In Which CS Lewis Nails It Again

There is children’s fiction, and then there is Children’s Fiction. The former entertains kids, the latter is for children too, but is deep with riches for adults to enjoy. I think Sesame Street and Toy Story brilliantly catered to both young and old in the movie category. And surely when it comes to books, no-one has done it better than CS Lewis in the Chronicles of Narnia.

He was a master story teller, that is for sure – but the more I read of Lewis, the more I see that he was a diligent and careful student of the Scriptures. His depictions of Aslan breathe with the life, language and movement of Jesus in the gospels. His account of Aslan giving the law to Jill at the beginning of Prince Caspian is steeped in the language of Deuteronomy. And most recently, in the wake of reading NT Wright’s book Surprised by Hope, I have marveled once again at his biblical accuracy.

In a world where Christians speak loosely of “heaven” and “flying away to Jesus”, picturing it as a literal pie-in-the-sky blissful existence, C.S. Lewis understood that the real Christian hope for the future is not a fluffy-meringue spiritual existence, but the real-flesh-and-blood heaven-ON-EARTH existence. God fashioned us to live on earth when he created us, and it would seem that His intention is yet to re-create the heavens and the earth, that we may live a life in real bodies on a real earth in the future.

Except this time, it will be perfect. C.S. Lewis understood that, and it led him to worship.

They kept on stopping to look round and look behind them, partly because it was so beautiful but partly also because there was something about it which they could not understand.

“Peter,” said Lucy, “where is this, do you suppose?”

“I don’t know,” said the High King. “It reminds me of somewhere but I can’t give it a name. Could it be somewhere we once stayed for a holiday when we were very, very small?”

“It would have to have been a jolly good holiday,” said Eustace. “I bet there isn’t a country like this anywhere in our world. Look at the colors! You couldn’t get blue like that blue on those mountains in our world.”

“Is it not Aslan’s country?” said Tirian.

“Not like Aslan’s country on top of that mountain beyond the Eastern end of the world,” said Jill. “I’ve been there.”

“If you ask me,” said Edmund, “it’s like somewhere in the Narnian world. Look at those mountains ahead—and the big ice-mountains beyond them. Surely they’re rather like the mountains we used to see from Narnia, the ones up Westward beyond the Waterfall?”

“Yes, so they are,” said Peter. “Only these are bigger.”

“I don’t think those ones are so very like anything in Narnia,” said Lucy. “But look there.” She pointed Southward to their left and everyone stopped and turned to look. “Those hills,” said Lucy, “the nice woody ones and the blue ones behind—aren’t they very like the Southern border of Narnia?”

“Like!” cried Edmund after a moment’s silence. “Why, they’re exactly like. Look, there’s Mount Pire with his forked head, and there’s the pass into Archenland and everything!”

“And yet they’re not like,” said Lucy. “They’re different. They have more colours on them and they look further away than I remembered and they’re more … more … oh, I don’t know …”

“More like the real thing,” said the Lord Digory softly.

Suddenly Farsight the Eagle spread his wings, soared thirty or forty feet up into the air, circled round and then alighted on the ground.

“Kings and Queens,” he cried, “we have all been blind. We are only beginning to see where we are. From up there I have seen it all—Ettinsmur, Beaversdam, the Great River, and Cair Paravel still shining on the edge of the Eastern Sea. Narnia is not dead. This is Narnia.”

“But how can it be?” said Peter. “For Aslan told us older ones that we should never return to Narnia, and here we are.”

“Yes,” said Eustace. “And we saw it all destroyed and the sun put out.”

“And it’s all so different,” said Lucy.

“The Eagle is right,” said the Lord Digory. “Listen, Peter. When Aslan said you could never go back into Narnia, he meant the Narnia you were thinking of. But that was not the real Narnia. That had a beginning and an end. It was only a shadow or a copy of the real Narnia which has always been here and always will be here: just as our own world, England and all, is only a shadow or copy of something in Aslan’s real world. You need not mourn over Narnia, Lucy. All of the old Narnia that mattered, all the dear creatures, have been drawn into the real Narnia through the Door. And of course it is different; as different as a real thing is from a shadow or as waking life is from a dream… .”

It was the Unicorn who summed up what everyone was feeling. He stamped his right forehoof on the ground and neighed, and then cried:

“I have come home at last! This is my real country! I belong here. This is the land I have been looking for all my life, though I never knew it till now. The reason why we loved the old Narnia is that it sometimes looked a little like this.”

—C. S. Lewis, The Last Battle, ch. 15.

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One day, we will come home at last, to our real country, where we belong. It will be the land we have been looking for all our lives, though we never knew it till now. The reason we love anything in this world is that sometimes, it looks a little like the one to come.

He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end. (Ecclesiastes 3:11 ESV)

This is Day 29 in the series 31 Days of Belonging. A complete list of posts can be found here, and two further ramblings on the genius of CS Lewis can be found here:
On C.S. Lewis and being a homemaker
Finding Aslan

13 thoughts on “In Which CS Lewis Nails It Again

  1. I have always loved the Narnia books, but as I re-read them I am really troubled by the racism which pervades some of them, to the extent that I’m not sure I will be reading them to my son. How do you deal with that?

    • Do you mean the descriptions of the calormenes? If so, I have understood those to be an extended allegory about Islam (with its Arabic types of architecture and forms of greeting), and certainly not portrayed positively in general (although the character of Emeth in the last battle is a very redemptive portrait of a calormene). To be honest, I haven’t thought about racism in Narnia much. We read them for joy, and where there is truth in the allegory, we read it for truth too. We also read the Greek classics with its heroes and failings, we read the Old Testament with its savory and unsavory characters (mommy, what was Tamar doing?!?!?), and we will probably read Harrypotter and deal with witches and magic in due course. I think it’s all part of the parental dialog…. Wide exposure to the greats, discernment and insight from parents. What are your thoughts?

      • I’m asking because I’m still trying to figure out how I’m going to deal with this as my boy gets older and I want to start reading him the books I grew up with. As I’ve formed relationships with people from other cultures, and realised how hurtful some of those stereotypes that I never even noticed are to them, I’ve had to re-think whether the books I grew up with that I thought of as setting an example of how to be a good person really do set that example. I love early to mid twentieth century children’s books (and I am a voracious adult reader of children’s books!) but now I see the “Indians” in “Little House on the Prairie”, the “Natives” and colonial mindset in “Swallows and Amazons”, the class prejudices and racist portrayals of Indians in Frances Hodgson Burnett, and these stories don’t seem so innocuous anymore. I don’t really have an answer, I’m still figuring it out for myself, which is probably why my sentences seem to have wrapped themselves up in knots.

        I really love the writing you are doing on this blog, and getting insights into how you think and try to live in accordance with your beliefs.

    • I tried to reply to your comment below, but I couldn’t. We’ve dealt with those issues in the Little House books, too, and some of those same concerns have struck me with the Narnia books as well. What I’ve tried to do is point them out to my children, usually after I’ve finished reading the chapter, simply noting that “it wasn’t right for Ma to hate Indians” or “such-and-such a character shouldn’t have called someone that, because we should never use that word to describe someone.” It can be a good time to follow up with a Christian perspective on racial equality (age appropriate, of course.) My husband and I thought that the overall good, positive qualities of these books outweighed the negative enough to justify reading them to our children.

  2. So right!!! I LOVE the depiction of heaven in the last battle. As I’ve grown older I see how true to scripture it is…

    I am so glad I grew up with The Last Battle (Lewis) and Heaven (Randy Alcorn) as the books my mom used to tell us what happens when we die, because that’s the idea of heaven that I grew up believing in: not flying away somewhere, but getting to walk around on a real earth, just a perfect, awesome, incredible one. And maybe we can fly there, too……

    I love talking about heaven!!!!

  3. My heart literally aches every time I read that chapter. It’s the closest thing to ‘heaven’ I’ve ever been able to imagine and I constantly refer back to it when I wonder about the New Jerusalem. So beautiful.

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