The Essence of Enchantment: An Analysis of Magic, Adventure and Fantasy in CS Lewis's The Chronicles of Narnia- Neethu P Antony
The Essence of Enchantment: An Analysis of Magic, Adventure and Fantasy in CS Lewis’s The Chronicles of Narnia
(Concentrating on the first two books of the series--(The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe(1950) and Prince Caspian: The Return to Narnia (1951))
Neethu P Antony
(Guest Lecturer, Department of English, St Michael's College Cherthala)
Richard Dawkins, one of the most famous ethologist and writer once stated, “the very idea of supernatural magic - including miracles - is incoherent, devoid of sensible meaning”. Even though, in the case of literature the concept of “supernaturalism” is not an unfamiliar idea, but it is a much accepted and appreciated one, as literature gives more importance to the process of imagination. In the case of English Literature, from Old English Literature to the literature of Contemporary period, an association with supernatural elements is an inevitable part, which still continues. For example, from Old English ‘Beowulf’ to the Post-modernist works of Angela Carter (‘Night at the Circus’), made use of many supernatural elements.
Children’s literature or juvenile literature is a popular form of creative writing. The supernatural elements and its possibilities found more interest in this area of literature. The works written in this area mainly concentrate on elements of fantasy, magic, adventure, etc. Many of these literary works not only influenced the children and the young teenage group, but also influenced the scholarly group of people, as there are a lot of possibilities for interpretation. Works like ‘Alice in Wonderland’(Lewis Carroll), ‘The Harry Potter Series’(J.K. Rowling) remains as the classic works in the genre of Children’s Literature in English.
C.S. Lewis is one of the most popular writers in English Literature. He became popular as a writer, literary critic,theologist etc . The series of ‘The Chronicles of Narnia’is considered as the most popular work written by him, included under the realm of Children’s Literature. It is actually a series of seven high fantasy novels, published during the years from 1950 to 1956. The work portrayed many important concepts regarding spirituality, Greek mythologies, Christian religion views, ideas on gender and race, etc. As a high or heroic fantasy it is inspired by the ideas of myth, epic, legend, romance and folk tale etc. The story is placed in another magical world. There will be good and evil characters and the story always ends with the lesson of triumph of good over evil. As an amazing work, it also made use of many concepts of supernaturalism, especially its key elements like magic, fantasy and adventure.
In the first part of the series ‘The Chronicles of Narnia’ ie, 'The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe' (1950), C.S. Lewis artistically transformed the story into a pure supernatural one by including elements like magic, fantasy and adventure in a clear cut way. In this part the story begins in a normal way and centers around the lives of four children-Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy, and describes about the difficulties that they suffer during the time of Second World War and their life with Professor Kirke. The spark of the magic, adventure and fantasy begin with Lucy’s messing up with the ‘wardrobe’. Here Lewis presented the “wardrobe” as a supernatural aid which take up these four children to the enchanting world of Narnia. Narnia, the world of magic with certain strange creatures, transformed these children’s lives. Just similar to the strange animals and creatures created by Lewis Carroll in his magnum Opus ‘Alice in Wonderland’, here Lewis also created many strange figures like Mr. Tumnus, Beaver, White witch, etc. Just as the setting of the story ‘Frozen’, here Narnia also cursed to be in eternal winter forever because of the evil influence of the antagonist White witch and her idea of “deep magic”. The sudden discovery of a magical world within the real world is a surprising idea, and this fantastic idea is made use in many popular works like ‘Harry Potter’ series, ‘The Time Machine’ etc.
Here, the character of Edmund appears to be a little weak character who fell under the spell of the White witch, but C.S. Lewis later transformed each of these four children from the state of powerlessness into strong characters, especially in the case of Peter, who appears to be the real warrior of the story.
Here, C.S. Lewis, combines the elements of adventure along with the elements of magic and fantasy. Lewis describes the resurrection of Aslan more as a magic rather than a miracle, it can also compare to the reference to the resurrection of Jesus Christ. But Lewis gives more importance to the taste of magic, adventure and fantasy in it. He also considers Aslan’s abilities as magic, more than miracles. Lewis adopted this idea because, for him, Narnia is a world of magic and fantasy, so he really wants to stress these elements more. Along with Peter, Aslan also appears as a brave and adventurous character. He faces his death in an adventurous way, not by attacking the witch suddenly.
Narnia, the enchanting place remained in eternal winter, later transformed into a beautiful, miraculous place with the presence of these four children. Lewis carefully describes the magical transformation of the place and also about the transformation of the children who appears to be stupid and naive in the beginning of the novel, into courageous and adventurous adults. Therefore, the first part ‘The Lion, Witch and Wardrobe’ can be described as a magical doorway story into the land of magic, fantasy and adventure.
The second part of the series of ‘The Chronicles of Narnia’ is 'Prince Caspian: The Return to Narnia' (1951) . As C.S. Lewis already placed the story line in the background of a magical world, this part is also presented with many supernatural elements. This part describes about the adventures of these four children who find themselves being tugged into another world, they get trapped on an unknown island with certain ancient ruins. Later the children recognize that they are at Cair Paravel, where they themselves ruled as Queens and Kings of Narnia. They discover that they have been called back to Narnia because the forces of Old Narnia are in trouble. Just one year has passed in our world, but hundreds of years have passed in Narnia. The rightful king, Prince Caspian, is fighting a war against his uncle, King Miraz, who wants to destroy the country of Aslan—the Talking Beasts and trees, the Dwarfs and Fauns—and all memory of Old Narnia. In desperation, Caspian’s forces have blown a magical horn—the very horn Susan once received from Aslan—to summon the Lion and the children to help them in their struggle. Through presenting many adventurous situations, Lewis here tried to convey the theme of maturity, coming of age and also about the restoration of the religion after the period of corruption.
The idea of ‘pull of magic’ experienced by these four children is really a fantastic idea. Suddenly they find themselves in another world. Here, Lewis merged the idea of “magical realism” in a clear cut way. This can be compared to the “railway station scene” in the novel ‘The Night at the Circus’ written by Angela Carter:
The children are sitting at a train station waiting for their trains to take them to boarding school, when they suddenly feel pulled away; Edmund recognises the feeling as magic and urges his siblings to hold hand so as not be separated; the train station vanishes suddenly and they immediately find themselves in Narnia” (Lewis, Caspian 12)
The idea of “horn” serves as a supernatural magical aid here. The triggering of journey into the Narnian world starts with the blowing of the horn, but here these four children is not aware of What is happening to them? And also Where they are going?.This is a specific “cliff-hanger” similar model- technique adopted by the author C.S. Lewis in order to keep the enchantment of fantacy intact.
Lewis presented the character of Peter as a matured one, who just fights against the evil deeds of King Miraz, just in a heroic manner. Both Lucy and Edmund emerge as powerful characters here. . Here, these children turned into protectors of the magical world of Narnia.
As a writer who gives importance to magic more than a miracle, Lewis presented many magical and fantastic ideas here which enchants and attracts both the children and adult readers equally. Here, the four children find the Christmas gifts bestowed upon them on their first visit to Narnia, an enchanted sword, archers bow and arrows and a tiny vial of magical liquid that heals any wound. Here the work really composed according to satisfy ‘child’s wonder’. All the Narnian stories end with the message of triumph of good over evil—but all these ideas and conveyed in a magical manner.
Therefore Narnia, which itself an imaginary world created by C.S. Lewis, now became an enchanting world for the lovers of supernatural and fantasy literature. So the magic, adventure and fantasy in Narnian world an be summed up in these words — “Extraordinary things only happen to extraordinary people. Maybe it’s a sign that you’ve got an extraordinary destiny. Something greater than you could have imagined”.
Lewis, C.S. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. London: Harper Collins Publishers Ltd, 1998.
---.Prince Caspian. 1951. The Chronicles of Narnia. Great Britain: Harper Collins, 2008.