Tuesday, February 19, 2013

The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe
seen on TV @ ABC Family

My sister had a wardrobe. Growing up, we had to share a room - and no, it wasn't anywhere near as much fun as it sounds - and she had this largish (I'd say about six and a half feet tall) aluminum wardrobe that sat in one corner of our room. It was nothing fancy, just a giant box. I think she may have stuck a few magnets on the front and sides for decoration. I suspect this was hers as opposed to ours because she had more stuff. In addition to her many clothes, I remember that she kept her 45s and her Harvey Comics in there too. (You remember Harvey Comics, right? Richie Rich, Lotta, Hot Stuff, Little Audrey, etc.) I don't remember keeping any of my clothes in there, although I suppose I might have.

Now you have to understand - as my older sister, Lynne got to do stuff that I was too young for, and that engendered a certain amount of envy in me. I wanted to know what being a teenager was like. Gender wasn't really a factor; if I had had an older brother, I probably would've felt the same way, although I'll never know for sure. I never gave much thought as to whether or not her things were too "girly" for me. There was the ever-present threat of physical abuse, of course, but that's probably to be expected between siblings. 

My point is that I was plain nosy. So I'd rummage through her wardrobe when she wasn't around, examining her clothes, reading her comic books, playing her 45s, hoping for some insight into the mind of this sibling I was stuck living with, one I didn't ask for and couldn't relate to. Now, of course, our relationship is nowhere near so antagonistic, but back then, we were both crazy kids who didn't know any better and drove our parents nuts.

I'm fairly certain that I first read The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe at a relatively early age. (I also read some, but not all of the subsequent books in the series. The Voyage of the Dawn Treader was my favorite. Eventually I read all of them as an adult.) I was quick to learn how to read, and I vividly remember spending a number of afternoons at the local library. So of course, like many little kids who read this at an impressionable age, I had to see if I could access Narnia through my sister's wardrobe. 

Now part of the problem with that, as I recall - besides the wardrobe being too small - was that I believed that I couldn't do it unless I shut the doors behind me, which was difficult to do from the inside. The way the wardrobe doors were made, it was difficult to get a firm grip on them and get them to close properly. Plus, Lynne had so much stuff lying around on the bottom that I couldn't stand in one place without crushing or kicking over something. And it goes without saying that I couldn't ruin something of hers without incurring her wrath.

Didn't stop me from trying, though.

I think I sympathized with Edmund, even though he betrays the Pevensie clan. I certainly knew what it was like to have an older sibling who didn't always grok you, and wanting to be taken seriously even though you're a kid. In the animated version, I found the scenes with Edmund and Queen Jadis frightening. Also, the lamppost intrigued me. Why was something so obviously part of the "real world" part of Narnia? Whenever I'd see a lamppost in a wooded park I'd always imagine that I was in Narnia. And of course, the death of Aslan was scary, especially the part when Lucy and Susan hear the Stone Table crack in two behind them.

Did I catch the Christian allegorical aspects of the book as a kid? Don't remember, but I doubt it. That's the kind of thing you don't get until you're older, though I might have at least caught on to the Aslan-as-Jesus metaphor, especially when he willingly sacrifices himself to save Edmund.

This book might have been one of the very first exposures I had to British culture. I certainly didn't understand, for example, what Turkish delight was, or why Santa Claus was called Father Christmas. I probably just thought it was part of the alternate-world aspect of the story.

I saw the film version of Lion when it first came out, naturally. To say it owes a tremendous debt to Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings trilogy is an understatement, though some of the special effects don't seem quite as impressive now, on the small screen. Aslan looks too obviously like a CGI creation, though one could argue that as a supernatural, larger-than-life entity, perhaps he shouldn't look too much like a real-world lion.

I did a little bit of following along in the book as I watched the film (I have the omnibus edition that collects all seven books), and as a result I was more aware of how much the film expands on the book. I liked the way Aslan's resurrection was explained; much simpler than the "Deeper Magic" thing in the book, which even as a kid, I found to be a little hokey. In the film, they keep the Deep Magic thing, but the explanation basically amounts to Jadis not reading the fine print on the Stone Table.

The film version wasn't bad; I mean, it's next to impossible to mess up a story like this in terms of adaptation. I never saw Prince Caspian or Dawn Treader. I guess I felt like I got all I needed from this movie.


  1. This resonates with me, as I have four older siblings, and I remember being really curious about their inner lives and...well...their stuff! (Records, magazines, books, etc.).

    Voyage of the Dawn Treader is my favorite of the books as well, and I haven't been able to make myself watch it. I loved the first one, didn't like Prince Caspian all that much (but liked the book), and am afraid to see what they did with Treader.

  2. From what little I've seen, it appears they got Reepicheep right at least.

  3. Rich, as the youngest of 3 kids, I could relate. You've definitely piqued my interest in checking out the film myself!


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