Just remember that Lewis wanted his fantasies be read and enjoyed first as stories. For him as a boy, church had been a dull and deadening experience. He wanted his fantasies to accomplish the oppositeï¿½to awaken a childï¿½s intellect, imagination and emotions to spiritual realities. Only then, he believed, could meaningful interpretation happen. Unless you want your kids to dread story time (and make Lewis roll over in his grave), resist the urge to press home every spiritual or moral lesson that occurs to you. Your role is to encourage, invite, facilitate what the story is already accomplishing. Whenever possible, let your childrenï¿½s own questions and observations lead the way. And trust that the Holy Spirit is also at work in your family (Why not make this your earnest prayer?). Chances are your children will be learning from the Chronicles at one level or another for years.
The Chronicles are not allegory in the strictest sense, where everything in the story equals something else outside of it (like Bunyanï¿½s "Pilgrimï¿½s Progress," for example). However, the Narnia stories clearly contain symbolic elements. In "Lion," aspects of Aslanï¿½s death and resurrection closely parallel Christï¿½s crucifixion and resurrection. Events of "The Last Battle" echo Bible prophecies about deception and persecution in the last days of Earth.
Throughout the Chronicles, Lewis leaves little doubt that Aslan is a picture of Jesus. For example, at the end of "Dawn Treader," Aslan tells the children that he is known by another Name in our world. And by knowing him in a bit in Narnia, they can know him better here.
However, the White Witch, like other witchï¿½s and wicked characters in Narnia is not necessarily a stand-in for Satan. Instead, she represents the reality of supernatural evil in our world.
In Narnia, we can often spot parallels with Bible characters or hear an echo of Scripture. And discussing these can be fun and enlightening. But donï¿½t try to find allegorical corollaries for all of Narniaï¿½s characters. Youï¿½d miss out on a lot of fun!
Recognizing Narnia as both fiction and fantasy can help Christian parents understand Lewisï¿½ use of magic. Fiction is the word we use for stories we make upï¿½but which could take place in our world. Fantasy stories take things further, creating worlds that may obey rules quite different from ours. So we can affirm that the Bible condemns sorcery and black magic in our world because they do exist as tools of a real devil on a real Planet Earth. But we can also knowï¿½and help our children know if they ever doubtï¿½that Narnia is in a different category. Itï¿½s real only like Mickey Mouse is real. And in the pretend world of Narnia, magic comes in two formsï¿½good and bad. Think of ï¿½magicï¿½ as the authorï¿½s shorthand way of saying ï¿½spiritual reality.ï¿½
One could argue that it is the belief system the author embraces which makes the most important difference. Today, kids are captivated by series like Lemony Snicketï¿½s A Series of Unfortunate Events (which the author wrote to challenge readersï¿½ expectations of happy endings in stories and in life) and Philip Pullmanï¿½s His Dark Materials series (which is overtly anti-Christian). While these authors use fantasy for the same reason Lewis didï¿½to bring readers closer to the truth they hold dearï¿½itï¿½s fair to say that their version of ï¿½truthï¿½ is not guided by a Christian perspective.
Even so, itï¿½s not especially helpful to label books ï¿½badï¿½ or ï¿½good.ï¿½ The pessimism of Unfortunate Events might completely undo one child while compelling another to share his hope in Christ with any hopeless people he befriends. Pullmanï¿½s series might strip one child of her faith while preparing another for a future as a Christian apologist. At the heart of the issue is the Christian parents understanding of fantasy literatureï¿½a genre where good and evil are played out by fictional characters in a pretend world.
But some Christians still question whether fantasy is ever okay. Some condemn the fantasy genre as being childish, deceitful, of scaring children and promoting escapism. Lewis had little patience for this kind of condemnation. In his essay ï¿½On Writing for Children,ï¿½ Lewis wrote: ï¿½About once every hundred years some wiseacre gets up and tries to banish the fairy tale,ï¿½ he wrote, as if irritated that this kind of argument against ï¿½the kind [of story] I know and love bestï¿½ would keep rearing its head.
If Christians embrace Narnia and reject Potter, we hope they do so after careful thought. The truth is that Christian children of overzealous ï¿½fantasy is badï¿½ parents might eventually be conditioned to reject Lewisï¿½s imaginative traditions. If so, itï¿½s possible that Christian fantasy as a genre read by Christians is dying, and the books we have from Lewis and Tolkien are among the last of a tradition that Dante helped set in motion. If that ever happens, the loss would be immeasurable.