Still Magical, Even as Adult
“And so for a time it looked as if all the adventures were coming to and end; but that was not to be.”
I was surprised to find this book on Time’s top 100 novels of all-time; it’s a children’s book. It is hard to disagree with it from a popularity standpoint, though, as kid’s throughout the world still read these book today. I was no exception back in Elementary school.
I hardly recalled anything about this book other than Edmund; his antics were too much for me as a kid and sent my moral compass haywire. So, I went into this book a little blind with no nostalgia. Would it still be interesting to me?
Clives Stapels Lewis was born 1898 and came up with the ideas for this novel over the course of several years. He was friends with J.R.R. Tolkien, and they were a members of a writers association where they would gather and discuss each others writing and help one another. The book is an infusion of many inspirations for C.S. Lewis: mythology from multiple cultures (wraiths, dryads, fauns, giants and Santa Clause); his own experience of having children in his house because of WWII displacement; Christian allegories and characters.
C.S. Lewis is a a two-pronged legend — he is know for his books and his Christian arguments. He even has an argument named after him, Lewis’s trilemma, where he was fond of saying that Jesus was either a lunatic, a liar or a lord, so he must be a lord. Never mind the false trichotomy where he boxes people into only three choices when there should be multiple propositions, he is quite popular on this front.
“The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe” does have some christian allegorical elements to it, with a coming of a savior, resurrection, traitor and more. This is not the backbone of the book though: it is mostly a tale of a hidden world within a house, and a place where wildlife mingles with are own.
“The Narnian books are not as much allegory as supposal. Suppose there were a Narnian world and it, like ours, needed redemption. What kind of incarnation and Passion might Christ be supposed to undergo there?” – C.S. Lewis
Upon finishing this book, I realized something about my child’s mind. This book has very little meat and the action scenes are truncated and circumscribed to a very few, general paragraphs. You do not live the action so much as get a mountain top view of what is happening. Scenes that I expected to be fleshed out and lively would sometimes be half a page long in big font and double spaced lines.
The need for more depth isn’t required as a kid; just a few magical scenes and a set up were enough for me to run with a story back then. While I felt like I was working with half of my imagination engine power as an adult, I was still whisped away to the land of Narnia. The journey from wardrobe to lamppost was genuinely felt, as if the ground below my feet was starting to crunch with the packing of powdered snow. Peter, Susan, Lucy and even Edmund (as I’ve loosened my rigid sense of right and wrong by this point) were enjoyable to live the story through — they were written just right to be classic for all ages.
When they returned from their journey in Narnia, they meet their temporary caretaker, Professor Kirke, and tell him all the stories they have been through. Of course, there is a hesitation that he might not believe them and think they are being silly. He instead does the opposite: considers them truthfully and seriously. He then offers this advice:
“Once a King in Narnia, always a King in Narnia. But don’t go trying to use the same route twice. Indeed, don’t try to get there at all. It’ll happen when you’re not looking for it.”
I’m tempted to pick up the others to finish out the series. Unlike Professor Kirke’s advice, I want to return to that land of imagination and I know exactly where to look for it.