C.S. Lewis

C.S. Lewis

“I did not say to myself, 'Let us represent Jesus as he really is in our world by a lion in Narnia.' I said, 'Let us suppose that there were a land like Narnia and that the Son of God, as he became a man in our world, became a lion there, and then imagine what would happen.' ” — C.S. Lewis

Quick Facts

C.S. Lewis was a prolific Irish writer and scholar who is best known for his Chronicles of Narnia fantasy series as well as his pro-Christian texts.

  • Occupation: Author
  • Birth Date: November 29, 1898
  • Death Date: November 22, 1963
  • Education: University College, Oxford
  • Place of Birth: Belfast, Ireland
  • Place of Death: Oxford, England
  • Full Name: Clive Staples Lewis, also known as C.S. Lewis, CS Lewis, and affectionately, by his nickname, Jack Lewis

Early Life

The Chronicles of Narnia's author, Clive Staples Lewis, was born in Belfast, Ireland, on November 29, 1898, to Flora August Hamilton Lewis and Albert J. Lewis. When he was still a toddling boy, young Clive declared that his name was Jack, which is what he was then called by family and friends regularly. He was very close to his older brother (Warren) and the two boys spent much time together as children. Lewis was captivated by tales of gallantry and fantasy, and he and his brother developed an imaginary land which they called Boxen, and created an intricate history and story within their fantasy, which kept them entertained for years.

Lewis's mother passed away when he was ten years old. After that, he finished his pre-college education at boarding schools and from a tutor. During WWI, he served in the English army but was sent home after being wounded by shrapnel. After his release, he served as a surrogate son to Janie Moore, the mother of a friend of Lewis's who was killed in the war.

Teaching Career and Wartime Broadcasts

Lewis graduated from Oxford University. His focus was on literature and classic philosophy. In 1925, he was awarded a fellowship teaching position at Magdalen College, which was part of Oxford. There, he joined The Inklings, an informal collective of writers and intellectuals, which included Lewis's brother, Warren Lewis, and Lord of The Rings and Hobbit author J.R.R. Tolkien. It was through conversations with members of The Inklings that Lewis found himself embracing Christianity again after having become somewhat disillusioned as a youth. He would later gain fame for his rich apologist texts, where he explained his spiritual beliefs using logic and philosophy.

Lewis began publishing his writing in the mid-1920s. His first book, the satirical Dymer (1926) was soon followed by other titles —including The Allegory of Love (1936), for which he won the Hawthornden Prize— he released in 1938 his first sci-fi work, Out of the Silent Planet, the first of a trilogy, addressing concepts of sin and desire under the primary storyline. Later, during World War II, Lewis broadcasted on the radio about Christianity, in a popular program format, which won many converts; his radio speeches were collected in the work Mere Christianity, which remains a popular book title even today.

The Chronicles of Narnia Stories

During the '50s, Lewis started to publish the seven books that would eventually become The Chronicles of Narnia children's series, with The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe (1950) being the first release. The story focused on four siblings who, during WWII, travel through an armoire found in the country estate where they have been sent to live and enter into the magical world of Narnia, a land filled with mythical creatures and talking animals. Different parts of the series represented a variety of Biblical themes including the character of Aslan, a lion who is the ruler of Narnia, and who has been described as a Jesus Christ figure. Although Lewis asserted that his Narnia stories weren't a direct allegory to the real world, he did assent to the fact that Aslan was a representation of Christ. Though the book received some negative reviews from critics, general readers really enjoyed the story. The series has retained its international popularity over the decades and has been translated into many languages as well as filmed into motion pictures several times.

Later Life

In 1954, Lewis joined the faculty of Cambridge University as a literature professor. A couple of years into his post at Cambridge, in 1956, he fell in love with and married an American English teacher, Joy Gresham, with whom he had been in correspondence. Lewis was full of joy during the short years of their marriage, although his wife died of cancer in 1960. Lewis grieved deeply for his wife and shared his thoughts in the book A Grief Observed , using a pen name. The motion picture, Shadowlands, gives an inside look at their marriage.

In 1963, Lewis resigned from his Cambridge position after experiencing heart trouble and died on November 22, 1963, in Headington, Oxford.

Literary and Film Legacies

Lewis was a prolific author of fiction and nonfiction. He wrote dozens of books over the course of his career. His faith-based arguments are shown in texts like The Great Divorce (1946) and Miracles (1947) are held in high regard by many theologians, scholars and general readers. Lewis also continued his love affair with classic mythology and narratives during his later years. His book Till We Have Faces: A Myth Retold (1956) featured the story of Psyche and Cupid. He also penned an autobiography, Surprised by Joy: The Shape of My Early Life (1955).

Lewis's landmark series, The Chronicles of Narnia, has seen a number of on-screen iterations, including a cartoon version of The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe that was released in 1979 and a 1989 BBC film series. Additionally, in 2005, a big-screen adaptation of The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe (by Disney) hit movie theaters, and starred Liam Neeson as the voice of Aslan and Tilda Swinton as the witch Jadis. Two more Narnia films have been brought to theaters in this same production series from Disney as well: Prince Caspian was released in 2008 and The Voyage of the Dawn Treader in 2010. A movie version of The Silver Chair is reportedly in the works. Lewis's relationship with his wife Joy has also been depicted in Shadowlands, presented as a play and two films. One of the film versions was directed by Richard Attenborough and starred Sir Anthony Hopkins as Lewis.

Citations

Clive Staples Lewis. (2014). The Biography.com website. Retrieved 01:47, Dec 11, 2014, from http://www.biography.com/people/cs-lewis-9380969.

"Clive Staples Lewis." Bio. A&E Television Networks, 2014. Web. 11 Dec. 2014.