Middle Earth, Narnia, and the “True Myth” of the Bible

In Op-Eds by Karen Scalf BouchardLeave a Comment

We love epic stories of all kinds, don’t we?

Hobbits, men, elves, and dwarves uniting against unspeakable evil. Frodo and Gollum locked in battle, mere inches from a fatal fall into molten lava. Aslan’s great sacrifice. Edmund’s inner struggle.

There’s something about heroic stories, myths, and legends that speak to a longing in our souls. Stories like these may feature made-up characters and worlds, but they ring of truth in ways that leave us homesick for places we’ve never even seen.

J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis met as young men when they were each serving as English Professors at Oxford. Discovering they shared a fascination with ancient tales of gods and heroes, a life-long friendship was forged.

One evening, Tolkien and Lewis were joined by another friend and colleague, Hugo Dyson. Long into the night, the three talked of poetry and books, metaphor and myth, Christianity, love and friendship.

Tolkien and Dyson believed in God, but Lewis did not. During their lengthy conversation, Tolkien and Dyson challenged Lewis to look at the Gospel in a brand-new light. The epic story of the Gospel, they argued, was just as powerful as the myths and legends that Lewis loved—except this “myth” was actually true.

The idea of Jesus Christ as the “true myth” was not just intriguing to C.S. Lewis—it was life-changing.

He later wrote:

What Dyson and Tolkien showed me was this: that if I met the idea of sacrifice in a pagan story I didn’t mind it at all; again, that if I met the idea of a god sacrificing himself to himself … I liked it very much and was mysteriously moved by it; again, that the idea of the dying and reviving god (Balder, Adonis, Bacchus) similarly moved me provided I met it anywhere except in the Gospels. The reason was that in pagan stories I was prepared to feel the myth as profound and suggestive of meanings beyond my grasp even tho’ I could not say in cold prose ‘what it meant’.

Now the story of Christ is simply a true myth: a myth working on us in the same way as the others, but with this tremendous difference that it really happened.

That conversation was pivotal for C.S. Lewis, who accepted Jesus as his savior shortly after that.  Soon his writings began to reflect his profound faith, and have delighted and inspired generations of readers of all ages ever since.

If books and movies like The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, or The Chronicles of Narnia spark your imagination and evoke longings you didn’t even know you had—and reading your Bible does not—you may be missing the point.

The story of God’s love for us—and His rescue of us—is not only the grandest adventure of all, it’s true. And even better, the story isn’t finished yet.

The next time you pick up your Bible, ask the Lord to help you see His Word in an entirely new light. Ask Him to stir up new vision in you, and to open your heart to the transforming power of His life-giving words. Ask Him to empower you to become a warrior in the battle between good and evil that is being waged all around us. Ask Him to usher you more fully than ever before into the unfolding story of His redeeming love for us.

Middle-earth and Narnia pale in comparison.

Karen Scalf Bouchard

Freelance Writer at Biblica
Karen Scalf Bouchard is a frequent speaker at church, corporate and community events, and is the author of more than a dozen books including Just Hand Over the Chocolate and No One Will Get Hurt and The Chocolate Diaries: Secrets for a Sweeter Journey on the Rocky Road of Life. In print or on stage, Karen is passionate about helping people engage more fully with God’s presence, His principles, and His plan for our lives. You can learn more about Karen by visiting her website.