Author: Katherine Langrish
Publication: Darton, Longman and Todd, hardcover, 2021
Genre: Literary CriticismDescription: Langrish is a British fantasy writer who loved the Narnia books as a child. Definitely more obsessed than the average fan. She drew pictures of Aslan. She wrote poems and crafted maps. The endpapers of this book display her own Narnia fan fic. This book is an homage to Narnia and is an interesting mixture of the child who read and reread the books (like many of us) and the well-read adult who has researched and is much more aware of the influences Lewis brought to the books – what she calls his “thick forest of allusions not only to Christianity, but to Plato, fairy tales, myths, legends, medieval romances, renaissance poetry and indeed to other children’s books” (p. 16) – and the fact that these sometimes result in a hodge-podge that doesn’t make perfect literary sense. She argues that it doesn’t need to and that Lewis himself warned against searching for hidden meaning all the time.
My Impression: This is the final installment of #Narniathon21, hosted by Chris at Calmgrove, which consisted of a group read of the Narnia books, plus this homage. I missed The Last Battle while I was busy studying in June (I don’t like it, so perhaps just as well) but I was curious about this book which I don’t think has been published in the US yet. Chris provided several questions:
1. Katherine was already writing her fan fiction during her pre-teen years in response to the Narniad. Have you ever been tempted to write your own fanfic to this or any other title that made an impression on you? Or indeed prompted any creative response?
I was about to say, No, of course not, but then I realized, somewhat to my bemusement, that the stories I wrote in my teens probably were fanfic to some extent, heavily influenced by Maud Hart Lovelace, Noel Streatfield, and Enid Blyton. However, my heroine was an amazing athlete and looked like a N.M. Bodecker drawing (I greatly admired the insouciance and high ponytails of the girls he drew).
|from Cousins by Evan Commager, |
illustrated by N.M. Bodecker
2. The author has studied myths, legends and folklore for many years and had her own fiction published, and so is able to show how Lewis drank deep from the Cauldron of Story. Have her many examples and parallels of Lewis’s literary borrowings detracted from or enriched your admiration of his achievement?
I would say it has enriched my appreciation, although I was perfectly happy enjoying them as they were. Her examples of these borrowings were quite interesting, as some I had read and others not (have I read Plato?). I read a lot of E. Nesbit so probably appreciated her influence but I likely read the Narnia books before I read The Story of the Amulet, which my library did not own. And most of Lewis’s influences were way beyond a child’s reading. I did use his book, English Literature in the Sixteenth Century (Excluding Drama) for my undergraduate thesis and felt we had a special Petrarchan bond, if he only knew.
3. “C. S. Lewis changed my life,” she acknowledges in the Afterword. Has involvement in this readathon – and reading Spare Oom of course – changed your life in any way, however small?
Yes, Lewis has probably changed my life to some extent, as any books do that are reread so frequently they are falling apart – and as Tennyson says, “I am a part of all that I have read” (just kidding). The readathon, including this book, was great fun (what’s next??). I looked forward to Chris’s posts each month, although tried not to read them until I had reread the book myself, and often read others’ reviews as well. It also made me reflect that there is so much fantasy being written now, children’s, YA, and adult, but it rarely speaks to me the way these books did or other favorites from my childhood. When I visited Green Knowe in June, Diana Boston said she had been told that modern children don’t want to read about a child younger than they are (Tolly). I don’t remember if that influenced me then but as I recall most of the protagonists I read about were roughly my age or older.
By the way, I am a little surprised that Tolkien did not attend CSL's funeral! Was it because Catholic priests disapproved of their parishioners going to Church of England services?