Monday, December 7, 2009

They had an inkling...

I took a class in college that I did not appreciate enough at the time. It was a class for my Honors program, and those classes tended to be pretty difficult and time consuming. So I used to get mired down in the amount of work and fail to enjoy what I was learning. Typical plight of the undergraduate, I suppose. But the lessons in my Honors classes were by far the most valuable for "life" in general than the more technical lessons in my journalism classes, or the more theoretical lessons in my liberal arts classes. It's a shame I didn't appreciate them more.

Regardless of that, one of the more interesting classes (less applicable to life -- especially less than, say, my Terrorism and World Religions class -- but nonetheless very engaging) was called "The Inklings." In case you don't know about this, The Inklings is a group of writers who were friends and used to have meetings at Oxford during the 1930s and '40s. They used to read their work to one another and discuss literature in general. The founding members were J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, and Charles Williams. They started out going to each other's dorm rooms at Oxford, and also met at a pub (which is now called The Eagle and Child - I've been there! It was across the street from my dorm when I studied at Oxford).

Something about the story of these so-very-famous authors getting together and discussing Narnia and Mordor and all their inhabitants is grand and appealing to me. The mere fact that C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien - two of my favorite writers of all time - used to hang out at all is unfathomable for some reason.

We read a bunch of books in the class -- it was focused on the work of The Inklings themselves but was also about fantasy/adventure/science fiction novels more generally as well -- along with The Inklings' own work, we also read books that influenced them (such as The First Men In the Moon by H.G. Wells, that one was fantastic). I have listed out here the ones we read in class that were written by the actual founders themselves :

C.S. Lewis:
The Chronicles of Narnia (all 7 books)
The Screwtape Letters
The Great Divorce
Out of the Silent Planet

J.R.R. Tolkien:
The Hobbit
The Adventures of Tim Bombadil
The Silmarillion
Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (translation)

Charles Williams:
Descent into Hell

Earlier today I was looking for a book on my shelves and picked up The Golden Key, by George MacDonald, which we also read in the class. Unfortunately another downside of having taken such a cool class junior year in college (when I was super busy and had no time to focus on it) is that I skipped some of the reading. The Golden Key was one that didn't make the cut, which I really regret now. Just from reading a few pages, I can tell this book is one I am going to love. The fantasy-ish genre of the books by these authors draws me in -- there's something about it that's very nostalgic, as if I am still a little girl being read a fairy tale.

If you haven't heard of The Inklings, check it out. And in case you haven't read their work, many lands of adventure await you.

In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort.