The Narnia books were one of my favorite, and most often read, stories of my childhood. Many of the life-lessons were easy to understand as a child, and of course my imagination went wild with the fantastical talking beasts and the adventures that the protagonists, which were children my age, went-on.
I’d like to take a moment to reflect on two specific lessons from those books that I now see in a different light than I did at nine years old.
First consider Professor Digory Kirke. He was a kind and quiet provider, and mentor, to the four children. I never thought before of how difficult it must have been for Digory to hear Lucy’s tale of Narnia, and to not grow jealous in that moment. It was a great favor given to Lucy that Aslan opened the door for her to find her way into Narnia. Digory no doubt yearned his whole life to return to that wonderful place, and it would have been hard, maybe even painful, to hear that someone else in his home had been invited – while he had not. And yet he was never jealous, he was never selfish, he never tried to steal Lucy’s invitation from her.
Lucy’s adventure is the next lesson that resonates with me more and more as I grow older. In the second book, Prince Caspian, the four children find themselves in a Narnia greatly changed since they had last visited. It’s a world much older, and now groaning under the weight of conniving, backstabbing, power-hungry rulers and the harsh oppression of its most vulnerable, and magical, inhabitants – the talking animals.
The word’s of film Trumpkin are harsh and true “you may find Narnia a more savage place than you remember“. In the midst of this pain, while lost and still not sure how they are going to be able to help Prince Caspian, Lucy sees Aslan bidding her up the ridge. Lucy excitedly tells her siblings, and Trumpkin that they should all go up the ridge and follow Aslan. Edmund supports her, but all the older members of the group decide to go the safer route down toward the river.
The downward route into the gorge ended in a dangerous trap and the entire group had to retrace their steps back up the ridge. Aslan gently admonishes Lucy for not following Him alone.
I thought this would have been a scary thing to do when I read this as a youngster, to break away from the group and follow the path you saw – even when the others didn’t see it. In some way it feels like it would be even scarier now that I am an adult. I think there is a tension here, between being bold enough to follow your calling, as was Lucy’s challenge, and mature enough to know when you should listen to someone else, as Edmund did.