Ok, I admit that is what happened to me in relation to an entire genre—fantasy. And I had my reasons to avoid them.
Primarily I am dyslexic and reading books with created language does not work well for me. First, I have to decode the language and then I have to create a new vocabulary just to read the books.
Then there is the problem that develops with long-term memory. Created language has to be relearned several times before it is committed to long-term memory and can be efficiently recalled so as not to love the comprehension necessary to keep the story fluid for the reader.
These logistical issues have caused me to put down books repeatedly. Over the course of my life, I have avoided some of the most acclaimed books and I have wondered what I may have been missing.
Oddly enough, the determination to read the Bible in one year has triggered a nagging question: Why does everybody rage about C. S. Lewis’s The Chronicles of Narnia?
I had little knowledge about the series and only knew that C. S. Lewis wrote them and that he was a widely read theologian. I felt guilty that I had not read it and so I have decided to tackle the chronicles.
As of this writing, I have completed the first two books in the singular volume of the seven books in the series. I was surprised that the first one was not The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobebecause that is the one I remember first learning about.
So as I sat down with the book and looked at the copyright, I discovered the secret in the copyright years:
1950—The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe
1952—The Voyage of the Dawn Treader
1953—The Silver Chair
1954—The Horse and His Boy
1955—The Magician’s Nephew
1965—The Last Battle
Granted, this did surprise me as the first one I read was The Magician’s Nephew, because it is the first in the one volume collection I am using. Yet, I can understand why it was first at this point and I dare not reveal the secret.
That means the second one I just finished is the first one Lewis wrote, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. And I am fascinated with the autobiographical note that is included stating the Lewis wrote this as a child’s fairy tale for his own granddaughter Lucy.
But to return to the premise of my own fear of reading this series: The language is not as created as I had thought it would be but I do know it helps to understand the time context and the language in which it was written. The English language is not American, it is British and that could trip up the reader who is unfamiliar or unprepared to know some of the colloquial references.
Secondly, it is important to remember that it was written at the close of World War II. For the British, the proximity and the reality of that tremendous war played a role in the culture which even explained how the children are relocated out of London to a country estate.
These factors can make a difference for me in even picking up a book as I prefer reading American historical novels. The setting and the language are comfortable and do not take additional work for my comprehension. And I like to read, so that comfort makes reading more efficient as I do not have to learn something unfamiliar to pick up the nuances of the literature.
And I am wandering around in this conversation because there is so much to explain as I dive into this reading challenge. I think there is one more huge piece to add to this background of my reading: my personal familiarity and study of the Bible.
After completing The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe, I am in total awe of the theological base of the story. I simply cannot imagine how Lewis could so inventively develop the story of Narnia to explain or to demonstrate the immensity of the Gospel story.
Admittedly when I become engrossed in a book I become captured and struggle to put the book down. My initial decision to read the chronicles was coupled with a desire to have a very special reading companion in the process—my own granddaughter.
As I read, every once in a few chapters, I text her a comment or share a piece of information with her. She reacts, even though usually in one word replies. I cannot be sure of her own reading and/or progress in the book, but there is something unique in having the ability to share in the process with someone who is hovering in that tween state of mind.
Let me explain some of my own emotional reactions. When Edmund first connected to the Witch, I could hardly stand it. I wanted to yank him out of the castle and make him quit eating the Turkish Delight. Why in the world could he not see the deception!
I had to text my reading partner that I did not like Edmund. At the same time I explained the literary term foreshadowing. Her reaction, “Cool.” Needless to say, I do not know any more than that concerning her comprehension or anything, but it is enough to keep me going.
Then yesterday hit. I kept reading and when I finished chapter 14, I hurt. In fact I had to tell her that, and no reaction. But then I know that I hurt because I knew the full connection to the Bible.
Chapter 14 ends with the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.
How could I explain that to her without crossing the line of trust that I am suppose to allow her to discover whether or not she wants to know about faith?
How could I add how knowing the Bible I know that the rest of the story has so much more and that there really is hope?
So, I kept reading. Somehow I knew that I needed to add something into my text messages so she had hope, too.
I finished the second book later in the day, and I know the beauty of the story as it continues. Therefore, when I finished it, I had another text for her:
“By the way, I cold not quit reading. The end of the books is so exciting. Let me know what you think once in a while.”
No response yet, but she is not suppose to have her phone on during the school day. We will see, but until then I continue in my own challenge to read the chronicles and continue my Bible study.
I know one thing more, now I want to read Lewis’ theological books, too. There is so much more to learn through my own independent study and so much I want to share with others.
Conversation always helps when reading, and I always look for others who have read the same material so I can add more depth to my own understanding.
Thank goodness the Holy Spirit does provide me assistance as I read and study the ancient words of the faithful.
And thank goodness I have overcome my fear of reading not only the full Bible using a new approach, but to reading Lewis’s The Chronicles of Narnia. I am sure that as all good books do, I will want to read even more.
Please join me in prayer:
Thank you for wordsmiths
who have taken your story
and created new ways of sharing.
May my own words reflect
the truth of the scriptures
and the story of Jesus Christ
who died for our sins
and taught us how to love one another.
Guide us during these days of Lent
to continue reflecting on our own lives
and seeking to be closer to You
through what we learn of Jesus Christ
by the power of the Holy Spirit, amen.