…always a king or queen in Narnia, for what that’s worth.
I think I first encountered The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe as an ABC radio serial on Sunday mornings. We used to get up and listen to these serials, which permitted our parents to remain in bed for a little longer. I was probably about 8.
I can be more precise about the remaining Narnia books. In August 1969, my father went away for a week or so to attend the ANZAAS congress in Adelaide. It says something about the intersection of social values and domestic economy in our household that, in preparation for a week alone with her children and without her husband, my mother cooked up a large amount of mince for us to eat – nothing fancier now being required. My father left on the weekend, and by Monday morning my mother and my two sisters were all down with the flu.
The doctor made a house call. He wrote prescriptions. I said I was quite well, and volunteered to go to the chemist to have them filled, and also to go to school to pick up some things. The doctor smiled knowingly. As I walked the half mile to school, the flu-aches struck, and I had to sit down on a culvert from time to time to relieve them. Home, then, to an invalid house.
From somewhere, a box set of the entire Narnia series, in the Puffin edition and illustrated by Pauline Baynes (apparently still living), appeared. Our mother remained in bed. We read them all avidly. Even R, my younger sister, just turned seven, who had not previously read silently or of her own volition, was drawn in. It was a quiet and engrossed house. My mother kept to her bed whilst we slept, read and (another breakthrough, incidentally) heated up the mince in a double boiler and served it up to ourselves on toast.
So last night I dragged D along to the Greater Union, Burwood for a 9.30 session of the film of Prince Caspian. Having seen The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe on DVD, I was ready to be moderately diverted, and to squirm at the Aslan moments and the religious stuff. I didn’t really pick up on this back in 1969 until I got to The Last Battle, though I believe I always saw through the lame satire of the progressive values of Eustace Scrubb’s parents and the school he attended with Jill.
In fact, it was better than I expected, perhaps because the religious stuff in Prince Caspian (doubting Thomas, grace vs good works and a touch of the devil) was less over the top. It may be that there have been some technical improvements in the special effects, and being at a cinema is always, of course, better. It was only at about 120 minutes of the advertised 145 (OMG/A!) that I started to anticipate the Austenian sense of an ending and looked at my watch or, to be precise, my phone.
The film didn’t have the same cachet of childhood enchantment for D, but at least he found it not so long as he feared.
Of course, it is easier for me now to pick up on the sources Lewis pillaged. But that is an additional pleasure. I am now quite looking forward to Voyage of the Dawn Treader which, at least in part, must count as his riff on Ariosto and Tasso, though I’m not sure how well the film will manage its more episodic structure.