Malcolm Guite on Joy, Word, and Mythopoeia in J.R.R. Tolkien and the Inklings (Feature Friday)

I have talked about the value of Malcolm Guite’s work as a poet, theologian, and C.S. Lewis critic. Someone recently shared with me the linked video, and I responded by saying that I would make theology students watch this video. I have not that power, but I think this is such a wise, generous, and full lecture that I would like you all to see it.

Guite shares here the essential meaning of Tolkien’s work–not reduced to allegory, but reveling in its infused meaning. He spends time with the poem “Mythopoeia” (see here), linking it to Tolkien’s “On Fairy-stories” lecture and his work on fantasy theory and the essential eucatastrophic story that critiques our modern world’s instinct to reduce human beings to cogs in a social or natural machine.

Here Malcolm covers what he thinks is most prophetic and radical in Tolkien. It is a brilliant lecture, filled with wandering thoughts, a lifetime of study, and a good many stories. I hope you enjoy.

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.
This entry was posted in Reflections. Bookmark the permalink.

24 Responses to Malcolm Guite on Joy, Word, and Mythopoeia in J.R.R. Tolkien and the Inklings (Feature Friday)

  1. “Then Jesus told them, “That is why every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom from heaven is like the master of a household who brings both new and old things out of his treasure chest.” [Matthew 13:52]
    In this video Malcolm demonstrates that he has certainly been trained for the Kingdom of Heaven, he does, with Tolkien, Lewis, Barfield and Williams, exactly what he describes Tolkien doing with all the history of words and mythology at his command.
    Brilliant, informative and transformative, many thanks for the link.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you so much for making this lecture available, Brenton. I am currently listening to his Signum University webinar and will turn to this after. I have also recently finished his quite wonderful study of Coleridge’s Rime of the Ancient Mariner. It is a book that I will gladly return to. My daughter has been a postgraduate student in the college where Malcolm is chaplain this year. She likes him a lot but I don’t think that she has benefited from him as much as she could. I guess that is young people for you. I think I would have been just as shy. His influence on intellectual and spiritual life in this country is growing though which encourages me greatly. There is something about becoming a “success” when you are in your late 50s that perhaps means you are not subject to the temptations that beset those who are “successful” when young.


    • When I’m done my current project, this Mariner book is definitely on my list.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Have just watched this talk from St Paul’s Feb 13 2017 on – Mariner: Samuel Taylor Coleridge and the Voyage of Faith – Malcolm Guite – and thought of Stephen and yourself walking around the English countryside as I read the book at last.


        • Thanks Patrick, I will take a look and share it with Stephen!


          • Malcolm, in the question and answer session at the end, quotes Coleridge’s description of what I think we were discussing some time ago – literature that contains Truth – and how that must be initiated in our – SECONDARY IMAGINATION.
            This imagination, he says, “is just like Primary Imagination, but it is able to create its own secondary world, and if done well, drawing on the deepest levels and principles and intuitons, we are able to make containers for Truth”


            • Is this a clarification or continuation of Lewis’ “reason and imagination” idea?


              • More a continuation of our discussion on creating art that contains something that reaches past the mental to the spiritual. I read this yesterday which mentally clarifies it for me – “The symbol is characterized by … the translucence of the Eternal through and in the Temporal. It always partakes of the Reality which it renders intelligible; and while it enunciates the whole, abides itself as a living part of that Unity, of which it is representative. By contrast, analogies are but empty echoes which the fancy arbitrarily associates with apparitions of matter, less beautiful but not less shadowy than the sleeping orchard or hill-side pasture-field seen in the transparent lake below.” [Samuel Taylor Coleridge]


  3. Do you have a url for Malcolm’s Rime of the Ancient Mariner study, or is it in some other container (ie. not html or not electronically available on the internet) ?

    Liked by 1 person

  4. earthoak says:

    Thank you very much for sharing this video, thoroughly enjoyed it and learnt from it.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Pingback: The Fantastic Imagination: An Essay on Fantasy Theory by George MacDonald | A Pilgrim in Narnia

  6. Pingback: A Brace of Tolkien Posts for his 126th Birthday #TolkienBirthdayToast | A Pilgrim in Narnia

  7. Pingback: Myth, Allegory, Lord of the Rings, and Other Great Tolkien Stuff | Eclectic Orthodoxy

  8. Pingback: Terry Lindvall’s Heavy Treatment of a Light Topic: A Review of Surprised by Laughter | A Pilgrim in Narnia

  9. Pingback: Sallie McFague, Theologian (1933-2019) | A Pilgrim in Narnia

  10. Pingback: A Brace of Tolkien Posts for his 128th Birthday #TolkienBirthdayToast | A Pilgrim in Narnia

  11. Pingback: A Brace of Tolkien Posts for his 129th Birthday #TolkienBirthdayToast | A Pilgrim in Narnia

  12. Pingback: “The Science Fiction Makers” Documentary–and I am In It! | A Pilgrim in Narnia

  13. Pingback: A Brace of Tolkien Posts for his 130th Birthday (#TolkienBirthdayToast) | A Pilgrim in Narnia

  14. Pingback: New Tolkien book on The Battle of Maldon, together with The Homecoming of Beorhtnoth | A Pilgrim in Narnia

  15. Pingback: A Brace of Tolkien Posts for his 131st Birthday (#TolkienBirthdayToast) | A Pilgrim in Narnia

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.