Top 5 Things I Loved (and Still Love) About Narnia
There were so many different ways of getting there! The wardrobe was a stroke of genius, of course, but there was also the painting of Dawn Treader that came to life, the call of Susan's magical horn, the rings, the Wood Between the Worlds, with a different world in every pool...
This meant that Narnia could be around any corner, through any doorway. And how many children have hopefully pushed at the back of their own wardrobe, longing for snowy branches?
*Dying in a train crash was another option, slightly less appealing though...
2) glorious miscellany
The world of Narnia was peopled by a wonderful mash-up of figures from myth and fairy tale, folklore and classical gods, talking animals, Father Christmas, The White Witch rubbing shoulders with Bacchus, stars that are people too, tree-spirits and water-nymphs, as well as Aslan and the Emperor-over-the-sea. Even the demon god of the Calormenes, the fearsome Tash, turns out to be real. Nothing was forbidden, everything was up for grabs in the world of the imagination.
3) imagery and scene setting
The Chronicles of Narnia contain some of the most haunting images I've ever read:
The snowy, winter-bound world of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe;
The empty, ruined world of Charn, with its worn-out red sun, in Magician's Nephew;
The children slowly realising in Prince Caspian that the ruins they are sitting in are the remains of their own castle of Cair Paravel;
Most poignant of all, in Voyage of the Dawn Treader, gallant Reepicheep, paddling his coracle through the sweet, lily-covered sea toward the edge of the world and Aslan's country.
I'm not from a religious family, but growing up in PNG, surrounded by missionaries and the children of missionaries, it's no wonder I was a fervent Christian as a child. I'm not surprised some people would rather believe in Aslan than in Jesus; the terrifying, loving, tender but stern lion is a perfect imagining of a personal redeemer. I wouldn't be surprised if Narnia is the ultimate source of the vague spiritual yearning I've been carrying around all these years.
The Narnia books have been read by thousands, perhaps millions, with love; and I think the reason is that they were written with love. CS Lewis imbues these stories with such delight and joy in creation -- everything from hot buttered toast to dancing trees, romping with Aslan, the singing of the stars, crystal pools and tumbling waterfalls -- the sounds and smells and sensations of each experience are so carefully described, it's easy to put yourself into the scene. It's written with such sincerity, such a lively, joyful imagination, and it's this that shines through for me still.