Are myths fiction? The stories they tell aren’t true. Are they, therefore, lies? Are they worthless? Nothing but “beautiful lies”? Nothing but fairy tales?
This interplay, while fictional, is intended to capture the essence of the relationship between Lewis and Tolkien as Lewis was transitioning from the materialism he embraced as a young man to theism. At this point, he is wrestling with doubts that were arising in his mind about the truth of that materialist world view he had intellectually embraced.
Lewis had been raised on a diet of classical Greek and Latin literature that he learned to read in the original languages, along with Celtic, German and other literature filled with myth, allegory and symbolism that he adored as a child and young adult. His embrace of materialism was clashing with a profound undercurrent of something “real” that appealed to him in that ancient literature. The reality Lewis was confronting is no different than a love of art, beauty, poetry and love itself that the materialist enjoys in common with more metaphysically minded men.
Is materialism all that exists, threatening to undermine the sublime reality we all intuitively “know” and sense in classic, timeless literature and art?