It would not be much of an exaggeration to say I passed my so-called tween years obsessed with Narnia. I can’t remember when I started reading the chronicles, but I can remember a time when I was either reading or rereading a Narnia book, or telling stories to myself which took place in Narnia, or translating Narnia books into farsi so my school friends could experience their pleasure – or that I was impatient to be doing one of these things.
I was quite shocked when as an adult, I picked up on the fact that Narnia was considered as a Christian allegory by most critics, and despised as such.
What? How come I never noticed?
I, who has spent my (apparently not-so)“formative” childhood years at a private religious (Christian) school in Britain! I, who would recite the Lord`s prayer before sleep every night! I, who would feel very uncomfortable whenever my ultra-modern uncle played the Chris de Burgh song about the devil and playing cards and selling souls in a railway station! I, who had been taught all about Jesus! Even today, my biblical knowledge -embarrassingly- far exceeds that of my friends who have been educated in Canadian state schools. How come I never realised Aslan was actually Jesus? And furthermore -a blow below the belt- my beloved books were considered sexist! Yes! The White Witch was a woman, Jadis was a woman, the Green Enchantress as well as the School Principal in The Silver Chair were women, Lucy’s brains were addled by too much Aslan (sex! sex! Lucy and Aslan rolling about on grassy hills! My childish self never realised what they were actually doing!), Susan was exiled, ergo, C.S. Lewis hated women. Oh- and he was racist too. Brown-skinned evil Calormenes, white-skinned good Narnians- Burn! Burn the books! Or better yet, turn them into Hollywood franchises where the high point of the story is the flirtation of Susan and Caspian to saccharine pop music. I do believe C.S. Lewis would have preferred the former fate.
A singularly unperceptive child. Or else the sweet Narnian air had so clouded my mind that I had never spotted what is now considered the obvious.
Who cares if C.S. Lewis was religious, sexist, misogynist, racist, a child pornographer like Lewis Carroll (snicker, snicker), gay or a homophobe? What matters is that he wrote like an angel, and his stories transcend his (real or attributed) prejudices and pettiness of mind. His books failed to inspire me with religiosity, sexism, racism or the desire to have sex with talking lions. But they did leave a lasting longing for good stories, a free and happy life, and adventures in strange lands. And this is the best literature can do.