On Giants' Shoulders

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Even Giants Don't Get Always Get It Right The First Time

One of my all time favorite giants is C.S. Lewis. I discovered the Narnia Chronicles when I was in my early twenties and visiting a friend at Gordon-Conwell Seminary. She had just purchased the set. I spent incredible chunks of that weekend reading Narnia while she did homework. Before the weekend was over I went and bought a set for myself. I've read and re-read the books both to myself and to my children. I've worn out at least copies of two of the books. I've always loved them.

This week I've been reading Walter Hooper's book Past Watchful Dragons. It's a little book, but has great insight into Lewis's composition process. One of the things that Hooper has in the book is the text of a discarded beginning for what was ultimately The Magician's Nephew. It was fascinating, and would have made an interesting book all on its own, but it bore very little resemblence to the final version of the story. Digory and Polly are there, but no Uncle Andrew and Mrs. Lefay looks like she's going to turn out to be a good godmother, not a wicked one.

So often we've heard that Lewis dashed off the books in a hurry. We've heard loads about his marvelous pictorial imagination. It makes those of us who struggle with a story think that perhaps we just don't have what it takes. It's really encouraging to know that even a wonderful story teller like C.S. Lewis could start off down the wrong story tunnel, then back up and begin again.

Past Watchful Dragons is a great book if you are interested in Lewis and his writing. It's not a book for kids, but if you're an English geek as my daughter and I are you might well enjoy it. I'm not certain the book is still in print since I got it out of the University of Vermont library, but I'm sure you could get it through interlibrary loan.

The comments on the inside cover say it all. The Narnian Chronicles of C.S. Lewis : How They Came to be Written, How They Can Best Be Enjoyed, How They May Be Interpreted.

Hooper is very clear that the best way to share them with your children is to just read them to them, not to try to explain all the allegorical content.

Anyway, it was an encouragement to me to see that this giant of a man had to do more than just dash off a story.


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