The World According To Narnia: Christian Meaning In c.S. Lewis’s Beloved Chronicles, by Jonathan Rogers
In reading this book, which at less than 200 pages of material is not a very difficult one to read in its entirety, I was struck by its deeply personal relevance to my own life. I have commented from time to time that The Horse And His Boy is my favorite book in the Chronicles of Narnia series , and in reading the comments about that book in this one, I was struck by how much my own response to the genuflection required of courtiers in Thailand was like that the Calormenes were supposed to give to the Tisroc in that highly hierarchical society of deception and cruelty towards those below, and how offense that was to free Narnians used to honorable dealing and viewing leadership as an opportunity for service rather than for domination. The fact that art imitates life and life often imitates art made the book a poignant one as it demonstrated not only Christian truth in the Narnia chronicles, but also the way that our belief system has consequences in how we deal with the corrupt and ungodly systems of this present evil age.
In terms of its contents, this book consists of an introduction and then seven chapters that examine some of the notable themes of the seven volumes of the Chronicles of Narnia as they were published, not as they exist in terms of the time of the storyline. The chapters deal with the nature of reality and metaphor, the pervasive sense of irony in Lewis’ treatment of the history of Narnia, questions of faith, identity, sacrifice, redemption, responsibility, and so on. Each chapter tackles a single book, and discusses the story as well as its deeper significance when looking at Christianity. Among the more important aspects of this book is that it demonstrates that the compelling nature of the story of the Chronicles of Narnia encourages people to have an appreciation of the way that the Bible is myth that has become real, the sort of story that long existed in a counterfeit form but which was incarnated in Jesus Christ, showing the truth that was at the heart of myth.
As someone who spends a great deal of my own time reading books and writing about them, reading this book provided an opportunity to see something immensely worthwhile about good textual criticism. In this case, the author is clearly both knowledgeable about Lewis’ writing as a whole and appreciative of the imaginative insights of Lewis’ work. It is clear that the relationships between Lewis’ works, which are often quite distinct in genre, are because they sprang from the same mind. We would likewise expect that which has been created by God to exist in different niches, to show different aspects of the character of God, but to be related because they sprang from the same mind, and should therefore demonstrate that common origin in the mind of the same designer. This is a book, that even though it deals with beloved children’s novels, also is of worth for those who as adults tend to read with a critical eye and with the desire to understand how Lewis’ creative love of fantasy was inspired and informed by his deep commitment to Christianity as he understood it. This is a work worthy of appreciation because it helps to illuminate the works of Lewis, which are also worthy of appreciation and study.
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