A comparative essay on J.R.R. Tolkien’s work on Arda and C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia
“At the root of every story, there is faith” – Dylan Griffiths
In the light of the texts that you have studied, how far do you agree with the above statement?
All novels can be interpreted to be about, or contain within their pages, faith; however, the way it is presented; the meaning, stance, and even the religion in question, can vary greatly as it is greatly influenced by the particular views of the author. Sometimes the faith portrayed in a book is nothing to do with religion in the traditional sense, but instead conveys the belief in human nature; the fact that there is good in all of us represents faith in human kind, and it is not less valid. The books I shall be comparing were each written by a Christian Roman-Catholic, at almost the same time as each other, but they are completely different in their portrayal of religion, and as a result, readers gain very different ideas and impressions.
J.R.R. Tolkien was a devout Catholic and his faith is reflected in his works, but if you read them, far from preaching the word of God and the supremacy of religion, he focuses on communicating the values and idea of the Catholic faith by embedding them deep behind the canvas; so as to add to the work and not detract from it. Tolkien’s universe - Arda (the world that Is) – that began with 'Eru, the one – who is called Illuvatar' [1, the Silmarillion]. Eru is the source of the Anuir
(angels) and all that was created through the first Great Music. This is a representation of God, but one of the key differences is that Illuvatar uses his Ainur (angels) to be the tool of creation.
C.S. Lewis was a recently converted Christian at the time of writing his ‘Chronicles of Narnia’, having in fact been converted by J.R.R. Tolkien, with whom he remained fast friends. Lewis’s newfound religious fervour clearly shows in his work with many overt references to Christianity throughout. Aslan – who is a saviour to the children and denizens of Narnia - is clearly a Jesus figure, and his appearance as a lion is most likely a reference to the ‘lion of Judah’ (revelation 5).
Aslan is said to be the ‘son of the emperor over the sea’. The emperor, who never appears in the books, represents God, and it is his son Aslan who came to earth in his stead and sacrificed his life for the sins of a man - Edward. It is also said of Aslan in Narnia, ‘but there I have another name. You must learn to know me by that name.’ [271 – The Voyage of the Dawn Treader]. The fact that Aslan is known in other worlds by different names reflects the many faces of God, that he is omnipresent and available to all those who believe in all the worlds.
In Tolkien’s work, the religious significance of the cult of Morgoth on the Isle of Numenor is worthy of note. It is the most obvious reference to an institutionalised religion in all his works and is started by the evil spirit Sauron who corrupts the high men of Numenor by playing on their fear of death and their love of splendour. Turning the mightiest race of men ino dark proud shadows of their forefathers, performing human sacrifices and hating the inherently pure Valar
(Ainur who came to earth to prepare it for the children of Illuvatar) for not granting them eternal life (which was beyound their power) not realising that it was meant as a gift so they may escape the world. Tolkein portrays religion here as a terrible thing that turns rational men into crazed fanatics who follow the words of their leader without question, despite the fact that their motives and actions range from questionable to despicable. In my mind, there is a
English Comparative Essay Coursework throwback to the crusades when the Numenorians sail on Aman – home to the Valar – to seize eternal life by force, just as the crusaders sailed to secure their place in heaven.
The only comparable in Lewis' work is that of Tash