Oxford has inspired some towering figures of literature, with many of the city’s historic landmarks and streets playing a key role in the lives of authors such as Lewis Carroll (Alice in Wonderland), Philip Pullman (His Dark Materials) and J.R.R. Tolkien (The Lord of the Rings).
Opposite the Oxford University Church’s entrance, there is an elaborate wooden door marked in the centre by the face of a wise lion. This is the “Narnia Door”, said to have inspired C.S. Lewis’s wardrobe door that the Pevensie children walked through in “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.” The book has motivated blockbuster movies and indeed ornate stage plays as the video below shows.
Having been a tutor at the nearby Magdalen College, C.S. Lewis would have passed that door regularly. In “The Chronicles of Narnia”, Aslan brings frozen creatures back to life and this was inspired by Magdalen College’s beautiful cloisters, where animals are carved onto these pillars – almost waiting for the lion Aslan to breathe life into them! C.S.Lewis would also have been inspired by his meetings with Lord of the Rings’ J.R.R.Tolkien at the renowned Eagle & Child pub.
From 19-22 September, there is a four-day C.S. Lewis Jubilee Festival commemorating the 50th anniversary of his death. It will feature talks, guided walks, the premiere of a new play and family activities.
“The Chronicles of Narnia” have transcended the fantasy genre to become part of the fabric of classic world literature. For over sixty years, his series has left readers spellbound with adventures and characters that speak to people of all ages. This has resulted in over 100m copies translated into over 40 languages, and more than £1bn box office sales for the movie – his tales will live on for centuries.
Photo by Oddsock (CC BY 2.0)