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Into the Wardrobe: C. S. Lewis and the Narnia Chronicles [Paperback]

By David C. Downing (Author)
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Item description for Into the Wardrobe: C. S. Lewis and the Narnia Chronicles by David C. Downing...

Revealing the surprising depth of this richly entertaining children's series, this volume offers an insightful and detailed look at the stories, with special attention to the author's life experiences, psychology, theology, love of medievalism, and literary craftsmanship.

Publishers Description
Published in the early 1950s, C. S. Lewis's seven "Chronicles of Narnia" were proclaimed instant children's classics and have been hailed in "The Oxford Companion to Children's Literature" as "the most sustained achievement in fantasy for children by a 20th-century author." But how could Lewis (a formidable critic, scholar, and Christian apologist)conjure up the kind of adventures in which generations of children (and adults) take such delight? In this engaging and insightful book, C. S. Lewis expert David C. Downing invites readers to join his vivid exploration of the "Chronicles of Narnia," offering a detailed look at the enchanting stories themselves and also focusing on the extraordinary intellect and imagination of the man behind the Wardrobe.

Downing presents each Narnia book as its own little wardrobe - each tale an opportunity to discover a visionary world of bustling vitality, sparkling beauty, and spiritual clarity. And Downing's examination of C. S. Lewis's personal life shows how the content of these classic children's books reflects Lewis's love of wonder and story, his affection for animals and homespun things, his shrewd observations about human nature, along with his vast reading, robust humor, theological speculations, medieval scholarship, and arcane linguistic jokes. A fun glossary of odd and invented words will allow readers to speak with Narnian flair, regaling friends and family with unusual words like cantrips, poltoonery, hastilude, and skirling. A masterful work that will appeal to both new and seasoned fans of Narnia, "Into the Wardrobe" offers a journey beyond Narnia's deceptively simple surface and into its richly textured and unexpected depths.

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Item Specifications...

Studio: Jossey-Bass
Pages   256
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 8.14" Width: 5.17" Height: 0.73"
Weight:   0.53 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   May 1, 2008
Publisher   Jossey-Bass/A Wiley Co.
ISBN  0470248394  
ISBN13  9780470248393  

Availability  0 units.

More About David C. Downing

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David C. Downing is a leading C. S. Lewis expert, award-winning author, and professor of English at Elizabethtown College in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. His articles about Lewis have appeared in such publications as Christianity Today, Christianity and Literature, Books & Culture, Christian Scholars Review, and numerous other journals. His books include Planets in Peril, about the Space Trilogy; The Most Reluctant Convert, a biography of Lewis that was named one of the Top Ten Religion Books of the Year by the American Library Association; and Into the Region of Awe, a study of the mystical elements in Lewis's life and writings.

David C. Downing currently resides in Lancaster.

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Reviews - What do customers think about Into the Wardrobe: C. S. Lewis and the Narnia Chronicles?

Insight into Narnia  Jan 11, 2006
Into the Wardrobe by David C. Downing offers some unique insights into the Chronicles of Narnia while keeping its scholarly views readable.

Downing begins his book rather unimaginatively with a brief biography of C. S. Lewis, but soon turns to explore the conception of each of the Chronicles in the order Lewis wrote them. The next chapter discusses the books' spiritual vision, focusing on the various aspects of Aslan: creator, redeemer, judge, etc. In "Moral Psychology," Downing points out how Lewis portrayed qualities both positive and negative, with Edmund and Eustace as examples. In "Classical and Medieval Elements", the author demonstrates how Lewis used include hierarchy and chivalry within his series.

The heart of Downing's book delves into the names Lewis gave to characters and places, and researches possible origins. Lucy and Jill were young girls Lewis knew, Aslan means "lion" in Turkish, and an Italian village was once called Narnia. The book ends with a chapter on Lewis's literary abilities, an appendix of terms and allusions used in the Chronicles, extensive notes, bibliography, and index.

While Into the Wardrobe proves Downing's claim of C. S. Lewis expert, one mistake jarred throughout the book. He seemed not to realize Jadis from The Magician's Nephew and the White Witch of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe are the same person. He entertains the possibility due to a letter Lewis wrote, but completely ignores the White Witch being called Jadis in the report of Tumnus' arrest.

Apart from this minor point, this book is an excellent resource for all Narnia fans. It offers insight for everyone who loves Narnia - from curious children to literary scholars - although its aim lies more toward the latter. -- Katie Hart, Christian Book
A nice little analysis of Narnia  Jan 10, 2006
When I finished the Narnia series as an adult, I still had questions regarding some of the things I found in the series. While Downing's book did not answer all of my questions, it did give me some background into the life and mind of the great C.S. Lewis. It was a quick read with much information as to specific references within the series and has an incredible list of other works to reference in regards to Lewis and the Narnia chronicles.
An Essential Aid for Explorations into Narnia  Dec 4, 2005
This book helps the Narnia Chronicles spring to light and life. The author enriches one's understanding of the man behind the story, the story behind the story, and the story itself. This is superbly written and accessible.
Stands Out in a Crowd  Nov 14, 2005
David C. Downing's INTO THE WARDROBE is one of the best Narnia guides in print. Downing is a leading C.S. Lewis expert and his familiarity with the subject matter gives this book unusual insight and depth.

Those who have just discovered "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe" will find here the background information they were looking for but will also discover a thoughtful and and highly readable exploration of Lewis's themes and artistry that they may have overlooked.

And those who are familiar with Narnia from numerous readings and re-readings will find new insights and little known information here. For example, Downing explores the influences on Lewis of the "Arabian Nights" and the obscure "Voyage of Saint Brendan." Downing also dug deep to find the origins of some distinctive Narnian names such as "Puddleglum"
and "Prunaprismia."

Downing's INTO THE WARDROBE will certainly make the reading of the Narnia Chronicles more rewarding and it is a good read in its own right. Highly recommended.
Lewis' Ingredients for Creating Narnia  Sep 18, 2005
C.S Lewis is most widely known today for his children's tales, The Chronicles of Narnia. However, David C. Downing notes in Into the Wardrobe: C.S. Lewis and the Narnia Chronicles that, "some of his contemporaries were shocked when the eminent C.S. Lewis started writing children's stories." (XIV) Lewis had written some fiction previously, a sci-fi trilogy, The Great Divorce, and some poetry, as well as some notable literary work, but not fiction for children. So when the Chronicles began to be written, what emerged was not merely fairy tales for children, but a magnificent composition of classical, medieval, and modern ideas filtered through the creative theological imagination of C.S. Lewis.

Into the Wardrobe explores the background of Narnia in the life and thought of C.S. Lewis. As should any book of this nature, Dr. Downing begins in Chapter 1 with a biography of Lewis. In Chapter 2 we are introduced to the writing of the Chronicles in the order they were composed. Here Dr. Downing offers a summary of each book and some explanations of their origins, including the lost Lefay fragment that was a potential beginning of The Magician's Nephew.

The last five chapters examine the content of the series categorically. Chapter 3 takes on the "spiritual vision" of the Chronicles. The spirituality of the series is seen through the perspective of Aslan, who is envisioned as "a Numinous Being," "Supremely Good," "Creator," "Co-Sufferer," "Redeemer," "Comfort and Guide" and "Judge." Next, Dr. Downing examines is the morality taught throughout the series through Edmund's failures, technology, and the virtues of honesty, empathy, privacy, and trust.

Chapter 5 looks into the classical and medieval elements found in the Chronicles including hierarchy, chivalry, magic, and astrology. For those who have wondered where Lewis might have gotten the names for his characters, this is described in detail in Chapter 6. The final chapter deals with the literary legacy of the series and grapples with a few of the criticisms that have been made of them and Lewis himself.

Into the Wardrobe was almost consistently a stimulating read. My favorite chapters were the one on the spiritual roles of Aslan and the one about classical and medieval elements. For the former, as with most Narnia fans I suspect, I can never get enough of informed Aslan discussion. For the latter, the scholarly work of Lewis in classical and medieval studies is usually only a footnote in what I've read. Dr. Downing shows that this area of Lewis' life and study is just as important as the rest and played an influential role in the formation of the Chronicles. The only chapter I didn't care much for was the one on Narnian names. Perhaps due to the subject at hand, at a couple instances I felt like I was reading a genealogy in the book of Numbers

David Downing offers us a thought-provoking behind-the-scenes look at what went into the writing of The Chronicles of Narnia. His knowledge of the subject matter and accessible writing style make this book an educational and enjoyable read at the same time.

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