• Kids in Danger
    In the story, the children go from a scary world of war and bombings to the relative safety of the professor�s home�only to be cast into another set of very scary circumstances. What was Lewis up to here?

    Lewis believed that protecting a child from the dark realities of life was a disservice. He disagreed with people who think: �we must try to keep out of his [a child�s] mind the knowledge that he is born into a world of death, violence, wounds, adventure, heroism and cowardice, good and evil� (from his essay, �On Writing for Children�).

    Instead, Lewis saw literature as an opportunity for children to safely encounter fear�and move past it to see that all comes out right in the end. A careful reading of the Chronicles reveals that the fearful obstacles the children face in Narnia help them to understand themselves or their world better, or learn important lessons�like trusting in Aslan�s goodness and power. Throughout the stories, the characters learn to take independent action in the face of fear, fighting the battle or pursuing the quest as well as they can, while also trusting Aslan�s purposes and involvement.

    The Narnia stories can help our children grow in the same ways. Think of all the fears and frights of Narnia as Lewis� attempt to pass on to your children the real prize: courage. And think of courage in children�s literature as another word for faith.

    Real-World Resonances

    Though the book makes only a passing reference to the war that led to the children being sent away from London, the movie plays this up more, even showing the family cowering during an aerial raid. Today, our kids are growing up in a world of widespread fear of terrorism and war. Kids might be frightened by the movie's depiction of the bombings and some might even connect the scene to the fears they encounter in their lives. How should I handle this?

    As a veteran of both world wars, Lewis was intimately acquainted with real-world fears. (In fact, during the World War II bombings in London, several children did come to stay in his home at the Kilns.) Here are some suggestions of what to say, and what not to say:

  • Don�t tell your children not to be afraid. Acknowledge their very real feelings of fear and let them know that sometimes you feel afraid, too.
  • Reassure scared kids with solid facts about their safety ("a tsunami is unlikely in Kentucky"), without promising that nothing bad will ever happen to them.
  • Encourage them to do what the kids in Narnia do when they are afraid. They call out to Aslan, and your kids can do the same. �Dear God, help me not be afraid. Thank you for being near me.�
  • Protect them from non-age appropriate media reports that are too graphic.
  • Consider a project that emphasizes the survivors of calamity. For example, maybe they could write to a child survivor of a terrorist attack or donate part of their allowance to a peace organization.
  • Assure your children that even if the worst happened, nothing evil or scary can ever take away God�s love or the promise of heaven: �We are all between the paws of Aslan.�
  • Pride, Gluttony, Power Lust, and other lessons from Edmund

    _Related Features
  • Are You a Lion or a Witch?
  • Edmund's Moral Descent
  • Complete Narnia coverage
  • Key Moral Lessons
    What are some key moral lessons in Lion, and how can parents use them as teaching/discussion tools with our kids?

    Look no further than younger brother Edmund for plenty of material on moral choices! His greatest moral lapse is his betrayal and abandonment of his siblings. But a series of smaller failings leads him into this big one:

    Gluttony: Edmund�s lust for Turkish Delight illustrates that too much of a good thing can become a bad thing. Explain to your kids that if our desire for something causes us to lose control or to make bad choices, we should avoid it altogether. You might relate this to the issues of addiction.

    Pride: Edmund lies about the world of Narnia beyond the wardrobe because he can�t bear to admit that Lucy was right. Why is it so hard to admit when we�ve made a mistake?

    Blame-shifting: When caught in his lie, rather than feeling sorry, Edmund tries to make himself believe that his siblings are self-righteous pigs. Can your kids relate to this tendency?

    Power lust: Edmund can�t wait to be king so he can �lord it over Peter.� Ask your kids if they�ve ever had similar fantasies of power over others, perhaps an older sibling or a friend.

    Thankfully, not all of the moral lessons are negative, even for Edmund! His sincere change of heart and his apology to Lucy and his siblings show the power of confession, repentance, and forgiveness. And Aslan�s death is a powerful illustration of the spiritual concepts of sacrifice and redemption.

    Is My Child Ready for Narnia?

    I�m concerned about frightening and violent elements in the Chronicles. How can I know if my child is mature enough to enter Narnia?

    The answer depends if you�re thinking book or movie. When we read the books, the author�s voice and presence are always present to comfort and counsel. When we�re curled up on the couch together to read Narnia, our kids can enjoy the steadying context of parent and family. A movie is different: no comforting narrators, for one thing, and characterization and violence will tend to be more graphic. Having said that, Disney is obviously targeting the same family demographic they have for decades.

    If you�re unsure about your child�s readiness, ask yourself some key questions that other parents have found helpful:

    1. Can my child separate reality from fantasy? In other words, is he or she old enough to realize for certain that the White Witch won�t be visiting your house tonight? If not, then they�re not ready to climb through that wardrobe.

    2. Does my child already have a tendency toward fear, bad dreams, or being haunted by boogeymen? If so, wait longer than you might otherwise.

    3. What else is going on in my child�s life? If your child is going through an anxious or stressful season�a recent divorce or other major loss, a seriously ill sibling, a move�any fears he or she already feels are likely to get amplified by a fictional fright. Extra empathy and wisdom are in order.

    4. What is my child�s temperament? Some children feel things deeply but are quick to talk things through with a parent. Some are more sensitive to emotional issues in stories than they are to violence. The variations are endless. But each child deserves what you can do best�observe, care, protect, pray, and then parent with discretion.

    What's With All the Alcohol?

    _Related Features
  • Are You a Lion or a Witch?
  • Edmund's Moral Descent
  • Complete Narnia coverage
  • Alcohol Use in Narnia
    When I reread the Chronicles as an adult I was taken aback by the prevalence of beer, wine, and liquor. How do I explain that to my children?

    Pints pour and corks pop throughout the Chronicles, including "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe." While dining with the children, Mr. Beaver �sticks to beer.� Later, Mrs. Beaver passes around a �flask out of which everyone drank something�it made one cough and sputter a little and stung the throat, but it also made you feel deliciously warm after you swallowed it�and everyone went straight to sleep.�

    And yet, the truth is that the story strand of imbibing will be entirely missed by plenty of readers, your kids perhaps among them. Plus, In addition, recording a behavior or choice is not the same thing as endorsing it, and reading a story that references beer or wine isn�t likely to lead a child to get drunk on Friday night, especially when there�s a loving, open, ready-to-talk parent reading alongside.

    In fact, the beverage issues throughout the different books in the series can easily be turned into important family conversations:

  • You might feel smarter or stronger on too much alcohol, but what you�ll be is a bumbling fool. Take in a little too much alcohol and you�ll believe what the giants at Harfang told Puddleglum in "The Silver Chair": �The more you drink, the bigger a man you are.� It�s a line most kids these days have to deal with by the sixth grade, if not before.
  • You might think you can hide the negative consequences of too much alcohol, but you only risk being the last to know. You might point out, if your family hasn�t already noticed, that the hard liquor mentioned in "The Magician�s Nephew" is always shown as imbibed in secret, at irrational times, and in excess.
  • You might think alcohol (or any addictive substance) puts you in control, but the truth is you�re at risk of becoming its slave. There�s probably never been a generation more aware of the dangers of addiction than the one coming of age today. The good news here is that you�re not likely to have to deliver much parenting advice. Just let the story dramatize the issues.
  • Narnia's Enduring Popularity

    Why is Narnia so popular with kids and adults alike, and how can we as parents best use this shared love of Narnia as a shared interest with our children?

    From a kid�s perspective, what�s there not to like about Lewis�s fantasies? Talking animals, evil witches, wondrous beings and places (goofy dufflepuds, mysterious underground lakes, friendly dragons), and fantastic adventures. Plus, in Narnia, children really matter. They fight in battle, embark on dangerous quests, and rule kingdoms. There�s no school, naptime, or boring grown-up rules! And unlike most fantasy stories, set entirely in a pretend world, the kids in the Chronicles travel back and forth between our world and Narnia. A young reader thinks: These are kids just like me! If only I can find the right wardrobe, train station, or picture to travel through...!�

    Older readers love Narnia for all same reasons and more. Who doesn�t enjoy rediscovering the world of childhood? Interestingly, Lewis never liked the distinction "children's literature." "Most of the great fantasies and fairy tales were not addressed to children at all, but to everyone," he wrote. And "No book is really worth reading at the age of 10 which is not equally (and often far more) worth reading at the age of 50..."

    All this is good news for families. Since the Chronicles appeal to all ages, they�re perfect for reading together. Chapters are short enough that parents can easily read one chapter a night with their kids. A family guide (like Roar!) can add to the fun and encourage great conversations.

    _Related Features
  • Are You a Lion or a Witch?
  • Edmund's Moral Descent
  • Complete Narnia coverage
  • more from beliefnet and our partners
    Close Ad