THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA: THE LION, THE WITCH AND THE WARDROBE: Chris Tomlin, Jeremy Camp, Nichole Nordeman, Rebecca St James, Steven Curtis Chapman, Bethany Dillon and Dan Haseltine say how CS Lewis' classic has inspired them.
It's not every day that devotees of Christian-orientated art find themselves on the brink of a mass media mega-hit which should see millions of non-church-goers enjoying the art and, for some, imbibing the message. But with the worldwide cinema release this month of The Chronicles Of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe we have a mouthwatering prospect - CS Lewis' enchanting children's fantasy and Christian allegory, turned into a Hollywood blockbuster with a budget reportedly exceeding $160 million. For most Christians of course, the seven books in Lewis' captivating fantasy of beavers and elves and glorious battles and an enchanted world you can only enter through a prosaic wardrobe are some of the most enduring expressions of Christian culture. Since the first Narnia Chronicle was published in 1952 the books have clocked up a staggering 85 million copies. Yet, though believers will identify very much with the books as a spiritual allegory, with the lion Aslan overcoming death in a clear pointer to the Resurrection, many non-Christians will simply enjoy the movie as an enchanting fantasy. Said Bruce Edwards, author of Not A Tame Lion, "There are many people who have no clue as to the Christian background of The Chronicles Of Narnia. It's been 55 years since The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe appeared and the biblical literacy on both sides of the ocean has obviously gone down. Despite its gripping story telling, the cinematic version of Lord Of The Rings somewhat glossed over the underlying Christian content of author JRR Tolkein's huge work. Hearteningly, there seems little chance that the producers of The Chronicles Of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe will play fast and loose with Lewis' original stories. CS Lewis' stepson, Douglas Gresham, acted as co-producer of the film and maintained tight creative control of the project. He told CCM magazine that he vowed not to "change the words of the master," and, indeed, Disney's producer/director Rick Dempsey commented they couldn't sneeze without getting Gresham's okay.
"I think I have made something of a nuisance of myself since day one," Gresham laughed. "As co-producer of the movie, and creative and artistic director of the CS Lewis Company, it is my responsibility to ensure that everything in the movie, and in all the ancillary products and merchandise that go with it, is Narnian where it is Narnian, if you see what I mean. The creatures of Narnia must be Narnian creatures. They must look Narnian, they must feel Narnian. That's where I come in. I grew up in Narnia, in a sense. It is a huge challenge to all of us because one of the hallmarks of The Chronicles is that anyone and everyone who has read these books has formed in their minds a firm image of what Narnia looks like, what the characters look like and how they behave. Our challenge as filmmakers has been to make a movie that fulfils or exceeds the imagery in your own mind, but we have such a wonderful team that I think we have achieved it."
If it fulfils the huge box office takings being predicted for it, the film could well become one of the most significant milestones of the century. American journalist Mike Parker wrote recently, "The Chronicles Of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe is more than just a theatrical event - it portends tob e a cultural phenomenon on par with Star Wars or the Lord of The Rings trilogy. Phrases and images form the film will become part of the iconography of our culture."
Whatever the level of impact in mass culture The Chronicles will, as they have for decades, inspire countless Christians, including many Christian musicians. Down the years many Christian artists have taken creative inspiration from CS Lewis' books. In the '70s Jesus music pioneers 2nd Chapter Of Acts wrote songs inspired by The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe which eventually became the critically acclaimed album The Roar Of Love. Down the years many different Christian bands, well known and obscure, have utilised the names Aslan or Narnia as their moniker while one group even used the name Puddleglum before finding fame as The Swift. And now EMI CMG have released an album featuring such artists as Jars Of Clay, Steven Curtis Chapman, Delirious?, TobyMac, Bethany Dillon and others with songs inspired by CS Lewis' classic work. Here seven artists featured on 'Music Inspired By The Chronicles Of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe' give their thoughts about the book and the film.
This is the most relevant story of the world - it's the story of all of us, of all mankind. That there is a place, a home that we all belong to, and all of us were created for it, and somewhere along the way we have taken off [down] our own roads, and made decisions that have led us away, and believed lies and it has led us away from this place that we belong. There is someone that will make a way back for us, a hero that will save the day.
The song is called "You're The One" and it's written from Edmund's point of view - his wandering away and wondering if he can ever come back. I love this idea - that he knows in his heart that there's more that he's missing, and he's wondering if he can get back to where everybody else is. They've found Aslan, and they know he's the one, and Edmund also knows he's the one, but he's scared because he's living as a slave. The idea is that he knows he's the one and he's calling out to the one who's going to save him. The first verse I'm very excited about, "I heard your song coming over a hill/And know it seemed like the world stood still/And you were singing a melody that caught me by surprise/And it sounded familiar to me like I've heard it all my life." It's this idea that I know there's something in me, I've heard this all my life, I'm hearing it for the first time but I think I've known it all my life, that there's a place I'm going to and you're the one I'm going to.
I've always been intrigued by CS Lewis and his writing - I just finished another one of his books called The Great Divorce. So when I got the call I thought this is amazing, I was honoured. The character that stood out for me was Edmund. You want to get frustrated with Edmund, like, "How can you be so selfish, how can you have such a selfish desire that you forget everybody else and their discernment on certain situations?" But how many times am I so driven by my own selfish desires, and my own things that I want to do that I forget the warning signals of, hey this could be a bad situation, but I don't want to hear it because this is something that I want to do, it's my thing. I relate to him a lot. The song I wrote is about opening up your eyes to see the warning signals of "don't get involved in this, this could lead to danger." To really see beyond the blinkers of the selfish things that we want to do, that get in the way sometimes.
I remember reading The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe as a kid. My mom would explain the meaning of the story, but to me it was a cool story with neat characters and I was enthralled with it. It's geared towards kids, but I read it recently, and adults can definitely dig into this book and get so many things out of it.
I heard the word Narnia and wanted to be involved in any way I could. It's such an unbelievable privilege to be able to speak into something artistically that has captivated generations of readers. One of the themes that kept popping up for me from the beginning of the book to the end is that notion that forms Lewis's story, nothing is really as it seems. Everything seems to have this slight of hand, magical element to it. From the minute that Lucy steps into the wardrobe and realises this isn't just a wardrobe, you can't wait to see resolution.
You know the story itself has so many different layers. CS Lewis, I think, in understanding his audience of children, knew that children have a lot of different layers. Some of those layers can involve dark and scary stuff. You know, the story can be frightening in some parts, and really mysterious in other parts, too. But I wanted to capture the relationship between the four children. And really focus on the whimsical nature of what their experience must have been walking through those doors for the first time. I wanted to write a song that would shine the light on what each of them brought to this story, and how significant those dynamics are to their experience.
I'm an enormous fan, like billions of other people across the world, of this book and of this series. And CS Lewis understood his audience better than just about anyone. And he understood the heart of a child but I also think he knew that a lot of adults would still be reading this well into their middle aged years. I'm just thrilled to be a really small drop of water in what I think is going to be a huge splash with this film. And I hope that this song stirs up some of the magic and the wonder that maybe as adults we forget about from our childhood years.
Rebecca St James
I was so excited and immediately passionate about being a part of this project simply because I've been so personally inspired by the Narnia adventures myself! Most kids at some stage read The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe, and I was one of those. I've also read the book as an adult as well. I am really gripped by the power and the symbolism of the story. As a Christian it is awesome to recognise Biblical characters creatively worked into such a dramatic plot. I can't even remember not knowing about The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe and all of the Narnia books. They become part of your life, they just grip you. From my childhood on, I think the imaginative and creative aspects of the story have really appealed to me.
When I was thinking about what to write about in my song, the character I was drawn to the most was Aslan. I wanted to write a song from the perspective of one of the children, and so I chose to see him through Lucy's eyes. At one point of the song I'm singing, "Wise eyes you see the core of me/Your gentleness melts me." That's what fascinates me about Aslan - he's so gentle but you respect him so much. There's a line in the book that says, "Is he safe?" and the response is "No, he's not safe but he's good." The last line in the chorus of my song is, "Feels like I'm living in the lions' mouth, but the lion is an angel."
I love how the song feels. My producer Shaun Shankel did a great job of musically portraying the lyric. The first line of the song is "Mysterious that's what I call you." And mysterious, that's what I call this song. It really has an almost moody, ethereal sense to it. It's very dramatic and it just draws you in. When we were in the studio, Shaun and I had a unique way of testing the song to see if it was fitting the atmosphere of the movie. We would mute the sound and watch the trailer while playing our song. When we were getting goose bumps while watching the two played together, we knew that we were onto something!
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