SHADOWLANDS is coming to Malvern, to tell the story of the famous author, CS Lewis, and his haunting and tragic marriage to the American poet, Joy Davidman.

When Joy died of cancer, Lewis was left questioning his once fiercely held Christian faith; but it was not the first time he had suffered spiritually in this way.

Shortly before he became a student at Malvern College, in 1913, the questioning and fiercely intelligent young man had abandoned his faith for an interest in the occult.

It would be many years before he would call himself a Christian once again.

But perhaps it was in Malvern where Lewis was to find inspiration for his most famous book, the children's story, "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe", and it was all down to a snowy evening and a public gas lamp, apparently.

According to the website, "The Malvern Beacon", there are 109 "gas-fuelled lamps" in the Malvern area, and they started to appear in 1856, well before Lewis attended Malvern College.

He would have known them very well indeed as a student at the college.

But inspiration for the book would come later, apparently, when Lewis was a regular visitor to the town, during the 1940s.

An oft-repeated but hard to pin down anecdote tells how Lewis used to meet with Tolkien in The Unicorn pub at Malvern.

The meetings are an indisputable fact. A plaque placed on the front of the inn by the Malvern Civic Society states: "At this inn C. S. LEWIS - Scholar and author of THE NARNIA CHRONICLES met frequently with literary and hill-walking friends".

The story goes that, on a snowy evening, when he had just left the Unicorn, Lewis was inspired by the sight of a Malvern gas lamp and this led directly to his account of a Narnian wood, close to the start of The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe, where a gas lamp post stands alone, amid the gathering snows.

However, a similar tale is told at Durham University, which Lewis certainly visited in a professional capacity.

He gave a series of lectures there, in 1943, and there are still gas lamps on Palace Green in Durham, close to the cathedral.

And one lamp post at the end of the Georgian Prebends Bridge in Durham is sometimes singled out as "the" lamp post; the Lewis lamp post, - and it is surrounded by trees.

As with the Malvern account, it is an oft-told tale but one rather hard to pin down.

However, the Durham story will not lie down; so much so, a recent "Telegraph" travel article claimed casually, "Our train trip home took us past Durham, where it was a gaslit lamp-post in the snow that inspired C S Lewis’s lamp-post in Narnia."

Perhaps gas lamps held a particular fascination for the writer, and it was this enduring fascination, rather than a particular incident, which led to the account in his famous book?

Malvern's proud Narnian claim, however, remains a strong one, because the anecdote is convincing in detail.

It seems that Lewis was walking through Malvern with JRR Tolkien and another friend, George Sayer when he remarked on the lamp in the snow, and how it would make a fine scene for a book.

Sayer was a student and friend of Lewis' from Oxford, and he became a teacher at Malvern College. This explain's Lewis's regular visits to the town.

The men also walked the Malvern Hills together, and it is not too far fetched to say that the views from the peaks probably helped to shape Lewis's vision of Narnia.

The Malverns certainly inspired Tolkien.

He recorded excerpts from The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings in Malvern in 1952, at the home of George Sayer.

These were later issued for purchase, as "J.R.R Tolkien Reads and Sings his The Hobbit & The Fellowship of the Rings".

Sayer provided the sleeve notes, and said that the Malvern Hills reminded Tolkien of "The White Mountains of Gondor", from the Lord of the Rings.

Shadowlands comes to Malvern's Festival Theatre from Monday, April 11 to Saturday, April 16.

Tickets and further details on, 01684 892277.