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Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Out of the Silent Planet — Thursday March 8th

We'll be meeting on March 8th at 7:30 p.m. at the Harrisonburg Barnes and Noble.  In the meantime you might enjoy listening to a pod-cast about "Out of the Silent Planet" which you can find HERE  It is 34 minutes long and does a nice job of summarizing the book which might be good as a refresher before you come to the meeting.  I'll be posting the discussion questions here soon as well.

Discussion Questions for Out of the Silent Planet March 8th 2012


C. S. Lewis was a science fiction fan.  He was born in 1898 so much of the science fiction he was familiar with had a good deal of fantasy in it.  He cut his teeth on H.G. Well’s science fiction and on the popular pulp magazines that carried science fiction but these only came along after he was out of college.  C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien became fast friends at Oxford after Lewis obtains a fellowship in 1925.  They met regularly in Lewis’s rooms together with other friends and this informal group came to be known as the Inklings.  “Tolkien and Lewis shared the belief that through myth and legend—for centuries the mode many cultures had used to communicate their deepest truths—a taste of the Christian gospel's "True Myth" could be smuggled past the barriers and biases of secularized readers.”[1]  They decided that they would have to write the kind of stories they would like to read and made an agreement that Jack would write a space travel story and Tollers, as Tolkien was called, would write a time-travel story.  Out of the Silent Planet and later Perelandra and That Hideous Strength were the result.

Discussion Questions:

1. What is the combination of motivations on the part of Devine, Weston, and Ransom that get the story going?

2. What are the surprises that Ransom encounters on the voyage to Malacandra?

3. How is Ransom’s fear developed by Lewis on the voyage?

4. How would you express the philosophies of Devine and Weston?

5. The reader only gradually appreciates the scenery and characteristics of Malacandra.  Describe how the unfolding character of the descriptions affected you.

6. Describe how Thulcandra came to be known as the silent planet.  How does this account fit into Lewis’s mythology and align with other accounts of “bent-ness”?

7. Discuss the three hnau of Malacandra, the sorn that live in caves on the harandra and the hross that live on the handramit and the pfifltriggi who live in the lowlands, the old ocean beds of the planet.  Can you speculate about Lewis’s sources for some of these ideas?

8. How did the eldila and the Oyarsa impact the story?  What did you think of Weston’s reaction to the Oyarsa?

9. How would you describe Ransom’s development as a person throughout the story?


Sunday, February 12, 2012

The Space Trilogy Begins March 8th

The adventure begins on March 8th at the Barnes and Noble in Harrisonburg at 7:30 p.m. We will beginning a journey that will be extended for three months as we enter the imagination of C.S. Lewis's Space Trilogy.

WIKIPEDIA discusses The Space Trilogy with a little background. Lewis was always a science fiction fan, but not so much of what he called the gadget or "engineering fiction." Instead, for Lewis, science fiction was a vehicle for "supposals" that would take you away from your common everyday world into a world that asks you "to suppose" for example that the Medieval worldview was right afterall and the universe was looked over by spiritual beings. This is, of course, only an element in Lewis's supposal in the space trilogy. We will start with Out of the Silent Planet in March which takes us to Mars, and then on April 12th we'll continue to Venus where our hero Ransom enters a different kind of paradise, and then we'll finish the space trilogy on May 10th with That Hideous Strength set on earth, an earth you may recognize in many ways. Lewis said that That Hideous Strength was a fictionalization of the ideas in The Abolition of Man so right after we've done That Hideous Strength we'll read The Abolition of Man so that with the last volume of the space trilogy still fresh in our minds we can see the parallels that Lewis has drawn more clearly.
BARNES AND NOBLE or AMAZON can have the book to you in now time. Read this first volume of C.S. Lewis's space trilogy and come join us in March.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Questions for February 9th "Tolkien Reader" Meeting

Questions for the February 9th Meeting on "The Tolkien Reader"

** The Homecoming of Beortnoth **
1) According to the fragment of the poem now called The Battle of Maldon, what were the last words of Beorhtwold, Beorhtnoth’s old retainer? What are their significance?
2) Why does Beorhtwold’s station make the principle he states more pure, clear, and profound? How can this have influenced Tolkien’s use of hobbits as heroic characters in The Lord of the Rings?
3) In Tolkien’s opinion, what other line is key to understanding the full force of the poem? How does this influence the “northern heroic ideal” and how does it impact the depiction of heroism in his works?
4) Compare and contrast Beorhtnoth’s death with the death of Thorin.
5) How did Theoden embody the “northern heroic ideal”?

** Tree and Leaf **
1) Tolkien seems to represent a sort of Old School Revival in reaction against a pernicious New School phenomenon. What examples of literature best represent each approach to fairy-stories?
2) How is the origin of fairy-stories related to the origin of language?
3) How is the modern assumption that fairy-stories are for children related to similar attitudes that comic books and board games are “just for kids”? What is the consequence of this banishment to the nursery?
4) Why is it that a need for fantasy actually increases as we age?
5) What historical event served to awaken Tolkien’s desire for fantasy?
6) Why is drama inimical to fantasy? Do the technologies underlying modern cinema address this deficiency? Why or why not?
7) What assumptions underly Tolkien’s concept of “sub-creation” and how is it significant to the development of The Lord of the Rings?
8) What is “Real Life” as Tolkien’s opponents might define it? How could one legitimately desire to escape from it? How is this illustrated in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe?
9) According to Tolkien, what historical event explains the recurring themes of arbitrary prohibitions and fellowship with animals in fairy-stories?
10) What is “eucatastrophe” and how does it emerge in fairy-stories? According to Tolkien, how does this literary device correspond to reality?
11) How does Leaf By Niggle correspond to Tolkiens beliefs, aspirations, and his life? Would you say the story is metaphorical, allegorical, or something else?
12) Leaf By Niggle was written when Tolkien was not even halfway through writing what is now called The Fellowship of the Ring and Tolkien seems to have despaired of ever completing the work. If Leaf By Niggle is any indication, how did Tolkien expect his life’s work to be regarded after his death? Contrast this to how he is actually viewed today.

** Farmer Giles **
“This is the hour of the Shire folk, when they arise from their quiet fields to shake the towers and counsels of the great.” — The Lord of the Rings, Book II Chapter 2.
1) How well does the story Farmer Giles of Ham follow the precepts outlined in On Fairy Stories?
2) How does the tale incorporate elements of historical and geographical fact?
3) How does Farmer Giles primarily gain his experience points: for killing monsters, finding treasure, or selling magic items?
4) How does the ending of the story comport with the implied end-game of the early editions of Dungeons & Dragons?
5) Compare and contrast Farmer Giles with the heroes of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.