Title: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
Author: C.S. Lewis
Published: 2009 (originally 1950)
The Chronicles of Narnia require no introduction – the story is widely known and loved and I am no less an admirer of Lewis’s work than the next reader. Two years ago, my best friend gave me a facsimile edition of The Voyage of the Dawn Treader for my birthday. Ever since, I’ve been trying to complete my collection of the Chronicles of Narnia in this edition. My endless search for the two missing books (The Magician’s Nephew and The Silver Chair) have so far been in vain, but I still cherish the thought that I might stumble upon them in a second hand shop … Anyway, the beautiful facsimile editions include the original jacket art and black-and-white illustrations by Pauline Baynes. I had reread the other four books that I own in 2015, but it finally felt like the right time to revisit the first book in the series (in publication order).
Daughter of Eve from the far land of Spare Oom where eternal summer reigns around the bright city of War Drobe, how would it be if you came and had tea with me?
Four adventurous siblings – Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy Pevensie – step through a wardrobe door and into the land of Narnia, a land frozen in eternal winter and enslaved by the power of the White Witch. But when almost all hope is lost, the return of the Great Lion, Aslan, signals a great change … and a great sacrifice.
Look lively and sort yourselves!
Rereading this for the first time in a few years, I did look upon the story somewhat differently than before. I still enjoyed it very much (5 stars, duh!), but I could not but feel annoyed and angry when Susan and Lucy are addressed by Father Christmas. Their big brother Peter is given a beautiful sword and matching shield and while both Susan and Lucy get a bow and arrow and a dagger (respectively), they also receive a horn to blow for help and a healing potion to cure the wounded. Father Christmas explains that it is not his/His (Aslan’s) wish that they, as women, fight in the battle that is to come. Only when they have to defend themselves, they can use their weapons. Santa Claus explains:
(…) battles are ugly when women fight.
Yeah, right. I have to say that I cannot remember having noticed this when I read the books for the first time around the age of 15. Maybe I forgot it or maybe it didn’t really bother me that much then, but it does bother me now. I would like to read the Chronicles of Narnia aloud to my children (in the future, haha!), but I think I’ll skip this part, ajust the text or, maybe even better, explain why I think this view on women is wrong. You could dismiss these remarks with the argument that it was written in the 1950s and that it is therefore ‘just’ and old, historic view of women’s rights and qualities and that we, as readers, have to leave it at that. Well, let me just put this straight: I also read 19th century literature written by white men that is equally or even more interspersed with these views and they don’t bother me as much as this does. That’s because 1) these books are read by children who are perhaps more easily influenced than adults in these views, and 2) Lewis’s views were perhaps already out-of-date in the 1950s. I think it is a mistake to confuse personal views with historic views and I think in this case it is more a personal conviction than a manifestation of an historic period.
Once a king or queen in Narnia, always a king or queen. Bear it well, Sons of Adam! Bear it well, Daughters of Eve!’ said Aslan.
That being said, I still love the magical world that Lewis has created and I admire his skilful depiction of that world. He sketches a whole new land in just a few lines and you’ve got to admire him for that … Although my absolute favourite character has to be Reepicheep, I also love Mr Tumnus and the Beavers!
Yes, of course you’ll get back to Narnia again some day. Once a King in Narnia, always a King in Narnia. But don’t go trying to use the same route twice. Indeed, don’t try to get there at all. It’ll happen when you’re not looking for it.
All in all, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe was a magical reread for me. I don’t mind criticising old favourites – I think it’s a healthy and honest way to reread literature.