TO EDWARD LOFSTROM: On what Lewis attempted in The Chronicles of Narnia; on the character of the man Jesus—his tenderness, ferocity, and even humor; and on the need to do one’s duty while having patience with God.
16 January 1959
1. I am afraid I don’t know the answer to your question about books of Christian instruction for children. Most of those I have seen—but I haven’t seen many—seem to me namby-pamby and ‘sissie’ and calculated to nauseate any child worth his salt. Of course I have tried to do what I can for children—in a mythical and fantastic form by my seven ‘Narnian’ fairy tales. They work well with some children but not with others. Sorry this looks like salesman-ship: but honestly if I knew anything else I’d mention it.
2. Of course. ‘Gentle Jesus’, my elbow! The most striking thing about Our Lord is the union of great ferocity with extreme tenderness. (Remember Pascal? ‘I do not admire the extreme of one virtue unless you show me at the same time the extreme of the opposite virtue. One shows one’s greatness not by being at an extremity but by being simultaneously at two extremities and filling all the space between.’)
Add to this that He is also a supreme ironist, dialectician, and (occasionally) humourist. So go on! You are on the right track now: getting to the real Man behind all the plaster dolls that have been substituted for Him. This is the appearance in Human form of the God who made the Tiger and the Lamb, the avalanche and the rose. He’ll frighten and puzzle you: but the real Christ can be loved and admired as the doll can’t.
3. ‘For him who is haunted by the smell of invisible roses the cure is work’ (MacDonald). If we feel we have talents that don’t find expression in our ordinary duties and recreations, I think we must just go on doing the ordinary things as well as we can. If God wants to use these suspected talents, He will: in His own time and way. At all costs one must keep clear of all the witchdoctors and their patent cures—as you say yourself.
From The Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis, Volume III
Compiled in Yours, Jack