“Do not cite the Deep Magic to me, Witch. I was there when it was written.”
If you were to look at any of my socials (Insta, Youtube, Twitter etc.), you would see that I have a deep love for The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R Tolkien. You might assume from this that LOTR was my first foray into fantasy and was what offsetted my passion for the genre. However, you would be incorrect.
You see, it all started when I was in third grade and my teacher at the time gifted little me a book that she truly loved and hoped I would enjoy. A book that starts off with a little girl, a wardrobe, a snowy landscape, and a gentle faun named Tumnus.
Yes, my friends, I am talking about the magical story that is The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis. Looking back, I find it quite amusing how Tolkien and Lewis both criticized each others’ work heartily, and yet it was because of my love for The Lion, the witch, and the Wardrobe that I ended up falling in love with Lotr.
I’ve always been an avid reader, but prior to The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe i was mainly reading mysteries – things like The Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew, Cam Jensen etc. I wasn’t even aware of the fantasy genre in books until this book was placed in my hands by my beloved teacher. Immediately drawn in by the cover, I rushed home after school, flopped on my bed, and was instantly captivated and swept away into the land of Narnia.
I’m sure that most of you fantasy readers out there know the premise of this childhood classic, but for those who don’t, we essentially follow a little girl named Lucy who is the first to find a secret wardrobe when her and her three siblings are playing a rainy day game of hide and seek. Lucy chooses to hide in said wardrobe, and finds a magical world inside it. This is Narnia, where she is greeted by the faun Tumnus, and is led to his home. Enthralled by this fairy tale like world, Lucy tells her brothers and sister what happened. At first they don’t believe her, but soon Edmund, Peter, and Susan step through the wardrobe themselves. They discover that Narnia is a country buried under the evil enchantment of the White Witch. Upon meeting the great Lion Aslan, they are called to a great adventure and bravely join the battle to defend Narnia and defeat the evil White Witch.
When I read this for the first time, my little third grade brain was simply blown away with how utterly transportive and magical this world was. I felt like I was IN Narnia, that I was battling alongside the siblings. I felt the cold, I felt the fear, the frustration, the bravery, and the awe of each of the characters. It was exhilarating to say the least.
I skipped meals, stayed up until late at night, and spent every free moment at school simply devouring this book. I spent all my waking moments that I was not reading the book just daydreaming about it. To say I was hooked was an understatement.
This was my first on page experience of magical creatures and beings, like witches, talking animals, fauns,centaurs, trolls, giants, satyrs, dryads, etc. It was truly the best kind of escapism for me as a child and to this day I feel a sense of wonder whenever I think about that book.
One interesting tidbit I’d like to mention here – and something I only discovered as an adult – is that the Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe has a Christian allegory theme. There’s a ton of Christian symbolism in this book, and C.S. Lewis himself was a Christian. In fact, the ending of the novel focuses on the resurrection of a Christ figure and the climatic battle for the “soul” of Narnia. Lewis did not set out for this book to be a biblical allegory initially; he just wanted to create a magical fairy tale story with elements to the Biblical story of Jesus Christ for children to see the miraculous story in a new light.
When I found this out as an adult, I was simultaneously amused and impressed. Impressed by how seamlessly Lewis was able to fit that theme into his story without creating something that was overly preachy or uninteresting. I was amused because I was raised as a Christian and when I was younger, the church used to look down on fantasy as a whole and considered it blasphemy and demonic (I now attend a more progressive church that does not believe one’s soul is destined to Hell simply because they cracked open a Percy Jackson book, thank God). So it was refreshing to see that an actual Christian used the genre that the church feared and tried to paint as negative, to actually shine a light on the story of Jesus and His resurrection.
Well played, Mr. Lewis, well played.
At the end of the day, whether Christian or not, this book is absolutely magical and fantastical. It has changed my life and made me the avid fantasy reader that I am today, and it’s a book that I always recommend to beginner fantasy readers. Even years later it still holds up to its greatness, and there’s a valid reason as to why it’s highly acclaimed. I can’t wait for the day my son is old enough to read chapter books and I get to put the magical world of Narnia in his hands.
Actually, I might start reading it to him tonight. One can never be too young (or old for that matter) for magic.
“Once a King in Narnia, always a King in Narnia.”
Oh yes, how the church loves to demonize things. Even some of the more progressive churches will still condemn books they don’t like (Harry Potter, Twilight, etc.) failing to realize that many of the authors are actually Christians.
I don’t remember when I read this, but I did have some of the same feelings of awe. I was overjoyed when I realized is was a series, and read them all with wonderment. I think that I actually read “The Magician’s Nephew” last.
The other book that amazed my was “A Wrinkle in Time” read by my 5th grade teacher.