by Brad Nelson
One of the best, if not the best, series of fantasy/sci-fi books that I’ve read is C.S. Lewis’ Narnia series. If you haven’t read them, do so for this is very fun experience and is easily better than the Harry Potter series because the stories are more varied and not so bloody long.
I did read the first five Potter books and enjoyed them, but finally hit “Potter fatigue.” But with the Chronicles of Narnia series, all seven books just flew by.
For tha Narnia series, I recommend reading The Magician’s Nephew last (or second to last) and starting with The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. It’s not a big deal, but you do miss something by reading The Magician’s Nephew first. A suggested order:
1. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe: A Story for Children
2. Prince Caspian: The Return to Narnia
3. The Voyage of the Dawn Treader
4. The Silver Chair
5. The Horse and His Boy
6. The Magician’s Nephew
7. The Last Battle: A Story for Children.
But, Brad, these are *Christian* books with a lot of Jesus stuff hidden inside it. Why should I bother? Isn’t Lewis just trying to sneak in religion?
I think C.S. Lewis played more the role of the artist and let his imagination rip when he wrote this series. Yes, Aslan is a vague stand-in for Christ, but it feels less like he’s trying to slip in the Christian message and more like he’s desirous to write some good fiction.
To me, there is very little overt or covert Christianity, per se, in the series even though the religious love finding countless hidden Christ-like things in it. I’ve read the entire series with my usual attention for detail. I think most of the covert Christian stuff plays out in The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe. But the rest is just a grand battle between good and evil, something not at all foreign to The Lord of the Rings — which itself is apparently a vaguely Christian tale. But many of these themes are just inherent to the human condition.
If you haven’t read the books, stop now because a big spoiler follows:
In the first book, Aslan sacrifices himself. He allows himself to be the stand-in for Edmund, taking his punishment for him, taking his sins onto himself. And later (not very much later) Aslan comes back to life. That’s very Christ-like, of course, but otherwise they are quite different beasts. (“After all, he’s not a tame lion.”)
And the very ending of the series gives a somewhat heavenly promised-land spin on it, although it’s not quite what you will expect. And certainly the idea of some kind of Creator exists throughout the series. But most of the books are simply about the people trying to overthrow the rule of a bad king, or about an adventure off on a boat that comes to an island where there is a dragon, or a couple of kids getting caught up in magic, etc.
No doubt if you were trying to take possession of these books for Christianity, you’ll find Christian themes everywhere. And there are many there. But I just found the series to be pleasant reading, just as I found pleasant reading in the Potter books and not some secret attempt to convert me to the Wiccan religon. (I had a terrible argument with a Christian fundamentalist about the Potter series of books…he insisted it was tantamount to the word of the devil…I insisted it was just harmless storytelling.)
Although C.S. Lewis was a renowned Christian apologist, it’s possible for a devout Christian to fart and not have it be a Christian fart. To my mind, the Narnia series is just good fantasy that intersects with some religious or moral themes, but themes that are somewhat universal anyway. Good vs. evil. Overcoming obstacles. Being loyal to friends. Cooperating with one’s destiny. Etc.
I would recommend these books to devout Christian-haters. I think they’re that good and certainly don’t come across as tracts. And I’ve read two or three religious books by C.S. Lewis and the man doesn’t need to sneak his faith in. He’s willing to be quite upfront with it when he wants.
But maybe C.S. Lewis was thinking about politics when he wrote these. I don’t know if this line was directly taken from the book, but in the first movie there was one line in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe that I never noticed before or that never caught my eye like it did this time. Edmund has sold out his own family (including Mr. Tumnus) several times already and, having finally outlived his usefulness, Edmund is in the White Witch’s prison. The cell next door contains Mr. Tumnus. At some point Janeane Garofalo comes in (that’s sort of how I picture the White Witch who is a very cold and angry…but with white hair, not black)…the White Witch comes in and tells Mr. Tumnus that it was Edmund who sold him out:
You’re here because he (points at Edmund) turned you in…for sweeties.
Oh, man, I’d never realized how clever C.S. was about clearly demarcating good from evil, freedom vs. tyranny, courage vs. selling out. In any tyrannical regime, you will have people selling each other out for Sweeties. We’re doing this right now in our own country as people sell out freedom and future generations by continuing to vote themselves more “sweeties.” Oh, this corruption runs deep and C.S. really had an eye to exposing just what corruption is. Whether it has more Cosmic roots and implications, I don’t know. But he nailed the human ones. Marvelous.
And speaking of movies, I thought the first Narnia movie did an extraordinary job of capturing of the flavor of the first novel. It can’t be easy to transfer a book to a movie. It’s so rarely done well. I loved the Harry Potter books, and some of the casting was quite extraordinary in the movies. But I found much of the story to be dull compared to what it was in the book. But then, there so much going on in those often quite gigantic books that, somewhat necessarily I suppose, the Potter movies tended to be just bookmarked scenes, here and there, strung somewhat into a movie.
But the first Narnia film was truly extraordinary in capturing the look-and-feel of the book. Unfortunately, I found the Prince Caspian second movie to be a bit of a drop-off. The first three-fifths of this second movie were quite good but it got bogged down in battles which often made little sense. The Prince Caspian book itself is actually a quite engaging story, but the actor who plays Prince Caspian in the movie was dull. And whereas in the first movie this set of unknown (to me, at least) actors who played the children worked very well, I think they showed their lack of range in the second film where they were required to play more than just a fish out of water. Their rough edges served the feel of the first movie but were a drawback in the second.
In fact, I think the second book, Prince Caspian, is so good you should bypass the movie (on the chance you haven’t see it) and go right to the book. It’s too good of a story to spoil with a partial re-telling. The second movies fails to portray the truly wondrous and mystical nature of the Narnian world in contrast to the Telmarine (human) one. • (2292 views)