I Read a Classic No. 3: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

Again, re-read.

If I'm going to see a movie based on a book, I always like to read the book first. I don't know, it's a weird thing with me.

(I will say here that I never read any of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, and I won't either, because I'm pretty much satisfied that the movies got it all. And if they didn't, well, I'll never know, will I?)

I'm not going to give a synopsis here, because I definitely think everyone should read this book for himself or herself; it's good, and it'll take you about an hour.

But I am going to talk about it.

I first read this book when I was about ten, I think. At the time, I did not know anything about symbolism or allegory, and I was just caught up in an excellent and exciting story. There are wonderful descriptions and a lot of fantastical elements that are just right for kids who want to read a good book.

On the other hand, reading it twenty years later, it's very difficult NOT to see it as a Jesus-story, particularly when Aslan comes on the scene. I think, to anyone who has a knowledge of Jesus Christ, whether personal or objective, there's a pretty clear parallel. I think you'd have to work harder to prove it's NOT an allegory than to prove that it is.

I wouldn't, however, go up to a child and say, "Hey, that book's all about redemption and resurrection," etc., etc.

First of all, though I have been in church for nearly all my life, I don't think I really understood the concept of GRACE for a long time (and it's still sometimes just a little beyond my realm of understanding; I think it's supposed to be, like God is giving me enough to get by and then laying it on me when I really really need it).

Second, as a child, I had no idea what symbolism is. Sadly, since I was an English major, I still struggle mightily with this. (That's because I don't like to hide things in words; I like to say them straight out). So if I am able to see the symbolism in the book, it must be pretty transparent. I do think it's a mistake to try to make a child glean a HUGE message from a book that is about fauns and lions and stuff.

Third, I think it's very important for kids to read. People who don't read are stupid; that's just a proven fact (though the published studies might put it more delicately, hee). And I think that forcing a child to explicate ANY book would ruin his or her enjoyment of first, the book, and ultimately, reading.

[It's why, to this day, I hate Huck Finn, because a college professor--before I had read the book--was all, "And Huck is a Christ-figure bleeblahbloo ..." I would have preferred to read it as an adventure story and nothing else, which IT CLEARLY IS, even to the author, who stated quite clearly at the beginning: "PERSONS attempting to find a motive in this narrative will be prosecuted; persons attempting to find a moral in it will be banished; persons attempting to find a plot in it will be shot." I choose not to see this as irony.]

All that aside, I would like to quote here one passage from the book that stood out to me during my reading, because it does perfectly describe the different approaches people have when they meet Jesus:

At the name of Aslan each one of the children felt something jump on its inside. Edmund felt a sensation of mysterious horror. Peter felt suddenly brave and adventurous. Susan felt as if some delicious smell or some delightful strain of music had just floated by her. And Lucy got the feeling you have when you wake up in the morning and realize that it is the beginning of the holidays or the beginning of summer.

At any number of times in my own life, I have felt these exact emotions when hearing a sermon or singing a song or even just listening to a still, small voice. I think C.S. Lewis is a genius.

In conclusion, I feel that I should, in case you are confused, make my position clear as to whether or not The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe should be viewed as an allegorical work. Here's what I say:

For kids: no way.
For adults: If you are at all familiar with any of the Gospels, it may be very difficult not to make comparisons, and you just might come to a deeper understanding of your relationship with Jesus through the reading of thise book.

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