This page is mostly about books Lewis might have read
as a child, which might have given him ideas for things in Narnia and in his other books.
Some of the books mentioned here were written later, but have similar ideas, so it's
likely those authors and Lewis were both thinking of some earlier story.
For some readers this page can be a literary trivia quiz; for others, a literary treasure hunt....
(It's all very much Under Construction -- additions very welcome. The site I had up long ago has vanished: if anyone remembers anything that's missing here, pls email me.)
These aren't particular bits that match particular bits in Narnia. But they are the same kind of stuff, and things like this happen over and over in these books. The magic is about as thick on the ground as in Narnia (or however Barrie put it about adventures thickly packed together in Neverland).
From the Kalevala
animals rushing to hear music
decoy reindeer turning over pots
From the Aeneid
- Someone on trial in Hades before an enormous crowd, perhaps everyone who has ever lived
- Lewis used this in TILL WE HAVE FACES
Piers Anthony used it in GOLEM IN THE GEARS (page 270)
Pullman's witch listening while ghasts talk like ravens
Pullman's underworld (quote Lewis?)
Xanth, Oz, and Tarzan all have a relatively high-tech city under a lake
Up from the mud the tawny lion appeared, pawing to free his hinder parts, then sprang as if breaking loose from bonds and violently shook his spattered mane. The lynx, the leopard, and the tiger rose like moles, throwing the crumbled earth above them in piles. The swift stag from beneath the ground bore up his branching antlers. And fresh from his vast mold, the hairy mammoth--biggest born of Earth--upheaved his bulk.
This version is from PARADISE LOST: THE NOVEL, A simplified, prose version of John Milton's epic poem, Paradise Lost by Joseph Lanzara . © 1994 . New Arts Library . All rights reserved
Below is Milton's version.
Limbed and full grown: Out of the ground up rose,
As from his lair, the wild beast; [...]
The grassy clods now calved; now half appeared
The tawny lion, pawing to get free
His hinder parts, then springs as broke from bonds,
And rampant shakes his brinded mane; the ounce,
The libbard, and the tiger, as the mole
Rising, the crumbled earth above them threw
In hillocks: The swift stag from under ground
Bore up his branching head: Scarce from his mould
Behemoth biggest born of earth upheaved
His vastness: Fleeced the flocks and bleating rose,
From Nesbit's "The Aunt and Amabel" in The Magic World
She was to spend the whole day alone in the best bedroom, the one with the four-post bed and the red curtains and the large wardrobe with a looking-glass in it that you could see yourself in to the very ends of your strap-shoes.
The first thing Amabel did was to look at herself in the glass. She was still sniffing and sobbing, and her eyes were swimming in tears, another one rolled down her nose as she looked - that was very interesting. Another rolled down, and that was the last, because as soon as you get interested in watching your tears they stop. [.....]
Then she looked round the room for something to read; there was nothing. The old-fashioned best bedrooms never did have anything. Only on the large dressing-table, on the left-hand side of the oval swing-glass, was one book covered in red velvet, and on it, very twistily embroidered in yellow silk and mixed up with misleading leaves and squiggles were the letters, A. B. C.
'Perhaps it's a picture alphabet,' said Mabel, and was quite pleased, though of course she was much too old to care for alphabets. Only when one is very unhappy and very dull, anything is better than nothing. She opened the book.
'Why, it's only a time-table!' she said. 'I suppose it's for people when they want to go away, and Auntie puts it here in case they suddenly make up their minds to go, and feel that they can't wait another minute. I feel like that, only it's no good, and I expect other people do too.'
She had learned how to use the dictionary, and this seemed to go the same way. She looked up the names of all the places she knew. -Brighton where she had once spent a month, Rugby where her brother was at school, and Home, which was Amberley - and she saw the times when the trains left for these places, and wished she could go by those trains.
And once more she looked round the best bedroom which was her prison, and thought of the Bastille, and wished she had a toad to tame, like the poor Viscount, or a flower to watch growing, like Picciola, and she was very sorry for herself, and very angry with her aunt, and very grieved at the conduct of her parents - she had expected better things from them - and now they had left her in this dreadful place where no one loved her, and no one understood her.
There seemed to be no place for toads or flowers in the best room, it was carpeted all over even in its least noticeable corners. It had everything a best room ought to have - and everything was of dark shining mahogany. The toilet-table had a set of red and gold glass things - a tray, candlesticks, a ring-stand, many little pots with lids, and two bottles with stoppers. When the stoppers were taken out they smelt very strange, something like very old scent, and something like cold cream also very old, and something like going to the dentist's.
I do not know whether the scent of those bottles had anything to do with what happened. It certainly was a very extraordinary scent. Quite different from any perfume that I smell nowadays, but I remember that when I was a little girl I smelt it quite often. But then there are no best rooms now such as there used to be. The best rooms now are gay with chintz and mirrors, and there are always flowers and books, and little tables to put your teacup on, and sofas, and armchairs. And they smell of varnish and new furniture.
When Amabel had sniffed at both bottles and looked in all the pots, which were quite clean and empty except for a pearl button and two pins in one of them, she took up the A.B.C. again to look for Whitby, where her godmother lived. And it was then that she saw the extraordinary name 'Whereyouwantogoto.' This was odd -but the name of the station from which it started was still more extraordinary, for it was not Euston or Cannon Street or Marylebone.
The name of the station was 'Bigwardrobeinspareroom.' And below this name, really quite unusual for a station, Amabel read in small letters:
'Single fares strictly forbidden. Return tickets No Class Nuppence. Trains leave Bigwardrobeinspareroom all the time.'
And under that in still smaller letters-
You had better go now.'
What would you have done? Rubbed your eyes and thought you were dreaming? Well, if you had, nothing more would have happened. Nothing ever does when you behave like that. Amabel was wiser. She went straight to the Big Wardrobe and turned its glass handle.
'I expect it's only shelves and people's best hats,' she said. But she only said it. People often say what they don't mean, so that if things turn out as they don't expect, they can say 'I told you so,' but this is most dishonest to one's self, and being dishonest to one's self is almost worse than being dishonest to other people. Amabel would never have done it if she had been herself. But she was out of herself with anger and unhappiness.
Of course it wasn't hats. It was, most amazingly, a crystal cave, very oddly shaped like a railway station. It seemed to be lighted by stars, which is, of course, unusual in a booking office, and over the station clock was a full moon.
From Nesbit's Wet Magic, about something thinner than water but thicker than air.
The party was now walking along a smooth grassy path, between tall, clipped box hedges- at least they looked like box hedges, but when Mavis stroked the close face of one she found that it was not stiff box, but soft seaweed.
"Are we in the water or not?" said she, stopping suddenly.
"That depends on what you mean by water. Water's a thing human beings can't breathe, isn't it? Well, you are breathing. So this can't be water."
"I see that," said Mavis, "but the soft seaweed won't stand, up in air, and it does in water."
"Oh, you've found out, have you?" said the Mermaid. "Well, then, perhaps it is water. Only you see it can't be. Everything's like that down here."
"Once you said you lived in water, and you wanted to be wet," said Mavis.
"Mer-people aren't responsible for what they say in your world. I told you that, you know," the Mermaid reminded them.
Presently they came to a little coral bridge over a stream that flowed still and deep. "But if what we're in is water, what's that?" said Bernard, pointing down.
"Ah, now you're going too deep for me," said the Mermaid, "at least if I were to answer I should go too deep for you. Come on- we shall be too late for the banquet."
"What do you have for the banquet?" Bernard asked; and the Mermaid answered sweetly: "Things to eat."
"And to drink?"
"It's no use," said she; "you can't get at it that way. We drink- but you wouldn't understand."
From Maelduin's Boat, here's a sea that seemed to thin to support a boat.
This story, like Voyage of the Dawn Treader, is about a ship sailing through some very odd islands. I saw it in Joseph Jacobs's Book of Wonder Voyages, but I can't find that on the net yet. Here's less readable version.
After that they voyaged till they entered a sea which resembled green glass. Such was its purity that the gravel and the sand of that sea were clearly visible through it; and they saw no monsters nor beasts therein among the crags, but only the _pure gravel and the green sand. For a long space of the day they were voyaging in that sea, and great was its splendour and its beauty.
They afterwards put forth into another sea like a cloud and it seemed to them that it would not support them or the boat. Then they beheld under the sea down below them roofed strongholds and a beautiful country. And they see a beast huge, awful, monstrous, in a tree there, and a drove of herds and the tree, and flocks round about the tree and beside the tree an armed man, with shield and spear and sword. When he beheld yon huge beast that abode in the tree he goeth thence in and flight. The beast stretched forth his neck out of the tree and sets his head into the back of the largest ox of the herd and dragged it into the tree, and anon devours it in the twinkling of an eye. The flocks and the herdsmen flee away, at once. and when Máel Dúin and his people saw that greater terror and fear seize them, for they supposed that they would never cross that sea without falling down through it, by reason of its tenuity like mist.
So after much danger, they pass over it.
Richard Barbieri says:
Puddleglum the Marshwiggle in The Silver Chair gets his name from a passage in Gavin Douglass 1513 translation of the Aeneid, in which Aeneas descends to Avernus through Stygian puddle glum.
I remembered Lewis quoting the phrase, probably in History of English Literature in the 16th Century, but had remembered it as attributed to Milton.
There was something about this man that Toto objected to, and when he slowly rose to his foot they saw what it was. He had but one leg, set just below the middle of his round, fat body; but it was a stout leg and had a broad, flat foot at the bottom of it, on which the man seemed to stand very well. He had never had but this one leg, which looked something like a pedestal, and when Toto ran up and made a grab at the man's ankle he hopped first one way and then another in a very active manner, looking so frightened that Scraps laughed aloud.
In the streets and the yards of the houses were many people all having one leg growing below their bodies and all hopping here and there whenever they moved. Even the children stood firmly upon their single legs and never lost their balance.
"All right," said Scraps. "I'll wait, if Diksey isn't too long."
"No, he's short; he's shorter than I am. Ha, ha, ha! Say! that's a better joke than Diksey's. He won't be too long, because he's short. Hee, hee, ho!"
The other Horners who were standing by roared with laughter and seemed to like their Chief's joke as much as he did. Scraps thought it was odd that they could be so easily amused, but decided there could be little harm in people who laughed so merrily.
I think there's more about the Horners and their Chief further on.
[Psyche] was so very beautiful that she was thought to be a second Aphrodite, the Goddess of Beauty and Love, and all who saw her worshipped her as if she were the goddess; so that the temples of Aphrodite were deserted and her worship neglected, and Psyche was preferred to her; and as she passed along the streets, or came into the temples, the people crowded round her, and scattered flowers under her feet, and offered garlands to her. Now, when Aphrodite knew this she grew very angry, and resolved to punish Psyche, so as to make her a wonder and a shame for ever. So Aphrodite sent for her son Eros, the God of Love, and took him to the city where Psyche lived, and showed the maiden to him, and bade him afflict her with love for a man who should be the most wicked and most miserable of mankind, an outcast, a beggar, one who had done some great wrong, and had fallen so low that no man in the whole world could be so wretched. Eros agreed that he would do what his mother wished; but this was only a pretence, for when he saw Psyche he fell in love with her himself, and made up his mind that she should be his own wife. The first thing to do was to get the maiden into his own care and to hide her from the vengeance of Aphrodite. So he put it into the mind of her father to go to the shrine of Phoebus, at Miletus, and ask the god what should be done with Psyche. The king did so, and he was bidden by an oracle to dress Psyche as a bride, to take her to the brow of a high mountain, and to leave her there, and that after a time a great monster would come and take her away and make her his wife. So Psyche was decked in bridal garments, was taken to a rock on the top of a mountain, and was left there as a sacrifice to turn away the wrath of Aphrodite. But Eros took care that she came to no harm. He went to Zephyrus, the God of the West Wind, and told him to carry Psyche gently down into a beautiful valley, and to lay her softly on the turf, amidst lovely flowers. So Zephyrus lulled Psyche to sleep, and then carried her safely down, and laid her in the place where Eros had bidden him.
Now this is the story of Eros and Psyche, as it is told by Apuleius, in his book of Metamorphoses, written nearly two thousand years ago. But the story was told ages before Apuleius by people other than the Greeks, and in a language which existed long before theirs. It is the tale of Urvasi and Pururavas, which is to be found in one of the oldest of the Vedas, or Sanskrit sacred books, which contain the legends of the Aryan race before it broke up and went in great fragments southward into India, and westward into Persia and Europe. A translation of the story of Urvasi and Pururavas is given by Mr. Max-Muller [...]who also tells what the story means, and this helps us to see the meaning of the tale of Eros and Psyche, and of many other myths which occur among all the branches of the Aryan family; among the Teutons, the Scandinavians, and the Slavs, as well as among the Greeks.
I like Psyche being carried to the foot of the cliff gently by Zephyrus, as Eustace was blown gently by Aslan in The Silver Chair.. Lewis got the story of Psyche straight from Apuleius (or earlier sources) and used more of it in Till We Have Faces, which was the story of the sister who gave Psyche bad advice -- a long grown-up novel, scary and gloomy all the way through, with nothing happy or funny that I recall.
Animals rushing to hear music
Now resounded marvelous music,
All of Northland stopped and listened.
Every creature in the forest,
All the beasts that haunt the woodlands,
On their nimble feet came bounding,
Came to listen to his playing,
Came to hear his songs of joyance.
Leaped the squirrels from the branches,
Merrily from birch to aspen;
Climbed the ermines on the fences,
O'er the plains the elk-deer bounded,
And the lynxes purred with pleasure;
Wolves awoke in far-off swamp-lands,
Bounded o'er the marsh and heather,
And the bear his den deserted,
Left his lair within the pine-wood,
Settled by a fence to listen,
Leaned against the listening gate-posts,
But the gate-posts yield beneath him;
Now he climbs the fir-tree branches
That he may enjoy and wonder,
Climbs and listens to the music
Translated by JOHN MARTIN CRAWFORD 
What's fun about different translations, is if you put them together you get more details than any one translator used. Here's another translation of what happened with the bear and the fence.
And the bear traversed the heathland
Till he landed on a fence,
Threw himself upon the gate.
The fence fell over on the rocks
And the gate into the clearing.
Then he scampered up a fir tree,
Spun around into a pine,
There to listen to the playing
And to wonder at the joyance.
Translated by Eino Friberg (1988)
So what really did happen? Crawford's bear settled by a fence and leaned against the gateposts (and the posts themselves were listening too) and the posts sagged; so he climbed up a fir-tree to listen. Friberg's bear was more energetic: he landed on the fence and threw himself against the gate and the whole fence fell one way and the gate fell the other; so he scampered up a fir tree and "spun around into a pine."
Some of the difference might just be style -- 'scamper up' instead of 'climb'. But there's a lot of difference between the gateposts sagging and the whole fence and gate falling down in different directions. Maybe Friberg just made up the details about the rocks and field, but translators don't usually do that; it's more likely that Crawford left some out.
How can we find out? Ask someone who can read the original? Look for a "literal translation"? -- There's one at http://www.bopsecrets.org/gateway/passages/kalevala.htm that I haven't quoted yet. For more evidence, look at the passage below from Crawford about the reindeer. It has lots of detail; assuming the original was the same all through, is it likely that it was all like Crawford's gate posts, or all like Crawford's reindeer and pots? Is Crawford more likely to have made up many details about the reindeer and the pots, or to have left out a few details about the gate and fence?
Decoy reindeer turning over pots
Here's another incident from Crawford's translation.
[Juutas/Hisi wants to make a decoy reindeer/moose to lead an enemy hunter Lemminkainen astray and tire him out.]
Juutas fashioned soon a reindeer,
And the head was made of punk-wood,
Horns of naked willow branches,
Feet were furnished by the rushes,
And the legs, by reeds aquatic,
Veins were made of withered grasses,
Eyes, from daisies of the meadows,
Ears were formed of water-flowers,
And the skin of tawny fir-bark,
Out of sappy wood, the muscles,
Fair and fleet, the magic reindeer.
Thereupon the Hisi-reindeer,
Juutas-moose with branching antlers,
Fleetly ran through fen and forest,
Over Lapland's hills and valleys,
Through the open fields and court-yards,
Through the penthouse doors and gate-ways,
Turning over tubs of water,
Threw the kettles from the fire-pole,
And upset the dishes cooking.
Then arose a fearful uproar,
In the court-yards of Pohyola,
Lapland-dogs began their barking,
Lapland-children cried in terror,
Lapland-women roared with laughter,
And the Lapland-heroes shouted.
Translated by JOHN MARTIN CRAWFORD 
I love old musty dusty books with lots of twisty winding mazy passages in them.
I grew up like Lewis and others, finding old books in old glass-fronted wooden bookcases that when you opened them smelled like old rose petals in china jars and pinecones from the mountains and leather and dust and mice. Most of them were printed before black ink drawings were easy and before color was possible.
Those books could be mysterious and complicated and different, because nobody was trying to make money from them any more. When they were printed (around 1900), publishers did not need to sell millions of copies. If just a few hundred people liked each book, that was enough.
Now those same books are on the web at Project Gutenberg. Gutenberg is like an old dusty library in a cellar or attic -- once you get there, you have to look around with a flashlight and dig through some odd stuff. But when you do find the story, it's all in one piece and there are no ads. You might as well be back in the day the author wrote it, time-travelling.
Nobody has to pay to get into the Gutenberg library, and you can take the whole book out and keep it forever, no limits. You don't need a fancy computer or flashy graphic programs. So that everyone can use it, even with the oldest poorest computers, Gutenberg uses a typeface called 'Courier' and makes .txt files.
When I see Courier and txt -- I know the books are free and there's no end to them, and I smell leather and mice. This is the sort of place where you might find ANYTHING. This is the sort of old musty wardrobe that might open into ANYWHERE....
Maybe somebody will volunteer to make my site look fancy and still be simple and old-fashioned, or maybe I'll figure out how to do it, one of these days.... But for now I'm more interested in putting words here than pictures (or than changing everything to Courier, or even to Bookman, like at the home page.) But here's a sample of Courier, so you'll know it when you meet it in Gutenberg.
Three days after, another and yet odder thing took place.
In one of the walls was the low, narrow door of a closet, containing some of the oldest and rarest of the books. It was a very thick door, with a projecting frame, and it had been the fancy of some ancestor to cross it with shallow shelves, filled with book-backs only. The harmless trick may be excused by the fact that the titles on the sham backs were either humorously original, or those of books lost beyond hope of recovery. I had a great liking for the masked door.
To complete the illusion of it, some inventive workman apparently had shoved in, on the top of one of the rows, a part of a volume thin enough to lie between it and the bottom of the next shelf: he had cut away diagonally a considerable portion, and fixed the remnant with one of its open corners projecting beyond the book-backs. The binding of the mutilated volume was limp vellum, and one could open the corner far enough to see that it was manuscript upon parchment.
Happening, as I sat reading, to raise my eyes from the page, my glance fell upon this door, and at once I saw that the book described, if book it may be called, was gone. Angrier than any worth I knew in it justified, I rang the bell, and the butler appeared. When I asked him if he knew what had befallen it, he turned pale, and assured me he did not. I could less easily doubt his word than my own eyes, for he had been all his life in the family, and a more faithful servant never lived. He left on me the impression, nevertheless, that he could have said something more.
In the afternoon I was again reading in the library, and coming to a point which demanded reflection, I lowered the book and let my eyes go wandering. The same moment I saw the back of a slender old man, in a long, dark coat, shiny as from much wear, in the act of disappearing through the masked door into the closet beyond. I darted across the room, found the door shut, pulled it open, looked into the closet, which had no other issue, and, seeing nobody, concluded, not without uneasiness, that I had had a recurrence of my former illusion, and sat down again to my reading.
Naturally, however, I could not help feeling a little nervous, and presently glancing up to assure myself that I was indeed alone, started again to my feet, and ran to the masked door--for there was the mutilated volume in its place! I laid hold of it and pulled: it was firmly fixed as usual!
From George MacDonald's Lilith, http://www.gutenberg.org/dirs/etext99/lilth11.txt
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