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Walter Hooper

at Narni city

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Walter Hooper was at Narni

May 22 and  23  2009

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Walter Hoopper take a Conference at Narni's city Museum

C.S.Lewis and Narnia


Walter Hooper

Dear people of Narnia, even if I lived to be a much older man than I am, it is unlikely that I will ever stand in a place of such antiquity and romance as Narnia. Whether you call it Narni or Narnia the name of your village is one of the most famous in the world.

How did this happen? The main reason of course that you have survived a very long time and have produced many important people. St Francis of Assisi performed miracles in this beautiful place, and it is the birthplace of Blessed Lucy of Narnia and other saints.

And of course in recent years C.S.Lewis added to your glory. Although C.S.Lewis was a student of the Classics all his life, I think he first read the first century Roman historian Tacitus when he was a student of his father’s old headmaster, W.T.Kirkpatrick, beginning in 1914. It was almost certainly then that Lewis acquired a copy of the work all students of the Classics needed for their studies – Murray’s Small Classical Atlas (1904). Lewis loved maps, and he followed the armies of Tacitus and other Roman leaders through the Roman World, it led him to look hard at a map of Italy. And there he saw a name he instantly fell in love with – Narnia. I will probably give the Atlas to the Bodleian Library. But, as you may know, I sent my friend Giuseppe Fortunati a copy of this map, and you will see that Lewis underscored the name of your town it with his pen. That name was to remain in his mind, growing, for many years.

And so it came about that when, in the winter of 1949, that Lewis began seeing in his imagination some of the pictures that led to the writing of the Narnian stories. It began with a faun with an umbrella in a snowy wood, but even then nothing might have come of their pictures until his dreams were invaded by a huge, golden lion – Aslan – and almost at once Narnia was born! But I should say Narnia was re-born, for Lewis had been admiring this favoured spot for half his life. And out of this came the seven Chronicles of Narnia, perhaps the most loved stories in the world. I will not call them ‘children’s stories’ because they are loved by people of all ages – most certainly me!

I came originally from the United States and I began corresponding with C.S.Lewis in 1954, when I was in the Army. Soon we were exchanging letters, and in 1963 Lewis invited me to Oxford to meet him. It was all very easy merely thinking of meeting that great man, but when I arrived at the door of his house and had rung the bell – I wished I was anywhere except Oxford! It is one thing to have heroes – it is another thing to meet them! But Lewis quickly put me at my ease, and the friendship advanced more quickly than I expect either of us imagined it would. I was teaching English literature in an American university, and I think I’d read almost every word Lewis had ever published.

That first meeting in June 1963 was beyond anything I had hoped for. But there was one drawback. I liked so much than I imagined was possible, I was heartbroken, as that first meeting ended, to think – ‘this was it – this is the only time I will see this marvellous man.’ But when I was thanking him for giving me his time he said: ‘You’re not getting away! You’re coming to the Inkling meeting on Monday!’ Then came the day when something happened that was as momentous as my first visit to Narnia – Lewis asked if I would stay in Oxford as his private secretary. I did indeed stay there as his secretary and we had many good times together. Then, in the autumn of that year I had to return to the United States to resign from my university post. But Lewis and I were meanwhile busy planning my return to Oxford in January 1964. Then out of the blue – and most tragically – Lewis and the President of the United States, John F. Kennedy, died on the same day – 22 November 1963.

What was I to do? Friends of Lewis I had met in Oxford urged me to return for they felt there was a job for me to do there. And so I went back to Oxford in January 1964, and almost as soon as I met Lewis’s brother, W.H.Lewis, he urged me to edit his brother’s writings.

Whoever had such an unexpected life as I have? A cup of tea with C.S.Lewis led to becoming his secretary. But what work Lewis laid upon me! – I’ve edited so many of Lewis’s literary remains that his friend J.R.R.Tolkien said – when I gave him one of Lewis’s books I brought out – "You know, Jack Lewis is the only friend I’ve had who has published more after his death than before.’

But while most of my work is done in the Bodleian Library, and out of the sight of everyone except my Cat, it has simply astounded me how much Lewis’s reputation has risen in the forty-six years since he died. Do I dare mention it? I am perhaps the only man in the world who won an argument with C.S.Lewis. Not many can make that claim. Lewis was worried about what his brother would live on when he - C.S.Lewis - died, and this because he was sure that upon his own death his books would stop selling. ‘No!’ I exclaimed. ‘What’d you mean, "no?"’ he said. ‘This happens,’ he said, ‘to nearly all authors. After they die their books sell for a while, and then trail off to nothing.’ ‘But not yours!’ I said. ‘Why not?’ he asked. ‘Because they are too good - and people are not that stupid.’ The fact that I’m standing here is part of the proof that I won that argument. Lewis was a very modest man, and always undervalued his writing.

Up until this visit to Narnia, the most wonderful accolade to come my way was an audience with Pope John Paul II on 14 November 1984. The Pope had been a fan of Lewis’s books, especially The Four Loves, for years, and he wanted me to tell him what Lewis was like. Of course I hoped he would tell me what he thought of Lewis and at the end of the audience he made one of the most penetrating statements I’ve ever heard about Lewis. ‘C.S.Lewis,’ he said, ‘knew what his apostolate was…’ - there was a long pause – ‘and he did it!’ And there you have, summed up, what makes C.S.Lewis – well, C.S.Lewis.

But now comes one of the most intriguing pieces of Lewis scholarship. The thing which has occupied my mind for almost twenty years is: Did Lewis know about your Blessed Lucy of Narnia? And did he base the main character in his Narnian stories – Lucy Pevensie - on Blessed Lucy of Narnia? We may never know, but I think – I can’t be sure – that the answer to both questions in Yes. First of all, while The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is dedicated to his goddaughter, Lucy Barfield, he only met her once as a baby, and her father was sure the main character in that first Chronicle was not named after his daughter.

Second, Lewis was a great scholar – especially of the 16th century – and he is more likely than most people today to know about Narnia and its saints than most people. I find it odd that I would know something about the world of Italy in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries – and he would not? Lewis did not parade his knowledge, and I found out about his choosing of Narnia because I asked him. I didn’t know enough to ask him about Blessed Lucy of Narnia. So what are we left with?

I first visited Narnia in the autumn of 1991. It is something I will never forget. The reason a friend and I visited Narnia was because a Dominican priest told me about Blessed Lucy of Narnia, and I was determined to venerate her – assuming there was anything to venerate. We have few relics in English churches because of the Reformation, and those relics we venerate are so small – almost invisible to the naked eye – that you have to take the priest’s word for it that they really are there. On 18 October 1991 my friend and I toiled up that steep incline that leads to the ancient Narnia, hoping the relic of Blessed Lucy of Narnia might be bigger than the nearly invisible relics we have in England. Once we reached the top we had no idea where to go. Fortunately we encountered two ladies, an elderly woman and her daughter. It took some time to explain who we wanted to see – for not knowing Italian all I could say was ‘Blessed Lucy’. ‘Ah!’ she said, ‘Blessed Lucia! Blessed Lucia!’ Then, leaving her mother, she led us to the Duomo, and then to a chapel on the right. She pointed and said ‘Ecco!’ And there, yards away, was not a speck – but the whole of Blessed Lucy of Narnia. We, quite rightly, fell on our knees.

After years of study it seems to me that Lewis’s character, Lucy, bears such a very strong resemblance to your saint – the inner light of Faith, the extraordinary perseverance – I don’t think the naming of his finest character Lucy can be other than intentional. I think Blessed Lucy of Narnia has furnished the world with one of the most loved, and spiritually mature characters in English fiction. And if I’m wrong? Well, let me put it this way. My guess is that when we get to Heaven we will be met by C.S.Lewis in the company of Blessed Lucy of Narnia. What will they say to us? Will they reveal whether Lewis based his Lucy on your saint? I think Blessed Lucy of Narnia and C.S.Lewis will laugh. Then Blessed Lucy will say, ‘We will tell you about that later. Other more important things come first. Jack Lewis are here to conduct you into the presence of our Host. After that we can talk about all the things on your mind. But not just yet.’

Finally, I am deeply honoured by the Church in Narnia for placing in my care and that of my Godson, Gregory Lippiatt, a Relic of Blessed Lucy of Narnia to take to the Oxford Oratory. And thanks to all of you for welcoming us to the most famous town in the world.



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Walter Hooper at Narnia city  :

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Giuseppe Fortunati with Don Francesco De Santis    and Walter Hooper

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Walter Hooper recived little present from " Narni's Municipality "


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Little Italian Narnia's Fans

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Journalist are very interested to this conference








































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Thanks to  Walter Hooper for come to  Narnia

Walter Hooper at Narni






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ideazione e progettazione Giuseppe Fortunati
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