Thoughts & Feelings: The Chronicles of Narnia

I recently read The Chronicles of Narnia (or rather I heard the audiobook), and I have a couple of hang-ups now that I am done with the series. So here er go:

A little background knowledge: I had most of the books read a loud to me as a child but had never read The Silver Chair or The Last Battle before now. I choose to read them in the same order as it was done to me as a child, based on Narnia Chronology, meaning The Magician’s Nephew comes first. Partly because I remembered it being my favorite! 

The Magician’s Nephew tells the story of the creation of Narnia and the Christian allegory presents through out the series og made painfully clear from the get go if you read in this order. Not that that’s a negative, it still remains my favorite.

   I felt the Christian-inspired creation much was carefully crafted and not as ostentatious as one might expect (and fear) of a book from the 50’s. The story highlights lessons of friendship and loyalty. I enjoyed the immense empowering of the voice of the children – and the treatment of our female lead is called into question. Lewis gives her a voice and let’s her speak out against societal misogyny. A groundbreaking thing considering the time it was written!

In The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe we them meet the Pevensee children that are synomenous with Narnia. The story is more fairytale-esque overall, however yhe resurrection of Aslan clearly Christian. The story is heavily focused on the role of family as well as tur battle of good and evil.

   The role of Edmund is to blur the lines – he objectively sells out his siblings for a bit of candy, however, his motivations aren’t that clearly expressed. Personally, I see him as the middlechild who perhaps feels a bit forgotten, he desperatly wants to be one of ‘the older children’, he wants to feel important – something the White Witch makes him feel.

   The story arch obviously makes him see the error of his ways and teaches the reader an immense lessons of repentance and forgiveness when Aslan takes his place. But it the return from Narnia Also illustrates (in my opinion) how you can’t live in a fantasy world forever. There is a distinction between the fantasy of Narnia and the real world.

I then skipped The Horse and His Boy as I remembered disliking it so much as a child and instead proceeded to Prince Caspian which had to major impact on my personally. It is a story of battle – but Also of belief, as Lucy believes in Aslan so wholeheartedly that she can see him when the others can’t. But really I can hardly remember how the conflict is resolved.

The Voyage of the Dawn Treader on the other hand was my favorite (2nd to Magician’s Nephew). It is probably the story with the most subtle Chistian-allegory and it reminded me more of Gullivers Travel’s by Jonathan Swift than anything Narnia. There is great agency for all chracthers inbolves and especially Eustace goes on a journey of self-discovery, learning to become part of the group. He eventuelly becomes a very sweet boy  (much to the diamant of his mother) and I loved how the story blended adventure, with lessons of growing-up and love into a seemless story.

   The only drawback being the underlying racism I felt was present regarding the Duffers who apparently need a wise (Christian) to guide them through their stupid (uncultured) life. Also this is the book that expressively states that the children will know Aslan my another name (Jesus) in their own world.
The Silver Chair felt like a filler in in my opinion and served more as an introduction of the new main characters, Eustace and Jill, than anything else. However, the is a clear lesson or allegory about being lead into the darkness (away from Aslan/Narnia/Jesus) but that you can be saved and return to the light (of Christianity).

The there was The Last Battle which I already reviewed here on the blog. I expressed how I felt ‘cheated’ by this story (specifially the ending) as it seemed to to against many of the things I just described in this post. The ultimate Christian aspect of going to Aslan’s Country (heaven) just seemed like such a wrong way to end this epic, in my opinion. All the moral/value lessons that are present throughout are clearly Christian in nature, and I honestly loved the series so he religious aspect is not my hang-up.

   Still something about The Last Battle just continues to feel wrong. Even now that I have had time to “call down” and think I am still unhappy. One aspect of it is the complete eradication of the Calormenes, (worshippers of Tash). Only a single Calormene is allowed into Aslan’s Country since his actions were good – and anything good is done in Aslan’s name, even if you don’t know it. But how can it be that not a single Calormene other than him was good at heart?! Soldiers follow orders and obey their leaders, and can in my opinion not be held individually resonsible – yet not a single Calormene is allowed into heaven! Is it not good to fight for what you believe to be the truth? And even if they were all evil, what happened to all those lessons of forgiveness?! The stories leading up to The Last Battle give ample opportunity for repentance and forgiveness but these lessons are completely ignored in my opinion. A terrible explaination might be that the Calormene are a different race from the Narnians.

Like many English men of this era, Lewis was unconsciously but regrettably unsympathetic to things and people Middle Eastern. Thus he sometimes engages in exaggerated stereotyping in contrasting things Narnian and things Calormene” (Paul F Ford).

However, evem when allowing for this cultural-temporal difference between Lewis and myself, I still have one more bone to pick.

   I think the main issue I continue to have is the fact that Lewis chose to included the Pevensee parents in the train crash. They are in no way involved in build-up of the narrative. Their pressence is established through an off-hand remark towards the end and in my opinion their pressence is totally uneccessary. The only thing it accomplishes is leaving Susan utterly and completely alone in the real world. Not only does she loose her siblings and cousin, no her parents are clumsily killed-off as well. Add this to the fact that Susan herself is written off in a snide comment about “not being a friend of Narnia” and “caring more about stockings and invitations” (made by her own brother), I think is absolutely horrible.

   She may have lost faith in Aslan/Narnia but does that really warrent killing her entire family in one swoop?! and essentially saying there is no way of her to join them in heaven! Wasn’t The Silver Chair exactly about that?

In my opinion this inssensitive treatment of Susan has nothing to do with the otherwise wonderful (and universal) lessons that Lewis found in Christianity and weaved into The Chronicles of Narnia through his excelent storytelling and magical language. If I ever decide to reread the series I’ll skip The Last Battle because everything up until that point is a wonderful children’s tale, despite its faults.


Thoughts: Narnia The Last Battle by C.S. Lewis

I feel disappointed.

*spoilers ahead*

I never finished the series as a child and after reading The Last Battle for the first time now I honestly feel cheated. I’ve been well aware of the blatant Christian allegory of the series and The Magician’s Nephew is by far my favorite – so it is not as if I am opposed to Lewis’ use of religion. My mom is in fact a minister so I do have a pretty good understanding of Protestant Christianity. This is perhaps part of why I feel disappointed.
The Last Battle seems to contradict every other lesson these stories taught. Narnia was a fairytale yet the children always knew that reality was waiting for them – a beautiful lesson of letting yourself dream but not to get lost in those dreams. I commended The Magicians Nephew (after just rereading it) for it’s approach to female agency – Polly wasn’t about to let anybody push her around simply for being a girl! And forgiveness was a key theme through out.But honestly, The Last Battle goes to great effort to shit all over that!

From rather obvious racist tendencies to essentially referring to Susan as a slut who is, quote, “no longer a friend of Narnia”. The ending feels like it is trying to teach us all that growing up isn’t worth a damn, it’s much better to die and go to an all white heaven. Because those lessons of forgiveness – Yeah those don’t seem to apply to the Carlomene.

I still gave it three stars a I felt everything up until the last two chapters were as exciting an adventure as any of the others, filled with magic and anticipation of victory. Despite figuring the title might refer to the fact that our hero(es) wouldn’t make it – that Narnia would somehow end, but still, killing everyone in a train crash just wasn’t a fitting way to wrap up this series.

Review: A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

A Monster Calls is quite possibly the most beautiful book I have ever read!

To quote the book itself, “Stories are important … They can be more important than anything. If they carry the truth”. And this story certainly carries the truth – a devestating yet beautiful truth.

Putting it (very) simply, A Monster Calls is the story of 13 year-old Conor O’Malley who gets visited by a monster one night. However, it is not the monster he fears.
   The monster has come walking to tell Conor three tales, the morals of which don’t become evident until Conor has to tell the 4th tale – tell his truth.

Based on the idea of Siobhan Dowd, Patrick Ness’ has has created a true masterpiece that manages to weave the real and the imaginary together seemlessly.
   The way Conor constantly questions and interrupts the monter’s tales, combined with a free-flowing uncomplicated language, helps perfectly off-sets the complex concept being mediated in the narrative.

A Monster Calls will break your heart and give you hope!

Review: The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

​An original take on the classic coming of age story.

The Graveyard Book is Neil Gaiman at his most Gaiman-esque and I loved it. We follow the life of Nobody Owens, who, after his patents’ murder, is adopted by the community of the graveyard – and specifically by Mr and Mrs Owens. The mysterious Silas is to be Bod’s guardian, as Silas is neither living nor dead and therefore the only one able to leave the graveyard. What follows is 300 pages of pure adventure – Bod leads us into the oldest grave and through a ghoul gate, he befriends a witch and becomes the supposed imaginary friend of the girl Scarlett. All the while slowly growing up amongst ghosts.

If you want your story to have a clear-cut linear progression this is not the book for you. But if you want to experience the trubbles of growing up, to explore the supernatural and gain new perspective on human-nature, topped with a myrder mystery then The Graveyard Book will deliver on all of those!

Neil Gaiman gives you just enough knowledge to be statisfied that the plot is resolved while at the same time building a fantasy world that you can imagine yourself visiting in a hundred more books and still you would not have the full story!