Thoughts on Narnia
Last night, despite the nasty winter weather in our area, we decided to go see The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. It was tremendous! I really enjoyed it, and have been thinking about it today.
As we walked out of the theater, our ten-year-old son mentioned how similar it seemed to The Lord of the Rings. Dear husband (whose comments are here) then reminded dear son that C.S. Lewis, who wrote Narnia, and J.R.R. Tolkein, who wrote LOTR were great friends and met often to critique each other's writing. They both were lovers of fairy tales and mythology from many cultures. Tolkein was a great lover of language. They had a lot in common (including--and why is this?--the fact that their Christian names are known only by initials...).
It got me thinking about my own writing and my own writing critique group. Not only do these people support and help me in my writing, but we artists do feed off of each other. The reason why my writing can improve, I believe, is because I put myself in the company of excellent writers. Because of them, I try new things. I experiment with different genres, etc. I'm sure the same was true on some level with Lewis and Tolkein.
So, the similarites between Narnia and LOTR are striking: the unlikely king, the magical creatures, the epic battles, evil being overthrown. Themes are also similar: courage, valor, loyalty, and redemption.
For me, LOTR was deeper, richer, fuller. Narnia the movie felt more suited for children. And I think this could be a result of directing or casting or some other cinematic element. But mostly, I think it's because Tolkein's work is longer, fuller in scope, more epic itself. Narnia, especially LWW is short (150 pgs?), and its intended audience was children. And the movie stuck to the book. So, that's why I think some people think it may be coming up short to LOTR. It just doesn't have the depth and scope of LOTR. On the other hand, it is brilliant in its simplicity. The direct parallels to Christ are terrific.
A note about Aslan: I'm reading many who are saying that Aslan isn't what they hoped for. I think this could partly be a result of failing to capture in film what is in the printed word. For me, Aslan in the books is larger than life, and somehow putting him on screen with computer-generated fur and movement doesn't quite translate perfectly.
By the way, did anyone notice that it was Douglas Gresham, Lewis's step-son who was the radio announcer in the movie? He has a new book out that I'd love to read. Look here.
One last thought: how cool is it that Tolkein and Lewis, both professors at Oxford University wrote these fabulous epic fantasies that are now on the big screen. They were great thinkers and teachers, who loved literature and language. And it makes me think that children's literature will certainly take a turn for the worse when death row inmates and celebrities are our bestselling authors.