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C.S. Lewis

by Teri Ann Berg Olsen

How did C.S. Lewis, author of the beloved Chronicles of Narnia series, initially develop the idea for The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe? What books did he enjoy as a child? Could his experiences be seen as an inspiration to homeschooling families? You and your children can find the answers to these questions, and much more, in this wonderful article about Lewis' life.

"I am a product of long corridors, empty sunlit rooms, upstairs indoor silences, attics explored in solitude, distant noises of gurgling cisterns and pipes, and the noise of wind under the tiles. Also, of endless books." -C.S. Lewis

The personal experience of that beloved Christian author, C.S. Lewis, is a classic example of why we should teach our children at home rather than send them to public school, and shows how important it is for us to surround our children with authority figures, mentors, and friends who openly express their love for Jesus Christ. Read the following biography and you will understand the significance of such people in his life. Clive Staples Lewis was born on November 29, 1898 in Belfast, a major seaport in Northern Ireland. His brother, Warren, was born three years earlier. They lived in a large old house with tunnel-like passages, a secret attic, and a spacious bushy garden. The two brothers often played imaginative games. They also liked to bicycle to the docks and watch the ships.

As a child, Lewis was taught at home by his mother and a governess. His parents liked to read, and they had a library full of books. In addition, books were piled in spare rooms, hallways, anywhere and everywhere, filling the whole house. Lewis was encouraged to read anything he liked. His favorite books included Treasure Island, Beatrix Potter's Squirrel Nutkin, and The Secret Garden. Lewis was also fascinated by the fairy tales, myths and ancient legends told to him by his Irish nurse.

Lewis' parents were Protestants. His mother was a clergyman's daughter. Lewis was extremely close to her, so it was a terrible blow to him when she died when he was 9 years old. Lewis was then sent away to a boarding school in England. During this time he began to abandon his childhood Christian faith.

After unhappily attending several different boarding schools, in the summer of 1914 the 15-year-old Lewis was told that he could come home and would be privately tutored by a family friend. However, his new mentor was an aggressive atheist and Lewis moved further away from any church teachings or belief in the Bible. Lewis learned Greek, Italian, French, and German. He studied Norse mythology and enjoyed the music of Richard Wagner.

Yet none of these influences were as strong or lasting as that of Scottish author George MacDonald, whose work Lewis came upon by chance at a train station bookstall. MacDonald was a dedicated Christian who wrote children's books such as The Princess and the Goblin, as well as adult fantasies full of religious symbolism. Lewis immediately fell in love with the book he had picked up and later wrote, "I regarded him as my master; indeed I fancy I have never written a book in which I did not quote from him." In 1916 at age 18, C.S. Lewis was accepted into Oxford University College. Europe was in the middle of fighting World War I at the time. As an Irishman, Lewis could not be drafted by the British Army, but in 1917 he chose to volunteer. After Lewis was posted to the front line he was soon wounded and returned home. He continued his studies in Oxford and said to himself, "The only people who achieve much are those who want knowledge so badly that they seek it while the conditions are unfavorable. Favorable conditions never come."

In 1925 Lewis was hired as an English teacher at Magdalen College in Oxford. It was here that he met another recently appointed teacher, a professor of Anglo-Saxon and a devout Roman Catholic, J.R.R. Tolkien. Lewis joined a reading group established by Tolkien, composed of Oxford men who enjoyed reading Old Norse and the dead northern languages.

The year 1929 when Lewis was 31 became a turning point in his life. Lewis had been an avid reader of G.K. Chesterton for some time and that great English novelist, poet, and essayist had brought many to Christianity. Lewis kept thinking that he was deceiving himself by not believing, and that he should accept God because "I couldn't think of anything else to do."

It was on September 28, 1931, when Lewis finally became a Christian. The evening before, Lewis had a long talk on Christianity with J.R.R. Tolkien. The following day, he and his brother Warren took a motorcycle ride to the Whipsnade Zoo. Lewis recalled in his autobiography, Surprised By Joy, "When we set out I did not believe that Jesus Christ was the Son of God, and when we reached the zoo I did." Lewis became closer to Tolkien, and this and his conversion spurred him on to write. In 1933, he published his first theological work, The Pilgrim's Regress, a parody of The Pilgrim's Progress. In 1939 Lewis became involved in an Oxford-based writing club known as The Inklings. World War II began, and several of his friends joined the armed services. It was at this time that Lewis wrote The Screwtape Letters. Then, when children from London were being evacuated to the country, four youngsters were lodged at Lewis' home. Surprised to find how few imaginative tales his young guests knew, he decided to write one for them. This story became The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, a wonderful Christian allegory for children.

Later, C.S. Lewis turned that book into a series called The Chronicles of Narnia. He also wrote a science fiction trilogy and many apologetic works. In doing so, Lewis became the most popular Christian author of the century. Personally, I think the story of his life is as remarkable as his writings!

Copyright by Teri Ann Berg Olsen. Used with permission.

About the Author: Teri is a home educator, librarian, and writer who lives in New River, AZ. Teri's articles, reviews, mini unit studies, and more are available online at Knowledge House.

From the Editor:
Teaching & Learning Resources on C.S. Lewis

After reviewing all the relevant sites I could find on the web, I selected the ones I felt would be the most relevant to home educating parents.

C.S. Lewis Website
This site offers informations, quotations, and links.

Easy Fun School: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe A Mini Unit
This lesson offers suggested questions and vocabulary words.

TeacherView: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
These lesson plans include vocabulary, reading comprehension, and character analysis activities.

Lesson Plans: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe
This page offers several creative enrichment activities.

Growing Together Family Learning Newsletter, Vol. 1, No. 2, page 15

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