portions of the book on the world before the war, and the comparison of Tolkien and Lewis’s experiences to those of others of their generation, makes their work fresh again. Loconte shows just how countercultural these familiar men really were, moving against the intellectual, social, and spiritual currents of their day—scientism, chronological snobbery, and the denial of goodness, heroism, and truth. Their works aren’t “relevant” or “timeless” because they appeal to a generic Christian audience, their work is timeless because they were men who looked outside their ruined generation for the eternal and did their best to reflect that back into the world through the imagination. This, to me, is the central insight of Loconte’s book, and that alone makes it well worth reading. A Hobbit, a Wardrobe, and a Great War is an excellent introduction to an often overlooked aspect of the lives of two literary and intellectual giants and their place in history. Highly recommended.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Barb Middleton

    I've read bundles of fiction and nonfiction books on World War II, but not World War I. How did fascism, Nazism, communism, and eugenics take root after WWI? Why did people support narcissistic leaders that became despots that ruled in terror and greed creating violent totalitarian governments as their unchecked powers grew year after year? According to Joseph Loconte the reason lies in the results of one of the most violent and devastating wars; WWI. Loconte shows how WWI was so savage that not I've read bundles of fiction and nonfiction books on World War II, but not World War I. How did fascism, Nazism, communism, and eugenics take root after WWI? Why did people support narcissistic leaders that became despots that ruled in terror and greed creating violent totalitarian governments as their unchecked powers grew year after year? According to Joseph Loconte the reason lies in the results of one of the most violent and devastating wars; WWI. Loconte shows how WWI was so savage that not only were 16 million people killed, but those that survived were disillusioned and cynical, rejecting the current government, politics, religion, and spiritual morality. In the midst of this postwar malaise, J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis rejected the literary trends and wrote books in response to the spiritual crisis plaguing their country. They resurrected the medieval myth creating epic worlds torn apart by war and suffering and filled with flawed heroes embracing the traits of sacrifice, valor, and friendship as they struggle with good and evil. The first part of Loconte's book focuses on the history of WWI and the climate before, during, and after the war. The Myth of Progress was the prevailing belief before the war; that the industrial revolution, Darwin's theory of evolution, breakthroughs in medicine and inventions meant that the human condition could be explained by science and technology at the expense of spiritual morality. The belief was that progress was so great under a liberal democracy that all countries should have it and many believed God had chosen them and would bless them as they went to war. Britain, England, and Germany thought this way. The church declared a holy war and made it one not of justice, but righteousness. The problem was the focus on human achievement meant the subversion of moral obligations and human dignity. Atrocities were committed with no thought of right or wrong or the moral implications on the individual. Eugenics promoted a "pure" race that hid those considered flawed away from the public eye. Society embraced collectivism over individualism and people rationalized cruel and violent actions. For Lewis and Tolkien this was an affront on human dignity and character. Tolkien and Lewis wrote epic tales about war based in the fantasy genre, but realistic in their portrayal of war and its savagery and suffering. Both men were drafted into the army. Tolkien fought in the Battle of the Somme, one of the bloodiest battles in modern warfare, where almost 60,000 men died. Lewis turned 19 and ended up on the Western Front in a trench. When his sergeant was killed by mortar, Lewis took shrapnel - one so close to his heart it could not be removed. All of their close friends were killed. When the two met at Oxford their war experiences, literary tastes, and friendship grew to the point that Tolkien was critical in Lewis' conversion to Christianity and Tolkien said he would have not finished Lord of the Rings without Lewis' critiques and support. Neither writers glorify war in their books and both create flawed characters that need support from others or a higher being on their quests. Postwar Europe had a plethora of antiwar literature; yet, these two men created works rooted in medieval literature and while critics call it escapism and a nostalgia for the past, Loconte proves that it is a realistic portrayal of being in the trenches and a look at the human condition. The recurring theme of the desire for power and domination over others disguised under the umbrella of religion and morals is found in both works. Loconte expounds on literary themes more toward the latter part of the book getting into specific examples. The heroes in their works is the result of great characters who put others needs ahead themselves. WWI robbed people of their humanity. The trenches, the Battle of the Somme, the razing of nature and towns left people feeling helpless and caught in a big machine that they had no control over. Almost every family lost someone in the war. A fatalism and moral demise left people apathetic and feeling that they had no choices or free will in their lives. Tolkien and Lewis wanted to awaken the noble spirit in people like the medieval myths of old such as Beowulf, King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, or the Icelandic sagas. They created works that showed the violence and suffering of war, but also the compassion, courage, and sacrifice of others for a good cause. Their stories show that life is a moral contest. It is the responsibility of the individual to resist evil and not one person can resist the corruption of power. That is the tragic flaw in humans; that even the purest of heart such as Frodo cannot resist the desire to dominate. It takes an outside force to check that desire and in Frodo's case, even someone as twisted as Gollum is not beyond redemption. Lewis is showing at the end of his book that there can be no heaven on Earth as the Pevensie's step through a door into Narnia-like Heaven. Loconte ties this to the pitfalls of liberal democracy and the desire of the church and state to create a heaven on Earth before WWI. While this is too complex to write about in a review it is a fascinating comparison between the Narnia and Lord of the Rings books and WWI. These two men ignored the trends of the times because they were inspired and saw in the midst of violence, heroic individuals on the battlefields of France. They saw soldiers going back to help another injured comrade at the risk of being killed themselves. The Hobbit is the ordinary British soldier. The British army showed remarkable resistance in the war. They didn't run away or lose their moral fortitude. Reepicheep shows the greatest valor on the battlefield. He is the smallest and supposedly the weakest but he rises above himself and shows great courage. Same with Frodo, Sam, Aragon, and more. Loconte explores these characters proving his point and showing the importance of reluctant allies uniting in fellowship and friendship by the end, just like soldiers. Tolkien and Lewis met one to two times a week for 16 years with a group called, "Inklings." They had their own fellowship of the ring. Loconte points out how today the modern superhero saves the day on his or her own strength. Tolkien and Lewis create heroes that cannot save the day and prevail against evil on their own. They are destined to fail and they know it is a doomed quest. It is this tragic mix of good and evil that makes the story so powerful because their only rescue can be by grace and redemption from an outside force. The heroes know they will die in both books: Frodo when destroying the ring and the Pevensie's when they enter the stable. Loconte shows how this parallels war and the soldiers plight. The soldier knows he will die. At the Battle of the Somme it was a slaughter; yet, the men kept coming out of the trenches toward the enemy. The books ends with hope that there is goodness in humans. That the shadow of sin and suffering can be lifted from people's lives. That the Great War will be won, but not on Earth because the human condition is a mix of sin and free will.

  11. 4 out of 5

    E.F.B.

    Main Review: This book. Where do I even start? “A Hobbit, A Wardrobe, and A Great War” by Joseph Loconte is not light reading. This is the kind of book you read when you want to think and when you want to learn. I found myself thinking about it for hours afterwards every time I put the book (or in my case, the audiobook) down. I’m still thinking about it now. The three-part title is no lie. Laconte takes his time setting the stage to make sure that readers learn just as much about the two World Main Review: This book. Where do I even start? “A Hobbit, A Wardrobe, and A Great War” by Joseph Loconte is not light reading. This is the kind of book you read when you want to think and when you want to learn. I found myself thinking about it for hours afterwards every time I put the book (or in my case, the audiobook) down. I’m still thinking about it now. The three-part title is no lie. Laconte takes his time setting the stage to make sure that readers learn just as much about the two World Wars and the spiritual, moral, and cultural mindsets that caused and resulted from them as they learn about Tolkien and Lewis. This is important because it helps readers to see that not only were these authors’ books revolutionizing to their genres, they were also bold responses to culture in which the men lived. Laconte does this by showing how the World Wars shaped and changed both men personally and couples their experiences and significant moments from their lives with excerpts from their books to show how those experiences and their beliefs in relation to those experiences were then reflected in their writing. I would recommend this book to lovers of history and older fans of Tolkien and/or Lewis. I personally do not feel that you have to like both authors to gain something from reading this book and Laconte did well making sure that both men were featured equally. But no matter your reason for reading this book, you will not walk away unmoved. I found myself tearing up during almost every chapter, sometimes over the awful things the soldiers went through during the wars, sometimes simply because I was touched anew by a favorite quote from Tolkien’s or Lewis’ books which had taken on a whole new level of meaning when put in context with their personal experiences, and sometimes I was simply moved at the knowledge of what they were trying to say in their writings and how their beliefs resonated so deeply with my own. I give this book and enthusiastic 5 out of 5 stars. Content Advisory: It is important to note that while both Tolkien and Lewis were known for having written children’s literature during their lifetimes, and while those books are mentioned and quoted from throughout this book, I would not necessarily recommend this book for younger fans of either author. This is partially because many of the concepts in this book would go right over the heads of particularly young readers, but mostly because Laconte does not gloss over the horrors of war and some of the first-hand accounts he shares (some of which are quoted directly from soldiers’ letters home) could be upsetting to some. Now, don’t get me wrong, Laconte does not glorify the war violence or spend an excessive amount of time detailing it. The majority of the accounts are blessedly short, no more than a sentence or two long, but they still include mentions/descriptions of soldiers seeing dead and dying comrades, enemies, and innocents, the awful conditions in trenches, the effects of various weapons, etc. Laconte includes these, in part, to show that when Tolkien and Lewis wrote about war, they really had experienced these things themselves and could not help being effected by them, and, in part, to show that war was not the wonderful thing that would ultimately serve to forward the advancement of human perfection that some people of that era seemed to think it would be. Quite the opposite, and it’s so very important that people today understand and remember that so that such atrocities may never happen again. But it is definitely not reading intended for children.

  12. 4 out of 5

    D.J. Edwardson

    What is left to be said about C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien that has not already been said? Well, a great deal, as this book so powerfully demonstrates. This book examines the literary work, and to a lesser degree the lives, of these two great authors, but it does so in a unique way. It looks at their lives through the lens of their experience in the Great War, or, as it has come to be known World War I. It is commonly known that both Lewis and Tolkien fought in this war, but this book unpacks ho What is left to be said about C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien that has not already been said? Well, a great deal, as this book so powerfully demonstrates. This book examines the literary work, and to a lesser degree the lives, of these two great authors, but it does so in a unique way. It looks at their lives through the lens of their experience in the Great War, or, as it has come to be known World War I. It is commonly known that both Lewis and Tolkien fought in this war, but this book unpacks how this watershed experience impacted them and informed their writings. Think about what it must have been like to be a young man and to have lost so many dear friends, men who would have been lifelong friends had their lives not been tragically cut short. And think of how much death and suffering these two authors witnessed at a young age. To think that this would not make a profound impact on their worldview is profoundly naive. And yet, until I read this book, I had never really considered it. What the book shows, and very ably I might add, is that despite the lasting impact of the war on these men, they nevertheless rejected the cynicism and secular materialism which so many of their contemporaries embraced after the war. The Western spirit was shattered, and yet, these men produced out of the ashes of the war some of the most hopeful, beloved, and enduring stories of all time. It's really remarkable when you stop to think about it. The book demonstrates, through their letters and copious quotations from their work and others, the reasons they were able to share such a hopeful vision with the world. The scholarship here is top-notch and many of the quotes, especially from Lewis and Tolkien's letters, are quite moving. I feel I know these men and understand their stories better than I ever did before reading this book. I cannot recommend this book highly enough. This work is an obvious labor of love, not only of Lewis and Tolkien and their works, but of the brave soldiers who gave their all in the deadly theater of WWI. This book, like the works of Lewis and Tolkien themselves, transcends time and place and helps us see our place in the great cosmic conflict of good and evil. We are, in fact, "inside a very great story." One whose happy ending will only come with the return of the King.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Jamie

    (The Inklings Series is a monthly series featuring the works of my two favorites, J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis, or books about them. But I don’t want it to be just me chatting about these books, so that’s where y’all come in! I’ll announce the book at least four weeks in advance of when the discussion post will go live, so you have plenty of time to get the book and read it. Then, the following month, I’ll post a discussion post and let the fun begin!!) It is their moral imagination that exerts (The Inklings Series is a monthly series featuring the works of my two favorites, J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis, or books about them. But I don’t want it to be just me chatting about these books, so that’s where y’all come in! I’ll announce the book at least four weeks in advance of when the discussion post will go live, so you have plenty of time to get the book and read it. Then, the following month, I’ll post a discussion post and let the fun begin!!) It is their moral imagination that exerts a unique power: the proposition that every person is caught up in an epic contest between Light and Darkness. In the worlds of Tolkien and Lewis, the choices of the weak matter as much as those of the mighty. Here we are not left as orphans, for a force of Goodness stands ready to help. Here we meet Gandalf the Grey, the wisest and best of wizards, engaged in a titanic struggle against the Shadow that threatens Middle-earth; and Aslan, the fearsome Lion, who will pay any price to rescue Narnia from the “force of evil” that has entered it. I need to first take a moment to thank Amazon for the ability to highlight books on my kindle and then have the ability to later access those notes. I’m pretty sure I highlighted like every other paragraph (I also need every Inklings book I read on Kindle). Why? Because this book was amazing. Of course the material was hard to read (WWI = horrific and devastating), but learning about the details Lewis and Tolkien went through just increased my love of these two as human beings and authors. I thought Loconte did such an excellent job of setting the scene and sharing details about the war, but without it seeming like a history book. This gave insight, not only Tolkien’s and Lewis’ birth and beginnings and thoughts, but the global scene and what was brewing the years right before WWI broke out (like all the eugenics history?? What in the *WHAT* world?). It’s always so sad to read about the devastation of war. I won’t go into details too much here, but here’s one short summary from Loconte: By the time of the Armistice, more than nine million soldiers lay dead and roughly thirty-seven million wounded. On average, there were about 6,046 men killed every day of the war, a war that lasted 1,566 days. In Great Britain, almost six million men—a quarter of Britain’s adult male population—passed through the ranks of the army. About one in eight perished. Also, trench warfare goes down as the worst form of fighting ever created in this history of mankind. Another aspect I found fascinating was seeing and understanding how different Tolkien and Lewis were from their contemporaries. After such a war, I understand why there were so many who wrote and focused on the pain and hurt. Yet, Tollers and Jack looked for something deeper. I liked this from Loconte: Tolkien and Lewis were attracted to the genres of myth and romance not because they sought to escape the world, but because for them the real world had a mythic and heroic quality. The world is the setting for great conflicts and great quests: it creates scenes of remorseless violence, grief, and suffering, as well as deep compassion, courage, and selfless sacrifice. In an era that exalted cynicism and irony, Tolkien and Lewis sought to reclaim an older tradition of the epic hero. Their depictions of the struggles of Middle-earth and Narnia do not represent a flight from reality, but rather a return to a more realistic view of the world as we actually find it. I also loved the bits about what pieces of the stories represent and their inspirations (you want me to talk about Frodo, Samwise, Middle Earth, Narnia and Aslan? Okay!) Let’s kick it off with this Samwise Shoutout: Likewise for Tolkien, who emerged from the war with a profound respect for the ordinary soldier. As an officer in the British army, he could not befriend the many privates who made up his battalion, nor the “batmen,” the servants assigned to look after an officer’s gear and attend to his daily needs. But war has a way of softening military hierarchies. As Tolkien fought alongside these soldiers, he witnessed again and again their remarkable determination under fire. Indeed, as he later acknowledged, one of the great heroic figures in The Lord of the Rings is based on his firsthand knowledge of the men in the trenches of the Great War: “My ‘Sam Gamgee’ is indeed a reflection of the English soldier, of the privates and batmen I knew in the 1914 war, and recognized as so far superior to myself.” Before I read this book, I was already planning on doing a podcast about the War Years, but now I’m thinking there will have to be two parts. Not only because the information is fascinating, but, for me, understanding what influenced them helps me to appreciate their works even more (if that was even possible). I loved Sam from the beginning and learning the details of his influence? Love him and what he represents all the more. The Hobbits High Five: Tolkien the soldier lived among these “ordinary men,” fought alongside them, witnessed their courage under fire, joked with them, mourned with them, and watched them die. Thus the “small people” who fought and suffered in the Great War helped inspire the creation of the unlikely heroes in Tolkien’s greatest imaginative work. Like the soldiers in that war, the homely hobbits could not have perceived how the fate of nations depended upon their stubborn devotion to duty. Because Gandalf quotes are always awesome: “That is a chapter of ancient history which it might be good to recall,” advises Gandalf in The Fellowship of the Ring. “For there was sorrow then too, and gathering dark, but great valor, and great deeds that are not wholly vain.” Side note: how heart wrenching it must have been for the men and women who survived the horrors of WWI, to have to send their sons and daughters off to war 20 years later? I can’t even imagine. Tolkien himself sent two of his sons to war. Decades later, there is still so much their works and lives influence. This about calling? Yep. The choice they face is also a summons; not a blind accident, but a Calling on their lives. One may answer the Call—or refuse it, turn away, and walk into Darkness. But indifference to the Call to struggle against evil is not an option; one must take sides. Thus, set before our imagination in the works of Tolkien and Lewis is one of the great paradoxes of our mortal lives: the mysterious intersection of providence and free will. I close with with a couple more thoughts and quotes. First, this quote: The great achievement of Tolkien and Lewis is the creation of mythic and heroic figures who nevertheless make a claim upon our concrete and ordinary lives. Through them we are challenged to examine our deepest desires, to shake off our doubts, and to join in the struggle against evil. For in their voice is a warning: a call to “do the deed at hand” no matter what the cost. In their presence is strength: the grace to “cast aside regret and fear,” grace beyond all hope. These are the great themes that dominate their works and continue to delight generations of readers. I wonder if they truly understood the impact they had with their writings. And now, this final quote. I confess, I got a little weepy because #Jesus :) In the end, the creators of Narnia and Middle-earth offer a vision of human life that is at once terrifying and sublime. They insist that every soul is caught up in an epic story of sacrifice and courage and clashing armies: the Return of the King. It is the day when every heart will be laid bare. We will know, with inexpressible joy or unspeakable sorrow, whether we have chosen Light or Darkness. “For the day of the LORD is near,” wrote the prophet, “in the valley of decision.” Hence comes a warning, as well as a blessing: to deny the King, to turn away in grief or rage, means endless ruin. But to behold him—to be counted among his Beloved—is to pass into life everlasting. “Is everything sad going to come untrue?” asks Sam. Here we find, beyond all imagination, the deepest source of hope for the human story. For when the King is revealed, “there will be no more night.” The Shadow will finally and forever be lifted from the earth. The Great War will be won. This King, who brings strength and healing in his hands, will make everything sad come untrue. Alright! Thanks for sticking through. There was so much I didn’t include, but I hope you enjoyed this one as much as I did! Here’s a few discussion questions to kick things off. As always, feel free to answer any or all and of course I’d love to hear your thoughts in general too! 1. Let’s start with any general thoughts. What did you think of the book and how would you rate it? 2. Were there any historical facts/information that really stuck out to you? How hard it must have been for them to each lose so many close friends. I’m thankful they found each other after the war and were able to have such an incredible friendship that lasted 40 years. 3. He talked a lot about the experiences of war they lived through and how those influenced and/or inspired scenes and characters from their works. Any stick out to you? Not shockingly – Samwise! I also found in insightful how their love of nature made it in their fictional worlds. 4. Do you have an favorite quotes? I close with one more because I had to include this one: “A counterfeit gospel, a false myth, created a cacophony of despair in the West. Yet two friends and authors refused to succumb to this storm of doubt and disillusionment. Fortified by their faith, they proclaimed for their generation—and ours—a True Myth about the dignity of human life and its relationship to God. Against all expectation, their writings would captivate and inspire countless readers from every culture and every part of the globe.” Originally posted at: http://booksandbeverages.org/2016/03/...

  14. 5 out of 5

    Ron

    “For a generation of men and women, it brought the end of innocence … and the end of faith." An extraordinary and deep exploration of how the Great War, which we call World War One, impacted the lives and works of two of the twentieth century’s greatest writings of epic fantasy. “All the horrors of all the ages were brought together and not only armies by whole populations were thrust into the midst of them,” Winston Churchill. Not unflawed, the work nevertheless demands the attention of readers “For a generation of men and women, it brought the end of innocence … and the end of faith." An extraordinary and deep exploration of how the Great War, which we call World War One, impacted the lives and works of two of the twentieth century’s greatest writings of epic fantasy. “All the horrors of all the ages were brought together and not only armies by whole populations were thrust into the midst of them,” Winston Churchill. Not unflawed, the work nevertheless demands the attention of readers and writers alike. Moderns don’t know where they came from historically or literarily; this book partly fills the gap, especially for those who delve into speculative fiction of all sorts. “The power of Man to make himself what he pleases means, as we have seen, the power of some men to make other men what they please.” C. S. Lewis Quibbles: The many misrepresentations of Lewis and Tolkien works by others is adequately covered elsewhere. Loconte should know his primary audience would be Tolkien and Lewis fans, who would detect even small mistakes. While these quibbles don’t negate his main thesis, they undermine the integrity of his work. Hopefully the corrections will be made in the second edition. The brutal, crowded faces around us, that is in their toil have grown Into the faces of devils--yea, even as my own. (C. S. Lewis, “Death in Battle”) A century later, we hardly understand--we can’t--with what shock and horror the Great War impacted European culture. It brought to an end--almost murdered--an era of progressive idealism which began with the Enlightenment two centuries earlier. It crushed great empires and undercut the intellectual optimism since. “The utter stupid waste of war, not only material but moral and spiritual, is so staggering to those who have to endure it, But so short is human memory … in only 30 years there will be few or no people with that direct experience which alone goes really to the heart.” J. R. R. Tolkien It killed a generation of hopeful young men and left those survivors shell shocked and numb--brain dead. And yet a few young intellectuals survived, though wounded, and rebuilt a literary life which stands in stark contrast to the nihilism and pessimism of their fellows. J. R. R. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis maintained or regained their faith in God, themselves and the ultimate victory of Good over Evil. Not escapists, they never denied the horror and hopelessness of the struggle, but they also affirmed the hope of help from outside--hope beyond hope. “Imagination might be as good a guide to reality as rational argument.” Others mileage may vary. I am already a student of the works and philosophy of both Tolkien and Lewis. For those who aren’t, I suggest a light diet of The Hobbit and The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Avoid Lord of the Rings or Lewis’ space trilogy at first. (The movies of Middle Earth or Narnia don’t count.) “Their mythic imagination only partly accounts for their influence. It is their moral imagination that exerts a unique power. That every person is caught up in an epic contest between Light and Darkness.” As with few other books, my first reaction upon completely this work is to turn back to the first page and start reading it again. “Any legends cast as a supposed history of this world must reckon with the tragic reality of human frailty. Middle Earth embodies a world struggling with the consequences of its fall from Grace.” J. R. R. Tolkien (Second reading, April 2019, confirms.)

  15. 4 out of 5

    Carol Bakker

    I still struggle to comprehend the scale of World War I, a war that lasted 1,566 days with an average of 6K dead a day. When I traveled through England and Scotland ten years ago, every village had a monument or plaque to her lost citizens from The Great War. That the lives of two particular soldiers, J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis, were spared is a remarkable and immense gift to the world. This book delves into the way the war influenced their lives and writing. It is a good book, but not, I thi I still struggle to comprehend the scale of World War I, a war that lasted 1,566 days with an average of 6K dead a day. When I traveled through England and Scotland ten years ago, every village had a monument or plaque to her lost citizens from The Great War. That the lives of two particular soldiers, J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis, were spared is a remarkable and immense gift to the world. This book delves into the way the war influenced their lives and writing. It is a good book, but not, I think, a great one. Something about the writing style or form didn't gel for me. But it was certainly not a slog. The most influential Christian authors of the twentieth century believed that every human soul was caught up in a very great story: a fearsome war against a Shadow of Evil that has invaded the world to enslave the sons and daughters of Adam. Yet those who resist the shadow are assured that they will not be left alone; they will be given the gift of friendship amid their struggle and grief. Even more, they will find the grace and strength to persevere, to play their part in the story, however long it endures and wherever it may lead them.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Kimberly

    This book is a fascinating discussion on how war, faith, and friendship all influence Lewis's and Tolkien's writings. Helpful, interesting, and worth the read. This book is a fascinating discussion on how war, faith, and friendship all influence Lewis's and Tolkien's writings. Helpful, interesting, and worth the read.

  17. 5 out of 5

    NinaB

    I cannot express enough how much I loved this book. I have been a fan of JRR Tolkien’s LOTR books for many years and have read a few of C.S. Lewis’s great works. I knew they were friends and Tolkien was instrumental in Lewis’s conversion to Christianity. What I didn’t know was their military service during WW1. I knew very little of that war until a recent visit to the Imperial War Museum in London. What I learned astounded me. It was the most brutal war the world had ever known at that point. A I cannot express enough how much I loved this book. I have been a fan of JRR Tolkien’s LOTR books for many years and have read a few of C.S. Lewis’s great works. I knew they were friends and Tolkien was instrumental in Lewis’s conversion to Christianity. What I didn’t know was their military service during WW1. I knew very little of that war until a recent visit to the Imperial War Museum in London. What I learned astounded me. It was the most brutal war the world had ever known at that point. A Hobbit, A Wardrobe and A Great War (HWGW)added another layer of insight how all three (Tolkien, Lewis and WW1) produced the most beloved and timeless books like The Chronicles of Narnia and the Lord of the Rings series. HWGW is part history, part philosophy, and part biography, interwoven with excerpts from these famous authors’ works. Understanding the temper of the times made me appreciate more how remarkable these books were and are. Before WW1, there was a general sense of optimism, fueled by the new discoveries in science that led to progress and advancement people had never seen before. The myth of progress declared science as the new religion and man, the new god. Even people of faith were deceived by the “virtues” of man-centered science that propagated eugenics and the evolving man. There grew a crisis of faith, but optimism in humanity remained. Believing the advancement in science had to lead to peace, nations naively entered into war unprepared for the devastating consequences of the use of their modern weapons. The war that was supposed to end all wars went on for years without a clear winner, but in the end left almost 40 million casualties, a third of which were killed. WW1 was a turning point in world history, not just in military, but socially, politically and spiritually. It led to worldwide disillusionment that made people cling to modernism further. Rejecting the old systems (democracy and religion) and empires (Ottoman, Austrian-Hungarian, German monarchy, and Tsarist Russia) that failed it, society then embraced the new worldviews (fascism, communism, atheism). Darwin, Nietzsche and Freud became the new prophets that would lead the way to the salvation of man. Society had no more need of God since science could explain everything better than religion. Astonishingly, it was in this state of gloomy social landscape did Tolkien and Lewis’s works begin. This is due to these great writers’ counter-cultural view of reality. They saw progress as an assault to human dignity and hated the machine. Tolkien and Lewis viewed the degradation of society and faith with a more optimistic outlook. They responded by embracing the value of friendship, the power of storytelling, and by “reclaiming some of the older beliefs and virtues. (p. 180)” Their experience in the war did not make them lose hope. They saw the sometimes necessity of war in order to preserve freedom, to save the oppressed, and to protect what made life good. “As veterans of this conflict, Tolkien and Lewis chose to remember not only its horrors and sorrows: they wanted to recall the courage, sacrifice, and the friendships that made it endurable” (p. 170). This was made evident in the beloved books they authored. They created characters that exemplified both fierceness and gentleness. They brought back the old-fashioned ideals of chivalry, nobility, courage, humility and perseverance in the face of evil. Tolkien and Lewis saw the worth of the everyday, seemingly insignificant hero, as we see in Lucy in Narnia and the Hobbits in LOTR. They exalted the virtues of loyal friendships, as exemplified by Sam, Pippin and Merry as they courageously faced what seemed like defeat for the sake of their friend Frodo. They brought hope in the form of a returning king - Aragorn in LOTR and Aslan in Narnia. Through their mythological and magical stories, they communicated biblical truths. Man is corrupt and cannot save himself. He cannot face evil alone, but can defeat it in community. Good will win in the end. These were truths that society needed to hear, but was blind to accept. Tolkien and Lewis offered an alternative answer to the plight of man and it wasn’t found in science. Rather, it was found in the myth because it gave way to the supernatural, destroyed the lie of the autonomous man, and pointed to a God who is good and just. I always knew Tolkien and Lewis did humanity a great kindness through their writing. But HWGW explained why that is and how it came about, and for that reason I highly recommend HWGW to everyone, not to just Tolkien and Lewis fans. It’s a compelling, eye-opening and heartwarming read that I will cherish all my life.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Tom

    This is a sloppy book, but I enjoyed it and benefited from it. Sloppy: Loconte makes a few errors (other readers found more than I did) here and there, and makes too many grand sweeping statements, lumping Lewis and Tolkien together with other thinkers and readers with whom they had major differences. This work reminded of Eric Metaxas' book on Bonhoeffer: a bit of revisionist history that was mostly harmless, oversimplifying the complexities of the people and times involved. His language is colo This is a sloppy book, but I enjoyed it and benefited from it. Sloppy: Loconte makes a few errors (other readers found more than I did) here and there, and makes too many grand sweeping statements, lumping Lewis and Tolkien together with other thinkers and readers with whom they had major differences. This work reminded of Eric Metaxas' book on Bonhoeffer: a bit of revisionist history that was mostly harmless, oversimplifying the complexities of the people and times involved. His language is colorful throughout, which makes for an easier read, but it has the effect of making the reader think Loconte is trying to sensationalize history... which is sort of what he's doing. And the book is a bit sprawling for its subject... makes me wonder if he had a certain page quota with the publisher. Enjoyment and benefit: I share Loconte's basic outlook on life, so his sweeping generalizations didn't rub against my sensibilities. In many ways it reinforced my own worldview... something one can't help but enjoy a bit. The greatest value of the book: his extensive quotes of the progressive writers of the early 20th century. He wants his readers to connect the collection of quotes with the issues of our own day. In my view this is an important connection to make: the assumptions that drove the genocide and wars of the 20th century are still alive and well in the 21st. Loconte clearly went to great effort to research the War and the two writers. He also seems to have done some personal research. The result is that we look at WWI through a personal lens: the lives of Lewis, Tolkien, and, bringing it down from the ivory tower, Loconte's own family. Would I read it again? No. Will I poach it for quotes? Yes. Would I recommend it? Yes, I already have... with some caveats. Do I wish he had a better editor? Yes.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Kris

    Well-written exploration of powerful themes in Tolkien and Lewis's writing. Definitely a great book on them, but not near the best I've read. Laconte is a great writer, but I feel this could have used more organization, and even more analyzation. I felt that most of the time he was just explaining things or reporting things -- especially the entire chapter on nothing but the devastation of the war. I understand that he needs to lay this groundwork, but it seemed to plod on much longer than was tr Well-written exploration of powerful themes in Tolkien and Lewis's writing. Definitely a great book on them, but not near the best I've read. Laconte is a great writer, but I feel this could have used more organization, and even more analyzation. I felt that most of the time he was just explaining things or reporting things -- especially the entire chapter on nothing but the devastation of the war. I understand that he needs to lay this groundwork, but it seemed to plod on much longer than was truly necessary. I wish he could have made that emphasis on destruction come to fruition with more meaning and purpose to his writing, within the same chapter. But later chapters held some really moving thoughts and quotes. I'd recommend it, but only to the average person who doesn't know a lot about Lewis and Tolkien already. Even though the writing was enjoyable and I grasped a few new ideas, this was a re-visit to a lot of basics for me. This book probably was meant for the average reader, who just wants a first peak into the writing of these men. I appreciated the fact that he often mentioned Lewis's Space Trilogy, which is often glossed over by other books on him. *However, what did bother me was how the reader pronounces "Magdalen" college at Oxford with a "Mag" instead of the "Maud" sound. As someone who lived there for a short time, it drove me nuts hearing him mispronounce it!

  20. 4 out of 5

    Donna

    I like the idea of this book, but I don't think it met my expectations. I've been so excited about reading this book and I finally got it, and worked it into a reading challenge to boot. I liked the latter half better. Overall, I felt the author strained to find what he needed to make the points he wanted. Now with that being said, I loved the latter focus on both J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis. They were both brilliant and I enjoyed reading about them and their writings. I don't doubt that WWI a I like the idea of this book, but I don't think it met my expectations. I've been so excited about reading this book and I finally got it, and worked it into a reading challenge to boot. I liked the latter half better. Overall, I felt the author strained to find what he needed to make the points he wanted. Now with that being said, I loved the latter focus on both J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis. They were both brilliant and I enjoyed reading about them and their writings. I don't doubt that WWI and their service in the war, colored their writings. I guess I just wanted more solid facts about that in particular. But I still liked this.....so 3 stars.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Bronwyn

    Got about a third of the way through this. It just wasn't what I expected. Putting the audiobook on hold I didn't see the subtitle, and while that might not have made me not want to read it, it would have changed my expectations. Once the author started referencing Robert Graves's militant atheism, he lost me. There are ways to write about faith and lack thereof, but this book turned me right off. I'd like a book about Tolkien's and Lewis's friendship and the war, but without such a bent to it. Got about a third of the way through this. It just wasn't what I expected. Putting the audiobook on hold I didn't see the subtitle, and while that might not have made me not want to read it, it would have changed my expectations. Once the author started referencing Robert Graves's militant atheism, he lost me. There are ways to write about faith and lack thereof, but this book turned me right off. I'd like a book about Tolkien's and Lewis's friendship and the war, but without such a bent to it. My library has an ebook of The Fellowship, about the Inklings; maybe I'll borrow that one day.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Bob

    Summary: A study of why Lewis and Tolkien, contrary to a disillusioned post-war generation, went deeper into their faith and allowed both war experience and that faith to shape their greatest works. In one sense, Joseph Loconte covers ground that others have covered in exploring the lives and work of C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien. What Loconte uniquely does are two things. For one, he explores why Lewis and Tolkien defied the trajectory into disillusionment of so many in the post-World War I gene Summary: A study of why Lewis and Tolkien, contrary to a disillusioned post-war generation, went deeper into their faith and allowed both war experience and that faith to shape their greatest works. In one sense, Joseph Loconte covers ground that others have covered in exploring the lives and work of C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien. What Loconte uniquely does are two things. For one, he explores why Lewis and Tolkien defied the trajectory into disillusionment of so many in the post-World War I generation, and went on to embrace and espouse a vibrant Christian faith. As for the second, Loconte reads the works of these two men, exploring how war experiences shaped the imaginary worlds of Narnia, the Space Trilogy, and Middle Earth. He articulates his particular theses as follows: "Indeed, it was the experience of war that provided much of the raw material for the characters and themes of their imaginative works. In a talk called 'Learning in War Time,' Lewis explained how war exposes the folly in placing our happiness in utopian schemes to transform society. 'If we thought we were building up a heaven on earth, if we looked for something that would turn the present world from a place of pilgrimage into a permanent city satisfying the soul of man, we are disillusioned, and not a moment too soon.' As we'll see, unlike the disillusionment that overwhelmed much of his generation, Lewis would use the experience of war--its horror as well as its nobility--as a guidepost to moral clarity." For Loconte then, the beginning point is to discuss the "Myth of Progress" that preceded the war as it viewed humans, society, and technology evolving to ever more enlightened forms by which humanity would cast off the darkness of ignorance that had contributed to so much suffering in the past. With the onset of the war and the horrors of the trench warfare (perhaps Tolkien's inspiration for his vision of Mordor), these illusions were shattered for many. Both were casualties of war through illness or wounds. In Lewis' case, a journey through the country to a hospital to convalesce may have sparked a vision of Narnia. It was during Lewis's war years that he came across George McDonald's Phantastes, that certainly contributed to the conversion of his imagination. War's end brought the massive disillusionment of much of the intellectual class. While Tolkien devoted himself to work and to his Catholic faith, and began to sketch the outlines of the great myth that would be the foundation of Lord of the Rings, Lewis struggled with doubt. Lewis and Tolkien first met in 1926, recognizing their common interest in languages. But they had a profound disagreement about myth that culminated in a long conversation between Lewis, Tolkien, and Hugo Dyson in which Lewis recognized the story of Christ dying and rising to be a true myth, a crucial step for Lewis in coming to Christian faith. In the years ahead, they would collaborate as two key figures in a larger group knowing as the Inklings in a host of writing projects that birthed the Space Trilogy, the Chronicles of Narnia, and The Lord of the Rings, as well as many of Lewis's apologetic works. Through the mutual encouragement they gave each other and their vibrant faith, they provide a counter for the outpouring of disillusioned, despairing writing of the post-war period. What is more, they envisioned in their work, shaped by their experience of a brutally efficient technology unhinged from a larger theological framework, the ways bureaucracy and technology might interweave to obliterate the human image in books like That Hideous Strength, or in the idea of a Ring of Power that could subject all manner of beings to its owner's bidding. Seeing the machines of war in their own experience, and the more sinister regimes of Hitler and Stalin, they could write of the evil power that, as Screwtape desires, would devour the other. Yet Loconte shows how this bracing grasp of the nature of evil did not discourage them. Their works were infused with Christian hope--an Aslan that rises, a hobbit who, against all hopes, fulfills his mission with the help of tragic Gollum, the crowning of Aragorn as the long-awaited great king, and the Christ-like figure of Ransom, who summons both Merlin and the angels to subvert the villainies of the N.I.C.E. Like the foot soldiers in the war, many of the most significant turns of events come from the actions of children and hobbits doing their duty. This, as I said, is not a book that covers new ground, but I found myself as I read making new connections, the "I hadn't thought of it that way" moments when you see something you know in a new way. Loconte concludes the book with a tribute to grandfather, Michele Loconte, who fought with the American forces, and only after the war became a U.S. citizen. Loconte says his research helped him understand more how the war had an impact on so many ordinary families including his own. Fitting that an Inklings scholar should make this connection between his own history and that of the Inklings!

  23. 5 out of 5

    Germaine Irwin

    Interesting book about CS Lewis and Tolkien and their experiences of WWI and theories of how their service informed their writing. There was a bit of repetition but overall a new perspective for me.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Mary

    Very mixed feelings. I was so eager to read this book! But, while reading, I got the impression that Mr. Loconte really didn't know Lewis's or Tolkien's books that well. He seems to strain to fit quotes into his thesis, and sometimes he simply does not quote correctly. For example, he states that Shasta, in "The Horse and His Boy" says, "Those will be wars worth fighting in". But lovers of the series will know that the boy, Shasta, never says any such thing. It's the warhorse, Bree, who says thi Very mixed feelings. I was so eager to read this book! But, while reading, I got the impression that Mr. Loconte really didn't know Lewis's or Tolkien's books that well. He seems to strain to fit quotes into his thesis, and sometimes he simply does not quote correctly. For example, he states that Shasta, in "The Horse and His Boy" says, "Those will be wars worth fighting in". But lovers of the series will know that the boy, Shasta, never says any such thing. It's the warhorse, Bree, who says this, and Bree is a character who's often shown to be wrong - though perhaps not about major things. Mr. Loconte thus makes two mistakes in this and a few other quotes from the books: 1. He simply gets things wrong, as he does here. It only happens a couple of times, but it happens. 2. He also assumes that the characters speak for the author. This isn't a safe assumption to make about any work of fiction. So I wasn't really impressed with this book as a work of literary analysis. As a work of history, detailing both the history of the Great War and the history of Tolkien and Lewis's friendship, it's fascinating. Unfortunately, because I noted mistakes like the one I cite above, I couldn't quite trust Mr. Loconte's history, either. I wish I could, because this part of the book is quite gripping. One more point: It's certainly true that being thrown into a cataclysm like WWI would greatly affect sensitive, intelligent young men like Lewis and Tolkien. I can't even imagine how much. Even so, though Tolkien's war experience definitely resonates through his fiction, the same isn't quite so true of Lewis. The Chronicles of Narnia aren't really war stories. They are fairy tales - fables, even. Two of the seven deal pretty heavily (and deliberately) with war, but the others don't. So - a fascinating and frustrating book. I'm glad I read it and I think it brings up many points for discussion, but I find myself wanting to refute parts of it.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Rachel

    This book is fantastic. It focuses chiefly on J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis, as you may have guessed, especially their experiences as soldiers on the front lines during WWI and how those affected the rest of their lives. Especially their literary lives, of course, since that's what most of us know Tolkien and Lewis for. But it doesn't stop with those two. It shows, gently and persuasively, how the catastrophic destruction of that war caused millions of people to turn away from God and look to sc This book is fantastic. It focuses chiefly on J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis, as you may have guessed, especially their experiences as soldiers on the front lines during WWI and how those affected the rest of their lives. Especially their literary lives, of course, since that's what most of us know Tolkien and Lewis for. But it doesn't stop with those two. It shows, gently and persuasively, how the catastrophic destruction of that war caused millions of people to turn away from God and look to science and technology for their salvation here on earth. And how that change in the world around them informed the things Tolkien and Lewis wrote about.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Simon Stegall

    At times this book achieves real insight into the lives and works of these two great writers: but only rarely. Mostly a redundant ramble that reads more like a college freshman book report than a serious literary/historical study. Best part about this book is that it's short. At times this book achieves real insight into the lives and works of these two great writers: but only rarely. Mostly a redundant ramble that reads more like a college freshman book report than a serious literary/historical study. Best part about this book is that it's short.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Andrew

    I had been dwelling on the divide between the literary movement of post-war Europe and Tolkien’s work, considering how the trenches caused such differing response. As my Quest Fantastic approached and entered the war years, my contemplation expanded. Then I recalled this book being gifted to me, and realized when better to read it than right before Tuor and the Fall of Gondolin. I appreciated Loconte’s construction of the prevailing humanism of the turn of that century, I was especially intereste I had been dwelling on the divide between the literary movement of post-war Europe and Tolkien’s work, considering how the trenches caused such differing response. As my Quest Fantastic approached and entered the war years, my contemplation expanded. Then I recalled this book being gifted to me, and realized when better to read it than right before Tuor and the Fall of Gondolin. I appreciated Loconte’s construction of the prevailing humanism of the turn of that century, I was especially interested in churches picking up the evolutionary eugenics... which had such tragic consequences... His analysis of post-war I believe failed to be as robust, simplifying and summarizing Lost Generation writings and the new political and philosophical hopes of man that were raised. But this is likely emblematic more of my own interests and intrigues than Loconte’s failure. As people are here for Tolkien and Lewis, I would note that the majority of his historical Lewis content is from Surprised by Joy, but Tolkien really makes up the backbone of this work. And while interesting, if not original, I do feel like Loconte failed to really distinguish what it is that set Tolkien apart from so many of his fellow soldiers. It more established that he was indeed set apart than devising any particular causes. Certainly, Loconte anchors this in his Christian faith and walks some of the road which I myself am wandering: believing that Tolkien had a category for the atrocities that he faced, whereas the progressive humanism at times thinly veiled in vague Christian trappings could not withstand the treacherous blow of man’s depravity. A significant frustration is a number of errors or misunderstandings of Tolkien’s texts (and not knowing what the word prequel means...). It may have been an editor’s fault, but it shakes your trust in a writer when he is clearly stating things wrong about a text. Oh and at a few points Loconte attempts to make some statements about Lewis and Tolkien’s desire to bring back the medieval heroes and virtues, but displays a lack of understanding of those texts. While there are elements of truth there, I believe there are significant ways which Lewis and Tolkien distinguish themselves from medieval romance virtues. Note that one of Tolkien’s earliest translations is Gawain and the Green Knight which is a rebuttal of significant components of the chivalric courtly love tradition. Likewise he on a couple occasions cites Le Morte d’Arthur, but proceeds to use the universal and fallacious assumption about its chivalry. He also kept annoying me by leaving off the Le of the title... It is very possible he had a greater understanding than even I do, but he skirts by these statements so quickly it looks like someone uncomfortable with the topic because he has not done the research.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Matthias

    This was an excellent book. I wasn’t very impressed initially due to the emphasis, not on the war, but on the prevailing attitudes regarding the war in England and America. It wasn’t until about halfway through when the pieces began to click: Mr. Joseph Loconte uses the spirit of the age as a backdrop behind Mr. Lewis and Mr. Tolkien. Their works defied the spirit of the age and gave a hopeful, Christian, realistic outlook for life without denying the brokenness of all creation. It is interesting This was an excellent book. I wasn’t very impressed initially due to the emphasis, not on the war, but on the prevailing attitudes regarding the war in England and America. It wasn’t until about halfway through when the pieces began to click: Mr. Joseph Loconte uses the spirit of the age as a backdrop behind Mr. Lewis and Mr. Tolkien. Their works defied the spirit of the age and gave a hopeful, Christian, realistic outlook for life without denying the brokenness of all creation. It is interesting to me that their works are the most enduring and beloved of their time. They defied the fatalism and defeatism of their age, but at the same time had characters who were consistently unable to achieve victory without some form of outside (divine) grace. I believe those stories resonate with us because we feel our own limitations. There are great evils in the world and we have the need to believe that someone, sometime, somewhere will make it right. From a Christian perspective, we do believe that God will make things right. In Christ we find acceptance with God and strive to achieve justice and righteousness in this life. But by faith we rest in him and trust him to make all things right one day. If you have enjoyed the works of Lewis and Tolkien and would like some more information on the lives of these two great men, this book is a great place to start!

  29. 5 out of 5

    Danielsly

    For any avid Lewis or Tolkien fan! Loconte does an excellent job of creating context and depth to both Lewis’ and Tolkien’s life work. The world in which these men created mythical creatures, wizards, and epic stories of good vs evil was a era of great catastrophe and world war. The parallels between each author’s worldview (religious and secular) and their personal life experiences on the battlefield become clear as day as Loconte draws comparisons from their works. A noteworthy mention that thi For any avid Lewis or Tolkien fan! Loconte does an excellent job of creating context and depth to both Lewis’ and Tolkien’s life work. The world in which these men created mythical creatures, wizards, and epic stories of good vs evil was a era of great catastrophe and world war. The parallels between each author’s worldview (religious and secular) and their personal life experiences on the battlefield become clear as day as Loconte draws comparisons from their works. A noteworthy mention that this book touches on is their unique friendship (as described as one of the most influential duos of their century) - the pair create a exemplary model of true friendship as they meet regularly w a group of men self-proclaimed as “the Inklings”, to wrestle through religious topics, influential authors, current world affairs and shared life experiences. Overall, I loved the book. I found it a quick and engaging read and would recommend to anyone.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Scottsdale Public Library

    I did not like The Fellowship of the Ring when I first saw the movie. It was too loud, the Orcs scared the cuss out of me and… oh my, who is that white-haired elven archer though...? I have since found an unwavering appreciation for the trilogy of movies and want to embark upon reading Tolkien’s most beloved novels. But before I dive into the Shire, I decided to read some background on Tolkien and his work. A Hobbit, a Wardrobe, and a Great War… delves beautifully into the events, beliefs and rel I did not like The Fellowship of the Ring when I first saw the movie. It was too loud, the Orcs scared the cuss out of me and… oh my, who is that white-haired elven archer though...? I have since found an unwavering appreciation for the trilogy of movies and want to embark upon reading Tolkien’s most beloved novels. But before I dive into the Shire, I decided to read some background on Tolkien and his work. A Hobbit, a Wardrobe, and a Great War… delves beautifully into the events, beliefs and relationships that inspired his and C.S. Lewis’ writings. Both authors had been in the World War and experienced life altering events. Both went back to become scholars at home and found each other to be fast friends, colleagues and formed their own fellowship. Both wrote their personal convictions into their adored works. This title also depicts much of the war and I found the background to be most helpful in creating Tolkien and Lewis’ worldviews. This is a great work for Tolkien and Lewis admirers who would like to learn more about their personal, spiritual and intellectual background. I am ready to read The Lord of the Rings and The Chronicles of Narnia and view the works with deeper meanings and a deeper appreciation. -Sara S.

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