My dear Lucy,
I wrote this story for you, but when I began it I had not realized that girls grow quicker than books. As a result you are already too old for fairy tales, and by the time it is printed and bound you will be older still. But some day you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again. You can then take it down from some upper shelf, dust it, and tell me what you think of it. I shall probably be too deaf to hear, and too old to understand a word you say, but I shall still be
your affectionate Godfather,
C. S. LEWIS
And the Wardrobe.
Even the title gives me little shivers of joy. Seeing it here, I immediately feel frost on the nose. Big fur coats and comfortable shoes and the most fragrant, rosiest Turkish Delight you could ever hope to taste. The sound of bells which strike fear in a child’s heart, only to find out there IS such a person as Father Christmas. I owe a lot to this book.
For the poor sods who’ve never had the experience, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is the story of four ordinary children who find a magic portal to the world of Narnia through the back of a wardrobe. The kiddies soon discover that they have entered the land in a time of extreme discontent – The White Witch rules with a glacial fist – and Narnia is cast in perpetual winter without ever experiencing the joy of Christmas. Spies of The White Witch are everywhere, and before the story’s over we’ll experience a myriad of talking animals, heroic battles, themes of betrayal, sacrifice and redemption, and a great and terrible lion named Aslan.
Never is the magic of Narnia more visceral, more vivid, more immediately and perfectly valid, than in this book, the very first published in the Chronicles.
Aside from learning never to take candy from a stranger, the introduction of Narnia to a certain impressionable little girl gave her something to dream about during daytime. No, dream isn’t the right word…Narnia WAS real – it was more a matter of waiting (and waiting) for the right (wardrobe) door to open. Clearly I wasn’t the only child to believe – there’s a whole group of us still standing in line for our adventure. If anything, the beginning to the Chronicles of Narnia is a practice in discovering how convincing the imagination can be.
I hope I get back there one day.