(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

This series combines the elements of youth and childhood that Lewis loved and employed in many of his works: enchantment, magic, talking animals and trees, Arthurian legend, other worlds and journeys among them, time travel, and myth. The series contains elements of many genres: utopias, fairy stories, children’s stories, medieval chivalric romances, fables, folktales, and novels. Its ideas pull from a deep well of learning in history, literature, philosophy, and religion. Although they never obtrude, St. Paul and the Gospel writers, Saint Augustine, Dante, John Milton, and Edmund Spenser are always visible in the subtext. Lewis acknowledges many specific authors, especially Edith Nesbit, George MacDonald, Beatrix Potter, H. G. Wells, and (preeminently) the biblical writers. The Bible provides the structure, patterns, and values of the Chronicles. The marvel of these books is in the convincing mix of all these elements and the ease of reading. Simplicity and profundity dance together.

In the Chronicles of Narnia, ordinary people such as cab drivers and schoolchildren are chosen to perform extraordinary feats and fulfill extraordinary destinies. They battle evil from within, in the form of laziness, greed, pride, selfishness, and disbelief, as well as evil from without, in the form of soldiers, traitors, witches, enchantments, and an assortment of evil mythological creatures. All these challenges are met with the richer resources of good, flowing out of...

(The entire section is 473 words.)