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06 December 2005

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (1950)

By C. S. Lewis

From Narnia.com: "[The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe] Follows the exploits of the four Pevensie siblings - Lucy, Edmund, Susan and Peter - in World War II England who enter the world of Narnia through a magical wardrobe while playing a game of hide-and-seek in the rural country home of an elderly professor. Once there, the children discover a charming, peaceful land inhabited by talking beasts, dwarfs, fauns, centaurs and giants that has become a world cursed to eternal winter by the evil White Witch, Jadis. Under the guidance of a noble and mystical ruler, the lion Aslan, the children fight to overcome the White Witch's powerful hold over Narnia in a spectacular, climactic battle that will free Narnia from Jadis's icy spell forever."

What can I write about this classic work of fiction that has not already been written? I suppose I can mention that I thoroughly enjoyed the book, with its complex blend of themes and images which seem able to reach people's imaginations across all ages. And rather than be annoyed by various and oft-hyped Christian references, I found Lewis's interwoven fantasy, prophecy, and Biblical matter very interesting. If you take his meaning - that if Christ was a Messiah in human form on Earth, therefore He might be any manner of creature to other worlds - then the book rather gently walks between the worlds of Christian mythology and fiction. Lewis did not exactly spell out his intentions for those who may be unfamiliar with the Bible; after all, his Christian references take place in a fantasy land found only through the doors of a magical wardrobe. Making hard-and-fast distinctions between "reality" (his Christian beliefs founded on the rather fantastic text of the Bible) and "fantasy" (stuff he just plain made up) seems hardly the point.

This was an easy, engaging read and a wonderful example of well-crafted, classic (children's) fiction. I suppose I'll have more to say about various issues of sexism, racism, and religious intolerance as I work through the rest of the series. (We got the complete 7-book boxed set of paperbacks last year in England for only £6.99, roughly $13.50. Bargain!)

Now I'm just looking forward to the movie!

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