Tolkien¬â„s Original Inklings & Our Kindlings Muse.

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Don’t forget to visit “The Kindlings Muse today for today’s podcast, an interview with Paul Elie on his book, “The Life You Save May Be Your Own,” a review of writers Thomas Merton, Flannery O’Connor, Dorothy Day and Walker Percy.

CS Lewis and JRR Tolkien are in my view iconic in their embodiment of the spiritual, intellectual and creative traditions of Christianity in culture. They communicated gospel (Lewis more forthrightly than Tolkien), countered the cultural fads of their day and yet contributed to mainstream culture.

Such is our calling today: to rekindle the spiritual, intellectual, creative legacy of Christian faith in culture.

David McFadzean, one of the creators of “Home Improvement” and a thoughtful creative, has hammered home to me the point of local, grassroots community as the locus of transformation. Media can provoke thought and even action, but lives are deeply changed for better or worse, by personal relationships. This is something Lewis and Tolkien understood well.

“The Inklings” were a gathering of friends — all of them British, male, and Christian (though with diverse theological vantage points), most of them teachers at or otherwise affiliated with Oxford University, many of them creative writers and lovers of imaginative literature — who met usually on Thursday evenings in C.S. Lewis’s and J.R.R. Tolkien’s college rooms in Oxford during the 1930s and 1940s for readings and criticism of their own work, and for general conversation. “Properly speaking,” wrote W.H. Lewis, one of their number, the Inklings “was neither a club nor a literary society, though it partook of the nature of both. There were no rules, officers, agendas, or formal elections.” An overlapping group gathered on Tuesday (later Monday) mornings in various Oxford pubs, usually but not always the Eagle and Child, better known as the Bird and Baby, between the 1940s and 1963.

Over the course of 30 years Lewis, an Anglican, and Tolkien, a Roman Catholic, met frequently and were able to enrich each other’s lives and work as a result. Tolkien insisted he would not have published Lord of the Rings were it not for Lewis. Likewise, Lewis left Oxford for Cambridge because Tolkien paved the way.

I always thought Lewis was the organizing force that kept the Inklings together, but in fact, Tolkien organized a similar small group at King Edward’s School in the early 1900’s. Tolkien called the group the Tea Club and when they were forced to move premises to the Barrow Stores in Birmingham they became the TCBS (Tea Club & Barrovian Society). In 1916 Tolkien said of the group’s purpose, “(We will) rekindle an old light in the world and testify for God and Truth.

The members of the group (Photo Above) became very close friends with a wide variety of interests all of which rubbed off on the others. Tolkien was studying languages, Robert Gilson was interested in the physical sciences and Renaissance art. Christopher Wiseman’s interests included natural science, mathematics and music, whilst a late recruit to the TCBS was Geoffrey Smith, who was instrumental in introducing them to modern English literature. Smith and Tolkien became firm friends and it is probable that it was Smith’s influence that prompted Tolkien to start writing poetry.

Smith’s death in WW1 profoundly affected Tolkien. The last letter Tolkien received from Smith before dying on a wartime mission said, “My chief consolation is that if I am scuppered tonight – I am off on duty in a few minutes – there will still be left a member of the great T.C.B.S. to voice what I dreamed and what we all agreed upon. For the death of one of its members cannot, I am determined, dissolve the T.C.B.S. Death can make us loathsome and helpless as individuals, but it cannot put an end to the immortal four! A discovery I am going to communicate to Rob before I go off tonight. And do you write it also to Christopher. May God bless you my dear John Ronald and may you say things I have tried to say long after I am not there to say them if such be my lot.
Yours ever,
G. B. S.

The tragedy put an end to the circle of the four and left a deep wound in the hearts of the remaining two (Rpb Gilson had also died at war). Tolkien, awakened by Smith’s echoing words, may you say things I have tried to say long after I am not there to say them, started to write his mythology on a notebook that he titled “The Book of Lost Tales.” The tales are later known as The Silmarillion.

You might call the “Tea Club & Barrovian Society” Tolkien’s original “Inklings” and both have inspired our new group “The Kindlings.”

Here in Seattle we have started “The Kindlings Muse” as a weekly event originating from Hales Ales Brewery and Pub. In our definition a kindling is a “spiritual, thoughtful Christian creative” who shares our vision to rekindle the spiritual, intellectual, creative legacy of Christian faith in culture.

May sparks of such rekindling be sited everywhere and may the gather and grow into a blaze to warm cold souls and illuminate the bridge to God.

Yours for the pursuit of God in the company of friends, Dick Staub.

PS. And remember, “these are the best of times and the worst of times, but they are the only times we have.” (For Now).

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