Surprised by Joy in Oxford: Some direction from C.S Lewis / by Jane Hosking

A door in the Eagle and Child, the pub frequented by Lewis and Tolkien, Oxford

A door in the Eagle and Child, the pub frequented by Lewis and Tolkien, Oxford

The other day I went to Oxford. I wanted to see the place where two of my favourite writers, C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien, used to study, teach and hang out. Going there reminded me of a story that C.S. Lewis tells about his first time to Oxford in his book, Surprised by Joy.

Lewis had arrived at the train station that is on the west side of the town and was not sure which direction to walk in to get to the centre of the city. He set off in the direction he thought was best and as he walked he began to feel very disappointed by what he saw. Oxford wasn’t nearly as beautiful as what he had expected. But he kept on walking, hoping to soon come upon something impressive.

It wasn’t until he had walked past the small houses and came to the fields at the edge of the town that he decided to turn around and reassess the direction in which he was walking. It was then that he suddenly saw the beautiful medieval city behind him rising up over the small town houses. He then realised that he had been walking in completely the wrong direction the whole time. Lewis explained how this story was very similar to his own experience in life and the way he was living and lacking purpose before he knew God and before he became aware of true joy in life.

While in Oxford we went to the Eagle and Child pub where Lewis and Tolkien used to work on the manuscripts of their books. It was an amazing feeling to sit and drink a hot cider in the very place where my heroes once sat, laughed, drank, and wrote their masterpieces that have contributed so much to the world. Thank God Lewis found the right direction in the end.