Christian underpinnings don’t deter secular Narnia fans (Comment)

May 20th, 2008 - 8:39 am ICT by admin  

By Sevanand Gaddala
With the release of “Prince Caspian”, the “Chronicles of Narnia” franchise seems sure to establish itself and we can look forward to five more movies being made. The movies are based on the book by renowned Christian author C.S. Lewis. On the surface, the books are incredible flights of fancy that the movies to a large extent succeeded in translating on-screen. But dig deeper, and there is a large vein of Christian spiritual teaching coursing through. Even as Lewis strove to teach the Christian gospel through narrative fiction, a basic knowledge of some Christian teaching helps in better understanding of the movies.

Lewis would most probably have not become a believing Christian if not for the friendship with “Lord Of The Rings” author J.R.R. Tolkien. The two were colleagues and part of a scholastic group, comprising friends, called The Inklings.

Tolkien was a devout Catholic while Lewis, though raised an Irish Protestant, became an agnostic in his teen years, and believed that there could be some kind of divine presence even as he refused to accept Christianity. It was on a night in 1931 on the grounds of Oxford University that Lewis, while walking around and debating with Tolkien and a friend the relationship between the mythology they loved and the truth at the core of Christian teaching, finally decided to accept Christianity. Since then, Lewis has churned out books at a prolific rate, both fiction and doctrinal teachings. But it was the mammoth success of “The Chronicles of Narnia” that ensured that even his other less inspiring works would be read.

Lewis sought to infuse his narrative with some fundamental truths of Christianity to teach. He had even clearly stated that he wanted to take the parables of the New Testament, place them in a fantasy world, peel away the holier-than-thou attitude of piety and therefore allow them to be looked at as truly relevant. “The Chronicles of Narnia” comprises seven books and is a clear allegory of the Christian gospel as it spans from creation of man, fall, atonement, to resurrection and final judgement. The central character of the chronicles in essence is Aslan the lion. He represents Christ. In “The Lion, the Witch and The Wardrobe”, Aslan sacrifices his life for the children only to resurrect; just as Christians believe that Christ died for their sins as a sacrifice, but rose again to give them victory over sin.

The heavy Christian underpinnings have not deterred those secular readers who simply seek to enjoy the book. They find Lewis’ storytelling lucid, imaginative and his presentation of some more general ethical themes highly appealing. Ignoring the more straightforward Christian teaching, they still find something to learn about good and evil, love, betrayal, sacrifice and power.

Art is considered great when it allows us to connect with it in various levels. Lewis with his books, and now the movies, allows us to participate viscerally and intellectually. For those seeking deeper meanings and truths, “The Chronicles of Narnia” is the most perfect package.

(Sevanand Gaddala can be contacted at sevanand@gmail.com)

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