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Creator / C. S. Lewis

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"...I often find myself living at such cross-purposes with the modern world: I have been a converted Pagan living among apostate Puritans."
C.S. Lewis, Surprised by Joy

Clive Staples Lewisnote  (29 November 1898 – 22 November 1963) was a British author of many sorts of books in the mid-20th-century: scholarship regarding medieval literature, lay Christian theology, Science Fiction, and Fantasy.

Lewis was born and raised in Ulster. His mother died when he was young. He was educated in a series of English Boarding Schools, the first of which was run by a Sadist Teacher. He fought in the Great War. He was a member of The Inklings and a friend of Charles Williams and J. R. R. Tolkien, whose influence partially led him to rediscover Christianity (though Lewis being an Anglican and Tolkien a Catholic led to some friction). He published an autobiography of his early life and conversion titled Surprised by Joy, which was edited by his friend, the American writer Joy Davidman Gresham. After he married her so she could remain in the UK, they fell desperately in love and had an Anglican ceremony after Joy was diagnosed with terminal bone cancer. She died four years later, leaving Lewis so heartbroken that he wrote A Grief Observed to work through his struggle with his faith. Lewis himself died on the same day as Aldous Huxley and John F. Kennedy; this led to his passing being almost unpublicized.

Lewis and Gresham's romance was dramatized in the teleplay and its subsequent stage and film adaptations Shadowlands, with Joss Ackland, Nigel Hawthorne and Anthony Hopkins taking the role of Lewis in the television, stage, and film versions respectively. Also, a biopic called Tolkien & Lewis portraying the two authors' friendship is reportedly in development.

Trope Namer for The Four Loves (from the book The Four Loves), Narnia Time (from the way time works between worlds in The Chronicles of Narnia), and Bulverism (from an essay about a boy named Ezekiel Bulver who decides to go through life committing the fallacy that now bears his name).

Another odd bit of trivia: the day after he died, Doctor Who aired its first episode.

C. S. Lewis' fictional works:

Notable Non-Fiction:

For a complete list of Lewis' writings, non-fiction, and fiction, see the other wiki.

Tropes featured in his work:

  • Afraid of Doctors: Lewis was afraid of dentists, specifically (having inherited bad teeth nescessitating loads of long and often ardulous dental work); which he mentions or at least alludes to in some sheer toothache-inducing dentist metaphor at least once a non-fiction book, and occasionally in the fiction ones as well.
  • All Just a Dream: In The Great Divorce, he has the whole thing be a dream to remind readers that the depictions of Heaven and Hell are merely to give a setting for the scenes and not actual depictions of Heaven and Hell's environments.
  • All Take and No Give: Repeatedly. Discussed more than once in The Four Loves. Particularly the pathological Giver variant.
  • The Anti-God: Defied in Mere Christianity, where Lewis presents a number of arguments against the notion that an evil opposite to God could exist. Among other reasons: if God and His opposite were really exactly equal in power, then either both of them would be equally capable of deciding the moral law, in which case it would make no sense to call either one more good or more evil than the other; or else neither of them would be capable of changing the moral law, in which case the true God-like power of the Universe would not be either of them, but rather who- or what-ever is powerful enough to restrain the both of them.
  • Author Appeal: He was apparently fond of characters who prefer going barefoot, due to religious and mystical symbolism behind it, and probably also free-spiritedness and nonconformism (besides, Lewis drew inspiration from his idols George MacDonald and E. Nesbit, whose writings also feature plenty of barefoot characters). The number of barefooters is especially high in The Chronicles of Narnia (the Narnia wiki even has a specific category for them): Lucy Pevensie (her brothers and sister also like to do it sometimes), Coriakin and Ramandu from The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, Ramandu's daughter and Queen Jadis (at least in the illustrations), Shasta and the Hermit of the Southern March from The Horse and His Boy (though with Shasta, it's just Barefoot Poverty), and Puddleglum from The Silver Chair. Merlin from That Hideous Strength is also barefooted.
  • Author Avatar: Strange case in that it's the avatar of another author. The old man who owns the wardrobe (an old Digory Kirke) is supposedly inspired by Lewis' best friend Ronald (you may know him better as Tolkien).
  • Author Tract: Much of Lewis's work could qualify note , including that book of cynical, decidedly anti-Christian poetry he wrote before his conversion, though there are some exceptions:
    • A lot of his nonfiction: While his religious books have always been his most popular, Lewis wrote quite a bit of literary criticism and history too.
    • Till We Have Faces: While the Christian themes are there, they're pretty subtle and easy to miss if you're not looking for them. It is a retelling of a pagan myth, after all.
  • Author Usurpation: Fans of Christian literature might know about Lewis's other works, but they're not nearly as prominent in pop culture as Narnia. During Lewis's lifetime, however, he was a bit annoyed that his later books were marketed as "By the author of The Screwtape Letters."
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: This Aesop is particularly prominent in The Magician's Nephew and The Great Divorce
  • Becoming the Mask: This is how he thinks someone trying to become a better person should go about it if everything else has failed; if you just start acting like the person you know you should be, eventually you will become that person.
  • Big Creepy-Crawlies:
    • In Surprised by Joy, Lewis writes that his nightmares during childhood were either about ghosts or insects. Of the two, he found the dreams about insects much more frightening.
    • In The Pilgrim's Regress, young John is told that the damned are tortured by scorpions the size of lobsters.
    • In Perelandra, Ransom encounters flies and beetles larger than himself in the caverns of Venus. Subverted in this case. Once the Un-man's presence is gone, Ransom ceases to find them frightening and speculates that they may, in fact, be sentient.
    • In The Problem of Pain he discusses the moral problem of the suffering of animals (who after all are not either being punished for something or being trained in how to be good and therefore not subject to some of the possible explanations for human suffering). In fact he does take the question seriously. But when he gets to discussing animals and the afterlife, he imagines someone asking "Where do you put all the mosquitos" and then notes ironically that heaven for mosquitos and hell for humans might be "very conveniently combined."
  • Blasphemous Praise: Deconstructed. One of the letters collected in Letters to Children is to a young Christian reader of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe who was concerned that he loved Aslan more than Jesus. Lewis wrote back to reassure him that this did not count as idolatry because Aslan is a Messianic Archetypenote , so loving what Aslan does amounts to the same thing as loving what Jesus did.
  • Boarding School of Horrors: Boarding schools in Lewis's works are very unlikely to be positively portrayed— at best a necessary evil— influenced by his own experiences with a Sadist Teacher and Jerk Jocks as described in Surprised by Joy.
  • British Teeth: He mentions having inherited bad teeth from both his parents in Mere Christianity.
  • Bulverism: Trope Namer, via an essay of the same name involving a hypothetical boy named Ezekiel Bulver. And according to his critics, he did it himself sometimes.
  • Combat by Champion: Prince Caspian features a particularly gut-churning edge-of-your-seat example. All the more so for Peter's quiet dignity.
  • Corpsing: He popularized a parlor game among his students and The Inklings to see who could read aloud from the infamously Purple Prose-filled novels of Amanda McKittrick Ros the longest before breaking down into laughter.
  • Deconstructed Trope: In 1955, a psychologist (to whom the idea of female astronauts had not occurred) suggested that Mars astronauts might need ladies of the evening to keep them sexually satisfied. In his short story "Ministering Angels," Lewis (taking Proverbs 26:5 to heart) shows how the implementation would fail; the only women who volunteered were a fashionable psychologist who bought this (and would talk the hind leg off a donkey) and a washed-up tart who has lost all her charms with age. Furthermore, the men on Mars are not nearly as horny as supposed (and Paterson is Ambiguously Gay), the professor-whore is unlikeable, and the crew of the ship that brought the two is fed up with them.
  • Democracy Is Flawed: The chief value he saw in Democracy was simply that it prevented tyranny ("I do not deserve a share in governing a Hen's roost much less a nation"). Otherwise he would have preferred Aristocracy.
  • Due to the Dead: A major plot point in Till We Have Faces, and even overdone in The Great Divorce.
  • During the War:
    • Much of Lewis's fiction (The Screwtape Letters, The Great Divorce, five of the seven Narnia books, and the second book in The Space Trilogy, specifically) takes place during World War II. It's usually not dealt with extensively, but you can catch plenty of references to the Blitz and the subsequent air raids, blackouts, etc. all the same: for instance, in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, the Pevensies are fostered with Digory Kirke at his house in the countryside to keep them away from the Blitz. This is understandable, as Lewis lived in England and did much of his writing during the '30s and '40s.
    • What later became Mere Christianity was originally a series of wartime radio broadcasts given by Lewis, meant to lift the spirits of the British people. These broadcasts were only edited and put into print after the war was over.
  • Enlightened Antagonist: His works generally tend to depict God with a shade of this, even those in which God and the protagonists are on the same side (such as The Chronicles of Narnia). The reason for this is that, in Lewis' view, the humans' fallen nature makes them inherently antagonistic to God, and to overcome that antagonism, humans must return to their primordial sinless state.
    Fallen man is not simply an imperfect creature who needs improvement: he is a rebel who must lay down his arms. Laying down your arms, surrendering, saying you are sorry, realising that you have been on the wrong track and getting ready to start life over again from the ground floor—that is the only way out of our "hole". This process of surrender—this movement full speed astern—is what Christians call repentance.
  • Everyone Has Standards: Mere Christianity and The Abolition of Man use the universal existence of morality to argue for the existence of a moral Law-Giver.
  • Evil Cannot Comprehend Good: A recurring theme in his work is evil characters being completely baffled by the mere concept of virtue.
  • Evil Is Cool: invoked Averted Trope. Hard! Lewis's works do a good deal to deconstruct this line of thinking, most prominently in The Screwtape Letters.
  • Evil Overlord: The White Witch and the Lady Of the Green Kirtle in The Chronicles of Narnia.
  • Evil Virtues: He argues that these debunk the very concept of Dualistic God Vs. Anti-God religions like Zoroastrianism, since the Evil deity must have inherently good qualities (not just the Evil Virtues themselves, in fact, but existence and sapience and will) in order to be on equal footing in terms of power with the Good deity.
  • Fairy Tale Motifs: Discussed throughout his work, and given free rein in The Chronicles of Narnia (which is a Fantasy Kitchen Sink).
  • The Farmer and the Viper/Ungrateful Bastard: Opens his provocatively-titled essay "We Have no 'Right to Happiness'" (calling out how the sexual impulse was being held by some to justify any breach of faith) with the tragedy of "Mrs. A", who helped her husband through a long illness, only to have him ditch her for someone younger, leading to her suicide.
  • A Form You Are Comfortable With: Several of his works depict Heaven, but always in a highly symbolic manner with a disclaimer that this is merely a representation that the reader can understand.
    • Perelandra: Towards the end the Oyeresu of Malacandra and Perelandra both appear to Ransom in different forms in preparation for the final ceremony and ask him to choose which ones are most suitable for human eyes/ears. They end up with vaguely anthropomorphic shapes, with Malacandra as male and Perelandra as female
  • For the Evulz: Deconstructed in Mere Christianity: although it is possible to do good for the sake of doing good, nobody does evil for the sake of doing evil. A person might give money to the needy even when they are not feeling particularly generous that day, simply because it was the right thing to do, and they might even do it reluctantly. But who ever heard of someone who reluctantly cheated on their spouse in spite of being perfectly content with the partner they already had, purely because it was the wrong thing to do? Evil deeds are merely the pursuit of some good in the wrong way; anyone you might consider a villain either A) genuinely thinks they are doing the right thing, B)Thinks their villainous acts are justified, or C) doesn't give a crap.
  • Fun with Acronyms: He was commissioned to write a volume of the Oxford History of English Literature note , which proved to be so much tedious research and work that he wryly nicknamed it "O HEL!"
    • The despotic organization that the heroes must take down in That Hideous Strength is called the "National Institute for Co-ordinated Experiments"—N.I.C.E., for short.
    • The whores-for-Mars-astronauts program in "Ministering Angels" is called the "Woman's Higher Aphrodesio-Therapeutic Humane Organization" (WHAT-HO).
  • Godzilla Threshold: Deemed even robber barons less dangerous than Well-Intentioned Extremists. After all, a robber baron has no delusions of serving the greater good (and is therefore more likely to do good in the occasional benevolent mood because what benevolence they have isn't tied up in by-and-means-necessary), and so they are more likely to have pangs of conscience and depths to which even they are unwilling to sink.
  • Good Is Not Nice: Lewis' views on God — a being of absolute goodness — verged on Cosmic Horror Story, a theme that shows up in works from Narnia to The Great Divorce. The fact that God is always good and right means that we are screwed when He comes to judge us, if not for Jesus' intervention.
  • Have a Gay Old Time:
    • In one of the essays from God In the Dock, he gives a Long List of old ecclesiastical terms that have changed meaning.
    • The focus of his non-fiction work Studies in Words. In this work, Lewis looks at a couple of words and shows how their meanings have changed throughout the centuries.
  • He Also Did: Lewis's fiction and Christian writings have a much wider readership than his works of academic literary scholarship.invoked
  • High Fantasy: He and Tolkien were the Trope Makers, though Lewis' Narnia books skew more toward Fairy Tale than Tolkien's more epic The Lord of the Rings. Among other things, they codified many genre staples, such as the Evil Overlord and Medieval European Fantasy (before them, similar fantasy works would have taken place in the actual Middle Ages).
  • Humans Are the Real Monsters: Appears to some extent in practically all his work, but his non-fiction dedicates entire chapters to expounding on how and why humans are bastards and how the bastardliness can be reduced. In one of his essays, he mentions Dark-Gods-of-the-Blood which comes down to how we must always fight off the desire to give into the baser desires we feel as we go through daily life.
  • It's All About Me: A theme of many of his theological works, especially The Great Divorce. Lewis views Pride as the cardinal sin, and the source of all other sin.
  • Jesus Was Crazy: Famously, Mere Christianity popularized the so-called "trilemma" argument in favor of the deity of Jesus: if Jesus wasn't God, then it's fallacious to say He was "a great moral teacher," since an actual great moral teacher would be humble rather than claiming to be God as Jesus did. So either Jesus was God in Human Form, Jesus was a liar, or Jesus Was Crazy. note 
  • Literary Allusion Title:
    • That Hideous Strength is named after a line in a Sir David Lyndsay poem.
    • Surprised By Joy is named after Wordsworth's "Surprised By Joy—Impatient As The Wind".
    • The Great Divorce is a response to Blake's The Marriage of Heaven and Hell.
    • The Pilgrim's Regress is a Shout-Out to The Pilgrim's Progress.
    • Mere Christianity is a nod to 17th-century theologian Richard Baxter, who used the phrase to argue that Christians should not divide themselves into factions or sects.
  • Religion Rant Song: His first published book Spirits In Bondage (under the Pen Name Clive Hamilton) is a collection of lyric poems with a cynical, negative view of religion. They were written before his conversion, of course.
  • Resigned to the Call: The way Lewis describes his conversion (to the most general version of theology he could stomach—he wouldn't become a believing, much less practicing, Christian until later, but he found that turn much easier and less distinct) in Surprised By Joy:
    You must picture me all alone in that room in Magdalen, night after night, feeling, whenever my mind lifted even for a second from my work, the steady, unrelenting approach of Him whom I so earnestly desired not to meet. That which I greatly feared had at last come upon me. In the Trinity Term of 1929 I gave in, and admitted that God was God, and knelt and prayed: perhaps, that night, the most dejected and reluctant convert in all of England.
  • Romanticism Versus Enlightenment: His works are so far down the Romanticism end that one could make a trebuchet by loading whatever one wants to chuck on the Enlightenment side of the scale, and then letting go.
  • Self-Deprecation: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader has the story of a magician called Coriakin who was assigned to govern a bunch of dim-witted dwarves known as Duffers (an obvious metaphor for God and humanity), and eventually turned them into one-legged creatures called Monopods as a Prank Punishment for disobedience. The Duffers were initially unhappy with their new form, but eventually found advantages in it, such as using their giant foot as a boat for swimming. This is a humorous parallel to Lewis' own life story: he was born with only one functional joint in his thumbs, which rendered him incapable of sports and other physical activities, and led to him becoming a writer. I. e. it was his God-given handicap that eventually led him to prosperity and the fulfillment of his talent.
  • Separated by a Common Language: Once praised his friend Charles Williams by calling him a “rebunker”, in this context meaning the opposite of a debunker, or even a debunker of debunkers, one who shows that debunkers are wrong to assert there are no supernatural causes in the world. He must have been unaware of what the word “bunk” actually means, which originated in the United States and almost exclusively used there and not England, because otherwise it would imply something far less than laudability. “Bunk” is an Americanism that means something like “clearly false” or “superstition”, so by that meaning a rebunker would be one who adds the bunk back in to society after a debunker removed it, suggesting a definition closer to “charlatan”, “fraud”, or even “willful, pathological liar”. Ironically, the character in Lewis’s fiction closest to this etymological definition of “rebunker” would be the Un-Man in Perelandra, who repeatedly uses arguments his adversary, Elwin Ransom, has debunked already, in the cynical hope that his mark, Tinidril, will not notice, and fall for his deceptions.
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. Cynicism: All seven Narnia books he has written fall off the idealistic end of the scale.
  • Species-Specific Afterlife: In one of his non-fiction essays, he considers the possibility that animals have immortal souls, and wonders if giving them segregated afterlives would be the only way to keep different animals from tormenting each other. Then he half-jokingly notes that mosquito Heaven and human Hell might easily be the same place.
  • The Stoic: One of his favorite tutors, Kirk, is described in this way. In fact descriptions in Surprised by Joy make him sound like he had Asperger's Syndrome.
  • Talking Animal: The Chronicles of Narnia; they're also usually of a different size to the non-talking version: Ravens are larger, elephants are a little smaller.
  • Tears of Joy: Not quite the theme of Surprised by Joy, but heading that way.
  • Translation with an Agenda: Lewis once vetoed a Japanese translation of Miracles because the translator was a Baptist who attempted to bowdlerize some passages to make it seem as though Lewis was The Teetotaler and a non-smoker. He objected that the translator's doctrinal agenda gave a very inaccurate impression— Lewis was an Anglican who was an avid beer-drinker and pipe smoker.
  • Tropes Are Tools: At one point in "On the Reading of Old Books", he manages to find an upside to Values Dissonance of all things!:invoked
    None of us can fully escape this blindness [of our age], but we shall certainly increase it, and weaken our guard against it, if we read only modern books. Where they are true they will give us truths which we half knew already. Where they are false they will aggravate the error with which we are already dangerously ill. The only palliative is to keep the clean sea breeze of the centuries blowing through our minds, and this can be done only by reading old books. Not, of course, that there is any magic about the past. People were no cleverer then than they are now; they made as many mistakes as we. But not the same mistakes. They will not flatter us in the errors we are already committing; and their own errors, being now open and palpable, will not endanger us. ... To be sure, the books of the future would be just as good a corrective as the books of the past, but unfortunately we cannot get at them.
  • True Companions: The Inklings.
  • Viewers Are Geniuses: His work geared at adults is often peppered with untranslated Latin or French phrases, under the assumption that his readers will know what they mean. It was likely enough at the time when large numbers of upper and middle class English would have learned those at school.
  • Wanting Is Better Than Having: Deconstructed: In both The Great Divorce and The Pilgrim's Regress, he points out that the idea of traveling in hope being better than the destination is self-defeating: if one knew that to be true, then one could not travel in hope in the first place, since one could not hope to arrive at a destination if one knew that destination to be inferior.
  • What Could Have Been: A scholarly book entitled Language and Human Nature was begun but never completed. The rub: It was to have been coauthored with J. R. R. Tolkien. [1]. Mind you, he fought in a World War, so we should really be thankful we had him at all.invoked