I’ve thoroughly enjoyed re-reading the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. The plot and dialogue are so familiar to me that it was good to take a fresh look at it, noting little details I’d overlooked before. Sometimes, because I’d read this book so much, and also watched and listened to versions of it, I’d avoid it for a while and focus on the other books of the series. But of course this book was my original gateway into Narnia, the reason I read the other stories, the original way I fell in love with Lewis’ world. For me, it was the wardrobe.
Nostalgia rushes came thick and fast during the re-read. Certain phrases (Once a King or Queen in Narnia, always a King or Queen. Bear it well…not a tame lion…Spare Oom…sons of adam…turkish delight…) are firmly imprinted on my memory and it was good to see them again, this time in context. The same features of the story which I enjoyed as a child were all still evident: the wonder of discovering a new world; the excitement of the chase through the snow; the emotion of Aslan’s sacrifice; the delight at the situation the Pevensies find themselves in as rulers of a wonderful world; animals you could talk to; brave people fighting in battles which really mattered.
As an adult, I appreciated other things in addition to what I had previously enjoyed. Naturally, I am now more familiar with the symbols, references and echoes of other works than I was before, and unpicking these was fun. Lewis’ ability to draw characters which I felt I knew, through minimal description and clever dialogue, really impressed me, as did the clever use of the narrator’s voice. The sadness running through the book – the party turned to stone, the ransacking of Tumnus’ home, the mice gnawing on the ropes – struck me more clearly than before. Narnia itself, a place I’ve been imagining (longlingly) for many years, was beautifully drawn, with loving descriptions of plants and landscapes which show Lewis’ deep and lasting love of nature. I’d just taken this all for granted as a child, but now I can fully appreciate Lewis’ mastery of language and expression.
The book has its detractors, of course. People find the Christian ‘supposal’ element uncomfortable, dislike the old-fashioned style and language, find the world-building inconsistent, take issue with Lewis’ stance on certain matters and so on. I accept their points – after all, literature is a matter of personal taste as much as anything. But for me, as an imaginative work of fiction for children, I think The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is truly excellent. Lewis expected the Narniad’s popularity to fade by the end of the 20th Century, but I am sure this story will remain evergreen. It has sold tens of millions of copies around the world and still features in many ‘what to read to children’ or ‘children’s classic literature’ lists. After all, who hasn’t wished they could escape their own life, discover an exciting new world and maybe even become its monarch? Throw in sparkling prose, humour, talking animals, magic, battles, chases, feasts and of course Aslan, and the idea is irresistible. Even more so than Turkish Delight.