Clive Staples Lewis, better known as C.S. Lewis (or Jack if you were a close friend of his) was born on November 29, 1898. That makes this his 123rd birthday! And what better time to celebrate, and reflect upon his writer’s body of works?
Back in his day, Lewis was an Oxford scholar of English Literature, and a highly respected one at that. His research, lectures, and the like landed him much acclaim in academic circles even before laymen such as you or I would have ever learned of him.
Today, Lewis is most known for his work on the Chronicles of Narnia series, of which there are at least 7 books, 3 movies, and an upcoming live-action series. While it was never as successful as his best friend’s (none other than J.R.R. Tolkien, author of The Lord of the Rings), Narnia was and still is quite the iconic and beloved fantasy series—albeit one originally created for children. That is not to say only children can enjoy it. Check out my article on Narnia for an extended discussion on the franchise.
Lewis’s other works encompass more than 30 books, both fiction and nonfiction, creative and philosophical. I suppose “philosophical” is slightly incorrect. Allow me to better explain. What some may not know about Lewis is that he was a devout member of the Church of England, and it showed. In fact, one of his most prominent works is a nonfiction theological piece called Mere Christianity.
The book is, curiously enough, a collection of transcriptions of radio broadcasts wherein Lewis explained the Christian worldview in great detail. Other Christian thought pieces include The Problem of Pain, The Great Divorce, and The Screwtape Letters.
Lewis’s use of the Christian worldview in his writings did not stop with his thought pieces. No, for he believed every story could be written in such a way to contain theological aspects. It is best stated by the man himself: “Any amount of theology can now be smuggled into people’s minds under cover of romance without their knowing it.” This was in answer to colleagues and lay readers alike failing to notice the higher purpose Lewis attributed to his works.
The greatest example of said “higher purpose” is the science fiction novel Out of the Silent Planet, which was, in fact, Lewis’s response to what both he and Tolkien saw as a growth in “secular” thought dominating literature. I have not read the novel myself, but it is said it and the resulting Space Trilogy contained many Christian morals. This was in contrast to “secular” science fiction, which focuses less on moral lessons and more on the speculative aspect of the genre.
Growing up in the Church, C.S. Lewis was always an inspiration for me. Not only was he a writer and lover of fantasy (2 things my peers never quite understood and sometimes discouraged), he also sought to truly put his mind to the faith. That is what always made me admire him, and what has me respect him to this day despite my religious fervor having tempered with time. Regardless of my and others’ views, Lewis stands as a significant figure not just in fantasy, but English literature as a whole; and he will most likely remain so for years to come.