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Explain the Magic in Narnia & Middle Earth

- Book Reviews of The Chronicles of Narnia & The Lord of the Rings -


Dear TIA,

Salve Maria!

After reading your critique of Little Women, I have started to question many of the books I once trusted.

The Chronicles of Narnia

What about the magic in the Narnia Chronicles
and The Lord of the Rings?

lord of the rings
One thing I have especially been wondering about is fantasy stories such as The Lord of the Rings and The Chronicles of Narnia. I found the excellent condemnation of the Harry Potter series on your site and was wondering whether some of that would apply to these other fantasy stories as well. After all, in The Lord of the Rings, Gandalf and the other "wizards" have magical powers, the Elf queen Galadriel has a mirror/pool that shows future events, and the Narnia stories seem to have even more in the way of magic.

You have stressed the importance of symbolism. Are things like Gandalf's pointed wizard's hat and the Palantir, which could be confused with a crystal ball, going to lead people astray? However, I also remember seeing on your site a recommendation of The Princess and the Goblin story. It seems like this also has some amount of magic, since the great grandmother can make herself invisible and do other magical things. So, what is allowable and what is forbidden in terms of magic in stories?

The Lord of the Rings and Narnia stories were some of my favorite books growing up, but now I am unsure whether or not they belong on my family's bookshelves and whether they are good books to recommend to friends. Heaven is too dear to risk, so I don't want to encourage anything harmful, however pleasurable. Especially as we seem to be entering the 4.5 Revolution and nearing the coming of the devil, as predicted by Prof. Plinio, I don't want to be in possession of anything even bordering on the occult.

So, are the Lord of the Rings and Narnia stories healthy to read? Is the "magic" in them dangerous, as it is in Harry Potter? If not, why not?

I was getting confused trying to think through it, so I had to ask, though I know you are busy with so many more important things.

Thank you so much for your wonderful work. You have helped me to love the wonderful world of Catholic Tradition very much and to understand the principles of Revolution and Counter-Revolution so much better.

     Nos cum Prole Pia, benedicat Virgo Maria,

     J.L.
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Dr. Horvat & Miss Elizabeth Lozowski respond:

Dear Mrs. J.L.,

Thank you for your kind words of support and encouragement.

You are wise to follow the path of seriousness and try to give your children proper nourishment of mind and soul, and not just of body. So many mothers today are concerned about the physical health of their children and spend hours analyzing the labels on food and tracking down organic products. Then, they ignore the more important sphere, health of soul, and allow their children access to poisonous revolutionary books and internet games and programs.

First, we would like to state that we do recommend the books The Lord of the Rings and The Chronicles of Narnia (with some caveats) as wholesome sources of entertainment. We will give some reasons why below, and also explain why we think the movies and fan clubs should be avoided.

The magic in Narnia & Middle Earth

It is true, as you observed, that there is magic in both of those series. Witchcraft and sorcery are evil, so you wonder if the magic in these stories could lead children to dabble in the occult. We respond that the magic of Narnia and Middle Earth is quite different from the magic of Harry Potter.

witchcraft

The witchcraft and occult world in Harry Potter is presented as good & invites children to imitate it

Harry Potter explicitly promotes a school of witchcraft and wizardry. All of the characters in that series cast spells, do fortune-telling, fly on brooms and openly enter into the occult. The plot revolves around a group of witches and wizards who are suppressed and misunderstood by normal people and who were once “unjustly condemned” in the Middle Ages. It is clearly hostile toward the Catholic Church, which suppressed any sort of witchcraft, making no distinctions between "black" and the supposedly innocuous "white" type. Dabbling in witchcraft, Ouija boards, tarot cards etc - all were always expressly and wisely forbidden by the Church and preached to be sins.

Now, the author of The Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien, was a devout Catholic, and, although the author of Narnia, C.S. Lewis, was not Catholic, he had a great admiration for the Middle Ages and Christendom. Therefore, neither of these books was meant to be antagonistic towards the Church.

Then, one may ask, why would Tolkien and C.S. Lewis put magic into their stories? The answer is really quite simple: because The Lord of the Rings and The Chronicles of Narnia are fairy stories. As anyone who reads fairy tales knows, magic is often part of the stories. It is a well-known fact that in the world of fairy tales magic is normal, precisely because it is a world beyond reality, a world of symbols and hidden truths.

Since magic is an appeal to preternatural powers that man does not have, we would say that the good magic, like the one of the fairy tales, brings us closer to the Angels, while the bad magic to the devils.

The magic in these books serves a purpose for the overall meaning of the story rather than being the source of an occult power (excepting of course the evil villains), whereas in Harry Potter, magic and its practice is the central aspect of the story. The result is that, after reading Harry Potter, the reader finds himself wanting to recite spells and incantations, an impulse that does not occur after reading The Lord of the Rings or The Chronicles of Narnia.

Tolkien

Tolkien, a Catholic, called The Lord of the Rings ‘a fundamentally religious work’; below, the fantastical imagery of the elf world

 elf world
The Lord of the Rings was based on old Anglo-Saxon legends, and Tolkien included many Catholic elements and principles in the stories. For instance, the One Ring, which would lead to the victory of the evil, is destroyed on March 25, the day of the Annunciation. Indeed, in a letter to Robert Morray, (Letter 142) Tolkien himself confessed the Catholicity of his work:

“I think I know exactly what you mean by the order of Grace; and of course by your references to Our Lady, upon which all my own small perception of beauty both in majesty and simplicity is founded. The Lord of the Rings is of course a fundamentally religious and Catholic work; unconsciously so at first, but consciously in the revision.

"That is why I have not put in, or have cut out, practically all references to anything like 'religion,' to cults or practices, in the imaginary world. For the religious element is absorbed into the story and the symbolism. However that is very clumsily put, and sounds more self-important than I feel. For as a matter of fact, I have consciously planned very little; and should chiefly be grateful for having been brought up (since I was eight) in a Faith that has nourished me and taught me all the little that I know; and that I owe to my mother, who clung to her conversion and died young, largely through the hardships of poverty resulting from it.”

In essence, The Lord of the Rings is a fairy tale made into a novel with beautiful prose and poetry, a story with Catholic symbols of heroism, self-sacrifice and grace, by the author's open admission. It is quite different from modern fantasy stories that are written poorly, filled with action, and deplete of meaning. In fact, it would be more appropriate to remove it from the genre of fantasy all together and place it back in the world of fairy tales from which it was drawn.

The same can be said for The Chronicles of Narnia, which also integrates many Catholic principles and symbolism. For instance, Aslan, the great Lion, is an obvious symbol of Christ. Like J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis admits his symbolic intent, which makes the books more than just simple fantasy stories. What is particularly appreciable in Narnia is Lewis’ admiration of childhood innocence and imagination, both of which add a certain charm and beauty to the stories.

However, because C.S. Lewis was not a Catholic, (1) a few Protestant ideas creep into the storyline. For example, in The Last Battle, the children meet a man who has served the evil god Tash by doing good deeds in the new Narnia (or heaven) because, although he thought he was serving Tash, he has unknowingly been serving Aslan. Lewis is clearly indicating by this that a Muslim can be saved without having to convert. Yet, in spite of such errors (which can and should be explained to your children), the spirit of The Chronicles helps a good formation.

narnia

A playful illustration from an early edition
of The Chronicles of Narnia

As you mentioned, there is also magic in Narnia, and it is a little different from Middle Earth in that the children in the story come from 19th century England, rather than the whole story being set in a different world. But it cannot properly be called witchcraft, for the children travel to a new world - a fairy world where magic is natural. The witches in the story are blatantly evil, and they are the only characters who truly cast spells and incantations.

Also, it is evident to the reader that the children, when they have returned from Narnia to England, clearly understand that it is very bad to play with magic. This is seen, for example, in The Magician’s Nephew, where the boy’s uncle is a bad magician who dabbles in things over which he has no power. And even when they are in Narnia - the fairy world - the children never try to use magic.

There is only one instance in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader in which Lucy goes into the house of the Magician to find the Magic Book, which she must use to undo an evil spell the Magician cast. Yet, when flipping through the book, none of the spells that she sees are written out or spoken. Most of them are clearly temptations that she must overcome. The Magician also turns out to be good, and, even though Lewis should have perhaps avoided including such a character, he is presented more as a St. Nicholas-figure who uses magic to make marvelous things.

As you can see, there is a significant contrast to this use of magic and the magic used in Harry Potter, which uses real spells and potions of witches and wizards. The magic that Lewis and Tolkien envisioned is a fairy-world magic, which depicts and clearly delineates what is evil and good, ugly and beautiful, truth and error. In short, the world of Narnia and the world of Middle Earth invite the child into the world of the marvelous.

Personally, we have both read these stories in our childhood, and we can say that they did not harm us or turn us away from the Catholic Faith. Instead, they inspired us have more admiration for heroism and to see the world through the marvelous. In a certain way they help us on the path of the Counter-Revolution, which rejects the modern world with its vulgar customs and relativist morals.

Do not watch the movies or enter the fan clubs

Now, this being said, the fan club and cult following surrounding both The Lord of the Rings and Narnia should be avoided at all costs.

wedding

Obsessed fans have a ‘Middle Earth wedding’; below, occult & gnostic imagery in the Hollywood films

Gnostic world of Hollywood
It is something that Tolkien would have highly detested, for in his essay On Fairy Stories he writes against Escapist literature. Likewise, Lewis did not intend to write a fantasy story that would generate a kind of mania in the youth. Many persons today are transforming The Lord of the Rings and Narnia into a type of Escapist world, as a means to escape reality rather than to enrich reality.

These fans have distorted the stories and turned them into an obsession beyond reason, a position that was strongly promoted and accelerated by the Hollywood movies made of these works, all of which have Gnostic and occult tendencies in many scenes. But that is a subject for another article.

Sadly it is a modern tendency for people to become obsessed over a certain book, movie or actor/actress, because the modern man has become imbalanced and lacks personality. The balanced Catholic should not become too attached to any fictional work that crosses his path. On the contrary, he will use all things to better know and understand Creation and himself and to bring greater glory to God. It is in this spirit that we recommend reading The Lord of the Rings and The Chronicles of Narnia, while we strongly advise not watching the movies or entering the fan clubs or web blogs.

The education of your children should naturally have books that support the foundations of the Catholic Faith and the lives of the saints. These secondary books that you read for entertainment should not become the center of your home life and conversation, but can certainly enrich your children's imagination and lives with marvelous and beautiful imagery and scenes. As long as Our Lord and Our Lady are the center of your home, your children should not be drawn into an addiction to or obsession over fairy stories.

We hope this is of some help to you.

      Cordially,

      Dr. Marian T. Horvat & Miss Elizabeth A. Lozowski


Marvellous tales

The good world
of the marvelous for children

  1. Although we believe that the mentioned book by C.S. Lewis can contribute to the good formation of children, we warn our readers that this opinion does not imply our approval of his other works or opinions.

    On the contrary, we at TIA condemn unconditionally C.S. Lewis' denial of the role of Our Lady as Co-Redeemer and Mediatrix of All Graces. For example, he wrote to his friend H. Lyman Stebbins, an American agnostic who was considering becoming a Catholic, this argument against the Catholic Faith: "Thus a Catholic theology about the Blessed Virgin Mary I reject because it seems utterly foreign to the New Testament..."

    Likewise, among other errors, he did not accept the doctrine of Transubstantiation, which, he wrote "insists on defining in a way which the New Testament seem to me not to countenance."
Posted October 6, 2020

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