We’ve been reading the Narnia books around here — or more accurately, I’ve been reading the Narnia books and the kids have been demanding just one more chapter and then counting the pages to prove the next chapter wasn’t that long, Mommy, come on. I loved these books when I was a kid — Susan’s shutout at the end of “The Last Battle” notwithstanding — so I’m happy my kids are enjoying them as well.
For movie night recently, I showed them the recent version of “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe,” which I thought was generally well done, with a good cast, a well-animated Aslan and enjoyable added time with Mr. Tumnus. (Also: Susan actually gets to use the bow and arrow. Honestly, why give the girls weapons if they’re not supposed to do any fighting? Totally misleading of you, Father Christmas.) The prologue scene, showing the Pevensies hiding in the backyard bomb shelter before being shipped off to the country, seemed like a necessary way into the story for kids who haven’t learned about World War II yet. It served two purposes for me: It gave me a starting point to explain World War II and why the Pevensies needed to leave their home in the first place, and it illustrated what I’d been telling them about how the book is always different from the movie. The movie can’t fit all of the book, I explained, because then the movie would be way too long, so the people who made the movie had to decide which parts to focus on and which parts to leave out. I figure if I’m going to introduce them to the arts, they should understand what they’re looking at.
They caught on quickly, noticing other things in the movie that hadn’t been in the book, and vice versa. My son pointed out that when Father Christmas dropped by with gifts for the children, he neglected to also leave the tea service (and didn’t even mention anything for Mr. and Mrs. Beaver, poor things).
What I want is for them to see that the book and the movie are separate works of art, and for them to appreciate each in its own right. The book is almost always better (says the writer), but sometimes the movie handles a character or a scene more elegantly than the book did. For instance, giving Susan and Lucy more to do in the movie. Or suggesting that Peter and Edmund are each motivated in different ways by their father being away in the war.
The kids enjoyed the movie so much that we’ll have to see the next one soon, though the Disney-Walden Media versions stop at “Voyage of the Dawn Treader” (supposedly “The Silver Chair” is in development). In the meantime, we have to get started reading “The Silver Chair.” We took a break to read “The Little Prince,” since the movie was originally supposed to open last weekend. And then Paramount dropped it, and Netflix is going to air it instead, and who knows when that will be? But at least whenever they do, we’ll be prepared.