On this day, a famous fantasy novel was published: The Chronicles of Naria: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, the best known of the Chronicles of Narnia novels. The book was first published on October 16th in 1950 and has remained a classic, not to mention a mainstay, of children’s literature ever since.
The book centers on the fictional world of Narnia, a land of magic and talking animals. Narnia, at the book’s beginning, is ruled by the evil White Witch, who has plunged Narnia into an eternal winter. Four children from the real world (Lucy, Peter, Susan, and Edmund) walk through a magical wardrobe and end up in the land, caught between the Witch’s forces of evil and the forces of good, who side with the god-like lion Aslan.
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The novel was written by C.S. Lewis and dedicated to his granddaughter Lucy. The series contained many themes of Christianity, with Aslan and the Witch representing Jesus and the Devil respectively. This theme is most prominently seen in the book where Aslan is killed but rises after three days and slays the Witch in a final battle, restoring peace to the land. C.S. Lewis himself described the genesis of the story beginning with an image of a fawn with an umbrella.
The Lion all began with a picture of a Faun carrying an umbrella and parcels in a snowy wood. This picture had been in my mind since I was about sixteen. Then one day, when I was about forty, I said to myself: ‘Let’s try to make a story about it.’
He had bounced the idea around for several years during the forties, which inspirations taken from World War II, where English children were evacuated from London and other cities to the countryside. However, worked stalled for sometime until C.S. Lewis created the character of Aslan and from then on, inspiration struck. He described he often dreamed of lions and made great progress on the novel, completed in March 1949.
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Lewis very much enjoyed writing the novel and wrote the sequel soon after, such was his enthusiasm. There wasn’t much enthusiasm from his fanbase, however, with the fantasy and fairy tale elements seen as self-indulgent. Nonetheless, the critical response from his fanbase, young readers, was highly positive and the strong sales of the book allowed Lewis to write further Narnia tales.
What are your memories of this book? Full of fantasy, magic, wonder, not to mention allegorical elements, this series helped define fantasy for a generation. Crack it open and give it another read!
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