“Could one not thus steal past those watchful dragons?”

Russell Moore, “Watchful Dragons: Neil Gaiman’s Brush with Narnia Lingers,” Touchstone ()

Narnia, after all, was initially created to rescue a sense of the sacred from the established church and from what Inklings biographers Philip and Carol Zaleski describe as “the moralistic sentimentality by which it has been deadened” (The Fellowship: The Literary Lives of the Inklings, 2015, p. 390). This was why, Lewis concluded, he didn’t feel the weight of the stories of Scripture. They were too familiar to him.

“But suppose that by casting all these things into an imaginary world, stripping them of their stained glass and Sunday school associations, one could make them for the first time appear in their real potency?” Lewis wondered, in retrospect. “Could one not thus steal past those watchful dragons? I thought one could” (ibid.). …

But how did Lewis do this? It wasn’t his characters. As the other Inklings knew, Narnia wasn’t a carefully constructed mythic sub-creation, as Tolkien’s Middle Earth was. But for many of us, including Gaiman, there was something else at work in Aslan’s realm.

“The weird things about the Narnia books for me was that mostly they seemed true,” Gaiman reflected. “These were reports from a real place” (Laura Miller, The Magician’s Book: A Skeptic’s Adventure in Narnia, 2008, p. 23). …

“Sometimes fiction is a way of coping with the poison of the world in a way that lets us survive it,” he recounts. “And I remembered. I would not be the person I am without the authors who made me what I am—the special ones, the wise ones, sometimes just the ones who got there first.”

“It’s not irrelevant, those moments of connection, those places where fiction saves your life,” Gaiman continues. “It’s the most important thing there is.” Indeed, it is. And perhaps there is more yet of Neil Gaiman left to be saved. …

Even in the sterilized secularity of the West, there are yet signposts in a strange land. There are yet intimations of interest in something, or someone, just out of reach, even when those intimations are safely hidden away in science fiction or fantasy. Christians should take note. Perhaps the way to speak to a transcendence-starved West might include not only a cathedral liturgy or a revival tent, but also, even still, a lion, a witch, and a doorway, just where one least expects it, to Narnia.