Religious Imagery in C.S. Lewis' The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe and George MacDonald's The Princess and the Goblin
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Religious education and children's literature have enjoyed a long parallel history. The earliest children's books were little more than religious devotionals or bible stories rewritten with the express enjoyment of children in mind. As children's literature progressed, however, it began to move away from religious instruction and into works that focused more on story. This doesn't mean that the two became mutually exclusive as to this day many works that are still enormously popular with children are rife with religious allegory without sacrificing story. Two such children's works are George MacDonald's The Princess and the Goblin and C. S. Lewis' The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe. Both considered classics, they have been read for generations by children enthralled by their fantastical plots, yet a deeper look reveals that the works contain some very noticeable religious imagery that serves merely to enhance the work and never takes away from the enjoyment of the plot.
George MacDonald's The Princess and the Goblin contains everything a child could want in a fantasy story: a dastardly plot, fiendish villains, strong heroes of each gender, and a happy ending. If one were to look deeper, however, they'd also see that MacDonald's novel is peppered with allusions to the christian mythos. The most obvious and telling sign of an overall christian theme is the presence of Princess Irene's great-great-grandmother (also named Irene). This woman is clearly the god-like figure of the novel, overseeing the action both literally and figuratively. She sits high up in the palace, much as children are taught that God is high in the heavens looking down on us. Like God she is shrouded in mystery as both Irene and the reader learn l...
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...ary children stumbled across a land where christianity has been eradicated (symbolized by the removal of Christmas, Christmas being a christian holiday and a celebration of the birth of Christ) and with the help of a thinly-veiled religious figure they once again restored it to the land.
MacDonald's novel teaches children that with faith any obstacle can be overcome, and Lewis proposes that the world is a much better place as a christian world, yet what makes their novels so special, and so enduring, are the stories each writer uses to convey their message. Both MacDonald and Lewis understood that entertainment came first and their successful adherance to this rule made what could've been become preachy lectures into first rate classics of children's literature. They may both be religious allegories but they're also stunning reads and that's what really counts.