Books About Narnia

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Books About Narnia

Postby Col Klink » Sep 15, 2018 10:11 am

Here are my thoughts on some books I've read recently that talked about Narnia.

Wild Things the Joy of Reading Children's Literature as an Adult by Bruce Handy has a chapter where the author talks about his experiences with the Narnia books. He describes how he was a big fan as a kid, disliked them when he grew older because he felt that they were propaganda for Christianity, then became a big fan again as an adult (in part) because he admired what a great job Lewis did describing his beliefs even if he (Handy) didn't agree with them. I thought this chapter did a great job selecting memorable passages from the books to demonstrate the author's points. I really agreed with what he said about the writing style. The emphasis on humor was great because I feel that this is an aspect of the books that doesn't get as much praise as it deserves. (He describes the humor as "donnish" which is interesting because I love the jokes and I hate college. )

Unfortunately, this chapter kind of ended on a sour note for me because the author basically agrees with the interpretation that Susan's lack of interest in Narnia equals C.S. Lewis renouncing adulthood. (He's one of the critics who finds it overly sentimental and a little annoying; not one who finds it super offensive.) Everyone has a right to their opinion, of course, but I just don't get this criticism! The only people who see lipstick as a symbol of maturity are in Middle School.

The other book was Live Like a Narnian: Christian Discipleship in Lewis's Chroniclesby Joe Rigney. I enjoyed this book because clearly both the author and I love Narnia. We seem to love it for different reasons though. I'm more interested in the atmosphere of Narnia. He's interested in the books as a source of good role models. (That's a trite way of expressing it but not a basically inaccurate one.) I suspect that's why I like the Narnia movies and he doesn't.

I guess it's also why he, like some other people, sees gender roles as being a theme in the books while I don't. (He sees this as a good thing and the other people as a bad thing.) Doubtless, Lewis's views on gender did influence him while writing the characters but I don't see how that equals gender being a major theme in the books. On the whole, this book did a really good job summarizing the themes in the Narnia books which influenced Rigney's life. There were a few chapters were I though his points were kind of confusing. Like the chapter where he writes about Eustace's parents and Governor Gumpas. I couldn't understand his specific reasons for condemning those characters. (I guess Lewis arguably didn't do a great job specifying that either.)

Anyway, I enjoyed these books because the authors and I were both big Narnia fans. Though I suspect we would end up arguing if I actually talked about Narnia with either of them.
For better or worse-for who knows what may unfold from a chrysalis?-hope was left behind.
-The God Beneath the Sea by Leon Garfield & Edward Blishen
Col Klink
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Re: Books About Narnia

Postby Courtenay » Oct 15, 2019 2:59 pm

Hope no-one minds me reviving an older thread — I was just looking to see if anyone had started one before on books about Narnia, as I'd rather add to an existing one than create a new topic and end up doubling up.

I've read Live Like a Narnian too, Col Klink, but I recall that although it started well and I loved the premise, I didn't end up enjoying it. It just seemed a bit too shallow — stating the obvious a lot of the time and barely scratching the surface of what one can find in the books, or so I felt — and I also didn't agree with the author on the theme of gender roles. I remember, too, that he (Joe Rigney) ended up absolutely tying himself in knots over the fact that Emeth the Calormene gets into Aslan's country despite not having believed in Aslan during his earthly life, which obviously contradicted Rigney's particular brand of Christianity. I'm not completely familiar with Lewis's own views on the subject of heaven and hell myself, but I've always found it very telling that the final judgment in Narnia isn't based on what the creatures and other characters professed to believe, or on what they did in life, but simply on this: when they are brought before Aslan's face — before the embodiment of absolute goodness and divine love — do they respond with hatred, or with love?

I'd love to hear about any other books about Narnia that people here have found worth reading. Meanwhile, these are a few more that I've recently read and would highly recommend to anyone who's interested!

Devin Brown: Inside Narnia; Inside Prince Caspian; Inside The Voyage of the Dawn Treader — these were written some years ago to coincide with the three Walden films, but they're about the respective books and are really good explorations of each. Devin Brown has also written an essay that's available on this website and is really helpful in rebutting some of the attacks on the Narnia books from harsh critics: Are the Chronicles of Narnia sexist and racist?

Jonathan Rogers: The World According to Narnia — this one I bought just recently and ploughed through it within a day, as it's not very long and I couldn't put it down! The author devotes just one chapter to each Chronicle and doesn't go into every aspect of each story, but he brings out some of the most important themes in each and has some great insights that I certainly hadn't thought of before (and I've read and re-read the Chronicles over many years!).

Rowan Williams: The Lion's World — this is by the former Archbishop of Canterbury (who's a great scholar and speaker — I heard him give a wonderful address once on Dame Julian of Norwich, the medieval visionary, but that's another story!). It's fairly academic and not the easiest read, but he also has some wonderful deep insights into the Narnia stories and what they can teach us about the path of faith and our need for redemption.
"Now you are a lioness," said Aslan. "And now all Narnia will be renewed." (Prince Caspian)
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