Disclaimer: I wanted to write a review for each of the seven books in the Chronicles of Narnia series for a while, but after the ones I previously wrote for The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe and Prince Caspian, I found it hard to discuss one book without mentioning the others. So I decided to review them as a group. However, the following is not a critique on the books’ literary merits (there are plenty of those out in the world). Instead, I approach the series from a more personal view and what Narnia has meant to me…
As a child, I loved to read, but wasn’t very interested in fantasy stories. I read The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe a number of times in my youth, and liked it well enough, but never felt inclined to continue with the remainder of the series.
It wasn’t until I reached adulthood that I read the series from beginning to end. Although I now wish that I had read them in childhood (oh, what I had missed!), I don’t think I would have appreciated them as much as I do now as an adult. Each story/adventure in and of themselves are endlessly entertaining. However, it is the deeper, allegorical meaning behind the stories that has truly enraptured me, despite C.S. Lewis’ claim that the series were not intended to be an allegory of the Christian faith. According to an article in Wikipedia (a source that you may or may not take with a grain of salt), “Lewis, an expert on the subject of allegory and the author of The Allegory of Love, maintained that the Chronicles were not allegory on the basis that there is no one-to-one correspondence between characters and events in the books, and figures and events in Christian doctrine. He preferred to call the Christian aspects of them “suppositional” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religion_in_The_Chronicles_of_Narnia#cite_note-Ford-3).
Whatever they are, as a Christian (with a vivid imagination to boot), I have come to appreciate more and more the imagery within the stories that give me a new appreciation for my own beliefs. I’ve never seen Christ face-to-face (yet) and have no clear picture of what he looks like. However, I am drawn to the striking image of Christ as “The Great Lion”: powerful, frightening, compassionate, and beautiful; and the way that the characters, Narnian and non-Narnian alike, long for him, seek him out, and put their trust in him. I think one of the most pivotal exchanges in the entire series came toward the end of Voyage of the “Dawn Treader” when Lucy realizes that she would never be able to return to Narnia:
“It isn’t Narnia, you know,” sobbed Lucy. “It’s you. We shan’t meet you there [in England]. And how can we live, never meeting you?”
“But you shall meet me, dear one,” said Aslan.
“Are -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.”
Although the world of Narnia is fictional, my eternal hope rests in the fact that I know the name of this world’s “Aslan,” and that I am on my own lifelong adventure to know him better.
And don’t let anyone tell you differently: Aslan is on the move!