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Narnia vs. Middle Earth Cage Match!

January 19, 2008

Tim Challies on why he prefers Middle-Earth to Narnia. This is a tough one for me, because I really enjoy both fictional worlds.

As mentioned, Tolkien’s Middle-Earth is much more in depth than Lewis’ Narnia. On that level, there is no contest. There is more to describe, and Tolkien takes the time to describe it. If you are going near a region or kingdom, its people are described long before you get there, unless they aren’t known by the protagonists. As Challies mentions, Tolkien opens every door that is seen, while Lewis only deals with the doors that further the story. Tolkien’s characters are more epic, and there are more of them to interest the reader.

However, Lewis’ world is much more whimsical. Narnia shines at its best when you see things like the Fauns, the Nyads and Dryads, the talking animals, and other interesting elements. I also like the Narnia characters more. They grow in ways that are more relatable to us. Also, Lewis’ narrative voice is more fun, again probably reflecting his target audience as children. This appeals to me, although I can see why it would annoy some.

I think the reason why I have come to love Narnia more than Middle-Earth over the years is the depth of theological content in the Narnia books. Middle-Earth is a classic good vs. evil narrative, which is fine theologically, but there isn’t anything particularly interesting about it. However, if you start looking in Narnia, you start seeing amazing theological metaphors in the books. There is the obvious passage on Heaven in the Last Battle, which is some of the best English writing on the subject, fictional or theological. However, I love some of the more subtle scenes as well. There is the part in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader where Eustace is turned into a dragon because of his greed. This causes him to see how rotten a person he really was, and works a change in his heart. Then, Aslan comes along, and commands Eustace to bathe in a nearby pool. However, he is too large as a dragon to do this, so Aslan commands him to undress. Eustace tries, peeling skin after skin off, but the effort is no use, and Aslan, after making Eustace see that there is nothing he can do to take the ugly sinful layer off of himself, tells Eustace that he, the Lion, must undress Eustace. This is an amazing metaphor of how we are helpless to change ourselves without God’s intervention.

There are other scenes as well. The Horse and His Boy as a book is a treatise on Providence, and the unseen hand of God in every detail of our lives, both the good and the bad. The Silver Chair has scenes where Aslan seems far away, and the characters are tempted to forget of his existence by a very modern sounding villain. The books are filled with this stuff, and you see it more and more as you read them and become more informed in your own faith. Now, I do not agree with every theological point Lewis puts in there. However, on the whole, they make you think about theological issues, which is something The Lord of the Rings does not do. While Lewis did not spend the meticulous effort Tolkien did on the world of his books, he does spend time weaving theology in The Chronicles of Narnia, which is why I love these books.

In the end, though, both works of fiction appeal to me, and while I say the Chronicles are better, both stories bring me great enjoyment.

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