Friday, September 5, 2014

On the Shoulders of Hobbits by Louis Markos

I first heard of Louis Markos when The Teaching Company offered a big discount on his lectures about C.S. Lewis. Later my husband enjoyed Restoring Beauty, Markos' book on the themes of truth and beauty in Lewis' books.

While I was still reeling from the impact of The Lord of the Rings (which I read it for the first time in 2013), I heard that Markos had written a book called, On the Shoulders of Hobbits: The Road to Virtue with Tolkien and Lewis; I knew I had to have it.

His introduction, called "Stories to Steer By," suggests that in the past morality has been taught "first and foremost through stories." But today there is a dearth of such tales. "Worse yet, we try to make up counter stories, politically correct fairy tales that are as paltry as the newfangled virtues they are meant to celebrate" [i.e.tolerance, multiculturalism and environmentalism.] (p. 12)

Markos then sets out to celebrate the traditional virtues of courage, love, self-control, etc. by highlighting how each of them is portrayed in the masterworks of Tolkien and Lewis. Although friendship is not included in common lists of virtues, Markos contends that Tolkien elevated it to new heights with his powerful depiction of the bonds between the members of the Fellowship, especially between Sam and Frodo.

Each chapter of the book deals with a specific moral quality as evidenced in Lord of the Rings and in the Narnia Chronicles. Although I loved both of them, I wasn't always able to appreciate the two of them being compared side by side. It was jarring at times to be pulled out Middle Earth and yanked into Narnia. Still, I appreciated Markos' keen observations with regard to these two masterpieces of English literature.

Fairy tales are often accused of prettifying hard truths. In the hands of masters like Lewis and Tolkien, they are more likely to strip away prettified lies. (p. 153)

1 comment:

Sherry said...

One of my daughters is at HBU, and she is taking a course on Lewis with Dr. Markos this semester. I wish I could be a fly on the wall.