The second stop on our children’s literature pilgrimage was Oxford, a place of learning for almost 1000 years. We went for lunch at the Eagle and Child, where C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien met to discuss their writing. Sitting in the cozy room with an angled ceiling, fireplace, and warm, aged woodwork, I imagined these literary giants chatting about their work. From this little pub the worlds of Narnia and Middle Earth grew.
After lunch we discovered that Oxford was celebrating the 150th anniversary of Charles Dodgson telling Alice a story about a girl falling down a rabbit hole–and ending up in a Wonderland. (It would be two years before the book was published under the pseudonym Lewis Carroll.)
We joined hundrends of children and townsfolk in Christ Church Meadow (where the real Alice once played) for “The Caucus Race”–Oxford’s answer to the Olympics. The celebration featured performers from the Cirque Bijou leading us in games, song, and dance, and was part of the London 2012 Festival–cultural events put on in conjunction with the London Olympics.
What is a Caucus Race? The Dodo led us as we sang, “The best way to explain it is to do it. Do it!”
People got wet in the water balloon toss, followed Alice in “swimming to shore,” and sang and danced.
Alas, I did not have a Wonderland costume to wear, but many people did. There were Alices in every size.
What fun it participate in a cultural event celebrating such a classic children’s story. Since it has been a number of years since I read the books to my own children, I plan read myself down the rabbit hole this summer.
Many thanks to my husband of 25 years, Franklin Ishida, for taking all the photos on our trip. Spending an afternoon in Oxford dreaming of Narnia, Hobbits, and Wonderland was a great pleasure–and a reminder of the power of good books that can carry us into other worlds, and stay with us for generations.