War. What is it good for? Apparently, something. At least that is, in part, what Joseph Loconte puts forward in his informative new book 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 1914-18. The war provided these men with vivid images of a world “ravaged by evil,” according to Loconte. And they wove this imagery through their narratives pitting good against evil, virtue against vice, sacrifice against selfishness, a witch against a lion.
This year marks the 100-year anniversary of the beginning of the first World War. It is also seemingly marks “The year of the Inklings,” the small writing group famous for the participation of Lewis and Tolkien. In addition to Loconte’s work, three other authors have produced significant contributions on the famous British authors this year: Philip and Carol Zaleski with The Fellowship: The Literary Lives of the Inklings: J.R.R. Tolkien, C. S. Lewis, Owen Barfield, Charles Williams, and Colin Duriez with The Oxford Inklings: Their Lives, Writings, Ideas, and Influence.
Read the books of Lewis and Tolkien to experience their storytelling expertise. Read the books about them in order to understand the paths that led them to Narnia and Middle Earth. These were paths carved through the valley of the shadow of death. But they led to peace. They led to glory. They led to a King and a Kingdom. As Linda Bridges sums up in her review of Loconte’s book, “Sam Gamgee asks, ‘Is everything sad going to come untrue?’ And Loconte answers: ‘This King, who brings strength and healing in his hands, will make everything sad come untrue.'”