Tag Archive | The Chronicles of Narnia

The Chronicles of Narnia, Book 7: The Last Battle

What a timely title that is: The Last Battle. So many people, including Christians, think we are in the last days, the battle(s) before the end of the world. Maybe that’s true, but who knows? The world’s gone through some pretty bad times before now and still went on. Our times now are projected to get tougher, but, hey, we get tougher with it.

This is my least favorite book in The Chronicles of Narnia. I realized I’d never actually read the whole thing, because Puzzle and Shift and the wearing of the lion skin made me sick to my stomach. No different this time. Ugh. Really, I only liked the very end, when everyone, all the children now grown up, now young again, who had ever visited Narnia get to go to heaven or Aslan’s country.

I so admire Tirian’s bravery and also that of Eustace and Jill. No lack of fighting here. However, I was kind of bored by it and just sad about the false Aslan, the false god. Perhaps it was just too gloomy for me. I also wasn’t sure what to make of Lewis’s including of a character who did not believe in Aslan in Aslan’s country. Going by allegory, it is not theology in line with the Bible, for the Bible says faith in Jesus is what one must have for salvation. But, perhaps this young man always believed in Aslan, or Jesus, and just didn’t know his name? Certainly people before Jesus was born on earth still believed in him, in God’s promise of a Savior, and were saved, so maybe Lewis is getting at something like that. It was perplexing, though, and not clarified well.

The very end is great, Lewis’s vision of heaven is pretty neat, although it is sad that the Pevensies all died in a train accident. Fortunately they don’t care and are on to bigger and better adventures. How great it was to have all the characters of all the stories together. What fun they will have!

Maybe someday I will read The Last Battle again and appreciate it more. I know a lot of fans of the series really like this one.

To conclude: My favorite is still The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, though it was fun reading all seven books. I realize that in many ways I have grown up and maybe can’t appreciate the series the same way in which I did as a child. Being grown up isn’t so bad, though, we have our adventures too.

The Chronicles of Narnia, Book 5, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

As a kid this was the Narnia book for me. None of the other books came close to the adventure in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. After having reread it as an adult, my opinion is the same: This is the best of the lot.

So, what makes it so special? Nothing spells adventure like a ship, plus its a ship with a quest, carrying quite a few characters we’ve already met in the series and an important new one. The quest is twofold, Prince Caspian wishes to track down 7 Narnian lords that were banished long ago and never returned, and he wants to reach the end of the world, which is Aslan’s country, or heaven, if one is keeping close to the Christian allegory.

Lucy and Edmund Pevensie are stuck visiting their horrible, annoying cousin Eustace Scrubb. Things go wrong from the start as they start arguing about a painting and end up smack dab in the middle of the sea in Narnia. Fortunately, The Dawn Treader is close at hand and soon all three are brought up on deck to be greeted by Prince Caspian, his men, and the mouse Reepicheep. This entrance to Narnia isn’t quite as iconic as the wardrobe, but it’s close.

Everyone is happy to see each other and be in Narnia except for Eustace, but then, he’s never been there before. And then, the ship is off on the quest to find the lords. Each island they pass too, it just gets better and better and I like this end of the world stuff and the whole poking at the flat earth idea. So many of the characters get challenged: Lucy, Caspian, and Reepicheep particularly. Eustace has the most dynamic change, and we quietly acknowledge along with himself that he does belong in Narnia and that he may be back. I also like all the unexpected turns in the plot–so often there appears to be danger, but then they find things aren’t as they seem and sometimes the more dangerous things are closer to the heart, like Lucy and Caspian longing for things they cannot have.

Basically, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader has it all: sword fighting, sailing, a quest, a dragon, gold, princesses, water people, unending feast, a wizard, storms, a sea monster, and a teensy bit of romance thrown in. It’s a great read and if I kept any of the Narnia books on my shelf it would be this one. For me, the other ones just still don’t compare.

The Chronicles of Narnia, Book Three, The Horse and His Boy

In reading this book, I realized that, no, I’ve never actually read the whole thing before. For many, this is their favorite of the Chronicles of Narnia series. It was an enjoyable read, and pretty funny in parts, although I though the latter part dragged a bit, but then I always tend to think that about many stories.

The story largely takes place in Calormen, a neighboring country to Narnia with a strip of a country called Archenland between them. If Narnia represents English/Western culture, Calormen represent Arabia or Middle Eastern culture. As Narnia is our hero country, its culture is of course portrayed as superior to Calormen’s. This essentially connects to C.S. Lewis’s allegory that runs throughout the series that the lion Aslan who created Narnia is a stand in for Jesus. Because Calormen doesn’t follow Aslan, their culture is thus inferior. As a Christian, I can agree with then. Generally, cultures rooted in Christianity have more regard for human life, for example. Sadly, my own county and culture has been in hot pursuit of ungodly things for a long time.

The whole clash of countries and cultures really stood out to me in this book, as we have both our hero, Shasta, and his friend, Aravis, trying to espcape the country and culture they grew up in, desiring the peace and freedom that Narnia offers. We eventually find that Shasta is from Archenland by birth, and is royalty to boot. Although Archenland isn’t Narnia, their culture is closer to Narnia than Calormen’s and Aslan walks there. Calormen revolves around tyrants and slaves, forcing people to do things, etc., so it’s not surprising that those enslaved or forced to do things against their will would want to escape. Also, got a kick out of the Calormen’s referring to Narnian King Edmund as the “White Barbarian King,” and the ridiculous way Edmund and Susan talk.

The names in this book are spot on, especially Shasta–kept thinking of the soft drink–and the villain Rabadash. I had sympathy for the latter, the handsome, young prince, who for once couldn’t get his way. Aravis was great as well, smart and athletic, and of course she becomes BFFs with Lucy. Yes, that is the really cool part of The Horse and His Boy – we get to see Peter, Edmund, Susan, and Lucy in their time as the reigning kings and queens of Narnia. It’s great to see them as young adults and to think eventually they will go back to England and become children again. It’s great also to see Aslan show up at the end and see how defiant Rabadash is to the end, even against the great lion. He is to be pitied.

The talking horses Bree and Hwin were great and, for me, a lot more interesting than some of the talking animals in Narnia thus far. Their interactions and statements were often hilarious. And how clever to frame the story with the title The Horse and His Boy, rather than the Boy and His Horse. Gives us great insight into the talking horses and how they view themselves.

The desert trek was great, as was the mixup with Shasta and Corin, as was the whole thing with Queen Susan being wooed by Rabadash. She must have been so disappointed to find he wasn’t someone she could marry and only wanted to get control of Narnia. I suppose that’s a major drawback of being royalty, you’re not wanted for yourself much of the time. The whole journey through Archenland was where I kind of lost interest, and I didn’t quite get the purpose of the Hermit. Perhaps I will have to read it again sometime and start in the middle and keep my focus going. Again, the ending was great with Rabadash and Aslan and I love how Shasta and Aravis quarrel so much they end up getting married. Some couples really find enjoyment in arguing with each other.

All in all, I can see why for some this is their favorite Chronicles of Narnia book. It has a lot of adventure involved and we get to see many familiar faces. It’s also full of humor that both kids and adults can grasp and enjoy, and the allegory isn’t too overbearing.

The Chronicles of Narnia, Book Two, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

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.

The Chronicles of Narnia, Book One, The Magician’s Nephew

In my rereading of The Chronicles of Narnia, I just finished book six and am onto book seven, so might as well begin my reviews. C.S. Lewis doesn’t disappoint. He has such great ways of describing things and was also such a thinker of his time, but also a forward, big picture, thinker. Both are reflected in his writing.

The Magician’s Nephew

Copyrighted 1955. This is actually the second book Lewis wrote in The Chronicles of Narnia, but in order of the series timeline, the first. It is the creation story of Narnia. This one has always been in my top three of the Narnia books and even now, I’m still not sure if I like this or The Silver Chair better. This is the story of how Digory and his neighbor Polly run into Digory’s wicked uncle and end up in fantasyland.

Although there’s something about this story that always feels unformed to me, I think it works in the series as a whole, for on the one hand the plot is merely a precursor to the the next book, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. On the other hand, in it’s own right The Magician’s Nephew deals very well with sin and evil. As the series is a Christian allegory, the sins of Digory, Uncle Andrew, and the rest are fully on display here, echoing the fall of humanity into sin in the Garden of Eden. It’s a good foreshadowing of more mistakes, temptations, and evil to come with the rest of the series, but also the promise that Aslan, a stand-in for God, or more specifically, for Jesus Christ, will reconcile everything and make it good again.

The magic green and yellow rings always fascinated me in this book, as did the long row of houses and how Polly and Digory move from one to the other in the attics and accidentally find Uncle Andrew’s office. Speaking of him, Uncle Andrew is seriously creepy! It’s an entirely different experience looking at him from an adult perspective rather than the child and young adult I was when I first read the series. He’s a gamma if there ever was one, even later thinking that the witch, Jadis, would fall in love with him. What a riot! Even to the end, he calls her a “dem fine woman.” Today he would totally be a male feminist. Uncle Andrew’s also so proud to be a super special secret magician, not once considering that just because one can do something, doesn’t mean that should do something. He perfectly embodies the mad scientists of today with their gain of function research and other monstrous experiments. Ironically, Uncle Andrew is important. Without him, the rest of the series wouldn’t have happened. Just as if Adam and Even hadn’t fallen, our great awesome salvation story wouldn’t have happened? Well, it’s interesting to think about, anyway.

The dying world Jadis comes from is interesting in its emptiness and of course Digory just has to ring that bell. I would be the same. It would be too tempting. As for the new world just beginning, I love the way Lewis describes Aslan and the creation of Narnia here. It’s a cool way to picture what the creation of our own world might have looked like.

Jadis is a haughty, evil diva. She is a more worthy opponent than evil guys like Uncle Andrew. She is through and through a villain. So is Andrew, but he’s so pitiful, one would rather just avoid him. Okay, now I can’t decide which kind of evil is worse, the one one you know you should confront right away, or the one that is awful, but doesn’t seem worth fighting, at least at first. Both have their place and both have been used throughout the world’s history.

I also like how Lewis embraces fantasy–really embraces it with all the weird creatures, not thinking them bad or wrong, but they could possibly exist. God could/could have create/d the and that would be just fine. Great, even. He can embrace it, because he has a good root, a sure faith in the real world and truth. I also like how humble people like cabbies can become kings. And what an awesome origin story for the lamppost!

As for the overly religious part: I like how Lewis deals a bit with the Tree of Life and how later Aslan tells Digory that if he had given some to his mother both would have regretted it. We don’t often really seriously think about what would have happened if Adam and Eve had eaten from the Tree of Life after Eating from the Tree of Knowledge. Imagine the constantly degrading world, constantly decaying, one’s body decaying and giving out and then not even being able to die. A whole different ball of wax than what we have now. In The Magician’s Nephew, Digory ultimately resists the temptation. This is a test from Aslan, a way to right Digory’s wrong of bringing Jadis to this world. I am happy he passes the test. I wish we could all pass the tests given to us, but it takes great faith, courage, and humbleness. The sacrifice of God necessary to truly atone for sin, Lewis leaves, or rather, wrote first in the second book that introduces us to the future kings and queens of Narnia: Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy.

And, cooly, Lewis slips in that Digory is The Professor in the next book and how the wood from Narnia was made into the magical wardrobe from The Lion, the Witch, and the….

Autumn in Minnesota and updates

Autumn, Fall, Pumpkin Spice Season, whatever you want to call it, I love this time of year with the cooler weather perfect for leggings, jeans and sweatshirts. In Minnesota it always feels even more special, with all of the corn and beans ripening, the apples ready for picking, and the trees changing colors. Backyard grilling and fires over which to roast marshmallows. County and state fairs with delicacies galore. Favorite stop offs like the giant yellow candy store in Shakopee and pie at Emma Krumbee’s. New possibilities like zip lining at Kerfoot or exploring trails in Henderson. Hiking at the state parks and taking day trips with friends and family. Hunting for future Christmas gifts. Cooking fall dishes like butternut squash soup or spicy Indian food. Attending Trunk or Treats or Halloween/Fall parties. Drinking hot cider and hot cocoa. And especially, curling on the couch with a hot drink and a good book. Minnesota is awesome all around, but especially in the fall.

North Shore, Fall 2020
Tallest waterfall in MN – on border with Canada, Fall 2020

Some Updates: Only two more books, The Silver Chair and The Last Battle, until I finish The Chronicles of Narnia. So far The Voyage of the Dawn Treader is still my favorite.

I will be selling books at a book fair at Bethany Lutheran College in Mankato, MN, on October 2nd, so if you want copies of Trolls for Dust or an autograph, stop on by.

Loving The Possessed by Fyodor Dostoevsky so far and beginning another Brandon Sanderson one, Elantris. I am really trying to like and read Throne of Bones by Vox Day, but so far it is one long battle and that’s about it. Liked Summa Elvetica a lot better, but I will keep at it and hope once the story really picks up I will like it. Have another interesting fantasy series on my list: The Book of the New Sun by Gene Wolf. Sounds like it might be difficult to get through, too, but I met a big fan of the series who really talked it up, so at least have to try it. Also reading The Moon-Spinners by Mary Stewart. Saw the movie based on this with Hayley Mills awhile ago and it was a trippy adventure. The book is waylaid by a lot of scenery description. Am I the only one who finds most detailed scenery descriptions unnecessary in stories? Guess I’m more of a get the plot moving or characters moving kind of girl.

As far as Kdramas: I am rewatching the awesome The Lookout or The Guardians starring Kim Young Kwang (Pinocchio) and Lee Si Young (Playful Kiss). It’s got a stellar soundtrack and lots of action and intrigue. Started Witch‘s Court/Witch at Court with Jung Ryeo Won (The Lord of Dramas) and Yoon Hyun Min (Tunnel). Although I’m excited to see Yoon as a leading man here, it’s a heavy topic: Two prosecutors end up working in the Crimes against Girls unit. Jung’s character is thus far rather unsympathetic to her sex, but I think that will change over time. She plays a character you love to hate that will turn into one you’ll just love. At least, I hope so. Both leads have good chemistry so far and the acting is good. They seem like real people. Maybe not regular, but real people.