Tuesday Tome Week 38 – The Silver Chair

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The Silver Chair did not seem very interesting to me at first. It took more than half the book to even understand the title. I felt confused by the whole layout of the land described and the Marsh-Wiggle called Puddleglum. (Uh, what’s a Marsh-Wiggle?)

The Silver Chair

The book begins with Eustace helping a school mate, Jill, while she is being chased by bullies. They both escape to Narnia just in time before the bullies get to Jill. Folks, this is 1950 and C.S. Lewis knew enough about schools in those days to put a bit of them in his books. The bullies today work just the same, if not worse.  Continue reading »

It made me realize there is a whole theme about education through Narnia. Peter complained about the school Edmund started attending. In fact, Peter claims the school Edmund started attending made Edmund a traitor and a liar.

Jill’s bullying in The Silver Chair makes me thankful we are able to homeschool and spare our children the grief. She attends an Experiment House where children can do what they want and teachers believe that if they just talk to the children with the right words, they can elicit the correct behavior. Sounds like the progressive education of the 21st century we see all around us, doesn’t it? Well, it all started 20 years before Narnia was published and so by the time Lewis wrote about it, it was developed enough to be analyzed and mocked by an intellectual of his caliber.

In The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, the Professor wonders, “What DO they teach them in these schools?” when he realizes the children have no Logic principles. In yet another place, the question is repeated by another character.

The Christian overtones become very clear in The Silver Chair. Puddleglum sacrifices his health by stomping out the fire with his own foot in order to stop the witch’s spell. The children are given directions by Aslan, directions which must be memorized and obeyed (Scripture memorization?).

When they wonder what will happen if they do what Aslan told them to, Puddleglum reminds them that Aslan never told them what would happen. He just wanted their obedience. And as long as you listen to his words and trust they are the best for you, you will have done your duty.

Prince Rilian is tied to a silver chair when he comes back to his right mind, so that he may not escape from the Underworld. Reality and fantasy blend and become very confusing. The children don’t know if they should release him or not, because he is a totally different person when his “fit” comes over him. I could go on and on with examples of how deep this book goes into the Christian journey with its ups and downs, confusing and clear moments.

For those familiar with Plato, you will of course recognize his allegory of the cave. Lewis is a genius in coming up with a story which can show children philosophical principles.

Tuesday Tome Week 37 – The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

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The Voyage of the Dawn Treader is the fifth volume of The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis. The Dawn Treader is a Narnian sail boat which belongs to Prince Caspian. Lucy and Edmund join him on this ship and end up going to the end of the world in it.

The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

One of these days, you will have to sit down and read this book. Especially if you miss the seaside and it’s cold outside and you just got overwhelmed by wanderlust. It’s an adventure and most children will enjoy it, too.  Continue reading »

We get introduced to Eustace – the Penvensies’ cousin. This vegetarian boy does not play nice, but with a little help from Aslan he turns his character around.

The spiritual lessons in this book abound, just like in the rest of the Narnia books. When Eustace becomes a dragon, he realizes his need to change his ways. He comes face to face with loneliness and is ready to do anything to have friends and show himself friendly.

When Aslan tells Eustace to scratch his dragon skin off, Eustace tries but under each layer he finds more scales and more dragon skin layers. Finally, Aslan says, “Let me do this for you.” He has Eustace lying on his back (a symbol of powerlessness) and performs the change for him.

Eustace’s becoming undragoned symbolizes the born-again experience. If you have not gone through it, you cannot understand it. Spiritual things are spiritually discerned. That’s just one story from the whole book to give you an idea of how things work in a book like Narnia.

At the end of the book, Lucy and Edmund are told they will never come back to Narnia ever again. Peter and Susan do not feature in this book, as each of them is doing something else for the summer, away from Eustace’s home where Lucy and Edmund are hosted.

Reepicheep, a giant mouse, provides lots of entertainment and lessons in bravery, too. I am not fond of mice and they seem to be everywhere in children’s literature. So far, Reepicheep is my favorite mouse from all the books we have read. I see a bit of myself in him, actually.

The light they ran into at the end of the world and the sea of water lilies provide more metaphors for the Christian walk. Overall, a deeply spiritual read, with lots of adventures and laughter in between.

Tuesday Tome Week 36 – Prince Caspian

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Prince Caspian is the fourth volume in The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis. We read these books out loud – I read them to the kids – one chapter or two per day. They love Narnia. We also listen to the radio theater version created by Focus on the Family and watch the BBC version from 1988.

Prince Caspian

The children liked Prince Caspian a lot. In fact, my six-year-old said she liked it better than The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. I think I liked it better myself. The journey narrative made me think of our own journey through life.

And then, why do we journey? A battle awaits at the end of a journey – a confrontation with envious, jealous people, who want to either kill us or take away our birthright. Whether they symbolize the forces of evil or mean-spirited people in our own lives, it depends on every context. But I can see this scenario repeated in small things and big things in the human experience and especially in the experience of a Christian – somebody who has taken God, the King of Kings, as their Father. Which, of course, makes us princes and princesses, heirs and heiresses.

There were some funny parts, especially the ones involving Dwarfs. And then there was the chilling realization that the White Witch is back in a different form. Even the radio theater people, by using the same voice, made sure we got the hint. When I asked the children, they said they knew. They could tell it was her again.

The moments when Aslan pops into the story are as touching as ever. My children love Aslan and they know he is a symbol of Jesus.

The best part for me was the location of the battle: Aslan’s How. I think C. S. Lewis was brilliant when he came up with that. The method of Aslan or his “how” should be paramount in our minds and hearts. All in all, a great, meditative read.

Radio Theater from Focus on the Family

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As we homeschool, we morph and change. The children grow and we grow with them. I drove them to Knoxville (one hour both ways) for three years to participate in Adventure Club – a scouting program through our church.

Then, I got burned out. They were younger. No matter what we did in the car for their entertainment, they drove me crazy. My children have never traveled well. It was just too much driving for their age and it had to stop.

Focus on the Family Narnia radio theater

Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis in radio theater form on 19 CDs.

Nine months later, they are different people. Plus, we have discovered radio theater CDs from Focus on the Family. We have listened to almost the whole series of Adventures in Odyssey. We are working through Chronicles of Narnia now.  Continue reading »

The children love these programs. They listen intently. They still squabble a bit, as sibling always do on the backseat, but they are a lot better behaved and easier to manage.

I can also see how listening develops their auditory learning skills. Since the actors in Narnia have a British accent, it’s a very good educational opportunity to stretch their minds and ears. We may live in East Tennessee, which is a world in itself, but I want them to know the world is big.

Since we also read through the unabridged books, it is a great way for the children to see how writers adapt certain scenes for radio theater. Many times, they take the sentences from the books word for word. Other times, they tell one chapter in one sentence or two. It’s a great lesson in narration.

Last but not least, children are children. They are impatient and want to know how the story ends. It is so hard to wait until we finish the book and its 15-17 chapters. We can almost listen to the whole radio version of a book in three hours or a trip to orchestra practice, for instance.

They don’t mind the repetition. Once they know what will happen from the radio version, they are more inclined to listen to the descriptions and details of the book version. It works for us and, as a treat, we let them watch the DVD version of Narnia as well. I am sure this whole book-audio-video experience will be on their list of fond childhood memories once they are adults.