Through the Wardrobe with CS Lewis
Having touched on Tolkien in a recent blog I feel honour bound to move onto CS Lewis next.
I live in East Belfast round the corner from the house where he was brought up. My regular dog walking route takes me past the house which is called ‘Little Lea’. These days it is surrounded by a high fence with a sign warning that it is ‘private property’. Bus tours come round regularly to let tourists take photos and I’m sure in the past the owners have been pestered by callers asking to see inside the house. It is said that he took inspiration for Narnia from the hills beyond the house and that the idea for Aslan came from the lion door knocker on the house beside the church where his grandfather ministered (St Marks). Who knows exactly where inspiration comes from but Jack Lewis (as he was known) was certainly a force to be reckoned with. When he lived in Oxford he met regularly with a literary discussion group (The Inklings) along with his good friend JRR Tolkien. They were enthusiasts about fictional fantasy and I’m sure it was this group who encouraged Jack to write the series of Narnia books for children which were published during the 1950s. Tolkien also created the world of MiddleEarth starting with The Hobbit in 1937.
I was late to the Narnia books and did not read them until I was in my teens but was captivated by the world of Narnia as he described it – ‘Always winter but never Christmas’. I love the way he appeals to the child in all of us with the reference to Christmas, the inclusion of a sweet treat to entice Edmund to the ‘dark’ side and his way of humanising animals so they can talk and interact with the children. Good and evil are starkly contrasted in the characterisation with the battle between the two acted out on the pages of the novels. Not always comfortable reading but compelling all the same. Narnia is a magical place and many’s a child has rummaged at the back of old, coat-filled wardrobes hoping to find a door to another world because of these books
CS Lewis also wrote a trilogy of Science Fiction novels which I also discovered in my teens. They predate the Narnia books and do seem very dated now given the vast advances in technology since the 1930/40s. Their titles are Out of a Silent Planet, Perelandra and That Hideous Strength and are still worth reading if you are interested in SF as a genre. As always CS Lewis writing is impeccable and is a joy to read- or listen to.