I am currently reading my way through a long list of science fiction and fantasy titles. (http://www.npr.org/2011/08/07/138938145/science-fiction-and-fantasy-finalists if you are interested in the list).
When Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy took their first steps into the world behind the magic wardrobe, little do they realise what adventures are about to unfold. And as the story of Narnia begins to unfold, so to does a classic tale that has enchanted readers of all ages for over half a century.
I’m pretty sure that I read this when I was 11 or 12—but I didn’t remember it at all. In my defense, that was about 40 years ago. Here’s the funny thing though—as a kid, if I liked a book, I re-read it numerous times. So, if I did read it, lo those many years ago, I didn’t like it enough to re-read it. Around 12 or 13, I also read The Lord of the Rings, for example, and I have read it innumerable times now and continue to enjoy it every once in a while.
Now, I’m not sure if I believe this premise or not, but in The End of Your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe, his mother had a theory—we are all either Narnia fans or Middle Earth fans. In her experience, people rarely loved both fantasy worlds. She and one child were Narnia people and her son Will inhabited Middle Earth in a way that both of them envied.
Reading The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe now as an adult well into middle age, I find the Christian symbolism in it to be obvious and heavy handed. (Mind you, if you had little exposure to Christianity, I’m sure many parts of the story line would be inexplicable!) By contrast, although many people say they see similar things in Tolkien, I seem to be blind to it. Yes, there is a struggle between good and evil, but it doesn’t seem to me to be a particularly Christian world or world view and The Lord of the Rings certainly doesn’t clobber you with Christianity the way than Lewis’ work does.
I guess this is my way of saying if the world really does split itself evenly into Team Narnia and Team Middle Earth, count me in as a member of Team Middle Earth. Despite the fact that I quite enjoyed the fantasy adventure, the Greek mythological beings (fauns, centaurs, dryads, etc.), plus the references to Northern European mythology (the Witch seems to be to be a relative of the Snow Queen, and Father Christmas has become a regular everywhere). Mind you, it also seems to me to be a big unfair to compare definite children’s literature (Narnia) with a book that I began enjoying as a tween and that continues to comfort me now in my 5th decade (LOTR).
I certainly see why this book has become a classic and why it still appeals to children today.