Earthly Battle and Cosmic Battle
A Hobbit, A Wardrobe, and A Great War
A Review by Amy Gentile.
“The further up and further in you go, the bigger everything gets. The inside is larger than the outside.” In a beautiful little parallel, The Last Battle ends much the same way The Chronicles (according to the published order) begin: on one end, a Wardrobe opens up to a world beyond Lucy’s wildest dreams, on the other, the characters find themselves drawn up into layers upon layers of Aslan’s Land, an imaginative portrayal of heaven.
This, too, is the first phrase that comes to my mind when I think about The Chronicles of Narnia and The Lord of the Rings themselves. These two series have captured the imagination of generations of readers. And yet, though they have been a part of my life since my childhood, I’ve found that they’re the best sorts of stories to revisit every few years, to crawl into “further up and further in.” Each time I’ve learned more about these books’ contexts (Lewis’s studies of medieval astronomy, Tolkien’s love of language, etc.) my eyes have been opened to new things in their pages, and I’ve been able to journey deeper into their richness.
To that end, A Hobbit, A Wardrobe, and A Great War by Joseph Loconte, and Bedeviled: Lewis, Tolkien, and the Shadow of Evil by Colin Duriez, are welcome additions the list of works that have profoundly shaped my understanding of the stories of Narnia and Middle Earth. Both books spend a significant amount of time discussing the impact of The Great War (WWI) on Tolkien and Lewis—both of whom served in the war—and on their writings in particular. Both Loconte and Duriez develop the ways in which Tolkien and Lewis took their experiences of war and the circumstances of their era, weaving them into narratives that addressed a cosmic battle between good and evil.