Myth and the World of C.S. Lewis Essay
Myth and the World of C.S. Lewis
C.S. Lewis and his series The Chronicles of Narnia have long been children’s favorites. The books envelop children into a world of good and evil, action and adventure, chivalry and honor. Lewis takes his readers on an astonishing trip that embodies his own values, dreams and beliefs. Fascinated by other myths, Lewis borrows a variety of creatures from different places, constructing an entire world that children delve into and love. From the Greek and Roman myths he takes creatures such as fauns, nymphs, and dryads, and from the Norse mythology, dwarfs and giants.
His first book, The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe, was written soon after World War II, in 1950. He went on to write six more stories in the Chronicles of Narnia series. Many scholars have thoroughly studied Lewis’s books and great controversy has erupted from different interpretations of the symbolic meanings in his books. A devout Christian in the latter part of his life, Lewis draws parallels between the world of Narnia and the Bible. By illustrating the creation of Narnia in his first book, and establishing the laws of Narnia in a subsequent novel, C.S. Lewis creates a compelling myth around the fantasy world of Narnia.
The Chronicles of Narnia begin with The Magician’s Nephew, an ingenious story of a curious young boy and his friend as they stumble upon the creation of another world, Narnia. This novel serves the purpose of the cosmological function of a myth, in which “myths describe the “shape” of the cosmos, the universe, our total world.” In The Magician’s Nephew, we first encounter the godlike lion, Aslan.
The creator of Narnia, he also bestows life onto the creatures in it, booming, “Narnia, Narnia, Narnia, awake. Love. Think. Speak. Be walking trees. Be talking beasts. Be divine waters” (116). The majestic lion continues to say, “Creatures, I give you yourselves. I give to you forever this land of Narnia. I give you the woods, the fruits, the rivers. I give you the stars and I give you myself” (118). As God did in the book of Genesis, Aslan crafts the world, breathes life into “Adam” and bestows the world on him. However, in The Magician’s Nephew, there is no “Adam”. Aslan gives his world to his newly created talking beasts, a creation story with a new twist.
Myths not only reveal the story of creation but also the laws by which the new society exists. In the sociological function, “myths pass down ‘the law’, the moral and ethical codes for people of that culture to follow, which help define that culture and its prevailing social structure.” The laws of Narnia become apparent in Lewis’s second book, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. In this book we learn more about the fundamental nature of Narnia, its customs and traditions. The White Witch enlightens the reader about one of Narnia’s ancient laws after capturing Edmund, one of the four central characters.
She claims that Edmund’s life is hers to take: “You at least know the Magic which the Emperor put into Narnia at the very beginning. You know that every traitor belongs to me as my lawful prey and that for every treachery I have a right to kill” (128). This law has been in Narnia since the beginning of Narnia’s creation, cannot be broken and is essential to the balance between good and evil. Lewis also embeds the codes of chivalry into his novels; honor is to be won on the battlefield, and this code of honor is violated at your own peril. The codes of honor hark back to the chivalry of medieval knights and are fundamental to the culture and traditions of Narnia.
The Narnia Chronicles incorporate the elements of a classic myth – the concept of creation and a set of laws to which the society should adhere. The books set out for children black and white images of good and evil, right and wrong. The values of honesty, courage, loyalty, friendship and strength of family are clearly stated. The impact of The Chronicles lies in its ability to develop an alternative, fantasy world with its strong ethics and moral code and thus influences both the readers and scores of writers who have followed in C.S. Lewis’ footsteps. The Narnia books are, and always will be timeless classics of fantasy and wonder.