Somewhere in my childhood my parents gave me the best gift I, honestly, have ever received. They introduced me to book and taught me to value reading as much as most other things in life (second only to people and maybe animals, depending on which parent you talk to). My brother and I were always encouraged to read, and read we did – finishing so many books one summer that the woman at the library’s summer reading program had some doubts about whether we were reading all we said we did since she had to start a second “reading race” sheet for each of us. I wish I still read like that.
The set of books that I adored more as a child and still hold the place of honor in my life are The Chronicles of Narnia. The world that C. S. Lewis wove a spell on me that hasn’t broken yet. If I could get to Narnia myself, I would go without a moment’s hesitation, leaving family, friends, cats, and even books behind. Narnia is the world as it is supposed to be. Narnia is what I see heaven will be like. Wolves and lambs together; people kind; dancing flowers; centaurs giving old ladies rides through the woods (kind of like the ewoks on Endor). . . this is the world as I know it should be.
So yesterday, when Kathy took me to the Franklin Institute to see their Narnia exhibition, I became like a kid again – I felt like I was going home. And the exhibit was beautiful and very well done. You enter through the wardrobe, walking through (fake) fur coats and into the forest by the Lamppost. You see beavers and Badger’s house. You wander past Jadis’ throne; you can touch an ice flow. Lucy’s cordial and Susan’s horn are there; I got to pull on Peter’s sword. It’s a tiny bit of Narnia here . . .
The exhibit mostly focuses on the films – which I think are very well done but can’t compare to the books of course – and it’s wonderful to see the costumes and props from the film. (Tumnus’ actual scarf is there – he’s one of my favorite characters in the book). I was a bit disappointed to not see more of Aslan in the exhibit; he’s the point after all – but then maybe his absence makes a point, too – This isn’t really Narnia, after all.
There in lies the magic of Lewis’ books – they capture the longing all humans have for that perfect place where everything is perfect, where a hero comes and saves us all . . . where Aslan roars and the world pauses with wonder. . . . In The Last Battle, the final book in the series, the Pevensie children see Narnia restored to its right nature:
It was the Unicorn who summed up what everyone was feeling. He stamped his right fore-hoof on the ground and neighed, and then cried: “I have come home at last! This is my real country! I belong here. This is the land I have been looking for all my life, though I never knew it till now. The reason why we loved the old Narnia is that it sometimes looked a little like this.”
And that’s why I love The Chronicles because they remind me that every once in a while, when the light and love are just right, earth looks just a bit like it’s supposed to.
I’m going to read the books again, and I challenge you to. . . If you’re up for the challenge, join in – we’ll read them before April 1st so that we see Narnia coming to life with the spring. Leave a comment if you’d like to read along.