Wednesday, June 26, 2013

"The Chronicles of Narnia": A Review

Illustration by Pauline Baynes for The Silver Chair, Chapter 5: Puddleglum
“And now,” said Aslan presently, “to business.  I feel I am going to roar.  You had better put your fingers in your ears.”
~ The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, by C.S. Lewis,
 Chapter 15: Deeper Magic from Before the Dawn of Time, pg. 164

There is a saying on TV Tropes, covers always lie.  And never is that maxim so true as it is with the spines of the volumes of The Chronicles of Narnia.  I am a firm proponent for reading this series in the order in which C.S. Lewis originally wrote and published them, which means none of this sissy “chronological order” nonsense. 



Why do I care so much? Perhaps I wouldn’t in different circumstances.  But with Narnia I feel that The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe is the most important one to read, and therefore should be volume one.  Anyone who has read the books—or seen the movies, or some other vicarious knowledge of the series—knows that C.S. Lewis, a devout Christian apologist, wrote Narnia as an allegory of Biblical doctrines. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe is the most obvious, being an allegory of the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus.  Aslan is Jesus, the Witch is Satan, and the four Pevensie children (Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy) represent humanity. 

The symbolism doesn’t stop there, although I admit some of the overarching themes of the subsequent books are harder to pin down.  If anyone has any simple, clear-cut explanation of what Prince Caspian and The Horse and His Boy is presenting, I’d jump at the chance to hear it.  The Voyage of the Dawn Treader deals with the problem of temptation.  The Silver Chair—which by the way is my favorite of the series—emphasizes the importance of memorizing what the Bible says.   The Magician’s Nephew presents the Creation story (as in Genesis), and The Last Battle is a story of the End Times (Revelation). 

In addition to this being a very good introduction to Christianity (and even if you’re not a Christian, and never intend to become one, it would be worth your while to know what Christianity stands for), The Chronicles of Narnia is a classic example of children’s literature.  The moods of the series run the gamut of emotion, from fear and sorrow to exultation and hilarity.  As I’ve said before, you know you have a good book in your hands when you can’t pick a favorite character because you love so many.  The reader will be hard-pressed to choose between Puddleglum and Reepicheep, Lucy, Diggory, Mr. Tumnus, the Beavers, Shasta, Fledge, and of course Aslan himself.  One of my personal favorites is Edmund, but Eustace Scrubb is also great in all his beastly obnoxiousness. 

I said a few moments ago that The Silver Chair is my favorite.  Part of the reason is because of Puddleglum and Eustace being in it.  But the majority of the reason is Chapter Twelve: The Queen of Underland.  My summarizing it (because the passage I love is too long to quote here) would pale in comparison to reading the actual thing. 


PARENTAL NOTES: The reason for my recommending it to ages eight and up is not because younger children won’t enjoy it, but because with things like witches and wer-wolves and dragons and sea-serpents and…well, Tash, it could be too scary.  There is no swearing aside from Uncle Andrew in The Magician’s Nephew saying the “dem.”

AVAILABILITY: One of the things I love about this segment of my blog is it’s basically an excuse to shop for books.  The “celebration of the first edition” The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe looks fantastic.  Sadly because Borders is gone there is a distinct lack of hardcover/dust-jacketed volumes, but I can suggest some standards for buying the entire series:

1.      You’re going to want to get individual volumes, not a collection of all seven novels together.  This is because all the novels in one volume is very thick and too hard on the spine for the book’s longevity.

2.      This should go without saying, but I’m going to say it: Don’t get abridged or picture book version.  That’s cheating and doesn’t count.

3.      Get the illustrations from Pauline Baynes.  This should not be hard since I think she’s the default illustrator.

4.      Get hardcover.  Seriously people, I’ve said it enough that you should have this down by now!

ADAPTATIONS: Another argument for the original order of the books as opposed to the chronological order is that if you make the movies in the order the books were written, the child actors age in perfect harmony (since by The Last Battle all the children are adults, and by the time you make seven movies the child actors have grown up) There are two sets of adaptations, neither of which are complete.  There is an older BBC series that goes through The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, Prince Caspian, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader and The Silver Chair. The more recent films by WaldenMedia have only gotten up to Dawn Treader.  There is also an animated The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe from the 70’s complete with bell-bottom clad Pevensies.  Yeahhh…that happened.
ALSO!!!  There's an album by 2nd Chapter of Acts that's basically a musical waiting to be made, based on The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.  It's called The Roar of Love and incredible.

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