Meeting C.S. Lewis’ Stepson, Douglas Gresham – Life with “Jack”, his legacy, & the Narnia films

My six degrees of separation from a late legendary author whom I admire were greatly reduced by about 5 yesterday.  In a nutshell, I could 1.) hardly believe who I shook hands with, and 2.) was overcome by the Godliness, inspiration, and joy he and his wife bring by sharing their faith and Christ’s love for us as facts of the matter.  I met Douglas Gresham, C.S. Lewis’ Stepson, head of the C.S. Lewis foundation and co-producer of the Narnia films we watch today thanks to a wonderful gathering at Luxent Hotel made possible by Artists in Touch.  I also met his lovely, meek wife, Mary, whose face beams by her husband’s side.  Their devotion to each other totally reminds me of Karl and Ellie in the animated Pixar film, UP.

When Douglas spoke with us he was very vocal about his faith and warmly shared about the 10 years he had with “Jack” (C.S. Lewis) as his stepfather.  He met Jack as an 8 year old and already knew him as the writer of the Narnia Chronicles and fondly remembers how he expected Jack to be some bigshot (being the “god” of Narnia), but instead here was this charming elderly man, “with nicotine stained teeth and fingers, and quite frankly the shabbiest clothes I’d ever seen on a man”.  Supper at their home he said, had he known any better, ought to have been recorded with a tape recorder stuck under the table, with writers from the “Inklings” such as J.R.R. Tolkien (Lord of the Rings author) and a handful of others coming to bring the outpouring and debates from their prized streams of thought over for dinner.  Today, had those conversations been recorded, they would have been priceless.  Jack, Douglas says, also had a way of talking to children.  He never talked down to them as if they were insignificant individuals but always respectfully addressed them as small human beings who don’t know very much and who always had something terribly important to say.  This lent itself to his becoming of the greatest literary novelists for children.  Jack’s most popular book for children was the second book from the Narnia Chronicles and the first to become a successful box office motion picture, The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe.  When I was in college, I was once featured in a print ad campaign by Power Books as a young rookie Student Leader from the U.P. College of Fine Arts who loved to read, and when asked which book or novel had a profound impact on my life growing up, it was none other than The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe which eventually became a major motion picture.  This cat belonged to me, this is Priya, she is not with us anymore, she passed away shortly after we moved to Laguna.

 

Douglas wishes though that more people would notice the beauty of one of Jack’s greatest works ever, in his opinion, “Til We Have Faces” which I have read when I was in college.  It was deep, moving, heavy in a sense, but absolutely beautiful.  He hopes this becomes a properly done motion picture someday.  In my mind I want Rebecca Hall to play Orual.

 

“I saw well why the gods do not speak to us openly, nor let us answer . . . Why should they hear the babble that we think we mean? How can they meet us face to face till we have faces?”  Haunted by the myth of Cupid and Psyche throughout his life, C.S. Lewis wrote this, his last, extraordinary novel, to retell their story through the gaze of Psyche’s sister, Orual. Disfigured and embittered, Orual loves her younger sister to a fault and suffers deeply when she is sent away to Cupid, the God of the Mountain.  Psyche is forbidden to look upon the god’s face, but is persuaded by her sister to do so; she is banished for her betrayal. Orual is left alone to grow in power but never in love, to wonder at the silence of the gods. Only at the end of her life, in visions of her lost beloved sister, will she hear an answer.
I read this and recall crying or becoming lost in thought throughout the day.  It’s quite difficult to describe but it’s a retelling of the love story of Cupid and Psyche and it involves the point of view of Orual, Psyche’s unattractive sister.  I’ve nearly forgotten the main plot of this, I do have to read it again.
When Douglas was asked by Isabella (Kuh Ledesma’s daughter)  if C.S. Lewis ever gave him writing advice as a child, Douglas shared to the audience “Yes, in fact he did, he told me this ‘First, be sure you know exactly what you want to say, and afterwards be sure you have said exactly that.”
C.S. Lewis greatly mourned the death of his beloved wife of 4 years (she had cancer when she met him), according to Douglas “Jack had just met the love of his life, my mother, and it greatly affected him when she had to leave us, which as you know is why he wrote ‘A Grief Observed'” which to this day is one of the greatest written analyses on mourning the death of a loved one.  I must share with you how wonderful it was to listen to Mr. Douglas Gresham, who shared the importance of Jack’s faith in Christ as well as his success as a respected and revered author.  Mary his wife, is such a devoted, kind sweetheart.  When asked a teasing question on what it is like to be married to Douglas she regally said in the most loving sort of tone “It is an honor and a privilege to be married to him” and Douglas took the mic from her after and needed to say back “It is MY honor and privilege to be married to Mary…” Douglas has a deep, almost booming, “god” sort of voice (which he once put to good use in broadcast) which actually, strangely so, reminds me of Liam Neeson’s Aslan, only more refined.  When you close your eyes, you know it’s the voice of a person who loves Christ so deeply and so genuinely that you cannot help but listen for as long as you can.  It isn’t even preachy because you can see it just is what it is.  Here is a talk he gave to a body of students in North America at a Liberty University Convocation in which he shares about the significance of his faith.

 

 

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  • Alexis

    OMG! I’m happy for you, Julia, for meeting Douglas. I grew up with CS Lewis books myself and find your post on meeting him so amazing!

    I love how Mary described her husband as someone whose voice resonates with the love of God. I so want to be able to say that one day about the right person for me! Hahaha! In His time!

  • http://elinessete.blogspot.com/ Gerilen

    wow, super inggit! I love Narnia and CS Lewis! :D
    btw sis, hope you could join my small giveaway http://elinessete.blogspot.com/2012/09/one-year-blog-anniversary-giveaway.html
    thank you!

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