The BEST: The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis
Reviewed by Sarah Rindner
Summary: The Chronicles of Narnia, published from 1950-1956, is a seven-part series of fantasy novels written by author and Christian theologian C.S. Lewis. Many children grow up and appreciate the series for its compelling storylines and fantastical horizons without fully appreciating its deeper philosophical and religious messages. Lewis’ prose sweeps readers into magic of Narnia, and they are reluctant to leave.
Why this is The BEST: Some young Jewish readers may have been warned that Lewis’ stories are Christian allegories – the great lion Aslan is really Jesus – and that we should temper our enthusiasm for books which harbor such theologically alien assumptions. On some level, I take these warnings seriously, but I, nevertheless, reread the books last year with my son. I simply could not resist, knowing how they would make his eyes sparkle, as they once did mine. I am also glad that I reread them because, despite Lewis’ strong Christian identification, Narnia contains profound messages for readers of any faith. Here I list just a few:
In the inaugural issue of The Jewish Review of Books Michael Weingrad published an intriguing essay, “Why is There No Jewish Narnia.” In it Weingrad asks the question, “Why are there no works of modern fantasy that are profoundly Jewish in the way that, say, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe is Christian.” Weingrad looks at this question from various angles, and despite some promising candidates, he concludes, “We will have to wait some time, if not forever, for a genuinely Jewish fantasy work to appear.” I hope we will not have to wait too long, but in the meantime, we still have much to gain from a classic like The Chronicles of Narnia.
Sarah Rindner is a writer and educator who recently relocated to Israel. Her work regularly appears in Mosaic magazine, Jewish Review of Books, and other publications.
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[Published on December 26, 2019]