A childhood friend of Lewis was Arthur Greeves. He lived across the street from him in Belfast. Until Lewis’s death in 1963, he and Greeves remained close friends. Many of Lewis’s collected letters are to Greeves, who was an early influence on Lewis in relation to Christianity. In a letter dated February 4, 1933, two years after his conversion, Lewis writes to Greeves about Tolkien:
Since term began I have had a delightful time reading a children’s story which Tolkien has just written [The Hobbit]. I have told of him before: the one man absolutely fitted, if fate had allowed, to be a third in our friendship in the old days, for he also grew up on W. Morris and George MacDonald.
Reading his fairy tale has been uncanny – it is so exactly like what we would both have longed to write (or read) in 1916: so that one feels he is not making it up but merely describing the same world into which all three of us have the entry. Whether it is really good (I think it is until the end) is of course another question: still more, whether it will succeed with modern children. (Collected Letters, Vol. II, HarperOne)
The Hobbit wasn’t published until September 1937. The group known as the Inklings was an outgrowth of meetings that Tolkien began to have with Lewis every week in 1929. It was here that Tolkien read aloud his tales from Middle Earth that would become The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.
More about that in an upcoming post.