Narnia for a New Generation

by | Dec 8, 2010 | Charisma Archive

narniaAs the third installment, The
Voyage of the Dawn Treader, opens in theaters, Charisma
takes a look at how the Narnia movies have ignited a resurgence of interest in C.S. Lewis’ writings.

At the very end of the world—in a
breathtakingly beautiful place beyond the sea of lilies and an endlessly frozen
wave shimmering in a rainbow of colors—Lucy looks up at Aslan and asks, “Will I
see you in your world?”

“I’m in your world as
well child, but I go by a different name there,” Aslan says. “That’s the whole
reason you came to Narnia. So by knowing me here, you would know me better
there.”

The heart-touching scene from the new Chronicles of Narnia film, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, is an especially meaningful one for
Walden Media President Micheal Flaherty.  

“That’s always been one of my favorite lines all seven of
the books,” Flaherty told Charisma while unveiling a clip of the film
during the Biola Media Conference at CBS Studios in Studio City, Calif.

“It’s something I think that is really packed with emotion
and I know for a lot of people whose testimonies I’ve heard, that line itself
has played a real significant role in their faith walk.”

As the third movie in the Narnia series is released in
theaters nationwide on Dec. 10, experts say it is igniting renewed interest in
C.S. Lewis’ books and all things Narnia as people discover—or rediscover—the
spiritual truths embedded in the enigmatic tales. 

“We’re just riding the wave,” Flaherty says. “We are just tapping
into the love and passion that has existed since Lewis first wrote these
books.”

Over the decades, the seven-part Narnia series has sold
more than 85 million copies worldwide and introduced multitudes to the central
doctrines of Christianity.

“We’ve seen a huge spike in the sales of the Narnia novels
themselves,” says Michael Maudlin, the vice president and
editorial director at HarperCollins Publishers. “In fact, we’ve seen an
across-the-board uptick in sales of Lewis’ other books too.”

Although he wrote Mere
Christianity, The Screwtape Letters, Miracles
and dozens of other books in
the 1940s and 1950s, the literary work of “God’s Storyteller” continues to land
on the top 50 best-selling religious book lists even today.  Lewis—one of the intellectual giants of the
20th century—had a unique ability to speak simultaneously to the deep, mature
Christian and someone who is not familiar with the faith, Maudlin says.

c.s. lewis bibleAs the movie hits theaters, HarperOne is releasing The
C.S. Lewis Bible
, the first Bible that pairs Lewis’ spiritual writings with
corresponding Bible passages. Drawing upon the distinctive wisdom and spiritual
insights of one of the most thought-provoking and influential Christian writers
in modern times, the Bible includes introductory essays on Lewis’ views on
Scripture and more than 600 of his selections for contemplation and devotional
reading.

In preparing the Bible, Maudlin says he and the other
editors didn’t want to produce something “gimmicky or faddish, but something
Lewis himself would be proud of.” As it turns out, Lewis was so thoroughly
informed by his daily Scripture reading that his writings often correspond
perfectly with biblical passages.

“Everything Jack wrote was affected by his own biblical
study and theology,” says Douglas Gresham, executive
producer of the Narnia films, a consulting editor on the Bible and Lewis’
stepson. “I think it will be a lovely Bible for people to read and study.”

The growing excitement about the movie comes as theaters
and fans are planning parties and other events. In addition, the
official soundtrack—the score of which was composed and conducted by David Arnold of James
Bond
fame—is scheduled for release on Dec. 6. Nihilistic
Software is also releasing a video game for the Nintendo, Wii, Xbox 360 and
PlayStation 3 on Dec. 10.

Paul Martin, the Webmaster
for NarniaFans.com, says there is a “ton of excitement” as the movie
release date approaches. Fans are very optimistic this film will be closer to The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe in
the way it “follows the book,” Martin says.

“From what I have seen so
far, the movie more than meets the goal,” Martin says. “It’s going to blow
people away. Different theaters across the country are preparing parties that
will be thrown across the country as the film is released. There are many
line-parties that are going to be happening, and everyone is buzzing about
another new Narnia film to see at Christmas with their families.”

collegeMeanwhile, the C.S. Lewis
Foundation is working to open the C.S. Lewis College on a beautiful
campus in Northfield, Mass. The fully accredited institution of Great Books and
Visual and Performing Arts is expected to commence instruction in the fall of
2012. (Photo credit: Sharon LaBella-Lindale)

“Today, as never before,
young people are seeking an education that fully prepares them to understand
and engage contemporary culture in a meaningful and creative way,” says Stan
Mattson, founder and president of the C.S. Lewis Foundation. “The
scenic and historic Northfield campus is an ideal setting for such a journey.”

An Epic Adventure 

In the new film, Edmund and
Lucy Pevensie, along with their cousin Eustace and King Caspian, go on a
fantastical journey when they are swallowed into a painting and find themselves
aboard the Dawn Treader—the most prized ship in the Narnian fleet. King Caspian
has built the ship to save the seven banished Lords of Narnia. Embarking on an
“incredible adventure of destiny and discovery,” they travel to the Eastern
Islands, beyond the sea of lilies and toward Aslan’s country at the “very end
of the world.”

narnia 3“It’s a tremendous adventure
story with oceans, dragons, fights and all sorts of exciting things,” says David Hollander, webmaster at NarniaWeb.com. “I
think it’s going to be very memorable for families and for children, just as
the book is.”

Phil Cooke, president and
creative director of Cooke Pictures, says fans expectations about the new film
are very high and he doesn’t believe they’ll be disappointed. While The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe made
$745 million worldwide, the second film, Prince
Caspian,
took in $420 million—still a huge sum, but a disappointment for
Walt Disney Pictures. Experts expect the new movie—an action-packed adventure
on the high seas—to do much better at the box office.

“I think [these films] tap
into our fascination with epic adventure,” Cooke says. “These stories are big.
They celebrate powerful virtues and great heroes. Christian or not, people love
those great mythic values.”

voyage bookIn a book released Oct. 1, Inside the Voyage of the
Dawn Treader: A Guide to Exploring the Journey Beyond Narnia
, Asbury University
English Professor Devin Brown guides readers through the third novel in the
class series, illuminating the features of Lewis’ writing, providing
supplemental information on Lewis’ life and uncovering the work’s rich
meanings. This new movie—perhaps the most theological of the seven novels—is
focused on overcoming temptation and growing spiritually.

“Perhaps one of the greatest,
if not the greatest, thing Lewis does is he reminds us the spiritual journey is
an adventure,” Brown says. “The spiritual life, or the virtuous life, has
gotten a bad wrap lately, that it’s boring and not very interesting; that the
other kind of life, the self-centered life is the cool life. Lewis reminds us
the self-centered life leads to nowhere; it leads to misery, isolation and
ultimately destruction.  The virtuous
life is really a great adventure. He doesn’t sugarcoat it. He doesn’t say it’s
without pain and hardship, but he says it’s an adventure you don’t want to
miss.”

At one point in the movie,
Eustace, a “pretentious, pompous and arrogant” bully is transformed into a
dragon, but doesn’t realize what he’s become because he never read the “right
books,” Brown says.

Flaherty says he’s always
been fascinated by this part of the story and how Lewis believes “you are what
you read.” On six occasions when the characters go back to Narnia, Lewis
mentions how they deal with situations based on books they had read. Peter is
able to figure out a puzzle because he read detective novels. Lucy is able to
show compassion because she read fables. But Eustace is helpless when he
transforms into a dragon because he’s been reading the wrong books.

“He read books about green
elevators and fat kids doing exercises, but he didn’t read books about dragons
and courage and knights and heroism,” Flaherty says. “One of the messages I
love about this book is reminding us that when we read stories it’s not just
for our enjoyment. Stories prepare us to face tough battles, they teach us how
to behave, and they teach us how to live and how to treat other people.”

Troy Anderson, a writer, author and a newspaper reporter, lives in Los Angeles.

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