I recently finished reading the Narnia Chronicles. Confession: I often imply to people that I have read these books before, “when I was younger.” False. I think at some point my dad started reading them to me, but I don’t think we made it past The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. And I’m pretty sure we skipped The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, because I complained that I had seen the movie so many times.
It’s not like I didn’t like the movie. But you know how it is when you’re a kid and you have those movies that you’ve seen so many times you know every single inflection of dialogue, and you don’t remember not knowing them.
Which means we read Prince Caspian and Dawn Treader.
While implying to people, “I read those when I was younger,” I also implied, “I don’t really care for them.” But it’s not like I could explain why.
And now, I’m ashamed. Because as I started reading (and then devouring) them, I have come to the realization that I either didn’t ever read these books, or I fell asleep as soon as my dad started reading, or I was just flat out not paying attention. I don’t remember a single thing – which I assumed I would: distantly, from 20+ years ago. I don’t remember these characters or themes or conflict.
And I found them really compelling and interesting, not only for everything they symbolize but also for the actual stories themselves. They’re fun to read, they’re super quick but they’re not fluffy. I actually really like the Christian symbolism in the book. And as soon as I finished reading, I jumped over to the internet to read Neil Gaiman’s story, “The Problem of Susan.”
The books belong to Drew – he has had this particular box set since he was 10 years old, and it’s moved with us several times over the past years. But I’ve always just stuck it on the top shelf with his historical biographies and ignored it.
Then, for my book club, a friend picked The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe – and as a companion, a book called The Magician’s Book: A Skeptic’s Adventures in Narnia, by Laura Miller. Miller talks about more than just LWW and it made me really curious about them. At the same time, I wished that my book club had just elected to read the entirety of the Narnia Chronicles, since it’s only about 1500 pages total. We’ve tackled worse.
So I decided that I would read them all on my own – partly so I could hold my own in conversation with four other people who, I’m sure, have all read the Chronicles multiple times. And partly because I wasn’t in love with Miller’s book, and I wanted to supplement this month’s book choice.
So now I’m a little obsessed. I tore through the books. And yet, hearing from others how their experiences changed between reading the Chronicles as a kid, and reading them as an adult, maybe I’m glad I’m just getting around to them now. There’s nothing for them to live up to, and I can’t be let down by any childhood heroes. And I can fully enjoy the religion of the books without feeling like I got tricked into it.
At least now I get why my dad wanted to read them to me. Because they are awesome. I will totally read them to my kid some day.