Category Archives: Literature

“Reading great literature” by C.S. Lewis

“Those of us who have been true readers all our life seldom fully realise the enormous extension of our being which we owe to authors. We realise it best when we talk with an unliterary friend. He may be full of goodness and good sense but he inhabits a tiny world. In it, we should be suffocated. The man who is contented to be only himself, and therefore less a self, is in prison.

My own eyes are not enough for me, I will see through the eyes of others. Reality, even seen through the eyes of many, is not enough. I will see what others have invented. I regret that the brutes cannot write books. Very gladly would I learn what face things present to a mouse or a bee; more gladly still would I perceive the olfactory world charged with all the information and emotion it carries for a dog…

In reading great literature I become a thousand men and yet remain myself. Like the night sky in the Greek poem, I see with a myriad eyes, but it is still I who see. Here, as in worship, in love, in moral action, in knowing, I transcend myself; and am never more myself than when I do.”

–C.S. Lewis, An Experiment in Criticism (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1961/1992), 140-141.

2 Comments

Filed under Books, C.S. Lewis, Christian Theology, Literature, Quotable Quotes, Reading

“Do you feel yourself sufficient?” by C.S. Lewis

“At the sight of Aslan the cheeks of the Telmarine soldiers became the color of cold gravy, their knees knocked together, and many fell on their faces. They had not believed in lions and this made their fear greater.

Even the Red Dwarfs, who knew that he came as a friend, stood with open mouths and could not speak. Some of the Black Dwarfs, who had been of Nikabrik’s party, began to edge away.

But all the Talking Beasts surged round the Lion, with purrs and grunts and squeaks and whinnies of delight, fawning on him with their tails, rubbing against him, touching him reverently with their noses and going to and fro under his body and between his legs.

If you have ever seen a little cat loving a big dog whom it knows and trusts, you will have a pretty good picture of their behavior. Then Peter, leading Caspian, forced his way through the crowd of animals.

‘This is Caspian, Sir,’ he said.

And Caspian knelt and kissed the Lion’s paw.

‘Welcome, Prince,’ said Aslan. ‘Do you feel yourself sufficient to take up the Kingship of Narnia?’

‘I— I don’t think I do, Sir,’ said Caspian. ‘I’m only a kid.’

‘Good,’ said Aslan. ‘If you had felt yourself sufficient, it would have been a proof that you were not. Therefore, under us and under the High King, you shall be King of Narnia, Lord of Cair Paravel, and Emperor of the Lone Islands. You and your heirs while your race lasts.’

–C.S. Lewis, Prince Caspian (The Chronicles of Narnia) (New York: Harper Collins, 1951), 205-206.

1 Comment

Filed under Aslan, C.S. Lewis, Humility, Jesus Christ, Literature, Narnia, Pride, Quotable Quotes

“But the words were not quite the same” by J.R.R. Tolkien

“It was evening, and the stars were glimmering in the eastern sky as they passed the ruined oak and turned and went on down the hill between the hazel-thickets. Sam was silent, deep in his memories.

Presently he became aware that Frodo was singing softly to himself, singing the old-walking song, but the words were not quite the same.

Still round the corner there may wait
A new road or a secret gate;
And though I oft have passed them by,
A day will come at last when I
Shall take the hidden paths that run
West of the Moon, East of the Sun.

–J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings (New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1954), 1028.

Leave a comment

Filed under Books, Christian Theology, Hope, J.R.R. Tolkien, Literature, Providence, Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs, Quotable Quotes, Resurrection, Sovereignty, Suffering

“We all long for Eden” by J.R.R. Tolkien

“Certainly there was an Eden on this very unhappy earth. We all long for it, and we are constantly glimpsing it: our whole nature at its best and least corrupted, its gentlest and most humane, is still soaked with the sense of ‘exile’.”

–J.R.R. Tolkien, The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, Ed. Humphrey Carpenter (New York: Houghton Mifflin, 2000), 110. Tolkien penned these words in a letter to his son, Christopher Tolkien, on January 30, 1945.

1 Comment

Filed under Bible, Christian Theology, Creation, J.R.R. Tolkien, Literature, Quotable Quotes, Sin, Worldview

“Devastating desire” by C.S. Lewis

“I feel strongly, with you, that there was something more than a physical pleasure in those youthful activities. Even now, at my age, do we often have a purely physical pleasure?

Well, perhaps, a few of the more hopelessly prosaic ones: say, scratching or getting one’s shoes off when one’s feet are tired.

I’m sure my meals are not a purely physical pleasure. All the associations of every other time one has had the same food (every rasher of bacon is now 56 years thick with me) come in: and with the things like Bread, Wine, Honey, Apples, there are all the echoes of myth, fairy-tale, poetry, and Scripture.

So that the physical pleasure is also imaginative and even spiritual. Every meal can be a kind of lower sacrament.

‘Devastating gratitude’ is a good phrase: but my own experience is rather ‘devastating desire’– desire for that-of-which-the-present-joy-is-a-Reminder.

All my life nature and art have been reminding me of something I’ve never seen: saying ‘Look! What does this– and this– remind you of?’

I am so glad that you find (as I do too) that life, far from getting dull and empty as one grows older, opens out. It is like being in a house where one keeps on discovering new rooms.”

–C.S. Lewis, “To Mary Van Deusen” (March 3, 1955) in The Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis: Narnia, Cambridge, and Joy 1950-1963, Volume 3 (Ed. Walter Hooper; New York: HarperCollins, 2007), 583-584.

Leave a comment

Filed under Art, C.S. Lewis, Christian Theology, Creation, grace, Jesus Christ, Literature, Love of God, Puritanical, Quotable Quotes, Sanctification, Thanksgiving, Worldview, Worship

“This is Aslan’s doing” by C.S. Lewis

“Every moment the patches of green grew bigger and the patches of snow grew smaller. Every moment more and more of the trees shook off their robes of snow. Soon, wherever you looked, instead of white shapes you saw the dark green of firs or the black prickly branches of bare oaks and breeches and elms.

Then the mist turned from white to gold and presently cleared away altogether. Shafts of delicious sunlight struck down onto the forest floor and overhead you could see a blue sky between the treetops.

Soon there were more wonderful things happening. Coming suddenly round a corner into a glade of silver birch trees Edmund saw the ground covered in all directions with little yellow flowers–celandines.

The noise of the water grew louder. Presently they actually crossed a stream. Beyond it they found snowdrops growing.

‘Mind your own business!’ said the dwarf when he saw that Edmund had turned his head to look at them; and he gave the rope a vicious jerk.

But of course this didn’t prevent Edmund from seeing. Only five minutes later he noticed a dozen crocuses growing round the foot of an old tree—gold and purple and white. Then came a sound even more delicious than the sound of water. Close beside the path they were following a bird suddenly chirped from the branch of a tree. It was answered by the chuckle of another bird a little further off.

And then, as if that had been signal, there was chattering and chirruping in every direction, and then a moment of full song, and within five minutes the whole wood was ringing with birds’ music, and wherever Edmund’s eyes turned he saw birds alighting on branches, or sailing overhead or chasing one another or having their little quarrels or tidying up their feathers with their beaks.

‘Faster! Faster!’ said the Witch.

There was no trace of the fog now. The sky became bluer and bluer, and now there were white clouds hurrying across it from time to time. In the wide glades there were primroses. A light breeze sprang up which scattered drops of moisture from the swaying branches and carried cool, delicious scents against the faces of the travelers.

The trees began to come fully alive. The larches and birches were covered with green, the laburnums with gold. Soon the beech trees had put forth their delicate, transparent leaves. As the travelers walked under them the light also became green. A bee buzzed across their path.

‘This is no thaw,’ said the dwarf, suddenly stopping. ‘This is Spring. What are we to do? Your winter has been destroyed, I tell you! This is Aslan’s doing.’

‘If either of you mentions that name again,’ said the Witch, ‘he shall instantly be killed.'”

–C.S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobein The Chronicles of Narnia (New York: HarperCollins, 1954/1994), 165-166.

1 Comment

Filed under C.S. Lewis, Christian Theology, Heaven, Jesus Christ, Literature, Narnia, Puritanical, Quotable Quotes, The Gospel

“The very wine of blessedness” by J.R.R. Tolkien

“And so the red blood blushing in their faces and their eyes shining with wonder, Frodo and Sam went forward and saw that amidst the clamorous host were set three high-seats built of green turves.

Behind the seat upon the right floated, white on green, a great horse running free; upon the left was a banner, silver upon blue, a ship swan-prowed faring on the sea; but behind the highest throne in the midst of all a great standard was spread in the breeze, and there a white tree flowered upon a sable field beneath a shining crown and seven glittering stars.

On the throne sat a mail-clad man, a great sword was laid across his knees, but he wore no helm. As they drew near he rose. And then they knew him, changed as he was, so high and glad of face, kingly, lord of Men, dark-haired with eyes of grey. Frodo ran to meet him, and Sam followed close behind.

‘Well, if this isn’t the crown of all!’ he said. ‘Strider, or I’m still asleep!’

‘Yes, Sam, Strider,’ said Aragorn. ‘It is a long way, is it not, from Bree, where you did not like the look of me? A long way for us all, but yours has been the darkest road.’

And then to Sam’s surprise and utter confusion he bowed his knee before them; and taking them by the hand, Frodo upon his right and Sam upon his left, he led them to the throne, and setting them upon it, he turned to the men and captains who stood by and spoke, so that his voice rang over all the host, crying: ‘Praise them with great praise!’

And when the glad shout had swelled up and died away again, to Sam’s final and complete satisfaction and pure joy, a minstrel of Gondor stood forth, and knelt, and begged leave to sing.

And behold! he said: ‘Lo! lords and knights and men of valour unashamed, kings and princes, and fair people of Gondor, and Riders of Rohan, and ye sons of Elrond, and Dúnedain of the North, and Elf and Dwarf, and greathearts of the Shire, and all free folk of the West, now listen to my lay. For I will sing to you of Frodo of the Nine Fingers and the Ring of Doom.’

And when Sam heard that he laughed aloud for sheer delight, and he stood up and cried: ‘O great glory and splendour! And all my wishes have come true!’

And then he wept. And all the host laughed and wept, and in the midst of their merriment and tears the clear voice of the minstrel rose like silver and gold, and all men were hushed.

And he sang to them, now in the elven-tongue, now in the speech of the West, until their hearts, wounded with sweet words, overflowed, and their joy was like swords, and they passed in thought out to regions where pain and delight flow together and tears are the very wine of blessedness.”

–J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings (New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1954), 953-954.

Leave a comment

Filed under Books, Christian Theology, Hope, J.R.R. Tolkien, Literature, Providence, Quotable Quotes, Resurrection, Sovereignty, Suffering