CS Lewis letter tells tales of Narnia

When a little girl wrote to CS Lewis asking him for an explanation of the story behind the Chronicles of Narnia, she never expected to get a reply.

But the letter Anne Jenkins from Hertfordshire received when she was just 10-years-old is to be displayed in Queen’s University’s new CS Lewis Reading Room.

Anne wrote to the Belfast born author in 1961 after being intrigued by a particular passage in The Silver Chair.

Recalling that time, Anne said she was fascinated by the books and the mystical world of Narnia.

“I just used to scrutinise them quite carefully and it was a little bit at the end of The Silver Chair, that I just didn’t understand what he was saying,” she said.

“It was where the dead king Caspian is brought back to life by Aslan the lion’s blood and Eustace says ‘hasn’t he died’ and the lion says ‘yes he has died, most people have you know, even I have, there are very few people who haven’t’.

“For some reason this stuck in my brain , so I asked my parents what does he mean by saying that most people have died?

“They didn’t know, so they said that I should write and ask him.”

Christian theme

There is a widely held view that CS Lewis’ Narnian chronicles carry a predominantly Christian theme.

And as far as Anne is aware, her letter is the only known document from the author which supports the argument that Alsan represented Jesus Christ.

Anne said she has often thought about what exactly was in the author’s mind at the time he wrote to her.

“I think it must have been the mood he was in at the time, his wife had died a couple of years before, maybe he was just thinking about it a lot at the time,” she said.

“I see it as a coincidence, but maybe not.”

In the letter Lewis simply states that the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe tells the story of the “Crucifixion of Christ and the resurrection”.

He also explains that the story of Prince Caspian “tells the restoration of the true religion after the corruption”.

“If you read the letter he wrote to other children, none of them are like this at all,” Anne said.

Wardrobe

Anne believes the letter is just too important a piece of historical literature not to be shared with the world.

“The letter could easily have got lost it is just lucky I have kept it safe all of these years, she said.

“The letter is so valuable and really needs to go into the public domain now rather than where I’ve kept it in a wardrobe, which is quite appropriate.”

The letter will be displayed in Queen’s University’s new £44m library, which is due to open in 2009.

Until then it will be kept in the university library’s special collection.

Narnia DVD re-creates behind-the-scenes magic

The young foursome who star in The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe know how impassioned the fans of C.S. Lewis‘ classic books are.

“I found out the sequel (Prince Caspian) was happening through a teacher,” says Skandar Keynes, 14, who portrays Edmund, one of the four Pevensie siblings in the film, which is new on DVD this week. He jokes, “She had the inside knowledge.”

Adds Georgie Henley, 10, who plays Lucy: “My teacher did the same thing to me because she saw it in the newspaper that I said yes (I was going to be in the sequel). I haven’t said no, but I haven’t said yes.”

As for their status on appearing in the second Narnia film, “to be honest, it’s really a verbal contract,” says William Moseley, 18, who plays Peter. “We have been told the sequel is happening, but we have no idea when, we don’t know where and we have no idea how. We just have to sort of sit back and let the big guys work it out.”

Narnia producer Mark Johnson says Wardrobe director Andrew Adamson and screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely are working on a Prince Caspian screenplay, and he expects all four young stars to return. The film is scheduled for release in Christmas 2007.

In the meantime, the stars say they hope people will get an idea how much fun it was to work on The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe through the DVD. Disney is releasing a $30 single-disc version and a $35 collector’s edition, with a bonus disc of extra features. [Full Screen | Widescreen | Collector’s Edition]

“I really hoped that, when people saw it, they got to see how much fun we had doing it,” says Anna Popplewell (Susan). “If that didn’t come across in the film, it will come across on the DVD because in the bonus material, there’s a lot of insights into the making of the movie.”

Beyond unveiling special-effects secrets (though there’s plenty of that), the DVD profiles many of the creative crewmembers, such as Weta Workshop supervisor Richard Taylor, costume designer Isis Mussenden, composer Harry Gregson-Williams and makeup effects chief Howard Berger.

In Berger’s profile, he says he visited Taylor at the Weta Workshop during Lord of the Rings production and wondered “if I’m ever going to have the opportunity to work on a film where I buy it 100%. Where I just really believe this is real. That ended up happening. (For about a year), we all lived in Narnia.”

The profiles of the people in charge of the look of Narnia “is unlike any other DVD behind-the-scenes (feature),” Berger says. “A lot of behind-the-scenes are so technical and specialized about things that they miss the heart of the film.”

The family dynamic that developed on the Wardrobe set, Johnson says, made the experience “more than just a movie for everyone concerned and somehow we wanted to make sure that was conveyed in the behind-the-scenes stuff.”

Adamson sought to foster a relaxed feel on the set to comfort the child stars, none of whom had worked on a major motion picture. “The beauty of what we wanted to impart here was how much a labor of love it was,” Johnson says.

“For me it’s such a really nice memoir,” Moseley says. “People can get a little bit of insight what it was like for us.”

Among the scenes documented on the DVD are Henley’s first visit to the faux-snowy Narnia set and her initial glimpse of the fawn, Mr. Tumnus (James McAvoy).

“They hadn’t actually told me anything about his appearance, so when I first saw him, I screamed,” she says. “Well, I had to scream anyway, because it was in the script, but I screamed anyway, because he was in horns and a tail and had his fur and stuff. It was pretty surreal.”

The four young actors say they got along. “If we hadn’t, it would have been a nightmare,” Popplewell says.

A rapid-fire DVD commentary track that they did with Adamson offers a flavor of their rapport.

“Anna and Skandar were having a debate about how tall they were,” Henley says.

Chronicles of Narnia

“I am taller than her,” Keynes interjects.

Henley counters, “No, you’re not.”

“He definitely is now,” Popplewell concedes.

“You see, we are nothing like siblings whatsoever,” Moseley says.