The Essence of Narnia

Talk about any aspect of the films.

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Re: The Essence of Narnia

Postby stargazer » Jul 21, 2017 11:34 am

I'll echo the kudos for Reepicheep775's post. It's a wonderful summary of the topic.

Many people have mentioned checking their closets or wardrobes for portals after reading the Chronicles. Alas, I was introduced to them a little too late to do that, but what impressed me was how child-like (as opposed to childish) they were compared to Middle-earth (which I'd been introduced to much earlier). This is not a criticism of either work...the mythological hodgepodge of Narnia struck me in contrast to Tolkien's carefully constructed mythos.

There are a lot of wonderful moments in Middle-earth, but even now it's hard to beat the goosebumps I get when I read Shasta's encounter with Aslan in HHB. It is awe, it is wonder, and it's simply beautiful.
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Re: The Essence of Narnia

Postby Reepicheep775 » Jul 21, 2017 1:36 pm

Thanks, guys.

@glumPuddle: I actually have considered doing a Narnia video blog. Thing is I rather like having two personas on the internet: one, the me that people know irl, and the other, the anonymous one. A video blog would kind of kill that anonymity... unless I went the MinotaurForAslan route. :p

stargazer wrote:the mythological hodgepodge of Narnia struck me in contrast to Tolkien's carefully constructed mythos.

And as The Rose-Tree Dryad pointed out, it somehow doesn't feel like a hodgepodge. Personally I think that Michael Ward was on to something into Planet Narnia and that Lewis used the seven planets of medieval cosmology as creative wellsprings for the seven books. Even that can only take you so far though. Lewis just seemed to have this intuitive sense of what things belonged in each book.
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Re: The Essence of Narnia

Postby Anhun » Jul 21, 2017 3:07 pm

The Rose-Tree Dryad wrote:I know some people hear about the conclusion of CoN and think that it's weird that "everybody died and went to heaven"... but I don't know what other conclusion would have been possible or fitting for a series that has been building up longing for one's true home all throughout the seven stories. What else could have sufficed? I get on the filmmakers' cases for not emphasizing Narnia and Aslan enough, but even more than that, ignoring this prevailing theme would be ignoring what the series is ultimately about.


While I agree with Reepicheep's assessment of longing and joy being one of Narnia's recurring themes, I strongly disagree that "the longing for one's true home" is THE overarching theme that was building up throughout the series. It's arguably the central theme in HHB, it's key to the last segment of LB, and it's the thrust of Reepicheep's character arc in VDT, but it's nowhere to be found in the other four books. Furthermore, the Narnia books were written one book at a time, with no reference to future books, and, in most cases, little reliance on previous books. There is no overarching theme that builds across the series. Narnia has no Voldemort. The fact that most of the books stand on their own and are, often, very different from each other is an important part of what makes the Narnia series unique.
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Re: The Essence of Narnia

Postby The Rose-Tree Dryad » Jul 22, 2017 1:49 pm

stargazer wrote:Many people have mentioned checking their closets or wardrobes for portals after reading the Chronicles. Alas, I was introduced to them a little too late to do that...


My acquaintance with CoN was a little too late for looking for Narnia in closets and wardrobes as well, but I was very much that kind of child. The mythical world always felt so much more immediate in my childhood, and I always loved stories with secret passageways, mysterious creatures, lost civilizations, hidden worlds and "no one would ever believe you" adventures. I was always looking for those things and dreaming about them. I think that's partly why the Chronicles go on growing even dearer as I get older and try to reconnect with my younger self amid the noise of adulthood in the modern world.

gazer wrote:... but what impressed me was how child-like (as opposed to childish) they were compared to Middle-earth (which I'd been introduced to much earlier). This is not a criticism of either work...the mythological hodgepodge of Narnia struck me in contrast to Tolkien's carefully constructed mythos.


I'm glad you mentioned that, because the word "childhood" has been ringing in my metaphorical ears relating to this topic for a while and I haven't been sure how to describe what I mean by it. I'm reminded of a quote from Surprised by Joy where Lewis describes a memory from when he was very young:

    Once in those very early days my brother brought into the nursery the lid of a biscuit tin which he had covered with moss and garnished with twigs and flowers so as to make it a toy garden or a toy forest. That was the first beauty I ever knew. What the real garden had failed to do, the toy garden did. It made me aware of nature—not, indeed, as a storehouse of forms and colors but as something cool, dewy, fresh, exuberant. I do not think the impression was very important at the moment, but it soon became important in memory. As long as I live my imagination of Paradise will retain something of my brother's toy garden.

I think The Chronicles of Narnia are, in many ways, a collection of all of the things and ideas and feelings that Lewis loved best, and he loved them with a childlike wonder. We see this in the innocence of Narnia... the stories are encounters with divine things, touched with the fingerprints of childhood.

I think that is why I tend to bristle at the idea of cutting out parts that seem to some as "silly"... yes, stories are subjective and Narnia can be enjoyed by anyone and for any reason, but it seems to me that the most important thing when adapting a book is to at least respect what the storyteller himself loved about the story. Lewis didn't write about the Great Snow Dance because it would be a fun scene to entertain the kids; he wrote about it because it was something that captured his imagination and he could feel the good magic, too. I wish you could see it for yourselves, he tells us.

Anhun wrote:While I agree with Reepicheep's assessment of longing and joy being one of Narnia's recurring themes, I strongly disagree that "the longing for one's true home" is THE overarching theme that was building up throughout the series. It's arguably the central theme in HHB, it's key to the last segment of LB, and it's the thrust of Reepicheep's character arc in VDT, but it's nowhere to be found in the other four books. Furthermore, the Narnia books were written one book at a time, with no reference to future books, and, in most cases, little reliance on previous books. There is no overarching theme that builds across the series. Narnia has no Voldemort. The fact that most of the books stand on their own and are, often, very different from each other is an important part of what makes the Narnia series unique.


I do agree with you that each story was largely written as a standalone book. That's one of my favorite aspects of CoN, actually. I sometimes think of Narnia as being like seven jewels from seven corners of the earth, all strung together on the same string. (Must. order. Planet Narnia. o_e)

However, I don't at all agree that the theme of longing for one's true home is nowhere to be found outside of HHB, LB and VDT. (What happens when an unstoppable Anhun meets an immovable Dryad? :-? ;))) I should try to clarify or elaborate what I mean, though. I think the longing for Aslan, the longing for ancient things, for the old ways and for idealized life is included in Lewis's concept of joy, the longing for one's true home.

(Alas, trying to elucidate this really makes me wish that I had already completed my yearly reread of CoN. I'll do my best. :P)

In LWW, there is the mysterious, powerful effect that hearing Aslan's name has on the Pevensies, and the longing they feel to meet him. There is the longing for the end of the winter and the return of spring and of Narnia's old, happy, idyllic days. I think the pain of Aslan's death and the joy and mystery of his resurrection is also very interwoven with these ideas, because Aslan's triumph over death is the essential beginning of everything being put to rights.

In PC, I think Caspian's longing for the Old Days and the Pevensies' longing for the return of the same is also evocative of these themes. Their longing for the misty, idealized past feels like a shadow or an echo of what Lewis describes here, a feeling he experienced after seeing one of Arthur Rackham's illustrations of Siegfried and the Twilight of the Gods: "And with that plunge back into my past there arose at once, almost like heartbreak, the memory of Joy itself, the knowledge that I had once had what I now lacked for years, that I was returning at last from exile and desert lands to my own country."

In SC, Jill and Eustace's conversation at the beginning—Could you believe me if I said I'd been right out of this world?—stirs up all of that childhood wonder and longing I listed above in response to gazer, and I have always found Puddleglum's speech to be a defense for Joy: even when you may be doubting its memory and are being told that the world means nothing, it is better to spend the rest of your life seeking Narnia and Aslan, living on the longing for those things alone, than it is to succumb to the black pit of the Witch's kingdom. There's also an interesting juxtaposition in SC between the things you really want—fidelity to Aslan and the signs—and the things that you long for in the short term, like hot baths at Harfang. It asks us to examine what we really long for in life, and what it means to actually live for it.

In MN, the emotional heart of the story is Digory's desire to save his mother and his wild hope that perhaps somewhere, somehow, there is a world with a Land of Youth that might be able to heal her. I think that his desire is fundamentally rooted in a longing for Aslan's Country, for a world without death, though young Digory does not yet understand it. There is also something about the thought of Narnia at its very beginning, fresh and new and idyllic, that really captures my imagination and sets me longing.

I probably could've worded a few things better, but hopefully this illustrates my general perspective. What CoN "means" is of course very subjective and I don't think that Lewis set out to drive home any particular point or idea, but I also I think that Joy was so deeply important to him that its themes are still woven throughout the stories despite the fact that the series wasn't planned out beforehand. Further, I think Jewel's words in The Last Battle have a retroactive means of linking the seven books together: "The reason why we loved the old Narnia is that it sometimes looked a little like this." The love for Narnia, what made Narnia special and wonderful, was always at its root a love for Aslan and for Aslan's Country.
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