Despite my varied reading adventures, there are some books and authors, I never got around to reading. This is especially true for Children’s Literature because as young child I read whatever my parents introduced me to and they did introduce me to great many, and as an adult, there were so many new books to read, that going back to explore a Children’s Classic took a back seat! But my 12 Months Classic Reading Challenge gave me a tiny opportunity to correct this, with the September theme being – A Children’s Classic. While there are many many many works to read, there is one which has been on mind forever – The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis. Yes, I hang my head in shame and admit that I have never read the Narnia books ever! This selection also was inspired by the absolute devotion my reading buddy Cleo has for Lewis and thanks to her I have been introduced to some of the most brilliant, thought proving essays that Lewis wrote. Therefore I was even more curious to see how Lewis handled a children’s book. As y reading projects for this year is vast, I selected only one book of the series, the most famous – The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe.
During wartime England, 4 children, 2 brothers and 2 sisters, Peter, Edmund, Susan and Lucy, are evacuated to the countryside and come to live in a large rambling mansion, home of a kindly professor. The children are excited to be in such a wonderful house and plan many adventures for duration of their stay. In one of their explorations, Lucy wanders into a room with nothing but a wardrobe; curious she opens the wardrobe and steps inside it. She finds fur coats after fur coats and as she keeps walking into the deep interior she suddenly realizes that she is outside and in a wooded area with snow all over. More curious than ever, she walks on and soon meets a Faun named Tumnus. Tumnus explains to her that she has reached Narnia, the winter land where Christmas never comes and is ruled by the very wicked White Witch. He then invites Lucy for tea and entertains her wonderfully.However when Lucy indicates that she must go back, the faun is overcome and starts bawling. He reveals that he is in the pay of the white witch and he must turn over to her any daughters of Eve or sons of Adam as he find. If he does not, she will turn him into a statue of stone. Conscience and Lucy’s pleadings however make Tumnus change his plans and he quietly and stealthily escorts Lucy to the border of Narnia from where she can go inside the Wardrobe and back in her old world. Glad to be back, Lucky runs to her sister and brothers and shares her adventure with them. However she is astonished to find out that according to her siblings she had not been gone for long and furthermore they do not believe her story and imply that she is a liar. They continue teasing her often, Edmund who is nastier than the others does so even more. Lucy soon becomes quiet and retreats in a shell, but continues to be physically present with the children, though no longer with joy. In yet another game or hide and seek, Lucy and Edmund both tumble into the wardrobe and end up in Narnia,separately. Edmund meets the White Witch who gives hims bewitched Turkish Delight to eat and tell him she will make him the Prince and then the King of Narnia if he brings his brothers and sisters to her. Lucy and Edmund finally find each other in Narnia and hurry back to the wardrobe and run to tell the other two. However in the presence of Peter and Susan, Edmund pretends that nothing had ever happened and Lucy was fibbing again. Lucy after this incident retreats further and Edmund snubbed by Peter on needlessly teasing her, turns ever more vicious in his attacks on Lucy. In such circumstances, Mrs. Macready, the housekeeper who is not fond of children and has told them never to be around when showing the house to visitors, brings a set of visitors one morning and the children in a rush to avoid the very conflict which Mrs. Macready had warned against, stumble into the Wardrobe and then Narnia, setting the stage for some unforgettable adventures.
Did I love the book? Oh! Yes! I loved the simple, linear and the well knit plot that the author wrote, specifically bearing in mind the age and ability of his young audience. He uses all the delightful techniques that not only bait the young audience but also many older ones like delicious description of food, wonderful animals and of course, nail baiting, near heartbreak endings! The book beautifully covers all the emotions experienced by us, especially as children – excitement, sense of adventure, happiness, betrayal, heartbreak and exultation; all are captured succinctly. The characters are well drawn out – the children setting an example of what good behavior stands for, especially for the readers. Aslan and the Witch are absolutely riveting characters , that draw you in powerfully and involve you in their fates.However, I must admit to drawing parallels between the White Witch and Hans Christian Anderson’s The Snow Queen. The other minor characters of Fauns, Beavers and Giants provide an entertaining ensemble to already dazzling cast! Narnia comes alive in all its glory through the descriptions and actions of this cast. It is very interesting how C.S.Lewis drew allegories, especially Christianity based allegories into his tale – the voluntary sacrifice of Aslan in lieu of Edmund’s life as well as his resurrections the most obvious allusion to Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection. However the novel stands on its own strength, even with the allegories built in and goes to prove, the brilliance of C.S. Lewis.
I now HAVE to get hold of the other books! I simply HAVE to!