The aftermath of “The Great War” would result in a landscape poisoned and sullied physically, but it would also erode much more than that in the countries of the world. One of the shifts would be a rejection of personal moral guilt and the consequence of denying personal responsibility. Immoral or wicked behaviors that were once attributed to moral or religious failure were now explained as medical or scientific issues. The ethic of personal responsibility that was the norm of Judeo-Christianity prior to the war was abandoned.
Consider the significance of those things and others that have not been listed.
We see them as commonly accepted 100 years later, but few of us know that it began as a consequence to the shift around the world after that fateful war. The nuances of what happened then and afterward continue to haunt the world and its people.
And yet the Lord used two men who were called to duty to serve in “The Great War” who rejected these viewpoints. The major literary works of J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis would introduce us to characters from their rich imagination that would be tested by the choices set before them.
The struggles they faced centered on moral struggles against forces of evil meant for the destruction of their souls and very lives. From these struggles we find hope for our own battles. Indeed, it is why they resonate with us when we read their works or watch the movies that were made of some of them.
Consider these thoughts of Dr. Joseph Loconte from his book, A Hobbit, A Wardrobe, and A Great War:
“…their characters retain the power of choice; there is nothing predetermined about the outcome. It is through their own decisions, their yielding to selfish ambitions, that they invite a spiritual crisis into their lives. The result is not the freedom they imagined, but the deepest slavery of heart and mind.
Critics sometimes accuse the authors of creating black-and-white characters to personify their religious beliefs. But the careful reader sees something else entirely: individuals often at war with their own desires. The heroes of these stories are vulnerable to temptation and corruption, while the antagonists are almost never beyond redemption. Here, in fantasy and myth, no one escapes the long and harassing shadow of the biblical fall.
Indeed, a bedrock belief in evil, and in the responsibility to resist it, gives the writings of Tolkien and Lewis their dignity and power. It is the reason their stories, so fantastical in style, seem to speak into our present reality. The war against evil is the moral landscape of our mortal lives: a journey of souls degraded or redeemed, dragged into the Darkness of self or led into the Light of grace.”
From the horrors of the trenches, the sorrow of the broken and wounded, the anguish of the refugees, the cynical times, and the scattered revolutions in various places in the world, two men would emerge to point us to see the courage, sacrifice, and friendships that made it all endurable. Such is the legacy of Tolkien and Lewis.
The depth of their own friendship would buoy up each of them in their writing and sustain them over four decades. They were devoted to each other’s success built over time and long talks late into the night. Sustained by their common Christian faith following Lewis’s conversion through Tolkien, they were brave enough to return to the older virtues and beliefs in their writing that had been left behind after the war.
They sought to make sense of the war that had been fought to end all wars and marred those left in its wake. From them and their work, we can learn much if we will take the time to hear the message the Lord used them to write.
Tolkien gave us two types of heroes: “the extraordinary man, the hidden king determined to fight for his people and regain his throne; and the ordinary man, the hobbit, who, like many of us, is ‘not made for perilous quests’ and prefers the comforts and safety of home.” Dr. Joseph Loconte.
J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis have given us a portrait of friendship in their lives and in their characters that call us to a higher level and deeper understanding of what love, loyalty, and sacrifice mean in relationship. But they have also written a story we play a part in as we face our own choices and decisions.
“The most influential Christian authors of the twentieth century believed that every human soul was caught up in a very great story: a fearsome war against a Shadow of Evil that has invaded the world to enslave the sons and daughters of Adam. Yet those who resist the Shadow are assured that they will not be left alone; they will be given the gift of friendship amid their struggle and grief. Even more, they will find the grace and strength to persevere, to play their part in the story, however long it endures and wherever it may lead them.”
Dr. Joseph Loconte
So as the shadows grow longer across the earth, let us learn and take heart from the stories of Merry and Pippin, Frodo and Sam, Gandalf and Aragorn, Lucy, Edmund, Peter, and Susan. Let us also be thankful to the Lord and how He worked through the lives of Tolkien and Lewis. May we never lose sight of his desire to work through each of us as we look for his return, the true Return of the King.