HOW TOLKIEN AND LEWIS ENCOURAGED THIS WRITER

How A Hobbit Found Her Way To Narnia

The tale of how reading the Lord of the Rings lead to the knock on my door of discouragement as a writer, propelling me “further up and further in” to the heights of hope.

Hobbit HousesOnce upon a time

“In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit,” wrote J.R.R. Tolkien in The Hobbit. One day a wizard knocked on his door inviting him to join twelve dwarves on an adventure. He left his creature comforts, surviving many dangers. Mission completed, he returned to write his book, There and Back Again.

Rereading The Lord of the Rings and watching the movies revived my delight in all things Middle Earth. But whom does one read after Tolkien? C.S. Lewis, of course. Their biographies reveal their exceptional friendship and influence on each other’s writing. Tolkien Books

The more I studied these writers’ lives, works, and books written about them, the more intrigued I became. I reread Mere Christianity, The Screwtape Letters, The Great Divorce, The Space Trilogy—strangely not The Chronicles of Narnia—but feared tackling the more highbrow tomes. Lewis Books

 

A Knock on the Door

The World of C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkein

When I learned that there was a C.S. Lewis Foundation conference in San Diego—”The Fantastic Worlds of C.S. Lewis & J.R.R. Tolkien”—I went forth “in fear and trembling.” It sounded so very scholarly. I did finally read The Chronicles of Narnia for the first time, and fell in love. Conference

The wizard knocked on this hobbit’s door that summer of 2004. So I left my comfort zone and passed through the wardrobe into Narnia. I was warmly welcomed and felt right at home, like Bilbo in Rivendale.

Nan Rinella, a hobbit in Narnia

A Hobbit in Narnia – Stan Mattson, Steven Elmore, Nan, Kirk Manton, Andrew Lazo, Camp Allen, 2010

That led to my attending the Southwest Regional Retreat in Texas in 2006, another San Diego conference in 2007—from then on it was “further up and further in.” After sitting in on Lewis scholar Andrew Lazo’s session on Till We Have Faces at Camp Allen, I finally understood and enjoyed the book. Conference & Retreat

 

A Garden for Growing

I read Lewis’s sermon, The Weight of Glory, for the first time when it announced it would be the theme for the Texas retreat in 2010. I was struck by his words on heaven and hell—“All day long we are, in some degree, helping each other to one or other of these destinations.”

Bruce L. Edwards (the retreat plenary speaker for 2011) quoted Lewis’s An Experiment in Criticism in his delightful book, Further Up and Further In. I discovered myself as a reader in it. As a hobbit keeping company with elves, I can attest that foundation gatherings are a garden for growth. Retreat & Further Up and Further In

At the close of the 2004 conference, foundation president Stan Mattson challenged us not go home and steep (my words, not his) but to go forth and to act on our experience. I did and it’s been the delight of my life. C.S. Lewis Foundation

I’m knocking on your door. Won’t you leave your comfort zone and join me?