Narnia, Christianity and the Rebirth of the 'Faery Tale'
By Duncan Rize
Lewis did not take his religion lightly, describing himself in his book Surprised by Joy
as 'perhaps the most dejected and reluctant convert in all England'. He struggled with his beliefs, constantly pushing himself to expand his understanding beyond that which he had been taught about reality and logic, and trying to reconcile these beliefs with those imaginative passions that had been the focus of his life.
The results of this struggle are nowhere more evident than in his creation of Narnia. The overwhelming message of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
, Lewis's first Chronicle, is a summation not only of Lewis's own road to religion, but of the wider tenets of the Christian faith: the entrance to Narnia is closeted and hidden; an unexpected door to wonder through which a person can step if they can only learn to look beyond the mundane and real.
Lewis looked beyond his own reality and modality, finding Christianity in the same way that the child-protagonists Lucy, Edmund, Peter, and Susan look beyond the reality of the wardrobe to reveal Narnia, a land of magic and fantasy. As did Lewis, they go about exploring this new world with wonder and delight.
So Lewis filtered the Christian message through fantasy, weaving biblical allegory together with modern myth in seamless fashion. Fittingly for Lewis's first Chronicle, the underlying message of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
is the ultimate allegory: the love, sacrifice and rebirth of the lion, Aslan for the sins of Edmund.
Though Tolkien disapproved of Lewis's mixture of Christian imagery and mythological figures, and disagreed with his use of fiction to discuss religion – believing that to be a subject better suited to theologians - The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
works not because of or in spite of Lewis's Christian symbolism, but because it is first and foremost a wonderfully woven story. Lewis's search for the 'modern faery tale', which had begun through his friendship with
Tolkien, had finally taken shape.
In Narnia, the mixture of truth and myth catches the imagination and the soul whilst enlightening the spirit; bringing some of the most important Christian teachings to generations of children and adults alike, and inviting all to delight in the telling.
(August 2003) 'J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S Lewis: A Legendary Friendship.' Christianity Today
viewed on: http://www.christianitytoday.com/history/newsletter/2003/aug29.html
(1994-2005) ' The Lion, the Witch and the Allegory: An Analysis of Selected Narnia Chronicles' viewed on: http://cslewis.drzeus.net/papers/lionwitchallegory.html
(2003) 'Tollers and Jack.' Christianity Today
(December 2003) 'The real fellowship of the ring.' viewed on: http://www.salon.com/books/feature/2003/12/03/tolkien_lewis/index_np.html
(2005): 'C. S. Lewis: The Creator of Narnia - A Convert to Christianity.' Fact Monster. © 2000–2005 Pearson Education, publishing as Fact Monster. 13 Sep. 2005 <
King Dr. DW
(1987) 'The Wardrobe as Christian Metaphor.' Mythlore
14,and viewed on http://cslewis.drzeus.net/papers/wardrobe_metaphor.html
Lewis CS (
1955) ' Surprised by Joy: The Shape of My Early Life.'
London : Geoffrey Bles, 1955; New York: Harcourt Brace.
(1950) ' The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.'
London : Geoffrey Bles, 1950; (reprinted New York: Collier Books, 1970)
(1995) 'The Unfundamental C.S Lewis: Key Components of Lewis's view of Scripture.' Mars Hill Review 2
Special thanks to Jeff Thompson for all of his assistance.
Duncan Rize loves the writings of C.S. Lewis and works with the marketing group at www.LearningByGrace.org. Learning by Grace manages of a number of internationally known online K-12 academies including www.TheGraceAcademy.org, www.TheJubileeAcademy.org, www.TheMorningStarAcademy.org and www.TheNarniaAcademy.org . This article is © 2005 ELRN, Inc. and may be quoted in whole or part as long as the author (Duncan Rize) and source (www.TheNarniaAcademy.org) are credited.