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'Tolkien and Lewis' to focus on relationship between two British fantasy writers

Bust of Tolkien
Julian Nitzsche (Creative Commons)

J.R.R, Tolkien, whose “Lord of the Rings” series and his children’s book “The Hobbit” are the most famous examples of high fantasy in history and has inspired a series of hit movies, is inspiring some movies based on his own life. According to a Wednesday story in Entertainment Weekly, one such film is entitled “Tolkien and Lewis.” It will focus on the relationship between Tolkien and his fellow Oxford don and fantasy writer in his own right C.S. Lewis.

Tolkien and Lewis were friends and occasional rivals during the 1940s and 1950s. It was Tolkien who converted Lewis, hitherto an agnostic, to Christianity. Ironically this propelled Lewis into a career as a writer of theology, including books like “Mere Christianity” and “The Screwtape Letters.” It brought a kind of fame that proved to be a strain on the relationship between the two men.

Lewis, for his part, encouraged Tolkien to complete “Lord of the Rings.” Tolkien struggled with nightmarish images brought on by PTSD caused by his service in World War I. Some of those images were used in the books in some of their most arresting scenes.

Lewis is known as the writer of two series, a children’s fantasy called “The Chronicles of Narnia” and a science fiction trilogy that started with “Out of a Silent Planet.” Both series contained a number of overt Christian themes. The “planet” books, that suggested that outer space is “God’s quarantine regions” from which humanity is barred and ridiculed “interplanetary societies,” roused the ire of another British writer, Arthur C. Clarke, an atheist and advocate of space exploration. This resulted in a spirited but friendly debate between Clarke, Lewis, and Tolkien in 1954.

Another movie, simply called “Tolkien” that features the writer’s wartime service is in development. Lewis was already the subject of a movie called “Shadowlands,” starring Anthony Hopkins. “Tolkien and Lewis” is to be directed by Simon West, better known for more bombastic films such as “Expendables 2” and “Con Air.” It is due to be released on Easter, 2015.

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