We think we know Narnia. Lots of talking animals and something to do with a sailing ship with a cool name. But that's the Hollywood version. The original series is way darker and meaningful than that, even for an atheist. Here, Lizzi Hawkins from The Writing Squad, explains why ...
"Of all the questions surrounding reading and
writing, one that I find most difficult to answer is when I’m asked what my
favourite book is – there are too many good books, and it seems almost
impossible to settle on one. So perhaps it’s fair that instead of choosing one
book for this piece, I’ve managed, purely accidentally, to choose seven. We’ve
all probably seen, or maybe read, ‘The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe’, but
there’s so much more to the Narnia series than that single story, excellent as
it is. Last summer, I reread the entire series, made up of seven short books,
of which ‘The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe’ is, in fact, the second, and
was reminded how formative these stories had been for me. Sometimes myths,
sometimes more like fairy tales, often just excellent adventures, these stories
are a beautiful exercise in world-building.
My favourites (at the moment at least) are ‘The
Magician’s Nephew’, the very first story, where we see the creation of Narnia,
and learn how the magical wardrobe came to be, and ‘The Silver Chair’, where we
re-enter Narnia at a much darker time in its future to rescue a lost prince.
These two, along with ‘The Horse and his Boy’, one of the more frightening
books, set in the desert south of Narnia, and ‘The Last Battle’, the final
story, are the ones that inevitably never make it to the big screen, but which
remain really special to me, for their captivating storylines, and their
moving, often unexpected morals. They are the heavier books of the series,
carrying a biblical profundity that was unlike anything else I read as a child.
Reading them again as an older person, the
religious connotations are much more clear to me – I understand now that C.S.
Lewis wrote the collection of stories with the intention of introducing
children to Christianity in a more appealing format. Despite being an atheist
though, I relish the presence of these biblical undertones – they open the door
for Lewis to mine some of the most ancient and powerful tropes in storytelling:
death and resurrection, sacrifice, pilgrimage, return from the wilderness, the
battle between good and evil, sometimes for an individual, sometimes for the
whole of his magical world. I’d recommend these tales to anyone, not just
children, and not just Christians, because you can find everything in them – a
fleshed out fantasy universe to rival the best science-fiction, powerful
stories of love and revelation, delicate explanations of faith, and most
importantly storylines that refuse to let you go. I challenge anyone not to be
captivated by them."
Lizzi Hawkins is a poet from
West Yorkshire. She shares her time between her hometown of Leeds, and
the University of Cambridge, where she is studying for a degree in Engineering.
She has performed in venues across the north, most recently with Carol Ann
Duffy and Imtiaz Dharker at Ilkley Literature Festival.
Lizzi’s poems are published or
upcoming in The Rialto, The North, The Cadaverine, The Compass Magazine and
several anthologies. She is a winner of the 2017 Poetry Business New Poets
Prize and has been Commended in the Foyle Young Poets’ Award. Her pamphlet
Osteology is available from Smith Doorstop.