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Narnia: How the Cult Classic Reflects Reality


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Over fifty years after the publishing of Narnia by C.S Lewis in 1950, the world was given lions, witches, and magical wardrobes in a whole different setting. We can all remember the excitement of going to see those four loveable children and their mystical friends for the first time, the second time, and even the 50th time. With other worlds and the battle between evil and good Narnia became a fan favorite and loved by everyone. However, while the primary audience for Narnia is children, its tragic themes and references to the hardships of wartime England make it a good watch for all ages. As someone who has been a lifelong Narnia fan, I never realized the true intensity of the movie until recently and it has led me to understand the sheer depth and beauty within Narnia.

The four unsuspecting children Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy find themselves in the land of Narnia, a place they seamlessly fit into. Narnia is essentially where they belong, a far cry from their war-ridden reality where they are displaced from their home family and, in an emotional sense, each other. The extreme isolation that the Pevensie children face is an accurate representation of the feeling of loneliness that many children felt in the 1940s. Operation Pied Piper began in September of 1939 and saw thousands of children evacuated from urban areas of England out of fear of bomb threats from the Germans. Between September 1st and 3rd, 1.5 million evacuees were sent out of the cities of England. This change caused a huge feeling of displacement that rippled throughout England, which is reflected in the behavior of the Pevensie children.

Aslan with the four Pevensie children

Furthermore, the personalities and responsibilities of each of the four children truly represent how children during the early 40s were expected to act. Unlike today, childhood trauma and responsibility weren’t something adults or anyone really cared about, and children were expected to take on the roles of the parents they had been separated from. Today the Pevensie children would be the subject of some Tik Tok psychologist on how not to parent, but back then it was the norm. Peter, the eldest, was forced into the role of a father and protective figure to his younger siblings while Susan was expected to become a caregiver and mother. While Edmund represents the deviance that came from the extreme trauma of war and Lucy embodies the innocence that many tried to hold onto but, like Lucy, inevitably lost.

The White Witch with Edmund Pevensie

The children of the war were not innocent in any way and had likely seen more violence and death in their lives than many adults will ever see today. In September 1940 the German army began bombing British cities during the night, this occurred for 57 nights in a row killing almost 8,000 children and injuring an additional 7,622. Children over the age of 16 helped with air raid precautions, they acted as messengers, fire watchers and worked with other volunteer groups. In this way, and so many others, children were robbed of their childhoods. These unrealistic expectations are seen in Narnia, as the survival of the mythical land and all its inhabitants is put on the shoulders of four children who just happened to step into a closet.

Additionally, the children live almost entire lives in the land of Narnia forgetting what their previous life even was, yet they come out of the wardrobe unaged and once again children. This unfamiliarity with the real world that the children feel when they return from Narnia wasn’t uncommon in children returning to both cities after the war. These children had been taken from their homes, parents, and lives at such a young age that many didn’t know who they were or their life at all before their evacuation. Another important note is that after the war children were expected to return to school and essentially return to being children. However, after living through a war and experiencing tragedy after tragedy, being treated like a child again wasn’t something that could happen easily. C.S Lewis displays this through the difficulty the children of Narnia face assimilating back into normal life, as well as depicting them as almost grown adults in Narnia only to return to powerless children in the real world.

Sad, sweet, and slightly sadistic Narnia is the multidimensional masterpiece of CS Lewis and is worth a rewatch.

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