On our last trips to the city, friends of ours lent us the Chronicles of Narnia radio theatre. We listened to The Horse and His Boy and The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (two of my favourite books) on the first trip, and The Silver Chair and The Last Battle on the second trip. I was surprised when the radio host introduced The Last Battle as the all-time favourite in the Narnia chronicles. I remembered it as a slightly dark book, a little hard to get into, with less of a story than the other books.
Yet as we listened to it, I found myself changing my opinion (though my favourite is probably still The Voyage of the Dawn Treader). The host had also commented that this is the book where C. S. Lewis’ theology is clearest, and I was amazed by the underlying meanings in the story. Yes, all the Narnia books are allegory, yet The Last Battle had so much in it that one could ponder and unpack.
My favourite is the last sentence: “All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read: which goes on forever: in which every chapter is better than the one before.” Maybe it’s just because I’m a book-lover, but that’s the most beautiful description of Heaven that I’ve ever heard.
It made me think back to some talks at the Family Life conference, where Narnia and the Harry Potter series came up with the old question of why is one okay in Christian circles and the other often not. Listening to Narnia made that clear. C. S. Lewis’ faith is permeates the books. Even if magic is used, it is never used by the human characters, and it is never used lightly. Peter, Edmund, Lucy and the others might get into Narnia by “magic,” but it is not a magic they can control—quite unlike the Harry Potter series, where Harry is sent to school to learn magic.
I also came to the opinion that I almost like audio books better than movies. There’s the extra bit of dramatization—the sound effects, the background music, the different voices for the characters—that adds to the story, but everything else is still left to the listener’s imagination. Movies often suffer from leaving nothing to the imagination; they show everything, including things I don’t want to see (like too much gore or nudity). I’ve complained that movies based on books I’ve read often fail to meet my expectations, because the producer or director imagined things differently than I did. Audio had no such failing.
By the way, if you also enjoy radio theatre or spend a lot of time on family road trips, I highly recommend Focus on the Family’s Radio Theatre version of these classics. They really bring the story to life. And if you liked The Chronicles of Narnia, check out Oliver Twist and Les Miserables as well.
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