Further Up & Further In: Understanding C.S. Lewis’ The Lion, The Witch, And The Wardrobe, by Bruce Edwards
As far as textual criticism goes, this book is an enjoyable and brief example. Yet this book, although it is short, presents some challenges to the reader. For one, it is hard to understand the author’s scope. On the one hand, most of the book consists of a fairly basic commentary on the chapters of The Lion, The Witch, And The Wardrobe, but there are hints here that the author has a more ambitious aim with this book than commentary about merely one small book in a large body of work by one of the best known and most beloved Christian authors of the 20th century. The fact that this additional material occurs at the beginning of the book suggests that the author wants to place the most famous book of the Chronicles of Narnia in a larger context. And perhaps there are more books to this series about the remaining six volumes of the Chronicles of Narnia that I have not read yet, or perhaps the author may (if his sales are good enough and his publisher is willing to publish them) write more such volumes in the future with the same basic introduction to the context of Lewis’ writings.
The author begins this book with a preface that explains the title by referring to the last book in the Narnia series and then gives his acknowledgements. After that the author begins his discussion of the Chronicles of Narnia by talking about his efforts in that series to retell the Gospel as a fairy tale, or perhaps more accurately as a beast fable (1). After that the author spends the rest of the book talking about different sections of The Lion, The Witch, And The Wardrobe, beginning with a discussion of Lucy’s discovery of Narnia in the wardrobe and her difficulties in explaining this to her siblings (2), then moving on to the corruption of Edmund through his willingness to take sweets from the wicked queen (3), the continuing on to the hospitality of the beavers once the rest of the siblings reach Narnia to confirm Lucy’s story and their attempt to escape the clutches of the white witch (4), Aslan’s return to Narnia and the effect this has on the wintry land (5), and the Gospel implications of the end of the story and the rulership of the siblings over Narnia at the end of the novel (6). After this the author gives some suggestions for further reading as well as study questions, endnotes, and an index.
I’m not sure how necessary a book like this is. Most young readers of Narnia will not likely be particlarly interested in the connection between the Chronicles of Narnia and the larger body of writings by Lewis, at least perhaps not immediately. Nor does this novel offer a great deal that would be profound for adult readers, as the author does not seem to be aware of Lewis’ interest in the pre-Copernican astronomy of the Middle Ages and the fact that every novel in the Chronicles of Narnia is associated with a particular planet in that geocentric system. Even so, this book does offer worthwhile questions and demonstrates the interest in evangelism through different forms that Lewis engaged in. If this book is not exactly essential, then, it is an enjoyable and brief book that provides an example of a commentary on a novel that provides modest pleasures and information that a sensitive reader should likely already be aware of from one’s own reading of the Chronicles of Narnia for oneself. Still, being reminded of basic things is not the worst of faults a book can have.