Monday, September 5, 2011

Narnia Week: The Magician's Book by Laura Miller

I know a lot of fairy tale lovers don't count The Chronicles of Narnia as fairy tales. I grew up loving them--my mom read them to my sister and me every couple years, until I started reading them on my own--and as I got older and read more about them, I discovered that C.S. Lewis had a passion for mythology, and intended the Chronicles as fairy tales. With that in mind, I feel it's only fair to mention them on this blog.


The Magician's Book: A Skeptic's Adventures in Narnia, caught my eye one day at the library. I, personally, have gotten tired of people dismissing the Chronicles as "just a bunch of Christian symbolism." Sure, there is a good dose of that, but I don't think I enjoy them nearly so much if that were all they were.

And apparently I am not the only one who feels that way.

Laura Miller, who's agnostic, went through her rebellious teenage phase, and around that time she read an incidental citation of the Chronicles that listed them as "Christian allegory" (which, if you've looked at literary types, the chronicles are not classifiable as allegory). She felt so betrayed that she'd never seen it before that she gave them up and swore never to read them again.

Except she LOVES them. So eventually she went back and explored them for other merit.

The book isn't the most organized non-fiction I've ever read. It reads more like one of those organic, train-of-thought conversations you have with a good friend, you know what I'm talking about? Where one thing leads to another, and so you don't necessarily have an organized essay of thought, but you have a really good, enjoyable conversation. It's fairly witty, quite observant, and pulls in a lot of other fairy tales and literature, as well as giving a lot of background about Lewis, stuff like his friendship with his brother, and with Tolkien. And it talks about some of his other works as well.

The BASIC premise is: you don't have to be Christian to enjoy the Chronicles, and if you ARE Christian, you shouldn't only consider the Christian symbolism, because the books have a lot of literary merit aside from that.

So. Very interesting read, I think you'd like it.


  1. i grew up in a sort of schizoid world; my parents being atheists, yet spending all my school years in catholic schools to get a better education...i read the chronicles of narnia numerous times as a kid & loved them (well, all but "the last battle"...), & i think they work quite well w/o any knowledge of the christian glossing that they have. indeed, i felt rather let down as an older kid when i realized that they were intended to have that specific christian underlying motif; it made them less magical, a bit stodgy--- somehow it limited them. but they are still great stories, & their oft-reiterated message of heroically doing the right thing even when (especially when) it's not the easy thing is universal. you needn't be christian to like these books & if you happen not to care for the religious sub-text it needn't stop you from liking them either.

  2. I agree with you. And I think The Magician's Book does a great job of re-un-limiting them (if you will!), giving them context which Lewis may or may not have intended, but which is definitely there along with the Christian themes.