Wednesday, 15 August 2007

C. S. Lewis

In-between writing books about Christianity and debating with pal J. R. R. Tolkien, C. S. Lewis wrote the Chronicles of Narnia.

Oh I loved Narnia when I was a little lass. I thought I was Lucy, and went through a time where I crossed her name out and put mine. I was a bit scared of Aslan, wanted to slap Edmund, hated Turkish Delight with a passion and used to sit in my wardrobe hoping something magical would happen. And then I got bored and doodled in felt tip on the wood, spending the next few years hoping no one would notice.

I remember being very cross with the BBC when they made a 1988 adaptation of The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, as the girl they chose for Lucy was not my idea of Lucy at all, and I couldn’t watch it, I felt so disappointed.

But it was only returning to the books as an adult that I finally got the point of it all.

I decided a while ago to read the series, starting in the chronological order, with The Magician's Nephew, as opposed to the publishing order, which is The Lion etc. Since they were originally printed without numbers, and ol’ C. S himself wrote the first couple without knowing they were to be a series, the order of how you read them has caused some hoo-har, with the sort of people that presumably have nothing else in their lives to get hoo-har-ish about. I chose the following order:

It was while reading The Last Battle that I suddenly got the message. It really was a defining moment, perhaps other people realised the whole series was bubbling with Godly undertones but I was reading it as a pure story, not looking for any hidden meanings. So for me, it was a revelation and I thought it was very clever. Indeed, C. S. Lewis won the Carnegie Medal for this book in 1956.

In later years, he gets criticised for seemingly everything – his books are too godly, too sexist, too racist… applying our modern sensibilities now to practically anything from the past and people will find something to comment on. Even J.K Rowling has said, according to Wikipedia...

“There comes a point where Susan, who was the older girl, is lost to Narnia because she becomes interested in lipstick. She’s become irreligious basically because she found sex. I have a big problem with that.”

I never thought that, I just thought Susan had lost the child in her that could still believe. Like Wendy in Peter Pan, like believing in Father Christmas, there comes a time when you don’t wait in the wardrobe hoping to find Narnia.

And as for too Godly, well… children like morals, they like good being good and bad being punished, and surely the most plain example of both is to be found in religion, no matter what faith. Children like to see people get their comeuppance – look at fairy tales! It surely is no coincidence that the most famous were collected by a family called Grimm.

I loved The Last Battle. You can see the whole progression in Narnia, from The Lion etc, which is clearly for children, through to The Last Battle, which could easily be for adults. And even better, it is a satisfactory, definite ending – where you can put the book down, reflect pleasantly for a few minutes and then get up and do something else.

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