There is an emanation from the heart

which cannot be described,

but is immediately felt and puts

the stranger at his ease.

~Washington Irving


Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life.
It turns what we have into enough...

.........and more.

It turns denial into acceptance,
chaos to order, confusion to clarity.

It can turn a meal into a feast,

a house into a home,

a stranger into a friend.

~Melody Beattie


Don't be satisfied with stories,

how things have gone with others.

Unfold your own myth.
~Rumi


May my life be like a great

hospitable tree, and may

weary wanderers find in

me a rest.

~John Henry Jowett


Friday, 26 February 2016

St. Mary's Passage


"This is the land of Narnia, where we are now; 
all that lies between the lamp-post and the great 
castle of Cair Paravel on the eastern sea."
~Mr. Tumnus, 'The Lion, The Witch
and The Wardrobe'

"In about ten minutes she reached
it and found it was a lamp-post."
~
'The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe'
Chapter One
If you happen to walk by almost any Oxford tour guide as you walk down St. Mary's Passage, just off the High Street, chances are you'll hear them repeat the Oxford mythology of the faun, the lamp-post and the door. Many people claim that the lamp-post, the fauns which flank a doorway leading into Brasenose College, as well as the door itself, were C.S. Lewis' visual inspiration for Mr. Tumnus, the Narnia lamp-post, and Aslan.

"Allow me to introduce myself.
My name is Tumnus."

"And so Lucy found herself walking
through the wood arm in arm with
this strange creature as if they had
known one another all their lives."

St. Mary's Passage links the
High Street to Radcliffe Square.

Lewis lived in St. Mary's Passage for a time and preached "The Weight of Glory" at St. Mary's church next to the passage--so the myth could be true.....in part.....perhaps.....but I'm not fully convinced.

This is the door that Oxford mythology claims is the inspiration for Aslan.  The carving seems to more closely resemble the mythological Green Man, a symbol of rebirth commonly found as carvings in ecclesiastical buildings.



If there's any door that inspired Aslan, it's more likely this door handle from the rectory at St. Mark's Church, Belfast, where C.S. Lewis' grandfather was a minister.

The ornate door handle at the rectory
of St. Mark's Church, Belfast.

As far as the lamp-post in St. Mary's Passage, it's just one of hundreds of Narnian lights scattered throughout the streets of Oxford and an everyday sight for Lewis. An Oxford lamp-post would have been part of his daily landscape and any one of them could have been an influence for the metaphor of the light that guided Lucy, her brothers, and her sister in and out of Narnia.

Another Narnian lamp-post, Merton Street.



"I am a product of long corridors, empty
sunlit rooms, upstair indoor silences, attics
explored in solitude, distant noises of gurgling
cisterns and pipes and the noise of wind
under the tiles. Also of endless books."
~C.S. Lewis

As a child, C.S. Lewis and his brother Warnie created an entire world made up of animals called Boxen, so I believe Tumnus and the White Witch, Cair Paravel and the lamp-post, as well as Narnia itself, sprang out of a profoundly imaginative mind. From someone who had read, studied and devoured myths, stories, and tales from early childhood--long before Lewis even arrived in Oxford. Symbols of mythology are everywhere in this ancient city but even so, whether or not St. Mary's Passage was inspiration for Lewis is a myth or fact, it remains a little corner of Narnia right in the heart of Oxford. 


"Most of us, I suppose, have a secret country
but for most of us it is only an imaginary
country. Edmund and Lucy were luckier
than other people in that respect.” 
~C.S. Lewis, 
'The Voyage of the Dawn Treader'

St. Mary's Passage leads from the High Street
into the Radcliffe Square and the Camera.

2 comments:

  1. thank you, i had heard that and had not quite believed it also. Please can you tell me what is behind the door?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi -- Thanks for stopping by and that's a great question. Behind that beautiful door are rooms belonging to Brasenose College--used for offices, tutorials, meeting rooms. All the best, Carrie

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