Tag Archives: Piers Anthony

Nostalgia Trip: The Chronicles of Narnia

Revisiting nostalgic favorites: a pleasant return to comforting, cherished memories, or a one-way ticket to disillusionment.

The Chronicles of Narnia may be the literature that most informed my early years. Like many a child, I dreamed of stumbling upon a portal that would lead to thrilling, magical adventures with Aslan, the Pevensie children, and the daring, diminutive Reepicheep. I habitually checked the backs of closets, knowing that my hands would meet the resistance of a wall, but still disappointed when my fingers didn’t brush against snow-covered pine needles. Walking through woods, or slipping through the gap in a hedge, I always imagined that, upon passing through to the other side, I would find myself in a different world.

Narnia was my first exposure to many fantasy tropes that continued to fascinate me for many, many years. I’m still a sucker for stories about alternate worlds and dimensions: Piers Anthony’s Apprentice Adept, Michael Moorcock’s Eternal Champion, Joel Rosenberg’s Guardians of the Flame, Matthew Stover’s The Acts of Caine…  Just about any half-decent story of dimension-hopping has been able to grab and hold my attention.

I’m even tempted to blame my fondness for Doctor Who and British sitcoms on Narnia’s innate and obvious British-ness, but that might be stretching it a bit. The culprit could as easily be the adolescent fascination I had with the adorable Elizabeth Sladen and Felicity Kendal.

Point being, I had placed Narnia on a pedestal stacked so impossibly high with childhood wonder and personally mythic importance, that I wasn’t at all surprised when revisiting the books as an adult resulted in disappointment. I was, however, surprised at the source of my disappointment, which was my discovery that the books were so blatantly, heavily, and simplistically allegorical.

I don’t have a kneejerk, negative reaction to literature that’s influenced and inspired by religion, or even literature that celebrates religion and faith (Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings is unapologetically a Catholic text, and it’s one of the seminal pieces of fantasy fiction for damned good reasons), but there’s a thin line between stories with religious elements and stories that proselytize, and when a story is as transparent a religious allegory as Narnia, it’s slipping into preachy territory.

I still have a fondness for Narnia, to the point where I’ll still geek out and rant over things like the newer printings of the books being reordered chronologically (they’re not meant to be read in chronological order, damn it!) Still, I can’t help but be saddened when I think of C.S. Lewis dedicating The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe to his goddaughter.

“I wrote this story for you, but when I began it I had not realized that girls grow quicker than books. As a result you are already too old for fairy tales, and by the time it is printed and bound you will be older still. But some day you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again. You can then take it down from some upper shelf, dust it, and tell me what you think of it. I shall probably be too deaf to hear, and too old to understand a word you say, but I shall still be your affectionate Godfather, C. S. Lewis.”

Either Narnia is not a very good fairy tale, or I have outgrown fairy tales.

Either option is sad, though I feel fairly confident that I have not outgrown fairy tales.

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Neverending

I have favorite book series that I’ve never finished reading, entire seasons of favorite television shows I have yet to watch, and favorite writers whose body of work I’ve only partly explored.

Sometimes I leave something unfinished because its quality has devolved and degraded so much that I can’t be bothered with it anymore. Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time books are a perfect example.

Sometimes I simply “outgrow” something. I’ll probably never read another Piers Anthony book, because I’m not a 12 year old boy anymore.

Sometimes I just don’t have the time to get to all the entertainment I want to consume. I’ve only watched the first season of Breaking Bad because I can’t watch it when the kids are around, and because I’m also trying to catch up on dozens of other shows and movies.

But there are those special occasions when something is so good, or I’m enjoying something so much, that I stop. I could have long since devoured every single Ray Bradbury story, but then I’d be sad that I’d never be able to read a new Ray Bradbury story.

When I finally got around to watching Avatar: The Last Airbender, I stopped halfway through the first season. It’s not the best thing I’ve ever seen, but I was impressed that an American animated series was telling an unabashed fantasy story via a limited, cohesive narrative with beginning, middle, and end. And it was doing such a damned good job of it that I didn’t want to burn through all three seasons. I wanted to be able to savor and look forward to continuing the story.

The worst that could happen is that I never get around to finishing it, but that just means that it gets to live as an endless story in my imagination.

This must be why ambiguous and open endings usually don’t bother me too much. It’s certainly one of the reasons why Doctor Who appeals to me like no other franchise. The older I get, the more I realize the truth of the adage “it’s not the destination that’s important, but the journey.”

At the very least, it’s a mindset that helps numb the sting of premature cancellations a bit. A little bit.

One day I’m sure I’ll turn the page on my last Ray Bradbury story, enjoying the sense of satisfying melancholy that always accompanies such moments, but I’m not in any hurry.


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“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” - Maya Angelou

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