Book Review: A Hobbit, A Wardrobe and A Great War by Joseph Loconte

In honor of Hobbit Day this past Saturday… here’s my ode to Tolkien – and his good friend Lewis.

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From the Back Cover:

J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis enjoyed one of the most consequential friendships of the twentieth century – a friendship that emerged from the suffering and sorrow of war. Both men fought on the front lines during the First World War and discovered in its wake a new calling on their lives. This engrossing true story explores for the first time how the Great War influenced the life of each writer and subsequently shaped the nature and character of their respective towering achievements, The Lord of the Rings and The Chronicles of Narnia.”

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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 1914-1918

 

Thoughts:

I often listen to audiobook versions of titles on my TBR list – which is rather long. It makes laundry and other tasks much more enjoyable.

Joseph Loconte reads the book himself, however, multitasking was not possible as much of the information so surprised me that I found myself frozen as history carried me away.

There is such danger in reading any author’s work in a vaccum. We do it no justice to forget the cultural and political and even spiritual background swirling around them.

  • Did you know Hitler wasn’t the first to push the idea of eugenics? It was proclaimed from many pulpits in America and Britain as the ultimate goal of progress – which the author refers to as the “Myth of Progress”.
  • The Social Gospel was ladled out as the true Gospel: “The Christian religion must be a religion less concerned about getting men to heaven than about fitting them for their proper work not he earth.” p15
  • There was an eugenics sermon contest. The winner of said contest was Rev. Kenneth McArthur: “If we take seriously the Christian purpose of realizing on earth the ideal divine society, we shall welcome every help which science affords.” p.19

This was going on during the years when Tolkien and Lewis were developing their own thoughts on these ideas. Their world was saturated with the idea that science – eugenics – could perfect human nature and society.

Then the war.

Both men in trenches on the Western Front: one saved, one not. They kept journals, if only to keep their minds busy with something other than death. Those entries, especially for Tolkien, helped many battle scenes come alive.

After the war, their shared love of the classics: Homer, Beowulf and George MacDonald bonded them in many ways and created the foundation for Lewis’ spiritual transformation as well as the changing of our world through their fiction.

Such a statement! To change the world through the creation of ficiton!! Isn’t that what every writer secretly hopes is said of their work? “Her book changed the world.”

If someone’s thoughts about God are changed so they grow closer to Him as a result of my writing, I will have truly changed the world – that one person’s world. 

Themes:

The Devastation of the Great War, Lord of the Rings, Chronicles of Narnia, Eugenics, “The Myth of Progress”, belief, myth

Reservations:

None. I feel so much sadness… the people sterilized based on someone’s declaration of them not “good enough”, the utter nightmarish scenes from the war, that this happened in the world God deemed so good – yet the hope that even in all of that, these two men obeyed their King and wrote not to please the people but Him.

Recommendations:

Anyone who loves Tolkien or Lewis needs to read this book. Their works will mean so much more after. Truly.

“After returning to England from the front, Tolkien and Lewis might easily have joined the ranks of rootless and disbelieving. Instead, they became convinced there was only one truth, one singular event, that could help the weary and brokenhearted find their way home: the Return of the King.”

I couldn’t end it any better than that.

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