We are just about to complete The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. We have been reading about one book a week, and while its always a blessing to read with my children, this is something more. The Chronicles of Narnia are not just great stories, they are richer. They contain wonderful insights into “intangible things” which are difficult to communicate by direct teaching or precise definition, and they contain these wonderfully illustrated in colour and “atmosphere” by C.S. Lewis. Things like nobility, courage, honour, authority, grace, our relationship to God in Christ’s humanity and his transcendence, sin, betrayal, confession and restoration, diligence, fear and how to face it, duty, appearances versus reality, longings for things wholly outside of our world, love, respect, fear of God, faithfulness, joy, dancing, feasting, merriment, solemnity, hard tasks, disappointments, stories of individual lives and larger stories of times and peoples, facing mystery, things that God won’t explain to you because its not your story or what would have happened, heaven, good battles and dastardly ones, bad leadership and good, fighting, what witches sound like, temptation, beauty, providence… There are more things; and to write about them all, at my snails pace, would take many days and besides others have done it better.
I highly recommend to fathers to read these stories with their children regularly. Not to dissect the books by many explanations, nor to kill them by preaching through them, but simply to enjoy and delight in them together. They then become a rich store of parables and experiences that you share with your children, from which you can draw parallels to events and happenings. In describing certain temptations as “the Witches’ turkish delight” draws in all that “atmosphere” and colouring of that event, that trap and snare and the betrayal it lead to, Eustace’s self-deception — all which one couldn’t explicitly define without being terribly tedious. In describing duty as Caspian having to go back to Narnia because he was king (therefore bound in duty) instead of doing what he wanted to do (go with Reepicheep), is again vastly improved by the simple comparison. Why does Peter have to kill the wolf, how does he feel about it? How does Digory get what he most wants? What kind of person was Eustace in his “stinker” phase? Why does Trumpkin go on what he believes is a fool’s errand? Why did Bree not want to enter Narnia after all? Who pushed Shasta to shore to live with the fisherman, and was this a “nice” life? What is so lovely in the character of Trufflehunter? What does a Calormene Tisroc want the world to look like? Why would the old Eustace prefer it to Narnia? How does King Lune behave with mercy and justice? How should one respond to the taunts of Rabedash? Why do Caspian and Edmund nearly come to a fight at Deathwater?
Douglas Wilson has written a book What I learned in Narnia which I highly recommend even though I haven’t exactly read it. He wrote several blog posts which became parts of the book, and all of them are excellent. Please read them and prepare yourself for delightful dialogue and analogy and comparisons with your children. It will enrich both their lives and yours with a wonderful Godly “atmosphere” of understanding which you couldn’t teach half as well if you tried: