The sensory appeal of Turkish delight and the moral error of Edward's gluttony would have been intensified for Lewis's readers in the early 1950's by the experience of war time rationing.
In The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe Edmund tells the white witch where she can find his brothers and sisters while cramming his mouth full of Turkish Delight. C. S. Lewis builds up the desirability of this treat by first describing the beautiful package in which it arrives. "The Queen let another drop fall from her bottle onto the snow, and instantly there appeared a round box, tied with green silk ribbon, which, when opened, turned out to contain several pounds of the best Turkish Delight. Each piece was sweet and light to the very center and Edmund had never tasted anything more delicious." Of course, everything always tastes better when it is beautifully presented. Also, as Cara Strickland informs us, Turkish Delight was an Edwardian Christmas treat. C. S. Lewis's own childhood memories would have included opening boxes of Turkish Delight under the Christmas tree. The beautifully wrapped box evokes not just gustatory delight, but the whole experience of Christmas.
The sensory appeal of Turkish delight and the moral error of Edward's gluttony would have been intensified for Lewis's readers in the early 1950's by the experience of war time rationing.
I was astounded also by this other image of women rushing a chocolate shop in 1953 when rationing ended. It puts in perspective not just Edward's desire for Turkish delight, but also Roald Dahl's chiding of spoiled post war children in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
When I teach The Chronicles of Narnia, I buy a box of Turkish Delight at our local Middle Eastern Restaurant and food store, The Nazareth Bread Company. Students are always a little mystified by what all the fuss is about when they taste the dessert. To the modern American palate, it is not terribly sweet and has a strangely plastic, unnatural texture.
A friend of mind posted this wonderful article about Hobbit food on face-book: http://oakden.co.uk/tea-in-the-hobbit/ The amazingly gifted illustrator of John Ronald's Dragons, Eliza Wheeler, has a Hobbit party every year that she makes Hobbit food for. Perhaps this true love for all things Hobbit explains why she seems to have read my mind in composing the pictures for the book.
My favorite thing in this article is the explanation of the distinction between high and low tea. I will definitely use this article next time I take students to Oxford and will perhaps give extra points for participation in both a high and a low tea.
I'm sorry that the recipes are all in UK measurements. They look quite old fashioned and complicated, just the sort of thing to make a huge mess in the kitchen, which i secretly like doing. I have not yet tried any of them out, but when I do I will write a post about it and include pictures of my creations.I may try some of them out on my next group of Oxford students. I stole the photo below from food.com. It is a photo of Mrs. Beeton's Seed Cake. Mine, when I make it, will be much less artful.
Exciting Tolkien news today. Two lost poems by Tolkien have been found. They were originally published in the obscure annual magazine of an Oxfordshire Catholic high school in 1936—an odd place for an Oxford Don to publish his work.
However, Tolkien was not a professional poet, but an Anglo-Saxon scholar. His poetry, old fashioned and out of step with the high modernism of Eliot and Pound, would not have been picked up by the top literary journals. But clearly Tolkien valued it enough and believed in it enough that he wanted to see it published even in an obscure place. Also, the poem “Noel,” about the Virgin Mary, is deeply Catholic. What better place to share it than with a Catholic religious community dedicated to Mary.
I like “Noel” very much. The first line: “Grim was the world and grey last night” gives the poem an alliterative Anglo-saxon flare. The description of the wintery world of the first two stanzas has much of The Wanderer and the Sea-farer in it. If the poem looks backward with its wistful romantic style to a Catholic medieval world, it also looks forward to the eucatastrophe. Tolkien was not just a man with his head turned to the past. He was always interested in uniting past and present and thereby redeeming the present.
I have printed "Noel" below and here are the Guardian article and the BBC article about the poems’ discovery.
Grim was the world and grey last night:
The moon and stars were fled,
The hall was dark without song or light,
The fires were fallen dead.
The wind in the trees was like to the sea,
And over the mountains' teeth
It whistled bitter-cold and free,
As a sword leapt from its sheath.
The lord of snows upreared his head;
His mantle long and pale
Upon the bitter blast was spread
And hung o'er hill and dale.
The world was blind, the boughs were bent,
All ways and paths were wild:
Then the veil of cloud apart was rent,
And here was born a Child.
The ancient dome of heaven sheer
Was pricked with distant light;
A star came shining white and clear
Alone above the night.
In the dale of dark in that hour of birth
One voice on a sudden sang:
Then all the bells in Heaven and Earth
Together at midnight rang.
Mary sang in this world below:
They heard her song arise
O'er mist and over mountain snow
To the walls of Paradise,
And the tongue of many bells was stirred
in Heaven's towers to ring
When the voice of mortal maid was heard,
That was mother of Heaven's King.
Glad is the world and fair this night
With stars about its head,
And the hall is filled with laughter and light,
And fires are burning red.
The bells of Paradise now ring
With bells of Christendom,
And Gloria, Gloria we will sing
That God on earth is come.
It just arrived in the mail. My own copy of The Art of the Lord of the Rings by Wayne G. Hammond and Christina Scull. Their earlier book, J. R. R. Tolkien: Artist and Illustrator, was invaluable to me as I was doing my research for John Ronald’s Dragons.
The book itself is beautiful: square shaped to match the square pieces of graph paper on which Tolkien sketched many of his preliminary maps. And this book is full of maps, from rudimentary squiggles on the back of discarded index cards to elaborate three color topographical masterpieces.
It is also full of script. For those of you contemplating a tattoo with the ring inscription, you can choose from a whole variety of drafts photographed in this book.
As a Tolkien lover, I am interested in maps and script and what they have to do with each other. And as a children’s writer I am interested in how learning to read maps is an exercise in literacy.
In Maphead Ken Jennings points out that “a good map isn’t just a useful representation of a place; it’s also a beautiful system in and of itself” (7). As someone who studied linguistic systems, Tolkien would naturally be drawn to mapping. When the narrator of The Hobbit says of Bilbo, “ He loved maps, and in his hall there hung a large one of the Country Round with all his favourite walks marked on it in red ink,” we can intuit that Tolkien was also speaking of himself. Cartophilia was yet another way in which Tolkien was a hobbit.
Maps are at once concrete and abstract. They represent an idea of place and space, but the representation is in symbols that we must learn to interpret: triangles for mountains, squiggly lines for rivers, etc. etc.. Ken Jennings notes the attraction he felt for maps as a child and suggests “that many people’s hunger for maps (mappetite?) peaks in childhood.” A map at the beginning of a children’s book is a promise. It promises adventure, travel, discovery, the unknown. As Nicholas Tam points out in his excellent blog, they enhance the reader's immersive experience of reading.
A great deal has been written by academics about maps as cultural artifacts. And several bloggers and critics have noted the charming Russian version of Thror’s map in the Russian translation of The Hobbit as proof of the cultural specificity of maps.
Tolkien hated it when translators of his works attempted to translate place names, and I suspect that he might have reacted to the slavicisation of his map at the beginning of The Hobbit as he reacted to the Dutch translation of place names in his works. In a letter to his publisher, he complained: “The toponymy of The Shire . . . is a ‘parody’ of that of rural England, in much the same sense as are its inhabitants: they go together and are meant to. . . . I would not wish, in a book starting from an imaginary mirror of Holland, to meet Hedge, Duke’sbush, Eaglehome, or Applethorn even if these were ‘translations’ of ‘sGravenHage, Hertogenbosch, Arnhem, or Apeldoorn! These translations are not English, they are just homeless.”
Many people have written more eloquently about Tolkien’s maps than I. Here is a wonderful blog about fantasy maps with a detailed discussion of Thror's map. And here is a review of The Art of the Lord of the Rings from Wired Magazine.
Today is the finals of the Australian Open, and tomorrow is the Iowa Caucus, both of which bring us naturally to Lewis Carroll. Yes, the man who created Wonderland was interested in both lawn tennis and in elections. He wanted to make them both fairer, more logical, more mathematically perfect.
Carroll was compelled to write about the rules of lawn tennis tournaments after talking to an acquaintance who was upset after he lost in the first round and then saw a player much weaker than himself make his way into the finals. Of course, they didn’t have seeding back then. Draws were composed randomly, so the best and second best players could very easily meet in the first round.
Carroll offered his solution in his pamphlet named, “Lawn Tennis Tournaments, The True Method of Assigning Prizes with a Proof of the Fallacy of the Present Method.” Importantly, he did not propose a seeding system like we use today. That would have been too simple. Instead, he created a complex tournament structure in which players could not be eliminated in the first round. Loosers kept playing until they had three superiors, three people who had beaten them or beaten someone who had beaten them. I am a bit of a tennis fanatic and play in a USTA League and I am now dying to set up a tournament using Carroll’s scheme. What should we call it? The mad tea party tournament? Or perhaps the completely fair and logical Reverend Charles Lutwidge Dodgson Tournament. Here is an article by Rachel Bachman from the Wall Street Journal about Carroll’s tournament format: http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424052702304636404577297821444746352.
I am much indebted to it for explaining his complex system.
Carroll’s obsession with fairness also took him into the arena of elections. He wrote three pamphlets about elections. He was upset not just by unfairness in national elections, but also by unfairness in Oxford University elections. Imagine a university with an unfair system! Here is an article by Glenn C. Joy entitled “Ballots in the Belfry: Lewis Carroll and Voting Fairness”: file:///C:/Users/Owner/Downloads/NMWT_2002_Joy_BallotsInTheBelfryLewisCar.pdf .
Wonderland is full of games that are immensely unfair and illogical. Take the croquet game, which is played on an uneven turf and uses live creatures for balls and mallets. Carroll explains through Alice’s point of view:
Alice thought she had never seen such a curious croquet-ground in her life: it was all ridges and furrows: the croquet balls were live hedgehogs, and the mallets live flamingoes, and the soldiers had to double themselves up and stand on their hands and feet, to make the arches.
The live creatures make it a game of random chance rather than skill. They also make it wonderfully loopy and fun and imaginative. Could Carroll be mocking here a Victorian game that is a bit staid and stuffy? He wants rules that are fair and that work, but he also loves defying rules and logic.
Alice says to the Cheshire Cat:
“I don’t think they play at all fairly,” Alice began, in rather a complaining tone, “and they all quarrel so dreadfully one ca’n’t hear oneself speak—and they don’t seem to have any rules in particular: at least, if there are, nobody attends to them—and you’ve no idea how confusing it is all the things being alive: for instance, there’s the arch I’ve got to go through next walking about at the other end of the ground—and I should have croqueted the Queen’s hedgehog just now, only it ran away when it saw mine coming.”
On the one hand, I hear in Alice’s petulance Lewis Carroll’s frustration with a world that does not work logically. He was, after all, a logician. On the other hand, how much more fun and wondrous is a game with live creatures than a game with plain wooden sticks and wire wickets? Just look at this picture of a real Victorian croquet game. It is not at all inspiring.
I am indebted to Alice Medinger for reminding me of the Caucus Race and its connection to American politics in her beautifully illustrated blog post: https://medinger.wordpress.com/2016/01/26/lewis-carrolls-caucus-race/.
The caucus race is another illogical and unfair game. Again, the course is uneven and the rules are unclear.
First it [the Dodo] marked out a race-course, in a sort of circle, (“the exact shape doesn’t matter,” it said,) and then all the party were placed along the course, here and there. There was no “One, two three, and away!” but they began running when they liked, so that it was not easy to know when the race was over.
What on earth would Carroll have made of this year’s Iowa caucuses? In Alice in Wonderland, when everyone asks the Dodo who has won the caucus race, he says: “Everybody has won, and all must have prizes.” What if the election in Iowa doesn’t eliminate any candidates? What if everyone wins and keeps running around in “a sort of circle” endlessly? It feels as though this has already happened. Carroll was eerily prescient.
Thanks to my daughter Abby for finding this wonderful Mentalfloss article with recordings of Tolkien reading from The Lord of the Rings.
The fantasy writer, Diana Wynne Jones reported famously that Tolkien's lectures were inaudible, disorganized and mumbling. He suffered a laceration of his tongue while playing rugby at King Edward's School in Birmingham, one possible explanation for the mumbling. But in these recordings his speech is lovely. He rolls his r's. He projects. He is rhythmic. He chuckles at his own jokes. It is sheer magic to hear this voice.
I am always fascinated by the physical ways that people write, by the technologies they choose or don't choose. There is a Royal typewriter at the Kilns, but C. S. Lewis never used it. In fact, he never learned to type at all. He wrote long hand in school exercise books and used an ink-pen that he had to dip in an inkwell--very messy and impractical. Apparently Mr.s Moore hated the inkwell, which he sometimes knocked over and spilled. But stopping to dip the pen in the well was an important part of his writing rhythm. It forced him to pause. In those pauses, he gathered his thoughts, he read the words out loud to himself (and he could hear the words without the interference of tip tapping) and he did recursive editing in his head. Lewis wrote quickly and usually did not take things through a second draft. The ink pen was the only thing that slowed him down. In this way he was the opposite of Tolkien, who composed very slowly, wrote multiple drafts and typed and retyped them himself often to save money. Overwhelmed with the expenses of having a family, he couldn't afford to pay a typist.
Of course, Jack's typist was very conveniently his brother Warnie. As an army Officer in Charge of Supplies Warnie would have had to spend many hours in front of a typewriter, filling out forms. He apparently typed very fast although he only used two fingers. And he believed wholeheartedly in his brother and his genius. Typing Jack's papers and correspondence gave him a purpose and was much more fulfilling than typing forms for the army.
In addition to never learning to type, Jack never learned how to drive. The scenes of him diving in Shadowlands are pure Hollywood. He loved to walk. He often walked all the way home to Headington from Oxford. He famously became convinced of the truth of Christianity while walking with Tolkien and Hugo Dyson. He took long walking tours with his brother and with other Inklings. On these tours the men would discuss philosophy, religion, and literary criticism. Somehow the movement of their legs, the rhythm of their steps would facilitate the movement of their thoughts. Thought and language are inseparable and rhythm is important to both.
The Royal typewriter captures beautifully the relationship between the two brothers. It captures their different personalities; Warnie's more technological bent, his love of machines, boats, train and Jack's literary leanings, his absorption in pre-modern worlds and fantasy. It illustrates their dependence on one another. Warnie needed Jack to keep him away from alcohol, loneliness, depression. Jack needed Warnie to ground him, to remind him of his childhood and to help him type his manuscripts and organize his immense correspondence.
NOTES FOR WRITERS AND TEACHERS OF WRITING
First of all, artifacts like the Royal typewriter are great sources of inspiration, great triggers for one's own writing. The Royal typewriter gave me the idea to write a book about C.S. Lewis using the angle of his friendship with his brother.
Second of all, it is always good to be aware of the technologies that help us or hurt us while we are writing. What did we use when we first learned to write? What is habitual for us? Does our writing come out differently if we write a draft long hand before transitioning to the typewriter?
And when we choose a technology, how much do sound, rhythm and timing matter? Computers give us the ability to compose at lighting speed, but is that always good? Do we loose the sound or sense of what we are writing if we go too fast?
My editor asked me to do some edits on "Warnie and Jack's Wardrobe," a book about the friendship between C. S. Lewis and his brother Warren Hamilton Lewis. I found myself looking through the letters Jack wrote to Warnie when Warnie was called up for active duty at the beginning of World War 2 in 1939. At this time Warnie would have been 44 years old and Jack 41. One detail that intrigued me was Jack's description of preparing for blackouts to evade German bombs. "The main trouble of life at present is the blacking out which is done (as you may imagine) with a most complicated Arthur Rackham system of odd rags--quite effectively, but at the cost of much labour"(168). When I visited The Kilns with my Guilford students, the tour guides have pointed out the thick blackout curtains in Jack's study.
I was also struck by Jack's descriptions of the refugee children. He writes to his brother, "I have said that the children are 'nice,' and so they are. But modern children are poor creatures. They keep on coming to Maureen and asking, 'What shall we do now?' She tells them to play tennis, or mend their stockings, or write home; and when that is done, they come and ask again. Shade of our childhood . . . !" Of course, he and Warnie knew how to occupy themselves building imaginary worlds. I can see in this passage how the presence of children in the house made him think of Little Lea and Boxen and got him started thinking about a whole world behind the old wardrobe.
In “Reinventing the Library,” an Op-Ed in the New York Times dated October 23, 2015 Alberto Manguel describes a collection of children’s books at Auschwitz-Birkenau:
Libraries come in countless shapes and sizes. They can be like the Library of Congress or as modest as that of the children’s concentration camp in Auschwitz-Birkenau, where the older girls were in charge of eight volumes that had to be hidden every night so that the Nazi guards wouldn’t confiscate them.
I don’t know where to start to research this story. I wonder what the eight volumes were. What books brought comfort to children in the midst of hopelessness and horror? Did the books have pictures? Did the older girls read them to the little girls at night? Did a book possibly save a child’s life, give a single child the strength to endure until the liberation? Did a book remind a child of normalcy, of family, of love? Does anyone out there know where Manguel got this story from, where I could read more about it? Where did the children hide the books?
The article also resonated with me as we had to decide what to do with my father’s books as we moved my parents into a rest home. My father grew up in a small town in Arkansas that did not have a library. He never had books as a child. As an adult he collected them feverishly, coffee table art books, cookbooks with beautiful photographs, gardening books, books about opera, and dictionaries and reference books. We couldn’t explain to him why the dictionaries and reference books were no longer valuable. His collection for him was symbolic, symbolic of the life he had built as a professor, as a lover of art, and as a family man who passed his love of books on to his daughters and grandchildren.
Books provide comfort to the young and the old and become a part of one’s identity.
Postscript: I ordered Alberto Manguel’s book, The Library at Night. I discovered that the secret library was in B lock 31, an extension of Auschwitz set up for propaganda purposes that housed five hundred children in a “family camp” to demonstrate that the Germans were not killing deported children. Books contained in the library were, H.G. Wells’s A Short History of the World, a Russian school textbook, and an analytical geometry text. Manguel also mentions the importance of stories that children memorized and told each other at night.
Alberto Manguel discusses reading as an act of resistance to oppression. I dream about the children at Auschwitz reading to each other at night. I dream about my father trying to hold on to his library as he loses the ability to hear, the interact, to remember his past.
It’s funny for me to be writing a blog post in response to an article about recreational math. I am after all the most mathematically challenged person in the universe. My children realized by about fourth grade that they had already surpassed me. When students ask what they need to make on a test to get an A in my class, I tell them they will have to do that math themselves.
But enough about my math challenges. I was surprised to see in the article the name Martin Gardner and to discover that he was famous in the math world for creating elaborate puzzles. I, of course, know Martin Gardner as the editor of the annotated Alice in Wonderland.
And it makes perfect sense that as a mathematician, Martin Gardner would be interested in Lewis Carroll. Lewis Carroll taught mathematics and logic at Oxford.
But the more important connection between Gardner and Carroll is their love of puzzles and play, their belief that learning should be fun. Perhaps if I had played more mathematical games, I would have less trouble now adding up my students’ grades. And I certainly hope, as the article suggests, that recreational mathematics will find a place in the Common Core.
Caroline is an avid reader, children's writer, and teacher. She lives in North Carolina with her husband and dog. Check out her bio for more!