The Inklings and King Arthur: Selfies and News

Since the first call for chapters for The Inklings and King Arthur, this not-so-little book has been on its own adventure. Conference panels, keynote talks, digital round-table discussions, and crowd-sourced funding were all part of a long editorial and publication journey, shepherded all the way by editor Sørina Higgins. The result is a rigorous examination of the theological, literary, historical, and linguistic implications of the Arthurian writings of all the major Inklings: C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, Charles Williams, and Owen Barfield. I was pleased to provide one of the chapters, where I used the opportunity to test out some theory stuff I am working on. Specifically, I wrote about how Lewis brings various fictional worlds together in That Hideous Strength (Lewis’ only overt Arthurian novel, and one of the few Inklings pieces of Arthurian fiction to be published when it was written).

While it is not a great surprise to me, the book has been received well. Philip Jenkins has a nice review on Patheos. Folks were talking about it at the recent C.S. Lewis & Friends conference (there’s a picture of me somewhere describing the book badly). Researchers are using it and there is a great social media feeling about it.

And, news of news, it has been shortlisted for the Mythopoeic Scholarship Award in Inklings Studies! This prize is given to books on J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, and/or Charles Williams that makes significant contributions to Inklings scholarship. Check out editor Sørina Higgins’ release here to see the fine company the I&A book is joining. I’d love to be going to Mythcon in Atlanta this year.

Well, my copy of the book finally came! It actually arrived while I was doing archival work at the Marion E. Wade Center in Wheaton. I thought the address tag was so cool–that’s a powerful c/o on the label–I took a picture of it on Charles Williams’ trunk.

If any artifact were to have some degree of power it would come from Charles Williams. However, while you are at the Wade it is hard to resist the English garden, cottagy, hobbitish nature of the world of stories of letters that they made in this idyllic American town. Here I am doing my book selfie in front of the (probably imported) Narnian lamppost at the Wade:

And inside the Wade there is the Wardrobe–the Wardrobe, I’m told, the Lewis family piece that may have inspired that long-sought-for gateway to Narnia:

Have you taken a selfie with your copy and hashtagged it #InklingsandArthur? Please do so. The book has sold well, so make sure you grab your copy from your local bookseller and request that your library order it in. As an academic book it is cheap, but if the price is still high, I’d encourage you to look at the kindle version, which is $10 or less in most places. Bloggers, make sure you share your thoughts with the world and watch for academic journal reviews to start appearing later this year.

To supplement the book, there is also an extensive Inklings and Arthur series, hosted here on A Pilgrim in Narnia. The series includes authors and artists from the collection, as well as some other friends of the blog:

Post #1: “The Launch of The Inklings and King Arthur” by blog host and C.S. Lewis scholar Brenton Dickieson

Post #2: “Inklings and Arthur Series Introduction” by series editor and Charles Williams scholar David Llewellyn Dodds

Post #3“The Argument Continues: Late 20th Century Christian and Pagan Depictions of Arthur and the Grail” by Suzanne Bray, professor of British literature and vivilisation

Post #4: “A Personal Reflection on Logres and The Matter of Britain” by Stephen Winter, Anglican minister and Tolkienist

Post #5: “‘The Name is Against Them’: C.S. Lewis and the Problem of Arthur” by Gabriel Schenk, Arthurian scholar at Signum University

Post #6: “An ‘Easy to Read’ Modern Arthurian Epic” by Dale Nelson, academic and columnist for CSL

Post #7: The Signum University “Inklings & King Arthur Roundtable” with Inklings scholars Corey Olsen, Malcolm Guite, Sørina Higgins, and Brenton Dickieson

Post #8: “Wood-Woses: Tolkien’s Wild Men and the Green Knight” by King’s College medievalist Ethan Campbell

Post #9: “Inklings and Arthur: An Artist’s Perspective” by book designer Emily Austin

Post #10: “Arthurian Literature and the Old Everyman’s Library” by Dale Nelson, academic and columnist for CSL

Post #11: “Filling the Gaps in History: Mythopoesis as Deep Insight” by Inklings scholar Charles Huttar

Post #12: “Chesterton, Arthur, and Enchanting England” by Chesterton scholar J. Cameron Moore

Post #13: “Thor: Ragnarok and C.S. Lewis’ Mythic Passions” by Josiah Peterson, teacher in “The Rhetoric of C.S. Lewis” at The King’s College in New York

Post #14: “Charles Williams’s Arthurian Treasury” by Grevel Lindop, Charles Williams biographer

Post #15: “Tiny Fairies: J.R.R. Tolkien’s ‘Errantry’ and Martyn Skinner’s Sir Elfadore and Mabyna” by Dale Nelson, academic and columnist for CSL

Post 16: “C.S. Lewis’ Arthuriad: Survey and Speculation” by blog host and C.S. Lewis scholar Brenton Dickieson

Post 17: ““The Grail: Cup, Stone – Santo Caliz? – and the Inklings?” by David Llewellyn Dodds” by series editor and Charles Williams scholar David Llewellyn Dodds

Here are a few other Arthur-related posts on A Pilgrim in Narnia:

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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 Inklings and King Arthur: Selfies and News

  1. Bookstooge says:

    Comparing your selfie with the picture in your “About” blurb, I’d never know it was the same guy. That is awesome! (of course, considering that the pix in the blurb is about as big as a small thumb, I really shouldn’t be surprised).

    Congrats on your part in this and I’m glad to hear it is being received well….

    Liked by 1 person

  2. David Llewellyn Dodds says:

    Thanks for the link to Philip Jenkins’ review – which leads in turn to his interesting articles on Williams’s plays, Robert Graves’ poem, ‘The Cuirassiers of the Frontier’ (and David Jones’s ‘In Parenthesis’, and a couple other Great War poems besides), and a link to a fascinating article on Graves’ novel of the same year (1938), Count Belisarius, by the late Peter G. Christensen (which I have only enjoyably browsed a bit, so far).

    Lots of Inklings and Arthurian connections stirring beneath the surface, there – Graves and Tolkien (note Letter 267) and Williams, Jones and Williams and Lewis and (cryptically) Tolkien, Masefield and Graves as novelists of the reign of Justinian (with Masefield being explicitly Arthurian where Graves is not), and Masefield and Lewis, Tolkien, and Williams variously.

    Fascinating, too, to compare and contrast Graves’ ‘The Cuirassiers of the Frontier’ with Tolkien’s poem (not a little about Late Antique Byzantium) for Williams, published in Carpenter’s Inklings, and his remarks in Letter 77 about “the Roman Empire”, and perhaps also with Williams’s 1939 poem, ‘Divites Dimisit’, revised and expanded into ‘The Prayers of the Pope’.

    Meanwhile, here’s hoping that the richly diverse Inklings and King Arthur wins the Mythopoeic Scholarship Award (however interesting the other nominees sound, too), and good luck with the photo competition!

    Like

    • Lots o’ links!
      Well, the other nominees…. Jane Chance’s book I struggled quickly with then set it aside for later. Her work is very important. And Verlyn Flieger, well. We’ll see.
      Oh, and a question David. Do you know how to pronounce “Bleheris?” We’ve been pronouncing it to almost rhyme with “Paris,” but a little hang in the middle.

      Like

      • David Llewellyn Dodds says:

        My off-the-cuff response would be something like ‘Bluh-háir-is’, but that may be quite wrong! I’ll see what I can find out. (An operative question would be, how did the young CSL think it should be pronounced?: cf. Williams corresponding with his friend John Pellow in the early 1920s about how ‘Palomides’ should be pronounced, and his later comment about Dante and how he’s always said ‘Dan-tee’ but ‘Dahn-tay’ was a pronunciation he was encountering more and more…)

        One of the great things you-all have ‘going for you’ (if I were a judge) is the scope and variety, of authors, works, subjects, contributors, but how best to weigh such things (and how judges do, in practice), I don’t know.

        Jane Chance was one of the other speakers in the session, the first time I gave a paper (at the International Congress on Medieval Studies in Kalamazoo) – do, please, greet her for me, should the opportunity (and thought) arise!

        Liked by 2 people

      • David Llewellyn Dodds says:

        First foray, to the Camelot Project, where Leonora D. Wolfgang notes early instances, in relation to the name ‘Bliocadran’: “A similar-sounding name, Bliobleheris, is the name of one of the knights in the list in Chrétien’s first Arthurian romance, Erec. In the Elucidation, another prologue to Chrétien’s Perceval, there is a Blihis or Blihos Bliheris. The First Continuation of the Perceval has a Bleheris and a Bleobleheris, and the Second Continuation has a Bleheris.” (None of the editions she notes appeared before Lewis’s poem.)

        And, the only Bleheris in Alan Lupack’s “Post-Medieval Arthurian Literature in English (Other than Fiction): A Preliminary Bibliography” is a poem of that title, by Archibald Macleish, included in Miscellany of American Poetry, 1927 (New York: Harcourt, Brace and Co., 1927), pp. 225-30. Searching suggests it had an interesting time before and after that – perhaps being offered for publication to Eliot in 1924, and certainly to Pound in 1926 (who rejected it), figuring in The Hamlet of A. Macleish (1928), and set to music in 1937. But I can’t find a text, online, to see how perhaps the name Bleheris in it scans or rimes or whatever! (Interesting that Williams might have known other of his poetry from a 1917 OUP volume, Tower of Ivory.)

        Liked by 1 person

      • David Llewellyn Dodds says:

        In Revue Celtique, volume 32 (1911), pp. 5-17, Jesse Weston published a letter from Edward Owen under the title, ‘A Note on the Identification of the “Bleheris” of Wauchier de Denain’, in which he refers back to her references in her two-volume work, The Legend of Sir Perceval : Studies upon its Origin, Development, and Position in the Arthurian Cycle (I: 1906, II: 1909), and expands upon them. Owen notes Gerald of Wales’ reference to a ‘Bledhericus’ and and that the same Latin form is given in charters of that period to someone whose Welsh name was ‘Bledri’. Lewis could have read all three of these (all now scanned in the Internet Archive) easily enough before embarking on his poem. (And he could have read Gerald (or ‘Giraldus’) easily enough, too.)

        ‘Bledhericus’ clearly has four syllables, though I don’t know how long the vowels are, or what sound Lewis would give them, or where he’d put the accent.

        In the last chapter of From Ritual to Romance (transcribed at Project Gutenberg), which Lewis could not have read till later, Weston quotes a letter from Professor Singer (presumably Samuel Singer, 1860-1948) noting “that in Eilhart von Oberge’s Tristan we find the name in the form of Pleherin attached to a knight of Mark’s court” and that the “same name in a slightly varied form, Pfelerin, occurs in the Tristan of Heinrich von Freiberg”. Both forms seem clearly to have three syllables and all the same vowels as ‘Bleheris’ – though I don’t know that that takes us any further as to how Lewis would have pronounced them or where he would have placed the accent (though I’d be inclined to the second syllable in the German).

        Liked by 2 people

        • Well David! Thank you so much for this incredible work in the digital realms of which I am only a Wayfarer. You kind of more in your searching than I ever did. Yes, the real test of course would be either metrical–knowing whether it was two syllables or three would help–or a rhyme of some kind. Even then because it’s an internal rhyme, it’s not clear that we would know from any rhymed text.
          And you hit on the question that’s so often forgotten by so many people: Our concern is not how it should be pronounced but how Lewis imagined it should be pronounced. And for that we have no living clue that is coming back to the world from Lost lands of paper in archives.
          Beyond that, it is probable that someone in Yorkshire would have pronounced the knights name differently than someone in northern Wales. So we might be justified in making it up as we go along!
          The digging is kind of fun. Maybe you should grab all of this into a document, and and if we ever get to the point of being able to release this document to the public, or if somebody else publishes it, it would make a nice launch blog post: musings on Bleheris.

          Liked by 1 person

          • David Llewellyn Dodds says:

            Thanks!

            I haven’t looked up the references in Jessie [the correct spelling, this time!] Weston’s two-volume Perceval book, yet, so I don’t know if some imaginatively exciting ideas in her 1920 From Ritual to Romance are already there, in some form, or again published elsewhere by others at a time when Lewis could have read them before or as he worked on his Bleheris…

            But, in 1920, she notes “Professor Singer makes the interesting suggestion that these references are originally due to Bleheris himself, who not only told the stories in the third person (a common device at that period, v. Chrétien’s Erec, and Gerbert’s continuation of the Perceval), but also introduced himself as eye-witness of, and actor, in a subordinate rôle, in, the incidents he recorded.”

            And she quotes from a letter from “the late Mr Alfred Nutt” after he had read Professor Singer’s letter: “Briefly put we presuppose the existence of a set of semi-dramatic, semi-narrative, poems, in which a Bledri figures as an active, and at the same time a recording, personage. Now that such a body of literature may have existed we are entitled to assume from the fact that two such have survived, one from Wales, in the Llywarch Hen cycle, the other from Ireland, in the Finn Saga. In both cases, the fact that the descriptive poems are put in the mouth, in Wales of Llywarch, in Ireland largely of Oisin, led to the ascription at an early date of the whole literature to Llywarch and Oisin. It is therefore conceivable that a Welsh ‘littérateur,’ familiar as he must have been with the Llywarch, and as he quite possibly was with the Oisin, instance, should cast his version of the Arthurian stories in a similar form, and that the facts noted by you and Singer may be thus explained.”

            Now, it strikes me that Williams is doing something of the sort with lots of his earlier Advent of Galahad poetry and his later Arthurian poetry, where Taliessin, especially, is presented as author as well as character.

            Does Lewis do this in his Bleheris poem, as well?

            Liked by 1 person

  3. Yewtree says:

    Love the picture of the wardrobe! And glad that Grevel Lindop is included in this anthology.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Reblogged this on The Oddest Inkling and commented:
    What could be better than a smart scholar’s #InklingsAndArthur selfies? A smart scholar’s #InklingsAndArthur selfies at the Marion W. Wade Center, aka, Narnia Near Chicago! Check this out.

    Liked by 1 person

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