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The Inklings

An extraordinary literary group consisting of many remarkable authors, including the legendary J. R. R. Tolkien (author of The Lord of the Rings series) and C.S. Lewis (author of the Chronicles of Narnia series), let me introduce you to: The Inklings! These Oxford pals, brought together by their love of literature, dedicated their group to praising the value of story-telling in fiction and encouraging writing fantasy. So let's take a look at their history!


The Inklings were formed in 1933, after the ending of another literary society at Oxford founded by Edward Tangye Lean from which the Inklings took their name from. The Inklings' main objective was to share with each other their works in progress, criticize and advise one another and support each other in their endeavors. It was an informal literary group consisting solely of male members, as was typical at the time. They usually met up twice a week: On Thursday evenings in C.S. Lewis' room and on Tuesdays mostly at a local pub named The Eagle and Child. During these meetings, many famous literary works were shaped. Tolkien read excerpts from The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, C.S. Lewis read parts from his most well-known works like Chronicles of Narnia and The Screwtape Letters. So, the impact of these meetings on today's literature is massive and undeniable.


Interestingly, their love of literature was not the only thing that brought these people together. Although they had members of different beliefs as well, this group's members were mostly Christians. Tolkien was a devout Catholic himself and he played a huge role in the converting of C.S. Lewis to Christianity, who initially hadn't been a believer but after becoming a Christian, wrote several works including Christian symbolism. So needless to say, faith was also a key factor in bringing the Inklings together.


Despite everything they contributed both to each other and, though they didn't know it then, to the world of literature; the Inklings had their fair share of disputes, too. For example Hugo Dyson, another member of the group, apparently didn't enjoy listening to Tolkien's fictional works very much. So during one of the meetings, when Tolkien had been reading an excerpt from The Lord of the Rings, he made a comment which was quite insulting and had some profanity in it. After that incident, Tolkien never read any works of his to the Inklings again. Actually, it was quite surprising to me when I found out that it was very often that Tolkien got mocked for his fictional works. Even his colleagues sometimes mocked him saying "How is your hobbit?". Although his extraordinary talent in philology was acknowledged by all, he wasn't taken very seriously when it came to his literary works because fantasy was looked down on then, which brings us to the other dispute I'd like to talk about: The fall out between Tolkien and C.S. Lewis.


Brought together by their common love of literature, Tolkien and Lewis were very close at the start. Most of the time they were each other's biggest supporters and at times, the only audience. They bonded over their similar lives and common interests. But the first disagreement between them was religion. As it was mentioned before, Lewis was not a believer at first but Tolkien eventually convinced him and he became a Christian. But even then, they couldn't agree wholly because Tolkien was a Catholic through and through whereas Lewis, when he became a Christian, joined the Anglican Church. But that wasn't the biggest issue between them. When Lewis became known for his works which included Christian symbolism, people started praising him and in a way, he became "a celebrity" in his area. However, where Lewis was gaining fame, Tolkien was being mocked for writing fantasy. Thus, the external world pitted them against each other to some extent. Afterwards, the two men also confessed that they didn't like each other's works much. Tolkien found Lewis very "impressionable" and his writing "creaking", "stiff-jointed". He even accused Lewis of imitating the nomenclature he used in his stories. On the other hand, Lewis thought Tolkien was too "perfectionistic" and that he wasn't very open to advice. Eventually, the two fell out.


Nevertheless, they must've not forgotten their time of companionship since during the beginnings of their fall out, Lewis wrote to Tolkien "I miss you very much." And when Lewis had died, Tolkien wrote to his daughter in a letter "So far I have been feeling like an old tree that is losing its leaves one by one: this feels like an axe-blow near the roots." I don't think we'd be wrong if we inferred from this statement that these fellow authors had special places in each other's hearts.


Well, let's get back to the Inklings! How did they fall apart? Their falling apart started after World War II. The members were no longer interested in listening to each other's works and the aforementioned disputes also had their fair share of impact on the matter. In 1949, they stopped meeting altogether. But even after they stopped meeting, they stayed close friends.


The impact of the Inklings on today's world is undeniable and an extremely important one. Despite all their disputes, they supported and improved each other massively. And who knows what would've happened if the Inklings hadn't been formed at all? In my opinion, it would've been a huge loss for the world for sure.


References:


Wikipedia - "The Inklings": https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Inklings

TheCollector - "Who Were the Inklings?": https://www.thecollector.com/who-were-the-inklings/

Literary Traveler - "J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis: A Literary Friendship and Rivalry": https://www.literarytraveler.com/articles/tolkien_lewis_england/

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