A Possible Conversation

The Seth Thomas clock ticked sleepily on the mantle of a dark, oak-paneled room. A gray fog of pipe smoke hung in the air, moving only at the encouragement of a hand or body movement. The fireplace in the back of the room popped loudly and then resumed its whispering duty.  Only two men occupied the small place where time appeared to be on vacation. A typical Monday night affair, the location was a pub on St. Giles Street just north of St. John’s College named The Eagle and Child.

One man, more slim than his companion and a bit more hair, leaned back in his chair and crossed his legs and rested his pipe hand on his top knee, bumping the knot of his wine-colored tie with his free hand before bringing it down the on the table with a thump; the sound muted by the heavy, oak wood. The other man, black hair skirting the side of his very round head, took a long drag of his pipe to encourage the flame and exhaled the words to this possible conversation between C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien:

“So we agree on the Truth being smuggled past a secular audience? And my vehicle of choice being time or history, if you prefer?”

Lewis held his already long gaze into the yellow, red, orange and white flames of the fireplace. “Of course I do. Requisitioning me for more praise of Mister Bilbo Baggins, are you?”

Tolkien smiled and took a sip of beer. After several seconds, he answered, “What is your vehicle, Jack?”

“I’ve got some particulars rolling around, and I’ve given a few of them a jot.” Lewis dropped his dangling foot to the ground and met the unbroken stare of his friend. “You know that since our conversation on Addison Walk, I have made more than an effort to reconcile my ideas of reason and imagination. I will purse joy and longing in my next. I think children will carry the banner.”

“Allegorical I suppose?”

Lewis took a drag of his dead pipe and looked at the bowl, patting the pockets of his salt and pepper blazer. “How else should I smuggle, Tollers? There is more than one way, you know.”

“Jack, you mustn’t add sugar to theology. We are not theologians. It is my belief to focus on people and allow their actions to reflect Him.” Tolkien refilled his tankard. “The work must allow escape.”

“True, true, but we can’t leave it so without seasoning that it lacks identity. The revelation must be present . . . somewhere.” Quitting his quest for a match and resting his pipe on the table, Lewis rose to his feet and walked to a window and looked out toward Magdalen College. He took a deep breath, more cleansing than stressed. “The concerns of allegory are well noted, Tollers. I know too well from Pilgrim’s Regress that I must, with all that is within me, use the tool to reveal rather than hide. My unintentional obscurity tethered the reader, last time.” Lewis turned back to his friend. “The children in this book will bypass this problem. Their innocence will be the eyes of the reader.”

Tolkien shifted his chair to look more directly at Lewis. “Well then, off you go. You must write.”

“And you, my friend. Should we know no more of your allegory?”

The chuckle came from deep inside of Tolkien, as he stood and leaned toward his friend. “Don’t do that, Jack . . . history, not allegory.”

Lewis reached and placed his hand on Tolkien’s shoulder, “‘A safe fairyland is untrue to all worlds.’ I read that somewhere.”

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2 thoughts on “A Possible Conversation

  1. I love both of these writers, but C.S. Lewis stirs my heart and mind with his writings, from “Mere Christianity” to the depths of Narnia. Good writers should never be taken lightly, as these two great men demonstrate. Thanks for sharing their “conversation”.

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