Not long ago I spoke with Dr. Louis Markos about his latest book, On the Shoulders of Hobbits: The Road to Virtue with Tolkien and Lewis. The result was a podcast on another site I do. Around this time I gave you a chance here to win a copy. In addition to providing you with the highlights of that interview below, you have another chance to win it and several other books, like those shown at the right (if you are reading this by December 4th). Visit my entry about the contest over at my C.S. Lewis Minute Blog for details.
Dr. Markos is a Professor of English and Scholar in Residence at Houston Baptist University. He has written several books only about C.S. Lewis, including Lewis Agonistes and Restoring Beauty. Currently he is doing a series at his blog called A to Z with C.S. Lewis. As noted, the following is some of his key comments from an interview about On the Shoulders of Hobbits. If you want to hear the entire interview you can visit the post at All About Jack podcast.
O’Flaherty: Describe some of the process that lead up to the release of On the Shoulders of Hobbits.
Markos: This book should have come out last fall, because last fall the movie on The Hobbit was suppose to come out…it’s something that’s been germinating for about five or six year for me. It started when I taught a class on The Chronicles of Narnia and then the following year I taught on The Hobbit. Afterward I realized there weren’t many books dealing with both. When you look carefully and put the books side-by-side, it is amazing how much they have in common, (which includes) their view of virtue and vice and their view of being a pilgrim on the road.
O’Flaherty: Some are not familiar with the personal connection between Lewis and Tolkien, so tell us about that.
Markos: Lewis and Tolkien were friends for 30 years. Tolkien played a very, very important role in Lewis’s journey to Christian faith…on the other hand Lewis was instrumental in getting The Lord of the Rings published. What Lewis did was he encouraged Tolkien to keep working on this book to keep writing it and kept encouraging him to get it published. (Before it was published) it’s no exaggeration to say that for ten years The Lord of the Rings had two fans, C.S. Lewis and Christopher Tolkien (Tolkien’s son).
O’Flaherty: Your book, On the Shoulder of Hobbits is divided into four major parts…tell us how you came to structure it that way.
Markos: I like to have things ordered, balanced and structured…and I decided to make this one truly “four squared.” The book is broken into four parts, and each part is broken into four chapters. The four parts deal with different aspects. Part one is about “The Road:” what it means to be on the road, what it means to be a pilgrim, what the dangers of the road are and what it means to get to the end of the road (how we deal with death). Part two deals with the four Classical virtues and the third focuses on the Christian, or Theological virtues. Then part four addresses the nature of evil, or vice.
O’Flaherty: Can you give us more details about any of those parts?
Markos: Because the middle sections deal with virtue I want to talk about them…(historically) there are seven basic virtues; four are known as the Classical virtues (and accessed by general revelation), the other three are considered Theological virtues (and found in 1 Corinthians 13). Together they are: 1.) Justice, 2.) Wisdom 3.) Courage, 4.) Self-Control, 5.) Faith, 6.) Hope and 7.) Love. As you notice that is only seven, but in order to have that “four-square” feel, I needed one more. I didn’t have to look far. What I put there is “friendship;” for the ancients and for Lewis and Tolkien, friendship was seen as one of the great virtues even though it wasn’t on the list. In my book I not only try to define the virtues, but to show how Lewis and Tolkien incarnate or embody those virtues in their characters and in their actions. So, we can see virtue brought to life and not just as an abstract concept.
O’Flaherty: What are your thoughts about the upcoming movies about The Hobbit being in three parts and what are you especially hoping to see?
Markos: I’m very excited that it’s a trilogy, but I’m also a little bit nervous. I hope they’re not going to stretch it too thin…we already know it will incorporate other things (outside The Hobbit). One thing we’re certain they are going to do that I’m looking forward to is the part mentioned in The Hobbit where Gandalf disappears. What he was doing during the period that he left was he was together with the White Council…my hope is they will answer the question as to why Saruman the White went bad.
O’Flaherty: Summarize why readers would want to get your book, On the Shoulders of Hobbits.
Markos: I think people will enjoy it because it’s the kind of book that can be read devotionally. You can read one chapter a day for sixteen days…I tried to make each chapter fairly short, so it can be digested in one sitting to be able to think about our own choices between virtue and vice.