The Chronicles of Narnia
Of course I read The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe back in the day. I was getting into fantasy books, and it was a quick read. I think that’s as far as I got as a kid. I was into longer books with deeper world building.
When children came along, I thought it was a good time to read the series, and I planned to read all of the books aloud to the kids. We got through book four, The Silver Chair, before I gave up. The kids were varying ages, and the language wasn’t quite for them. To tell the truth, I don’t remember much of the plot of the next three books, and that’s even having watched the mediocre movies of the first three books.
All of these years later I have finally finished reading The Chronicles of Narnia. Naturally I knew of the allegory of it all, and I was willing to go on the journey just to see how it held up as a story. Perhaps I was a bit willfully ignorant on this, but I didn’t know what I was in for – especially with the last book, The Last Battle. I don’t think I’m overly sensitive, but I feel like that book must have read pretty racist (not to mention misogynistic) even in the mid fifties. I’m probably not calibrated correctly to the fifties, though.
The Last Battle’s primary enemies are a gorilla and the people living to the south of Narnia in Calormen. Seriously. The Calormenes smell of “garlic and onions” and basically worship a countergod who is the devil. It’s clear in the book series that the Claromenes are stand-ins for Muslims. Oh, and often throughout the book the Calormenes are called a pretty deragatory term frequently. I won’t repeat it here.
Extra spoiler alert warning, not that you’re going to read these books if you haven’t already…
If you’ve read the first book, you’ll remember the child-hero, Susan. Well she gets left out of the British children ascending to heaven (“[she] is no longer a friend of Narnia”) because she’s more interested in “nylons and lipstick and invitations” these days. Oof.
I’m not saying to ban the books or anything. And part of my challenge with the series is also that I never really jived with its style, either. I will say that if you are considering powering through this series, well, I don’t think I’d recommend it.
Though I will mention this positive. Kenneth Branagh read The Magician’s Nephew and Patrick Stewart read The Last Battle. They did a nice job. 😬