When my daughter Emily started talking about secret doors to magic lands, I thought it was the right time to break out The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis. She’s six, so that may be a bit young…but she likes it when I read stories to her, and she had already moved beyond The Magic Treehouse series and the A-Z Mysteries.
I wonder if six is the age where our belief in magic is at its highest and needs to be tested. When Emily’s older brother was six, he wanted a magic wand with all the powers in the world…what he got was a story I wrote about a boy who receives a wand with all the powers in the world only to have everything go wrong. Instead of reading The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe to my daughter I could have just written a story about a magic door that leads to a world filled with wonder and danger. Now you have no choice other than to hear the movie trailer voice: "In a World...filled with wonder and danger...".
If you aren’t familiar with the plot of The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, it follows four children in World War II England who have gone to live with a professor in his large house in the countryside. The youngest child, Lucy discovers that the wardrobe in one room is a secret doorway to a world called Narnia which is under control of the White Witch who makes sure it is always winter and never Christmas. Think Frozen’s Elsa as a sociopath. Meanwhile a talking lion named Aslan is returning to Narnia after a long vacation bringing spring along with him. One of the children (Edmund) gets some drugged Turkish delight and betrays the others because he wants more. The lion is killed, comes back and the children become rulers of Narnia due to some prophecy that there must be two human kings and two human queens regardless of their actual preparation for office. Edmund gets clean and doesn’t relapse. After reigning for several years the now adult children tumble back through the wardrobe becoming children once again and leaving Narnia behind. (note: this synopsis is intentionally sarcastic).
Before she and I began reading I outlined the basic plot, and told Emily that Aslan the lion gets killed, but that he comes back to save Narnia. Although she knew what would happen, she was still nervous at various points in the story…mostly having to do with the White Witch. I also had to skip the paragraph where Aslan is killed. Depending on her level of nervousness, she had three modes of listening to the story: sitting in my lap, drawing at the table, or sitting next to me.
There were times where we would take a break from the story – for an hour, or a couple of days. Yet…she wanted to keep reading more. I told her that good stories make us nervous because we care about the characters, and that being nervous means the author has done his or her job.
The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe is ultimately a well-told story, despite some of its more absurd elements. The triumph of good over evil is inherently appealing in a world in which it’s often hard to distinguish good from bad. The writing was different than what she was used to, so I would take breaks ask her what was happening, or explain the Lewis’ language in a way she would understand.
I like to think that having a professional read to her was part of the draw of the story, but that’s just me stroking my own ego. It was good practice for me to read the story aloud to her in between recording sessions focused on regulatory compliance and pharmaceutical sales training. Now, we’re looking for our next book, and I’m planning out a story about a girl who discovers a door….to a world filled with wonder and danger.