Thursday, May 17, 2012

Love letter to Narnia.

I reread the Chronicles of Narnia a couple of months ago and realized that I haven't written much here about the books. So this rambling post is sort of a love letter to C.S. Lewis' Narnia.

When I was in elementary school, one of my favorite parts of the day was story time. I remember my second grade teacher reading Charlotte's Web to us, using different voices for the different characters. In third grade, our entire class crowded onto a small rug, elbow to elbow, and the teacher sat down in her rocking chair in front of us. She took out a rather unremarkable looking little paperback book called The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe and began reading us a magical story.

I came home from school and climbed into my closet. I pressed against the back wall, which is covered in old flowery wallpaper, not fur coats. Unfortunately, I didn't fall into Narnia. But I did get to go back to school the next day and hear the next chapter. :)

{My very worn copy of VDT.}

And that was my first introduction to Narnia. {Thank you, Mrs. Williams!} I know that she read us at least three of the stories: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, and The Magician's Nephew. You know how you can have very vague memories of a story that was read to you long ago, stuck in the back of your mind for years until you stumble across the story again? That's how it was with MN for me- I had this image of two children in a wood full of puddles in my head. I didn't know where it came from, until I read The Magician's Nephew again years later.

I ended up collecting a couple of the Narnia stories during the years after that. I found the 1970s boxed set at a yard sale one summer and paid about $2 for it. But the books sat on my shelf until I finally decided to read through the series when I was about thirteen.

And I was smitten.

I can't really explain how much I adore these stories. They're my favorites. They're a part of me, imprinted on my heart forever. Other than the Bible, these seven children's stories have been the books, out of all the books I've read, that have influenced me the most. Other than the Bible, they are the ones that have most shaped my ideas of God and heaven and life in general. {I really, really hope that the end of old Narnia and the beginning of Aslan's new Narnia in The Last Battle is similar to how our world will end someday, and similar to how heaven will be. Compare those last few chapters with what the Bible has to say- there are definite similarities.}

When I was younger, I desperately wanted to get to Narnia. I wanted it to to be a real, physical place that I could visit where animals talked and right always won and the glorious Aslan ruled over it all.  It did always occur to me that I wasn't nearly as brave as the kids who went to Narnia. I didn't think I'd be able to do all of the wonderful things that they did. But then I remembered that Narnian air and the presence of Aslan changes you, so I figured I'd be alright in the end. :)

But as I got older, I really understood that this little part applied to me:

"Are you there too, Sir?" said Edmund.
"I am," said Aslan. "But there I have another name. You must learn to know me by that name. This was the very reason why you were brought to Narnia, that by knowing me here for a little, you may know me better there.”

The Chronicles of Narnia are full of God. Every time I read them, I notice something new that reminds me of something in the Bible. Things that Aslan says parallel with words that Jesus spoke. I honestly believe that reading about Narnia when I was young opened my eyes to see the beauty and hugeness of life and God as I got older. Like the quote I mentioned here: reading about a magical place didn't make me dislike the real world- it made the real world seem more magical.

I have this strange motherly protective feeling for these stories. I'll never forget something that happened back when the movie adaptation of LWW was getting ready to be released in theaters. A girl at church sneered at the book because the title had the word "witch" in it. I tend to avoid conflict and usually keep my mouth shut, but that day I felt something rising up in me that I don't feel very often. And oh, it was hard to choke down. :) I think I sputtered out something about them being written by C.S. Lewis, a Christian author, and then continued my conversation with the Narnia fan I had been speaking to. Isn't it funny how little things like that can stick with you?

The books are honestly funny. And not dumb-funny like a lot of children's books. C.S. Lewis didn't write down to children. He wrote clever, believable (though fantastic), moving stories that can be enjoyed by anyone. I love children's literature and agree wholeheartedly with these two quotes from C.S. Lewis about the subject:

“A children's story that can only be enjoyed by children is not a good children's story in the slightest.”  

"No book is really worth reading at the age of ten which is not equally – and often far more – worth reading at the age of fifty and beyond.”  

I know that sometimes when you reread a book as an adult that you loved as a child, it's a bit of a letdown. It's not quite as good as you remembered. That has definitely happened to me before, and it sort of makes me wish that I hadn't reread the book so I could still have that lovely memory of it. :) But there are some incredible children's books that I loved when I was ten years old that are still my favorites (like Gail Carson Levine's Ella Enchanted). And the Narnia books have never disappointed fact, I think they get a little better each time I read them.

{My Narnia books. I tend to accumulate multiple copies of the books, because I'm always afraid something will happen to mine. :) A bit obsessive, I know.}

If you've never read the Chronicles of Narnia before, what are you waiting for? :) Seriously, though, they come highly recommended from me. There's one very important thing about reading the series: read them in the order they were published. Which is: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe; Prince Caspian; The Voyage of the Dawn Treader; The Silver Chair; The Horse and His Boy; The Magician's Nephew; and The Last Battle. Publishers now release them numbered in chronological order, and C.S. Lewis himself apparently said that it might be better for them to be read in that order. Well, this might be the one thing I disagree with Mr. Lewis about. :) Trust me that they are so much better in the old order. Everything is revealed in perfect time and fits together like a beautiful puzzle. But when you read them in chronological order, starting with The Magician's Nephew, everything is sort of spoiled and laid bare at the very beginning. It's like eating your dessert before your meal, which sounds like a good idea but doesn't work out so well. It doesn't matter that MN has a number 1 printed on it: don't read it first. :)

P.S. I could never pick a favorite Narnia book. It would be like having to pick a favorite child. But I have always been partial to The Silver Chair, though I can't exactly explain why.

There's more I'd like to say about the Chronicles of Narnia but can't exactly find the words. Why is it so easy to write about books that you don't especially like, and so hard to write about your favorite ones? :) So this is how I'll leave it for now.

Are you a Narnia fan? (Please tell me that you climbed into your closet or wardrobe, too...and be honest- did you ever get there? :) Did you first read the books when you were a child or when you were all grown up?

If you want to read my (very vague) reviews of each Narnia book, look here on my Goodreads. Though I don't think LWW is there, because I read that one at the end of last year and this is the list of my 2012 books.

Until next time,


  1. I am in love with Narnia :) I can't remember how old I was when I read TLWW, but I was instantly smitten. I'll never be able to look at lamp posts the same way again.
    Kristin @

  2. I love the Chronicles of Narnia. They were always some of my favorite reads, and I remember quite fondly when my momma would read them aloud to me as she did a whole slew of different voices for the characters. Momma really made the characters come alive for me and I used to dream that I was in the land of Narnia myself...magic rings, unicorns, evil witch and all! While I don't have an outright favorite book from the series either, I've always been quite fond of The Silver Chair.

    Oh, by the way...You WON the Autographed copy of His Revolutionary Love on my blog! Congrats!!

  3. I've loved Narnia pretty much all of my life! My oldest sister was a HUGE fan and showed me how awesome they were. I have to disagree with you about the order though, I a firm believer in the chronological way! Prince Caspian and Voyage of the DT are my favorites!


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