“A children’s story that can only be enjoyed by children is not a good children’s story in the slightest.” – C. S. Lewis
C.S. Lewis’s famous fantasy series finally explained, or summarized, but hardly exhaustively.
According to Lewis, much of the substance of the Chronicles of Narnia came to him as scattered images, “a faun carrying an umbrella, a queen on a sledge, a magnificent lion.” The fantasy form that Lewis chose best suited what he had to say – with simplicity, brevity and clarity – while avoiding the psychological and romantic notions and baggage of modern novels. Lewis purposefully uses characters from throughout various mythological traditions in constructing Narnia.
As Professor (“Fellow and Tutor”) of English Literature at Madgalen College, Oxford University from 1925-1954, and later as Chair of Medieval and Renaissance Studies at Cambridge University (1954-1963), Lewis made some surprising statements. He argued against what he termed “chronological snobbery” – the idea that the ancients and medievals were a bunch of Forrest Gumps to our suave modern Jason Bourne. He actually declared “The Renaissance never happened” – a shocking statement coming from the man invited to occupy Cambridge University’s newly created Chair of Medieval and Renaissance Studies. The Ancient, and especially the Christian Medieval worldview in which this world is but “the shadowland” of a greater, purer, far more glorious reality comes through in both his fiction and non-fiction writings. Appropriately, in the final book of the Chronicles of Narnia series, as the New and eternal Narnia is revealed, Lewis states
“but that was not the real Narnia – that Narnia had a beginning and an end. It was only a shadow or copy of the real Narnia which has always been here and always will be here: just as our own world, England and all, is only a shadow or copy of something in Aslan’s world … it’s all in Plato, what do they teach them at these schools?”
This is only the foyer in the Mansion of Lewis, but a highly provocative, intriguing and entertaining foyer. Using summaries, key quotes, a little bit of symbolic, planetary explanation and lines from Lewis’s poem The Planets, hopefully this will provide some illumination as to key insights from these books, to inspire your own reading of these classics. Then, get a cup of your favorite tea, a dull to roaring fireplace, and a good blanket, then you can get started yourself …
“You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me” – C.S. Lewis
with grateful acknowledgement of the following sources;
Prof. Michael Ward’s Planet Narnia: The Seven Heavens in the Imagination of C.S. Lewis and The Narnia Code – http://www.planetnarnia.com
Prof. Louis Markos excellent lecture series on the literary works of CS Lewis, Life and Writings of CS Lewis – ww.thegreatcourses.com/courses/life-and-writings-of-c-s-lewis.html
(wait for prices on these Great Courses series to drop to $20 range, as they do every few months, due to their promoting people buying these as produced, rather than accumulating large storage and warehouse fees)
(Markos has another series – https://www.thegreatcourses.com/courses/from-plato-to-post-modernism-understanding-the-essence-of-literature-and-the-role-of-the-author.html where, following up on the Plato comment above, he notes, in a section on Derrida and the Postmoderns, how they want to turn back the hands of the philosophical clock 2500 years, to before Socrates and Plato, and embrace a non-transcendental (that is, that there no other world beyond this one) approach to philosophy. Logos – some transcendent reality impinging on us, has been the tradition in Western philosophy largely since Plato)
Lewis’s poem The Planets and a good introduction to the overall planetary scheme that Michael Ward in particular has uncovered within the Chronicles, more a device to illuminate points Lewis otherwise wanted to make, is explained lucidly and helpfully at https://apilgriminnarnia.com/2013/05/27/poem-the-planets/
Also, the first three books – The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Prince Caspian, and Voyage of the ‘Dawn Treader are also Disney / Walden Media film productions (2005, 2008, 2010 respectively)