Two Roads through Narnia
Literary Analysis and Spiritual Commentary
Greg Wright, Editor
With Kathy Bledsoe, George Rosok and Jenn Wright

This page was created on October 9, 2005
This page was last updated on October 29, 2006

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THE BOOK

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Fifty years ago, celebrated author and Christian apologist C. S. Lewis completed what would eventually become a classic of children's literature: The Chronicles of Narnia. Originally conceived as a trilogy of novellas, the series began with the publication of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and apocalyptically culminated, after a total of seven volumes had been published, in The Last Battle.

Now, after countless dramatic adaptations, radio plays, musicals and television productions of the Chronicles, Walden Media and Disney are bringing Narnia to the big screen in what has already proven to be the most aggressive promotional campaign in history. What's all the fuss about?

Most champions of the Chronicles laud the series for its allegorical retelling of the Gospel. The protector of Narnia, that Great Lion Aslan, is a clear parallel to the Christ we find in Scripture.

But the success of the Chronicles of Narnia is not only due to its spiritual appeal. If the tales did not work first as literature, they would have remained only a footnote to publishing history.

Two Roads through Narnia makes the case that the Chronicles are best appreciated by understanding the books from both literary and spiritual standpoints. But rather than muddy the waters by trying to do both at the same time—or by trying to synthesize seven individual stories into a single comprehensive thesis—the essays in this volume analyze each individual story first as literature, then for spiritual symbolism.

Seven books. Each appreciated as art should be: for the significance of its craft, and for the value of its meaning.

Hollywood Jesus Senior Editor Greg Wright has also assembled a team of essayists—Kathy Bledsoe, George Rosok and Jenn Wright—who are not afraid to point out weaknesses in the Chronicles where they exist. This introduction to the seven tales of Narnia will both challenge and satisfy those on the journey through Narnia.

EXCERPT

We should be clear that, in the debate that continues to rage over the litero-spiritual Peanut Butter Cups that Narnia, Middle-earth and their cousins have spawned, there are two sets of gatekeepers who have vested interests in keeping chocolate out of the peanut butter jar, and peanut butter off the chocolate bars.

On the side of the chocolate bar are the academicians who still manage to dismiss such latter day epic myths as The Chronicles of Narnia and The Lord of the Rings as escapist fantasy, simple-minded romance or weak-minded Christian tripe. (I have to admit that, were I forced to choose between the two camps, this is the side on which I would fall. As we shall see, no such side-choosing is necessary.)

On the other side, the side of the peanut butter, are gleefully triumphant (if slightly paranoid) evangelical ministers of various denominations who champion Lewis and Tolkien (but particularly Lewis) as proof that literary endeavors of all other sorts are second rate at best and wholly irrelevant at worst.

Though both sides of this debate are misguided, Middle-earth and Narnia—because of the unique differences and stylistic leanings of their creators—do provide the perfect litmus test for discovering toward which side of the debate any given critic leans. Of The Chronicles of Narnia, academic purists will cry, "Ah! But you've got far too much sappy spirituality on my literature!" Of The Lord of the Rings, evangelical ministers (like me) often object, "Wait! There's far too much literature overwhelming my spirituality!"

So far in this discussion, of course, I've painted almost everyone (including myself) with very broad strokes of a very messy and over-generalized brush. And since neither of those sets of gatekeepers are my real subject, I will make no attempt to defend my generalizations with citations from specific critics who prove my point. Why? Because there's a third approach about which I'm more concerned.

This third approach attempts to pretend that Reese's Peanut Butter Cups (and their analogs) exist in a universe of their own. This approach admirably attempts to walk a middle path while wearing blinders. Blinders, of course, are very useful if all you're doing is pulling the wagon and someone else is holding the reins. But if you're responsible for both the pulling and the guidance (and particularly if guidance is your primary job), blinders are a hazard both to you and everything that you guide.

The problem is that this approach appreciates a Peanut Butter Cup only for its effect. Such an appreciation is deficient not only because it ignores the fact that a Reese's was designed with both milk chocolate and peanut butter in mind, but also because it can only explain why a Reese's is wonderful in self-referential terms. Listening to this brand of enthusiast, we might get the impression that the real point of a Reese's is simply the mixing of peanut butter with chocolate, and that any old type of either ingredient would do.

But great spiritual literature isn't made of garden-variety books filled with grade-B theology. Great spiritual literature is written by excellent writers of great faith...

From Introduction by Greg Wright, "Spirituality, Art and Narnia"

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Two Roads through Narnia: ISBN 0-975-9577-5-9
Publisher: Hollywood Jesus Books
Distributor: Ingram / Spring Arbor


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