Alister McGrath’s C.S. Lewis:A Life– Part Four

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Ben: ‘Northerness’ is of course a topic that comes up again and again when it comes to Lewis’ developing imagination and later his fiction, but I have to say I found it strange to hear about Norse mythology lumped together with things Germanic like Wagner!! Wagner was about as Norse as me, and if Wagner’s fantasy world was a major influence shouldn’t one call it ‘Southerness’ compared to the geographical locales of Lewis?

Alister: Point taken – but maybe you press it too far. As a boy, Lewis encountered the Nordic myths through both primary sources, and also indirectly, through Wagner’s two operas Siegfried and Götterdämmerung. Sure, Wagner was German; yet his imaginative resources for both those operas clearly come from the world of Nordic myths, which he adapts for his own purposes. Lewis found Wagner’s reformulation of Nordic myths to be imaginatively compelling, especially when supplemented by Arthur Rackham’s illustrations, which may have been more influential on Lewis’s juvenile imagination than many think. Lewis saw Wagner as a conduit for Northernness, even if he came to prefer to sample it at its source.