Tag Archives: Christianity

Book Review: The Chronicles of Narnia: The Silver Chair

The sixth book in “The Chronicles of Narnia” series is entitled “The Silver Chair.” In this book, the original heroes of “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe” have all disappeared from the Narnia-scene. The mantle has been passed to Eustace Scrubb and Jill Pole. Eustace is a return visitor from book five; Jill is a young girl he befriends on Earth at Experiment House (I gather that Experiment House was an experimental school of Lewis’ time that tried to structure a school around strictly scientific principles; I also gather Lewis did not think much of it). On Earth, they are fleeing from some bullies when they escape into Narnia. They find themselves on top of an enormous cliff (the cliff is actually in Aslan’s Country, which, although on the same world, is not technically Narnia). They have some difficulties and Eustace falls off the cliff; he is rescued just in time by Aslan who appears and blows Eustace on the currents of his breath to Narnia. Then Aslan tells Jill that he is sending them on a quest to rescue Prince Rilian, King Caspian’s son, and that she must learn and memorize four signs they will encounter on their quest. She does so, then Aslan sends her on the currents of his breath across the ocean into Narnia.

 

Once in Narnia, the two children flub the first sign and let King Caspian set off on his journey without ever speaking to him. They learn that Prince Rilian disappeared ten years ago searching for the great green serpent that bit and killed his mother. No one knows what became of him. Shortly thereafter, with the blessings of an Owl Parliament, the children set off on their journey to find the prince. They encounter a marsh-wiggle—which is kind of a long, thin, man with a few frog-like features (webbing on the feet, etc…)—named Puddleglum who joins them on their mission. After several adventures involving giants, gnomes, and other unusual creatures, they find Prince Rilian being held under the enchantment of a witch. They manage to break the enchantment and then confront the witch.

 

And here’s where I have a difficulty with the story. Perhaps I’ve played too many D&D games and I just know you don’t let the spell-caster cast a spell on your party! But, while Eustace, Jill, Puddleglum, and Prince Rilian look on, the witch takes some powder, throws it into the fireplace, and then begins to play a musical instrument (I’m not sure which one, it may have been a lyre), and they do nothing! I mean, oh wow, what is this evil witch who uses MAGIC doing!? She threw some sweet smelling powder into the fire. Hmm, now she’s picking up a musical instrument.  Hmmm. Should we try to stop her? Nah. Anyway, I’ll let you read the story to figure out what happens next.

 

Overall, I found book six in “The Chronicles of Narnia” to be at about the same level as the other books in the series: most likely a good read for young children, but lacking a little too much in substance for adults. Again, I’ll give it four stars out of five for children, and two and a half, or maybe three for adults.

 

This post originally appeared on Shelfari on 12/30/12.

Book Review: The Chronicles of Narnia: The Horse and His Boy

Of all the books that make up C.S. Lewis’ “The Chronicles of Narnia” this one, “The Horse and His Boy” is perhaps the most unusual. In every other book, the main characters start in Earth and come to Narnia through some magical portal to learn some important lesson. In this one, although the main characters do not live in the land of Narnia, they start in the same world. They come from a land south of Narnia on the Narnia map in the land of Calormen.

 

From the descriptions of the people, the actions they take, and the language they use, Calormen seems to me to be a metaphor for the Arab nations of Earth and their views of the great Tisroc might be construed as a metaphor for Islam. I’m not sure about that completely as I am not fully conversant in Islam or C.S. Lewis’ scholarly background. But it seems likely. As such, there is a developed contrast between Narnia (Christianity) and Calormen (Islam/Arabia) and as C.S. Lewis is a Christian, Christianity comes out clearly as the winner in this book. Personally, I do think Christianity has an edge over Islam (but again, I’m not fully conversant in Islam), but my views are not relevant to this review or the work as a whole.

 

Anyway, the four main characters of this novel are: the young boy, Shasta, the young girl, Aravis, and the two Talking Horses, Hwin and Bree. The book starts with Shasta living a desperate life of servitude in Calormen and the story, as a whole, generally revolves around him. In the beginning, he’s pretty much a slave-boy to his “father,” Arsheesh, a poor fisherman. Then one day, a nobleman comes to his father’s hut, and, seeing the boy, wants to buy him as a slave. His “father” and the nobleman begin to barter. That night, now in even more desperate straits, Shasta escapes on the nobleman’s horse who just happens to be Bree, a Talking Horse from Narnia who is pretending to be a dumb animal wishing he could return to Narnia.

 

Shasta and Bree take flight north towards Narnia. Along the way, they encounter Aravis and her Talking Horse, Hwin. They team up and begin their journey.

 

Another unusual aspect of this book is that this story takes place before the end of “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.” It happens sometime during the reign of the two kings and two queens of Narnia from that book. Shasta and his company encounter King Edmund and Queen Lucy several times during the book. Or is it Queen Susan? I’ve forgotten already. Anyway, I won’t reveal the ending.

 

It’s a decent book for kids, morally speaking. It embraces the Christian ethos while providing an intriguing, fun adventure story.

 

I was having some issues while reading the latter half of this book, so I don’t feel comfortable giving it a precise ranking, so I will give it a range. I think it is about three and a half to four stars out of five, inasmuch as it’s a children’s book. Adults probably wouldn’t enjoy it as much (I know I didn’t: these Narnia books are becoming something of a challenge to finish).

This review was originally published on Shelfari.com on 12/30/12.

Would You Want to be a Vampire? Part One: The Traditional Vampire

With the popularity of vampires among society today, this actually becomes a question worth asking. Once upon a time, most people would have answered with a resounding “No!” Why, you might ask? Let’s discuss that. At that point in time, humanity’s definition of a vampire was very different than it is today. Once upon a time, vampires were creatures of the night; Dracula was their progenitor; and Satan their lord. Ahh, yes, the times of yesteryear. This old, traditional vampire was all but immortal; they could only be slain by a wooden stake through the heart, running water, or sometimes sunlight. They were incredibly strong and had a host of special powers like the ability to change into a bat, or mist, or a wolf. But to remain strong and immortal they had to feed on human blood. That is, of course, one point against them, as most people probably don’t want to make a diet of human blood. But that’s not the worst of it.

 

In the West where Christianity was once quite strong there has always been a strong connection between blood and religion. At the Last Supper, Jesus said to his apostles, “If you eat my flesh and drink my blood you shall have Eternal Life,” and he promptly gave them bread and wine; the bread being his flesh, and the wine his blood (there is debate between Catholics and Protestants whether the bread/flesh and wine/blood connections are intended to be taken literally or symbolically, but that is straying off topic here). The important thing here is that Christ wanted you to consume his “blood” in order to be saved. I’m not an expert on theology or Judaic tradition so I may be getting in a little over my head here, but I seem to recall that blood was an important aspect in sin offerings. So, as far as Christianity is concerned, the blood of Christ served to “wash away” one’s sins; consuming Christ’s blood is a way to accept that and gain entrance to Heaven (like I said, I’m not an expert).

 

Vampires, on the other hand, are a complete perversion of this. They (in the West) were minions of Satan. They consumed blood and granted Eternal Life, as well, but the life they granted was an accursed abomination. It was an eternal, physical life in this “fallen” world filled with sin. Depending on the tradition, a human can become a vampire either by being bitten by a vampire, or by consuming a vampire’s blood. In the latter case, the perverted connection to Christianity is stronger. Here, the victim, instead of consuming Christ’s holy blood consumes the blood of the vampire, the unholy blood of Satan. Thus, it is a reversal of Christian Salvation. As a result, the victim is cursed to walk forever as an undead creature of the night to be forever repulsed by all things holy. Here, the price of becoming a vampire is your very soul.

 

I just made all of that up. How’d I do? J

 

Anyway, the obvious conclusion to the question: “Would you want to be a (traditional) vampire?” should be a resounding “No!” for all clear-thinking individuals.