Bring Out the Books! Everyone will share certain Authors and series that are their personal favorite and explain why they like them, how they were inspired by them, and how others might be inspired.
I touched on this subject in previous Writers’ Camp posts, so I’ll keep it brief here. C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien have been two favorite authors ever since I read their stories (at age 7 and 9), and lately, I’ve added Charles Dickens and Charlotte Bronte to the list. Of course, I have other favorite authors, and I love individual stories of less-favored authors, but these four are my primary inspirations.
C. S. Lewis’s Narnia stories inspired me to write in the first place. His world and its parallels to ours made so much sense and was so exciting, that it was just natural to create my own. My first story actually featured four children entering another world through a portal. It wasn’t plagiarism, however, because instead of a wardrobe, they went through a closet. 🙂
Lewis understood children very well, understood not only how they behave, but how they think, and that is probably one reason his stories appealed to me–they felt real. (The fact that the kids were often the heroes helped.) He also understood theology well enough to make it simple yet deep for his young audience.
He did it, however, without shoving his point down your throat. I read The Magician’s Nephew late last year and marveled at how powerful it was. I wondered: how did he do it? How did he make such an impact without using literary neon signs denoting SOMETHING IMPORTANT AND PARALLEL TO CHRISTIANITY GET IT?? And I think the answer is: he wrote about what he believed. Pure and simple. Not defensively, not necessarily to persuade. What he believed true, he treated as truth in his stories.
Tolkien inspires me because of his epic tale and how deeply it resounds with reality as well. In fact, Tolkien too wrote about what he believed (not allegorically, as Lewis did); what he thought right, noble, virtuous (or, conversely, bad) his characters enacted. Pride, for instance, is always the fatal flaw in Tolkien’s world, from Melkor, to Feanor, to Turin, to Boromir. Always, always, always. Conversely, humility is the greatest virtue: the only reason Sam resists the Ring is because of his humility and his love for his master.
And on that note, let me address a pet peeve: everyone holds Eowyn up as a strong woman–and she is–but they cite the wrong action to support this. Fighting like a man and defeating the Witch-King do not make her strong. In the Houses of Healing, Gandalf tells Eomer:
“…she, born in the body of a maid, had a spirit and courage at least the match of yours. Yet she was doomed to wait upon an old man, whom she loved as a father, and watch him falling into a mean dishonored dotage; and her part seemed to her more ignoble than that of the staff he leaned on.
Think you that Wormtongue had poison only for Theoden’s ears? Dotard! What is the house of Eorl but a thatched barn where brigands drink in the reek and their brats roll on the floor among their dogs? Saruman spoke them, the teacher of Wormtongue. Though I do not doubt that Wormtongue at home wrapped their meaning in terms more cunning.”
Aragorn adds that Eowyn loved him only as an ideal, as a hope of glory and renown. Thus, pride prompted Eowyn to seek Aragorn’s favor; and pride caused her to desire a brave death in battle when this first wish was denied. Her true valor in defeating the Witch-King was not being able to fight like a man, but defending her uncle and king.
In fact, Eowyn’s true strengths get overlooked. She is dutiful–she tended King Theoden in his sickness, and she does so without complaint, self-controlled to the point that Eomer had no idea what was going on in her mind. Aragorn tells Eomer that if her love for her brother and her uncle had not restrained her, she might have uttered words similar to Wormtongue’s. She is described by Hama the guard as “fearless and high hearted” and was loved by all the people of Rohan. She is competent enough in leadership and politics to take command of Rohan while Theoden is at Helm’s deep. And she cares deeply about both her brother and her uncle, as seen by her actions to care for and protect them. And later, once she understands the truth about her heart, she renounces her pride and her high desires and seeks to be a healer, not a queen.
Oh, and I ripped off Tolkien too, as a young writer, with no idea how he made all his ideas and plot threads and descriptions work. Now that I’m older, I love examining his work and finding out how he pulled off all these techniques that are no longer popular in the writing world. For instance, Tolkien is famous for inserting long songs and poetry in LotR, but I noticed he doesn’t start with reams of poetry. The first few poems and songs are relatively short, and once you’ve gotten interested in the world and the characters, he puts in longer songs.
I’m not going to elaborate about Dickens and Bronte here. For one thing, I gave Bronte a lengthy paragraph in my Day 3 post. For another, I will definitely talk more about Dickens later. 🙂