Saturday, October 15, 2005

C. S. Lewis, The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe

Truth be told, I'm much more of a Tolkien fan than a Lewis fan when it comes to each writer's respective fantasy fiction. The Lord of the Rings is an incredible literary work, and functions on so many different levels (as fantasy, as quest narrative, as allegory, as a modern retelling of every epic from Beowulf onward ...) and, for all I know, The Chronicles of Narnia may likewise be a work of such depth. If this volume, however, is any indication of what the entire Chronicles is like, I'm probably better off sticking with Tolkien.

As a narrative, the novel pretty much remains in the "children's literature" vein of, say, The Hobbit. Lewis's tale of four children who discover a portal into the snow-ridden secret land of Narnia via a magical armoir, and become embroiled in an epic battle of Good vs. Evil, has a memorable collection of characters, enchanting settings, and a distinctly Christian subtext. For me at least the main turn-off is the style which, because of its quaintly repetitive structure (not to mention a somewhat intrusive narrative consciousness), never really transcends the level of an elaborate children's story.

I'm not suggesting that this novel is necessarily flawed as a result of this. This was no doubt Lewis's design, and there's obviously nothing wrong with exploring Good vs. Evil through a children's story. Part of the problem here is that I've only read this one novel (which is Volume Two of the entire seven-volume Chronicles), so I'm taking the work out of its larger context. Just as The Lord of the Rings begins in the Shire with Bilbo's birthday and, over the course of the narrative, increases in complexity and darkness, so too might The Chronicles. I'd have to read all seven volumes to find out. Unfortunately, reading The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe doesn't leave me hungering for more; I think I get the idea here.

Has anyone else out there read it? Am I missing something?

1 comment:

aga9 said...

Alright, here's the thing, I have all of the books of the Narnia chronichles and have read them over and over again and I love them, but the thing that I have realized recently with all the hype about harry potter and lord of the rings is that I can't get into fantasy stuff except for the ones that i have read since as a kid. So The Narnia Chronicles, The Wrinkle in Time Books, Anne of Green Gables series etc...i can read over and over again, but I did feel like this last time when i read the Narnia books it was painful at times but reading them puts me in a certain mood that i don't have with reading new books. On the other hand I never read lord of the rings as a kid and as much as everyone tries to get me into, i can't...any ideas? I know that they came out with some companions to the Narnia Chronichles, maybe they have some clues on how to enjoy it better????