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December 21, 2009

On The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

Though I suspect my aversion to all things science-fiction/ fantasy might be genetic, I can also trace it to having to watch a cartoon version of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe during one rainy indoor recess back in grade one. That witch, the way one character spoke about “strangers in these woods”, what a strangely terrifying thing is whatever is “turkish delight”, and then when they cut the lion’s mane off! I remember it all vividly, and with such a frisson of horror (and don’t even get me started on the indoor recess where we watched The Neverending Story and the horse drowning in the quicksand).

I’ve had a copy of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe sitting on my shelf for a while now, and this weekend I finally got around to reading it. Because it’s a children’s classic, and you can’t judge a book based upon a cartoon adaptation you watched when you were six (as the adage goes). And I can see why I was creeped out all those years ago, but I did enjoy it and will pass it along to Harriet to read when she is bigger. Christian allegory or not, it was an absorbing story, I loved the role of the Professor who confirms that Narnia is not just the children’s fantasy, the obtrusive narrator, the complicating nature of Edmund’s treachery, connections to Lewis Carroll and Wonderland, and idea of a world where it is always winter and never Christmas (which sounds a little like February).

It was an absorbing story indeed. If I were ever to give advice on how to start a novel, I’d advise a writer to have a character discover a secret world (“ok, I’m intrigued), explore it, and very quickly return back and then discover the world’s portal has shut (“ok, I’m reading this book to the end now just to figure out what this is all about”). It’s a double-bait, and it’s excellent.

I’m also now thinking much about book titles that are itemized lists of what the book contains. There are plenty with one item, many with two, but how many others with three items? (Off the top of my head, I can only think of an old YA book called Maudie, Me and the Dirty Book.) Such a title would hardly be inspired, would it? Though alliteration certainly works in its favour here.

I don’t imagine I’ll be reading further chronicles of Narnia, because not being a small child, I’ve come to these books much too late. But I’m glad I finally read this one, particularly in order to discover that (SPOILER ALERT) Aslan doesn’t die!! Or he is reincarnated, or… something. I don’t know how I missed that during Indoor Recess. Perhaps I was so traumatized by him being shorn of his mane that I missed the rest of the film? Nevertheless, I was much relieved by this happy ending.

6 thoughts on “On The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe”

  1. BabelBabe says:

    1) I NEVER liked LW&W altho I am supposed to, because, you know, it's a classic. I keep thinking to revisit, to see if adulthood makes it any better….still on the fence, despite your excellent post.
    2) I LOVED Maudie and Me and the Dirty Book. I still own my copy.
    3) What about EL Konisgburg's Jennifer, Hecate, Macbeth, William McKinley, and Me, Elizabeth? That's the only one I can think of off the top of my head…

  2. Melanie says:

    I read this one ages ago and most remember it being always winter and never Christmas – the horror! I never did finish the series, but read The Magician's Nephew over and over… Laura Miller's The Magician's Book is a wonderful look at this series from a critical perspective; I really enjoyed it last Xmas.

  3. Kerry says:

    BabelBabe, you know the BEST books.

    Melanie, it was the Laura Miller book you mentioned that made me interested in Narnia at all.

  4. clazgeds says:

    Oh please read them! They are marvellously rich. Also when will i see you and your famille? xx

  5. JK says:

    I tried to keep reading the series after the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and got through about two more, but none were as good as LW&W. It becomes harder to ignore the rampant sexism and colonialism as you go on.

    And for the three-item title I humbly submit the wonderful "Angus, Thongs and Full-Frontal Snogging" by Louise Rennison.

  6. Anonymous says:

    I grew up on these books, and read all of them (except The Last Battle) to my children in their turn. As a boy, my personal favourite was The Horse and His Boy, and my daughters were very taken with it, too. "Rampant sexism and colonialism?" Well, maybe — it's a common criticism — but I think there's an imaginative genius in the stories that redeems them.

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