Lewis on elves in medieval thought

For St. Thomas, according to Chesterton, the question of angels was, in part, the question of whether there could be creatures “between” men and God. As Peter Kreeft has observed, the question for Tolkien is the related one of, “Could there be creatures between men and angels, such as Elves?” (The Philosophy of Tolkien 78). As Kreeft also points out, Tolkien’s question was not original to him but was also of medieval origin. Kreeft cites a passage from The Discarded Image by Tolkien’s friend C.S. Lewis in which Lewis makes much the same point about the intermediary and cosmological-aesthetic function served by Elves (the Longaevi or “longlivers”) in medieval literature, as Chesterton and others have made on behalf of St. Thomas’s angels. As Lewis writes of the medieval conception of the Elves: “Herein lies their imaginative value. They soften the classic severity of the huge design…” (Lewis, The Discarded Image, 122). Kreeft goes further to suggest that “[t]he same philosophical arguments for the existence of angels” that Lewis makes in his treatise on Miracles “could also be used as probable arguments for the possible existence of Elves or other species between the human and the angelic” (Kreeft 80).

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