A short book consisting mainly of the author’s anecdotes of meetings with Tolkien during the summer of 1966, where he encouraged Tolkien to continue his work on The Silmarillion and engaged in literary and religious discussions with him.
Also included are texts on the chronology and geographical composition of Middle-earth, Tolkien as a Christian writer, and the Inklings.
Kilby’s portrait works best on a psychological level, sometimes pointing out the contradictions in Tolkien’s remarks and way of thinking – his ”contrasistency”. At other times Kilby’s remembrances take the form of unconcealed genius-worship. Discussing the chronological beginning of Tolkien’s mythology, for instance, he remarks that ”It appeared to me as we talked together that the whole thing had begun, as he says, at birth. I sometimes felt it was almost prenatal” (p. 48).
In his discussion of the question of Tolkien as a Christian writer, Kilby more or less takes Tolkien’s own words as the final explanation. He points out the obvious similarities between biblical mythology and that of the Silmarillion and Lord of the Rings and seems satisfied with Tolkien’s own analysis, ignoring the ”contrasistencies” which could be said to pervade the religious undertones of Tolkien’s work. For instance, citing a poem by the Anglo-Saxon Christian poet Cynewulf, Kilby asks: ”Knowing that it was from such a context that ‘the whole’ of Tolkien’s mythology rose, can we any longer doubt its profound Christian associations?” (p. 58)
If you grant that the work of a writer is capable of being more complex than the writer himself anticipates or acknowledges, Kilby’s question is seen to be purely rhetorical. The Christian associations in Tolkien’s work are clear enough, but they do not stand alone – and it could be argued that a work like Silmarillion is more obviously in tune with Gnostic cosmology than the world of the New Testament. It seems to me that Tolkien and the Silmarillions – while entertaining enough on an anecdotical level – never really delves deep enough into Tolkien’s interesting ”contrasistencies”, at least with regards to his use of religious symbolism and allegory.