Challenge: Narnia Week, Day 2

Status Report:

  • Book: a severely used 2001 copy of HarperCollins’s The Chronicles of Narnia omnibus. (The date is iffy; it’s got a sticker advertising the film version of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, which was released in 2005. Hmm.)
  • Books Read: 2/7
  • Pages Read: 197/767
  • Progress:

Today, I got through The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe–I won’t be reading The Horse and His Boy during the week then. Perhaps after I’ve finished The Last Battle. This, of course, will make counting my pages interesting. Yeesh.

As I’ve mentioned, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe was my introduction to Narnia during elementary school–and remained my sole exposure to the series until college. At the time, if I recall correctly (it’s a crap shoot prior to fourteen, people), I found it charming, but not all that interesting. It didn’t particularly help that we also read The Hobbit in that class–what with the advent of the The Lord of the Rings films, my transformation into a Ringer occurred around the same time. A secondary magical world (for that is what Narnia is) couldn’t quite compete with Middle-Earth at the time.

In fact, last year, after the The Lord of the Rings Readalong, I rented the Disney adaptation of The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe to stave off some particularly bad cravings for the The Lord of the Rings films. At the time, it was enjoyable, but after reading the book, I’m a bit confused. Not only have I always been a bit creeped out by the casting of James McAvoy as Tumnus (Goodness!, went the old thought process, a shirtless James McAvoy… and a little girl… that he’s luring back to his place… um), but the battle seemed a bit… overblown. And, of course, there’s a reason for that–the climax of the film isn’t the battle, but Aslan’s rebirth and redemption of Edmund.

Yep, the Christian allegory is quite visible in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, right on down to Aslan being the son of the mythical Emperor-beyond-the-Sea, who established all the laws of Deep and Deeper Magic. (Later, of course, it was revealed in The Magician’s Nephew that Aslan created Narnia.) But Lewis lets it stand on its own–you’re never beaten over the head with it, and characters’ motivations fit nicely into it. It’s a very clear echo, but it’s not an imitation.

The worldbuilding, much as it did back in fifth grade (good one, little me! Now grow out your bangs, you look ridiculous), underwhelms me a bit. Perhaps it comes from being reared on epic fantasy to the degree that I have World-Builder’s Disease, but I will admit to wondering how on earth Mrs. Beaver has a sewing machine (“Clearly, this is a pre-industrial society? Wherever did she get that?”). Narnia has, here, more of a childlike sense of fantasy than my usual fare–I do prefer a solid world, instead of the dreamier Narnia. Some of the worldbuilding in The Magician’s Nephew feels like it might conflict with The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. But perhaps this will firm up in a few more books, eh?

Edmund is still treated quite poorly (and all his ill-temper is blamed, ultimately, on a bad crowd he fell in with), but I understand him more this time around. As a little child, I wondered why Edmund would give up his family for Turkish Delight, of all things, but he’s a teenage boy turning to assert his masculinity. Peter surprised me by turning out to be my favorite; his 1940s way of talking delighted me, for some reason, and he’s very sweet but firm with Lucy–but he’s also just an ordinary kid, as highlighted when he has to kill Maugrim, one of Jadis’ wolves, to protect Susan. While I liked Susan, I didn’t particularly get any personality off of her other than motherly, which, naturally, Edmund taunts her with. Lucy is charming–you’d certainly hope, since she’s named after Lucy Barfield, Lewis’ goddaughter–and very righteous. She hates to lie (and to be thought a liar) and, when she discovers Tumnus is in trouble because of her, wants to right things as soon as she can. It’s quite nice. I also enjoyed Professor Digory Kirke, all grown up from The Magician’s Nephew, who lectures Peter and Susan on trusting logic, even if it means believing in other worlds.

I have to admit, I reached for a map while reading The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. The film production, naturally, gives us this one, which, I think, uses the very same font as the maps for Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings. It’s really no secret that The Chronicles of Narnia is Disney’s response to The Lord of the Rings–this is also the same response that gave us a Pirates of the Carribbean trilogy. Perhaps I’ll watch them afterwards. Hmm. Does anyone have any other Narnia adaptations they’d recommend?

Well, off to get started on Prince Caspian–I’m in completely new territory now!

If you’re participating in Narnia Week, don’t forget to add your posts to the Mr. Linky! And don’t forget about the #narniaweek hash tag on Twitter. Thanks!

8 thoughts on “Challenge: Narnia Week, Day 2

      • I see what you mean about Susan with her archery skills. I guess I viewed her from the perspective of Lucy who she was constantly not believing and kind of belittling. I guess I have a soft spot for the little sister as I was one and was always being bossed around by my older sister. I guess that shows my bias.

      • Hey, understandable–I just have a soft spot for Susan, since I come from fandom where most of what I hear about Narnia is Susan getting ripped off. (I don’t know if this is true or not until I’m done, but that’s my bias. 🙂 )

  1. The worldbuilding is never very strong. It’s a bit of a hodgepodge, especially if you set it alongside Lord of the Rings. But I was little when I read these, and I didn’t notice. I love Mrs. Beaver and her sewing machine.

    As a grown-up with a critical eye, I really liked it that Lewis redeemed Edmund in the end. He acquits himself very well in future books, and there’s a very small, nice moment in Dawn Treader where he talks about the events of Wardrobe.

  2. The hodge-podge of mythologies which goes into Narnia was one of the things for which Tolkien criticised Lewis (he’d read it before publication). I never minded it as a child, but it does bother me as an adult. And I rather resent Aslan’s sexist assumption that women fighting is inherently wrong.

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