Through the wardrobe
Many years ago, when I was a wee thing of around seven or eight and not very keen on reading, my mum would sit on the side of my bed in my little box room with its dark green wallpaper that squeaked when I rubbed it, and read me C.S. Lewis’s, ‘The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe’. It is one of the few books I clearly remember from that time, and one of the reasons for this is that when my mum got to the end of the book, I would ask her to read it again. I didn’t read the book myself until about seven years ago when I read it, and the rest of the series, to my son.
I loved it all, but the moment that completely and utterly captivated me most was when Lucy stepped through the wardrobe, the coats going on and on until she felt snow, and then out into the snowy lamp lit world of Narnia. I got head to toe goose bumps every time. It was as if all the magic I wanted was here, in these pages, in this world, and it flooded my head. Why did this magic work so well? I think partly it was because C.S. Lewis created the extraordinary out of something ordinary. All children have wardrobes, and the thought that they could be a door to another world was something that made the imagination somersault. It never occurred to me then that I might ever attempt create a magical world myself.
When I saw the film at the cinema a few years ago, I had more than a tear or two when Lucy stepped through the wardrobe into the snowy white land and brought back every moment of magic I had felt at such a young age. It reminded me of what it felt like to be a child and to just be, because we have that joy as children, to purely exist and absorb ourselves in the magic of things.
So, yesterday, when I went to Chatsworth House in Derbyshire to see how they had transformed it into Narnia, it was like being seven or eight again. Only this time, I didn’t have to close my eyes to imagine it all – my eyes were wide open. And yes, I filled up, quite a few times as it happened! The wardrobe in semi darkness with its row of fur coats was truly amazing… it was just a wardrobe and a few coats… and yet… Stepping into Narnia was sublime. Mr Tumnus’s home with its Christmas tree decorated with ginger bread men, and the table laid for tea, was delicious. The Snow Queen, with her dress pouring down the stairs, punctuated by a box of Turkish Delight, was captivating. C.S. Lewis’s world was truly brought to life.
But, perhaps most moving of all, was Aslan, laid on the stone table, ropes draped over his body, an Aslan who breathed (I kid you not) and mice who skittered about in front of him. He was in a room alone, lit by candlelight. I wanted to hide until everyone was gone, sneak under the rope and lie with him to ease his pain.
In addition to all of this magic (can you take much more?) virtually every room was beautifully decorated with enormous Christmas trees, tiny white lights and candles. There was even a rose arbour and Christmas trees decorated with tags displaying messages from visitors. There had been a huge amount of people passing through and there must have been thousands of tags, making it almost impossible to see the original Christmas trees – it was quite something! We added to the collection, of course.
When we left the house, magic still hung in the air. I think it hung in the air for everyone. I took it home with me and will hold it in my mind’s eye this week as I edit my current work in progress with its own unique world. I hope I can bring as much magic to is as C.S. Lewis did to his Narnia.