Like Agatha Christie, C.S. Lewis is great at describing the character of people, more than their appearance. Especially for new writers, it’s easy to get overly anxious about describing what the characters and people look like, rather than focusing on who they are and how they act. How someone looks is important, but how someone acts is more important, especially in a good story.
But that’s all just an aside. Today I will be reviewing The Chronicles of Narnia, book two, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, or LWW, because my typing fingers are tired today. The beginning of this book is a classic in fantasy. Is there any better beginning than Lucy hiding in the wardrobe and finding Narnia? It’s almost a cliche reference at this point, so engrained is it in western society. In the fairly recent movie remake of this by Disney this scene and also when Lucy meets Mr. Tumnus, the faun, they did almost perfectly. Whoever cast James McAvoy as Mr. Tumnus should be congratulated, as he is one of the best actors out there. Also, remember LWW was the first book written and published in the series, and an awesome beginning. I don’t think if The Magician’s Nephew had been published first the series would have been quite so popular. LWW has more action and thankfully lacks the creepy uncle.
Despite liking this book very much, there’s so much of the story that as a kid I found tedious and boring and as an adult as well. Always at the point when the kids reach the Beavers’ house everything slows down and I have to take a break from the book. Something about animals in stories, even talking ones bores me to tears. Although I like animals, I wouldn’t describe myself as an animal lover and have never owned a pet, so perhaps that is the heart of the problem.
More striking in the book and the series as a whole: Lewis does not shrink from blood, fighting, battle, none of it. And sometime’s it’s almost shocking to think this is in a “kids” book, but I like that it is, and it’s good that it is. It’s also refreshing to have the boys doing the big fighting here. The girls also do not insist on fighting to prove something for all women. Men are generally better and more interested in physical fighting than women are. That’s okay. We understand from Susan’s and Lucy’s characters that they are capable and willing to fight if necessary. Susan with her bow and arrows, Lucy with her faith and persistence. Lewis’s complete embrace of fantasy is also refreshing. It’s okay for fauns, satyrs, nyphms, etc., to exist, even in a “Christian” work.
Speaking of Christianity, although Aslan isn’t a perfect stand in for Jesus Christ, the lion is a great symbol of our Savior and his sacrifice for all mankind. Because we have such a strong sense of justice built into us, it is often hard to reconcile someone dying to save others. The “others” feel unworthy. That’s okay, we are unworthy, but our feelings of that should quickly just be gratitude. We can’t earn salvation and we’re not going to earn salvation and faith helps us make peace with those feelings. Edmund is saved and forgiven and becomes a stronger young man, one who easily thereafter steps into being a king of Narnia. I also like the picture of a lion to reference Christ because we all too often think of Jesus being harmless and really, he is the Son of God, the most powerful being in the universe, and although he is loving, he is also the most dangerous person in same universe.
Reading this book reminded me that I still haven’t ever tried Turkish Delight. I have always wondered what this wonderful dessert is that Edmund eats. Maybe it was common in England back when this story was written, but today in America it’s just not something really around. Perhaps it goes under a different name here. I don’t really know. Anyway, it’s on my bucket list of things to try. Now, if it was Tiramisu, I would instantly understand the addiction.
I still really like the idea of the White Witch and how she’s controlled Narnia for long, as I do the parts seeing when her power fails and things are beginning to melt, but Jadis just isn’t really as interesting a villain to me as she was in The Magician’s Nephew. Probably because I already know she’s going to fail and will only be a footnote in Narnia history thereafter. As a side note, the casting for the White Which in the Disney movie was so off, despite Tilda Swinton being a very good actress.
All in all, I enjoyed the LWW, but was really looking forward to book five, the Voyage of the Dawn Treader. The ending, however, is truly marvelous. The four siblings stay in Narnia and become kings and queens in it. They live there for years upon years–who know how many year–and then one day rediscover the lamppost stuck in the ground and then the back of the wardrobe that leads back to our world. Upon arriving, they are kids again, and it’s only a few seconds or minutes since they left! They quickly revert back to being kids again, but their adult lives in Narnia are sort of always with them, maybe like our courage and strength in our daydreams are always with us, too. I sorta like the ridiculous way they talk as adults in Narnia. I mean, if one is going to be a king or queen in a fantasyland, one has to do it right and completely.