The Magical Worlds of Narnia
by David Colbert
Review by Gayle Surrette
Berkley Trade Paperback ISBN/ITEM#: 0425205630
Date: 01 November, 2005 List Price $14.00 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
While reading the books, I did notice some of the religious allusions but they weren't as 'blinking neon lights' in your face as when I read his science fiction series (Out of the Silent Planet, Perelandra, and That Hideous Strength) or when reading his religious writings (The Screwtape Letters). In the Chronicles of Narnia, C.S. Lewis meant to lay down the percepts that are natural to all and a basis for all moral behavior. He sought to do this by showing how people should behave rather than dictating actions that should be taken. So these books are Lewis' idea of giving young people a moral compass. In spite of his difficulties in dealing with women and his bigotry against other religions and races, the books are rip roaring good stories that children have enjoyed since their publication in the 1950s. Children enjoy them for the characters, actions, setting, and story. Adults can enjoy the many-layered meanings that enrich the background.
C.S. Lewis drew on a rich tapestry of history, literature, myths, folklore, the work of his friend J.R.R. Tolkien, and his own dreams and imagination to create Narnia, its stories and its characters. In reading this book, you learn the basis of some of the names and stories. There are also some interesting factoids about Lewis and his work. There are also the usual topics that you'd find in any work about the writings of Lewis: his problems dealing with women, his bigotry (except for the people in the category that he'd actually met), and his friendship with J.R.R. Tolkien.
With the information contained in The Magical Worlds of Narnia readers can now reread the series with a greater understanding of the background that went into the works. Whether that understanding will acquit him of his blatant sexist and racism is up to each reader. This book is a cornucopia of interesting tidbits such as: the word Narnia was the name of a small village on a map of Italy Lewis found as a boy and he liked the name enough to remember it and use it; Aslan is the Turkish word for lion; the voice of Treebeard was meant by J.R.R. Tolkien to mimic Lewis'. I could list more but get the book and read it for yourself. I had to say to my husband, did you know...while I read it.
Great book for those who love odd little factoids about books and their writers.