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Tolkien and C.S. Lewis: The Gift of Friendship Paperback – October 8, 2003

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Editorial Reviews

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The two most successful twentieth-century English fantasists were friends from shortly after their 1926 meeting until the younger's death. Both fought in World War I, in which all but one of Tolkien's dearest school friends died, and Lewis lost a buddy whose mother he thereafter cared for, as promised, until her 1951 death. As young Oxford dons, they discovered they shared a love of medieval northern European literature and, after Lewis (1898-1963), greatly aided by Tolkien (1892-1973), converted to Christianity, a common faith. Lewis' great aid to Tolkien was to encourage unflaggingly the development of The Lord of the Rings. Tolkien reciprocated Lewis' supportiveness for Lewis' fiction and scholarship but was too conservative a Catholic to approve of the low-church Anglican Lewis' popular Christian evangelical writings and especially his limited toleration of divorce, which apparently seemed adventitious even to Lewis when he married divorcee Joy Davidman and never told Tolkien. In a graceful, sympathetic, and appealing dual biography, Duriez stresses their influences on one another and the depths of their friendship. Ray Olson
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved


Colin Duriez imaginatively presents us with an intriguing opportunity to view this fascinating meeting of minds. -- Brian Sibley, author of 'The Lord of the Rings' Official Movie Guide and The Wisdom of C.S. Lewis

This dual biography of Tolkien and Lewis reveals for the first time how two twentieth-century fantasists shaped each other's work. -- Jane Chance, Professor of English, Rice University, and author of Tolkien's Art and Tolkien the Medievalist

Without J.R.R. Tolkien, we might never have heard of C.S. Lewis; without Lewis, we might never have heard of Tolkien. -- David C. Downing, Professor of English, Elizabethtown College, and author of Planets in Peril: C.S. Lewis's Ransom Trilogy

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 244 pages
  • Publisher: Paulist Press (October 8, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1587680262
  • ISBN-13: 978-1587680267
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6.1 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #319,750 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Colin Duriez is based in Keswick in north-west England and writes books, edits and lectures. He has appeared as a commentator on extended version film DVDs of Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings, the 'Royal' 4 DVD set of Walden/Disney's The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, and the Sony DVD Ringers about Tolkien fandom and the impact of Tolkien on popular culture. He has also participated in documentaries on PBS and the BBC. He is also a part-time tutor at Lancaster University.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

55 of 60 people found the following review helpful By Bradley J. Birzer on October 31, 2003
Format: Paperback
Colin Duriez is one of the greats in Tolkien and Lewis scholarship. He has been writing on the Inklings since at least late 1972 (see, for example, his "C.S. Lewis Meets Professor Tolkien and the Inklings, CRUSADE, January 1973). Over the past thirty-one years, not surprisingly, Duriez has greatly increased in his understanding and knowledge of the Inklings. Duriez's previous book, TOLKIEN AND THE LORD OF THE RINGS, contains many of the best insights on Tolkien's Middle-earth mythology I have yet seen. With a thorough understanding of both Roman Catholic and Protestant theologies, as well as Platonic and Aristotelian philosophy, Duriez provides a fascinating analysis of the key themes in Tolkien's works. With wit and wisdom, the author explains the meanings of such diverse topics as angels, the Apocalypse, death, evil, the Fall, imagination, light, loyalty, music, natural theology, power, Story, and the Old West in Tolkien's legendarium. There was not a page in this work that failed to provide some deeper understanding of Tolkien's works. Duriez's latest book, TOLKIEN AND C.S. LEWIS, incorporates many of these insights into a well-written and informative narrative. And as with his previous book, TOLKIEN AND C.S. LEWIS is a must-own for any Tolkien scholar or fan. It's been a wonderful pleasure to read. Certainly, Duriez has done his share in putting yet another nail into the coffin of the movement claiming Bloomsbury as the most important literary group of the twentieth century. Long live the Inklings!
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26 of 28 people found the following review helpful By T. Williams on January 22, 2005
Format: Paperback
This book might have been better titled: "Two Parallel Lives in Oxford." Perhaps it is more a reflection of the English reserve of the two scholars (or a dearth of first person account's of their friendship) than it is some shortcoming in Duriez's research, but given the title of this book I had expected a greater discussion of their friendship. Instead the reader is treated to a bloodless, albeit intriguing, chronicling of two extraordinary writers who lived in close proximity.
While this "dual biography" was adequate introduction for readers like myself who are relatively unfamiliar with the personal life of either man (though I suspect there are more complete examinations of both men's lives out there), I kept wanting more about their friendship. Buriez doesn't give the reader much to go on. I had a hard time figuring out why the seemingly good-natured and much more emotionally generous Lewis would want to be friends with Tolkien, who comes off as a little petty, insecure, myopic and persnicky (especially given some of the condescending remarks made about Lewis' work).
This book is readable because it discusses two fascinating men - not because it reveals much about their friendship.
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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful By EA Solinas HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on April 7, 2004
Format: Paperback
Just about everyone who knows things about the life of "Lord of the Rings" author J.R.R. Tolkien knows that he was pals with fellow fantasy writer C.S. Lewis (author of the "Narnia" series). But where that's usually a sidenote in Tolkien biographies, Colin Duriez makes it the center of double-biography "Tolkien and C.S. Lewis: The Gift of Friendship."
Duriez focuses on Lewis and Tolkien's early lives, the differences in their religious progressions, their wartime experiences, their fantasy works and their involvement in Christian literary club The Inklings. In 1926, the quiet Tolkien ("Tollers") and ebullient Lewis met and became friends over a shared love of Christianity, language myth and imagination.
Duriez's main idea in "Gift of Friendship" is that this friendship created some of the most influential fantasy and science fiction ever, by mutual support. Religious beliefs and "the horns of elfland" were important for them both. For example, it was partly through Lewis's encouragement that Tolkien managed to finish his stories of Middle-Earth, and Tolkien in turn helped with Lewis's more serious works.
Duriez doesn't reveal anything new about the friendship or the men in it, and he focuses quite a bit on the Inklings at large at one point. (Since he wrote a book on them, it isn't surprising) However, he clearly is a big fan of both men and his enthusiasm is obvious. He briskly clears away some misconceptions (for example, Tolkien did not hate the Narnia books, he merely "disliked" them) and throws in some literary analysis of Middle-Earth, the Ransom books and Narnia that doesn't stray too far from the authors' intents.
"Tolkien and C.S. Lewis: The Gift of Friendship" doesn't offer more than a few tidbits that are new, but it's a good focus on Tolkien and Lewis's friendship and how it affected their epic books.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By David Zampino VINE VOICE on April 27, 2007
Format: Paperback
. . . why was this book needed?

As a previous reviewer has noted, George Sayer has written an outstanding biography of Lewis (and to my mind, the best available). Sayer was a student, friend, and confidante of Lewis for 29 years, and knew Tolkien as well. Humphrey Carpenter has written an outstanding biography of Tolkien, with the full cooperation of the Tolkien estate. Carpenter also edited an edition of Tolkien's letters which frequently reference Lewis (including the very poignant "axe blow at the roots" letter to his daughter upon learning of Lewis's death) and also the critically regarded "The Inklings".

All four of these volumes are easily accessible; none fall into the category of dense academic writing.

Then why did Colin Duriez feel that this effort was necessary?

He breaks no new ground -- indeed his little bit of fiction at the beginning seems more odd than contributive. He makes some unnecessary errors -- Lewis was hardly a "Low-Church" Anglican. (While personally eschewing church politics, Lewis attended a "High" parish, and held a very high view of Communion, practiced auricular confession, and believed in Purgatory!)

I guess what troubles me most here, is that any book which purports to discuss the friendship of Lewis and Tolkien, will, inevitably, lead readers to unfair conclusions. Lewis and Tolkien first met in 1926; by 1927 they had become fast friends. Lewis converted in 1931. By the time Lewis died in 1963, the two men had known each other for 37 years! ANY 37 year friendship will have ebbs and flows. Why is this so difficult for authors to accept?

Yes, Tolkien was disappointed that Lewis never became Catholic.
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