...this would bear repeating, and I happen to have the text hand:
Of "Lord of the Rings", C.S. Lewis writes:
"To say that in it heroic romance, gorgeous, eloquent and unashamed, has
suddenly returned in a period almost pathological in its anti-romanticism is
inadequate....here are beauties which pierce like swords or burn like cold
iron; here is a book that will break your heart....
"Almost the central theme of the book is the contrast between the Hobbits (or
'The Shire') and the appalling destiny to which some of them are called, the
terrifying discovery that the humdrum happiness of the Shire, which they had
taken for granted as something normal, is in reality a sort of local and
temporary accident, that its existence depends on being protected by powers
which Hobbits dare not imagine, that any Hobbit may find himself forced out
of the Shire and caught up in that high conflict. More strangely still, the
event of that conflict between strongest things may come to depend on him,
who is almost the weakest...
"What shows that we are reading myth, not allegory, is that there are no
pointers to a specifically theological, or political, or psychological
application. A myth points, for each reader, to the realm he lives in most.
It is a master key; use it on what door you like. And there are other themes
in *The Fellowship* equally serious.
"...Despite many a snug fireside and many an hour of good cheer to gratify
the Hobbit in each of us, anguish is for me almost the prevailing note. But
not, as in the literature most typical of our age, the anguish of abnormal or
contorted souls; rather, the anguish of those who were happy before a certain
darkness came up and will be happy if they live to see it gone....
"Much that in a realistic work would be done by 'character dilineation' is
here done simply by making the character an elf, a dwarf or a hobbit. The
imagined beings have their insides on the outside; they are visible souls.
And Man as a whole, Man pitted against the universe, have we seen him at all
until we see he is like the hero of a fairy tale? In the book Eomer rashly
contrasts 'the green earth' with 'legends'. Aragorn replies that the green
earth itself is 'a mighty matter of legend'. ...
"...The book is too original and too opulent for any final judgment on a
first reading. But we know at once that it has done things to us. We are not
quite the same men. And though we must ration ourselves in our re-readings, I
have little doubt that the book will soon take its place among the
indispensibles" (C.S. Lewis, "Tolkien's *The Lord of the Rings*", from *On
Stories and Other Essays in Literature*, edited by Walter Hooper, HBJ, 1982,