Saturday 28 November 2015

What kind of elf would you wish to have been? What kind would you actually have been?

There are many types of elf:

And many specific elves mentioned by Tolkien:

Just for fun: 

1. Which type of elf would you most wish to have been - and/ or which specific elf do you most admire?

2. Which type of elf do you think you actually would have been - if this is different - and/ or which specific elf do you most resemble?

Note added, my answer:

It is, of course, tempting to want to be one of the highest elves - the Noldor - like Galdriel, of Glorfindel, because of the super powers. But somehow I never have.

Most of the time I wanted most to be a Silvan elf - probably one of the anonymous elves of Lothlorien; for whom life was simply a cycle of days filled with simple pleasures such as living in tress surrounded by beauties of nature, poems, singing, food and drink.

But in reality I think I would have been one of the Sindar - a Grey Elf - neither as wise and mighty as the High Elves, nor as simple and care-free as a Wood Elf - but in-between; knowing only middle earth, but with a latent irresistible desire to migrate to the undying lands that could be triggered by a mere sign of the sea.

I might therefore actually been one of the minor Sindar courtiers of the Elven King in Mirkwood - living undergound (which I would not have liked) enlivened by hunting and fighting in a forest under constant threat from dark things; and waiting... 

Monday 16 November 2015

The Lord of the Rings is not a Trilogy

Obviously it isn't 

It is just a novel (usually) published in three volumes: a three volume novel. 


1. It is nearly-always called a trilogy.

2. It led to (nearly) all of the fantasy novels since Tolkien being called - but not actually being - trilogies.

That's it, really...

Saturday 7 November 2015

The nature of Charles Williams's failure to repent adultery

“I might almost have been capable of repenting, but as it would lead nowhere, I decided not to.” (p. 247, note 784). According to Grevel Lindop (p. 246) this has something to do with Phyllis Jones (by then, Mrs. Somervaille), and the two preceding sentences are “I was provoked by a temptation to wish that nothing had ever happened. And that surprised me.”

Cited by Davil Llewellyn Dodds from from The Third Inkling by Grevel Lindop, quoting a letter of 15 February 1935 to Anne Bradby (later, Mrs. Ridler) in the comments to a post at The Oddest Inkling blog.

This passage seems significant to me as evidence of a refusal to repent - but the argument that Williams failed to repent does not hinge on it.

My understanding of repentance is that it is not so much about feelings (and certainly not about feeling guilty or ashamed - although these feelings may be helpful), and certainly it has nothing to do with Christians sinning any less than other Men, nor is it about repentance being an effective way of improving behaviour - as it is about acknowledging God's law as Good, and admitting the failure to live by it.

In CW's case it would be saying that what he was doing with Phyllis (and the others) was adultery and wrong.

Even though the extramarital infatuation helped him write poetry, and even if he was not capable of stopping himself from continuing in his adultery, and even if repentance “would lead nowhere” in terms of behavioural change – Williams ought to have repented, he must be clear that adultery is against God's moral scheme.

Williams probably could not gather the strength to break his addiction, just as many drug addicts cannot - but that is not the Christian problem: humans are weak, and Christ did not come to save perfect Men but to save sinners (including far worse sinners than CW - whose transgressions were trivial in the scheme of things that includes murder, rape, theft etc).

When Williams says that repentance is futile because it “would lead nowhere” he is making a profoundly wrong statement – because repentance is not about worldly effectiveness; but about eternal effectiveness – repentance is nothing less than the difference between salvation and damnation: for a Christian repentance is the most important thing of all (CS Lewis certainly understood this).

So Williams certainly could and should have refrained from defending adulterous infatuation - even if in a hard-to-understand and roundabout way - in his writings on Romantic Theology including The Figure of Beatrice.

It is this considered written defence of his own personal sins that I would regard as Williams's most grave failure to repent; because he did not need to write it, indeed he went to considerable efforts to write and publicize it; and the fact that he nonetheless did write it meant that he was not merely sinning (everybody does that nearly all of the time) but was promoting sin in public discourse, by denying it was sin and instead saying it was a virtue - that is, by failing to repent.

See also my review of The Third Inkling