Screwtape Musical Fan Fiction

oh hellos dear wormwoodThis week is the 75th anniversary of the first Screwtape letter. I thought for today’s Friday Feature we could use a little fan fiction. I don’t mean all the Screwtape copycats, like Dorothy L. Sayers, Charles Williams, or all the great bits of demonic epistolary fiction that has popped up since. There’s a whole world of demon letters and emails and office memos out there waiting to prick the intellect right where it intersects with imagination.

Today, I mean music.

The Oh Hellos are an Americana/folk-rock ensemble from Texas, featuring Maggie and Tyler Heath. I first encountered them in the NPR Tiny Desk Concert series (which I love). Then I saw that was giving away a sampler of an album by The Oh Hellos called “Dear Wormwood.” Interest piqued, I downloaded the sampler and loved it. The online liner notes say:

“This album is a collection of letters, all written by a single protagonist and addressed to a single recipient, a conversation to which the listener is an observer as a relationship gone wrong reaches its breaking point – the words and music are at times affectionate and bittersweet, at others resigned and resolute.”

In the concert, linked below, the brother-sister Heaths describe the influence of C.S. Lewis and The Screwtape Letters. They also mention The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss as providing the inspiration of the melodic and instrumental part of the music. In celebration of Screwtape after 75 years, I would encourage you to take a listen to what the Heaths describe as “musical fan fiction.”

About Brenton Dickieson

“A Pilgrim in Narnia” is a blog project in reading and talking about the work of C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and the worlds they touched. As a "Faith, Fantasy, and Fiction" blog, we cover topics like children’s literature, apologetics and philosophy, myths and mythology, fantasy, theology, cultural critique, art and writing. This blog includes my thoughts as I read through Lewis and Tolkien and reflect on my own life and culture. In this sense, I am a Pilgrim in Narnia--or Middle Earth, or Fairyland. I am often peeking inside of wardrobes, looking for magic bricks in urban alleys, or rooting through yard sale boxes for old rings. If something here captures your imagination, leave a comment, “like” a post, share with your friends, or sign up to receive Narnian Pilgrim posts in your email box. Brenton Dickieson is a father, husband, friend, university lecturer, and freelance writer from Prince Edward Island, Canada. You can follow him on Twitter, @BrentonDana.
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13 Responses to Screwtape Musical Fan Fiction

  1. ChrisC says:

    Interesting. You know I’m not quite sure what to make of the album. The band itself seems okay. I like the sounds they give. However in terms of inspiration, if they hadn’t mentioned Lewis, I’m not sure anyone could have guessed it was related to Lewis’s book aside from the title track.

    In many ways this album is similar to a project done by none other than U2 some time ago. The album was “Achtung Baby”. What’s interesting about the U2 album is that it too seems to be inspired by “Screwtape”

    According to “The Screwtape Letters” wikipedia page:
    “n U2’s music video for the song “Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me” (1995), an animated Bono is seen walking down the street holding the book The Screwtape Letters. While on stage during the Zoo TV Tour Bono would dress as Mr. MacPhisto, his alter ego. Bono would wear a gold suit and devil horns and usually make prank calls to politicians.”

    This is further confirmed on the wiki-page for the Zoo TV Tour:

    “A female Cardiff fan who was pulled on-stage questioned Bono’s motives for dressing as the devil, prompting the singer to compare his act to the plot of the C. S. Lewis novel The Screwtape Letters.”

    With both those quotes in mind, I think a case can be made for the Zoo TV concept is meant to be seen as yet another sequel/spinoff to “Letters”. Going by my own viewing experience of footage from the concert, it seems the barest backstory is that the Lowerarchy of “Screwtape” is now branching out into the modern age, and constantly bombarding the public with the usual 24/7 media assault that people still complain about today.

    Looked at from this perspective, it seems that U2 borrowed Lewis’s concept of an infernal bureaucracy to satirize that kind of modern idolatry the public has made of the media itself, and how this idolatry perhaps deadens both imagination, and peoples lives in general.

    I don’t know if any of that is accurate, but it’s what I took away from what I’ve read and seen.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I never knew that about the U2 album! Thanks for sharing…

      Liked by 1 person

      • David Llewellyn Dodds says:

        I did not either – thanks to both of you for news of these interesting musical derivations! (I wonder if anyone is keeping track, of both Lewisian musical works and recordings of them? We used to listen to 2nd Chapter of Acts, The Roar of Love, in the 80s… And I’ve run into a couple song-settings on YouTube – which (o, treacherous alogrithms? – or astute copyright control?) I can’t find again, looking just now – but am running into all sorts of things and folk new to me: Brooke Fraser and her ‘C.S. Lewis Song’, Heath McNease with lots of songs with Lewis titles…).

        Liked by 1 person

        • ChrisC says:

          Thanks for the heads up about that Brooke Fraser song. I’ll have to keep an eye out for it.

          There is one good link to U2’s Zoo TV concert that I found very helpful.

          It’s a TV broadcast for the concert held in New York. The only thing to remember is that the band seemed to be taking the idea of a concept album and turning into a concert, very similar to what Pink Floyd did with “The Wall” and the Who with “Quadrophenia”.

          The clip (along with related YouTube chapters) can be found here:

          Liked by 1 person

          • David Llewellyn Dodds says:

            Thank you! The thought of concept album turned into concert brought Rick Wakeman to mind (what an interesting Lewis project he could set next to his Jules Verne…) and that reminded me of the biggest Lewis work I knew of, Donald Swann’s Perelandra opera! I’ve heard good things of the performance of a few years ago from people who attended, but the recording (I suppose for copyright reasons) is only to be found in ‘reference copies’ at a library or two around the world, where you have to go in person to hear it! (I didn’t manged to figure out how to do that when I was last in Oxford, sadly…)

            Liked by 1 person

  2. I have this playing now as I’m finishing my work day. 🙂 I like the concept.

    I saw your post last week about this being the 75 anniversary of the first letter and was going to re-read The Screwtape Letters this week. But, alas, I seem to have loaned out my copy…

    Liked by 1 person

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