Tag Archives: The Lord of the Rings

Getting an “Inkling” of the medieval world


My forthcoming book Medieval Wisdom for Today’s Christians will use C S Lewis and “the Inklings” (including Tolkien, Charles Williams, Dorothy Sayers, and by extension others such as G K Chesterton) as guides to a usable medieval past. This is a good thing, because I myself am not a medievalist! So I’m having to do a LOT of reading on the period, and it’s good to have guides on this sort of journey. I’ve also traveled to the gargantuan Medieval Congress in Kalamazoo (and hope to do so soon again). Yesterday I re-posted my anticipatory Christianity Today history blog post on my first trip to that conference (“The monks did it: Mining medieval resources“). This is my follow-up to that post.

Oh, and, in case you’re interested, here are some other posts dealing with the same theme of “the Inklings and the medieval”: A piece on how Lewis, Charles Williams, and Dorothy Sayers were all inspired (in very different ways) by the great medieval poet Dante Alighieri. A piece on the medievalist work and thought of G K Chesterton. A posting of the summary of the introductory chapter from my Medieval Wisdom book proposal. A consideration of how the “Inklings” hated modernity and used medieval ideas against modern malaises. A summary of the medieval historian Norman Cantor’s assessment of C. S. Lewis as medievalist.

Now to the post at hand . . .

Getting an “Inkling” of the Medieval World

How to excavate a usable medieval past.

by Chris Armstrong | June 3, 2009

Birdandbaby.jpg

Well, I promised to report back on the Kalamazoo Congress on Medieval Studies, and so I will, at least for a moment before turning to another set of lenses on a “usable medieval past.”

In a word, the congress was overwhelming. With over 3,000 scholars and over 600 sessions (averaging 3+ papers each) stuffed into a few days, many of them on topics very esoteric and technical, my head was swimming. Navigating the sessions became an exercise in close reading and careful exegesis of the program-book. Fortunately, more often than not I did manage to hit pay-dirt. Continue reading

Advertisements

The monks did it: Mining medieval resources


My, how time flies. (In the words of the immortal Groucho Marx: “Time flies like an arrow. Fruit flies like a banana.” But then again, in the words of the immortal Douglas Adams: “Time is an illusion. Lunchtime, doubly so.”) Last May my Patron Saints for Postmoderns was not yet published, I was hoping against hope that my book proposal Medieval Wisdom for Modern Protestants [maybe Medieval Wisdom for Today’s Christians?] would be accepted by a publisher, and I was posting a blog entry over at Christianity Today’s history blog eagerly anticipating my first Medieval Congress at Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo.

Now Patron Saints has been out for many months, Medieval Wisdom is due to the publishers (Baker Books) next December, and the Medieval Congress at Kalamazoo is again just around the corner as May approaches. Here’s my CT blog post from last year anticipating my first Congress:

The Monks Did It

If we move beyond a piecemeal approach to medieval Christianity, we can mine the rich vein of its spiritual, intellectual, and practical resources.

by Chris Armstrong

Medieval_writing_desk.jpg

This weekend I am attending the 44th International Congress on Medieval Studies at Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo. This is the largest and most prestigious international gathering for medievalist scholars, convening over 3,000 scholars in over 600 sessions of papers, panel discussions, roundtables, workshops, and performances.

Frankly, though I am no medievalist, just thinking about being there is making me drool.

What’s an American church history geek doing attending a meeting that will feature hundreds of highly technical papers in a field I hardly know, based on texts in languages I’ve never learned – Latin, Old English, Old Norse? Continue reading

J R R Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings: What harvest?


It was impossible to do a Christian History issue on J R R Tolkien without paying some notice to the flourishing genre of fantasy writing. Essentially, Tolkien created the genre with his The Lord of the Rings. Where has fantasy writing gone since Tolkien? What are some worthy members of the genre? We asked writer Aaron Belz to look into this matter, and he came back with the following fascinating report:

Christian History Corner: The Lord of the Rings: What Harvest?
A reader’s guide to the best of epic fantasy
Aaron Belz, introduced by Christian History managing editor Chris Armstrong

Early one morning last week, a Christianity Today International executive joined thousands of other Americans by driving out to a major retail chain to snag a newly advertised $15 copy of the The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers DVD. He arrived to find the bins already cleaned out.

Had he then headed to his local bookstore, our colleague would likely have found a similarly brisk trade in Tolkien’s trilogy itself. Not that those books needed Peter Jackson’s help: They long ago entered the rarified ranks of the blockbuster bestsellers.

But the millions of DVDs and books sold represent only the “camel’s nose” of Tolkien’s influence under the tent of popular culture. Continue reading

J. R. R. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis: A legendary friendship


Though my friend Colin Duriez’s book Tolkien and C. S. Lewis: The Gift of Friendship is no longer new, the interview I did with him when the book came out in 2003 is still fun to read. Whether you are a casual reader of these authors or an aficionado, Duriez’s books about them are packed with revelations. See especially his various Handbooks on Lewis, Tolkien, and the Inklings authors who met for conversation in Lewis’s Oxford rooms. They are filled with non-trivial details–“meaty,” I’d say–and interpretive insights that help to contextualize and explain the works of these beloved authors.

J. R. R. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis: A Legendary Friendship
A new book reveals how these two famous friends conspired to bring myth and legend—and Truth—to modern readers.
Chris Armstrong

Our world would be poorer without two other worlds: Narnia and Middle-earth. Yet if two young professors had not met at an otherwise ordinary Oxford faculty meeting in 1926, those wondrous lands would still be unknown to us.

British author Colin Duriez, who wrote the article “Tollers and Jack in issue #78 of Christian History, explains why this is so in his forthcoming book Tolkien and C. S. Lewis: The Gift of Friendship (Hidden Spring). Duriez tells the story of how these two brilliant authors met, discovered their common love for mythical tales, and pledged to bring such stories into the mainstream of public reading taste. Continue reading

J.R.R. Tolkien: Did You Know?


Here’s that candy bowl of factoids we always put in the front of issues of Christian History. This one I co-wrote with my assistant editor, Steven Gertz. Steve is now studying (Islamic studies) at Oxford University, Tolkien’s alma mater. I love the story of how young Christopher Tolkien used to interrupt and correct his dad while J R R was reading the stories aloud:

J.R.R. Tolkien: Did You Know?
Windows on the life and work of J.R.R. Tolkien
Chris Armstrong and Steven Gertz

Tolkien: “I am in fact a Hobbit”

In 1958, Tolkien wrote the following in a letter to a fan, Deborah Webster: “I am in fact a Hobbit (in all but size). I like gardens, trees and unmechanized farmlands; I smoke a pipe, and like good plain food (unrefrigerated), but detest French cooking; I like and even dare to wear in these dull days, ornamental waistcoats. I am fond of mushrooms (out of a field); have a very simple sense of humour (which even my appreciative critics find tiresome); I go to bed late and get up late (when possible). I do not travel much.” Continue reading

J. R. R. Tolkien: He gave us back myth and with it, truth


One of my favorite issues to work on when I edited Christian History was issue 78 on J.R.R. Tolkien. Here’s my editor’s note from that one (I’ll also post the “Did You Know” column). I’m putting these posts in the “Medieval Wisdom for Modern Protestants” category because in writing that book, I’m using Tolkien, C S Lewis, and similar authors as guides into medieval faith.

From the Editor – He Gave Us Back Myth and with it, Truth
Chris Armstrong

By the 1960s, “miracle” had been co-opted to sell mayonnaise, “spirit” came from bottles or pep bands, and “Passion” referred only to the national obsession with sex. Into this materialistic, secularized decade came a wondrous visitor: J. R. R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. Continue reading

Christ and (pop) culture: The Lord of the Rings, The Passion of the Christ, and the Highway of Holiness


Pop culture isn’t always Babylon. Five years ago the conjunction of a number of blockbusters offered a unique opportunity for reflection in the Christian History weekly online newsletter:

The Lord of the Rings, The Passion of the Christ, and the Highway of Holiness
Has God been “re-routing” us through popular movies, books, and cultural events?
Chris Armstrong

I don’t remember a time when the realm of popular culture has seemed more alive with divine purpose.

During the past year or two, how often have we been publicly reminded—through movies, books, and events—of vital truths about who we are and who God is? Through Peter Jackson’s third Lord of the Rings movie, Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code, Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ, and other prominent cultural events, we have been pushed off of the path of complacency and back towards the “highway” depicted by Isaiah: Continue reading