Narnia

An Essay By Raine // 7/21/2006

This is just something I wrote awhile back after watching the new Chronicles of Narnia movie. I haven't edited it, and its really just me thinking aloud--on paper. Nevertheless, I hope you enjoy it. The Chronicles of Narnia are probably my most favorite books on the planet. There are so many beautiful messages in them.

Fantasy, traditionally, is about ordinary people who overcome great trials to do extraordinary things. There are always terrible battles, difficult, long journeys and many sorrows before the happy ending is reached. C.S. Lewis believed that after reading fairy stories, the reader reenters the world with renewed satisfaction, pleasure and awe. The child “does not despise real woods because he has read of enchanted woods: the reading makes all real woods a little enchanted.” He wrote his children’s books this way because “sometimes fairy stories may say best what’s to be said.”

The Magical world of Narnia brings its readers into a fantastical place. However, the author’s purpose was not merely to entertain. Rather, Lewis wanted to send his readers back to the real world prepared with ‘new images and metaphors that would help them find magic in their own lives’. He used the stories to show his readers new ways to handle real life bravely and honestly.
I read in the book, Beyond the Wardrobe, “Lewis’s central interest was the endless war between good and evil and the myriad ways, from the ordinary to the heroic, in which individuals become involved in the battle. It is a struggle that engages every human being.”
This is evident in The Chronicles of Narnia, as in each story; men and women alike with evil designs threaten the beautiful land. Aslan (the epitome of all good) calls the children each time, to help free Narnia from tyrants. First, the children must overcome their own human failings before succeeding against the evil. The children are like any others you may find, in any world. They make mistakes, are cranky, get scared, and are quarrelsome and worse. However, the circumstances they are thrust into bring out the best in these characters. They find courage and strength they did not know they had, and in the end, their natural goodness shines through. A C.S. Lewis scholar, Clyde S. Kilby points out “In Narnia we are presented not so much with characters who are good or bad as with characters who are progressing toward one state or the other by their choices.” In the same book, Beyond the Wardrobe, it states: “Lewis felt that the people we meet in life are generally in this same state of change. In his book The Weight of Glory, he writes, “It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that dullest and most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which, if you say it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare. All day long we are, in some degree, helping each other to one or other of these destinations.””

It is important to remember, when reading the Chronicles, that Narnia is not an allegory, as many people seem to believe. I read on wikipedia a while ago:
"There are similarities between the world of Narnia and our own, but these are literal manifestations of the same phenomena in multiple worlds, not allegorical abstractions. For example, the character Aslan is not an allegorical representation of Christ, but a literal representation of Christ. Aslan is a literal rendering of Jesus Christ, only in another body, in another universe, and by another name. In ‘’The Chronicles of Narnia’’, Aslan and Jesus are the same character in two different worlds. There is no allegory involved. As Lewis wrote in a letter to a Mrs. Hook in December of 1958:
"If Aslan represented the immaterial Deity in the same way in which Giant Despair [a character in The Pilgrim's Progress] represents despair, he would be an allegorical figure. In reality, however he is an invention giving an imaginary answer to the question, 'What might Christ become like, if there really were a world like Narnia and He chose to be incarnate and die and rise again in that world as He actually has done in ours?' This is not allegory at all."”

An allegory is defined as a story in which the characters, settings, and events stand for abstract or moral concepts. As Jack said, “A strict allegory is like a puzzle with a solution.” In an allegory, everything and everyone in them represents something else. The Chronicles of Narnia are not allegories. These stories were meant to be like “a flower whose smell reminds you of something you can’t quite place.”

Also, many people seem to think that Lewis wrote these stories intending to pound virtue into children. Rather, he just started writing a story from images that were in his mind, and being the brilliant Christian that he was, symbolism showed up in full force.
He said "Some people seem to think that I began by asking myself how I could say something about Christianity to children; then fixed on the fairy tale as an instrument, then collected information about child psychology and decided what age group I'd write for; then drew up a list of basic Christian truths and hammered out 'allegories' to embody them. This is all pure moonshine. I couldn't write in that way. It all began with images; a faun carrying an umbrella, a queen on a sledge, a magnificent lion. At first there wasn't anything Christian about them; that element pushed itself in of its own accord."

There is a hidden story in the Chronicles, and if we read them with a pure and open heart, we will find it—and learn from it. Jack once wrote to a young reader “I’m so thankful that you realized the ‘hidden story’ in the Narnian books. It is odd, children nearly always do, grown-ups hardly ever.”
In my experience, I have found this to be true. Perhaps because children are so innocent and close to heaven, they can see things of beauty easier than adults who have been coarsened and hardened by the world. Children see immediately who Aslan is(sometimes without even knowing it), and as he talks to the children, he reveals that he is not only in Narnia, but in our world as well. “But there” as he tells them “I have another name. You must learn to know me by that name. This is the reason why you were brought into Narnia, that by knowing me here for a little while, you may know me better there…” Perhaps that is why we too, are privileged to immerse ourselves in the world of Narnia time and time again. So that each time we come out we can see a little bit more of the hidden story, and know a little bit more about Aslan on our world. I also believe that this gives hope to the readers that mourn Susan who has forsaken Narnia for lipstick and silk stockings. The others have moved on, but Susan still has a chance to come to know Aslan by his name here and return to him at the end of time. As do we all.

C.S. Lewis created a masterpiece that continues to inspire and entertain readers all over the world. Recently, The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe was made into a new movie, and under the direction of a brilliant man, was able to retain the beauty that Lewis wrote. Walter Cronkite said in 1979, anticipating the BBC productions: “The Chronicles of Narnia have genuine family appeal. In a dramatic and compelling way these classics present human values often lacking in today’s television: loyalty, courage, caring, responsibility, truthfulness and compassion.”

This new version of a timeless tale holds true to all that Lewis sought to teach. I would like to take a moment and talk about the movie and the characters in it.

Mr. Tumnus has always been one of my favorite characters. It was interesting to see how they portrayed him in the movie. He had a more complex character I thought, and tried to repent of his mistakes.
Susan was well done. Instead of forging on and trusting in the people around them. She held back, anxious and frightened. She does have some outstanding qualities(such as determination and eventual willingness to see things to the end, and to do things properly), she's very much like a protective mother. In my heart, I believe that Susan will find her way back eventually. As Aslan told the children, 'Once a King or Queen of Narnia, always a King or Queen of Narnia'.
I loved Lucy's innocence, a perfect reminder of how we need to be. Childlike and full of loving, wide-eyed innocence. She also was ready to accept and trust those she met, because they had not done anything yet that merited mistrust. Unlike her siblings, she was able to see things clearer and better.
Peter was a wonderful character, an ordinary older sibling, struggling along like the rest of us. He's trying to take on mature responsibilities, but you can still see at times he is still a child. Some parts when he takes out a sword and makes a grand gesture, from his face, we can see he is hoping that nobody laughs at him. He is also first to support Lucy, and follow her through Narnia.
Edmund has been, and always will be my favorite character. I admired his complete repentance and subsequent loyalty and bravery. He was easily swayed at the beginning, as he hoped for power. But when he realized his wrong, he did not deny it. He made no excuses. Rather, Edmund buckled on his armor and began repairing the damage he had done.
The White Witch was brilliantly done! Tempting at times, cold hearted and cruel, she was a good portrayal of evil. My imagined version of her was much more imposing with a louder, more bold voice. The movie's White Witch was much more delicate-looking and a touch more soft-spoken. Though, it turned out that her softer voice was very effective. She was terrible and wonderful at the same time. I loved her icy-pale face and her small, cold eyes. I can see now, how my vision of Jadis was deeply influenced by the knowledge I already had of her true self. I can see the importance of her being portrayed as "tempting at times". After all, thinking of the one whom her character represents from real life, he was supposed to have been a beautiful personage to look at, and is a master of temptation.
There is not much to say about Aslan…he is all that is good in this world and Narnia. The son of the Emperor-over-the-sea, the creator of this world. His love for his family is great and stronger than the Deep Magic. He someone we instinctively love and trust…and someone we wish to be like.
The music in the film adds much to it as well. Isn’t it interesting how music is so deeply linked to almost everything? It carries the film from its beginning to its end, barely noticeable, but always there, guiding and adding to it. It reminds me of something that leads and guides us, making our lives brighter.
The movie is well done, and I think it is something C.S. Lewis would not be ashamed of. It carries the ‘hidden story’ and adds so much to the books…and this world. I believe that the rest of the series will add just as much. I hope that when they complete the final film, it will leave us wishing we could cross over now into that wonderful land that waits for us when we pass from the Shadowlands. Just as the book, The Last Battle leaves us yearning for the time when all turns to silver glass and we can rest on white shores in a fair green country as we travel further up and further in.
“And as He spoke he no longer looked to them like a lion; but the things that began to happen after that were so great and beautiful that I cannot write them. And for us this is the end of all the stories, and we can most truly say that they all lived happily ever after. But for them it was only the beginning of the really story. All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read: which goes on forever: in which every chapter is better than the one before.”

Let us heed the invitation that Reepicheep offers. “Welcome, in the Lion’s name. Come further up and further in.”

Comments

Amazing

I'm amazed by the depth of this essay. It is an excellant summery of the book and movie.
"Further up , further in!"
---
The Word is alive/and it cuts like a sword through the darkness
With a message of life to the hopeless/and afraid...

~"The Word is Alive' by Casting Crowns

May my words be a light that guides others to the True Light and Word.

Julie | Sun, 05/31/2009

Formerly Kestrel

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