Sunday, December 18, 2005

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch, and the Warddrobe

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch, and the Warddrobe

So, now we tackle the book, the true beginning of the Chronicles of Narnia. Yes, yes, arguements about the way you should read the books are slightly silly, and C.S. Lewis himself said it didn't matter.

But the point is, that I've always thought that chronological order is overrated, and sometimes you should appreciate the middle, then go back to the beginning to learn more, then you'll appreciate the end.

Anyway, the book. First, I didn't remember it being so short and so fast to read. I've read it in only a few days, and I don't get much time to read these days so I'm really surprised by that. I got several chapters in just waiting for my food to heat for lunch the other day.

Second, going back as an adult, I now see some of the criticisms the books have received. I'm surprised by the fact that Father Christmas comes out and says not only that he doesn't want Susan and Lucy to fight, but that, "...battles are ugly when women fight."

Makes me wonder if Lewis was being patriarchal, or just pointing out that women fight dirty.

There's also several hints that he was anti-school. I seem to remember reading that he had a really terrible boarding school experience, so maybe that's where it comes from. But aside from the professor's constant "What do they teach you in these schools?" commentary, there's also the fact that once Edmund returns from the bring of death, the book clearly says he was "looking better than she had seen him look--oh, for ages; in fact ever since his first term at that horrid school which was where he had begun to go wrong. He had become his real old self again and could look you in the face."

And that's the thing with this book. There are little, tiny, almost throw-away moments that say more about Lewis, or the characters themselves, than most of the book put together. He also changes styles often, which threw me some. He actually said "I" but only a few times, and sometimes would address the reader directly, but not often enough for it to be like Series of Unfortunate Events which is constantly talking to you.

In the end, this just made me remember that even when I was younger, I liked the Prince Caspian stories better, but held a special place for the first book because it was the first book.

Another thing that came to mind was something the producers and scriptwriters of the movie said in an interview, claiming that quite a few things in the book were "glossed over" (paraphrasing) and that they fleshed them out. That is actually pretty true. Especially when it comes to the battle, the descriptions of the bad guys, and even character development of the children themselves.

Now that I've re-read the book though, I'll have to say one more disspointment comes to mind for the movie. They made "the trees" talk by not-so-great CGI's of their leaves joining to form people. When in the original, they stuck pretty closely to Dryads and tree-spirits and I've always liked those better.

It's still a very, very good book, and I still encourage anyone to get their children to read it. But I have to admit that it does fall short of what I remember, and that I wanted more detail and description out of it. Maybe not as much as Tolkien, who Lewis is (almost unfortunatly) constantly linked to, but a little more all the same. We can picture Narnia very well, but the actions and the looks of the characters (aside from Aslan and the Witch) are often touched on and left behind.

It is still a dang good story though. I don't care if people think it's Christian propoganda. A moment that surprised me reading it, is when Mr. Beaver tells the children that the Witch is not a daughter of Eve, but in fact the daughter of Lillith. That I think is almost the only blatantly "Christian" part of it, and since as a kid I didn't know what the heck the Beaver was talking about, I just left it alone and forgot about it.

I think the book still stands well as a myth, a morality fable. It's not overly Christian, but actually stands alone and reminds me of the dozens of other ressurection myths throughout the world.