Monday, December 21, 2009

On The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

Though I suspect my aversion to all things science-fiction/ fantasy might be genetic, I can also trace it to having to watch a cartoon version of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe during one rainy indoor recess back in grade one. That witch, the way one character spoke about "strangers in these woods", what a strangely terrifying thing is whatever is "turkish delight", and then when they cut the lion's mane off! I remember it all vividly, and with such a frisson of horror (and don't even get me started on the indoor recess where we watched The Neverending Story and the horse drowning in the quicksand).

I've had a copy of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe sitting on my shelf for a while now, and this weekend I finally got around to reading it. Because it's a children's classic, and you can't judge a book based upon a cartoon adaptation you watched when you were six (as the adage goes). And I can see why I was creeped out all those years ago, but I did enjoy it and will pass it along to Harriet to read when she is bigger. Christian allegory or not, it was an absorbing story, I loved the role of the Professor who confirms that Narnia is not just the children's fantasy, the obtrusive narrator, the complicating nature of Edmund's treachery, connections to Lewis Carroll and Wonderland, and idea of a world where it is always winter and never Christmas (which sounds a little like February).

It was an absorbing story indeed. If I were ever to give advice on how to start a novel, I'd advise a writer to have a character discover a secret world ("ok, I'm intrigued), explore it, and very quickly return back and then discover the world's portal has shut ("ok, I'm reading this book to the end now just to figure out what this is all about"). It's a double-bait, and it's excellent.

I'm also now thinking much about book titles that are itemized lists of what the book contains. There are plenty with one item, many with two, but how many others with three items? (Off the top of my head, I can only think of an old YA book called Maudie, Me and the Dirty Book.) Such a title would hardly be inspired, would it? Though alliteration certainly works in its favour here.

I don't imagine I'll be reading further chronicles of Narnia, because not being a small child, I've come to these books much too late. But I'm glad I finally read this one, particularly in order to discover that (SPOILER ALERT) Aslan doesn't die!! Or he is reincarnated, or... something. I don't know how I missed that during Indoor Recess. Perhaps I was so traumatized by him being shorn of his mane that I missed the rest of the film? Nevertheless, I was much relieved by this happy ending.