Why You Should Read 'The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe'
"Some day you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again."
It should be no great stretch to assert that the friendship of C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien has had a profound impact on western literature in the twentieth century, an influence which still lingers today. Truly, if it had not been for their literary enthusiast group The Inklings, the world would never have experienced the high fantasy of Middle Earth or Narnia — at least not in the same capacity.
And while his dear friend’s legendarium was more influenced by Norse mythology, Lewis gave us an entirely classical take on the fantasy realm, being very Greek in its flavor, yet quintessentially British.
Like Tolkien, Lewis believed in the power of mythology, recognizing its ability to communicate cultural values across space and time with astounding fidelity. And given modern man’s secular barriers and biases, it stood to reason that perhaps mythology could be a vehicle to communicate the one “True Myth” of the Christian gospels.
Such is the conception of The Chronicles of Narnia series and its first book (in order of publication, that is) The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe. Children will find this book especially accessible as it is written not only for them, but to them. For it is precisely their child-like state of wonder which allows the four young sibling protagonists to discover their way to Narnia in the first place, a secret world where it is always winter but never Christmas.
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With a skillful allegorical use of talking animals, magic, and mythical beasts, Lewis is able to paint a wonderful picture which resembles the life and sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Fittingly, the Lion of Judah (as Christ is referred to in the scriptures) is depicted here by the mighty and solitary lion Aslan, who is altogether worthy of their fealty and is yet approachable to the little children. A careful reader should also recognize the ancient stone tablets of the Mosaic Law, presented with genius insight into the New Testament mindset.
Sweetly, this first book in the Narnia series commences with a dedication, and one that aptly demonstrates the author’s tender heart. “My Dear Lucy,” it begins:
“I wrote this story for you, but when I began it I had not realized that girls grow quicker than books. As a result you are already too old for fairy tales, and by the time it is printed and bound you will be older still. But some day you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again. You can then take it down from some upper shelf, dust it, and tell me what you think of it. I shall probably be too deaf to hear, and too old to understand a word you say, but I shall still be your affectionate Godfather, C. S. Lewis.”