My Experience with this World:
My brother and I pretty much grew up with Narnia. We started by watching the cartoon version of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and eventually graduated to the live-action BBC miniseries. We acquired the whole set of books sometime in my later childhood—I’m thinking nine or ten-ish—and enjoyed reading them together as a family. We saw the Walden Media movie of LWW in the theaters the year it came out, and we’ve since rented PC and VDT, but I must confess I was sorely disappointed. In a nutshell, it just wasn’t the Narnia I knew and loved…and I’ll stop there, otherwise I’ll go on for half a page. :-P The BBC miniseries remain my favorite adaptations, as they’re relatively accurate to the books, and the Pevensie kids actually get along (once Aslan straightens out Edmund, that is).
The Magician’s Nephew tells us that Aslan essentially sings it into existence. It’s fairly similar to the Biblical account of Creation, only in Narnia, Aslan focused more on the Talking Animals and Dryads and Satyrs and such than on humans. They come in later. And apparently when Narnia was new, you could plant anything—and I mean anything—in the ground, and it would grow. Our heroes, Polly and Digory, plant a bag of toffees, and next morning there’s a tree with papery leaves and toffee-flavored fruits. And the Lamp-post where Lucy meets Mr. Tumnus? That was a piece of a lamp-post from our world that got stuck in the ground and grew into another lamp-post. It’s a really cool concept, actually.
I’m going to skip Geography and Peoples and Culture, since Kendra already covered these subjects nicely.
What I like about this world:
I’ve always had a weakness for fanciful Creatures—Faerie-folk, Mermaids, Centaurs, Gnomes, etc.—so naturally I like the variety of “races” one meets up with in the world of Narnia. I also like the way Lewis portrays them—especially the Centaurs. From the little I’ve gathered about them (having never actually delved into mythology), Centaurs in Greek Mythology seem like a bunch of drunken skirt-chasers who fight amongst themselves a lot, whereas Lewis’ Centaurs are wise, brave and noble. They are prophets, warriors and sages, and when they fight, it’s for the glory of Aslan and Narnia and the North and all that good stuff. Lewis’ Centaurs had a great influence on how I’ve shaped the Centaurs in my own little world.
And of all the fantasy books I’ve read (which, to be honest, aren’t very many), Lewis’ works are the only ones that weave in recognizable Biblical themes (Tolkien’s are a bit more subtle). Especially the character of Aslan—I honestly can’t think of any other fantasy books with such an obvious Christ/God-figure (OK, there’s Eru/Ilúvatar in the Silmarilion, but He’s pretty much dropped after a few chapters). For me as a Christian writer, it’s important to have a dose of Truth in one’s fiction, even the most fantastical, and on the whole, Lewis does a pretty good job of it.
What I don’t like:
That said, there are definitely some things I wish Lewis had left out. There are a few references to “gods” (such as Bacchus and the “river-god” in Prince Caspian), and Dryads are described as being “goddesses” and “the spirits of trees,” which is of course contrary to Biblical truth. And a friend told me a while back that she found out the Maenads (Bacchus’ wild-girl companions) are prone to unrestrained mad reveling. Kinda freaky, actually.
There’s some rather blatant racism in The Last Battle (although, to be fair, one Calormen boy is said to have followed Aslan all his life and gets into Aslan’s Country in the end). It’s also rather annoying how the protagonists from The Silver Chair onward (talking Old Order here) are a boy and a girl who fight like cats and dogs.
What I learned from this world:
That Biblical themes such as God’s creating and interacting with a world, having God be an active part of that world, and developing and incorporating Biblical truths and Christian character traits into a fantasy setting, is indeed possible. And when it’s done right, it can be very entertaining, as well as thought-provoking.
That, and to be careful what Creatures I allow in my world, but that some of them can be “reformed.”
Kendra of Knitted by God’s Plan, in anticipation of publishing her newest book, The Ankulen (an-KOO-len), is writing about “Memorable Worlds” she has read about, which have helped shape her own writing. This inspired me to feature the literary “worlds” that have influenced my own worldbuilding—thrilling word!—beginning with my earliest recollections and working through the present time. Kendra is also hosting a giveaway, and the prize is a free copy of The Ankulen!
Don’t forget to check out Kendra’s blog and read her Memorable Worlds posts—and maybe write your own!
Until next time, Gentle Readers,