by Michael Ward
Ever since they were published in the 1950s, C.S. Lewis's seven Chronicles of Narnia have puzzled readers. The puzzle has to do with the fact that the seven stories have no obvious unifying theme.
Three of the books seem to be clear Biblical allegories. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is a retelling of the Gospel story. The Magician’s Nephew gives us a version of the creation account from the Book of Genesis. The Last Battle reimagines the end of the world and the final judgement, as told in the Book of Revelation.
But the other four Narnia Chronicles have no obvious scriptural foundation. Why does the Christ-like figure of Aslan enter the story among dancing trees in Prince Caspian? Why does he fly in a sunbeam in The Voyage of the ‘Dawn Treader'? Why is he mistaken for two lions in The Horse and His Boy? Why does he not appear in Narnia at all in The Silver Chair?
There have been three main responses to Narnia's haphazard symbolism: dismissal; approval; enquiry.
[Michael Ward is author of Planet Narnia: The Seven Heavens in the Imagination of C.S. Lewis (Oxford University Press, 2008). The BBC recently released The Narnia Code, a documentary based on Ward's book. For more information visit www.narniacode.com.]
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