Story Study: The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis

Today’s Story Study is all about my second fantasy favorite as a kid!

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My first encounter: As with the early Harry Potter films (based on J. K. Rowling’s series), the 2000s movie adaptation of C. S. Lewis’s The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe revealed a world of wonder and fantasy that captivated me as a child. I have fond memories of watching this movie, pretending to play in Narnia with my friends, and anticipating the release of Prince Caspian and Voyage of the Dawn Treader in movie form.

I remember, too, receiving the whole book series as a gift from my parents one day, and I still own that very collection. Though it’s been a while since I read the books, my favorite is probably The Horse and His Boy. I also have a wonderful audio drama production of the whole series, which I love. Another strong memory I have of the Narnia series is reading The Last Battle for the first time and getting to the end, which stunned me as a child and fascinates me as a grownup.

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What I love: The allegory. I’m a sucker for allegory, and this series was my first experience with it. To me personally, Aslan reads as God among us, so I find his appearances very meaningful and well-written.

Lucy’s innocent wonder and joy. I aspire to be Lucy.

They’re exciting tales for any child (or child at heart) and one that I look forward to reading to my own children someday.

The themes. They’re classical themes, simple yet still elegantly woven into the stories. They feel pure, not unnecessarily muddied by the gray we find in our world today. The clear line between good and evil is rather refreshing, in my opinion.

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What critiques I have: In terms of worldbuilding, Narnia doesn’t feel as well-developed or complex as the worlds I’m now accustomed to visiting through written word. While I did appreciate the backstory The Magician’s Nephew provided and found it super intriguing, I wish we had more of Narnian politics over the scope of history, more background on the different cultures and races, etc. I think the series would intrigue me that much more if the world were richer.

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My greatest takeaways: The series gave me a taste for epic fantasy and prepared me for the darker epic of Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings (a story I will tackle in a few weeks). It excited my fascination with the possibility of other worlds for the first time, demonstrated how to write a story framed in the Christian narrative (which I still strive to do, though not with overt allegory as in Lewis’s series), and showed me how a series can scope across point-of-views and timelines.

On a note not necessarily related to the text, some symbology from the series has struck a chord with me through parallels formed by my writers’ group (the One Year Adventure Novel [OYAN] community). One of the OYAN workshops I attended was titled “Through the Wardrobe,” and since then that phrase and the image of the wardrobe personally represents a time of refreshment meant to strength individuals and prepare them to return to the “perils” of reality. Inspired partly by this interpretation, a wardrobe plays a significant part in my novel Our Company of Fools, but I don’t want to give too much away…

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Though perhaps the memories I associate with The Chronicles of Narnia play a bigger role in my life today than the actual stories themselves, this series did form my earliest writing inspirations. It provided me with an introduction to the fantasy genre in a way that forever shaped my writing.

What are your thoughts on C.S. Lewis’s classic series? Which is your favorite book?