Friday, June 8, 2007

Quackery at the expense of Tolkien

Now, I'm not normally prone to hatchet-job reviews, but ...

This new book looks terrible! The author — an enfant terrible whose day-job is evidently hunting for UFO's, panicking about the end of the Mayan Calendar, and drawing unsupportable connections between the two — claims that The Lord of the Rings is genuine history, not fiction, and that Tolkien must have tapped into some kind of ancient (perhaps extraterrestrial) store of knowledge to write it. And that he can “prove” it.

Check out my Amazon review for more specifics on the author, the book, and its cockamamie claims.

It seems like this new book might be the heir apparent to Gracia Fay Ellwood's Good News from Middle Earth [sic]. Luckily for us, we've had a break of close to forty years since it appeared (and then just as quickly disappeared — let's hope Quest for Middle-earth does the same).


  1. Aren't there sad souls out there who take Lovecraft's Cthulhu stuff seriously?

  2. It wouldn't surprise me, though I really know next to nothing about Lovecraft. I bet there are a few loons taking Charles Williams seriously, too.

  3. Lovecraft's Cthulhu stuff was fabricated from scraps of Dunsany, Machen, etc., and elaborated not only by Lovecraft (now in the Library of America series!?) but by correspondents of his and others. I don't think Lovecraft wins very many passionate fans who first read him as adults, but some who read him in adolescence become lifelong fans.

    But as for Williams: he had been involved in "real" occultism (as represented by A. E. Waite and others). It also appears to me that late in his life he distances himself more from it, perhaps in part due tothe wholesome influence of C. S. Lewis and the Inklings in general. He says somewhere something about owing them more than he can say. I recently reread his final completed novel, All Hallows' Eve, which is rife with black magic; but the attitude to it is quite different from what it was in an early book such as War in Heaven. At the end of AHE, I get a sort of Prospero's farewell, I'll drown my books feel. And in fact he had intended to write a novel without the occult element.

    But what's regrettable is that his earlier, less mature work seems to draw a lot of interest from fans of the occult, as you're surmising. I've even seen an announcement that a writer named Grevel Lindop is going to focus on the occult angle in a new biography of Williams - - the first in over 20 years, I suppose - - which is to be called The last Magician. If you go to Lindop's site you'll see he's interested in occultism, etc.

    Williams's protracted interest in the occult can't be denied and should not be minimized at the expense of accuracy, but it is (at the least) ironic that that element seems to be what turns the crank for a lot of people, while Williams himself would (especially as he matured in the company of the Inklings) have wanted them to focus instead on the Christian faith. He would, I believe, have been much happier if, when people thought "Charles Williams," they had also thought "Milton," "St. Augustine," "St. John of the Cross," "St. Perpetua," "William Law," and above all "Dante, Dante!!"

    Very freely speaking, All Hallows' Eve is about the victory of "Dante" over black magic. That's how I might put it if someone asked me for a sentence about his final novel.

  4. Thanks for the great comment, Dale! I can only hope other visitors to the blog will take the time to read it. I think you've got a very good sense of Williams here. I would also add that his personal theological struggle reminds me a bit of William Blake.

  5. HPL was a materialist and atheist, and was greatly amused to find that some people took his "weird fiction" (as he called it) as serious occultism -- not that he believed in occultism, either.

  6. I think Tolkien was likewise amused at his own “deplorable cultus”; at least, amused when he was in a good humor. Probably not so much when American hippies telephoned him in the middle of the night. :/