The Chronicles of Narnia series was written by C.S. Lewis in the 1950s, when he was a high-powered Oxford professor and perhaps the 20th Century’s most famous convert to Christianity. An atheist from boyhood, he converted at age 33 to Christianity and devoted much of the rest of his life to writing about faith.
C.S. Lewis was the great Christian apologist of the 20th Century. His radio programs reached millions and galvanized a new revival in the 1940s in the United Kingdom during World War II. His books including The Chronicles of Narnia have been read by 100 million people, many of whom have seen a deeper truth in them.
It is in one of Lewis’ last letters (March 5, 1961) to an older child, Anne, that Lewis most fully explains his intentions for The Chronicles of Narnia. Anne seems to have written Lewis about a scene from Chapter XVI, ‘The Healing of Harms,’ in The Silver Chair. Aslan, Eustace, and Jill are in Aslan’s Country and they have just witnessed the restoration of the dead King Caspian to full life and youthful vigor. Jill cannot understand what she has just seen, so Aslan explains that Caspian had died and so had he.
As C.S. Lewis wrote:
“What Aslan meant when he said he had died is, in one sense plain enough. Read the earlier book in this series called The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, and you will find the full story of how he was killed by the White Witch and came to life again. When you have read that, I think you will probably see that there is a deeper meaning behind it. The whole Narnian story is about Christ. That is to say, I asked myself ‘Supposing that there really was a world like Narnia and supposing it had (like our world) gone wrong and supposing Christ wanted to go into that world and save it (as He did ours), what might have happened?’ The stories are my answers. Since Narnia is a world of Talking Beasts, I thought He would become a Talking Beast there, as He became a man here. I pictured Him becoming a lion there because (a) the lion is supposed to be the king of beasts; (b) Christ is called ‘The Lion of Judah’ in the Bible; (c) I’d been having strange dreams about lions when I began writing the work. The whole series works out like this.
The Magician’s Nephew tells the Creation and how evil entered Narnia.
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, the Crucifixion and Resurrection.
Prince Caspian restoration of the true religion after corruption.
The Horse and His Boy the calling and conversion of a heathen.
The Voyage of the Dawn Treader the spiritual life (especially in Reepicheep).
The Silver Chair the continuing war with the powers of darkness.
The Last Battle the coming of the Antichrist (the Ape), the end of the world and the Last Judgment.”**
“Not Just a Good Yarn. . .”
Needless to say, on the other side of the church-state-secular-world-divide, some people do not want the movie identified with a Christian message. They are trying to reach a broad audience and are trying to pretend that the whole story is just a good yarn. Frankly, we are happy that these people have made the movie, but we have also noticed that they have taken a hard stance against the real story of Aslan. It’s up to the People of God; up to the believers, to help people go deeper or as C.S. Lewis would say through his character, Reepicheep, ‘Go further in and go further up.’ We are happy that the people are producing the movie, but we don’t want what the real message behind the story to be lost. After all, C.S. Lewis once said, ‘Watered down Christianity is nothing at all.’ We need to use this opportunity, whatever the secular world says, to present the truth of Jesus Christ.
As a complement to the movie series, I have written Narnia Beckons, an in-depth glimpse of the life and ideas of the man behind the beloved children’s book series. The book is full of profound, enlightening, inspiring, and discerning information and stories about the book from which the movie has been drawn. Also included in Narnia Beckons is information about previous television adaptations of Lewis’s masterpiece as well as interviews with some of the key players producing the movie and leading Lewis scholars. There are also rare photographs of his English childhood haunts and profiles of family and friends.
**[The source for this letter is Narnia Beckons and “Bluspels and Flalansferes: A Semantic Nightmare,” in Selected Literary Essays, Walter Hooper, ed. (London: Cambridge University Press, 1969), 426.]
(The Chronicles of Narnia, Narnia and all book titles, characters and locales original thereto are trademarks of C.S. Lewis Pte Ltd., and the commentaries herein represent a fair use of that material.)
NOTE: If you appreciated this article and want to know more, please read Narnia Beckons. Dr. Baehr’s book is available in bookstores and at www.movieguide.org.