The Renaissance of Wonder: The Book Review

I stumbled across this little volume about the literary worlds of fantasy created by R.S.S. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, George MacDonald and others, and it really turned out to be a quite interesting read.

But since it was a rather aimless and rambling book, starting from the time of George MacDonald and working its way up to “modern” (aka 70s) fantasy writers, it would be hard to sum up the entire text.

So instead here is a list of the quotes and concepts that grabbed my attention, and maybe a few of them will tantalize your imagination as well.

– I was very intrigued to discover that a lot of fantasy literature was based on Celtic legend and lore. I don’t know why, but that thought had never crossed my mind before. Imagination taking root in the highlands!

– “Even without a word of doctrine (and in Tolkien, without any explicit Christian background or reference, in his world of hobbits and elves), they are [They being Tolkien and Lewis], like MacDonald, transmitters of the Christian faith and ethos, of the sacramental sequel to the Incarnation, for the Incarnation lies in the heart and soul of their creative genius.”

-Tolkien gave a lecture once called “Fairy Stories.” Judging from the snippets that I read of it in this book, I really ought to find it and read it in its entirety.

– Apparently fantasy literature really kicked in as the Age of Reason was winding down. There was no room for imagination in those down-to-earth practical days, so the creativity flourished as the constraints of that age ended.

– “I am almost inclined to set it up as a canon that a children’s story that is enjoyed only by children is a bad children’s story. The good ones last.” – C. S. Lewis

– I didn’t realize that C.S. Lewis wrote an autobiography. Obviously a must read! It’s called, “Surprised by Joy.”

– An idea that the book presented that I found fascinating was that of the necessity of holiness in truly effective fantasy writing. The claim is that for an ethereal world to exist there must always be some sense of the sacred, something truly awe inspiring, and something utterly holy to sustain that world. It continues on to say that this is an element of fantasy writing that has largely been lost, and so until this element is reintroduced into the genre the truly great pieces of written fantasy are in our past.

– “There has been a century or more of domestic magic since the renaissance of wonder was ushered in by the Scots poet and mystic and teller of tales. Has all that he brought us been continued? Today we need the Recovery, the Escape, the Consolation of fairy tales more than ever. Perhaps all but one blessing has been continued: is there today still holiness in magic?”


Looking forward to doing more study and pondering on all the tidbits I gathered from this book. My curiosity is now further piqued and shall not be satisfied until I learn more! And more… and more…. Because the best learning never truly ends.










Renaissance of Wonder: The Fantasy Worlds of J. R. R. Tolkien, C. S. Lewis, George MacDonald, E. Nesbit, and Others

By Marion Lochhead

Leave a Comment