Aslan's Breath in the Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis

This was the box set I had as a kid, and it’s still my favorite

I must have read The Chronicles of Narnia for the first time when I was six or seven, and I have loved them with all my heart ever since.  When someone asks me my favorite book, I don’t even hesitate, even though I love many books: The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe is always my answer.

Lately, I’ve been re-reading these titles, and more than ever, I am struck by the way Aslan’s presence changes everything, including me. I know – as soon as the children see him – that all will be well . . . it’s not a feeling I can explain; I just know it in myself.

Magic Is Real

One of the things I love best about these books is that Lewis weaves together myth and fairytale, allegory (although he claimed not to) and strong new stories to build a world where everything seems possible and where every story is redeemed. This morning, I finished Prince Caspian, where Bacchus and Silenus have a role to play in the story.  I LOVE that. So often we dismiss stories that are not a part of our traditions as being, at best, ridiculous and, at worst, dangerous, but here, Lewis strings them all together in one instrument. The music he creates is beautiful and hopeful.

The other thing I’m reveling in as I read this time is the way it’s Aslan’s breath and often his voice that brings life to things. He sings Narnia into being. He speaks over Caspian’s nurse to heal her. He breathes on the Pevensie children, and they take heart.  In our world, we often put so much emphasis on acting and doing, and these books remind me of the power of speaking and of simply sharing the air of our lungs with the people we love.

A Writer’s Eye View

These are books written for children, of course, but like the best children’s books they are rich with new things for adults. Some of that richness comes from the simplicity of the narrative- we have a straight-forward plot and one main challenge to overcome. But Lewis doesn’t simplify the characters. There are badgers and giants, centaurs and fauns, and lots of daughters of Eve and sons of Adam. Thus, we are given a strong plot through-line that is made all the more rich with a cast of characters who are complex and multi-faceted themselves.

Also, Lewis is not afraid to speak with an authoritative narrative voice. The point of view is third person, and it’s nearly omniscient. But here he makes a wise choice – we don’t know what Aslan is thinking because, of course, we cannot begin to grasp that. So even in the storytelling, the world of Narnia is kept in tact. That’s wise, powerful writing.

My Recommendation

If you write children’s fiction and want to see a model of a great plot that relies on a variety of characters, if you want to write in a broader third person point of view but avoid the pitfalls of that choice, or if you simply enjoy a magical, joyful story of good overcoming evil – but without nostalgia or ease – then I highly recommend the series.  But start with The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe, the book Lewis intended to be first. . . it’ll set you up to enjoy the mystery of Narnia in a much richer way than the strictly chronological order that the new sets prescribe.

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