Nothing could be more perfect than reading about Narnia, right here and now. § Buffalo in the wintertime? § It’s like a little bit of C.S. Lewis in our midst. § We feel the cold that grips the Narnian landscape under the spell of the White Witch. § We want to put on one of those cozy fur coats – the ones the children pick out in the wardrobe, and then wear as they enter the new world. § We want to drink the tea that Lucy, the first to enter Narnia, sips with Tumnus the faun. § Even more than that, being Buffalonians, we know very well how the four Pevensie children feel when, about midway through their journey in Narnia, they notice the first subtle signs – the sound of water, the trill of a bird – of spring. § Yes, this book is perfect for an end-of-year read in Western New York. § Readers here, in fact, might just be the ideal audience for the selection of The Buffalo News Book Club for December, a month we often devote to classic reads.
It’s “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” – a story many folks in Buffalo will remember from their childhoods.
And for those who didn’t read this as a kid?
Those readers now have the opportunity to discover this singular narrative – a blend of fairy tale, fantasy and fable, packed with memorable characters – for the first time.
The timing couldn’t be more perfect, in another important way.
Last month marked the 50th anniversary of the death of Clive Staples Lewis, the British author of the Chronicles of Narnia series and many other works.
Lewis, known as “Jack,” died on Nov. 22, 1963 – the same day John F. Kennedy was assassinated.
Over the years, “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe,” first published in 1950, has attracted countless fans around the world.
Keep in mind – if you love it – that there are six more books in the Chronicles.
Now read on, for a reminder of why this book was unforgettable back then – and still is.
The story of “Wardrobe” begins as four children, the Pevensie siblings, are sent to live outside of London, away from their parents. It is wartime, and the city is no longer safe.
“It is a curious feature of the Narnia books that almost all of the children in them are, in one way or another and for one reason or another, homeless,” wrote Alan Jacobs in “The Narnian: The Life and Imagination of C.S. Lewis.”
The Pevensies take up residence in an old house in the country that is home to an old professor, whom they rarely see, and a bustling housekeeper.
It is during one long, rather empty day, when they are trying to avoid Mrs. Macready, that the four children climb into a large wardrobe that stands, seemingly neglected, in one of the rooms of the house. (There are mothballs in it, and old fur coats.)
It is a wardrobe that Lucy Pevensie, the youngest sibling, had previously told them that she had entered and discovered was a passage to a new world called Narnia.
The children hadn’t believed her – the two oldest, Peter and Susan, that is.
The four children feel their way through the wardrobe, and find themselves in a strange land.
It is winter there, and snow covers the ground. Creatures of Narnia include talking beasts and giants, fauns and satyrs and dryads.
All adventuresome enough. But here is where some of the larger concerns of “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” come in.
The children will learn that the land is Narnia, and the reason it is snow-blanketed is because of the spell of a cruel and terrifying figure, the White Witch, who makes it always winter in Narnia – and yet, as the book tells us, never Christmas.
Lewis’ novel is about four children on an exciting journey. But it is also about bigger themes, such as what it means to do good or evil.
One of the children, Edmund, even experiences this personally, when he denies that he had previously entered the wardrobe and knew Narnia to be true, and briefly allies himself with the witch.
Narnia is a fulfilling story to read – and read aloud, especially to children – because it allows one to vicariously experience strong and primal emotions like wonder and fear, joy and sorrow, despair and hope.
Edmund does not stay bad, so that is satisfying. The children participate in events that will lead to the release of Narnia from the cruel spell.
This happens through the lion Aslan. His actions, in the final chapters of the book, bring an end to the White Witch and her spell.
Want to talk more about Tumnus and Rumblebuffin?
Join the Book Club’s Charity Vogel for a live chat about C.S. Lewis and the Chronicles of Narnia, on the website of The Buffalo News this week.
The online event will take place at www.buffalonews.com starting at 2 p.m. Wednesday.
As always, The Buffalo News Book Club appreciates hearing from readers about this month’s selection – as well as suggestions for future reads.
You can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Or write to the Book Club via regular mail at: The Book Club, The Buffalo News, P.O. Box 100, Buffalo, N.Y. 14240.