Baker Books is getting a jump on interest in Narnia spurred by the December 2005 movie adaptation by releasing Inside Narnia: A Guide to Exploring The Lion, the Witch and Wardrobe.
The 251-page book from C.S. Lewis expert and Asbury College professor Devin Brown makes for easy reading. The book is a running commentary of sorts, with Brown’s chapters corresponding exactly to Lewis’ chapters in the first book of The Chronicles of Narnia.
This approach makes Brown’s book a useful reference for learning more about Lewis’ work, which is sure to see a surge of interest because of the upcoming movie from Walden Media and Disney.
Brown follows Lewis virtually page for page, weaving literary analysis with plenty of interesting and relevant information about Lewis’ life and other work.
Inside Narnia assumes that folks have already read The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, and with plenty of references to the other books in the series, a working knowledge of all the Chronicles will increase (but is not necessary for) one’s enjoyment of Brown’s book.
Readers receive a good deal of information about the context of Lewis’ writing of the book, which was released in England in 1950, just a few weeks before Lewis turned 52. As Brown notes, Lewis’ friend J.R.R. Tolkien didn’t much care for the book, especially the way Lewis mixed mythologies from our world with those from Narnia (e.g. making Father Christmas present in Narnia).
As Brown tracks the chapters and the four Pevensie children, he discusses the confirmed and possible influences for the Narnia story, quoting from Lewis’ letters and other books. Brown also looks at the history and literature Lewis was exposed to and how it might have crept into the Narnia mythologies.
Brown discusses Lewis’ approach to writing for children, parallels between Lewis and Tolkien’s fiction, the origins of the story in Lewis’ own mind and a host of other interesting topics.
Where Lewis’ story seems to contradict itself or leave areas unexplained, Brown speculates to fill in the narrative gaps. In fact, he goes into more detail than the average reader probably cares to know.
Brown begins Chapter 11, “Aslan Is Nearer,” with three ways Lewis drew on his literature background. Brown says The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe gives evidence of “borrowings,” “allusions” and “echoes or parallels.” The categorization is helpful, and it would better serve readers at the book’s front.
Brown points out Lewis’ narrative techniques along the way, like his choice to end one chapter by previewing action in the next, or his decision to splinter the story of the Pevensie children into various strands.
Readers interested in the story’s relevance to Christian thought will appreciate some of the later chapters especially, wherein Brown, while discussing Aslan’s fate, talks about biblical allusions, allegory, and similarities and dissimilarities between Aslan and Christ.
Part of this discussion involves Lewis’ notion of “supposal,” which Brown explains through a well-chosen quote from Lewis about his supposing Christ wanted to enter the land of Narnia.
Brown references almost 100 books, roughly one-third of which come from Lewis’ own pen. As such, a reader of Inside Narnia is given a good starting point for one of Lewis’ most enduring works, and a solid direction about where to learn more.
Cliff Vaughn is culture editor for EthicsDaily.com.
Buy Inside Narnia now from Amazon.com