Friday, April 25, 2008

The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe

The Chronicles of Narnia have become one of those things that everyone thinks they know, but few really do. Far more than just those “kids books about the closet and the lion,” they are perhaps some of the best books ever written. Just because they are simple enough that children can enjoy them, does not make them children’s books. They are far too layered to be fully grasped as a child, and for full enjoyment they really need to be read at every stage of life.

The initial appeal is on a childlike level. What child doesn’t wish that their imaginings and make-believe could become reality? And to think that some magical land lies hidden just out of sight… One of the most magical moments in literature is when Lucy first finds her way into Narnia by crawling ever deeper into the back of the wardrobe. Once there, Narnia delivers everything a child could hope for: snowy forests, talking animals, danger, intrigue, and scary bad guys.

For the adult, Lewis interjects a lot of wisdom and “that is so true!” moments. Tolkien always said that the chief problem with Lewis’ fiction was that it was too obviously allegorical. On the contrary, part of the joy of reading Lewis is to catch glimpses of his brilliance. His allegory was not concerning with a simplified Gospel message, but rather about deep issues regarding philosophy, reality, and the Christian walk. He was truly one of the great Christian thinkers. Sadly, few people today really practice the discipline of simply thinking.

It is a sad statement for art in the Christian community today that brilliant writers are condemned for not writing Christian enough, and hack writers are rewarded for churning out pulp or romantic fiction that has simply been “baptized.”

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