Thread: The Chronicles of Narnia
April 14th 2011, 10:48 PM #1
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The Chronicles of Narnia
A friend from work lent me her box set of this seven book series to me after she learned that I was reading some of Lewis' essays. And for the record, I read the series in a strange order. I always assumed because the first movie that was released and the first (and only) book that I had read of the series when I was a kid was "The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe", that was the first book in the series. So I read that first before realizing that "The Magician's Nephew" is first chronologically, so after TLTWATW, I read them chronologically.
The first few books were mostly what I expected from my preconceived notions - innocent adventures with whimsical creatures and a Jesus Lion. Even here, though, I was sometimes surprised with very serious moments and profound truths (and all truth, btw, is Christian truth, whether explicit or not). At around "Prince Caspian", the tone of the series got a bit more serious with its Christian truths more evident and numerous. And at the end of the series with "The Last Battle", almost all the feeling of innocent whimsical adventures was gone. Evil has come to Narnia in a form even more dangerous and insidious than even Jadis, the White Witch, and long devoted followers of Aslan have apostasized. But I'll talk about that book later, because it's by far the best, in my humble opinion.
I've mentioned in another thread that TCON is obviously a book for children. But Lewis did not patronize children or insult their intelligence (as I find adults often doing). There are moments of fun and games and silly jokes, but there are moments when people die. One moment, you'll laugh at the stark pessimism of a funny looking Marsh-wiggle named Puddlegum, and the next feel sad and slightly angry against a traitor or a tyrant. Life is not all about fricaseed frogs and eel pie (this is a reference for those that read the series already....) and children realize this even in their innocent years and Lewis does not gloss it over. But this is the important thing - when you are raising children, you must raise them with a proper worldview which ultimately can and must be rooted in a transcendent purpose. God. And in bringing this across at an understandable level for the age of the intended reader, Lewis succeeds. Life is not nihilistic and we have a purpose. A true purpose. Not just an illusory one crafted in the minds of a desperate, evolved primate in an atheistic universe. Aslan can provide you with one.
The fact of Aslan being Jesus, incarnated in a parallel universe with talking animals, is too well known to dwell on without being redundant. But never is it said in so many words in the series, "Oh, by the way kids, I'm Jesus. Roooooooooooooar!" But a careful Christian reader can't help but be striken to the heart when you read such lines as (and sorry for the number of them, but these are all fantastic quotes that I can't pass up):
"Son," said Aslan to the Cabby, "I have known you long. Do you know me?"
"Well, no, sir," said the Cabby. "Leastways, not in the ordinary manner of speaking. Yet I feel somehow, if I may make so free, as 'ow we've met before."
"It is well," said the Lion. "You know better than you think you know, and you shall live to know me better yet."“Well, I do think someone might have arranged about our meals,” said Digory.
“I'm sure Aslan would have, if you'd asked him,” said Fledge.
“Wouldn't he know without being asked?” said Polly.
“I've no doubt he would,” said the Horse (still with his mouth full). “But I've a sort of idea he likes to be asked.”“…But I cannot tell that to this old sinner, and I cannot comfort him either; he has made himself unable to hear my voice. If I spoke to him, he would hear only growlings and roarings. Oh Adam's sons, how cleverly you defend yourselves against all that might do you good! But I will give him the only gift he is still able to receive.”
He bowed his great head rather sadly, and breathed into the Magician's terrified face. “Sleep,” he said. “Sleep and be separated for some few hours from all the torments you have devised for yourself.”“I do not call you unfortunate,” said the Large Voice.
“Don't you think it was bad luck to meet so many lions?” said Shasta.
“There was only one lion,” said the Voice.
“What on earth do you mean? I've just told you there were at least two the first night, and-“
“There was only one: but he was swift of foot.”
“How do you know?”
“I was the lion.” And as Shasta gaped with open mouth and said nothing, the Voice continued. “I was the lion who forced you to join with Aravis. I was the cat who comforted you among the houses of the dead. I was the lion who drove the jackals from you while you slept. I was the lion who gave the Horses the new strength of fear for the last mile so that you should reach King Lune in time. And I was the lion you do not remember who pushed the boat in which you lay, a child near death, so that it came to shore where a man sat, wakeful at midnight, to receive you.”
"Then it was you who wounded Aravis?"
"It was I"
"But what for?"
"Child," said the Voice, "I am telling you your story, not hers. I tell no one any story but his own."
"Who are you?" asked Shasta.
"Myself," said the Voice, very deep and low so that the earth shook: and again "Myself", loud and clear and gay: and then the third time "Myself", whispered so softly you could hardly hear it, and yet it seemed to come from all round you as if the leaves rustled with it."You see, friends," he said, "that before the new, clean world I gave you is seven hours old, a force of evil has already entered it; waked and brought hither by this son of Adam....But do not be cast down," said Aslan, still speaking to the beasts. "Evil will come of that evil, but it is still a long way off, and I will see to it that the worst falls upon myself.""But what does it all mean?" asked Susan when they were somewhat calmer.
"It means," says Aslan," that though the Witch knew the Deep Magic, there is a magic deeper still which she did not know. Her knowledge goes back only to the dawn of time. But if she could have looked a little further back, into the stillness and the darkness before Time dawned, she would have read there a different incantation. She would have known that when a willing victim who had committed no treachery was killed in a traitor's stead, the Table would crack and Death itself would start working backward."“I was wishing that I came of a more honourable lineage.”
“You come of the Lord Adam and the Lady Eve,” said Aslan. “And that is both honour enough to erect the head of the poorest beggar, and shame enough to bow the shoulders of the greatest emperor on earth. Be content.”“Well, anyway, I looked up and saw the very last thing I expected: a huge lion coming slowly towards me. And one queer thing was that there was no moon last night, but there was moonlight where the lion was. So it came nearer and nearer. I was terribly afraid of it. You may think that, being a dragon, I could have knocked any lion out easily enough. But it wasn't that kind of fear. I wasn't afraid of it eating me, I was just afraid of it - if you can understand. Well, it came close up to me and looked straight into my eyes. And I shut my eyes tight. But that wasn't any good because it told me to follow it.”
“You mean it spoke?”
“I don't know. Now that you mention it, I don't think it did. But it told me all the same. And I knew I'd have to do what it told me, so I got up and followed it. And it led me a long way into the mountains. And there was always this moonlight over and round the lion wherever we went. So at last we came to the top of a mountain I'd never seen before and on the top of this mountain there was a garden - trees and fruit and everything. In the middle of it there was a well.
“I knew it was a well because you could see the water bubbling up from the bottom of it: but it was a lot bigger than most wells - like a very big, round bath with marble steps going down into it. The water was as clear as anything and I thought if I could get in there and bathe it would ease the pain in my leg. But the lion told me I must undress first. Mind you, I don't know if he said any words out loud or not.
“I was just going to say that I couldn't undress because I hadn't any clothes on when I suddenly thought that dragons are snaky sort of things and snakes can cast their skins. Oh, of course, thought I, that's what the lion means. So I started scratching myself and my scales began coming off all over the place. And then I scratched a little deeper and, instead of just scales coming off here and there, my whole skin started peeling off beautifully, like it does after an illness, or as if I was a banana. In a minute or two I just stepped out of it. I could see it lying there beside me, looking rather nasty. It was a most lovely feeling. So I started to go down into the well for my bathe.
“But just as I was going to put my feet into the water I looked down and saw that they were all hard and rough and wrinkled and scaly just as they had been before. Oh, that's all right, said I, it only means I had another smaller suit on underneath the first one, and I'll have to get out of it too. So I scratched and tore again and this underskin peeled off beautifully and out I stepped and left it lying beside the other one and went down to the well for my bathe.
“Well, exactly the same thing happened again. And I thought to myself, oh dear, how ever many skins have I got to take off? For I was longing to bathe my leg. So I scratched away for the third time and got off a third skin, just like the two others, and stepped out of it. But as soon as I looked at myself in the water I knew it had been no good.
“Then the lion said - but I don't know if it spoke – ‘You will have to let me undress you.’ I was afraid of his claws, I can tell you, but I was pretty nearly desperate now. So I just lay flat down on my back to let him do it.
“The very first tear he made was so deep that I thought it had gone right into my heart. And when he began pulling the skin off, it hurt worse than anything I've ever felt. The only thing that made me able to bear it was just the pleasure of feeling the stuff peel off. You know - if you've ever picked the scab off a sore place. It hurts like billy-oh but it is such fun to see it coming away.”
“I know exactly what you mean,” said Edmund.
“Well, he peeled the beastly stuff right off - just as I thought I'd done it myself the other three times, only they hadn't hurt - and there it was lying on the grass: only ever so much thicker, and darker, and more knobbly-looking than the others had been. And there was I as smooth and soft as a peeled switch and smaller than I had been. Then he caught hold of me - I didn't like that much for I was very tender underneath now that I'd no skin on - and threw me into the water. It smarted like anything but only for a moment. After that it became perfectly delicious and as soon as I started swimming and splashing I found that all the pain had gone from my arm. And then I saw why. I'd turned into a boy again. You'd think me simply phoney if I told you how I felt about my own arms. I know they've no muscle and are pretty mouldy compared with Caspian's, but I was so glad to see them.
“After a bit the lion took me out and dressed me –“
“Dressed you. With his paws?”
“Well, I don't exactly remember that bit. But he did somehow or other: in new clothes - the same I've got on now, as a matter of fact. And then suddenly I was back here. Which is what makes me think it must have been a dream.”
“No. It wasn't a dream,” said Edmund.
“Well, there are the clothes, for one thing. And you have been - well, un-dragoned, for another.”
“What do you think it was, then?” asked Eustace.
“I think you've seen Aslan,” said Edmund.But between them and the foot of the sky there was something so white on the green grass that even with their eagles' eyes they could hardly look at it. They came on and saw that it was a Lamb.
“Come and have breakfast,” said the Lamb in its sweet milky voice.
Then they noticed for the first time that there was a fire lit on the grass and fish roasting on it. They sat down and ate the fish, hungry now for the first time for many days. And it was the most delicious food they had ever tasted.
“Please, Lamb,” said Lucy, “is this the way to Aslan's country?”
“Not for you,” said the Lamb. “For you the door into Aslan's country is from your own world.”
“What!” said Edmund. “Is there a way into Aslan's country from our world too?”
“There is a way into my country from all the worlds,” said the Lamb; but as he spoke his snowy white flushed into tawny gold and his size changed and he was Aslan himself, towering above them and scattering light from his mane.
“Oh, Aslan,” said Lucy. “Will you tell us how to get into your country from our world?”
“I shall be telling you all the time,” said Aslan. “But I will not tell you how long or short the way will be; only that it lies across a river. But do not fear that, for I am the great Bridge Builder…”
“Please, Aslan,” said Lucy. “Before we go, will you tell us when we can come back to Narnia again? Please. And oh, do, do, do make it soon.”
“Dearest,” said Aslan very gently, “you and your brother will never come back to Narnia.”
“Oh, Aslan!!” said Edmund and Lucy both together in despairing voices.
“You are too old, children,” said Aslan, “and you must begin to come close to your own world now.”
“It isn't Narnia, you know,” sobbed Lucy. “It's you. We shan't meet you there. And how can we live, never meeting you?”
“But you shall meet me, dear one,” said Aslan.
“Are are you there too, Sir?” said Edmund.
“I am,” said Aslan. “But there I have another name. You must learn to know me by that name. This was the very reason why you were brought to Narnia, that by knowing me here for a little, you may know me better there.”“If you're thirsty, you may drink.”
They were the first words she had heard since Scrubb had spoken to her on the edge of the cliff. For a second she stared here and there, wondering who had spoken. Then the voice said again, “If you are thirsty, come and drink,” and of course she remembered what Scrubb had said about animals talking in that other world, and realized that it was the lion speaking. Anyway, she had seen its lips move this time, and the voice was not like a man's. It was deeper, wilder, and stronger; a sort of heavy, golden voice. It did not make her any less frightened than she had been before, but it made her frightened in rather a different way.
“Are you not thirsty?” said the Lion.
“I'm dying of thirst,” said Jill.
“Then drink,” said the Lion.
“May I - could I - would you mind going away while I do?” said Jill.
The Lion answered this only by a look and a very low growl. And as Jill gazed at its motionless bulk, she realized that she might as well have asked the whole mountain to move aside for her convenience.
The delicious rippling noise of the stream was driving her nearly frantic.
“Will you promise not to - do anything to me, if I do come?” said Jill.
“I make no promise,” said the Lion.
Jill was so thirsty now that, without noticing it, she had come a step nearer.
“Do you eat girls?” she said.
“I have swallowed up girls and boys, women and men, kings and emperors, cities and realms,” said the Lion. It didn't say this as if it were boasting, nor as if it were sorry, nor as if it were angry. It just said it.
"I daren't come and drink," said Jill.
"Then you will die of thirst," said the Lion.
"Oh dear!" said Jill, coming another step nearer. "I suppose I must go and look for another stream
"There is no other stream," said the Lion.“One word, Ma'am,” he said, coming back from the fire; limping, because of the pain. "One word. All you've been saying is quite right, I shouldn't wonder. I'm a chap who always liked to know the worst and then put the best face I can on it. So I won't deny any of what you said. But there's one thing more to be said, even so. Suppose we have only dreamed, or made up, all those things – trees and grass and sun and moon and stars and Aslan himself. Suppose we have. Then all I can say is that, in that case, the made-up things seem a good deal more important than the real ones. Suppose this black pit of a kingdom of yours is the only world. Well, it strikes me as a pretty poor one. And that's a funny thing, when you come to think of it. We're just babies making up a game, if you're right. But four babies playing a game can make a playworld which licks your real world hollow. That's why I'm going to stand by the play-world. I'm on Aslan's side even if there isn't any Aslan to lead it. I'm going to live as like a Narnian as I can even if there isn't any Narnia.”
Ah, "The Last Battle". Here the tone of the entire series changes. Here evil incarnate has come to Narnia. Here a counterfeit Aslan sways a large number of Narnians to apostasy and service to Tash, a kind of Satan-like figure. Here the Last King of Narnia and his pathetically small number of Aslan loyalist followers make their last stand against impossible odds - and lose. Aslan does not save the day or vindicate his name against the imposter. Here even one of the super huge main characters of the entire series falls away into unbelief. Here even a large handful of super huge main characters die. Here Aslan breaks Narnia in fire and water and bitter ice. Here the apostates and Tash followers are held in Aslan's contempt and sent to Hell, while those that stayed faithful to the end are rewarded with a citizenry in Aslan's Country and are reunited with old friends. Here Narnia is remade. And here Aslan forgoes his Lion form and, well, that's just the beginning of the story.
Someone asked me what I thought of "The Silver Chair", the second to last book in the series, because it was his favorite. It's a fine book. But it can't hold a candle to "The Last Battle". It's awesome sauce.
The entire series is awesome sauce. I was a fool for not reading it sooner. Read it, read it to your kids. Watch the movies (even if they mangle the central elements of the story). It's worth it.
Last edited by Manwë Súlimo; April 14th 2011 at 10:59 PM.
***Rest in peace, Curtmudgeon!***
"I hate Manwe's posts because I hate babies and America." --Augustine2004, August 6, 2011
Then Morgoth turned upon Húrin, and he said: 'Fool, little among Men, and they are the least of all that speak! Have you seen the Valar, or measured the power of Manwë and Varda?
Do you know the reach of their thought? Or do you think, perhaps, that their thought is upon you, and that they may shield you from afar?'
'I know not,' said Húrin. 'Yet so it might be, if they willed. For the Elder King shall not be dethroned while Arda endures.'
The Words of Húrin and Morgoth, "The Children of Húrin" by J.R.R. Tolkien
April 15th 2011, 11:36 AM #2
Re: The Chronicles of Narnia
Reading Lewis on God is like listening to a friend talk favorably about a spouse you've long been married to.
You quickly recall why you loved them in the first place."One develops a cool and ironic sense of bitter humor, as well as a bloated ego, and this personality characteristic is the defining trait of atheists ancient and modern. If there is a meek and humble atheist or sorcerer brimming with the milk of human kindness, I have yet to meet him." -John C Wright
"Throughout history, poverty is the normal condition of man. Advances which permit this norm to be exceeded- here and there, now and then- are the work of an extremely small minority, frequently despised, often condemned, and almost always opposed by all right-thinking people. Whenever this tiny minority is kept from creating, or (as sometimes happens) is driven out of a society, the people then slip back into abject poverty. This is known as “bad luck.”"
— Robert A. Heinlein
"America's political system used to be about the pursuit of happiness. Now More and more of us want to stop chasing it and have it delivered."
"The government cannot love you, and any politics that works on a different assumption is destined for no good."
"Government money only pays for the "liberties" the government thinks you should have, and therefore it can determine how you exercise them. That turns liberties into privileges dispensed at the whim of the state."
— Jonah Goldberg
Virgins get tossed into Volcanoes because sinners have the majority vote.
April 27th 2011, 11:09 PM #3
Re: The Chronicles of Narnia
"Spouse?" Bah. Use not such neutral terms for the Divine. Here's a better one: Reading The Pilgrim's Regress is like hearing from a wife in love compare her rejected suitors to her husband one week into her honeymoon.In reaction to Richwine Affair, all right-thinking people are quick to proclaim that they don’t believe in a genetic basis for IQ. They’re much less quick to explain – with any sort of precision – what they actually do believe in. At best, we’re treated to some hand-waving paired with the phrase “social construct.”.
May 12th 2011, 11:14 AM #4
Re: The Chronicles of Narnia
Manwe I'm glad you discovered one of my favorite Children's series. I gave my mom the whole set of hardback for her grandma book shelf so that my neices and nephews will grow up in enjoying the world of Narnia I love so well.
I do know the best quote from Last battle one that was sad by Lucy I"m sure you know the one I'm talking about because it is so true. maybe we can talk about it while we play LOTRO some day.My Name is Michele.
May 25th 2011, 12:07 AM #5
Re: The Chronicles of Narnia
When I was a kid, I'd read one of these books a night. "A Horse and His Boy" was the one I came back to most frequently. I agree about effective and oppressive darkness of the charlatans in "The Last Battle" that left you longing for their comeuppance. My favorite quotation from the series isn't a spiritual one, but when Dragon-Edmund flies out of sight in "Dawn Treader," one of the other characters says something to the effect that, "If there's a wasp in the room, I should like to know where it was." Great common-sensical wisdom.
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