C. S. Lewis, Mastermind.
This post, by Gerry McCullough, originally appeared on her blog.
I wonder when I first heard of C.S.Lewis?
I think it must have been when a friend of mine at school (I’d known her since my first day at primary school, and on through Grammar School and University, before eventually losing touch. Anne Stirling, now Anne Salmon, where are you?) spoke enthusiastically about, and then lent me, The Screwtape Letters. I enjoyed reading it, and began to look out for other books by this author.
For whatever reason, I didn’t at first find and read the Narnia series. I am an avid reader of children’s books, and have been from my childhood and teens, when this is obviously more normal, on through my twenties, thirties and so on. But I was eighteen before (again) someone lent me The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe. I loved it straight away, and bought and read the other six books rapidly.
I love the Narnia books, I even love the slightly distorted films. Well, they’re better than many films of well-loved books. And when I take a notion to re-read a children’s book from my past these days, although it may be one by Geoffrey Trease, Nancy Breary, Arthur Ransom, or a dozen other favourites, as often as not it’s a Narnia book. My special favourites are The Horse and his Boy, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, and The Silver Chair. Now I come to think about it, these are all books about a journey of adventure (did Enid Blyton write one of her adventure series with that title? I think she did. I always loved her adventure books. Oh, and The Magic Faraway Tree.)
Have you ever thought how much Lewis drew from another firm favourite of mine, E. Nesbit? In the opening of The Magician’s Nephew, he says that the story (set back in time from the rest of the series) happened, ‘when the Bastables were still seeking for treasure in the Lewisham Road.’ Now, there’s a clue!
I read an excerpt from The Treasure Seekers by E. Nesbit when I was at Primary School, in a book which included bits from Little Women and Three Men in a Boat, etc. (It’s amazing how many of my favourite writers I first heard of in that selection.) After that I searched out Nesbit’s books in the Junior Library, finding, first of all, The House of Arden, the first Time Travelling book I ever read, and certainly one of the best. Lewis could have chosen no more evocative, magical opening to The Magician’s Nephew than that reference, from my point of view.