Have you ever wanted to be a fly on the wall in a room with two extremely creative/smart/clever/funny/fill in the blank people? Can you imagine the conversation? Can you imagine how in awe you would feel just to be in their presence? And if they were two of the most prolific writers of our days would you bring a notebook to take some notes? I would.
Tolkien and Lewis. You know them. You’ve probably read their words, and more than likely have seen the movies. Lord of the Rings and Narnia ring a bell? Two incredible works by two incredible minds. And friends.
Yep, friends. Cagney and Lacey, Mickey and Donald, Abbott and Costello, Tolkien and Lewis. Brought together at Oxford University, they were part of a literary group called the Inklings where the members unfinished works were read and discussed, and held competitions to see who could read ridiculous prose without being the first to laugh . It was where Lord of the Rings and The Chronicles of Narnia were first read. Talk about a critique group!
But long before the days of fame they were just two regular Tommys ducking shells and hanging out in the WWI trenches on the Somme. Tolkien, quick of mind with just a tad bit of craftiness up his sleeve, invented a secret code for his letters to slip past the postal censorship and straight into the hands of his adoring wife back home who was then able to keep up with her husband’s movements across the Western Front. Sneaky man. Lewis, on the other hand, kept himself occupied with trench warfare and homesickness. Though they didn’t fight together, both men were dealt a stroke of luck in the form of trench fever and wounds and were sent home to Blighty just before most of their battalions were completely wiped out.
Years later, Tolkien spoke out against those trying to find parallels between his work and the wars.
“One has indeed personally to come under the shadow of war to feel fully its oppression; but as the years go by it seems now often forgotten that to be caught in youth by 1914 was no less hideous an experience than to be involved in 1939 and the following years. By 1918 all but one of my close friends were dead.”
But thank goodness these men did survive. Without them we would have lost the opportunity to experience the magic they created with pen and paper. Do you think they knew at the time, as they sat in The Bird and Baby pub enjoying a pint by the fire that their scratchings of talking lions and orcs that they were cooking up some kind of amazement? And I wonder if comma splices or misplaced modifiers ever threatened their friendship …
Other notable figures of WWI
-Ernest Hemingway – ambulance corps
-Col. George Patton – Wars may be fought with weapons, but they are won by men.
-Sgt. Alvin York – one of the most decorated soldiers of WWI
-Walt Disney – ambulance driver after the Armistice
-Mata Hari – exotic dancer who was captured and executed for German espionage