The Words C.S. Lewis Made Up: Rebunker

C.S. Lewis was an acclaimed children’s writer, setting the stage for generations of children’s books that speak in a new way to kids and adults with curious minds. Behind this children’s work was C.S. Lewis’ experience as a teacher of English literature, a writer about the history of literary movements, and a tinker in other forms of fiction. In that tinkering, and in his letters and essays, he didn’t mind creating new turns of phrase when it was needed. This is the third in the series on words that C.S. Lewis coined. You can read the introduction and the first article here and the second piece here.

Rebunker (rē-bəNG-kər)

Essays Presented to Charles Williams is a remarkable book. It is a meeting of the Inklings and their friends between two boards, bound to the page but playing with ideas that would have an impact. Meant as a gift to their friend Charles Williams, it became a memorial volume instead. And if T.S. Eliot—a dear friend of Williams—had completed a piece as he intended, more than just a few of us may remember it still.

Beyond Lewis’ preface to the volume is remarkable for his characterization of Williams:

In appearance he was tall, slim, and straight as a boy, though grey-haired. His face we thought ugly: I am not sure that the word ‘monkey’ has not been murmured in this context. But the moment he spoke it became, as was also said, like the face of an angel (Essays Presented to Charles Williams, ix).

While Lewis was moved by Williams’ charisma more than his simian architecture, he was also struck by his facility with fireside literary criticism:

He delighted to repeat favourite passages, and nearly always both his voice and the context got something new out of them. He excelled at showing you the little grain of truth or felicity in some passage generally quoted for ridicule, while at the same time he fully enjoyed the absurdity: or, contrariwise, at detecting the little falsity or dash of silliness in a passage which you, and he, also, admired. He was both a ‘debunker’ and (if I may coin the word) a ‘rebunker’. Fidelia vulnera amantis (Essays Presented to Charles Williams, xi).

Lewis loved this “double-sidedness” in Williams, and I find myself wanting to become a rebunker myself.

The Latin phrase Lewis slid in at the end of that part of this eulogy is perhaps best translated as, “the wounds of a lover are faithful” (or, loosely, “lovers are vulnerable to one another”). Williams’ ability to play with the authors he read came from a deep well of respect, and we see that respect Lewis has for Williams. Anyone who wants to understand The Four Loves needs to read this preface. Anyone who wants to read the work of a rebunker (and remythologizer) should turn to Williams’ strange thrillers from the 1930s-40s. “Rebunking” might be the best name for the genre that holds all of Williams’ disparate works together.

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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12 Responses to The Words C.S. Lewis Made Up: Rebunker

  1. godsbooklover says:

    “Faithful are the wounds of a friend…” Proverbs 27:6

    Liked by 1 person

    • David Llewellyn Dodds says:

      Wow! But not the Vulgate (“Meliora sunt vulnera diligentis quam fraudulenta oscula odientis”) – when I search for it, I get Francis Bacon, The Advancement of Learning, Book I – for instance, “Fidelia vulnera amantis, sed dolosa oscula malignantis: [faithful are the wounds of a friend, but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful]” in The Works of Francis Bacon, Spedding and Ellis, eds. London: Longman, 1857–1870; as set online by, 2010. But, is Bacon making his own Latin translation, as Lewis sometimes did in corresponding in Latin, when he didn’t have a copy of the Vulgate to hand? Or is this Tremellius? Or what?

      Liked by 1 person

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  3. David Llewellyn Dodds says:

    Very nice! Examples spring to mind which we might call rebunking of phrases, in Williams’s novels, as when someone speaks of a “perfect Babel” and the reflection comes from another, “But Babel never was perfect, was it?” (at the beginning of The Greater Trumps), or someone says, “Nature is terribly good” and another asks if they really mean that, for the good can be “‘full of terror.’ A dreadful goodness.” (Descent into Hell, chapter 1). With the imagery and insight then richly developed in the rest of the books.

    Might people who have been disappointed after trying something Lewis described delightfully in his OHEL volume or The Allegory of Love, think him too effective a rebunker, himself?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Charles Williams performs rebunking in his fiction; his poetry certainly has a prophetic edge.
      I have described Allegory of Love as re-mythologization, so I should have made the link! It is certainly what Lewis is doing in the intro of OHEL and his |Cambridge address.


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