The J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis Friendship: A Biography in Letters


The friendship between renowned authors J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis has been well-documented and celebrated throughout history. Both writers were part of a literary circle known as the Inklings, where they would gather at Oxford University to share their writings and engage in spirited discussions.

But one of the most intimate and revealing insights into their friendship comes from their letters to each other. From 1931 until Lewis’ death in 1963, these two literary giants exchanged over 200 letters, giving us a glimpse into the depths of their friendship, creative process, and the impact they had on each other’s writing.

The story of their friendship begins in 1926, when Tolkien was a professor of Anglo-Saxon at Oxford and Lewis was a new faculty member. Initially, they only had a professional relationship, but it was during one of their weekly walks with other colleagues that their friendship truly blossomed. They soon discovered a mutual love for literature, mythology, and storytelling, and their conversations laid the foundation for their enduring friendship.

Their letters reflect the closeness of their relationship and the fondness they had for each other. Lewis affectionately addressed Tolkien as “Tollers” and Tolkien referred to Lewis as “Jack.” Together, they shared their struggles with writing, their love for literature, and their thoughts on faith and religion.

One of the most significant aspects of their friendship was the influence they had on each other’s writing. Tolkien, known for his epic fantasy world of Middle-Earth, was a mentor to Lewis and helped shape his writing. Lewis, on the other hand, encouraged Tolkien to finish his masterpiece, The Lord of the Rings, and praised the work as a modern masterpiece.

In one of his letters, Lewis wrote about Tolkien’s influence on him, saying, “With the utmost admiration, I owe more to him than any other man.” He also credited Tolkien for helping him embrace his Christian faith and dedicated his book, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, to him.

Throughout their correspondence, we also see the ups and downs of their friendship. There were times when they disagreed on certain aspects of writing, such as the use of allegory in literature. But even in those moments, their friendship remained strong, and they continued to support and inspire each other.

Their letters also offer insights into their personal lives. Tolkien shared stories about his family, including his beloved wife Edith, who was an inspiration for the character of LĂșthien in his works. Lewis wrote about his struggles with depression and his close relationship with his brother, Warren.

Their friendship came to an abrupt end with Lewis’ death in 1963. Tolkien was devastated and wrote in a letter to his daughter, “So far I have felt the normal feelings of a man of my age – like an old tree that is losing all its leaves one by one: this feels like an axe-blow near the roots.”

Their letters may have ceased, but their friendship lives on through their works and the collective admiration of their readers. The J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis friendship continues to inspire writers, readers, and fans alike, serving as a reminder that true friendship can not only shape our lives but also our creative endeavors.

In conclusion, the biography of J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis friendship can be found in their letters. These letters offer us a rare glimpse into the genuine and enduring bond between these two literary greats. Their friendship was built on a shared love for storytelling, faith, and brotherhood, making it a timeless example of the power of true friendship.