Chomping with False Teeth
Screwtape’s twenty-eighth letter shares a particular tone and point of view with another well known, evil literary character penned by another of Lewis’ contemporaries. See if this riddle looks familiar. “This thing all things devours: birds, beasts, trees, flowers; gnaws iron, bites steel; grinds hard stones to meal; slays kings, ruins town, and beats high mountain down.” If the guess was Gollum, from J.R.R. Tolkien’s, The Hobbit, that would be correct. It is the last riddle Gollum posed to Bilbo during the riddling contest. Gollum’s victory would ensure he could do what this riddle’s answer does and devour Bilbo.
The answer to the riddle, the thing that can do all these horrible things listed in the riddle, is time. From Screwtape’s point of view, in the case of most human beings, there is never enough time to ensure that their spirits will pass through the infernal gates at the end…
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