Oxford: The inspiration behind world acclaimed classics

Oxford has inspired authors to write about epic journeys filled with perils, triumphs, and long-lasting lessons.

by Julia Migné

Oxford has inspired many authors. © Julia Migné

Writers are said to be a jealous, insecure bunch as one must have the best of imaginations to consider themselves part of an elite group of wordsmiths. But writers are also said to be the courageous ones; turning their deepest sorrows or immeasurable victories into words that people can relate to.

The world is filled with these talented creatives, but Oxford, England is said to have produced a substantial amount of them. May this literary journey in Oxford move you to imagine beyond the familiar and to create worlds that could better the world we know now.

1) Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling

Bodleian Library, Oxford. © Julia Migné

The Divinity School at the Bodleian Library was used in the movies as Hogwarts’ Infirmary. When looking up, visitors can notice that letters are sculpted in the ceiling of this impressive room. These letters are the initials of all benefactors who allowed the construction of the building thanks to their generous donations.

Initials of wealthy donators. © Julia Migné

While at the Bodleian Library, take a minute in the main entrance and have a look at the statue in front of the building. For all you Potterheads, you’ll see how he is surely looking a lot like Nicholas de Mimsy-Porpington also known as Nearly Headless Nick.

© Julia Migné

New College Cloisters was used for one of the emblematic scenes in Harry Potter & the Goblet of Fire. Remember when Moody turns Malfoy into a ferret? Well, that was in that exact cloisters!

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New College Cloisters © Julia Migné

One of the most iconic Hogwarts locations of all is the Great Hall. Even though a replica was created to film in the studio, the original location is in Oxford. Just a look at the Christ Church College dining hall is enough to see the similitudes and be transported to the incredible School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

2. Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

Lewis Carroll also found his inspiration in Oxford to create Alice and her Wonderland. Reminders of this fact are spread across the city like these miniatures in the Museum of Oxford.

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Miniatures of Alice in Wonderland, Museum of Oxford. © Julia Migné

Charles Lutwidge, Lewis Carroll’s real name, arrived in Oxford to study mathematics at Christ Church College in the 1850s. The surroundings of his college inspired the path Alice took to follow the White Rabbit down the rabbit hole.

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Foggy and green, Christ Church Meadow brought Alice to life. © Julia Migné

The real life Alice who inspired the story, named Alice Liddell, was the daughter of a Dean of the same college, Christ Church.

3) The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S Lewis

Another epic saga born in Oxford is The Chronicles of Narnia. C.S Lewis found his inspiration when he was frolicking around his college one fateful night.

Radcliffe Camera, Oxford. © Julia Migné

He stumbled upon these three elements:

A lamp-post, a faun and a lion were all C.S. Lewis needed to bring the amazing world of Narnia to life! The lamp-post being the very first thing that Lucy sees when she goes through the wardrobe to Narnia, the faun being Mr Tumnus, the first character she meets, and the lion being the great Aslan himself of course.

4) The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien

Last but not least, Oxford also brought to life the incredible series of The Lord of the Rings. For most of his life, J. R. R. Tolkien was a professor of English and Literature at Merton College. Having one of the oldest libraries in the UK, Tolkien would have spent a lot of time reading and studying there to prepare his books.

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Twins towers of All Souls College © Julia Migné

The twin towers of All Souls College in Oxford are supposed to have given him the inspiration for his second volume called the Two Towers among the many other inspirations he’s gathered from the mystical, magical place. There really seems to be a wave of enchantment when one steps into the cobblestone streets of Oxford.

It makes you think: is it a coincidence that all these incredibly epic stories have been written in or inspired by Oxford? If you are experiencing a writer’s block or just want to get some inspiration, you might want to head to The Eagle & Child.

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© Julia Migné

This pub used to host the Inklings, an Oxford writers’ group which included C.S. Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkien, Charles Williams and Hugo Dyson. Meeting during lunchtimes at the back of the pub in a room known as the ‘Rabbit Room’, they would read and discuss various materials and manuscripts.

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Even if you don’t feel like writing, it’s still a great place to bask in the glory of the most amazing authors the world has seen. In every nook and cranny, Oxford sure is replete with astonishing gems of brilliance and unexpected sparks of inspiration.

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