Almost every book of fiction in my childhood home contains the words, “Kristin Pender,” in varying degrees of neatness and size. I can see the timeline of when I first read or acquired a book, because I would write my name in the front, the younger I was, the larger the handwriting. I was the kid who ruined her eyesight because she read by the glow of the nightlight. By the time I was eleven years old, I had chronic back pain because I always had four hardback books in a messenger bag everywhere I went, slung across my shoulder, each one about 500 pages. My family knew every librarian by name and likewise, the librarians never failed to have a recommendation to soothe my voracious appetite for stories. My mom probably funded half the cost of the local library’s eventual renovation, with all the fines for overdue books.
I cannot recall a time when I didn’t know who Lucy Pevensie was, who Aslan was. Moreover, I think I understood the meaning of the sacrifice at the Stone Table before I understood the sacrifice at the Cross. I remember the first time I picked up a copy of The Hobbit. I was seven or eight and the pristine little paperback was my proverbial door to an entirely new world. Gone were the days of illustrations, pages with three sentences, and trite plots. Now came the days of lilting poetry, sweeping descriptions, and questions of a profound nature. That little paperback now sits on my bedside table, like a precious relic. If you were to pick it up by the spine, pages would float down like snow. The first copy of The Fellowship of the Ring, was a tome of epic proportions, which required several tries to read. But once I started, it was finished in under two weeks. I was nine. The Two Towers and The Return of the King, followed in quick succession, with every free moment spent with Tolkien’s words in my hands.
Its almost 11 years later and I’m just as, if not more, in love with these authors and their works as the day I first cracked open their covers. I now have a profound appreciation for the way these books were crafted. The precision to detail, the worldbuilding, and the creation of beautifully flawed characters. When I first met Prof. Loconte, as a freshman at The King’s College, I did not yet know that I had found a kindred spirit. He was my professor for the History of Western Civilization. By the end of my freshman year, I had not only found an intellectual mentor and friend, but a fellow Inklings nerd. Sophomore year, after many conversations and debates regarding Tolkien, Lewis, moral heroism, and whether Niccolo Machiavelli was really all that bad, I was asked if I might like to be a script consultant for his documentary film series, “A Hobbit, a Wardrobe, and a Great War.” Blustering, I agreed while trying to suppress my glee in the name of professionality, but as soon as I left Prof. Loconte’s office, I called my mother and wept. For me, there was no greater honour than attempting to divine the truth their fantasy was rooted in and no greater joy than searching out virtue where before, there had only been magic.
Today I’m writing to you, dear reader, having been asked to be a blog contributor for the film project. This time, when I called my mother and cried, it wasn’t just because I was excited, but because I had been asked to do my absolute favorite thing in world, on a large scale: tell others why stories matter, particularly the ones that are my favorites. I’d like to invite you to join me over the coming months, in exploring the themes of Lewis and Tolkien’s work. I cannot promise great academic revelations or diabolical new interpretations of the theology in their works, but I will do my best to show the small glimpses of virtue, courage, and heroism that I have seen in their remarkable stories.