"Find me something wonderful to read," I would ask the librarians and teachers at my elementary school. "Something like the Narnia books."

I love to visit other worlds. For decades, I subscribed to the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, and I still watch every sci-fi series or movie that comes my way. My teachers encouraged me to explore fantasy through mythology, art, music and literature. Especially literature. I scoured the shelves, tearing through book after book--and the more fantasy- and adventure-filled, the better.
My favorites often involved something magical. I read and reread them, reluctant to return from their wonder-filled worlds to my very ordinary real life.

No books meant more during these years than C. S. Lewis's "Chronicles of Narnia." The heroes and heroines were children--full-blown individuals, accountable for their actions, expected to think and act independently. They were admirable and disappointing, noble and mischievous, ordinary and remarkable. Their stories have been part of me for so long I don't really remember a time I didn't know the Pevensie children (Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy); the mysterious Professor; Aslan, the lion/king; Mr. Tumnus, the faun; Puddleglum, the marsh-wiggle; Bree, the talking horse; the evil White Witch, and all the other inhabitants of C.S. Lewis' imagination.

I was hooked almost at once. A big old house in the country. A girl is playing hide and seek with her siblings. She darts inside a wardrobe cabinet. As she moves towards the back of the cabinet, she notices two things: it is getting colder and the cabinet seems impossibly deep. Suddenly she emerges into a snowy landscape.

Wow. Wouldn't that be something! I remember thinking about the old wardrobe cabinets in our attic. I would have to explore them--if I could find the nerve to climb the stairs alone. (For years I couldn't resist looking inside such wardrobes. I love them to this day. There has been one in my bedroom--a wedding gift from my dearest college friends--for over 35 years.) But what if I discovered a magic door? Could I be as brave as Lucy? I hoped so, but I wasn't sure.

Equally memorable was Aslan, the magical golden-eyed lion. No tame lion, he. Aslan was everything a royal lion should be. Massive and muscular, with a rippling mane; soft-spoken but with a roar that shook mountains; good, gentle, stern, dangerous--glorious! He allowed Lucy to ride on his back, burying her face in his soft fur. And he could fly. I can still envision that exhilarating ride, soaring high over the land and yet remaining perfectly safe. The inhabitants of Narnia loved him, and so did I.

In the 1970s, I watched with dismay a clumsy cartoon version of "The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe" on TV; ditto the slightly better BBFC versions of the first four books, produced between 1988 and 1990. And now I anticipate with mixed feelings the forthcoming Disney film. On the one hand, special effects have nearly caught up with my imagination. The Lord of the Rings films, for example, were splendid depictions of the Tolkien books. On the other hand, I hope the director and producers resist the temptation to be "in my face" with the Christian themes the book contains--themes to which I was happily oblivious as a young reader.

Are the Chronicles sexist?


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  • As I visited and revisited Narnia in elementary school, I did not notice the Christian religious symbolism that others find so obvious. Consider who I was--a young Jewish girl, only vaguely aware of certain aspects of the Christian narrative. For me, the stories were just that: fabulous stories--of magic, love, friendship, courage, and loyalty, plus the age-old conflict of good and evil, of course. To me, there was nothing particularly "religious" about that, since nearly all of the really interesting children's books, fairy tales, stories, and myths I had encountered are also about good and evil. No issue seems to be a more fundamental concern of humankind.