[J.R.R. Tolkien’s] roots were buried deep in early literature, and the major names in twentieth-century writing meant little or nothing to him He read very little modern fiction, and took no serious notice of it.
Lewis read much more wiedely than Tolkien among modern writers [T.S. Eliot, D.H. Lawrence, W.H. Auden, James Joyce, E.M. Forster, and on and on…]
-Humphrey Carpenter, The Inklings, p.158
Tolkien knew what he liked and he studied it to the max. Lewis explored everything.
It’s the classic specialist versus jack (and incidentally “Jack” in this case!) situation.
It’s the fox and the hedgehog yet again.
C.S. Lewis became known initially for his Romantic scholarship and literary criticism. Then he became famous throughout the Christian world for his theology writings. Then he turned around and became one of the greatest author’s of children’s fiction.
It’s easy to see that why some of his Oxford colleges resented him. It’s the same reason people were pissed of at Leonard Bernstien for being a master pianist, AND a master composer, AND a master orchestra conductor.
Tolkien, on the other hand, was a hedgehog. He did one thing really well and paid little attention to any other discipline. He knew old English and norse languages inside and out. He labored since his teen years on his great mythology of Middle Earth. The Lord of the Rings was his masterpiece, 12 years in the making. Lewis wrote three of his Narnia books in one year.
I think though, that after 60 years, it is clear that Tolkien’s legacy is greater. That’s what you get for being the hedgehog.