Book of the Month: December 2012

‘The Lion’s World – A Journey into the Heart of Narnia’ by Rowan Williams.

One of life’s great pleasures is to listen to someone talking enthusiastically about their passions; sharing their knowledge and expertise in a way which draws us in. Reading The Lion’s World is one of those moments, as this warm, wise book leads us gently through the wardrobe of our preconceptions into the spiritual and intellectual heart of Narnia and opens up fresh perspectives on Lewis’ thinking.

Rowan Williams sets the Narnia stories within the context of Lewis’ other writings; he is clear sighted about the occasional weaknesses of plot (how did Mrs Beaver make that marmalade roll?) or indications of personal prejudice; identifies a unifying vision and yet, as he says of Lewis, also “gives us the tools with which we can question even some of his own positions … one of the most serious compliments that could be paid to any thinker.”

In the Narnia books, Lewis was putting complex ideas about sin, redemption, death, incarnation, human uniqueness, grace, joy, creation, truth, trust, love and the wonderful, unpredictable, otherness of God in a form which was accessible to children. He certainly had a high opinion of children’s literature and of children’s ability to cope with difficult concepts, but it seems likely that this was just the best way for Lewis to tell this particular story and, however tempting it may be for the reader “inclined to ask tiresome questions” to focus on the theology, Williams never loses sight of the fact that the books “must stand or fall, finally, as stories.”

For Lucy, the test of a good story was that it seemed real: something which was not just read or heard but lived, and which contained truths which could be recognised in other contexts. Here, Rowan Williams is not only showing how Lewis brought the children to Narnia so that they might be able to recognise Aslan in their own world, he is encouraging us to open our imaginations, put aside our sense of self and take the risk of meeting him in ours.

The Rev’d Norma Fergusson
Assistant Curate, Rowde & Bromham

Published by SPCK, ‘The Lion’s World’ is normally priced at £8.99. Mention the website to order a copy at the special price of £7.99 and POST FREE from Sarum College Bookshop until December 31st 2012. (n.b. Orders received after Dec 21st will be supplied in January 2013). Cheques should be made payable to ‘Sarum College Bookshop’.

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