19

J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis had a pretty legendary rivalry/friendship.

In particular, it's fairly well known that Tolkien aimed for "higher" fantasy, compared to Lewis.

I've heard some people claim that Lewis included the Lantern Waste solely because Tolkien told him something along the lines of "fantasy doesn't have lamp-posts."

Is this true? Is there any record of Tolkien mentioning lamp-posts in fantasy? Is there any official documentation of Lewis including his in response to this?

  • 7
    "Even within Tolkien's social group, The Inklings, reviews were mixed. Hugo Dyson was famously recorded as saying, during one of Tolkien's readings to the group, "Oh no! Not another fucking elf!" However, another Inkling, C.S. Lewis, had very different feelings, writing, "here are beauties which pierce like swords or burn like cold iron. Here is a book which will break your heart." – Valorum May 24 '16 at 18:53
  • @Valorum where is that quote from? Sounds interesting. – user32390 May 24 '16 at 19:24
  • 1
  • 1
    @PeterPeter - theonering.com/news/books/… – Valorum May 24 '16 at 19:26
  • 2
    At least, I know where the lamppost reference likely came from. Don't know about its inclusion in Narnia but I'll ask my people. – Matt Gutting May 24 '16 at 22:20
12

J.R.R. Tolkien said that no good fantasy would have ELECTRIC lamps in it. You can read this in his essay On Fairy-Stories, available in PDF form here:

The electric street-lamp may indeed be ignored, simply because it is so insignificant and transient. Fairy-stories, at any rate, have many more permanent and fundamental things to talk about. Lightning, for example. The escapist is not so subservient to the whims of evanescent fashion as these opponents. He does not make things (which it may be quite rational to regard as bad) his masters or his gods by worshipping them as inevitable, even “inexorable.” And his opponents, so easily contemptuous, have no guarantee that he will stop there: he might rouse men to pull down the street-lamps. Escapism has another and even wickeder face: Reaction.

  • 1
    Interestingly, Edmund brings (and loses) his electric torch to Narnia (that's British English for a flashlight for the Americans) in Prince Caspian. – Lexible Apr 13 '18 at 21:04
  • @Lexible more specifically the lamp post itself is the result of Jadis accidentally planting (dropping) an iron piece of a street lamp in young/fertile Narnia in The Magician's Nephew. – Crisfole Sep 19 '18 at 15:47
  • 1
    @Crisfole The lamp in Latern Waste is almost certainly a gas lamp not electric, whereas Edmund's electric torch certainly is. :) – Lexible Sep 19 '18 at 16:58
8

He does seem to make reference to a lamp on a post in The Lord of the Rings:

Fellowship of the Ring: Chapter 5: A Conspiracy Unmasked

The white bollards near the water's edge glimmered in the light of two lamps on high posts.

While not technically the word "lamp-post"...if the shoe fits

A more tenuous example:

Return of the King: Chapter 1: Minis Tirith

..thence a long lamp-lit slope ran up the seventh gate

  • 2
    @anaranjada - it answers one of the questions. Specifically: " Is there any record of Tolkien mentioning lamp-posts in fantasy?" Considering the FotR is fantasy and Tolkien wrote it...how does that not answer the question as stated? It has the bonus of being ironic: since, while criticizing Lewis, he himself made reference to lamp posts – NKCampbell May 24 '16 at 20:17
  • 3
    I guess so. I read the question as asking about Tolkien and C. S. Lewis talking about lampposts at some point, not looking for examples of lampposts in Tolkien's work, but I can see your point. – Molag Bal May 24 '16 at 20:29
  • If Tolkien actually did make the comment, I'm assuming he was referring to more modern, metal lamp posts, which these examples probably aren't. – Rogue Jedi May 27 '16 at 1:07

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.