What is it about the Narnia books that we love? The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, first in the order C. S. Lewis wrote the series, has four main characters and none of them is the hero. With the omniscient point of view, readers do not benefit from close character identification. The plot is straightforward, without multiple subplots, and the writing wouldn’t be considered lyrical. Why, then, do we love these books so much?
I’ll admit, being the youngest in my family, I connected with Lucy, also the youngest of her siblings. But quickly, the story becomes much more than the tale of a brother agitating his sister, of the others not trusting her. Before the reader is half way through the book, the character we’re pulling for is … Narnia.
And when Aslan returns bringing with him first Father Christmas, then Spring itself with a number of happy revilers, we see the beauty and the joy of Narnia and her king. If you take a good look at Lucy and Susan’s faces in the adjacent version of the cover, you’ll see joy radiating from them. It is this joy, I submit, that makes readers love Narnia.
Lewis, I believe, created just what he wanted to create—a world that capture wonder, or at least suggested it. In his autobiographical account of his turning to Christ, Surprised by Joy, Lewis uncovered the fleeting nature of joy that pointed to a more enduring experience. I see Narnia as Lewis’s attempt to paint joy using words.
And he succeeded.
Narnia is magic—a country found by entering a wardrobe. And it’s secret—a shared secret that extends from generation to generation.
Narnia is also marvelous. The animals talk and fauns exist and children rise to become kings and queens.
Narnia is real, symbolically so. Something inside us resonates with this place—we recognize it as the land where we want to go.
But ultimately, Narnia is Aslan. Without him, winter would rule and Narnia would be nothing but a dangerous, frozen, mirthless place. With Aslan, there’s partying and gifts and laughter, birds and flowing rivers and springtime flowers.
Perhaps the greatest thing C. S. Lewis did in The Chronicles of Narnia was to create Narnia. Yes, the stories are compelling and the characters believable. But it’s Narnia that lives in our imagination, whether we’re reading about Lucy and Edmund or Eustace and Jill. It’s Narnia that we fear for in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, in Prince Caspian, in The Silver Chair, and it’s Narnia we fear for in The Last Battle.
No mistake, as I said earlier, Narnia is what it is because of Aslan, but in creating this remarkable world, C. S. Lewis gave readers a place like few others. And it is the place we love.