Fred Paxford: The Inspiration Behind Puddleglum

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When C.S. Lewis wrote The Chronicles of Narnia he was in his fifties. That’s fifty years of events, places, and people all of which played a role in his writings. One of those people found their way into Narnia through the character of Puddleglum in The Silver Chair.

Reflections

Fred Paxford was “an inwardly optimistic, outwardly pessimistic, dear, frustrating, shrewd countryman of immense integrity.” Lewis’s stepson, Douglas Gresham, once shared that “If someone said ‘good morning’ to Paxford, he might respond by saying ‘Ah, looks like rain before lunch though if it doesn’t snow or hail that is.'”

Not only a gardener, Fred Paxford also served as a personal chauffeur to Lewis, handyman, and occasional cook at The Kilns, the home at which Lewis lived from 1930. 

Paxford raised rabbits and chickens, grew flowers, spent years clearing the grounds and establishing an orchard and vegetable patch for Lewis.

“Mr. Jack loved trees and would not have a tree cut down or lopped. When we wanted a few poles to make a bit of rose trellis, we had to get them when he was away for a few days, and cover the cuts with mud so they would not be seen.”

Fred Paxford
Fred Paxford in 1973

A Half-Pound of Sugar

Much like Lewis, Paxford was a penny-pincher, saving money wherever he could.

“The problem was that, as Paxford did the shopping, one could never be sure of having enough of some things,” Walter Hooper recalled at a talk in 1975. “As Lewis’s secretary, it was part of my job to arrange teas, and I was worried constantly as to whether we should have enough sugar in the house.” 

Hooper explained that they weren’t able to buy sugar in large bags at that time in England. It was either a one or two-pound bag.

“Typical of Paxford — he would buy only half of a one-pound bag if he could find someone to take the other half.” As Lewis would often entertain individuals to tea, Hooper would dread having to tell guests about the lack of sugar. He confronted Paxford about the situation.

“His argument was always, ‘well you never know when the end of the world will come and we don’t want to be left with sugar on our hands. What’ll we do with it then?”

Fred Paxford died in 1979 at the age of 81. You can read his reflections in We Remember C.S. Lewis: Essays and Memoirs

10 Responses

  1. Andy Harrelson says:

    It sounds like Lewis had a strong relationship with this man! Made for an interesting man to base a character off of for sure. A character like Glumpuddle is rare in media, if not nonexistent other than the Narnian Chronicles!

    • Shashta S says:

      I just noticed you used ‘Glumpuddle’ here instead of Puddleglum LOL

      Having been on NarniaWeb for this long, it happens occasionally!

  2. Cleander says:

    It figures Lewis would dislike cutting down trees!
    Paxford sounds hilarious! I’d never heard about his extreme thriftiness.
    I seem to recall that Douglas Gresham talks about Paxford in his introduction to Focus on the Family’s audio drama version of the Silver Chair. That might be where the “good morning” anecdote mentioned here comes from. Gresham also mentions his boyhood friendship with Paxford.

  3. Malti Joshi says:

    A character like Glumpuddle is rare in media, if not nonexistent other than the Narnian Chronicles! Good one

  4. Shasta S says:

    Puddleglum is such a great character— loved reading about the man behind him!

  5. Tom Boughan says:

    I liked Tom Baker’s portrayal of Puddleglum in the BBC version of Silver Chair. I thought he got the character down pat.

    • Larry W. says:

      I also thought Tom Baker was great in the role. He was as good in portraying Puddleglum as he was in playing Dr. Who.

    • Cat says:

      Definitely! That’s one thing that’s probably going to be more poorly done whenever Netflix gets to it. You can’t have the same guy again. Or the actress for Jill, either, who in my opinion gets the look perfectly.

  6. Enid says:

    Was like reading about my own dad who name in real life was Frederick George Paxford who’s father was born in Oxfordshire

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