In The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, the four beloved Pevensie children enter Narnia for the first time. As the series progresses, Aslan tells each of them that they will not return. They are growing too old.
When I read The Chronicles of Narnia as a child, this was devastating. It wasn’t fair that Aslan sent them back to their own world to never return. But revisiting the series as an adult, I now understand.
Children are capable of endless wonder, a quality which disappears as we grow older. To a four-year old, swinging at the park is a magical experience—an adult grows bored quickly. Why is this? As we grow older, the world becomes familiar. We understand how things work, and as our knowledge increases, our ability to wonder decreases.
We no longer see magic in a blooming flower—we see biology. Science engulfs magic, and we no longer allow for possibilities outside what we think should be reality.
This happens to Uncle Andrew in The Magician’s Nephew. When he follows Digory and Polly into Narnia, he doesn’t like the effects of the magic world, so he chooses not to believe in it.
When the Lion had first begun singing, long ago when it was still quite dark, [Uncle Andrew] had realized that the noise was a song. And he disliked the song very much. It made him think and feel things he did not want to think and feel. Then, when the sun rose and he saw that the singer was a lion (“only a lion,” as he said to himself) he tried his hardest to make believe that it wasn’t singing and had never been singing—only roaring as any lion might in a zoo in our own world. “Of course it can’t really have been singing,” he thought, “I must have imagined it. I’ve been letting my nerves get out of order. Who ever heard of a lion singing?” And the longer and more beautiful the Lion sang, the harder Uncle Andrew tried to make himself believe that he could hear nothing but roaring. Now the trouble about trying to make yourself stupider than you really are is that you very often succeed. Uncle Andrew did. He soon did hear nothing but roaring.
Uncle Andrew was too far gone into adulthood to embrace the magic of Narnia. Most adults in our world are like this too—and don’t exclude yourself. Think back to a time when someone told you about a miracle they experienced, such as an unanswerable cure to an illness. What was your first reaction? Wonder or skepticism?
Adults Need to be Present in Our World.
The purpose of visiting Narnia—as a character or as a reader—is to discover truth without the constraints of the “ordinary” world. Not that our world is ordinary, but it is more difficult to wonder in our world than in another. Sometimes it’s easier for us to see truth in a different context. The bravery to stand up to a bully is ordinary; the bravery to stand up to a dragon is extraordinary.
However, as we grow into adulthood, we need to take the truths of Narnia and apply them to our own world. We visit in order to return. Aslan explains this to Edmund and Lucy at the end of The Voyage of the Dawn Treader:
“Please, Aslan,” said Lucy. “Before we go, will you tell us when we can come back to Narnia again? Please. And oh, do, do, do make it soon.”
“Dearest,” said Aslan very gently, “you and your brother will never come back to Narnia.”
“Oh Aslan!!” said Edmund and Lucy both together in despairing voices.
“You are too old, children,” said Aslan, “and you must begin to come close to your own world now.”
“It isn’t Narnia, you know,” sobbed Lucy. “It’s you. We shan’t meet you there. And how can we live, never meeting you?”
“But you shall meet me, dear one,” said Aslan.
“Are—are you there too, Sir?” said Edmund.
“I am,” said Aslan. “But there I have another name. You must learn to know me by that name. This was the very reason why you were brought to Narnia, that by knowing me here for a little, you may know me better there.”
As a child, I was constantly off in what my grandma called “la-la land.” I was always dreaming, inventing stories in my head. I still invent stories, but I don’t daydream in that same all-consuming way. This is a good thing. I need to learn how to live in my own world, to find Aslan here instead of looking for fulfillment in my imagination. I do want to know Aslan better, and I know he’s just waiting for me to look.
Question: How have fantasy stories and fairy tales shaped your understanding of this world? Post a comment!