A light from the shadows
“From the ashes a fire shall be woken,
A light from the shadows shall spring…” — J.R.R. Tolkien
These lines are from a poem I have loved for many years. It appears in the first book of J.R.R. Tolkien’s classic Lord of the Rings, but its message has an enduring appeal whether or not one has read the story. The themes of hidden strength and eventual triumph are close to the heart of anyone who is surviving hardship while hoping for better times to come.
When I went to Oxford in December 2005, I went back to the Eagle and Child, the modest St. Giles pub I had first visited a few months earlier. I wanted to take some photographs (including the one above) of the place where Tolkien, C. S. Lewis and other writers met for years to discuss their writing. Tolkien and Lewis, the best known of the group referred to as “the Inklings,” would go on to achieve a degree of fame and popularity they probably never dreamed of during their early Oxford years.
C. S. Lewis is my favorite author. I have a hard time ever choosing a favorite of anything, and when discussing books and writers, the list of worthy contenders is long indeed. But Lewis has earned the superlative through his remarkable ability to distill profound ideas into simple, friendly language that intrigues as it instructs, and comforts as it challenges. His works have been a bright spot in my life for which I’ll always be thankful, and I find myself returning to them again and again.
Who are your favorite writers? Have you any books that are so loved as to seem almost like old friends? Any that shine a light into the dark nights of your life? I wish you many hours, days and years of the unique joy that is found in exploring real and imaginary worlds through books.