It’s taken a bit longer to get through this one as we started it before our move several months ago. And with sicknesses, new schedules, and everything else, it’s taken longer to get back into the routine, but River is excited about The Last Battle not only because it has the word “battle” in it and it’s the last book of the series, but our edition has a pretty rad picture of a unicorn on the front cover with blood dripping off his horn. Hard to beat that.
But what I wanted to comment on was the fact that Lewis still gets me. He still wins me; I’m still a believer.
As the story winds up, Jill and Eustace have brought the long vanished Prince Rilian back to Narnia from the underworld formerly under the dominion of the wicked witch and her enchantments. Puddleglum, our beloved marshwiggle, is busy being his delightfully pessimistic self. King Caspian of Voyage of the Dawn Treader fame is on his death bed as he returns from one last voyage and lives only long enough to see that his son is home and bless him before passing on. Aslan arrives to begin bringing Jill and Eustace home to England, but before going they watch in wonder as a drop of blood from Aslan’s paw revives the old, dead Caspian who they find resting in peace beneath the waters of a gentle stream in Aslan’s land. Caspian grows younger and younger and then leaps up alive again, full of vigor and joy. Aslan agrees to give him five minutes in England as the children return to their own stories. And of course that means facing the obnoxious teachers and classmates of Experiment House, some sort of modernistic huddle of ideological buffoonery. Of course one of the teachers sees the monstrous lion, the armor clad boys, the school wall burst open, and she calls the police. But by the time the police arrive the children have quietly returned to their living quarters, Aslan has repaired the wall, and he and Caspian have returned to Narnia. The Head Teacher is left alone with only with her mental categories in shambles. And this, Lewis says, is why she was immediately promoted to Supervisor before finally being sent off to Parliament where she lived happily ever after.
The wonder of great fiction, and yes even great fantasy or any other fiction genres really is the ability to comment on and revel in various aspects of our world without feeling the need to present it like a chemical equation, a mathematical chart, or the like.
You don’t read the Chronicles of Narnia to figure out your Systematic Theology. You read the Chronicles of Narnia to love Jesus more, to love his world more, to be drawn into the story of God and his people. What great fiction accomplishes is this longing for something like that. One wishes to be in Narnia, one longs to be in Middle Earth, and then with a few seconds of thought it suddenly dawns on you that you are. We have an Aslan, and a greater than Aslan. We have had and continue to have Edmunds and Lucys. We have King Caspians and Wicked Witches with enchantments. And it’s all there: sin, atonement, resurrection, forgiveness, renewal, politics, and faith. Sure, it takes a little imagination to continue living in this world like the story is in fact true. But that is the point, isn’t it? That is what faith is all about, living our stories as though they belong to that one good story. Hebrews 11 is all about that story, the narrative of faithful men and women who imagined what they could not see because they believed what God had said.
Anyway, not to belabor the point, as we finished the last chapter of The Silver Chair the other night, I was caught up. I was won over again; I was converted. And I certainly hope and pray that my son continues to grow up with a longing for Narnia, a longing which as it turns out is a longing for the real world, the world God made, the world that Jesus is renewing.
So get your sword, River Edmond, and slay the wicked witch.