I just finished reading The Chronicles of Narnia.
This is not, as many might assume, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, which is the story most people envisage when they think of The Chronicles of Narnia because that is the only story many of them have read, or even heard of.
In fact, The Chronicles are a series of seven books, but the titles of books 2 thru 7 tend to elude people, like lines 2 thru 7 of God Save the Queen:
God save our gracious queen
Dum dum dum dum the queen
God save the queen
Da dum victorious
Dum dum dum -orious
Something else rhyming with -orious
God save the queen
Anyway, the full line up is:
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
The Voyage of the Dawn Treader
The Silver Chair
The Horse and His Boy
The Magician’s Nephew
The Last Battle
If you are planning to read the entire series, I urge you to look away now, as I am about to give the whole thing up.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock somewhere, you know that The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is about four children – Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy – who venture into a wardrobe and end up in the Land of Narnia. It is a magical, exciting and relatively complex tale that all but beats you over the head with Christian symbolism.
The series, however, flags somewhat after that. The books that follow are an unrelated series of straight-up adventures featuring children other than the original four—or no earthly children at all—and none of them IMHO is as compelling as the first.
But then the narrative picks up. The Horse and His Boy, although another unrelated adventure, is at least more appealing than the others, and The Magician’s Nephew is magical. It takes place before the original book and tells the story of how the link between this world and Narnia came about. It features the actual creation of Narnia, solves the riddle of the famous lamp post, reveals the origins of the White Witch, features the triumph of good over evil, rewards steadfastness and bravery and even explains why the wardrobe in the original book was a conduit to Narnia.
In short, it would have made a delightful ending to the series, leaving one with a sense of completeness and a warm feeling about life and the universe.
Then comes the final book.
In this book, a false Alsan has enslaved the people of Narnia, and the brave young King Tirian—with his small band of loyal followers—seeks to put things right. In his most desperate hour, Tirian calls upon the great kings and queens of the past—the children from this world—to come and save the kingdom.
The children, some now grown, are all together for a reunion, a sort of support group for erstwhile Narnians, and they hear the call. The seven of them (there were eight but Susan, from the original book, grew up into a right goer – as Mr. Lewis quaintly puts it, she discovered high heels, lipstick and invitations – so she wasn’t invited to the reunion) are then transported to Narnia by means of – wait for it – a railway disaster that kills them all (including, just for chuckles, the parents of Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy).
What’s more, only the youngest two—Eustace and Jill—are actually allowed to help because the others have grown too old and are left in a sort of lobby/waiting area.
Eustace, Jill, Tirian and their small but brave band, stand up to the enemy army and are, one by one, picked off and/or thrown into a stable where a demon waits to devour them.
Meanwhile, all of the inhabitants of Narnia are put to the sword. The magic trees are mowed down, the cities destroyed, the land laid waste and Narnia itself ceases to exist.
What the genuine f**k? I thought this was a children’s book!
In the aftermath, all the children, and ex-children, along with Tirian and his band of loyal followers, meet up in the lobby/waiting room where the real Alsan appears to them and explains that, oh, by the by, you’re all dead.
Gee whiz, Mr. Lewis, I know you have an agenda but, really, couldn’t you have left a glimmer of hope at the end of this tale?
So, next time you see a re-run, or a new adaptation, of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, keep in mind—as you watch brave Peter, courageous Susan, plucky little Lucy and the reformed Edmund fight valiantly to save the Land of Narnia—that it is all for naught, and that, in a few year’s time, all of them will end up as a bloody, tangled heap under a splintered railway carriage outside of Bristol.
All except for Susan, of course; who choose to play the tart. More fool, her.