Carl's Reviews > The Chronicles of Narnia

The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis
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Jul 05, 07

Recommended for: Fans of Fantasy, Tolkien, and MacDonald

I read this entire series multiple times when I was younger, I think near the end of elementary school or during Jr Hi, and actually got sick of it after too many reads and had to wait to rediscover it later on-- several times, in fact. The books are nice and short, yet each is a quality fantasy story, loaded, of course, with Lewis' exploration-in-fiction of man's relationship to diety and the world. Tolkien was always my favorite, but Lewis has his own particular approach to the fantastic which is just a beautiful-- it's a shame that Tolkien didn't go for the Narnia books, though I can understand why he didn't. For two such close friends, and with such similar tastes in material, they ended up speaking very different fictional languages. Lewis, of course, was a big fan of Tolkien's Lord of the Rings and Silmarillion, but Tolkien was so much more militantly purist that it is no suprise that Lewis would find in Tolkien's work that "joy" which he found in the Norse myths. Lewis' Narnia, however, was more in the service of the fantastic as percieved by moderns, blending and borrowing to create a whole of the present moment, rather than pursuing the more reconstructionsist cohesion of Tolkien. Lewis, of course, remained more faithful to George MacDonald than Tolkien, and that shows: Narnia is a fantasy of the Victorians pulled into the Modern period. If I were to try to recover Tolkien's own perspective on the contrast, I would perhaps say that Narnia and MacDonald's creations were fantasies of a more effeminate, decadent age in which the "horns of Elfland" are a bit more shrill and prettified, in contrast to Middle Earth's masculine hardness and depth-- but typically my own perception of Narnia is much more positive, and I enjoyed these books very much. Maybe not really allegory, though I've heard them described as such (I think by Tolkien), but I can see how one would get that impression-- the world feels much more unabashedly fictional, in comparison to Middle Earth or most "gritty" fantasy that is out there today. This is not necessarily a bad thing, I think-- sometimes the more fictional the context, the brighter the human truths within that fiction.
Out of the series, I would have to say that my favorites are The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (how can you not love such a straightforward title! It spoils nothing, and yet is as pertinent as you can get), the Magician's nephew, and the Last Battle-- the last two because I like beginnings and ends, I think. The structure of the series itself is nice-- first you are pulled in by the plight and plot of children and world in the first book, then this is developed into a love affair with that world in the next few books, with the world itself becoming a character, then, having fallen in love, you behold the birth of your beloved in the Magician's Nephew, and finally, experience her death and redemption in the final book.

Okay, I had at least two or three other paragraphs, but apparently there is a 4000 character limit on these reviews-- which sucks! I'll try and spread out my CS Lewis comments over a few other reviews.
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