For decades I believed that I had read all the Narnia stories. After a rather disconcerting conversation with my husband last year, it turns out that I had merely read The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe over and over and over. I must have been very young, because I remember trying to look in my grandparents' spare room closet for snow and a lamppost. The closet was behind the staircase, and so the back of it sloped upwards into . . . into where? It mystified me.
Another burning question raised by the book was, "What exactly is Turkish delight? And where can I find some?" When I did finally taste it at the end of a meal at a London restaurant, its rubbery texture and vaguely rosewater taste reminded me that Edmund's Turkish delight was enchanted by the White Witch, after all. Had it been me in her sled, I'd have asked the White Witch for butterscotch brownies. I knew deep inside that I could so easily have been the Edmund of the early chapters, seeking my own comfort over justice and truth.
Edmund's change of heart, though, is profound. Even as a young child I grasped some of the allegory's power. We can grow beyond our own narrow egos. The world that is we see is not necessarily all there is. Ordinary children may be granted the power to see through the lies of adults and to change the moral landscape. A friend of mine who is reading the movie tie-in version confessed that she "missed the God thing" in her childhood reading. But I said to her, "No, you didn't miss it. You just didn't label the good forces as 'God.'"
That's why it's good literature. The Narnia stories depict an epic struggle for justice and love over corruption and greed, beauty and peace over disharmony and destruction. The struggle takes generations. It is bloody. The struggle is guided and disciplined by Aslan, who isn't always there when you need him but gets cranky when you forget about him. In the end, Aslan and the forces of good triumph in a final hard-won battle.
Now there's Disney, who is sponsoring a contest in which preachers are asked to submit sermons that mention the Narnia movie. Disney will hold a drawing, and the winner gets, not Turkish Delight, but $1,000 and a trip to London.*
Aslan is not pleased.
*According to this article in the Dec. 4 Philadelphia Inquirer, "Walt Disney Pictures is so eager for churches to turn out audiences for The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, which opens Friday, that it's offering a free trip to London - and $1,000 cash - to the winner of its big promotional sermon contest." However, this site says it's sponsored by SermonCentral.com.