Summary: By stepping through a wardrobe, four children enter the magical world of Narnia where for years the White Witch has ruled as queen, making it always winter but never Christmas. An old prophecy, however, promises that spring will return when two kings and two queens from the world of men sit on the thrones at Cair Paravel. The great lion Aslan, son of the Emperor-over-the Sea, arrives to help the Narnians reclaim their country, but they have a traitor in their midst.
Review: I first discovered the magic of Narnia in third grade when my teacher read The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe to my class. I did not know then that the world considered the book a classic, that generations of readers had fallen in love with it, that later I would marvel that no one else had told me of the existence of this wonderful, wonderful book. I went on to read all the Chronicles of Narnia and reread them many times over in the coming years. I was convinced then that Narnia existed and that if I pressed against my closet wall enough, I’d eventually get there, The Last Battle notwithstanding.
As I grew older, I began to think at one point that the stories were much simpler than I had remembered. They seemed so short; I had had the impression that much more had happened in the plot. Maybe, I considered, I had filled in the gaps with my own imagination. Maybe Lewis had expected children to do so, and thus had left much unsaid. Sadly, I began to think that I might finally have outgrown Narnia.
Rereading the series now, I think the idea of outgrowing Narnia a bit silly. I find the simplicity of the books their most striking—and perhaps deceptive—feature. Lewis is a highly visual writer and the books seem at times to be composed of a series of images, almost like a movie reel unrolling before the eyes of the reader. I realize that I have carried these images with me ever since third grade and have unconsciously assumed every person who has ever read Narnia does the same. To me, these images of words are iconic: Lucy meeting Mr. Tumnus at the lamppost, Edmund and the White Witch on her sleigh, the meeting with Father Christmas, Aslan at the Stone Table, and more. They formed the backdrop of my childhood and helped to form me. I began to understand God through Aslan. Even today when I think about spirituality I think in terms of Narnia.
Because I have come to appreciate the simplicity of Narnia, many of the changes made in the recent movies strike me as out of keeping with the spirit of the works. In The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, it seems imperative to me that the Stone Table should be just that—a table. The decision to stage the climatic scene in a picturesque, ruined temple destroyed the austerity of the moment. The simple table allows the audience to direct their undivided attention to Aslan, while also reflecting the humble death of Christ on a cross. It furthermore emphasizes one of Lewis’s great themes: the ability of the ordinary to become extraordinary. The magic of Narnia is the chance that anyone can open a door and find themselves in a place unexpected.
Narnia continues to appeal to readers, I suspect, largely because it is a celebration of life. It makes no apologies for finding joy all around and has no shame in its constant assertion that good will always triumph. It delights in everyday objects like food, a warm bed, and good friends. Readers want to go to Narnia not only because it has Talking Animals and magic and Aslan, but also because it’s just such a happy place. Interestingly enough, however, when the four Pevensie children return to their own world, they don’t seem to miss Narnia as much as we might expect them to. To me, their unhesitating acceptance of their return to what we might consider a mundane existence promises that life here is also worth living. That we can find joy here as well as in Narnia. It is that promise which keeps readers returning to Lewis. It helps us keep perspective in a mad world.