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C. S. Lewis: The Man Who Created Narnia

Early childhood of a little atheist

Clive Staples Lewis, commonly referred to as C. S. Lewis and known to his friends and family as “Jack”, was born in Belfast, Ireland on November 29th, 1898.

Lewis’s early childhood was relatively happy and carefree. Jack and his older brother Warnie (Warren) passed most of their time playing in an overgrown family garden or running around their large, gabled house.

Jack’s idyllic boyhood came to an end when he was 10 years old. It was in this year that his mother died of cancer and right after her death Jack and his brother were sent to boarding school in England.

Lewis hated it there. The strict rules of the boarding school and callous teachers made the boy miss Belfast tremendously. Fortunately for Jack, the school closed in 1910, and he returned to Ireland.

In 1913, Lewis enrolled at Malvern College where he remained for one year. It was here that, at the age of fifteen, he became an atheist, abandoning the Christian faith of his childhood. At school Jack developed a love for Greek poetry and modern languages, mastering French, German, and Italian.

Years at Oxford and a Promise to Keep

In 1916 Lewis was accepted at Oxford University. Only a year later Lewis took a break from his studies to serve in the British Army during the World War I. While in the army, Lewis became close friends with his roommate Paddy Moore, who was killed in battle in 1918. Before his friend’s death, Lewis had promised Moore to look after his family. He kept his promise and after the end of the war, Lewis moved in with Paddy’s mother, Jane Moore, and her daughter, Maureen, treating them as his own family. The three of them eventually moved into “The Kilns,” which they purchased jointly along with Lewis’s older brother, Warren.

After returning to the U.K., Lewis was able to continue his studies at Oxford, which he took up with great enthusiasm.
On May 20, 1925, Lewis was appointed Fellow and Tutor in English Literature at Oxford University, where he served for twenty-nine years before taking up a post at Cambridge University.

At Oxford, Lewis met one of his closest friends J.R.R. Tolkien, the author of The Lord of the Rings.

They were both members of the informal literary discussion group known as the “Inklings”.

An Oxford professor and the most influential Christian writer of XXth century

Partly due to Tolkien’s influence, at the age of 31 Lewis converted back to Christianity, becoming “a very ordinary layman of the Church of England“. In addition to his teaching duties at the University, Lewis began to publish books. His first major work, The Pilgrim’s Regress (1933), was about his own spiritual journey to the Christian faith. In 1936 Lewis published a book, called The Allegory of Love – dedicated to a history of love literature from the early Middle Ages to Shakespeare’s time.

In 1938 Lewis wrote his first science fiction novel Out of the Silent Planet.

In all Lewis wrote more than 30 books, becoming the most influential Christian writer of his day.

The Magical World of Narnia

At the peak of his writing career, Lewis got the strange idea – to write a children’s book. Lewis’s publisher and some of his friends were appalled by this idea – they thought it would hurt Lewis’s reputation as a writer of serious works.

Thankfully, Lewis did not listen to any of them. His first Narnia book, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, although it was not well received initially by critics and reviewers, gained in popularity through word of mouth. Following the publication of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe in 1950, Lewis quickly wrote 6 more Narnia books, publishing the final one, The Last Battle, in 1956.

Since then The Narnia books have sold more than 100 million copies in 41 languages and are considered classic children’s literature.

The only woman capable of winning Lewis’s admiration

It was not a secret to Lewis’s friends that he considered women’s minds intrinsically inferior to men’s. The only women, who was capable of interesting him was Joy Davidman Gresham, an American writer of Jewish background. They met in 1952, when she came to England with her two sons, David and Douglas Gresham and they became fast friends. Later Lewis did something his friends never expected of him – he agreed to marry Joy Gresham, so that she could continue to live in U.K.

Lewis’s brother Warnie wrote: “Joy was the only woman whom Jack had met … who had a brain which matched his own in suppleness, in width of interest, and in analytical grasp, and above all in humor and a sense of fun.” (Haven 2006)

Unfortunately, in 1956 Joy was diagnosed with terminal bone cancer, which made Lewis appreciate her companionship even more. The same year Rev. Peter Bide, performed the Christian marriage ceremony at Joy’s hospital bed. Joy Gresham died 4 years later at the age of 45. Lewis continued to raise her two sons.

The death that went by hardly noticed

After his wife’s death, Lewis’s own health deteriorated, and in the summer of 1963 he resigned his post at Cambridge. He died on November 22, 1963. And although his books had won the hearts of many children and adults, his death was only quietly noted, as it was overshadowed by two other tragedies – assassination of President John F. Kennedy, and the death of another famous writer Aldous Huxley.

This coincidence served as an inspiration for Peter Kreeft’s book Between Heaven and Hell: A Dialog Somewhere Beyond Death with John F. Kennedy, C. S. Lewis, & Aldous Huxley.

C. S. Lewis Quotes:

“When we lose one blessing, another is often most unexpectedly given in its place.”

“What you see and hear depends a good deal on where you are standing; it also depends on what kind of a person you are”

“God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks to us in our conscience, but shouts in our pains…”

“You don’t have a soul. You are a Soul. You have a body.”

“There are two kinds of people: those who say to God, “Thy will be done,” and those to whom God says, “All right, then, have it your way”

“The very man who has argued you down, will sometimes be found, years later, to have been influenced by what you said”

“You will never know how much you believe something until it is a matter of life and death.”

“My argument against God was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust. But how had I got this idea of just and unjust? A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line. What was I comparing this universe with when I called it unjust?”

“Failures are finger posts on the road to achievement.”

“Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: What! You too? I thought I was the only one.”

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