That Hideous Strength – Preface

That Hideous Strength: A Modern Fairy-Tale for Grown-Ups

Lewis makes a few notes in his Preface to That Hideous Strength that I think are noteworthy. The first is to pick on the fact that the novel is subtitled A Modern Fairy-Tale for Grown-Ups. This subtitle is regrettably left off the cover of my edition though it appears on the title page. The novel begins in a quite mundane manner; “hum-drum” is Lewis’ word. He explains that this is fairy-tale tradition. The fantastic grows out of the mundane. The cottage or the woodcutter may seem fantastical to us, but that is only because we have been conditioned to associate those things with fairy-tales, while the original hearers of the fairy-tale would think a woodcutter a very normal everyday thing.

As That Hideous Strength (which will often be abbreviated THS) begins with a discussion of married life and a description of some college grounds, we will see that the fantastic springs out from that. On that note I would add my own opinion that THS indeed begins very “hum-drum.” The fantastic that follows can scarcely be imagined. So stay the course. Diligence will be rewarded.

Secondly, Lewis explains that the ideas he tries to get across in THS are quite similar to the ideas contained in the Abolition of Man, a three chapter essay that you can read in its entirety online at the time of this writing. I do recommend reading it. It is excellent though I prefer the manner these ideas are addressed in THS to the Abolition of Man. Still, they compliment each other quite well.

Finally Lewis goes on to make a quick attribution to Olaf Stapledon, who I was not familiar with prior to reading this preface. He was a science fiction writer himself as well as a bit of a philosopher – a philosopher that Lewis did not agree with often. Lewis also mentions “Numinor,” misspelling the name of an island from Tolkien’s Middle Earth writings. It is rather nice to see the “inklings” excited about each others’ work. A last note correctly, by my experience anyway, explains that, though THS is the last part of a trilogy, it can be read as a stand-alone novel quite nicely.

Now, Onward!