Is this 'Narnia' true?
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By Mary Kaye Ritz
Advertiser Religion & Ethics Writer
By Mary Kaye Ritz
Spoiler alert: This story contains plot points of the upcoming "Chronicles of Narnia" movie.
A beloved children's book, a Christian apologist, a "Lord of the Rings"-scale fantasy ... and Disney?
It could only mean "Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe" the feature-film version of C.S. Lewis' story by the same name is about to unfold on scores of movie screens near you.
But questions raise themselves as mightily as the White Witch: Will the film stay true to the book? Will it whitewash Christian themes? And moreover, how will it play in the Islands?
Jerrine Boyer of Honolulu hasn't followed the movie's hype, but she has kept the book close to her heart since coming upon the children's book series back in elementary school. The chronicles aren't really bedtime reading yet for her daughters, Celine, 2, and Bella, 3, though the girls poked through a picture book of the movie last week at Logos Bookstore of Hawaii in Ward Warehouse.
There, a 45-pound stuffed Aslan (that would be the lion) stands majestically above a display of all things Lewis, as if to guard Narnia from criticisms of commercialism. Oh, and near the door? A lamppost, all the better to light your way to the cash register.
READERS ON ALERT
The best-selling book, published in 1950, follows four children sent to live in an old country house during WWII. They discover the mythical Narnia through a walk-in wardrobe and help overthrow a witch, whose spells have turned innocent victims to stone and frozen the landscape in perpetual winter, in a story replete with Christian allusions.
Boyer still recalls her reaction to the book's adventures in the magical world of Narnia.
"I remember crying when Aslan was sacrificed," she said. "That was a teary moment. I don't know a lot about the movie, but if they stay true to the story, it should be great."
With the $150 million movie opening Friday "No kidding?" joked Sean Cashion of Mo'ili'ili, sardonically eyeing Logos' two gi-normous displays some people already have plans to take in tomorrow night's midnight premiere screening at the Dole Cannery, or a special screening Saturday at the Ward complex.
Cashion, who was flipping through a non-Narnia title by Lewis (his introduction to the author came by way of the Christian apologist tome, "Mere Christianity"), planned to take his son, Luke, 5 1/2.
"I hope it stays true to the book," Cashion said. "I hope they don't secularize it make it so secular that it's palatable to everyone. It's written for the Christian palate."
GOOD VS. EVIL
While "Narnia" pits good against evil, with Aslan the lion a Christ-like figure and Edmund a Judas-like character, many of the books' readers enjoy it as a fantastic yarn, subtext or no subtext.
Those include Kent M. Keith, author of "The Paradoxical Commandments," who's read more by and about Lewis than any other author on his "books I've read" list. (Yes, he keeps one.)
"What's really fascinating is what it is and what it isn't, according to the author and scholars," said Keith, who calls Lewis the "greatest Christian writer of the 20th century."
Keith says "Narnia" is an adventure tale by an author whose Christianity informed his writing.
"He created stories that give the reader a sense of joy and a yearning for the sacred, a yearning for Aslan in Aslan's country," Keith said.
"Lewis wasn't trying to write a Christian allegory," Keith said, quoting from Lewis' writings. Lewis, an Oxford professor, hadn't set out to manufacture a Christian myth, full of symbolic characters, palatable to the youth of the day.
Lewis began with a singular, fantastical picture in his head, Keith said: "That's obviously why you don't have to be a Christian to enjoy 'Chronicles of Narnia.' Having said that, he was a Christian and couldn't help but write stories that reflect his faith."
And while it might not be allegory, Keith notes that Narnia's stories do reverberate with Christians.
An evangelical tool?
Is "Chronicles of Narnia" an evangelical tool, as some suggest?
To Carl Ashizawa, manager of Logos, yes: "It can give the Christian message in a simple, easy way," he said.
To Keith, no: "An evangelical tool? It's pre-evangelism. It's not evangelism the way people are thinking about it. It's suggestive, rather than prescriptive. It suggests ideas, rather than preaching them."
While the movie is said to be true to the book, early press accounts note that "Chronicles" is being marketed as "Lord of the Rings" crossed with "Passion of the Christ": a big-scale fantasy dipping into the teen market's wallet, and a Christian movie that may draw the faithful to theaters.
While it's not as clearly a "Christian" movie as "Passion," it's got big buzz behind it among Christian enthusiasts of the book. It's also a respected literary work, and a movie to appeal to lovers of fantasy and holiday extravaganzas.
"It's amazing how much excitement there is," Ashizawa said, at the Logos bookstore. "Tolkien's book took on magnificent proportions. People have that excitement (about 'Narnia')."