“Lucy woke out of the deepest sleep you can imagine, with the feeling that the voice she liked best in the world had been calling her name.”
C.S. Lewis – Chronicles of Narnia
For generations, children and adults alike have dreamed of walking through an enchanted wardrobe and finding themselves in the magical land of Narnia, where even the smallest of children (and mice) can be heroes, and anything at all can happen. This bestselling series of children’s books, written by C.S. Lewis from 1949-1954, has captured the hearts of so many readers that it has now sold over 100 million copies in 47 languages.
The secret to this tremendous success, of course, has a little to do with magic and a lot to do with writing to a multi-generational audience.
A Little Something for Everyone
Isn’t this the secret to every good children’s book? Children want something fun and adventurous to read, while parents want something that will keep their “grown-up” minds interested as well. In the Narnia tales, C.S. Lewis appeals to both audiences.
What child wouldn’t love to travel to a magical realm where animals can talk and children are honored as kings and queens? The characters, imagery, and language of these novels all reflect the whimsical nature of a child’s fancy. The result? Children beg their parents to keep reading, and adult readers are able to see the world through the eyes of a child again.
But hidden within the decorative wardrobe of this childlike wonder lies a collection of deep wisdom and truth that can keep any adult’s mind busy in focused meditation. C.S. Lewis, the same man who offered the world such theological treasures as Mere Christianity and The Great Divorce, packed a wealth of spiritual insight into each of these carefully crafted bedtime stories.
A Childlike Glimpse of Jesus
Christian readers won’t have to look far to find spiritual symbolism in these books, because every page is dripping with it. Of all the allegorical elements in Narnia, however, the most powerful comes in the form of Aslan – a strong and compassionate lion who reigns as the King of Narnia and gives his life to save the creatures he so dearly loves.
Is it naïve to assume that Aslan is meant to be a picture of Jesus Christ? Not at all. The Bible refers to Christ as the Lion of Judah on several occasions (Hosea 5:14; Revelation 5:5), and the striking similarities between the story of Aslan the historical account of Jesus in the New Testament are impossible to ignore.
We also know that Aslan was meant to serve as a picture of Christ, because he tells us so! Consider the following quote:
“I am [in your world].’ said Aslan. ‘But there I have another name. You must learn to know me by that name. This was the very reason why you were brought to Narnia, that by knowing me here for a little, you may know me better there.”
― C.S. Lewis, The Chronicles of Narnia
Of course, as Christian teachers and parents, it’s our responsibility it help the children under our care to make these connections. How sad would it be for a child to fall in love with Aslan, and never be told that this story is based on a real life man who truly loves them and actually died in their place, and that His name is Jesus.
As we enjoy the beauty and wonder of these fanciful tales with our children, let’s not forget to tell them the rest of the story.
Photo Credit: Christmas Display at Melbicks Garden Centre, Colehill, England, by Andy Mabbett (November 24, 2013). Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike 3.0 License.
 “C.S. Lewis to be honoured in Poets’ Corner.” BBC News. Retrieved 23 November, 2012.
This post was submitted as part of the A to Z Challenge, where participants agree to write an article that corresponds to each letter of the alphabet, posting every day of the month of April (except Sundays).
Here on The Artistic Christian, my theme for the month is The Classics. Each day I’ll examine a book, film, or work of art that has become a beloved classic and discuss what has made it such a success, and what eternal themes it contains that Christian artists can use as modern illustrations.
For daily reflections from my personal travels around the world, check out my companion blog, A Shepherd’s Reflections, where my theme for April is Reflections From Around the World.