Summer vacations are an important part of the American culture. We plan for them all year, and if we are thrifty we prepare for them financially through the year. I have recently returned from one of the most memorable vacations I have ever taken—Narnia.
It began on a Friday. I picked up the first book (originally) of The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, and moved into the home of the uncle of some friends: Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy. Initially, we spent sunny days playing in the garden and rainy days playing hide-and-seek or exploring their uncle’s home. That was until Lucy discovered an entrance to Narnia—the wardrobe. We did not believe her at first, but eventually we all wandered through the wardrobe and into Narnia.
I would not do justice to Narnia describing it in my own words. It is one of those places you have to see to understand. I cannot say enough to encourage you to take your vacation there! After we met Mr. Tumnus, and later the White Witch (not a nice person, mind you—and do not eat any of her food, if she offers it!), we met the Beaver family. They were a nice family; Mrs. Beaver was especially hospitable. We then realized the importance of our presence there and entered into a journey that would forever change our hearts and minds.
We met Father Christmas, giants, centaurs, dryads and naiads, among a host of others, but most importantly, we met Aslan. By this time, Edmund had ditched us and had run off with the White Witch. That would be a mistake and he would come back, but at great cost. I will not give away too much information, and to tell my tale is better done over a meal and in person, but Narnia was at war. There was a great Emperor over the sea and Aslan the King, and my friends Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy who become kings and queens of Narnia. There was also the White Witch, a pretend queen who had usurped the throne. Battle was done, and we—humans—ascended forever to rule as kings and queens over Aslan’s creation.
The next day my four friends and I returned to Narnia once again, this time in Prince Caspian. Thousands of years had past since our previous visit (I should warn you, time moves differently in Narnia.) A great many changes had occurred—we barely came to recognize Cair Paravel! (This is where they were enthroned as kings and queens.) We met some dwarves and other characters. We saw Aslan again, always a great sight! And, we met Prince Caspian. It was a time of war. Kings and queens became warriors. We met the mightiest of warriors: Reepicheep. You will love him! When the battle was done, we feasted like warriors. Aslan knew how to celebrate!
The very next day, I returned to Narnia again—this time at sea in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. It was sad, though, because Peter and Susan did not join us. Instead, it was Edmund, Lucy, and their cousin, Eustace. Eustace was, well, painful to our nerves. He came around, though, and was much more likeable as our adventures in Narnia continued. This adventure included dragons, knights, one-legged hopping people, retired stars, and gold—lots of it. Oh, and Reepicheep is there, too! Did I mention you will love him?
I was back again the next day, this time with Eustace and his friend, Jill. In the Silver Chair we had to rescue Prince Rillian, who had been taken captive and locked away underground by the Jade Queen. Strange how these witch-queens kept wanting to usurp the throne of the sons and daughters of Adam and Eve! A fellow by the name of Puddleglum joined us on the journey. He was super helpful. I think you will love him, too. He might just be my favorite Narnian (excepting Aslan, of course!).
The next day’s adventure was quite strange. It was more like a history lesson in Narnia than an adventure. I was back, but this time I was accompanying a boy named Shasta and his horse—no wait, I was accompanying a horse named Bree and his boy, Shasta. Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy were there in The Horse and His Boy; it was one of their adventures while ruling over Narnia shortly after the end of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. There were lots of twins in this story, interesting poems, and good lessons. Shasta was not really Shasta; he was Cor. There is an interesting story behind that and it is all part of the adventure.
If the previous adventure was not strange enough, this one was even stranger. On this day’s adventure, I got to journey all the way back to the genesis (the beginning) of Narnia. In The Magician’s Nephew, I met Diggory and Polly as we traveled back to a time when the White Witch (I think she and the Jade Queen are the same person) was let loose—both in our world and in Narnia! Even more exciting, though, was when we got to hear Aslan sing Narnia into creation! The song was beautiful, unlike any you have ever heard. However, there was danger because of the Witch. Diggory got to help fix some of that because Aslan was so merciful. I had lots of fun on this adventure.
This day was the saddest, because it was the last. The Last Battle, with Eustace and Jill again, detailed the end of Narnia. Lots of characters from all of the Narnian adventures were there, but it was sad. Well, it was both sad and joyful. There was frustration because of an ape that was misrepresenting Aslan, a kind of anti-Aslan. That misrepresentation led to the end of Narnia—all a great sadness. It also led, however, to the reality of Narnia, a reunion with friends, and an eternity with Aslan—all a great joy. It is strange to think of what I could mean by “the reality of Narnia;” you will have to take the adventure yourself to see exactly what I mean. Even in that joy, however, it was sad because no more stories were penned from Narnia, so my vacation ended, too. But I will forever remember the friends I met—did I mention Reepicheep and Puddleglum? And I will forever remember the adventures we experienced.
Tour guides always accompany really exotic adventures. One might travel to the Gateway Arch in St. Louis without a guide, but one does not generally travel to an exotic place like China or Africa without one. That is how Narnia is. I took two tour guides along with me on my adventures. Douglas Wilson wrote a book called What I Learned in Narnia. I took him along as a tour guide through Narnia. He helped point out lots of lessons I was able to learn along the way—some I might have missed without his help! He taught me about obedience, honor, nobility, love for Aslan, and storytelling by showing me how my friends in Narnia practiced and exemplified these things. He was quite helpful.
The other tour guide I took with me was Michael Ward. He has a book called Planet Narnia (I think he has a less scholarly version called The Narnia Code). He was helpful in pointing out lots of symbolism and language usage to me. It might not jump out immediately to the casual reader, but there is a reason why The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe is all about kings and queens and emphasizes ruling and royalty. Likewise, there is a reason why Prince Caspian is all about war and warriors, obedience and honor. It all connects and makes great sense when Ward is there to guide you through it all.
As I said, a vacation in Narnia is amazing. It is probably one of those vacations you could take every summer. Maybe the first summer (this summer!) you could take Douglas Wilson along as a tour guide (I read his book immediately following the seven Chronicles). Then, next summer, you could vacation there again and take Michael Ward along. There are other tour guides as well; I will take another one along next summer myself. Either way, it will be hard to find a better vacation spot than Narnia this summer. You can even take your family with you, going there together in the evenings. That might mean no television for a week, but they would not miss it—not while in Narnia!