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Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe: A Celebration of the First Edition (Chronicles of Narnia) Hardcover – October 27, 2009
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From the Back Cover
In 1950, C. S. Lewis introduced the world of Narnia and its unforgettable King, Aslan.
About the Author
Clive Staples Lewis (1898-1963) was one of the intellectual giants of the twentieth century and arguably one of the most influential writers of his day. He was a Fellow and Tutor in English Literature at Oxford University until 1954, when he was unanimously elected to the Chair of Medieval and Renaissance Literature at Cambridge University, a position he held until his retirement. He wrote more than thirty books, allowing him to reach a vast audience, and his works continue to attract thousands of new readers every year. His most distinguished and popular accomplishments include Out of the Silent Planet, The Great Divorce, The Screwtape Letters, and the universally acknowledged classics The Chronicles of Narnia. To date, the Narnia books have sold over 100 million copies and have been transformed into three major motion pictures.
Clive Staples Lewis (1898-1963) fue uno de los intelectuales más importantes del siglo veinte y podría decirse que fue el escritor cristiano más influyente de su tiempo. Fue profesor particular de literatura inglesa y miembro de la junta de gobierno en la Universidad Oxford hasta 1954, cuando fue nombrado profesor de literatura medieval y renacentista en la Universidad Cambridge, cargo que desempeñó hasta que se jubiló. Sus contribuciones a la crítica literaria, literatura infantil, literatura fantástica y teología popular le trajeron fama y aclamación a nivel internacional. C. S. Lewis escribió más de treinta libros, lo cual le permitió alcanzar una enorme audiencia, y sus obras aún atraen a miles de nuevos lectores cada año. Sus más distinguidas y populares obras incluyen Las Crónicas de Narnia, Los Cuatro Amores, Cartas del Diablo a Su Sobrino y Mero Cristianismo.
Pauline Baynes has produced hundreds of wonderful illustrations for the seven books in The Chronicles of Narnia. In 1968 she was awarded the prestigious Kate Greenaway Medal for her outstanding contribution to children's literature.
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In the first book of the series (thematically speaking), Lewis tells of creation, when he relates how The Magician's Nephew plays a part in the creation of the world of Narnia. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is therefore a children's tale about triumph over evil, about the Christ and his redemption and the kingdom of God restored back to faithful believers, and the defeat of Satan. The gospel in a juvenile nutshell, to be exact. In the subsequent books of the series, Lewis deals with fulfilling our destiny with God's plan for our life (The Horse and His Boy); joy in the midst of tempest, with Christ as our conqueror (Prince Caspian); how we can be influenced by a future eternity if our hearts are set toward heaven (The Voyage of the Dawn Treader); a victorious hope against death with our resurrection (The Silver Chair); and the coming Armageddon and return of Jesus Christ and the new heaven and earth (The Last Battle). This all makes compelling reading, when you consider the hopelessness and misdirected avenues taken in sagas such as the Lord of the Rings and the Harry Potter series, which are sword and sorcery without any redeeming values.
The story is very simple. Four children, Peter, Lucy, Susan and Edmund, all brothers and sisters, are sent away to a safe house in the English countryside to avoid the WW2 blitz in London. A friendly Professor takes them in. they explore the huge and strange house they are in and accidentally discover a magical passageway into a frozen world full of odd creatures. Lucy first falls through the doors of a wardrobe in one of the rooms, and discovers the world of Narnia. The others follow soon thereafter, and are soon involved in the mystery of this place. They get to meet Aslan, the lion king of Narnia, who has returned to reclaim his kingdom from the wicked White Witch. A sacrifice is made and a battle or two is fought, and Narnia is saved. This is plainly the good vs evil of the gospel accounts of the Christian Bible.
Aslan (surely the original `lion king') is a type of Christ, right up to his sacrificial death at the hands of the witch (Satan). Lewis wastes no time about fine details but carries his young characters right along briskly from scene to scene. I was a bit put off by the appearance of the character of Father Christmas and his reindeer and sleigh and gifts (a type of Santa) but at least Lewis had the courtesy to have this jolly guy praise the king (Aslan) as the real power of giving and love and joy. The entire story is chock-block full of Christian typology, in spite of many critics thinking otherwise. Lewis was perhaps the last century's best and most loved Christian apologist, and he has given the world of youth something very moralistic and divine to sink their teeth into here.
I have no doubt that I will read the others sometime. I was prompted to read this one now because there is a very recent movie release based on this particular book, and I want to see it as well. The movie versions of the world of Narnia which were done before were effective in their day, including an animated TV series. The British are experts at this sort of thing. There are even Bible study courses using the characters in this enduring book series. The website ChristianityToday.com offers a lot of help in that direction. Walden Media, a division of Walt Disney Pictures, has produced the latest version of this story in full feature mode, and it is directed by Andrew Adamson, who also directed the previously successful and popular movies Shrek and Shrek II. While the movie audiences of the world seem to be on a quest for mythological escapism at the theaters, there isn't a great deal there of intelligent design or of upright moral teachings. This is a refreshing difference, and the old saying that "the book is usually better" is still very true in this age of computer-generated images and highly paid actors.
I have never been a fan of science fantasy or any of the plethora of sword & sorcery literature out there - I've rarely seen the sense of it all. But if good themes and morals can be portrayed in an entertaining and different way, I will pay attention. While Tolkein's Lord of the Ring series bored me to no end (movies included) and while Harry Potter or the Wizard of Oz or the uncounted TV series which barf out those constant and stilted tales of witches and ghosts and phantom warriors and occultic happenstances, a series like this, composed by someone I personally consider to be the most capable writer in the English languange of the past century, is a treat in every way. An older child-centered adventure that is slow but more appealing is The Princess and the Goblin by George Macdonald, who was an important influence on Lewis.
On the surface, THE LION, THE WITCH AND THE WARDROBE is a simple children's allegory with characters drawn from a deep well of literary predecessors including English folk tales and Norse and Greek mythology - talking animals, Mr and Mrs Beaver, Father Christmas, dwarves and giants, fauns, unicorns and centaurs, dryads, sentient trees, a snarling, frightful wolf who is the henchman of the evil white queen, black magic, and a great lion called Aslan who mysteriously returns from an extended absence to help Narnia's beleaguered subjects release the magical grip of a never-ending bleak, icy winter and allow the return of the much longed for beauty and warmth of spring and summer.
But, at a deeper level, CS Lewis is well known for his Christian references and this story is no exception. Virtually any adult reader will recognize Aslan's heroic self-sacrifice to save Edmund's life and his return from death atop the witch's Stone Table as a clear symbolic allusion to Christ's crucifixion for the redemption of earth's sinners and his resurrection from the dead. While some readers may disagree, I found the allusions considerably less than subtle. While they were entirely obvious, almost painfully so, they were also, perhaps paradoxically, unobtusive and neither pedantic nor sermonizing. As a result, readers of any faith (or lack thereof) will be able to accept and enjoy the symbolism or simply ignore it and focus on the charm of the story as it might be seen from a child's point of view.
The obvious overriding theme is good versus evil and, as is the case with most children's stories, good will out. The ending, not unexpectedly, is a suitably happy one that will satisfy a child reader or perhaps a youngster who is happily listening to a parent reading the story over several nights before bedtime. Highly recommended.
The way he reads the book feels like he has no understanding of the actual story or the words he is reading or who these characters are. Did he read the book before showing up at the recording studio?
It is hard to explain, but the words are focused on too much, almost over-pronounced, and it made me feel somehow patronized a bit how sing-songy and insincere somehow that the delivery was. You are almost distracted by York when trying to listen to this book. He does not slip into the book, it is very much all you can think of hearing him say each word, each syllable.
I also recently purchased and listened to The Magician's Nephew in this same series of audio recordings, which is read by Kenneth Branagh, which I highly recommend. Branagh's reading is much more what I think a person who loves these books is looking for. He does "voices" for the characters and the delivery is clear but it is sincere and Branagh seems to have an understanding of who the characters are, what the story is about, etc. It comes across as more of acting than reading, and Branagh's performance slips him into the book so that his real talent is apparent in that *he* is not the fixation. You can sit back and actually enjoy the story in that one. I wish that Branagh had done LWW as well, and I am hoping that the other five recordings of the Chronicles are more like his performance than York's...otherwise, I will be very disappointed.