Monday, April 19, 2021

On Narnia

In "Why the bigotry of CS Lewis’s Narnia books shouldn’t disqualify their magic"  Katherine Langrish argues for the continuing value of the books albeit conceding more to the critics than I would:
.... With all its faults, Narnia is a world rich in allusions not only to Christianity, but to ballads, fairy tales, medieval and Renaissance literature, to Plato, Greek and Norse mythology, and to classic children’s books by Lewis Carroll, George MacDonald and E Nesbit. Narnia is stuffed with exciting ideas. It was Lewis who introduced me, aged nine, to Socratic logic and the concept of the multiverse.

As for his effortlessly drawn characters, a child could learn much without even realising it from meeting selfish Uncle Andrew in The Magician’s Nephew, who thinks the rules are for the little people. In Prince Caspian, Nikabrik the Dwarf is a narrow, passionately focussed jihadi whose anger I could understand because I knew the story of the oppression and persecution of his race.

And what about the wonderful passage in The Silver Chair when, turning Plato’s parable of the cave on its head, the Green Lady almost gaslights the children into agreeing that her dismal Underland is the only real world? It’s followed by Puddleglum’s splendid defence of the power and importance of the imagination: “We’re just babies playing a game, if you’re right. But four babies playing a game can make a play world which licks your real world hollow.” It made me want to cheer; it still does. ....

For me, reading the Seven Chronicles as a child was a life-changing experience. I still love them, and if I now see flaws where once I saw perfection, that’s because I’m grown up and Narnia was part of my growing. It’s always there in my past, and it’s still here – now, today, tomorrow – for any child who wants to open the wardrobe door and push past those fur coats.
Katherine Langrish, "Why the bigotry of CS Lewis’s Narnia books shouldn’t disqualify their magic," The Telegraph, April 19, 2021.

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