I’m back from my academic trip to England, and in addition to having a great conference, I had a fantastic time taking in some more literary sights. I was especially excited to spend some time focusing on C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien – wandering the halls of Oxford where they would have walked and taught, eating at the Eagle and Child pub where they met every Tuesday with the other Inklings to discuss their writing, and visiting the cemeteries where they were laid to rest. In case you haven’t had the chance to visit, here are some glimpses into the sights one can see in Oxford:
“The undersigned, having just partaken of your ham, have drunk your health.” At the Eagle and Child Pub; following is a list of signatures with full university affiliations for the Inklings, including C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien.
Magdalen College, one of Oxford’s most beautiful colleges, was where C.S. Lewis taught for many years. Its quiet stone halls and stunning manicured gardens make quite the lovely setting for taking long walks and discussing literature.
The “Narnia” stained glass window at Holy Trinity Church in Oxford, where C.S. Lewis is buried, shows a number of characters from his beloved fantasy series. At the upper left, Aslan as the sun looks down over the land of Narnia that He rules. Jill sits riding an owl in homage to the Silver Chair, and the Dawn Treader from the book of that name can be seen sailing below. In the right pane, Polly and Digory ride the first Pegasus as told in The Magician’s Nephew, Susan’s horn from The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (and also Prince Caspian) hangs from a tree on the right, the castle of Cair Paravel where the kings and queens of Narnia rule takes up the center, and Jewel the unicorn from The Last Battle can be seen in the lower right.
The final resting place of Clive Staples Lewis, who preferred to go by “Jack.”
J.R.R. Tolkien and his wife are buried together in Wolvercote Cemetery, also in Oxford. The names “Luthien” and “Beren” are engraved on their headstone – in Tolkien’s Middle Earth, Luthien was a beautiful elvish noblewoman and Beren the mortal man who won her heart.
As you can see, people tend to leave things on Tolkien’s grave – the blue card in the upper left shows the white tree of Gondor, the letter under the rose bush is written in Elvish, and there are a number of facsimiles of the One Ring, in addition to a number of coins that people have left there. (It seems odd to me that people would leave the One Ring on Tolkien’s grave – the whole point of the series was that it was Evil and had to be destroyed, and that it corrupted any who possessed it. Ah well.)
It was lovely to visit the homeland of such renowned writers, but I am glad to be back in the US. Hopefully I’ll be able to get some of my own writing done now that my travels for the summer are over!