By Tenethia South
Every great author has people in their lives that have molded them. They have changed the author’s outlook on life and, along with that, how they write their books. C. S. Lewis had many influences of this kind on his life, and they not only affected him and his writing, but affected us as readers. Six such people were Edith Nesbit, JRR Tolkien, George MacDonald, Florence Lewis, Robert Capron, and Maud Barfield.
Possibly the first influence that Lewis had in his life from another author was Edith Nesbit, whose works Lewis read as he was growing up. He took a lot of inspiration from her trilogy involving the Bastable children, and mentioned in a letter once that he learned how to write children’s stories like his own Chronicles of Narnia from her. In the beginning of The Magician’s Nephew, Lewis mentioned the Bastable children in the first paragraph, thus showing his gratitude to the great authoress who taught him through her own writing to write Narnia. (1)
Another great influence upon Lewis was JRR Tolkien, the famous writer of the Lord of the Rings trilogy and The Hobbit. When Lewis was an atheist, Tolkien was instrumental in converting Lewis to the Christian faith. If Tolkien’s influence in bringing Lewis to Christ had not been there, many of Lewis’s books (including Mere Christianity, The Great Divorce, and The Screwtape Letters, among others) would never have been written. Along with that, many of the elements that made The Chronicles of Narnia great (including Aslan, Lucy’s faith, and many other Christian elements) would never have been included. (2)
A third author that had influence upon Lewis was George MacDonald. Although MacDonald died before Lewis encountered his writings, his influence upon Lewis was so great that he even compiled a book of beneficial quotes by this spiritual leader. In the preface to the book (entitled George MacDonald: An Anthology), Lewis wrote, “I have never concealed the fact that I regard him as my master; indeed I fancy I have never written a book in which I did not quote from him.” (3)
Other people in Lewis’s life that inspired him as he wrote were Florence Lewis, Robert Capron, and Maud Barfield. When Lewis was only ten years old, his mother (Florence Lewis) passed on due to cancer. This tragedy in his childhood is quite possibly where Lewis got the inspiration for Digory’s mother’s illness in The Magician’s Nephew. Robert Capron was a schoolmaster at a boarding school and, because of his hair, facial features, and the abusive way he treated his students, Lewis wrote him into The Magician’s Nephew as a main inspiration for Andrew Ketterly. (4) Maud Barfield, the wife of one of Lewis’s close friends, inspired warnings in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe for children to be careful not to lock themselves up in a wardrobe when she expressed her concern to Lewis about children accidentally doing that in an effort to find Narnia. (5)
We can be grateful for the influence these people held over Lewis, for they together have made his works more worth the reading. We can thank Nesbit for her influence on Lewis’s children’s books, Tolkien for helping bring Lewis to Christ and thus influencing all Lewis’s writings greatly, and MacDonald for writing books that became spiritual leadership to Lewis. We can appreciate Florence Lewis for influencing one of the most tender parts of The Chronicles of Narnia, Robert Capron for inspiration for Uncle Andrew, and Maud Barfield for caring enough about the reader to ask Lewis to warn us not to lock ourselves up in any wardrobes.
1. Into the Wardrobe: The Official Guide to Narnia by E. J. Kirk