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A Celebration of Joy: Christian Romanticism in the Chronicles of Narnia, by Mike Bellah
Abstract and Table of Contents
Myth and Imagination
Children's Stories
The Ideal Reader
Fantasy and Realism
Friendships: Love in Narnia
Quest and Adventure
The Eucatastrophe
Romanticism in the Chronicles
The Failure of Romanticism
The Triumph of Chrisitian Romanticism
The Baptized Imagination
Works Cited


One reason why fairy tales like the Chronicles of Narnia are not concerned with realism of content is, as Tolkien puts it, "Fairy-stories were plainly not primarily concerned with possibility, but with desirability" ("On Fairy-stories" 62). What one wants to read in a fairy tale is not what one expects could happen in the real world but what one wishes would happen--thus the love story in most romances. Readers of romances in general and fairy tales in specific expect a love story. As Peter Schakel points out, "frequently its [the romance] central interest is romantic love, together with tournaments fought and dragons slain for a damsel's sake" (11). As examples, one think of Guinivere and Lancelot, Troylus and Criseyde, or, in more recent times, Beauty and the Beast.

Yet--except for one incident in The Horse and His Boy when a Calormene prince tries to woo Queen Susan (and she is having none of it)--the Chronicles have no stories of romantic (or sexual) love. Why is this? Why did Lewis vary his romantic form at this point?

In the first place, it is important to note that he did it on purpose. It was no oversight. In Of Other Worlds Lewis says he chose to write a children's story because the "form permits, or compels you to leave out things I wanted to leave out" (28). And one does not have to guess what it was he wished to exclude. His form, he says, demanded "no love interest and no close psychology" (36).

So the question remains, why did Lewis leave out stories of romantic love in the Chronicles? Several explanations are possible. Lewis himself writes, "I excluded what I thought they [children] would not like or understand . . ." (37). But this answer seems improbable by itself. Do children not understand or enjoy romances like Aladdin or Beauty and the Beast?

A second explanation is more plausible. Ian Balfour writes, "Romance is the genre that most clearly presents the projection of desires, and chief among them is the erotic . . . . The trajectory of romance is toward erotic consummation . . ." (58). Perhaps Lewis, a bachelor at this time, felt uneasy talking to children of erotic love (even though in The Four Loves he pronounces divine blessing on it). The problem may have been that Lewis's own literary models for erotic love did not uphold his Christian values. For instance, he points out in The Allegory of Love that the medieval tradition of courtly love was almost always adulterous. If one found eros in medieval romances, one found broken marriage vows. There were almost no exceptions (The Allegory of Love 2, 3, 13). So while Lewis himself believed eros was sanctioned and blessed by Christianity, within marriage of course, he simply had few examples (personally or literarily) to serve as models.

However, the best reason for Lewis's omission is seen not by considering what he excluded, but what he included. For there is a love story in Narnia (in fact, several of them), but it is not the celebration of eros but philos, not the love expressed in sex but in friendships.

In The Four Loves Lewis calls friendship "the most spiritual of loves" (87). It is the "love of all loves" which raises one "to the level of gods or angels" (59). Himself a man of many friendships, Lewis bemoaned the fact that few contemporaries saw them as important:

When either Affection or Eros is one's theme, one finds a prepared audience. The importance and beauty of both have been stressed and almost exaggerated again and again . . . . But few modern people think Friendship a love of comparable value or even a love at all. I cannot remember that any poem since "In Memoriam," or any novel, has celebrated it . . . . To the Ancients, Friendship seemed the happiest and most fully human of all loves; the crown of life and the school of virtue. The modern world, in comparison, ignores it. (57)

Perhaps Lewis in the Chronicles excluded eros to include philos. Maybe he sought to make up for the lack of literature which exalted friendship. Perhaps he merely wrote of what he knew best and loved most. At any rate, there is a love story in the Chronicles, and it is a story of friendships--between children (the sons and daughters of Adam and Eve); between these children and true Narnians including talking animals and mythological creatures like centaurs and unicorns; between the children and adults (the few who have not lost their imagination); and, most importantly, the Chronicles are a story of friendship between the Great Lion-King Aslan and all who follow him in love and obedience.

Lewis's definition of friendship in The Four Loves could serve as a commentary on the many friendships in Narnia:

Lovers are always talking to one another about their love; Friends hardly ever about their Friendship. Lovers are normally face to face, absorbed in each other; Friends, side by side, absorbed in some common interest . . . . True Friendship is the least jealous of loves. Two friends delight to be joined by a third, and three by a fourth, if only the newcomer is qualified to become a real friend. (61)

And how are newcomers qualified to become real friends? Because of something shared, says Lewis; they "discover that they have in common some insight or interest or even taste which the others do not share and which, till that moment, each believed to be his own unique treasure (or burden)" (65). Soon, Lewis goes on to say, true friends share more than interests and insights; "they share their vision--it is then that Friendship is born" (65).

It is not difficult to identify the shared vision in the Chronicles; it is Narnia itself along with all the qualities like courage, honesty, hospitality, and love of freedom that unite true Narnians. It is the love of feasting, music, jousting, dance, sailing, battles, and dozens of other adventures which occupy Narnians. It is the beauty of Narnia itself from Ramandu's Island in the remote east to Lantern Waste (where the Pevensie children first entered Narnia) in the west, from the heights of Archenland's Mount Pire in the south to the ruined city and castle of Harfang (under which Prince Rilian was held captive) in the north, from the splendor of the castle at Cair Paravel (where the High King Peter once ruled with his brother and sisters for a thousand years) to the modest and friendly home of the Beavers, from the ruins of the evil White Witch's Castle to the most holy site in Narnia, Aslan's How (where the Great Lion once gave his own life in exchange for a traitor).

The shared vision of Narnian friends is the Son of the Emperor-beyond-the-Sea, the Great Lion Aslan himself: the only sovereign, hope, and joy of all Narnia. Finally, it is joy itself, the single shared emotion felt by all who enter Narnia: author, characters, and readers.

To chapter 8

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