Walk the Road to Virtue with Tolkien and Lewis in On the Shoulders of Hobbits by Louis Markos. In this concise, but powerful book English professor Markos makes a passionate argument about the value of a story and how it has the ability to transform and inspire.
On the Shoulders of Hobbits is broken into four parts: The Road, The Classical Virtues, The Theological Virtues, and Evil. Each part has four chapters and each chapter has a section that introduces the topic, usually with a Biblical reference, a section of Tolkien, and a smaller section of Lewis.
Focusing mainly on J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis, the book walks through the authors' work thematically, paralleling them with the Bible, with each other, and with other famous literature like Dante's Inferno and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. The connections don't stop there though either; Markos also connects the stories to history and philosophy as well.
The book reminded me of the Hero's Journey, or monomyth, as it lined up common elements between different literary works.
In the chapter "Responding to the Call", both the Hero's Journey connection and the Biblical implications are quite clear. In the Hero's Journey, the protagonist displays some hesitancy, but ultimately responds to the call by crossing the threshold and taking to the Road in the "extraordianry world." Markos begins the chapter by explaining that God calls ordinary people to do extraordinary things by fulfilling with faith that which they have been called to do.
The next section is the Tolkien connection where "Sam sees that his individual call (and that of Frodo) is part of a larger tapestry in which each individual call works together to bring about the destiny and hoped for end, what Tolkien liked to call the eucatastrophe: the good end that rises up, miraculously, our of what seemed, at first, to be defeat and death" (36). It's later explained that Tolkien said the greatest example of the eucatastrophe is the resurrection of Jesus. The final section explains how Lewis's mouse Reepicheep may be small, but he has a great destiny to fulfill and he is dedicated to his high calling.
This is a phenomenal book for people who have read Tolkein and Lewis and want to learn more about the messages of their writing. It was easy to read and interesting, though it does jump around with all of its references to different books. I actually enjoyed the semi-chaos of having multiple allusions in the same paragraph and was thankful for all of the reading I had in my English classes that allowed me to keep up with Markos's explanations.
FTC Disclosure: I received this book for free from Moody Publishers for this review. The opinion in this review is unbiased and reflects my honest judgment of the product.