One Does Not Simply Walk into Narnia

Jake Karlsruher AKA Kar-el

Each time I watch Peter Jackson’s adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Fellowship of the Ring, I am reminded of the work of one of Tolkien’s contemporaries, C.S. Lewis.  Andrew Adamson’s 2005 adaptation of Lewis’ The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe shares enough pivotal plot details with Fellowship that I often wonder if Lewis and Tolkien, old friends and drinking buddies, ever bounced ideas off one another while sipping elixir.

In both movies and their respective novels, the authors make the assumption that their viewers do not possess any magical abilities themselves.  They present the viewer with seemingly feeble protagonists: Lucy Pevensie, an eight year-old girl from London, and Frodo Baggins, the three-foot tall Hobbit.  The authors allow the viewer to relate to the character and become comfortable in a fictional world.  The characters themselves aren’t so lucky.  They are thrust into their quests and enormous responsibility falls in their laps.  While Lucy and Frodo might feel alone at times, they are not without help.  After stepping through the passageway into Narnia, Lucy is welcomed by the warm hospitality of Mr. Tumnus, who sets the stage for her quest.  Similarly, Frodo Baggins is offered Strider’s sword (and Legolas’ bow, and Gimli’s axe-shhh) for his quest.

While comparisons remain true in plot details between the two works, they vary in terms of interpretation.  It is widely accepted among literary critics that Lewis’ The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, is a biblical allegory.  This is most vivid in Aslan’s self-sacrifice.  Aslan, the Great Lion of Narnia, offers himself to die in place of Edmund, Lucy’s brother who had lost his way.  The biblical imagery is shoved down your throat when Aslan is later resurrected.  Conversely, while many critics often attempt to find profound meaning in Tolkien’s Fellowship, I prefer to see it as pure fantasy.  To me, it is disenchanting to look further into the topic.

Finally, the films diverge in a directorial decision.  In The Fellowship of the Ring, Jackson paints a bleak picture of Middle Earth with desolate lands, ugly Orcs, and a black, fiery eye set as the embodiment of pure evil.  In The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe, Adamson sets the forests of Narnia in beautiful, glistening, white snow, cute and cuddly creatures, and a gorgeous ice witch.  Oddly enough, both settings generate the same effect of disturbing uneasiness.

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