The Chronicles of Narnia rank among the finest children’s literature ever written. And the introduction of the noble Aslan in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is a wondrous highlight of the series.
In 1951, Lewis wrote a letter to some fans of his “new” book. He said:
I am glad you all liked The Lion. A number of mothers, and still more, schoolmistresses, have decided that it is likely to frighten children, so it is not selling very well. But the real children like it, and I am astonished how some very young ones seem to understand it. I think it frightens some adults, but very few children.
As usual, the Oxford don was astute. There are those who have considered some of the themes in The Chronicles to be overly mature for some children. But that is a more insidious reason for some objections leveled against the books. More on that momentarily.
The stories are admired by many secular readers, and they are beloved by Christian readers of all ages. Some liberal readers object to what they consider to be “dated” (i.e. traditional) attitudes in the books. Honest literary critics recognize that literature written more than a half century ago would reflect the mores of their era and provenance. Lewis’ skepticism about “public” schools (i.e. in American parlance, “private” academies) is one such example.
But behind some objections to Lewis’ children’s books lies a more sinister agenda. Some secularists believe that only their own agnostic faith should be promoted, and they object to any expression of Christianity in the public forum. Some such activists have even advocated that The Chronicles barred from schools because they recognize that Aslan has a “different name” in our world.
Fortunately, The Chronicles of Narnia overflow with so much intrinsic merit that only the most cynical object to them. They are popular today, and that is likely to remain true in the foreseeable future. They have translated well to digital, audio and cinematic formats. But, for most of us, the soft caress of the printed page remains the medium of choice . . . when we cross through the wardrobe door into this land of awe.