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Monday, 1 May 2006

The Dark Tower & Other Stories by C. S. Lewis

The Dark Tower & Other Stories
C.S. Lewis
Various Editions From
Different Publishers

This is one of those little treasures most people do not know about, and the story behind them is almost as fascinating as Lewis’s characters and his life itself. Edited and compiled by Walter Hooper, who was secretary to Lewis in his later years. The story behind this collection is that one day Walter was walking by the cottage that Lewis and his brother Warnie Shared, and saw Warnie burning some ‘rubbish’. Hooper asked what he was up to and Warnie replied he was clearing out some of Jack’s (C.S. Lewis’s) things. Hooper enquired into the contents and found out that they were unpublished manuscripts, stories … Hooper asked for them and Warnie replied if they were not taken then and there they were going into the fire. A fire which supposedly burned for 3 days. One will always wonder what was lost to us from such a purging.

So Hooper saved this collection and some of the other writings that were published posthumously by the late great C. S. Lewis. These six stories are of a science fiction or fantasy nature. The first story The Dark Tower is of particular interest because it is a partial fourth story in Lewis’s Science Fiction Trilogy Out of the Silent Planet, Perelandra and That Hideous Strength. This one being set between the first and second book. This story makes up more than half of this collection. Yet one could ask what is a partial story with middle sections and the end missing be worth? Or be worth reading? And to be honest it would be a very good question.

I would have to state an emphatic yes it would! I would declare so for many different reasons. The first is that this is the only time we see Ransom in his office’s hanging out with a group of professors discussing life the universe and everything. Does that not indeed sound like Lewis, and Tolkien and the rest of the Inklings who did just that. There has been much debate by many scholars as to the questions of if Lewis inserted himself into his fiction, as ‘the professor’ in the Narnia books, and many believe as Professor Ransom in this series. This gathering of friends is almost a scene out of Lewis’s own weekly routine. The second reason is that we meet MacPhee here in this story, which chronologically takes place between book’s 1 and 2 in the series. MacPhee does not show up in the trilogy till the 3rd book. This book gives us a tantalizing taste of a story that would give the published trilogy a fuller more rounded flavor and be amusing to read and debate the end of the story and the progression of Lewis’s Thought.

Even if you only pick up this book for the first story it will be worth it. But the other 5 short pieces are worth a perusal as well.

Other Reviews of Lewis's Books.
A Grief Observed
The Four Loves
Out of the Silent Planet
Perelandra
That Hideous Strength
The Dark Tower and Other Stories

Narnia Publication Order:
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
Prince Caspian
The Voyage of the Dawn Treader
The Silver Chair
The Horse and His Boy
The Last Battle

Narnia Chronological Order:
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
The Horse and His Boy
Prince Caspian
The Voyage of the Dawn Treader
The Silver Chair
The Last Battle

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