Tolkien & Lewis - Myth, Imagination & The Quest For Meaning

Tolkien & Lewis

Myth, Imagination & The Quest For Meaning

On a blustery British evening in 1931, noted authors C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien spent several hours together in Lewis’ Magdelan College rooms at Oxford. Along with fellow “Inkling” Hugo Dyson, the three scholars engaged in a debate well suited to their backgrounds as mythologists. On one side, Dyson and Tolkien argued that Christianity followed similar traditions to other myths but that it was “the true myth.” A former atheist who, at the time, had become a theist, Lewis argued from his non-Christian perspective.

The discussion in the room is at the heart of our documentary production. The documentary explores the fundamental characteristics of myth in a global context. What is myth? What traits are common among various cultures and faiths? What makes a myth true? What traits does Christian mythology have in common with Greek, Nordic and other myth traditions? How does myth inspire the imagination, especially the imaginative process of Tolkien and Lewis? And in what ways does faith play into the fantasy and fictional works of Lewis and Tolkien.

As Oxford dons, Lewis and Tolkien enjoyed a close friendship. Both shared strong scholarly interest in mythology and both wrote popular fantasy and fiction now considered classic including Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings and Lewis' The Chronicles of Narnia. Like prominent writers who preceded and influenced them including MacDonald and Chesterton, Tolkien and Lewis believed that Christianity had many of the characteristics of classic mythology.

Tolkien & Lewis - Myth, Imagination & The Quest For Meaning explores the central theme of "the true myth" with experts and scholars weighing in from various perspectives. Notable interview subjects include Dr. Reza Aslan, Dr. Christopher Mitchell, Rev. Dr. John Polkinghorne, Indian scholar Deepti Tewari and mythologist Verlyn Flieger … among others.


Iowa Public Television ( is the flagship station for broadcast on the not-for-profit PBS system. The film will be broadcast nationwide in the United States during 2015 on public television. International broadcasts are still being determined at the time of this writing.