08 December 2005

The Narnia That I Remember


This isn't really a comment about the movie, but it DOES have to do with Narnia.. Actually, it's just some kinda corny blabbering by a guy who had real-life childhood experiences of Narnia; a guy who later learned about the realities of his less-than-magical world; and a guy who wants to re-live his Narnian days..

If you're already bored with the way I write, then please don't go on reading, coz I'm that guy.. :P
The Narnia That I Remember

As a child, I was such a big fan of Narnia and the lands and oceans surrounding it. From the Magician's Nephew to The Last Battle, I made sure there wasn't a page to be missed in all the seven books in the Chronicles of Narnia series. Some of the stories were less interesting than others, but that didn't stop me from finishing them all.

The experience of Narnia, for me, started in 1987 when I was seven or eight years old. I come from Malaysia yet it was my fourth year of schooling in Coventry, England (Holbrooks Infant School & Holbrooks Junior School, which were later named Holbrooks Primary School).

Everyday, the class would have a 15-minutes-or-so session called "Story Time". My class teacher, Mrs. Blakemore, would let us all gather round and she would read us a few pages of a story book. Where there's suspense in the plot, that's where she would usually stop reading, leaving us curious and eager to listen to the continuation the following day. During one fine school-term, the book she was reading was by a C.S.Lewis. Its title; "The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe" (LWW).

Being the adventure-seeking children that my classmates and I were, the story fascinated us so much that we all wanted to be like the children "trapped" in the wardrobe. However, it wasn't just the adventures in a magical land that captivated me. There was a whole lot more going on.

For starters, there was the traditional "good against evil" script, where even as children, we were able to understand the bad consequences of greed and corruption. But, more importantly for me, it was also the co-operation between humans, animals and the forest that made me feel like I wanted to be a part of the story. A world where flora and fauna can communicate with humans seemed to be ideal to me at the time. After all, at that age, I was very much concerned about the environment, especially with the hole in the Ozone layer being discussed everywhere around me and my disgust towards pollution was becoming a bit serious.

(Mrs. Blakemore, wherever you are, do you still remember the series of stories I wrote relating to animals and plants during your "Daily Writing" sessions -- when I was actually supposed to be writing a kind of diary? You even asked my parents about where I got my ideas from. Although the ideas for those stories were my own, I was probably inspired by LWW!)

Since LWW was so popular among the students of the whole batch, all the class teachers collectively decided to choose LWW as the story for the school-term play.

I was chosen to act. I played Peter, one of the main characters in the show. Mrs. Blakemore would concentrate on coordinating our acting and costumes for the play. She would be very strict, but we didn't mind as we liked the story and we wanted the play to be a success.

Like most of our school plays in Holbrooks, the format would be part-drama part-sing-along, so the batch choir group would be busy aswell. Miss Fortescue the choir teacher and Mr. Burnasconey the school-assembly pianist (both were class teachers too) would write rhyming song lyrics and adapt them to nice tunes for the batch choir group to sing during the play.

Like any other school play, the actors and choir singers were all children (duh) and we would do a few rounds of the show for a few days. We tried to perform better when our parents were invited to watch our show.

Then, in 1989, as if reminding me that I don't deserve to grow up with my thespian intentions, I had to go back to Malaysia and plunge myself into the school system there, where the realities of "Alam dan Manusia" (a Science Subject) replaced the fantasies of Narnia. Later on, life in a boarding school dubbed as "a training ground for future leaders yadda yadda" further forced me into accepting the hard facts of life, where my ideals became more and more influenced by news & politics rather than literature & art.

As I could recall, it was only once during my teenage years (in the mid-90s) did I come across a newspaper article that mentioned the Chronicles of Narnia. It was an interview with a Malaysian actress Sofia Jane who was asked about her favourite childhood books. For a short while, the fond memories of my younger days came back to me. But, that soon disappeared, of course.

The more I became an adult, the more I realized why the late Mr. Lewis only intended children and animals to become the heroines and heroes in his stories. Adults are too indulged in the real world. Adults aren't capable of delivering the messages of Narnia.

Now, more than a decade after the newspaper interview, and almost two decades after my school play, Walt Disney is releasing the motion picture of LWW. I should be cautious to note that the movie might just turn out to be what I fear it to be, and that is, a spoiler of sorts to the potential of a child's imagination.

However, in a way, I'm also happy that they've made it into a movie. That way, probably more children would embrace the messages of the story in their own creative ways, and take the initiative to explore the other stories in the Chronicles.

Perhaps, even I would be able to see myself as a child in the movie, and enter a world where ideals of compassion triumph and where boring adults have no say. Whatever the case may be, this is truly a show that I won't miss.