When I was a little girl, I wanted to write C.S. Lewis a letter. I had never wanted to write a letter to an author before, but there was something about Lewis and Narnia that drew me in. I was devastated when I found out he was dead and I was going to have to wait until heaven to have a conversation with him. This is probably the reason that I bought a volume entitled: C.S. Lewis: Letters to Children the first time I came across it at Barnes and Noble. As I turned the pages, it was like I was reading words he might have written to me. It is not surprising, of course, that he was a good letter writer. For one thing, most people in his generation probably were and, well, he was C.S. Lewis. It’s his understanding of children and his ability to answer their questions without speaking down to them that amazes me. He never had any children of his own, but he himself was a child once, and I think he remembered well that stage of life. He writes with real empathy and his letters are beautiful, funny and informative.
I remember that I wanted to ask him questions about Aslan. I wanted to know if he intended Aslan to be like Jesus. Apparently many other children wondered, too. He mentions in several letters that children tend to see the similarities long before adults do. A whole class of fifth graders wrote to him in 1954 asking if the Narnia books were an allegory. He wrote back, “You are mistaken when you think that everything in the books ‘represents’ something in this world. Things do that in Pilgrim’s Progress but I’m not writing in that way. I did not say to myself, ‘Let us represent Jesus as He really is in our world by a Lion in Narnia’ : I said ‘Let us suppose that there were a land like Narnia and that the Son of God, as He became a Man in our world, became a Lion there, and then imagine what would happen.”
I also was a bit bothered by the fact that Aslan, as a lion, was rather more appealing to me as a child than the idea of Jesus as a man. I worried about it. Was I making Aslan an idol? Another boy named Laurence worried, too. His mother wrote to Lewis and he wrote back: “Now if Laurence is bothered because he finds the lion-body seems nicer to him than the man body, I don’t think he need be bothered at all. God knows all about the way a little boy’s imagination works (He made it, after all) and knows that at a certain age the idea of talking and friendly animals is very attractive. So I don’t think He minds if Laurence likes the Lion-body. And anyway, Laurence will find as he grows older, that feeling (liking the lion-body better) will die away of itself, without his taking any trouble about it. So he needn’t bother.” This is also true of little girls and Lewis was right; it was temporary.
There are bits of wisdom passed down on lots of other subjects as well, from books to read, to advice on writing prose and poetry, to little side remarks on culture and education. Lewis was very prompt in answering letters, so the fact that he answered a girl named Lucy on 14 September 1957 leads me to believe that she probably wrote to him about two weeks before that, which is when I was born. Lucy told Lewis how much his books meant to her. His answer makes me smile: “It makes me, I think, more humble than proud to know that Aslan has allowed me to be the means of making Him more real to you. Because He could have used anyone–as He made a donkey preach a good sermon to Balaam.” The work of C.S. Lewis has done much to make the Son of God more real to me and I, like Lucy before me, am grateful.