Thomas Shippey has attributed the ongoing appeal of Lord of the Rings and Chronicles of Narnia to the authenticity and emotional depth of the books' characters, and to the mythological themes they explore. He's said that people respond to myths because of their basis in truth.
In lectures like the one he presents this Thursday evening, "Narnia and Middle-earth: Lewis, Tolkien, and the Magic Art," Shippey points out that the works of J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis are laden with the themes of good against evil, the fall of angels and humanity, temptation and redemption, sacrifice and resurrection. He talks about the authors' relationship as close friends who encouraged one another's work and shared the concern that modernism was focusing on the trivial. Tolkien and Lewis wanted to turn readers' attention back to what was important and saw fantasy fiction as a means to that end.
The scholar, professor, author and expert on medieval, modern fantasy and science fiction has loads to say on the subject of the two fantasy luminaries. I mean, he wrote two books about Tolkein — J.R.R. Tolkien: Author of the Century and The Road to Middle-earth — and numerous articles on both, as well as plenty of others examinations of medieval and fantasy literature. (On a side note, he was Peter Jackson's "go-to guy" when the cast of the Lord of the Rings films needed to learn how to pronounce Elven words.)
Shippey is quite knowledgeable and, from what I've heard, a very engaging speaker who will share more of his ideas in a lecture that's part of a series presented by the USF Humanities Institute.
Narnia and Middle-earth: Lewis, Tolkien, and the Magic Art, 7 p.m. Thurs., Sept. 28, Traditions Hall, USF-Tampa, 4202 E. Fowler Ave., Tampa, free admission, 813-974-3657.