Okay, I know that my last two posts have been about Prince Caspian, but I promise this is my last post on Narnia (for now). Since seeing the movie, I've been thinking about Narnia (a lot). I got out my copies of A Field guide to Narnia by Colin Duriez and Companion to Narnia: A Completer Guide to The Magical World of C. S. Lewis's The Chronicles of Narnia by Paul F. Ford with a foreword by Madeleine L'Engle. These books are essentially similar being exhaustive compendiums of the characters, events and chronology of Narnia. They are immensely fun to read and interesting to those of us who wish to go "higher up and further in".
I was flipping around in A Field Guide to Narnia this morning and started to read the chapter, A Who's Who of the Making of Narnia. This chapter lists people in C. S. Lewis's life that had an impact on his writing the Chronicles of Narnia. There are several authors listed like G. K. Chesterton, Owen Barfield, and J.R.R. Tolkien. I was surprised to see Beatrix Potter listed as well. Since Miss Potter came out, I've been enchanted with her life as well and I never thought there was a connection between the two authors.
In Surprised by Joy, Lewis records that an early glimpse
of joy-the inconsolable longing that so features in his
writings-"came through Squirrel Nutkin; through it only,
though I loved all the Beatrix Potter books....It administered
the Shock....It troubled me with what I can only describe
as the idea of Autumn." Like an earlier experience, it made
him aware of nature as "something cool, dewy, fresh, exuberant."
The Beatrix Potter stories also helped Lewis see the potency of
talking animals, so central to the Chronicles.
Everyone knows how much influence J. R. R. Tolkien had on Lewis and his conversion to Christianity and his writings. Sometimes, I forget that others would have had an influence on his writings as well even if in a more peripheral way. I think of Beatrix Potter as an individual who inspired me to focus more on nature and to take joy from the beauty of creation and I think it most interesting that she had the same effect on C. S. Lewis in his time. Lewis's books focus heavily on nature and are a richer experience given his attention to detail to the trees, the animals and the land. With vivid descriptions of the landscape and Lewis's intent on making us focus on the natural world, he made both the English countryside and Narnia come alive.