I suppose that this is a weird place to start my list. But this list is a chronological one, and since my parents sent me to an evangelical Christian school
and the approved list of fiction was limited. Honestly, LWW isn’t my favorite out of the Chronicles of Narnia. I like The Horse and his Boy, and the Voyage of the Dawn Treader a million times better. And I still refer back to some of the philosophies mentioned in The Last Battle. But LWW influenced me as a witch hugely in two ways: first the diversity of
mythical creatures in the series, and second The Problem of Susan.
To start, I never fit in particularly well at my elementary school. I was a little too much of a dreamer, with a little too much of a temper, and a little too much of a smart mouth (a trend I’ve noticed in the backstories of my other witch friends). I loved fantasy stories, but it broke my heart when my teachers told me that was how the Devil lured you in. It starts with fantasy stories with magic and swords and sorcery, and then BOOM you’re in Hell roasting over a bed of coals. Girls like me were supposed to be especially susceptible because we weren’t clever enough to see how the Devil entrapped you. Yeah, there’s a lot of baggage there that I’m not going to unpack right now.
But C.S. Lewis was allowed reading because he was a good Christian man. He had authority to write things, he knew what he was doing. And what he was doing was using a faun, Mr. Tumnus to introduce Lucy to Narnia. As the story progresses we’re introduced to centaurs, satyrs, fauns, naiads, dryads, and all sorts of nymphs. All the staples of myth and fantasy are there, fighting against the evils of the White Witch and then being accepted as full citizens of Narnia in the Golden Age. At the time, that kind of diversity was the hope I needed. If these mythical creatures can be accepted, then so can I. It also really firmed up my love of the mythical creatures, and inspired me to go on an adventure through the public library to find out all I could about them; I’ll get to where that led in a few days.
I recently designed a series of lesson plans that centered LWW. I read the whole book again to get a sense of how I would handle it, and I was really confronted with The Problem of Susan. I’ve always been drawn to Edmund and Susan, even as a child the darker and more complex characters appealed to me. As an adult, Edmund is still a favorite; but Susan. Susan is something more. She is a delightfully difficult character for a children’s series, it takes 4 books to start to get to the heart of her. And then she’s done dirty. Nylons and lipstick, indeed.
C. S. Lewis admitted that Susan takes on a life of her own, a more adult life than what would fit in with the childlike wonder of Narnia. When a fan wrote to him, deeply concerned about Susan’s fate, he tells them ‘why don’t you try [writing a story for her]?’. As an adult woman and an adult witch, that resonates hard. Why don’t I try to write a story for the Problem of Susan? And while I’m at it, why don’t I write a story for the Problem of Me? I can do that now. I can write that story. I can make my own magic. The Problem of Susan and the Problem of Me don’t have to be problems. They can be initiations into Greater Mysteries, we just sometimes have to be reminded of it.