The famous series of seven fantasy novels known as ‘The Chronicles of Narnia‘ by C.S. Lewis has been translated into 47 languages and sold over 100 million copies, but probably not many of those who read it know the origin of its name.
In their ‘C. S. Lewis: A Biography: fully revised & expanded edition’ (2002), Roger Lancelyn Green and Walter Hooper wrote: “When Walter Hooper asked [C. S. Lewis] where he found the word ‘Narnia‘, Lewis showed him Murray’s Small Classical Atlas, ed. G.B. Grundy (1904), which he acquired when he was reading the classics with Mr Kirkpatrick at Great Bookham [1914–1917]. On plate 8 of the Atlas is a map of ancient Italy. Lewis had underscored the name of a little town called Narnia, simply because he liked the sound of it. Narnia — or ‘Narni‘ in Italian — is in Umbria, halfway between Rome and Assisi.” Thus, the author loved so much the sound of this small town’s name to use it for his novels.
Narni, which kept the final “a” in its name for 2000 years and dropped it only about 700 years ago, is older than Rome and today is included in the territory of the Terni province, in the heart of Umbria and Italy; a strategic and dominant position that made it a famous and important town in Roman and Medieval times. This ancient hilltown, however, has further links to the fantasy world. According to a legend, during the Middle Ages, in the territory between Narni and Perugia lived a griffin against which the two towns – until then at war with each other – joined forces. By joining forces, the two towns managed to kill the griffin and shared the trophy: Perugia kept its bones, which is why its symbol is a white griffin, while the then Narnia kept its skin and, thus, has a red griffin as a symbol.
Cover ph by 2emme0 from Pixabay
Ilona Catani Scarlett