1. Catrin Lewis

    Catrin Lewis Contributor Contributor Community Volunteer Contest Winner 2023

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    Source of C. S. Lewis quotation defending the Fantasy genre

    Discussion in 'Research' started by Catrin Lewis, Mar 17, 2018.

    Someplace in one of his books, in the preface, I believe, C. S. Lewis defends the writing of Fantasy against those who charged it with being juvenile, unsuitable of time and effort, a corrupter of youth, etc. He argues that it's actually a higher form of literary art than realism, because the author must come up with whole new worlds and everything in them. Whereas, writers of realistic fiction can simply refashion the material around them in everyday life. Lewis especially urges that fantasy novels are better for young people than the run-of-the-mill boarding school stories the kids of his day were being fed, because they encourage them to dream and to expand their imaginations, instead of leaving them enmired in the petty affairs of their ordinary, limited lives.

    In connection with all this, he discusses the imaginary world of Boxen that he and his brother Warnie made up when they were boys. Though I won't swear to that. I may have linked the two myself.

    But now I can't remember what book I read this in! I thought it might be Surprised by Joy, but I checked and couldn't find it there. Can't find it in The Pilgrim's Regress, either.

    Does anyone here know where this comes from? I want (correctly) to cite this quotation in the Author's Note in the front matter of my novel, but "C. S. Lewis says somewhere that Fantasy is . . . " would be really lame.

    Any help appreciated. Thanks.
     
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  2. Simpson17866

    Simpson17866 Contributor Contributor

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    I just found "Sometimes Fairy Stories May Say Best What's to be Said," a New York Times article included on On Stories :)

    ... On that side (as Author) I wrote fairy tales because the Fairy Tale seemed the ideal Form for the stuff I had to say. Then of course the Man in me began to have his turn. I thought I saw how stories of this kind could steal past a certain inhibition which had paralysed much of my own religion in childhood. Why did one find it so hard to feel as one was told one ought to feel about God or about the sufferings of Christ? I thought the chief reason was that one was told one ought to. An obligation to feel can freeze feelings. And reverence itself did harm. The whole subject was associated with lowered voices; almost as if it were something medical. But supposing that by casting all these things into an imaginary world, stripping them of their stained-glass and Sunday school associations, one could make them for the first time appear in their real potency? Could one not thus steal past those watchful dragons? I thought one could. That was the Man’s motive. But of course he could have done nothing if the Author had not been on the boil first.

    You will notice that I have throughout spoken of Fairy Tales, not ‘children’s stories’. Professor J.R.R. Tolkien in The Lord of the Rings has shown that the connection between fairy tales and children is not nearly so close as publishers and educationalists think. Many children don’t like them and many adults do. The truth is, as he says, that they are now associated with children because they are out of fashion with adults; have in fact retired to the nursery as old furniture used to retire there, not because the children had begun to like it but because their elders had ceased to like it. I was therefore writing ‘for children’ only in the sense that I excluded what I thought they would not like or understand; not in the sense of writing what I intended to be below adult attention. I may of course have been deceived, but the principle at least saves one from being patronising. I never wrote down to anyone; and whether the opinion condemns or acquits my own work, it certainly is my opinion that a book worth reading only in childhood is not worth reading even then. The inhibitions which I hoped my stories would overcome in a child’s mind may exist in a grown-up’s mind too, and may perhaps be overcome by the same means ...​
     
  3. Catrin Lewis

    Catrin Lewis Contributor Contributor Community Volunteer Contest Winner 2023

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    Thanks. I don't think I'd seen that one, and it shows this wasn't a momentary opinion with Lewis. But I still hope to find the quotation I'm thinking of, because I'll be using it ironically. As in, I'm not writing that higher, more creative form as Lewis describes it, because my novel is solidly based on the Real World . . . but on the other hand, it may seem to many readers like Fantasy, because it's set in the early 1980s and so much has changed since then.
     
    Last edited: Mar 17, 2018
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  4. Simpson17866

    Simpson17866 Contributor Contributor

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    Then we should keep looking :D
     
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  5. jim onion

    jim onion New Member

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    Via Amazon I did find a collection of essays called "On Stories", which "is a companion volume to Lewis's collected shorter fiction, The Dark Tower and Other Stories..."

    Did you perhaps have a copy of The Dark Tower and his short-fiction that included this essay?

    I might also check The Chronicles of Narnia, if you have any copies.
     
  6. jim onion

    jim onion New Member

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    Or is it this essay here? "On Three Ways of Writing for Children" from "Of Other Worlds"?

    The Pilgrim's Regress is also featured in "Of Other Worlds", which may perhaps explain how you made the association.

    https://www.catholicculture.org/culture/library/view.cfm?recnum=9117
     
    Last edited: Mar 17, 2018
  7. big soft moose

    big soft moose An Admoostrator Admin Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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  8. Catrin Lewis

    Catrin Lewis Contributor Contributor Community Volunteer Contest Winner 2023

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    Yes, this may possibly be it . . . and the conclusion I drew from it may be my own.

    I've bookmarked it, but if I do happen to find something more clearly like what I remember, I'll go on to that. I have a few more things to do on the book before sourcing the idea becomes critical.

    Thanks.
     
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  9. Iain Sparrow

    Iain Sparrow Banned Contributor

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    I think this is what you're referencing...
    https://www.brainpickings.org/2014/06/18/c-s-lewis-writing-for-children/

    I love the Chronicles of Narnia; did as a child, still do as an adult... Christian allegory and all.
     
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  10. obi-sem kenobi

    obi-sem kenobi Senior Member

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    I did my BA thesis on Lewis, so I read most of what I could find from him back in the day. That said I don't think I can add much more to what has already been said.

    I'm fairly sure him telling about the world of Boxen was in Surprised by Joy, where he then also explained a little about worldbuilding and the different kinds of stories he wrote at the time.

    As for the comparison with board room stories and fairytales, the first (and only) thing that immediately came to mind was the essay "On Three Ways of Writing for Children".

    Though I didn't quite interpret it the way you did, this line, I think, sums up the argument he tried to make with that comparison:
    'I think what profess to be realistic stories for children are far more likely to deceive them. I never expected the real world to be like the fairy tales. I think that I did expect school to be like the school stories. The fantasies did not deceive me: the school stories did.'

    That said it's been a while since wrote that thesis and I didn't read everything he wrote, so if you do find something else, I'd love to hear it!
     

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