Chronicles of Narnia

It is possible to read them and miss the Christian symbolism. They are very popular children’s fare in the UK without regards to the christian angle. The BBC did a live-action series based on the books not because they wanted to proslyetize all those kids, but because they are popular.

Everywhere I look it is called an allegory. I have an article originally published in 1959 by John Warwicke Montgomery called “The Chronicles of Narnia and the Adolescent Reader.” It plainly calls the series an allegory. In fact the the editor of the journal it appeared in (Religious Education) gave this commentary: “The editor believes that [this article] has a threefold importance…[this article] faces squarely the use of fantasy and allegory in religious communication.”

But wait, there is more! In the book where I have the above article reprinted, there is a letter to Mr. Montgomery from Lewis himself favourably commenting on the article. While Lewis does not call the series an allegory in the letter, he does not call Mr. Mongomery to task for calling his work an allegory. So at the very least Lewis did not mind having them called an allegory.

Now here are the Christian themes in the books I neglected in my previous post (I will quote from the article mentioned above):

In Prince Caspian Narnia is redeemed from a different evil – from human beings who would force themselves upon and assert control over whom Christ has put under His own authority and under the authority of the ministers (Kings of Narnia) whom He has chosen.

The Voyage of the “Dawn Treader” indicates the perils which a man encounters in seeking Christ’s Kingdom; Reepicheep is a glorious example of the person who "Seeks first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness.

The Silver Chair gives further insight into the strategy of the Demonic, which would plunge us into a world of spiritual darkness by pretending to give us things to which God has already entitled us by His grace.
[end quote]

I also think that the The Silver Chair has a lot to say about living by faith.

With regard to “The Horse and his Boy”, which sets up a conflict between Narnia (and Archenland) on the one hand, and Calormen on the other, there are some unpleasantly xenophobic undertones. The “foreignness” of Calormen is recognisably Middle Eastern.

C.S. Lewis says, in a response to a fan letter from a class of 5th gaders:

“I said, ‘Let us suppose that there were a land like Narnia and that [Jesus], as he became a Man in our world, became a Lion there, and then imagine what would happen.’”

I believe this demonstrates that he undertook the writing of the series with a fairly clear intent to write about Christian themes. However, it’s also interesting to note that the initial image that made him start writing The Lion … was a thought he had about a faun with packages, walking in the snow. He combined this image with the idea of playing in a wardrobe – Lewis had opened his home to war refugees, as does the Professor in the books, and one of the children liked to play make believe games in one of the wardrobes. Neither of these two ideas – the faun and the wardrobe – are particularly Christian, and they are the genesis of the series.

Yes, but in the The Last Battle, while the Calormen culture is plainly Middle Eastern, it is plain that there are good Calormenes and Bad Calormenes. In fact, one could worship Tash with a “good” heart and have it rendered to Aslan.

As far as Tolkien goes, I found this quote by Lewis in Myth, Allegory and Gospel from an article “After the Moon Landings: A further report on the Christian Spacemen of CS Lewis.” by Edmund Fuller in Myth, Allegory and Gospel. Lewis tells Mr. Fuller:
“Don’t talk to [Tolkien] about the Narnian books, he doesn’t like them.” [When asked why not Lewis replied] “Because they are too explicit.”

Such an brusque and unqualified dismissal indicates to me that either (1) you didn’t like what the author had to say, or (2) you didn’t understand it. Would you care to qualify your remark?

Yeah, by the time I got to the end of the series (I was ain highschool, I think–my sister had them and somehow I compleley missed them earlier) I noticed that, what with the Bad Monsters sent howling off into the Darkness, and the Saved Good People invited to go Onward and Upward into mountains of joy, events were getting pretty dualist. I always fely kind of sorry for the monsters. Even though in the framework of the story it made sense.

And the characterisation of Calormen bothered me, too.

It’s been a LONG time since I read the Narnia Books…

I still love the Narnia books, 30 years and around 10 readings later. Lewis may not always be subtle, but he is still good.

Sorry if I’m commandeering the thread, but are there any comments from anyone here on the allegory in “Till We Have Faces,” Lewis’ retelling of the Cupid and Psyche myth?

Till We Have Faces is my favorite of Lewis’s novels; I’ve read it four times, I think. All of the characters are wonderfully drawn except Psyche; her speech seems unnatural. It reminds me of his comment that he would not have been able to write a companion volume to Screwtape, written by the young Christian’s guardian angel, because “every sentence would have to smell of Heaven”. He wants Psyche to represent absolute Innocence, and she comes out sounding a little priggish.

The allegory, I suppose, is that we can’t expect to understand or appreciate the goodness of God until we have grown enough to meet Him face-to-face, as someone a little like Him in practice, not just in potentiality. (I should mention that I myself am not a Christian and use the name “God” metaphorically.)

This is all news to me. No one ever told me.


[hijack] If I ever want to feel nostalgic I just watch the old TLTWATWD the cartoon movie. Sigh, good times. [/hijack].

I think Till We Have Faces is Lewis’s best novel too. Indeed, I think it should properly be considered one of the great novels of the world. I think the Ransom novels are also very good. I think the Narnia books are very good, but perhaps I like them a tiny bit less than most Lewis fans.

I’m on TMN, and the creation theme and the devil figures are now very obvious to me. But one thing that should’ve happened is that the 4 Orginal Children (my favourites, I don’t like Jill, Digory or Polly. Eustace is a little better) should have found the toffee tree.

I seem to remember reading that as a child Lewis read a storybook version of the Arabian Nights and hated it, and that he said this was why he made some of the baddies in Narnia seem Arabic.