In 2017, A Pilgrim in Narnia passed a number of milestones. We passed the 700-post threshold, had our 500,000th hit, were shared for the 10,000th time, and are nearing in on 7,000 followers. We had our seven biggest months this year, increasing traffic by 25% after a nearly stagnant 2016 season. The numbers were good, despite an editorial shift that moved us from 8-10 original posts a month to about 6 original posts, with some reprieved and rewritten material and an augmented “Feature Friday” segment.
Readers have settled into the newly focussed schedule well, and I hear more often than ever before of readers who don’t comment, share, or “like” a post–a reader who is invisible to most analytics. 2017 was unusual in that there were no guest series, though the features on blogging and “The Words C.S. Lewis Made Up” feature were popular for comments (perhaps partly because of a couple of errors I made!). 2018 will begin with a guest series on the new Inklings and Arthur volume, with guest editor David Llewellyn Dodds.
Meanwhile, here are the most popular new posts of 2017, in case you missed them. The trends are pretty clear: reader response to posts on blogging, Tolkien, and unique perspectives on C.S. Lewis are the weightiest. I am not unaware of that most of these top posts have catch titles that sit on the clickbait spectrum, so it could be that these were not the favourites of regular readers, but simply the posts that were shared and reblogged the most. If that’s the case, let me know what you thought was worth talking about in 2017.
I don’t think I have ever read anything better than the tale of Beren and Lúthien, and the feeling seems to have caught on. This beautifully written and evocative tale occupied a half-century of Tolkien’s life and was finally published with other material from the Beren and Lúthien archive in 2017. In this blog I think of the mythic elements that draw us in to Tolkien’s world.
As brilliant as lovers of Middle Earth recognize that it is, there are few books as daunting as The Silmarillion. It is a dense and complex text of genealogies, places, and characters, each woven together with multiple names in multiple languages and tucked into mythic threads that go out in various directions. I was slain by the text a couple of times before I finally conquered it. At only 130,000 words, I marvel at the edition that Tolkien must have had in mind when he told publishers it would be 400,000-600,000 words! Here are a number of tips to help draw the text into your own life.
As a voracious reader and great lover of language, C.S. Lewis was concerned about “verbicide,” what he called the “murder of words.” It is not just a verbicidal age, but we are verbicides: we are word-killing maniacs wandering around the digital library of culture with guns for tongues. Lewis suggests that we “resolve that we ourselves will never commit verbicide” (Studies in Words, 8), ultimately suggesting that “we should banish them from our vocabulary” (Studies in Words, 8). Truthfully, according to the data and not being allegorical, here are 5 not-so-unique words that we should (not literally) banish from our vocabulary.
If your experience of encountering C.S. Lewis is only Mere Christianity, Time magazine covers, or a struggle with Susan Pevensie in Narnia, no doubt your most striking image of Lewis will be that of the Oxford Don in shabby tweed surrounded by old books and (moderately old) men. I am one of those who think that even within Lewis’ male-dominated culture, he is a refreshing resource for thinking differently about gender roles, working life, love, marriage, friendship, and human rights. This post highlights the powerful impact of women on Lewis’ life and work.
Great blogs are based on great content–good design, creative network capability, and, especially, great writing. When bloggers get it right, it can be a beautiful thing. Time and time again, though, I see good writers making the same critical errors that keep the blog from experiencing long-term growth. I thought I would share the top 5 mistakes that bloggers make that limit their reach. These are the lessons I’ve learned on my way to becoming a specialized blog that still gets 100,000 hits a year.
Any true Tolkien fan will say that every page in The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien is essential. However, embedded in the bits and pieces of correspondence that remain are some absolute gems. It is in these letters that we discover that Tolkien supported C.S. Lewis in his first foray into fiction. We see the heart-crushing weight of work that Tolkien was faced with, and the struggles that he had to complete The Lord of the Rings. And we have the moments, finally, when he finished his work and made it ready for publication..
For the true lovers of Tolkien’s subcreated world, there are also moments where he explains bits and pieces of Middle-earth and The Silmarillion that we may not know except by a scientific reading of the texts or by archival work that is limited to very few scholars. One of these essential pieces is a 9,500-word letter–really an essay–written to Milton Waldman, a publisher at Collins. I highlight this letter and provide most of its content for fans. And there are plenty of Tolkien fans, making my Tolkien posts the busiest blogs on A Pilgrim in Narnia in 2017.