C. S. Lewis engaged in a life-changing conversation with Hugo Dyson and J. R. R. Tolkien on Saturday, September 19, 1931. The conversation took place on Addison’s Walk, a footpath around a small island in the River Cherwell on the grounds of Magdalen College, Oxford, England.
As a boy, Lewis loved the Norse tales of a dying god. As a man, he grew to love and appreciate the power of myth throughout the history of literature. But he didn’t believe them. Beautiful and stirring though they may be, they were, he concluded, ultimately untrue. As he famously said to Tolkien, myths are “lies and therefore worthless, even though breathed through silver.”
“No,” said Tolkien. “They are not lies.” His point was that the great myths reflect a fractal of the true light. They derive from “primary art,” and they come from creators who themselves were created. In other words, within any good myth lies a glimpse of eternal truth, the Christian Story. They talked on, and Lewis became convinced of the merit of Tolkien’s argument.
I pulled out my phone and watched the following video clip while walking the same path in the spring of 2019. Knowing the far-reaching impact this conversation has had—including on me—I prayed a simple prayer of thanksgiving—through tears, of course—for how God used this conversation to change the course of history. Including mine.
For more on this topic, see my previous post, “Beauty and the Beast on Broadway (and the Bible).”