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191. How Did Lewis and Tolkien Celebrate and Critique Christmas? | with David Bates

C. S. Lewis mocked secular “trumpery” and J. R. R. Tolkien wrote Santa fanfiction for his children, yet both men celebrated the Incarnation.
Fantastical Truth on Dec 12, 2023 · Series: · No comments

Did you ever read the book where C. S. Lewis criticized trumpery? At the holiday season? “They buy gifts for one another such things as no man ever bought for himself,” Lewis lamented. But he did love Christmas. So did professor J. R. R. Tolkien, who celebrated so hard that he ghost-wrote letters from Father Christmas, from the North Pole, for his own children. What can we learn about critiquing yet celebrating Christmas from these two legends?

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middle grade • teens + YA • adults • onscreen • author resources • gifts • guild

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  1. Enclave Publishing: Lumen by J. J. Fischer
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Concession stand

  • Got thoughts on secular Christmas? That’s another episode (next year?).
  • Got thoughts about Santa? That’s our existing episode 44.
  • By now we have a whole “evergreen” series: Christmas Magic.

Quotes and notes

Introducing guest David Bates

David Bates is an English software engineer. He moved to the United States in his late twenties, living in Washington DC, Seattle and San Diego, before getting married during COVID and moving with his wife to La Crosse, Wisconsin, where they have two children. David runs the weekly podcast Pints With Jack, where he discusses the works of C. S. Lewis, the Christian apologist and author of The Chronicles of Narnia.

1. How did Lewis despise ‘Xmas’ cards and cosplay?

  • Most folks might think of Lewis’s positive Father Christmas in TLWW.
  • But the author also satirized the holiday in one lesser-known article.
  • You can find this in God in the Dock: Essays on Theology and Ethics.
  • The editor, Walter Hooper, termed the essay “Xmas and Christmas.”
  • The short piece features C. S. Lewis’s scathing take on the subject.

2. How did Tolkien celebrate the season with kids?

  • Starting in the 1920s, Tolkien was writing letters from Father Christmas.
  • He wrote them for his boys, Jonathan, Michael, and Christopher.
  • Father Christmas personalized each letter. Then he told longer tales.
  • The earlier ones feature complex “fan art” of the North Pole’s magic.
  • And the boys must have loved F.C.’s sidekick, the North Polar Bear.
  • This bear was a polarizing klutz. And he added comments to the letters.
  • Some of Tolkien’s later names for elves sound more than a little familiar.

3. How do we have similar hate/love for Christmas?

Com station

  1. Do you feel “humbug” about mandatory Christmas “fun”?
  2. Do you feel joyous about Christmas traditions, even the silly ones?

Abigail of the Guild asked for photo evidence of the “Arthur Christmas” sweater Stephen mentioned in ep. 190, then said:

I personally like both sugar and spice with my stories. But really, my favorites are stories that are rich and complex, savory and nourishing. “It’s a Wonderful Life” is actually a good example; it’s incredibly dark in places (I know many people, myself included sometimes, who can’t watch it because of the intensity and depression that it contains), but it confronts the darkness and comes through to a place of light and hope. The best Christmas stories do that, I find. They’re about choosing to live when all seems lost, about finding undeserved redemption, about light during the darkest times, and yes, about festivity and jollification not just because it’s tradition, but because we have something real to celebrate.

On a more serious note, Jack of Shadows mentioned re. ep. 190:

I’m not going to fight about Doug Wilson in here, but I would like to say that the criticism against him is not simply him saying “wuss” (discussed at 28:35 in this episode) . He’s written some pretty terrible stuff that would violate this groups code of conduct… but more importantly violates the Bible’s code of conduct.

Mission update

Next on Fantastical Truth

Twenty years ago, the world was watching one fantasy film trilogy to rule them all. Its final installment, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King arrived into American theaters on Dec. 17, 2003. From the beacons lighting of Minas Tirith, to Frodo’s and Sam’s desperate fights against Shelob, to the ear-tingling charge of the Rohirrim onto the Fields of Pelennor, how did we first experience this grand finale to The Lord of the Rings film series?

Fantastical Truth
Fantastical Truth

Lorehaven explores fantastical stories for God's glory: fantasy, sci-fi, and beyond.

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