On Dec. 9, Walt Disney Pictures and Walden Media released their feature, “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe,” based on C.S. Lewis’ classic novel. The DVD is set to be released April 4.
But before this review gets out of hand like another Lord of the Rings debate about original book versus theatrical film, let me say that both are worth investing the time.
For those of us who loved C.S. Lewis’ books when we were young (and still love them), the movie version allows us the opportunity to step into our imagination and live the entire story in one breathtaking sitting.
And for those of you who will see the movie first, it gives you a great opportunity to be introduced to Narnia and hopefully be encouraged to read these books and others by this timeless author.
But even beyond those reasons to argue both sides, the main reason to advocate any form of Lewis’ work remains the same as it always has – the great truths presented in such a masterful, artful story.
The story is a fantasy in which four school-aged English children discover an entrance to a mythical land called Narnia through an old wardrobe. They encounter the White Witch who has cursed Narnia with eternal winter and Aslan the Lion, who returned to save Narnia from the witch, as well as other animals and creatures.
The children discover they must fulfill a prophecy and, by Aslan’s side, defeat the White Witch and reign as kings and queens of Narnia.
While written first and foremost as a good children’s story, Lewis also made Narnia allegorical. Lewis exposed that central meaning when he said, “Let us suppose that there were a land like Narnia and that the Son of God, as He became Man in our world, became a Lion there, and then imagine what would happen.”
Allegories are powerful in their ability to supersede logic and mental barriers and put solid truths in a setting where we cannot refuse to believe or understand.
Narnia in its world parallels Earth, and within the space of a book and a feature-length film, define the problem of evil and the solution of Christ’s love and sacrifice.
The character of Aslan is the central and greatest parallel in Narnia. While the White Witch represents evil and its hold on the Earth, Aslan mirrors Jesus, the Son of God, who came to Earth in its inhabitants’ form to free us from that evil through his loving sacrifice.
Aslan is a beautiful and magnificent picture of God and his deep, unconditional love. The Great Lion resembles Christ in many characteristics and this likeness is obvious. Aslan is real, touchable, immediately warm and serene, yet he is also a roaring lion that is fearsome, majestic and imposingly splendid.
When one of the children, Edmund, betrays the others and the White Witch demands the boy’s blood for his crimes, Aslan displays great severity and wrath toward the witch. He shows fatherly solemnity through his love for Edmund. Knowing the price for Edmund’s sin must be paid, Aslan offers himself as a sacrifice in the boy’s place to save him from death.
It’s these foundational truths of God’s love toward us and our own earthly situation that make Narnia powerful and so beloved.
Whether you read the book, see the movie, or hopefully both, keep in mind the truth behind the story and the message Lewis is conveying. And if you think Narnia is but a children’s story or film, consider this admonishment from Lewis himself (as written in On Stories and Other Essays on Literature):
“It certainly is my opinion that a book worth reading only in childhood is not worth reading even then. The inhibitions which I hoped my stories would overcome in a child’s mind may exist in a grown-up’s mind too, and may perhaps be overcome by the same means.”
Consider Narnia an allegorical interpretation of The Passion of the Christ. And then that story-that truth-is never simply a childhood fairytale.
Jenna Lynn Ellis is a junior technical journalism major. Her column runs every Friday in the Collegian.