Literary Dispatches from London - The "Narnia door" and C.S. Lewis
On a day trip to Oxford, it is hard to escape its place in history and influence on the many people who studied and taught there. One of Oxford’s former students and professors was none other than C.S. Lewis, author of the Chronicles of Narnia. He was a student at Oxford beginning in 1917, and he graduated after serving in the military during World War I. Later, he taught and Magdalen College at Oxford University.
One of the coolest moments of our walking tour through the Oxford campus was standing in a narrow road that is called St. Mary’s Passage. Although there is much mystery about where and how C.S. Lewis got the idea for the Chronicles of Narnia, this story seems plausible and, if nothing else, it is fun.
Picture one evening, C.S. Lewis is walking down High Street after spending several hours at a local pub. It’s late, dark. Snow is coming down hard. He decides to cut through St. Mary’s Passage to get home. In the distance is the iconic, domed library, the Radcliffe Camera. To his right, University Church and to his left Brasnose College.
Snow continues to fall, visibility becomes more difficult. He pauses to catch his breath. C.S. Lewis simply wants to make it home. That is when----while standing in the passage--- the imagery and elements for the Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe all come together.
Ahead, there is a lamp post. As we know, the lamp post is the marker leading into Narnia from our world as well as the beacon leading home. Along the wall leading to Brasnose College, there is a thick wooden door. One that could easily be the door of an old wardrobe, and on that door is an intricately carved lion, which just feels like Aslan. On side of the door frame there are the fauns, part human and part goat playing a flute. These were the servants of Aslan in the book. The faun, Mr. Tumnus, was the first creature that Lucy encounters in Narnia.
Is this story true? Who knows. There are many lions and lamp posts in and around Oxford, but this is the only place where all those elements come together that I am aware of. When C.S. Lewis was asked about the Narnia door, our guide stated that C.S. Lewis didn’t deny it. Therefore, that is good enough for me.
As stated above, C.S. Lewis was a professor at Magdalen College at Oxford University for 29 years. While teaching he wrote the Chronicles of Narnia, which has always been an important book in my life. Although his fellow professor and friend, J.R.R. Tolkein thought the book was rubbish, I liked it for all the reasons that Tolkein did not. C.S. Lewis painted the story with broad strokes. He did not create new languages or go on for pages about the lineage of Aslan. This tediousness is where I think Tolkein, George R. R Martin, and many other science fiction writers go off the rails, but perhaps that is a rant for another blog post.
Here, I was standing in this passage surrounded by history and myth and it was one of the most memorable moments of my trip.
JD Trafford is the award winning author of six novels, including “Little Boy Lost” which has sold over 100,000 copies worldwide. His latest best-selling legal thriller “Without Precedent” is available right now. You can learn more about or purchase J.D. Trafford’s books athttps://www.jdtrafford.com/the-books