Our Secret Country

November 16, 2019 at 4:47 am (Education, Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

“Most of us, I suppose, have a secret country but for most of us it is only an imaginary country. Edmund and Lucy were luckier than other people in that respect,” C. S. Lewis wrote in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader.

The thing is, the thing that C. S. Lewis as narrator doesn’t address, is that everyone who has ever read the Chronicles of Narnia series *does* have that country. We all visit some version of Narnia in our minds once we’ve been there once. And as it says in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, “Once a king or queen of Narnia, always a king or queen of Narnia.” 

So here I am, thirty-five, living in the magical world of Narnia as my daughter reads through the series for about the third or fourth time, but this time we’re reading it alongside our homeschool co-op. It is such a treat watching children enjoy the magic of Narnia, and furthermore bask in its magical glory with them.

Mr. Tumnus

The Chronicles of Narnia is a well known allegory of the Christian faith set in a fantasy world. Good and evil are clearly define, deadly sins and how they creep into our psyche, how unchecked they fester and change who we are. The stories enthrall children and adults alike, who have a thirst for the eternal, who long for the otherworldly aspect of our universe, the spiritual war that goes on every day unseen to the naked eye, but experienced in living color when you step through the Professor’s “Spare Oom where eternal summer reigns around the bright city of War Drobe.”

Turkish Delights

We’ve been reading the books together and discussing them book club style with children ranging from 7 to 13 and moms from 27 to 50. At the close of book two, we took a Narnia party break, complete with homemade snowflakes (the kids got to learn about hexagonal snowflake patterns and how to recreate them with computer paper and a pair of scissors), try Turkish delights for the first time (and marvel at why Edmund would basically sell his soul for such an awful dessert), and pose in costume under a welcoming Narnia sign and the iconic lamppost (artistic cardboard craftsmanship compliments of my impressive fiancé, kiddo spray painted it black herself).

Queen Susan

Of course, in my typical fashion, I had to read “grown up” books in addition to re-reading the original stories. Because C. S. Lewis made such an imprint on society, there are more literary criticism books about Narnia than there are Narnia books. Most of them written by Christians. However, I found one written by a non-Christian which greatly intrigued me.

The Magician’s Book is an in-depth critical analysis of the Chronicles of Narnia. As much memoir in content as literary analysis, Miller chronicles her own relationship with Narnia and includes insightful conversational commentary by other big name writers of many faiths (Neil Gaiman being one of my favorites). I enjoyed her perspective a great deal and though I was saddened that Aslan the lion did not aid in her understanding the nature of Christ, that she did not come to understand God’s love through Lewis’s fantastical depiction of it.

Still, reading Miller’s work led me down a rabbit trail I’m happy to tumble through, and I’ve already lined up all sorts of other books regarding C. S. Lewis and Narnia to read during the rest of our Narnia journey. Join us. We start Horse and His Boy next and are reading The World According to Narnia by Jonathan Rogers as we go. We plan to finish all seven Narnia books by the end of the school year.

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Not So Surprised by the Joy of Lewis

September 18, 2013 at 12:34 pm (In So Many Words, Reviews) (, , , , , , , )

joyTitle: Surprised by Joy

Author: C.S. Lewis

I don’t remember when C.S. Lewis was not a part of my life.  Really, I don’t.  I am sure at one point in time, possibly even recently, I may have remembered that first moment that I discovered the world beyond the wardrobe – but I can no longer recall it’s newness.  I only have the strong sense of having always been to Narnia before.  I can only remember various occasions that I visited, like a beloved vacation spot that has become home.

But now I am a grown up, and often when I have a longing for Lewis and his darling brain, I dive into his grown up things.  It started with The Screwtape Letters, which I read for the first time in high school or so.  Then I moved onto Til We Have Faces, kudos to a fellow named Brian Franklin, who somehow got that into my hands although I don’t recall by what means.  Then, finally, most recently, I really started to grow up… and I started reading his nonfiction.

In my mid-twenties I picked up Mere Christianity.  Something I wanted to read together as a family.  I think I was newly pregnant.  I recall being pregnant, maybe, but I don’t recall the big-as-a-house-belly.  (After all, when you are pregnant, you are a house – literally – for the tiny human you are growing.)  Either way, we read most of it aloud together, I think I ended up finishing the last half on my own, impatient for a conclusion.  Now that I’m thinking of it, perhaps I wasn’t pregnant yet at all.  Perhaps I just have a hard time imagining life without our little person, even in the memories she wasn’t present for…

Image from Jesse Furey

Image from Jesse Furey

So now, during a month of what Holly Golightly would refer to as The Mean Reds… during the stress of true adulthood… during moments when my brain (as the brain of the ‘creative’ is wont to do) attempts to dive into a deep melancholy… I have picked up Surprised By Joy: The Shape of My Early Life.

Am I suddenly ecstatic? Does Lewis propel me into a sanguine excitement, heart all a flutter with happiness? No.  Not even close.  But Lewis has reminded me what a lack of joy can really look like.  He has reminded me that my joy is never truly gone – even when I don’t feel it.

Sitting here in the wee hours of dawn, because I couldn’t sleep, debating how soon I should brew my coffee while the sun just barely peeks up into the tree branches and a haze of Houston smog, I am with Lewis.  I am with him at Wyvern and Chartres.  I am with his father.  I am with his atheistic sadness and in turn his Christian philosophies.  I am with his love for fantasy, satyrs, heroes, and mythologies.  I am with him in his distaste for other children and his desire to be alone, except for one good friend.

What I am not with? My own bad mood, which I like to call The Funk.  Apparently, Holly, we all have silly names for it and I stopped borrowing yours long ago.  Am I surprised that Lewis can scoop me from my mood, at least temporarily, with such ease? No.  (Although I admit he had the aid of my daily endorphin dose… the morning kick of pushups and crunches…)  Would I do almost anything for the most gorgeous set of leather bound C.S. Lewis books for sale at Good Books in the Woods? Probably, but if I had the money there would probably be a throw down for it in the parking lot between me and my Emily, but at least I know she’d share if she managed to win.


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Exposure is Everything

November 17, 2011 at 2:57 pm (In So Many Words) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

My whole life I have been enthralled by the world of books.  As a child, I was an avid reader the school librarian could not keep appeased.  I lived in the worlds of Laura Ingalls, L.M. Montgomery, Louisa May Alcott, Charles Dickens, C.S. Lewis, Tolkien, and more.  Although I went to college to study business, as soon as I was out I sought a position in a bookstore; my dream was to run the literature section, and I did.  I worked there for some years, fully stocked up my home collection, became the inventory manager, but then had a baby and so left the company.

We have 17 overflowing bookshelves in our house and books stacked on every available end table in between.  I have been gathering up children’s titles throughout my pregnancy until now for my daughter, preparing for a lust of the written word comparable to mine.

People keep warning me that she may not want to read, she may not like it like I do.  They keep telling me I cannot force my child to enjoy my hobbies.

I am not forcing her.  I am making the written word available.  She sees books everywhere, she sees people enjoying books everywhere.  In addition to our own collection that we read from every day, we visit the public library for group readings and she sees people outside her family unit gathering to enjoy a book.

My daughter is one year old, and already she often chooses Eric Carle over a stuffed animal.  She brings me Rainbow Fish and expects me to read it aloud while she sorts her blocks.  It seems sometimes as though she is not actually listening, just sorting her belongings, until I stop reading and she looks up and points at the book.  My daughter sorts through her picture books and flips through the pages, she even has her own little cushioned rocking chair she climbs into to do it.  She rocks and pretends to read while I lounge and read in our library in our house.

My daughter loves books, and I am both amazed and proud.  I implore the world to make books available to their children from a young age.  Read aloud to them, they cannot help but be interested and thirsty for stories and knowledge.

Get Your Kid Started!

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