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C.S. Lewis' tales continue to enchant kids and parents

December 09, 2005|by Lisa Tedrick Prejean

"Mommy, what exactly is a wardrobe?"

My 6-year-old was looking at the title of a teacher's manual I had been studying. Each afternoon, I've been reading a chapter of C.S. Lewis' "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe" to my fifth-grade class.

My students are excited about Disney's new movie based on the book. Some of them probably will see it over the holiday break, so I thought the book would provide good background.

Plus, I wanted to introduce them to the works of C.S. Lewis, one of the most imaginative and creative writers of the 20th century. His "Chronicles of Narnia" series has enchanted children for decades.

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Born in Belfast, Northern Ireland, in 1898, Lewis became a professor of Medieval and Renaissance English literature at Cambridge University. His childhood was immersed in books, and his philosophical quest for truth became a lifelong journey. Raised as an Anglican Christian, Lewis became an atheist in his teens. He returned to the Christian faith in his 30s, and began to weave the truths he discovered there into his creative works of literature.

"The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe," which was published in 1950, is considered the second book in the "Chronicles" series, even though it was published first. "The Magician's Nephew," a prequel to "Lion," was published in 1955 and now is considered by many publishers as the first book in the series.

Back to my daughter's question about the wardrobe.

The wardrobe in this story is not a collection of clothes, which is perhaps the definition that comes to mind, but rather a closet or movable cabinet, usually relatively tall and provided with hangers and a rod for holding clothes.

The story begins as Lucy, the youngest of four children, is playing hide-and-seek with her brothers and sisters. She opens the door of a wardrobe to hide behind the clothes and discovers another world - a world of fauns, witches and magic.

(A faun is like a man from the waist up but has legs like a goat's and hoofs instead of feet.)

While in the other world, which is called Narnia, Lucy meets a faun, Mr. Tumnus, who works for the White Witch. He has been instructed to capture "Sons of Adam" and "Daughters of Eve," but he is so charmed by Lucy, he doesn't turn her over to the witch.

When Lucy rejoins the other children and tells them about her journey to Narnia, they don't believe her.

Seeking to discover the truth about Narnia, Lucy's brother Edmund enters Narnia via the wardrobe and encounters the witch, who claims to be the Queen of Narnia.

She promises to make Edmund the King of Narnia if he will return with his brothers and sisters. She also promises to provide him with more Turkish Delight, an enchanted candy, if he will perform this mission.

When the children return to Narnia together, they discover that the witch has captured Mr. Tumnus and that his cave has been ransacked because he did not arrest Lucy.

The children decide to come to Mr. Tumnus' aid. In the process, they meet a family of beavers who are against the witch and end up fighting on the side of Aslan, a lion who is the true King of Narnia.

All of Narnia desires to be free from the reign of the White Witch, who has made the land "always winter and never Christmas."

Warning: This next paragraph might spoil one significant plot twist if you're not familiar with the story.

The only hope for Narnia and for Edmund, who is being tried as a traitor, is Aslan - the one who created Narnia. It is Aslan who will lay down his life for Edmund, taking the punishment and dying in his place. In dying at the hands of the White Witch, Aslan sets Narnia and Edmund free.

The story continues, but I don't want to give away the ending to those of you planning to read the book or see the movie.

The book is wonderful to read aloud to children because both the characters and the plot are intriguing. It will be interesting to see how Disney approaches this on film.

For more information about the movie, go to disney.go.com/disneypictures/narnia/index.html on the Web.

For more information about Lewis, go to www.cslewis.org on the Web.

Parents might want to read "A Family Guide to Narnia: Biblical Truths in C.S. Lewis' 'The Chronicles of Narnia'" by Christin Ditchfield.

Teacher Created Materials Inc. has published, "A Guide for Using 'The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe' in the Classroom." For information, go to www.teachercreated.com.




Lisa Tedrick Prejean writes a weekly column for The Herald-Mail's Family page.

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