Narnia and Narni

You may be surprised to know that C. S. Lewis took the name of 'Narnia' from an ancient Roman town in the Italian province of Umbria. An incident in the Punic Wars took place there.

The Italian city on the site today is called 'Narni'. Narni now has a web page at http://www.bellaumbria.net/Narni/

In December 1996, WALTER HOOPER wrote;

"It will perhaps surprise you to hear that I spent a day (in Narni/Narnia) in October (1996). In fact, this was my second trip, as my godson and I were there first five years ago. C. S. Lewis came across the name 'Narnia' in a classical atlas he used as a boy, and continued to use it all his life. I have it now, and it's interesting to see that he underscored the name when he first saw it back in about 1914. In Italian Narnia is called 'Narni', and it's under that name that you will find it on modern maps.

It was already a very ancient town when the Romans conquered it in about 299 BC. In a little history of the place, it is stated that 'Although Neolithic people lived in this region, the first historical document, mentioning the town, is dated 600 BC, when Nequinum and its inhabitants are mentioned. In 299 BC, Narni was a Roman colony under the name of Narnia, a name that comes from the Nar river, which today is called the Nera.'

For me one of the most surprising things about Narnia is that a very popular local saint is called 'Blessed Lucy of Narnia.' She was a Dominican nun of the 16th century, but whether Lewis had ever heard of her I don't know. My godson, to whom the Lewis COMPANION is dedicated, and I first went there in October 1991. We knew about Blessed Lucy of Narnia, but we didn't know whether she was still remembered by the inhabitants of Narnia. To our delight, she is buried in a beautiful chapel attached to the 12th century cathedral of Narnia, and is very popular in that area…

But - oh! - what a beautiful place Narnia is. It's only about 50 miles north-east of Rome, and very easy to get to by train, or car. So far it remains unvisited by tourists, and so I've never encountered crowds there on my two visits."

Barfield on Lewis... in Verse

A year after Lewis' death, Owen Barfield
memorialised his friend in the following:

You came to him: when will you come to me?
He knows what matters from what matters not.
I hurry to and fro and seem to be.
New tasks, new faces . . . (tiny sir, so hot?
As though there were a future for success?
He knows what matters from what matters not).
I catch sight of your unaverted face
Between two eager places . . . thus the day
Is punctuated by the silences
With which you answer every time I say:--
You came to him; when will you come to me?
O time! O night! O sun's recurring ray!
I shall forget again, as I'd forgot,
Before I crossed the Campus yesterday:--
He knows what matters now, what matters not.

The fall of Gil-galad

(Sung by Sam to the company on Weathertop before the attack of the Nazg├╝l)

Gil-galad was an Elven-king.
Of him the harpers sadly sing:
the last whose realm was fair and free
between the Mountains and the Sea.

His sword was long, his lance was keen,
his shining helm afar was seen;
the countless stars of heaven's field
were mirrored in his silver shield.

But long ago he rode away,
and where he dwelleth none can say;
for into darkness fell his star
in Mordor where the shadows are.

"That's all I know," stammered Sam, blushing.
"I learned it from Mr. Bilbo when I was a lad."

J.R.R. Tolkien – Fellowship of the Ring

T.S. Elliot on Charles Williams

"For him there was no frontier between the material and the spiritual world. Had I ever to spend a night in a haunted house, I should have felt secure with Williams in my company; he was somehow protected from evil, and was himself a protection... To him the supernatural was natural, and the natural was also supernatural... Williams' understanding of Evil was profound... He is concerned, not with the Evil of conventional morality and the ordinary manifestations by which we recognize it, but with the essence of Evil; it is therefore Evil which has no power to attract us, for we see it as the repulsive thing it is, and as the despair of the damned from which we recoil."


T.S. Eliot's introduction to All Hallow's Eve (extract)

Renovating the Kilns

Long-time neighbors Pat and Mary Thompson recall C.S. Lewis fondly. According to Pat, “Lewis was a very large, energetic man with a florid face rather like a farmer's. He had what we call a 'full habit of body.' His speech was always very formal — an almost 18th-century style of diction. But behind that large body and red face, friendliness oozed out.”

Mary described the Lewis household as “shipwrecked... He had animals — so there were dogs' and cats' hair. Books were everywhere. Deep sofas and chairs and tumbled-down furniture. And cobwebs were certainly accepted.”

A close friend of C.S. Lewis, Jean Wakeman, gave us his powder-blue bedroom suite. “It's kind of garish,” she was told.

“Typical of Jack,” Jean replied; “He bought it from a junk dealer about 1920.”

Jean also donated a wardrobe, a sofa, and a chair Lewis had owned. She'd also kept the walking sticks owned by Lewis and his wife Joy during their last days together, suspecting that one day they would be valuable.

“These items are a gift to The Kilns,” Jean said. “I want them to remain here as long as the house is used to preserve the memory of Jack and Joy and their work.”

Relying on Jean's memory, everything was arranged so that it appeared Lewis still lived there. If you squinted, you could almost imagine Jack bursting in, face flushed and pipe blazing after a bracing trudge on Shotover Hill with his dog, Mr. Papworth.

The House Where Jack Wrote (Today’s Christian) - Michael Apichella (1998)

P.S. Jean was left £1,000 in Warnie’s will, and was recently heard to say, “I was there for Joy”. But would say no more.

P.P.S. Since this was written the Kilns has degenerated rather. All of the original furniture has now been removed (sensibly IMHO), but the house is in real need of a good decorator!

Bath Song

Sing hey! for the bath at close of day
That washes the weary mud away!
A loon is he that will not sing:
O! Water Hot is a noble thing!

O! Sweet is the sound of falling rain.
and the brook that leaps from hill to plain;
but better than rain or rippling streams
is Water Hot that smokes and steams.

O! Water cold we may pour at need
down a thirsty throat and be glad indeed;
but better is Beer, if drink we lack,
and Water Hot poured down the back.

O! Water is fair that leaps on high
in a fountain white beneath the sky;
but never did fountain sound so sweet
as splashing Hot Water with my feet!

J.R.R. Tolkien