Inside the Wardrobe

Is 'Narnia' a Christian Allegory?

C. S. Lewis (1898–1963), always multi-faceted and versatile, continues to elude definition and provoke controversy. A major polemicist and great proselytizer, Lewis was regarded by millions as a modern Christian knight. He wrote The Chronicles of Narnia, a remarkable children’s series often described as Christian allegory.

Lewis also produced seminal works of literary criticism on medieval and Renaissance subjects, enduring science fiction novels, one of the world’s great spiritual autobiographies, Surprised by Joy, and many works beyond category, most notably The Screwtape Letters. Lewis has fair claim to being one of the most important writers in English in the first half of the twentieth century—the modern era he loathed in so many ways.

Born and raised in Belfast, Ireland, by middle-class, Anglican parents, Lewis was “a visionary boy,” creating whole worlds of talking animals. Lovers of Narnia will see its origins in Animal-Land or Boxen, the fantastic, and astonishingly detailed world invented, populated, and chronicled by Lewis and his beloved older brother. Having lost his mother when he was nine, Lewis endured English public schools, survived World War I, won a scholarship to Oxford, became a don and friend of J. R. R. Tolkien, and began publishing beyond the academy when he was forty. In his forties and fifties, he was an extremely popular writer and also...

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About the Author

Robert H. Bell is Kenan Professor of English and founding director of the Project for Effective Teaching at Williams College. He is the author of Jocoserious Joyce: The Fate of Folly in 'Ulysses' and, with William C. Dowling, A Reader's Companion to 'Infinite Jest'.