Friday, December 09, 2005

Narnia Made Me Who I Am

I realize that there will be thousands posts about Narnia today with the release of The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe (TLTWATW), but I really got thinking about this on the way to work this morning.

I don't remember when I first read the Chronicles, but it's been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. From the Collier paperbacks (in the correct published order) to a concept album called The Roar of Love by a Christian group called The Second Chapter of Acts (very 70s but very fun), there's always been some involvement I've had with the series. But the interesting thing is that Narnia was a gateway for me in C.S. Lewis' other writings, as well as many other writings both theological and fantastic.

Narnia obviously enouraged me to read the Lord of the Rings trilogy by Tolkein, but since I was such a voracious reader in elementary school, my librarian pushed me to other series that continued that love of fantasy.
  • Lloyd Alexander's Prydain Chronicles about a pigkeeper who becomes a hero and more.
  • Susan Cooper's The Dark Is Rising sequence about the 7th son of a 7th son who discovers that he's the last of timeless group called the Old Ones, meshing Celtic legend with Arthurian overtones.
  • Terry Brooks' Shannara series, a what if series set after a nuclear war, with the fantasy creatures being an outcome of that
  • Harry Turtledove's Videssos Cycle, a series about a Roman Republic-era legion magically transported to another dimension that strangely looks a lot like the Byzantine Empire
  • Stephen Lawhead's Pendragon cycle, a superb retelling of the Arthur story.
  • Stephen Lawhead's masterpiece, The Song of Albion Trilogy, a story about an Oxford student thrust into a prototypical ancient Celtic Otherworld that will absolutely blow your mind when you get to the end of it.
Now, some of you will read this and think, "Nerd." And some of you might be thinking, "I would have totally beat you up in high school." But reading fantasy kept open my mind and my heart to the belief that there is more out there than what I can see. That there is a further world beyond us that is as real as what we can see, taste, touch, and hear. Did it feed into some escapist fantasies as I dealt with my parents' divorce? Yes it did, but I needed them at the time. Does it still? Sometimes, but every now and then I need to escape this world for a couple of hours.

Narnia gave me a love of literature and writing and reading that I can never imagine being without. And it taught me that sometimes you can tell the truth better through myth and fantasy than you can with expository nonfiction. Something I've tried to do in writing that will probably never be seen and found very difficult.

Is Narnia a children's story? Yes, but in my pursuit to have the faith of a child, it is a touchstone of who I am today, as a man, a father, and most importantly, a follower of Jesus.


Tony Arnold said...

Nice tribute to Lewis. What did you think of his Space Trilogy? I enjoyed this more than Narnia.

"Did it feed into some escapist fantasies as I dealt with...?
...every now and then I need to escape this world for a couple of hours."

Maybe you just like fantasy writing. Nothing wrong with that in and of its self.

I highly recommend Stephen R. Donaldson's The Gap Series (5 books). It will knock your socks off. He has an incredible command of the English language. He can say with a few correct words, what it takes most paragraphs to say. I keep a dictionary handy while reading him. He is very deep.


DJG said...

Is it a child's book? I love fantasy books. One of my favorite paperbacks as a pre-teen was Fogworld. It was about a girl who could visit another time and place by walking through the fog.

Tony Arnold said...

djg, not sure if you were referring to my comments, but in case you were:

Lewis's Space Trilogy is not a child's level but is content appropriate for children.

The Gap series writing is adult level reading and definitely not children content. But it is incredible in its depth, imagery, and scope. There are some rough parts to it, but they serve a purpose to the story in the long run.


Phil said...


I'm slightly ashamed to say that I've tried reading the Space Trilogy a couple of times, but just haven't been able to slog through it. I might have to give it another shot...

Tony Arnold said...

If you can make it to the second book...

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