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John’s review of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (Chronicles of Narnia, #1)
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Feb 12, 2008 09:00AM
I'm really curious what you thought of this. Many folks seem to think it's Christian propaganda.
Feb 12, 2008 10:32AM
One thing to consider about "many folks" and their opinion about this book is their view on Christianity. I suspect that you don't consider it to be propaganda; as propaganda, it probably does fall short.
"Jesus is a lion? Huh? Is that like the 'Only in Kenya' video from weebls.com?" No, because the weebls.com videos are better.
So, what do *you* think of the book, Malcolm?
Feb 12, 2008 10:57AM
My main criticism is that the writing grates a bit for me as an adult. It's a kids book that is written, very directly, for children, in fact, children in a particular time and place, using language that didn't age particularly well. The gender characterizations I have a hard time with as well.
Having read his other, scholarly works, it seemed he had to really try to write down to kids, and this bothered me. Then again, his other works are at times hard to penetrate, so maybe that's a good thing.
He's a good children's author, I think, just not a great one.
That being said, it's hard for me to think of it as propaganda, because when I read it as a child (and saw the animated movie, and I think, had it read to me) the Christian message was quite clear to me. So it's hard for me to judge, which is why I asked you to expand your review.
For me, it seems more about betrayal and forgiveness than anything explicitly Christian. Edmund, for me, is the central character, and his struggle to balance his desires and jealousy against his belief in doing the right thing are the main point. Secondarily, Mr. Tumnus is also a figure that stands out: balancing fear against doing what is right. In many ways, the Lion, and the Witch are more like forces of nature, the setting against which the drama is played.
Overall, I tend to think of it more as a meditation on facing the challenges of good and evil, of friendship and loyalty vs. human frailty and arrogance. Of course, the figure of Aslan is a Christ-like one. But, he's not really a character so much as a moral framework.
As far as Lewis being a "convert" and that being dangerous, I agree, to a point. His understanding was profound, but amateurish at times. Not that I'm some expert, but I think he got many of the central points, while getting hung up on some of the difficulties, which he solved by applying rigorous logic to get him a not very reasonable position.
Part of religion is mystery, and I fear that Lewis was a bit too much of an intellectual to accept that.
Feb 12, 2008 11:38AM
Lewis' religious amateurishness was what I was getting at. Thank you for spinning that out.
Regarding his skill as a children's author - I think your first two paragraphs in message 3 capture the problems with Lewis very nicely.
Regarding your comment about Aslan (moral framework rather than character), are you referring just to this book or to the series as a whole?
(last edited Feb 12, 2008 02:19PM)
Feb 12, 2008 12:55PM
Thanks. Glad that came out clearly. One other thing that comes out of Lewis for me is that he had a very vigorous mind, and that he also completely bought the idea of dogma. Then, I think, he used that huge intellect of his to try to make that dogma work for him.
I guess that I was really referring to the book, and not the series, re: Aslan. I haven't read (at least not for a very long time) the other books.
Feb 12, 2008 01:33PM
I recommend that you read the other books, to see what he's doing in them. Some are worth reading, while others are kinda crap.
I think that Lewis can be seen as a propagandist, but at points in the books it also seems like he is trying to convince himself. I suspect that former Catholics have a very strong reaction to him.
Trivia: Tolkien is the one who converted him, and later was deeply annoyed by Lewis' dogmatism.
Feb 12, 2008 02:19PM
Yeah, I've got them all, just haven't had the time.
You are probably right that folks raised in dogmatic traditions, and who have since rejected that, probably get rubbed the wrong way.
I corrected an error that I had in a previous post. Lewis became a member of the Church of England, which is sort of odd, honestly. Tolkien was a Catholic. These days, the Anglicans are a lot less dogmatic on the whole than the Catholics. Maybe it was different back then. Something to research!
Well, no branch of Christianity is immune from dogmatism. :)
Feb 12, 2008 04:59PM
Thanks for the correction about Lewis' branch. I thought he was CoE, but I didn't have time to verify.
I'm not sure of Lewis' impact on people raised in other religions or in less dogmatic traditions. Would be an interesting party question.
Feb 14, 2008 07:49AM
I'll add 2 last comments on this thread, for now.
I read the Lewis books in the order "that he intended", or rather, an order that made a bit more chronological sense from the story's perspective. This is the order of the particular set:
The Magician's Nephew
The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe
The Horse and His Boy
The Voyage of the Dawn Treader
The Silver Chair
The Last Battle
It's a good way to read them, though Lewis' dogma really comes through in this way.
Second, I recommend that you read Michael Moorcock's essay, "Epic Pooh", at
. Moorcock deals harshly with Milne, Tolkien, and Lewis - particularly Lewis. He has several good criticisms, including one you mentioned (Lewis dumbs down his writing). I don't wholly agree with his write-off of Tolkien, but that is for a much longer discussion.
Mar 16, 2008 10:35AM
I have also read all seven books as a child, as listed in order by John. I am an agnostic who was never particularly bothered by the religious aspect of them but enjoyed them purely for the story element. In particular I recall the message in The Last Battle being that of tolerance in that people of differeing religions would not automatically be sent to a Christian hell but would be considered for entry to the kingdom of heaven (Narnia beyond the doorway) on the basis of their conduct in life. Therefore a bad Narnian who abuses his fellow man will go to Tash's hell (I admit the Calormenes and their god Tash did come across somewhat as barbarian muslims). Conversely, a good Calormene will entered Aslan's country by virtue of deeds.
I have no god, yet live a moral life. I guess that message appeals to me!
May 01, 2008 11:59PM
Jane, that interpretation appeals to me as well.
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