Book Review: The Chronicles of Narnia

They looked into a room that was quite empty except for one big wardrobe; the sort that has a looking-glass in the door. There was nothing else in the room at all except a dead blue-bottle on the window-sill. “Nothing here!” said Peter, and they all trooped out again – all except Lucy.

the lion, the witch and the wardrobe

I cannot remember how old I was when I read The Magician’s Nephew or The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe for the first time – or even if I read them consecutively. I do, however, remember what I believe was the first I heard of “Narnia.” I was playing with friends in my neighborhood, no older than 10 at the time, when they started talking about Narnia as if it were a real place. “Do you want to see it? Let’s go to Narnia!” And we ran to the end of the backyard to a line of trees, where they had made a clearing and called it Narnia. Of course they explained that it was from a book they had read, and I was intrigued.

Fast forward to a decade and a half later, I’ve finally read the entire Narnia series, and I can’t believe it took until I was 26 years old in the middle of a pandemic to read it! And yet, how appropriate a time to read it. The dedication from C.S. Lewis at the beginning of The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe says, among other kind words to his goddaughter Lucy, “. . . you are already too old for fairy tales, and by the time [this book] is printed and bound you will be older still. But some day you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again.” I think I’m there. I’m old enough for fairy tales again. The past year has held challenges and struggles I didn’t expect to face. In the midst of trial and tragedy, there is hopefulness and optimism between the covers of fantasy books like Narnia, and for that reason I’m grateful to have read it when I did. (You can read more on that in this article from The Gospel Coalition.)

I don’t know that I can choose a favorite book in the series. I can say that Prince Caspian was likely my least-favorite, and the one that took me longest to read. The story just dragged for me. However, I definitely was a fan of Trumpkin so I can’t write off the book completely. Sarah Sparks’ original song, “The New Song of Trumpkin,” helped me to understand him and his role in the story even more. (Her whole album “Into the Lantern Waste” is full of incredible songs and meaningful lyrics inspired by Narnia – go check it out!)

Hear the trees?
Hear them whispering
They tell stories of a king
And the forest wakes
With a divine ache
For His returning
I’ve forgotten who I am
And who You are
Cause the truth is all my worth
Can only be found in Your scars
And I’m learning how to die
Because I know who You are
By His wounds I’m healed
I for the first time feel
Like this may not be the end

There are so many endearing characters, essential characters. Puddleglum has a sort of “secondary” role in The Silver Chair, and he honestly frustrated me at first but really grew on me. I love the development of Lucy, Edmund, Shasta, Aravis, Eustace, Jill, and even King Tirian. And of course, the allegory of Aslan being the sovereign savior in the books is impossible to miss. The lion, who also appears as a lamb for a moment at the end of The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, is in every book, both working behind the scenes in the bigger picture, and providing for the children in the smaller scheme.

I admit that I cried at times while reading. When Aslan sacrificed himself to save Edmund in The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe, when Shasta met Aslan in The Horse and His Boy, when Lucy, Edmund, and Eustace return home at the end of The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, and during the climactic ending of the book – which was also a very fitting ending for the entire series – of The Last Battle.

These books are familiar to so many, but I do wonder how many have read the series in its entirety. Everyone generally knows the story of The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe, but what about the rest of the story? There is so much richness to be found in these books. Though Lewis may not have had a cohesive story in mind when he began writing Narnia, by the time you reach the end of the series you can look back and see the common threads throughout. It is truly a classic, and I’m thankful to have finally completed this legendary series.

All their life in this world and all their adventures had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read: which goes on for ever: in which every chapter is better than the one before.

The last battle

Happy 70th anniversary to the lion, the witch and the wardrobe!

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