I am a writer of fantasy. If you ask any fantasy writer to list the authors who have most influenced them, the names C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien will be at the top of most of those lists. I am no exception. I was well past childhood when I was introduced to Lewis and The Chronicles of Narnia and, dramatic as it may sound, my life has never been the same. Some years later, I discovered The Lord of the Rings and again was swept away. Magic and mystery–of the deepest sort. Those who have experienced these books will know what I’m speaking of. Those who have not…well, why haven’t you? Get going!
Imagine my delight when I discovered that Lewis and Tolkien were friends! Both scholars in that most lofty of academies–Oxford University–the men met with other like-minded acquaintances in an Oxford pub–the Eagle and Child–to discuss their work. They called their group the Inklings. Wouldn’t you have liked to listen in on THOSE gatherings? I know I would! So, when my daughter, who was teaching in England, invited me to come for a visit, what was first on my list of things to see? Yes, of course I wanted to see London, but even more–I needed to go to Oxford, to visit the place where Narnia and Middle Earth first came to be. It was an amazing journey and I’ll never forget that time.
According to Oxford’s own website “There is evidence of teaching as early as 1096, making it the oldest university in the English-speaking world.” (ox.ac.uk). It’s impossible to feel old at Oxford. Those walls and statues, chapels and libraries have been in existence since medieval days. Maybe that’s why there is such a sense of the medieval in both Narnia and Middle Earth. Lewis and Tolkien walked those cobblestoned roads every day during their long academic tenures in that place.
We finished our time in Oxford by eating at the very place the Inklings met–the Eagle and Child. I was so glad it was still there! I have no recollection of what I ate because I sat in a daze most of the time, wondering if maybe, just maybe, we were sitting at the very table where Aslan and Aragorn, Marshwiggles and Mordor were first discussed. I like to think so. 🙂 If you’re a friend of Narnia or have named pets after characters in LoTR (as I have!), go to Oxford. Spend some time there. You won’t regret it!
(Blog title ‘borrowed’ from Kathryn Lindskoog’s book of the same name discussing the theological underpinnings of Narnia.)