The Real Magic of Narnia


Big Brother’s love of books started early. At barely 8 months old, he’d happily lie on his tummy and flip through books looking at the pictures. Bedtime stories were the norm by the time he was a year old, and they’ve continued to this day. (Don’t ask about Little Brother — he thinks books taste yummy.)

While he still loves looking through picture books on his own, we moved on to early readers a while ago for our evening storytime. Although the many misadventures of Spot are entertaining enough during the day, when night-time comes he wants to hear about Knights and Dragons, Beowulf and Grendel, or (at the very least) what that naughty Cat in the Hat has been up to this time.

I’ve approached the idea of reading him a “grown up” book several times — you know, the kind without any/many pictures — but he’d resisted. Last week, he agreed to give it a try. (He’s a Big Boy now, you know.)

I immediately borrowed The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe from the library, and Big Brother waited impatiently for bedtime to roll around so he could hear the start of the story.

It took seven nights to read him the book. Seven nights of two or three chapters read aloud while Big Brother snuggled under the covers and watched me with shining eyes and an excited smile. Seven days of, “Is it nearly bedtime yet?” and “How long until dinner time?” and “Can I have my bath early today?” as he eagerly awaited the next instalment of “Narnia! Narnia! Narnia!”

And over those seven nights I learned the real magic of Narnia  — and of any book magical enough to spawn generations of avid fans. Over those nights I was immersed in the world of Narnia through the eyes of a four-and-a-half-year-old child.

I saw hs eyes widen in horror when he realised Edmund was talking to the White Witch.

He was devestated by the idea of it always being winter but never Christmas (despite never having experienced a wintery Christmas himself) and enchanted by Mr. Tumnus. “Mr. Tumnus will be okay. He just has to be.”

He loved Mr Beaver instantly, cheered out loud when Father Christmas showed up, and staredin awed wonder when Peter received his sword and shield.

And Aslan… Oh, Aslan. I don’t think Big Brother knew whether to love him or be terrified of him at first. I saw the emotions warring across his face. But when Aslan roared his terrible roar and scared the White Witch away, Big Brother’s face lit up and he grinned at me in triumph. “Go, Aslan!”

His favourite part of the book was when Peter, even though he was scared, killed the wolf that was attacking Susan. Big Brother barely moved a muscle as I read the scene to him, his eyes wide, his little fingers clenched around the blanket as though ready to pull it over his face at any moment. As the wolf died, Big Brother gave a yell of triumph, pumping his fists through the air and grinning wider than ever before.

When we finally got to the moment — that moment — I read with trepidation. Would he cry? Would he be sad? Would he even want to hear the end of the story? I needn’t have worried. He listened with wide eyes at first, and then covered his own eyes when Susan and Lucy covered theirs. When the chapter ended with the two girls sitting and crying and crying, he clenched his fists and narrowed his eyes and said, “Now they really need to kill the White Witch!”

And oh, didn’t his eyes light up when they found Mr. Tumnus! And when the Giant Rumblebuffin thought Lucy was a hankerchee! “Rumblebuffin! Hee hee hee! Say the name again, Mum!”  And when battle was joined, and the White Witch defeated!

He wasn’t initially sold on the whole King and Queen thing. “I don’t know about Peter being the High King. What if Aslan turns him into a lion? That wouldn’t be good. Not good at all.” But by the end of the book he was announcing over and over,”Once a King or Queen of Narnia, always a King or Queen of Narnia!”

And in the end, the magic of Narnia had engulfed him and worked its wonders. “Do we really have to take this book back to the library?” he asked, cuddling the picture-free paperback to his chest. “Can’t we keep it forever and ever and ever?”

I smiled and ruffled his hair, not telling him the Truth that he will learn in his own time: “Yes, you can keep it forever and ever. And you will. The whole story is written right there in your heart.”



Filed under Life With Kids, Reading

17 responses to “The Real Magic of Narnia

  1. If there’s a story I’ve read recently that explains why kids need books, this is certainly it. Well-done!

  2. Love it! Books are magical, good on you for teaching them to love them too:)

    • I wouldn’t know how to do anything else! I’ve loved books since before I could read them, and Big Brother is certainly following in my footsteps. (Hopefully Little Brother will eventually stop thinking they (and everything else in the universe) are food.)

  3. That is so lovely. I have not read Narnia with my little ones yet. We are working our way through Harry Potter. I love bedtime story time more than they do I think. I get to relive the magic of old favourites and get cuddles. One of the best parts of being a mother.

    • I considered Harry Potter, but decided the series would be too old for him at the moment. Not the first couple, but it would mean reading the last books when he was only 5 years old, which I thought would be a bit much. But we’ll get there eventually. 🙂

      And yes, definitely one of the best bits of being a mother.

  4. My favorite thing to do as a teacher (and a mother) is to read stories out loud. It’s my favorite part of the day! This time with Big Brother sounds so magical – and luckily there’s more books in the series for you both!

  5. Aly Hughes

    That is absolutely charming! It makes me want to dig in to my childhood copies of The Chronicles of Narnia! I love how enthralled children are with stories. It makes me miss babysitting so much! The kids I babysat were always ready for another story, and I loved reading to them.
    Great post, thanks for sharing!

    • I was amazed at how much the book varied from my memory of it — although I’m sure the movie tempered my memory quite significantly. You may need to find some new kids to babysit. 🙂

  6. Wow. That’s a great story. And I loved the ending. That touched me, and brought tears to my eyes.

    I look forward to the day when I share my own treasures with my dear son. Prydain. Narnia. Middle-Earth.

    • Thanks so much, Stephen. I appreciate the compliment. I can imagine that you’ll be at least as eager as I’ve been.

      ..and thank you again — how could I not have thought about The Hobbit as a book to read to him before now??

      • Yeah, I’m pretty eager… but he’s not ready yet.

        B.T. loves books, it’s true. But he’s not quite at a level where the idea of stories has a lot of meaning for him.

        Right now, he’d want to flip through the pages too fast to read them.

  7. Oh Jo!!!! That was the most beautiful post! I get it! I was that kid. I was reading at 3 and by 3rd grade I was at high school level. I’m so happy you have at least one (if not both – you never know) who will forever be enchanted by books. Yay you!

    • Thanks so much, Kim. I fervently believe that a love for storytelling is one of the greatest gifts I have to give my boys. Hopefully Little Brother will eventually be interested!! 🙂

  8. What a wonderful gift to give your children!

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