It’s been popular in the past couple of decades to attack The Chronicles of Narnia for its excessive use of Christian messaging. This is jus one unfortunate side effect of a culture that politicizes everything in the most infantile of ways, meaning that whatever is on the “wrong” side of the political divide must be attacked. Cue the Marching Morons obeying the dictates of their political-dogma-spewing overlords.
Even though I’m an atheist and should have been shocked (shocked, I tell you!!) at anything which hints at preaching, I decided to read the books anyway. Why? Various reasons. First off, I was lucky enough to have been a kid in a time when good books were just good books and not symbols of protest, so all the later mud-slinging really made no impression on me. Secondly, generations of children have loved these, and I thought it would be nice to see what all the fuss was about.
Thirdly, I remembered having read, at least partially, one or two of the books when I was a little too young to appreciate them, and wanted to complete that reading.
Most importantly, perhaps, I hate having important gaps in my reading. By important, I mean books that have stood the test of time, not books that are faddish today – I won’t be running to buy any recent Hugo-award winners unless they are still beloved in twenty years’ time. But Narnia? Yes, a must read for anyone who with the maturity to leave political silliness aside.
So… How did they hold up?
In order to answer that question, I need to talk about the order in which the Narnia series was composed vs. the order in which it was meant to be read. The first four books written (The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Prince Caspian, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader and The Silver Chair) follow the adventures of two brothers and two sisters who initially discover the land of Narnia and have adventures there. These are the solid core of the series and each is enjoyable and beautiful.
Is there Christian messaging in this core? Yes, there is, but it’s pretty light, and any intelligent child, anywhere on the political / faith spectrum, will be the better for being exposed to it and getting to think about things. Plus, they’ll enjoy these books enormously.
Then came The Horse and his Boy, which, in reading order, slots between Wardrobe and Caspian. This one is a good little adventure as well, although it doesn’t really do much for the central story except to set up the final book.
The last two books to be written were where C.S. Lewis made his big mistake. The Magician’s Nephew was written to be the first in the series in reading order, and The Last Battle, as its name indicates, was meant to close the series out.
These are the only ones that fall flat, for several reasons, but mostly because Lewis was attempting to make his message (and yes, it is a very traditional Christian message) obvious to everyone. They are just there, in fact, for that reason, and the adventures are relegated to a secondary role–the books suffer for it.
Are these two unreadable? Not by any stretch of the imagination. They just aren’t up to the spectacularly high level of the others.
I would recommend that anyone interested in this series read the first four (or five if you can’t get enough of it) books as written and ignore the rest. And I recommend it to anyone at all. If an atheist can enjoy it, so can you.
Just stay away from the last two books written. They… don’t help.
Gustavo Bondoni is a novelist and short story writer whose fantasy novel The Malakiad is not a Christian novel. In fact, it offends every religion from ancient Greece onwards, and it offends atheists and the politically correct, as well. In fact, if you are not offended by it, Gustavo will be extremely upset. You can check it out here (ebook) and here (paperback).