International Journal of English Literature and Culture

International Journal of English Literature and Culture

Vol. 3(2), pp. 47-55,  February, 2015

 ISSN: 2360-7831

DOI: 10.14662/IJELC2015.004

Review Paper

“A difference of taste”

The debate over allegory in C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien


Debora Barnabč


Via Quaini 4, Imola (BO), 40026, Italy. E-mail: debora.barnabe@studio.unibo.it.  Phone:+39 338 6828325


Accepted 7 February 2015




When Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia were published, Tolkien declared his distance from this type of Biblical allegories. Now the question is: why is Lewis so fond of allegory and Tolkien profoundly dislikes it? In this paper we try to give an answer to this question by firstly looking at the two authors’ cultural background, their academic and private lives in Oxford and their literary production. A first issue which emerges is that Lewis loves literature from Chaucer to his contemporaries, where the use of allegory abounds, whereas Tolkien feels more at ease with early English literature where myth strongly prevails. Moving to the two authors’ production, Tolkien and Lewis certainly shared the idea that true stories of the imaginative type exist not to hide, but to reveal since they derive from reality and always point back to it, but Tolkien distances himself from religious allegory of Lewis’ kind in The Chronicles as he believes that the author runs the risk of offering the reader a prepacked interpretation of reality which has nothing to do with experience. Lewis’ distinction between “supposal” and “allegory” and Tolkien’s between “applicability” and “allegory” finally enrich the discussion and offers new and interesting perspectives of interpretation.


Keywords: Religion, Allegory, Tolkien, Lewis, Inklings, Christianity, Fantasy, Myth, Supposal, Applicability.



Cite This Article As:  Barnabč D (2015). “A difference of taste” The debate over allegory in C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien. Inter. J. Eng. Lit. Cult. 3(2): 47-55.




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