Chronicles of Narnia remains a kids’ classic
September 12, 2005
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, by C.S. Lewis
The pleasant diversion of a magical world where young people escape their mundane existence and have amazing adventures involving witches, talking beasts and faerie folk is a common theme in folklore, storytelling and literature. I vividly recall being enthralled as a young man by the Chronicles of Narnia; written by C.S. Lewis who was a contemporary and friend of J.R.R. Tolkein, creator of The Lord of the Rings. The device that makes Narnia so compelling is the children within the story are from our reality, they are not Hobbits or Wizards, they could be any one of us who might stumble into an enchanted wardrobe that just happens to be the portal to another universe.
Now it has been some time, to say the least, since I explored the realm of Narnia with Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy. Through the haze of years and staunchness of adulthood the magical world had faded to a mere shadow of memory and although I remember quite clearly the thrill and emotion, the story had gone quite completely from my mind. Much like the hero youths, Diggory and Polly, from the first book entitled “The Magician’s Nephew” I had allowed time and the illusion of mature thinking to make Narnia nothing more than a childhood fancy.
Image the delight of finding again the vibrant and thriving world where the Witch holds Narnia in an endless winter, four children are caught in a web of plots and the lion Aslan prepares to return. Sweeping battles, treachery and magic of epic proportions are just a few of the delights to be found within the confines of these short and concise books. Without a doubt one of the finest pieces of young adult literature from the 20th Century, “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe,” along with the other volumes that comprise The Chronicles of Narnia, is a storytelling masterpiece that continues to delight children both young and old alike.
A confusion among readers who remember the Chronicles of Narnia from years ago is the changed numbering of the volumes. At my home we have a set of older paperbacks that have the number “1” clearly printed on the spine of “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.” These days however, you will find “The Magician’s Nephew” listed in the No. 1 spot. Apparently, “The Magician’s Nephew” was the sixth book written by Lewis; however it is the first book chronologically in the history of Narnia, and the publishers have decided to reverse their previous decision to place “The Magician’s Nephew” in the seventh position. One bit of explanation I read suggested the publishers felt “The Magician’s Nephew” was too esoteric and slowly paced to represent the entire series as a first impression. With this in mind I read the books in the current order to see for myself if the “The Magician’s Nephew” put me off of the rest of the series. Nothing could be further from the case! Many people I have spoken with never made it to the “The Magician’s Nephew” when it held last place, not surprising since seven books are quite a few for young readers in an era prior to J.K Rowling. But what a wonderful prelude to “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” so many missed out on by having the book relegated to the back of the stack. In “The Magician’s Nephew,” the previously mentioned Polly and Diggory are tricked into traveling to other worlds by Diggory’s inept magician uncle and end up not only being present during the creation of Narnia by Aslan, but actually bring the dread Queen of Charn from the world which she has destroyed into the infant world where she will go on to become the very witch herself.
Following many unfortunate attempts by enthusiastic cinematographers to bring such a rich and magical story to both the big screen and television, the amazing folks at Walt Disney Pictures have put together a full feature film of “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” to be released Dec. 9. From the trailers I have seen it appears motion picture technology is finally catching up with the written word as a way to fill our imaginations and hearts with wonder and emotion.
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If you have not read the Chronicles of Narnia and enjoy a great adventure, give these splendid books a whirl. For those of you who are acquainted with the adventures on the other side of the Wardrobe, now is a great time to return for another visit. They are all still there, just as you remember (or don’t quite remember) them.
– Michael Stroschein is the owner of Neighbors Bookstore.