Finding the Way to Narnia

monday inspirationsWelcome back to another post in the Monday Inspirations series, where guest bloggers write about the books and authors that have inspired them. Today’s post is by Sarah Brentyn. You can check out OTHER Monday Inspirations posts here.

When I was little, I checked my closet before bed. But I wasn’t looking for monsters. I was searching for Narnia.

I remember pushing past fabric and running my hand along the back wall. It was dark and sometimes I frightened myself being in there behind hanging shirts and winter jackets. Mostly, though, I felt as brave as Lucy walking through those fur coats and into a curious winter wonderland.

My family had boring closets. The kinds that are built into the wall and have painted white doors with little pull knobs. I don’t know that I expected something so dull to provide a portal, but I had to try. See, while most characters I read became real to me on some level, Narnia actually existed. I believed the shifting gateway would eventually turn up. Perhaps in my bedroom. Who knew? When I got older and saw an armoire—an actual standing wardrobe all lovely and carved and mahogany-colored, I nearly fainted. Narnia was real.

Narnia. Home of evil creatures, courageous animals, the White Witch, the magnificent Aslan, and the sweet (okay-I-tricked-you-but-I-felt-really-bad-about-it) little Faun named Tumnus.

Louisa May Alcott stole my heart with her Little Women. I still list Jo as one of my top five favorite fictional characters. She, rather the whole March family, is unforgettable. But they lived in the real world.

Tolkien amazed me with talking trees, elves, wizards, dwarves, and hobbits. I could pretend to be an elf (which I totally did) but it was make-believe. They didn’t exist outside the brilliantly designed Middle Earth.

Lion, Witch, WardrobeC.S. Lewis, on the other hand, created a story that began with four rather ordinary children who wound up in a fantasy realm. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe was the first book I read that allowed me to consider the possibility of other worlds existing inside, outside, next to, or beyond our mundane reality.

Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy allowed me to indulge my imagination, letting go of all the impossibilities the world told me I couldn’t believe.

And, because of these four children who became kings and queens at Cair Paravel, when I picked up a pencil at nine years old, I knew I could write stories about an ordinary girl who found herself in extraordinary places.

To this day, when I see an old wardrobe at an antique shop, my heart beats a little faster. I’m giddy. The compulsion to open it is too strong. I must. And, though I find nothing more than a bare interior, some moth balls, or the occasional dead bug, I’ve never given up hope of finding the way into Narnia.

Sarah Brentyn is a geek, a mum, and a freelance writer who loves good books and good wine. Also, chocolate. She writes everything from personal essays and lifestyle columns to flash fiction and haiku but really can’t stand writing bios. She blogs at Lemon Shark and plays with fiction at Lemon Shark Reef. Connect with her on Twitter at @SarahBrentyn.

Would you like to contribute to the Monday Inspirations series? Email me: uhumienik[at]gmail.com

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37 thoughts on “Finding the Way to Narnia

  1. Oh, I know Narnia is out there! You articulate so well why we can believe it does exist — the space between the ordinary and extraordinary just has to be discovered. My son leased a hideous house his second year of college. He was so proud of this rambling, decrepit, 2-story disaster because the rent was cheap, it had enough rooms for six cross-country runners, a large living room for four mis-matched sofas and Narnia in his room. This place came with a built-in wardrobe of Narnia proportions. In fact, the place was dubbed Narnia. And so it continues down through the generations. Ula, thanks for having Sarah! ❤

    Liked by 4 people

  2. OMG, I love this post! I remember reading “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” for the first time and how transfixed I became, and how I couldn’t put the book down. And how I cried when Aslan was sacrificed (oh, those soft, soft paws of his. I think I had a crush on him, lol. Also loved the beaver family). We live by a lighted bike path and each time I run or walk in the evenings and see a lightpost shadowing a circle of light the woods, I think of the lightpost leading to Narnia and no matter what I’m doing or how I’m feeling, I’m back in Narnia again. Such magic! Thanks for reminding me of those times. Cheers and have a great week.

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    • Ack! You made me get all teary! Aslan and his big, soft paws. And the beaver family. ❤ Oh my gosh, yes! Every time I walk by a lamppost, I get all nostalgic. (No, I don’t, I freak out a little.) But I can explain my obsession with lampposts. They’re cool. People usually understand why I’m staring. If there are carvings…well then I can get away with touching and taking pictures. (But, really, I know it could be a marker near the border of Narnia.)

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  3. My childhood was esentially one long experiment in the reprising development of the Enlightenment, with my brother the rationalist and me the dreamer destined to be told to get real. So I was past 40 when I read the Narnia series to the children and loved the rhythms and ideas more than the mystery and the fantasy. Which is a shame because my gran had the most fabulous wardrobe to hide in full of fur coats (she adored fur)

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    • Yes, that sounds about right. I can picture that childhood with your brother. Sorry…because your gran’s wardrobe would have been so magical. Well, you may not have loved the fantasy but at least you got to read and enjoy it.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. I know EXACTLY what you mean about wanting to open an armoire every time you see one. I loved these books as a kid. I agree that starting the story in our “real” world makes them even more special. To have such accessible magic!

    Wonderful post. You’ve brought back a lot of great memories.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Yes! That’s it! This book introduced “accessible magic”. That’s perfect. Oh, and the armoires…I can’t resist. I’m so happy you got a little nostalgic thrill from the post. 🙂 Thank you.

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  5. That was such an amazing, heartbreaking story. What happened to Aslan horrified me as a kid and is still difficult for me to read about or watch today.

    C.S. Lewis has had many imitators, but no one has been able to beat the original. What an imagination he had!

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    • It is an amazing story. Sorry you were traumatized! He does manage to make Aslan completely lovable (in a scary, intimidating sort of way) before that scene. He did have quite an imagination–quite an inspiration.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Oh I love this post. I fell in love with Narnia – the whole idea of it – as a child. I still have a huge map of Narnia in our storage room somewhere that I drew out so I could play on it and better imagine myself there. I can’t wait to share these stories with my kids!

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  9. What a lovely post. Apologies for missing it at the time of posting. Thank you, Sarah, for sending me over here now, almost like moving through the portal into Narnia. I read the stories as an adult. I’m not sure if I read them just for me, or to my children. I’m not keen on fantasy stories and have never read the Lord of the Rings, but I love these ones. Maybe you have nailed the reason in your post. Maybe it’s because they are four ordinary kids, could be me or anyone I know, who found the portal into another world in the back of a wardrobe. How many times as kids did we wish that were possible, and stories and imagination could take us there just as easily. I too think of Narnia when I see one of those old wardrobes. I actually had one as a child but didn’t know the story then. All of we ordinary creatures can take a step whenever we choose into the extraordinary possibilities of our imaginings. They may stay in our imagination but many we will make a reality. Thank you for sharing this delightful post, Ula.

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