The Screwtape Letters

From Tolkien Gateway
The Screwtape Letters
The Screwtape Letters.jpg
AuthorC.S. Lewis
PublisherGeoffrey Bles
ReleasedFebruary 1942 (book)[note 1]

The Screwtape Letters is a novel written by C.S. Lewis. The story takes the form of a series of letters from a senior demon, Screwtape, to his nephew, a junior tempter named Wormwood, so as to advise him on methods of securing the damnation of a British man, known only as "the Patient".

Lewis dedicated The Screwtape Letters to his friend J.R.R. Tolkien. Beneath the printed dedication, Lewis added in Tolkien's personal copy: "In token payment of a great debt".[1]

According to Michael White, "Tolkien disliked these books and believed, probably with some justification, that Lewis had not given himself time to come to a clear under­standing of his religious outlook, that he had rushed his thoughts into print without allowing them to mature".

Michael White also says that "Lewis dedicated The Screwtape Letters to Tolkien, and in the personal copy for his friend he added 'In token payment of a great debt'. But ironically, Tolkien did not care for the story, seeing it as rather trite and too hastily put together. Yet, his true objection to it was actually more personal. In many ways, Tolkien was almost a fundamentalist Catholic. He believed the devil and his demons really did exist and that it was therefore rather foolhardy to make light of such serious matters".[source?]

In J.R.R. Tolkien's Sanctifying Myth, Bradley J. Birzer writes that: "In thanks for their then thirteen-year-old friendship, Lewis dedicated The Screwtape Letters to Tolkien and inscribed in the copy he gave his friend, "In token payment of a great debt." Lewis's dedication angered Tolkien, for the book had deeply disturbed him. How could Lewis have delved so deeply into the arts of the Enemy, Tolkien must have wondered? In no uncertain terms, Tolkien disapproved of such ventures—even when undertaken by good Christians like Lewis".[2]

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  1. The story first appeared in London's Guardian newspaper during the World War II. Cf. Lancelyn Green, Roger and Hooper, Walter (2002), C.S. Lewis: A Biography, p. 237 (HarperCollins, London).