The documentary film series, “A Hobbit, a Wardrobe, and a Great War,” explores how the experience of two world wars shaped the lives and literary imagination of two internationally famous authors and friends, J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis. Based on Joseph Loconte’s New York Times bestseller.
Gift-giving in Narnia and Middle-earth
In The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe and The Fellowship of the Ring, the spirit of Christmas manifests itself in the gifts that are given to the protagonists in these stories. Three of the four Pevensie children receive gifts from Father Christmas, whose presence symbolizes the weakening of Jadis’ power. Peter is given a sword, Susan a bow that will not miss and a horn that always summons aid. Lucy receives a small dagger and a vial containing a cordial, made from the fire-flowers of the mountains of the sun. A few drops of this cordial could heal any wound, no matter how fatal.
In The Lord of the Rings, the members of the Fellowship who make it to the realm of Lothlorien are given gifts by the Lady Galadriel. Aragorn receives an enchanted sheath for his sword and the Elfstone (the Evenstar necklace, for those have only seen the movies) of the House of Elendil. Boromir, Merry, and Pippin receive sword belts. Gimli who was enchanted by their host’s beauty, receives three strands of Galadriel’s hair. Frodo is given a phial that held the light of Eärendil'sstar. Sam is presented with a small box of earth from Galadriel’s garden, along with these words, “It will not keep you on your road, nor defend you against any peril; but if you keep it and see your home again at last, then perhaps it may reward you. Though you should find all barren and laid waste, there will be few gardens in Middle-earth that will bloom like your garden, if you sprinkle this earth there.”
While all the others are given weapons, armor, or other things that will aid them in their quests and battles, Lucy and Sam are given something different. The gifts they receive can only be used when the darkness has ended. Healing can only come once the battle is over and the wounds received. Likewise, the earth in Sam’s box can only be spread if he lives to see home and the Shire still stands. The gifts they receive are gifts of good faith. They are dependent on being given and received. Lucy is given great power to heal if she sees the battle through. Sam, who loves the earth, is given the means for renewal.
There is darkness promised in each gift as well as new life. Healing must follow pain; the harvest comes after the barren winter. But the restoration promised far outweighs the cost involved. Neither Father Christmas nor Galadriel could be sure of the success their questors, and neither Lucy nor Sam knew how to hope for victory. But in the accepting of their gifts, they chose a hope unlike any other. Their great hope, writes Professor Loconte, was “to re-enchant the world through Christian faith and pagan beauty.” Tolkien and Lewis were both intimately aware of the ultimate gift in the Christian story: the Christ-child given unto us, salvation promised in death, and new life springing eternal at the end of all things.
Dear Friends of Lewis and Tolkien, The Morgan Library in New York City is hosting an exhibition of the life and work of J.R.R. Tolkien, the most thorough of its kind in decades. https://www.themorgan.org/exhibitions/tolkien . I had the great privilege of seeing the Tolkien exhibit at Oxford University, while doing some research for our film series, “A Hobbit, a Wardrobe, and a Great War.” The exhibit draws attention to Tolkien’s war experience, as well as his lifelong friendship with C.S. Lewis. It is truly remarkable to get a glimpse into the development of Tolkien’s creative imagination, not only his published and unpublished manuscripts, but also his beautiful artwork. One of the great strengths of the exhibit is that it places Tolkien in the full context of his life: his role as son, soldier, scholar, tutor, author, husband, father, and friend. My review appears in National Review : https://www.nationalreview.com/2018/08/art-review-maker-of-middle-earth-showcases-tolkien-
For the next couple of days, on the way back from Liverpool, we managed to pass by Sarehole near Birmingham. This was the childhood location for Tolkien. We were able to acquire access for filming at the old mill that Tolkien spoke about years later. It represented a time prior to major development in the UK where man and nature had a beautiful relationship, especially in the eyes of a child. Further south, in Chinnor and Oxford, we were able to create two additional reenactments of Tolkien with his girlfriend and wife, Edith. A playful example of their courtship, and the harsh reality of saying goodbye when one goes off to war become great insight to the man known as J.R.R. Tolkien. Jock Petersen Director/Producer