So one Steven A. Beebe, professor of communications at Texas State UniversitySan Marcos, was rummaging through C.S. Lewis’ original manuscripts in the Bodleian Library, Oxford, when he came across a fragment . Not just any tidbit or afterthought but what the good professor came to believe was the beginnings of a work to be co-written by the Lord of the Rings himself, J.R.R. Tolkien.
I was interested in what I could learn about Lewis by reading his original, handwritten manuscripts. I was specifically looking for things such as what he may have crossed out, or what I could learn by observing his editing of his own work. At the beginning of a little orange-covered notebook I read the words, In a book like this it might be expected that we should begin with the origins of language . . . and realized that I was reading a book manuscript about language. As a professor of communication, I knew immediately that his ideas about language and communication were important. But what I didnt realize at the time was that this was to have been the beginning of a collaborative book with J. R. R. Tolkien. That took another seven years for me to figure outthat the manuscript I was reading was supposed to be a collaboration between Lewis and Tolkien.
The book was never finished, nor published, although odd references to it appear here and there. I have to admit that a book about language, even from the dynamic duo, sounds depressingly dull, except of course to the expert in the field or the most ardent fan, for whom a copy of their dental records would prove exciting. If these gentlemen were going to collaborate, why couldn’t they do it on something more compelling, like a spy novel or a work of anti-modernist polemics or a travel guideyou, know, Best Student Hostels in Narnia or Negotiating the Tube in Middle Earth , something like that . . .