The Long Defeat (4) by Sorina Higgins (@Oddest_Inkling)

(4)  The eucatastrophe?
Lewis jumped up, strode to the front of the room, and pounded his huge fist on the lectern.
“We shall not give in!” he bellowed. “Though they set their boots and drive their tanks on our English soil, we shall not give in! Have we not the power of the great stories on our side, the myths and the legends and the fairy tales, the encounters with dragons, the battles with sorcerers, the recurring victory of spring over winter in every land, the dying and rising god who is torn to pieces but comes to life again? These are the stories on which our children were fed from their earliest days, the stories that were in the hearts of our boys when they marched across Europe, the stories that are at the foundation of the wisdom we teach in this place. Surely those tales of unexpected victory and of unlooked-for return should rally our hearts and the hearts of English youth to hope and to resistance?”
The others looked up at him, light returning to their eyes. All the books they knew and loved poured back into their minds: the hopeless battles, the unlikely heroes, the swift turns of fortune at the end of the tale.
“The eucatastrophe,” Tolkien murmured.
The others nodded.
“What do you think we should do, Jack?” Barfield asked.
“We could form a secret society and promulgate these truths in the true fellowship,” Williams suggested.
“No, no, no,” Lewis cut in. “It must be public. Let us use those avenues that have worked before for spreading truth. The schools, the radio, and the press.”
“But is there time?” Barfield wondered. “It takes time to write books, to publish books, to arrange speaking engagements, to record broadcasts.”
“Then we must move swiftly,” Lewis said.
“The world is changing,” Tolkien hummed to himself. “I can feel it in the waters. I can sense it in the air.”
“We shall do it,” Williams said, bowing his head in a gesture that turned his pronoun royal. “We shall gather the stories into propinquity and promulgate them to the far corners of the kingdom.”
“I’ll talk to the BBC,” Lewis said.
“I’ll talk to the OUP,” Williams said.
“I’ll talk to the Chancellor,” Tolkien said.
“I’ll arrange the financing,” Barfield said.
And so it was settled, and they got to work.
Over the next few weeks, while Hitler imprisoned or shot all the members of the British government, blew up Big Ben, and established the ministers of the Third Reich in the Houses of Parliament, the Inklings worked feverishly from their Oxford rooms. Lewis scheduled a series of talks on the BBC about “Forgiveness and Resistance” and scrambled to write his own notes and schedule guest lecturers. The German High Command seized Blenheim Palace, metaphorically throwing out Winston Churchill’s body before it was cold, and twisted that ancient castle into their central headquarters. 
Williams stayed up all night, many nights in a row, writing pamphlets with such titles as “The Image of the Invaded City,” “The Figure of the Führer,” “The Defeated Way of Exchange,” and “The Theology of Surrender.” He passed these along to his colleagues at the Oxford University Press, who worked long hours, printing them nearly before he had finished writing them. Hitler vivisected the United Kingdom and Ireland into six military-economic segments, passing each to one of his trusted administrators, giving them total control over search, seizure, arrests, and “liquidations.” 
Tolkien arranged for a meeting of the combined—remaining—English faculty, then labored over a lecture in which he would blend the historical with the present, the mythological with the actual, agonizing over details of etymology and chronology, discarding them time and time again, starting again, and meandering off on long sidetracks of purely philological interest or topographical precision. All over England, armed civilian resistance arose, farmers and shop workers wielding pitchforks and spanners against assault rifles and machine guns. These were obliterated so fast they didn’t even make it into the news. 
Barfield, with speed and panache, darted back into occupied London, scurrying through the deserted Underground tunnels like a literary mouse, popping aboveground into the offices of lawyers and bank managers, securing his own and his friends’ small collective wealth before the tyrants could seize all assets. Mrs. Tolkien and Mrs. Barfield took in more and more refugees, their homes bursting, and they and their husbands read fairy tales to the wide-eyed flocks every evening. Lewis also read to his house full of frightened refugee children, saying:
“Since they will soon meet cruel enemies, let them at least have heard of brave knights and heroic courage. Let them know stories of wicked kings and beheadings, battles and dungeons, giants and dragons, and let villains be soundly killed at the end of the book.”
Not satisfied with only the radio program, Lewis dashed off a new children’s story and an adult spiritual fantasy, both with allegorical import or at least thematic applicability to the dire situation his nation faced. Williams shuttled those off to the Press, too, and they were rattling merrily along through the printing process, when—
Everything stopped.
The printing presses stopped. The radio broadcasts stopped. The meetings of the Oxford faculty stopped. Hitler had seized control of them all.
Although not one German soldier or administrator had yet set foot in Oxford, the long arm of the Nazi’s political machine reached even there. By means of subtle—and not-so-subtle—threats, the seizure of bank accounts, the liquidation of other financial assets, the placement of personnel, and strategic arrests, the Third Reich had maneuvered itself into positions of power in every cultural institution in the nation. All broadcasts and all books scheduled for printing had to be passed by the Minister of Propaganda. All lectures and tutorials at the great Medieval universities were canceled, pending the colleges’ transformation into military training schools. Lewis’s rooms were boarded up. The flagstone corridors lay silent, awaiting the moment when they would ring to the sound of marching boots.
At Lewis’s house in Headington, a suburb of Oxford, the Inklings gathered in his gloomy, ash-bestrewn living room. This time, there were no drinks at all, not even one cigarette among them. They sat quietly this time. No one made jokes. No one sang songs. No one danced on the table or the floor. They were gathered around the wireless, listening to a broadcast in German, and Tolkien was translating it for them, sporadically, sometimes sinking into morose silence until one of the others roused him again and asked what Hitler was saying. It was all the now-familiar rhetoric about the “Final Solution” ushering in world peace, about the “Master Race” establishing its rightful superiority over all the earth, about “High culture” reigning the earth at last, ushering in a golden age. Tolkien choked on many of the phrases, coughing them out as though their taste was revolting on his tongue. The Führer’s speech ended, accompanied by a patter of rhythmical applause, and the four men shook themselves and looked miserably into one another’s eyes.
Then a voice in English came on the radio, heavily accented but clear.
“As you have just heard from our great Führer,” it said, “each nation will be ushered into the New Order in the way most fitting to its culture. Some have embraced the Führer as their longed-for savior. Others, emerging from centuries of oppression, are misguided and confused. They have attempted resistance. They will be brought in by liberation from their false ideologies and corrupt leaders.
“England is one of these.”
“Of course,” whispered Barfield.
“Now, you can hear behind me,” the voice went on, “the sound of marching feet. Members of the Gestapo are leading onto the platform here outside of Westminster Abbey the last tyrant of a unified Europe: Albert Frederick Arthur George, known until today as King George VI.”
The four men sucked in their breath and sat up straight, staring at the radio.
“He is here with the members of his family: his wife, Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, and their two daughters, eighteen-year-old Elizabeth and fourteen-year-old Margaret. They have been lined up along the stage, and the Führer is speaking to each one of them. I am too far away to hear what he is saying, but it looks as if he is giving them his blessing.”
“Blessing, my arse,” Lewis snorted.
“The Führer has stepped aside now,” said the announcer, “and it looks as if he has asked if the former King of England wants to say anything.”
“Former,” Williams noted.
A little silence fell from the radio, interrupted only by small shuffling and coughing sounds from the great crowd gathered outside Westminster Abbey to watch their King stand before Adolf Hitler.
Then four shots rang out, sharp, shocking, in quick succession.
The crowd broke into screams, shrieks, and howls of agony, and the four men gathered around the radio yelled, too, and leaped out of their chairs.
“Thus ends the life of the last tyrant of our times,” the calm German voice said. “Europe is now one!” 
(to be continued)

The Long Defeat (3) by Sorina Higgins (@Oddest_Inkling)

(3)  A headless Emperor walked
One week later, Prof. Tolkien walked swiftly through the empty street, until he came to the corner of St. Giles and Beaumont Street, next to the silent, shuttered Ashmolean Museum. He was thinking of his son, Christopher, flying at this moment with the RAF. He was thinking of his other children and of the refugees he and Edith had taken into their house. He was thinking of Major Warnie Lewis, Jack’s brother, recalled to active duty at age forty-nine, who had fought in France, was supposed to be evacuated at Dunkirk, but had been taken prisoner and never heard from again. He was praying for the safety of them all. He was remembering the encouraging words of the Mass this morning: “And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet.” And he was thinking of Beowulf—he was lecturing on the ending of that great poem today—and pondering the brave northern warriors who fought on when hope was gone. His quick steps echoed off of the stone floors and walls, beating back against him as he strode on, lecture notes in hand. He passed between the columns of the Taylor Institution, one of the many buildings in the Bodleian Library system, threw open the huge doors, and walked up to the lectern just as the great bells of Tom Tower were striking the hour.
The seats in the hall were empty.
He arranged his notes. Still no students appeared. Hilary term was drawing to a close, and ordinarily his lectures would have been packed at this time, as students crammed for final essays and exams. Tolkien adjusted his black gown, checked a translation note, and waited. No one came.
Slowly, sadly, he began lecturing to the desolate room, as if trying to speak across the miles and through the defeat, past the lines of Nazi troops who were nearing London, to reach his son, in the air over France, to reach Lewis’s brother, presumably in a German POW camp somewhere, to reach Williams’s colleagues at Oxford University Press’s publishing house in the city, to reach all the men and women who were falling now, wheat cut down by the indifferent sickle, lying in the mud of Hastings or the streets of Amen Corner. His voice mumbled on, around the stem of his pipe (which he still kept in his mouth at all times, in spite of the lack of tobacco), weaving together the tragedy of the battle of Maldon with the Norse concept of bitter courage, tying both to the tragedy of his times. His swift mind leaped from point to point, masterful in its control of language, timeless and modern as it faced the facts.
The huge doors opened. Lewis and Williams came in, walked down the central aisle, Lewis heavily, Williams deftly, and sat down in two of the empty chairs. Williams looked up at Tolkien, his eyes red-rimmed and brimming. Lewis buried his face in his hands. Tolkien’s voice wobbled to a stop, and he struggled down from the podium and sat beside his friends.
These cheerful veterans and makers of myth, their keen eyes honed by one war and their hearts steeled by another, their minds sharpened by contact with the conflicts and hopes of many cultures that had gone before, sat in numb silence in the vacant hall.
At last Lewis shook himself and spoke.
“It does not matter whether we are sent to France or kept at home. It does not matter whether we stay here to nurture good philosophy to combat the bad ideas.”
Williams picked up the thread of his thought: “The collective wisdom of Oxford cannot long be protected behind the golden walls of its ancient colleges.”
“What is the latest news?” Tolkien asked, trembling a little.
“London is finished,” Lewis told him. “Panzers are unloading at all of England’s southern ports.”
“The Wehrmacht’s infantry has swarmed up the white cliffs and is marching inland across untended fields,” Williams went on.
There had been little military resistance. An entire generation of British youth had been erased on the killing fields of France. Their fathers and uncles—and even some of their mothers and sisters—were stranded on the Continent, swiping ineffectually at the enemy’s backside, or languishing in POW camps, while the systematic extermination of Europe’s Jewish population went on unchecked. The refugee children, hiding behind Oxford’s walls, were being orphaned day by day.
The door opened again, and Owen Barfield stood there, a slender silhouette against the dreary light of a rainy English afternoon.
“The King has surrendered,” he whispered. “Hitler has landed.”
A silence fell on the group. Lewis gripped Tolkien’s shoulder. Williams took off his spectacles and wiped his eyes, then clutched at his stomach as he was racked by a spasm of pain. Barfield crossed the flagstone floor and folded himself up in a chair beside them. At last Williams looked up, cleared his throat, and spoke strange lines in his Cockney accent:
          “There on the waves a headless Emperor walked
          coped in a foul indecent crimson; octopods
          round him stretched giant tentacles and crawled
          heavily on the slimy surface of the tangled sea,
          goggling with lidless eyes at the coast of the Empire.”
“But in your myth, Williams, the Empire rallies,” said Lewis. “The young pope prays, and the invaders are defeated on Christmas day. Surely in this Easter season—”
His strong voice trailed away.
“And in yours, John Ronald,” Barfield said to Tolkien, “the tyrant will go down into defeat, conquered by the little people at last, will he not?”
“He will. On the Feast of the Annunciation,” Tolkien mumbled. “Which is also the last day of Creation. But that is only one small victory in the whole history of the legendarium. Sauron is the servant of Melkor or Morgoth, and—”
Lewis interrupted him.
“Let’s not go into your whole convoluted history of Middle-earth just now, Tollers. We’ll never get back out to real history, which is looking bleak enough right now without adding the fading of the Elves to it.”
Tolkien nodded.
“But you see,” he said. “I am a Christian. I believe we are fighting the long defeat. I do not look for hope in this world.”
“All the peoples await the Parousia,” Williams muttered, “and even your elves look forward to a victory at the end of all times.”
(to be continued)

The Long Defeat (2) by Sorina Higgins (@Oddest_Inkling)

 (2) Man in the Moon himself came down…
An enormous guffaw exploded from all four mouths, puffing away the smoke and rattling the walls. Four heads were thrown back, hands slapping the table or someone else’s back in merriment, faces red with laughter, feet pounding the floor in delight. The slender dancer leaped up and cut a caper in the middle of the room. Then the tall, thin fellow did him one better by clambering upon the table and declaiming with gusto:

“Hiġe sceal þē heardra, heorte þē cēnre,
mōd sceal þē māre þē ūre mæġen lȳtlað.”

After only two words, the big fellow joined in, adding his booming voice to the other’s rather garbled articulation, and the ancient sounds rolled across the pub:

“Hēr līð ūre ealdor eall forhēawen
gōd on grēote. Ā mæġ gnornian
         se ðe nū fram þisum wīġplegan wendan þenċeð.”

As the chanting went on, the other two joined, a line or so behind, adding modern English antiphonally to the din:

“Thought shall be the harder, heart the keener,
courage the greater, as our might lessens.
Here lies our leader all hewn down,
the valiant man in the dust; may he lament for ever
who thinks now to turn from this war-play.”

The gentleman on the table tripped on an empty pint pot—there had been only a couple of beers shared among them that evening, what with the rations and the shortages—and the others reached up to steady him, roaring with laughter as they offered their hands to help him down from the table.
“No, no!” he protested. “I have a song to sing first!”
They struggled with him for a moment, trying to get him off of the table-top, but he resisted, shook himself free of their hands, and announced:
“The Man in The Moon Came Down Too Soon.”
“The old man had better not send you off to war, Tollers,” the beefy chap bellowed. “You’d only sing songs at the Germans to frighten them away.”
“And then begin analyzing the history of their language,” the lithe little fellow put in. “Didn’t you spent the whole of the first war talking about verbs with a German prisoner?”
“I fought in the battle of the Somme!” the table-top singer protested, but the little man went on:
“And Jack would retell their own myths to them until they all fell asleep with boredom and we could walk right into Berlin over their snoring forms.”
C. S. “Jack” Lewis howled at this, banging the table with his fist. The table shook, and Professor John Ronald Reuel Tolkien wobbled among the dishes. He put out a hand to steady himself, and it landed on the head of the stoop-shouldered man on his right, who grasped it and burst into a fluid stream of quotation:

“A pack of blessings light upon my head,
Happiness courts me in her best array,
But, like a misbehaved and sullen wench,
I pout upon my fortune and thy love.”

Tolkien and Lewis, tears of merriment running down their faces, shouted together:
“Take heed, take heed, for such die miserable!”
And Lewis went on:
“Art thou a man? Thy form cries out thou art. Thy tears are womanish. —But you are a true man, Williams, and regular charmer to the ladies. Maybe the top brass should send you to Germany to seduce all of Jerry’s women. You could do what you liked with them as either a cad or a Don Juan, undermining national morale and making way for an Allied invasion—if you were not a thoroughly good man.”
Tolkien harrumphed, as it he wasn’t quite sure about the “good man” part, but he kept his hand on Charles Williams’s head to steady his precarious balance upon the table. Williams beamed up at him, a beatific smile that glowed upon the little fellowship, transforming his face from simian wizardry to angelic beauty. Dapper little Owen Barfield looked on, tapping his heels in an impatient rhythm on the floor, and said:
“But we need Charles here more than over there. Not for the women, but for the sanity and consciousness of England herself. Your doctrines of love and forgiveness keep madness at bay here in this city of wisdom in our trying times.”
The others nodded soberly.
“I have never heard anything like your lecture on Milton,” Lewis agreed. “It is the first, and probably the last, time that I have ever seen a university doing what it was meant to do: teaching wisdom.”
Williams stood gracefully, catching Tolkien’s hand to steady the professor, who still stood on the tabletop, waiting to sing his song. Williams bowed ceremoniously, one hand on his heart, then kissed his hand to each of them, gracious as an emperor.
“Wisdom shall soon cease in this city and all such ordered civilizations of our times,” he said, “if we are all sent off to wield our useless weapons in aged hands, to die beside our sons and brothers, and for all our learning to be buried with our bones in France.”
A blue haze settled over the friends for a moment—then Tolkien burst out, waving the smoke away from his face with a slender hand:
“Enough of this serious chatter! I have a song to sing!”
He began warbling:

“There is an inn, a merry old inn
beneath an old grey hill,
And there they brew a beer so brown
That the Man in the Moon himself came down
one night to drink his fill.”

There was much more of this song, and much more of their talk, in a tiny pocket of laughter on that Oxford evening before Hitler landed.

(to be continued)

The Long Defeat (1) by SorinaHiggins

It was the spring of 1945, and Hitler was about to plant his boots on English soil. The United States had refused to come into the war, in spite of the unprovoked attack on military personnel and civilians alike at Pearl Harbor. The testing of nuclear weapons at Los Alamos had gone horribly wrong, wiping out the local population and affecting millions of people in the subsequent fallout. Hitler had made plans to invade Russia early in the war, but had changed his mind and strengthened his alliance with Stalin. With the Soviet Union, Japan, and Italy as strong Axis supporters, Germany marched on across Europe: east, west, and north. The morale of the Royal Air Force was broken, its once cocky young pilots dead, imprisoned, wounded, or traumatized, and the Luftwaffe ruled the skies. The English Channel, swept clean of English mines and sealed off by Germans at either end of the Strait of Dover, was open and waiting for the German navy’s easy crossing, further protected by heavy artillery along the coast of occupied France. The Royal Navy, distracted by meaningless skirmishes in the North Sea and the Mediterranean, was scattered and destroyed piecemeal. London was on her knees, bombed into submission, beaten and dying. Churchill, defeated and desolate, committed suicide, and the nation collapsed into impotent mourning.

Oxford had survived the Blitz; the rumor was growing that Hitler coveted it for his British headquarters, and many residents were bracing themselves to accept the possibility that he would set up his center of operations in the ancient university city after the inevitable end of the war. There, in the golden bubble of Oxford, the towers and spires dreamed on, and children were still sent there for safety from the relentless bombing of London and the south coast. But the corridors of the great colleges were nearly empty of echoing footfalls: most of the faculty and nearly all of the students had been massacred in the killing fields of France. As the war dragged on and the Allies lost one battle after another, as Germany was victorious at Monte Cassino, at the Battle of the Bulge, as D-Day failed and the Nazis overran Normandy, a desperate Britain had begun calling up older and older men, younger and younger boys, and finally women.
Oxford fought to keep her irreplaceable Dons, those human receptacles of wisdom and culture. If England’s greatest minds were blown apart on the battlefield, who would rebuild civilization when the warmongers were done destroying? If England won the war but lost her wisest men, how would victory be any different than defeat? And now that defeat was inevitable, the men of letters were more valuable than ever before: they were the last hope of the human spirit, the tiny enclave of all that was good in human history, and they were the only ones who could rebuild all that had been lost. Who would educate that generation of lost, fatherless children, refugees in this quiet golden city? Who would teach them to keep the old ways, when the tyrant had them under his sway? So argued the University’s Chancellor, more and more feebly, as his faculty were killed off one by one, and he heard the tramping boots of England’s enemies drawing near.
Huddled in the back room of a smoke-darkened pub, four men shared one cigarette among them, passing it from hand to hand. The smoky haze hovered over their heads and wrapped around their dark coats, hiding them from a hostile world. The Chancellor’s special authority hovered over them, too, keeping them safe in the ivory tower while their friends, brothers, sons, colleagues, and students fought on the south coast and in the skies above England. One was unfit, anyway, with a nervous disorder that made his hands shake so badly he could not shave himself, but had to go to a barber every morning. The others were beyond the usual age of fighting men: one, a hearty, loud, beefy man of forty-six; the other two tall, slender, ages forty-six and fifty-three, the younger with the delicate build of a dancer—but men a decade older than they were dying in the air and on the beaches and in the streets of London even now.
Were they cowed and quiet, this quartet of veterans from the first war, these men held back in their books while the world fell apart around them? Did they creep and crawl with embarrassment that they were not fighting again while their loved ones were? Did they shudder and shake with fear of the coming invasion?
(to be continued)

Pure White Magic

By April (1962) Jack had recovered sufficiently to be able to return to Cambridge. I drove him there one Monday, and for fun we stopped on the outskirts of the Duke of Bedford's great Woburn estate and entered the woods by a small gate. Almost nervously law-abiding, he was rather unwilling to do this because it was marked "Private," but I assured him that trespassing was no crime in English law, that the trespasser must simply leave when asked to and could only be sued for any damage done. We walked with some hesitation along a narrow path through a wood and suddenly found ourselves in a glade surrounded by a number of miniature deer. Jack was entranced. "You know, while I was writing the Narnia books, I never imagined anything as lovely as this," he said. We sat on a fallen tree trunk, and Jack gazed radiantly at the elegant little animals and adored the God who had created them. "Pure white magic," he said when we had returned to the car.

On another occasion, I drove him back from Cambridge, again via Woburn. We went in through the same private gate, but there were no deer this time. "Well," said Jack, "as I found once before, you can't expect the same miracle twice."

From Jack: A Life of C.S. Lewis, by George Sayer (1988)

Narnian Suite (2)

Shortly after the last apple had been eaten, Susan went out to the well to get another drink. When she came back she was carrying something in her hand."Look," she said in a rather choking kind of voice. "I found it by the well." She handed it to Peter and sat down. The others thought she looked and sounded as if she might be going to cry. Edmund and Lucy eagerly bent forward to see what was in Peter's hand -- a little, bright thing that gleamed in the firelight.

"Well, I'm--I'm jiggered," said Peter, and his voice also sounded queer. Then he handed it to the others. All now saw what it was -- a little chess-knight, ordinary in size but extraordinarily heavy because it was made of pure gold; and the eyes in the horse's head were two tiny rubies--or rather one was, for the other had been knocked out.

"Why!" said Lucy, "it's exactly like one of the golden chessmen we used to play with when we were Kings and Queens at Cair Paravel.""Cheer up, Su," said Peter to his other sister."I can't help it, said Susan. "It brought back--oh, such lovely times. And I remembered playing chess with fauns and good giants, and the mer-people singing in the sea, and my beautiful horse -- and -- and --"

C.S. Lewis, Prince Caspian (1951)

March for Drum, Trumpet, and Twenty-one Giants

With stumping stride in pomp and pride
We come to thump and floor ye;
We’ll bump your lumpish heads to-day
And tramp your ramparts into clay,
And as we stamp and romp and play
Our trump’ll blow before us –
(crescendo) Oh Tramp it, tramp it, tramp it, trumpet, trumpet blow before us!

We’ll grind and break and bind and take
And plunder ye and pound ye!
With trundled rocks and bludgeon blow,
You dunderheads, we’ll dint ye so
You’ll blunder and run blind, as though
By thunder stunned, around us –
By thunder, thunder, thunder, thunder stunned around us!

Ho! Tremble town and tumble down
And crumble shield and sabre!
Your kings will mumble and look pale,
Your horses stumble or turn tail,
Your skimble-scamble counsels fail,
So rumble drum belaboured –
(Diminuendo) Oh rumble, rumble, rumble, rumble, rumble drum belaboured!

C.S. Lewis (Poems)

Narnian Suite (1)

March for Strings, Kettledrums, and Sixty-three Dwarfs

With plucking pizzicato and the prattle of the kettledrum
We’re trotting into battle mid a clatter of accoutrement;
Our beards are big as periwigs and trickle with opopanax,
And trinketry and treasure twinkle out on every part of us –
          (Scrape! Tap! The fiddle and the kettledrum).

The chuckle-headed humans think we’re only petty puppetry
And all our battle-tackle nothing more than pretty bric-a–brac;
But a little shrub has prickles, and they’ll soon be in a pickle if
A scud of dwarfish archery has crippled all their cavalry –
          (Whizz! Twang! The quarrel and the javelin).

And when the tussle thickens we can writhe and wriggle under it;
Then dagger-point’ll tickle ‘em, and grab and grip’ll grapple ‘em,
And trap and trick’ll trouble ‘em and tackle ‘em and topple ‘em
Till they’re huddled, all be-diddled, in the middle of our caperings –
          (Dodge! Jump! The wriggle and the summersault).

When we’ve scattered ‘em and peppered ‘em with pebbles from our catapults
We’ll turn again in triumph and by crannies and by crevices
Go back to where the capitol and cradle of our people is,
Our forges and our furnaces, the caverns of the earth –
          (Gold! Fire! The anvil and the smithying).

C.S. Lewis 
Poems (Bles, 1964)

This may be sung to the Major-General's song from HMS Pinafore by WS Gilbert and Sir Arthur Sullivan!

Narnian Creation

At first they hear a mighty voice - the Word - that is raised in song, an immortal song that creates the first swirling movement over the face of the primal waters. The single voice of God, or the Creative Word, is then joined by the harmonious singing of innumerable voices, as all the stars of heaven blaze forth. They then see the land of Narnia slowly begin to form in the starlight, as a light fresh wind begins to stir, the movement of the life-giving Holy Spirit. 

Then the first dawn of the newly created world appears, as its Sun rises above the horizon to reveal the contours of the hills and valleys. It is then they see the great Lion, later to be known as Aslan, in the leonine form which is to be the image of God that is revealed to the people and creatures of Narnia. Following upon these primal acts the song of creation continues, accompanied by the angelic starry voices, and grass and trees appear, and all manner of vegetable life, followed by the different species of animals. And then, in response to a final burst of creative fire from the mind and voice of the Lion, the creatures of the inner side of nature appear - the gods and goddesses of the woods, the elemental and faery creatures, fauns, satyrs, dwarfs, and animals that have the gift of speech.

There is thus a place in Lewis's Christian vision not only for the angels of the stars but also for the nature spirits of the pagan world. In this he demonstrates a neo-Platonic breadth of vision, the loss of which is perhaps one of the major handicaps of the modern Church. A narrowness of vision even more deadly is demonstrated, each in their way, by Uncle Andrew and Queen Jadis. Jadis, who is in large part responsible for the destruction of her own world, finds herself in considerable discomfort in the presence of the Creative Word. Her first reaction is to flee from Aslan, and then to attack him, in desperation. It is her throwing an iron bar at him, snapped from a London lamp-post, that causes the lone lamp-post to grow in the wastes of outer Narnia. 

The creative ambience around Aslan, and the Tree of Life, is such that the fragment of iron acts like a seed or cutting of the original from whence it came. By a wondrous predestination, which has all the hallmarks of a higher magic, it forms an ever burning light, that subsequently guides Lucy and the children when their redemptive intervention is later required against the powers of Jadis in a later Narnian epoch.

Gareth Knight
The Magical World of the Inklings
Element Books (1990)

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 

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."