Growing up like a lot of boys, I liked to play at war with my friends. Limited access to toy guns did little to inhibit our imagination in many games of Nazis vs. Allies or Secret Agents vs. Terrorist. Seeing my first war film in high school didn’t prevent me from drawing isometric battlefields of tanks and artillery during drawing time in fourth grade.
In time, with exposure to films such as The Patriot or Saving Private Ryan, I witnessed more brutal portrayals of war. College and later university brought me to professors and fellow students who decried war, even as the events around September 11th, 2001 transpired and the fallout spread in nationalism and patriotism. Soon as the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq dragged on, and articles appeared about lies and scandal surrounding our government’s reasons for engaging in these conflicts, I grew disillusioned.
J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis both fought in one of the most defining wars of history. In the early 1900s, a world, buoyed by staggering technological progress, strode toward conflict. Its confidence could be found in the idea that all these advancements in technological and scientific fields would ensure mankind was not only changing but improving irreversibly toward perfection.
The destruction of this myth in the cataclysm of World War I sent an entire generation of philosophers, writers, artists, etc. into a bleak agnosticism. Small wonder after voices from church pulpits on both sides urged the soldiers on in a holy struggle where God was on their side against the foe.
So what was so different about the experiences of Tolkien and Lewis? Both served and experienced horror and terror and witnessed some of the worst consequences of fallen human nature. Yet, their epics The Lord of the Rings and The Chronicles of Narnia, as well as their other writings, contain strong Christian allegories, faith in the face of great odds, heroism from the average and unexpected individual, etc.
Joseph Laconte explores in brief how their war experiences affected their lives and relationships afterwards as well as their writing. His work is a taste, a summary, and in parts biography. He sets the scenes well and touches upon the relevant history and the social situations of the day with brevity. I first heard of this book on the Brant and Sherri Oddcast.
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 was written by Joseph Loconte, published and printed by Nelson Books in 2015, and it contains 235 pages.