"Always winter, but never Christmas."
The Chronicles of Narnia is a legendary series, spawned by an atheist turned Christian who became equally famous for his Christian theology book, Mere Christianity. He wrote this creative fairy tale for his goddaughter, Lucy, probably not aware at the time it would become a fairy tale for so many for so long.
One of the things he said in the note has become of his most famous and quoted quotes:"But one day you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again."
I grew up on The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe through the 1979 TV animated version. This was in the older days when you had mom and pop type rental places around the block, in which my family frequented at least three times a month. I rented this one often, charmed by its magical presence and unique story line. Seeing it so many times, and since the animated version stuck SO close to the book (the same dialogue even), every time a character in the book spoke I kept picturing it with the inflections used in the movie. Fun times.
Being such a huge reader then, I'm not sure why I never thought to seek out the book and read the written version. As an adult I've sought the series out and have been wanting to read it eagerly. This review will show I'm not disappointed...I didn't think I'd be, but there was a small fear there that I'd be wrong.
This book is a prime example of how adults can enjoy this fairy tale aimed toward children and young adults. It's ideal for any age. Filled with adventure, a twist of the imagination, clear heroes and clear villains, castles and kingdoms, speaking animals, right and wrong, battles, friendships, and the bonding of family. This highly fantastical world was creatively written and invented, and CS Lewis managed to capture all sorts of magic with this one. The pacing was even throughout and never grew boring. Dialogue is kept to the point of the story and it's clear to picture the world without the tale being dragged down by repetitiveness.
Both the villain and the hero had a flair with words and a powerful presence (Yes, religious overtones with Aslan are as always clear). I never picked up on them as a kid and didn't even realize the Christian undertones until someone told me as a teen. I think I would have been able to pick up on it now but who knows? One of the things that made this book work so well were the intriguing people CS Lewis birthed. Lucy was a charming, quaint thing who started the adventure and kept it going through anyone elses doubts. Edmund was a vindictive little child who ended up redeeming himself painfully. The older siblings are also well-written but they do stand in the background to the vibrancy of the two younger characters.
It's certainly not just the children that readers remember and love, though. Mr. Tumnus will forever be the awesome faun who makes cakes, tea, and sacrifices his role for friendship. The Beaver family provide surprisingly abrupt humor in the most serious situations, and Aslan himself comes across as powerful and awe-inspiring as CS Lewis tried to make him out to be. The witch as a villain is kept simple and without much story or depth, but for a fairy tale this works wonders.
I'm not sure if I would have liked the story as much if I didn't grow up with the movie. The two magics may have merged in my mind to make it that much more mesmerizing. I'd like to think, though, that it's impact would still have been as strong.
The only annoyance is the end where it was explained the children, now grown, speak differently since they've now been Kings and Queens so long. How glad I am they didn't speak this way through the rest of the book. It was so awkward I don't think I would have been able to read it if they had!
When closing the chapter, or turning off the TV, the very end is always a little bittersweet. To have found the most powerful of magic and to have lost it...well, that bites. I suppose it was not supposed to be as sad as all that, though, for with the professors words and maybe even CS Lewis's point, the magic of Narnia - once discovered, experienced, and embraced - continues to live in the hearts and minds of the characters and readers once the world has been left.
“I hope no one who reads this book has been quite as miserable as Susan and Lucy were that night; but if you have been - if you've been up all night and cried till you have no more tears left in you - you will know that there comes in the end a sort of quietness. You feel as if nothing is ever going to happen again.”
“She did not shut it properly because she knew that it is very silly to shut oneself into a wardrobe, even if it is not a magic one.”
“Do not cite the Deep Magic to me, Witch. I was there when it was written.”
“To the glistening eastern sea, I give you Queen Lucy the Valiant. To the great western woods, King Edmund the Just. To the radiant southern sun, Queen Susan the Gentle. And to the clear northern skies, I give you King Peter the Magnificent. Once a king or queen of Narnia, always a king or queen of Narnia. May your wisdom grace us until the stars rain down from the heavens.”
Special Week Feature:
I did a special weeks feature for the Chronicles of Narnia series back in 2012. Here is link to the full feature listing, along with other special weeks done.
Posts from that feature for this book:
Cover Comparison: The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe
I did a Reader's Autopsy post - The Bizarre Order That is the Chronicles of Narnia...
Book to Movie Review/Comparison:
Reviews from the Series: