Finished: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

(Believe it or not, I had the hardest time finding this cover, which is the cover of my actual book!)

So, in addition to STILL plugging my way through Gone with the Wind (I’m loving it! That’s what’s making it so hard to read – I don’t want to leave Scarlett and Rhett behind!), I’m also working my way through the Chronicles of Narnia as a kind of “light” alternative so that my brain doesn’t start feeling too muddly! After getting through The Magician’s Nephew a week or so ago (has it been that long? longer? being unemployed has this weird effect of making time pass weirdly) I was SUPER EXCITED to start reading this book because, while I’ve read it a bunch of times, it still has some of my favorite scenes from possibly the entire series.

Okay. Lets start this off with a little character de-briefing. Now that there is a movie out, and given how popular this volume of the series is, I’m going to skip the summary part. So the Pevensie children – I love two of them. I don’t really care for the other two. Peter and Lucy? Duh-obvs, these two are adorable. I feel like Peter does such a good job of being a big brother and trying to be the High King Peter that Aslan inevitably turns him in to. And Lucy? Well, her pure heart is the one that discovers Narnia and starts us all on the adventure, and she’s really treated so horribly in the beginning, that even from a young age she’s always been one of my favorite characters. But then there are Edmund and Susan. Obviously, Edmund is totally priggish and spoiled and rotten, but I feel like he gets his by the end of the book. And then there is Susan. Susan is just such a stick in the mud (I admit that this reaction may have something to do with knowing how much worse this gets in later books) and she’s just always so willing to give up and turn back, and she just doesn’t seem to have any gumption. Edmund may be horrible in the beginning of the book (I hesitate to say “evil”, because I really don’t think he has a bad heart) but at least he’s got gumption!

And we can’t talk about the characters without talking about all the animals. Mr and Mrs Beaver are just the most adorable couple, and exactly how I picture a cozy little English couple to be. I kind of found something creepy about Mr. Tumnus, something I don’t remember feeling as a kid, but maybe it has something to do with more mature ‘cynicism’ than with the way Lewis meant him to be written. And then there is Aslan. I can’t help but to read him as a Christ figure (I blame confirmation and intro to literary criticism when I was in high school), but I just love him none the less. The fact that even his name brings up different feelings inside people – feelings that help to set thematic themes throughout the novel, serves to illustrate the fact that some part of his power lies within each of us. I love that, while he can be a playful big cat, the scene where he is sacrificed to the White Witch still brings tears to my eyes.

And that’s probably the strongest testament to why I added these books to my list, despite the fact that I’ve already read them. There are some books that you read entirely for one or two scenes. Scenes that make you wish at that moment, more than anything, that you could actually jump in to literature and be there, too, even if just for a moment. And the final scenes of this novel – where the four children are crowned at Cair Paravel, and all of the good animals and creatures of the world, the spirits of the water and earth, the mermaids and giants, all gathered in music and food and color…I’d jump in to that scene in a heartbeat. What about you? What scene would you jump in to? Are there any books you read solely for one scene that gives you chills?

Finished: The Magician’s Nephew

While I was hammering my way through Middlemarch this past week, I knew I needed a break, and when I really need a break from big heavy reading, nothing quite does it as well as children’s literature! And, looking at my original list of 250 titles, there aren’t very many children’s literature selections. With those perameters in mind, I’m excited to be reading my with through the Narnia books in the background of all the other reading I’ve got going on!

According to the ever-trusty Wikipedia, The Magician’s Nephew was originally published as the sixth book out of the seven that make up the series, although it’s essentially a prequel, as it tells the story of how Narnia came to be. One wet summer in London, Polly Plummer meets her next door neighbor Diggory Kirke and, through a series of adventures, the two end up using magic rings invented by Diggory’s uncle to make their way to the Wood Between the Worlds. From here, they venture through a pool of water in to the destroyed land of Charn, where an evil witch queen named Jadis once destroyed everything while preserving herself in a kind of coma-like state. And, you guessed it, Diggory and Polly wake her from this state and inadvertently bring her back with them to London. All kinds of hijinks ensue, until, in their efforts to return her to her own world, Polly, Diggory, Jadis, Diggory’s uncle Andrew, and an unfortunate horse and cab driver make their way in to a world that is at that moment being created and turned in Narnia by Aslan. As you can probably guess, Jadis goes on to become the White Witch of Narnia in the next book, and we see Aslan again in almost all the books. So this is, truly, the beginning of the story.

So…I don’t really like this book. There. I’ll say it. I mean, yeah, it’s cute. And it’s the first book in a series that, other than this first volume, I absolutely love! But this book is just, well, boring. Most of it is, anyway. Even as a child I can remember not exactly enjoying this book, but I always made myself read it when I was reading the series because, well, I’m Type-A and we’re rules followers, and not reading the first book was basically cheating and meant I couldn’t really say that I’d “re-read the series”. Yep. I was one of those kids.

Anyway, as you probably already know, C.S. Lewis was also a theologian who emphasized work in Christianity. And those of you who have read The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (or had to read it as a part of a church youth program like this blogger did) can see that there is quite a bit of Biblical allusion going on here. And let me tell you – boy do you see it in this book too! I mean, come one, the “world” of Narnia has just been born, and already there is an evil “born” in to it by Diggory leading the witch in to the land, where she then escapes her captors. And yes, Aslan goes on to give a speech pretty much exactly like this. As a child, I didn’t necessarily notice, but this time it basically smacked me in the face. And while I’m a Christian and don’t mind allusive or theological-bent literature, BUT DEAR SWEET JESUS (no offense or pun intended). This is ridiculous! It’s basically Genesis told in London, with God played by a giant friendly Lion.

It wasn’t a bad reading experience, I’ll say that at least. I sped through it, and I knew through the reading that I was reading about the creation of one of my favorite fictional/mythical locations. It was fun to see the tie-ins with other works (not just like how the White Queen came to be, but in smaller details that show Lewis’ true skill: for example, when Diggory takes a piece of magic, healing fruit back with him, he plants the seeds and it grows in to a tree, a tree which is then cut down and turned in to a certain well-known wardrobe) as well as to think about why Lewis decided to write this book before finishing the seventh volume, especially when it serves to start the plot rather than further it along. Definitely not my favorite work, but now that it’s out of the way, I’m enjoying it a lot more!