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The Lion's World: A Journey Into the Heart of Narnia [Hardcover]

Rowan Williams
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (40 customer reviews)
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Book Description

8 Mar 2013
Following the appearance of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe in 1950, C. S. Lewis's Chronicles of Narnia have enchanted children and adults alike for over half a century. In The Lion's World, Rowan Williams explores the moral landscape of all seven novels in the series, and offers an astute guide to their spiritual subtext. He draws on significant aspects of their author's life and thought, and on key themes in his other novels, painting a richly textured picture of his aims and achievements. At the same time, Williams gently but firmly rebuts those critics who have charged Lewis with sexism, racial stereotyping and the glorification of violence. Whether you have read the whole Narnia series or simply enjoyed one of the films, The Lion's World is a rewarding and ultimately joyful read - one that will send you back to the novels with a deeper sense of their subtle literary artistry, and the powerful spiritual insights they contain.
--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 168 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA (8 Mar 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0199975736
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199975730
  • Product Dimensions: 18 x 14.2 x 2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (40 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 399,671 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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'Reading Rowan Williams on C. S. Lewis is like watching two old friends in animated discussion of great, powerful themes. It helps that both are (of course) highly literate: Shakespeare, Thomas Merton, Augustine and others flit across the pages. It helps more, particularly for those just discovering Lewis (or indeed Williams) that both write with lucid and engaging clarity. But what really counts is that, as with the two on the Emmaus Road, we constantly sense a third presence, that of the Lion who will not let us rest in our own little self-deceits but who constantly challenges us to discover the larger joys of his new creation. Those who have loved Narnia since childhood will here discover fresh and sometimes disturbing depths of meaning and power. Those who don't know it will be stimulated to read the stories for themselves. Those who have tried to debunk Lewis and his children's books will find Williams more than a match for them, not as an uncritical apologist but as a wise and humane expositor. How fortunate, and appropriate, for Lewis's old Cambridge college to have Williams as its new Master.' --Tom Wright, Research Professor of New Testament and Early Christianity, University of St Andrews

'I have often thought there was more to Lewis than is often noticed by his enthusiastic readers. Now he has Rowan Williams, who helps us see that Lewis, who certainly had his limits, was an extraordinary imaginative mind who was able to 'rinse out what is stale in our thinking about Christianity'. Williams' account of the Narnia Chronicles, therefore, helps us rinse out any too-easy criticisms of their author. And together Lewis and Williams enable us to imagine what it might mean to see God in the everyday. We are in Rowan Williams' debt for this deft reading of C. S. Lewis.' --Stanley Hauerwas, Professor of Theological Ethics, Duke Divinity School, North Carolina

'Like the Wardrobe, this book opens a door into another world. It takes the reader further up and further in to that world, a world that deepens the imagination and warms the soul. In the company of Rowan Williams, the already rich world of Narnia becomes a theological feast of delight.' --Paula Gooder, Canon Theologian of Birmingham and Guildford Cathedrals --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

About the Author

Rowan Williams is the Archbishop of Canterbury. His most recent books include A Silent Action: Engagements with Thomas Merton (2011), Dostoevsky: Language, Faith and Fiction (2011), Tokens of Trust: An Introduction to Christian Belief (2007), Grace and Necessity: Reflections on Art and Love (2006) and Silence and Honey Cakes: The Wisdom of the Desert (2004). --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A profoundly thoughtful book 4 Sep 2012
I found this book - dare I confess the first by Rowan Williams that I've managed to finish - profoundly challenging in the gentlest way. His analysis of the Narnia books is deep and serious, not letting Lewis off the hook, but scratching deeper to see the underlying truth that is there. I had to keep stopping and reflecting on what I'd just read, and the truth contained therein for me. This is a book that I shall return to regularly, and I beleive will come away with fresh nuggets every time. Three cheers for the Archbishop- I'm just sorry I missed the talks that the book is based on.The Lion's World: A journey into the heart of Narnia
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56 of 58 people found the following review helpful
`I can only confess', writes Rowan Williams, `to being repeatedly humbled and reconverted by Lewis in a way that is true of few other modern Christian writers'. This is a serious statement, not least from an Archbishop who speaks and writes eleven languages, and who is also a world-renowned theologian and accomplished literary critic and poet. As ever, Williams acknowledges his opposition: `Not every reader has been charmed by C.S. Lewis' Narnia stories'. But here, in The Lion's World, is Williams' gallant and supremely eloquent defence of their author, as a believer, a writer and a modern-day literary apostle.

Williams notes that he `came late to Narnia', even with his own `obsessively bookish childhood'. Before he had walked through the Wardrobe or sailed in the Dawn Treader, he had read many of Lewis' apologetic works - Mere Christianity, The Problem of Pain and Miracles - alongside his other notable works of fiction. For this, we must be grateful: Williams' narrative is enriched with a majestically broad understanding of Narnia's context within the wider themes that echo across Lewis' work, and which, at their best, convey `a simple intensity of feeling about God'. The Lion's World is not a systemic guide to interpretation - Williams is happy to leave such a task to the likes of Michael Ward, whose excellent book Planet Narnia is reverently referenced - but rather a series of reflections on Lewis' central themes: the exhilaration of an encounter with the Divine `other', the avoidance of self-delusion, and the joy of the surprising discovery of God.

For all the uplifting grand narrative, Williams does not ignore the thorny issues with which readers of Lewis must contend.
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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars the brilliance of Aslans rule 24 Aug 2012
Clarity and creativity are fused with imagination and interpretation in this sweep of Narnia. Rowan William's insight & writing are majestic. There is freshness and warmth to the underbelly of this beautiful new work. The lightness of touch must not disguise the depth of incision, with a poetic and gracious twist:- "Being told your story doesn't compel your assent!" Themes are movingly gathered and wisely explored here.

In The Lion's World, Aslan is taken as an orthodox read-across from Jesus. The depiction of Aslan the Lion lets us sense afresh "what the experience of God is `like'", shedding delusion & falsehood. "Transcendence is the wildness of joy; and the truth of God becomes a revolution against what we have made of ourselves."

This will certainly become a classic for lives enriched by the power of Narnia. This is brought together attractively in a new format SPCK volume with enhancing artwork brought to us by Monica Capoferri. Probing, provocative & a sheer pleasure!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good - but expected more 16 Mar 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Cards on the table, I am a big fan of Narnia. I guess I read the stories on an annual basis and recommend them to everyone I can.
So to me the fact that former Archbishop Rowan has written this book is great as it adds weight to my recommendations and validity to my love for the stories.
There was one huge plus points for me. Rowan focuses on Aslan. The title did not alert me to this but the focus is well placed. While there is a section on meeting the criticisms that have been raised Rowan comes back consistently to how Aslan behaves and what he actually does. I have gone back to the stories to re-read all the dialogue involving Aslan - and it is very instructive.
I only give the book 3 stars because I was hoping for much more; I have great respect for the author,and expected him to be able to point out depths that I had not appreciated. However, some reviewers have praised the book for being concise - you cannot have both brevity and great depth.
I would recommend the book on the grounds that reading it will open up a new understanding or affirm an understanding that has already been gained.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Lion's World 20 Sep 2012
By burner
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
A superb analysis of key ideas running through the Narnia stories.Williams reveals shrewd psychological insights into how people tick... and also into how 'Aslan' works with that, breaking through into our 'rational' world.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
By jfa
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This book gives great insight into the works of CS Lewis, particularly the tales of Narnia. Rowan Williams highlights Lewis' vision of heaven in a very clear way. It is a very enjoyable and worthwhile, if serious, read. I strongly recommend it.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Too PC for my taste 22 Aug 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is a brilliant meditation (not analysis) on what is, on one level, a rather lightweight series of children's books. As a gifted writer and theologian, Rowan Williams reveals the real ingenuity of Lewis's writing and his spiritual insights. Williams' discussion of the removal of the dragon's skin from Eustace is peerless. He also make some very good non-theological points, such Lewis' borrowings from Edith Nesbit and that his world is Edwardian rather than postwar. However I found Williams' constant apologies for Lewis' non-PC views rather grating to say the least. Having said that, reading some of the comments in the readers' reviews of the Narnia chronicles elsewhere in Amazon I recognise his hand-wringing defence of Lewis may be necessary nowadays. Sometimes I feel he distances himself from Lewis by saying "Lewis says this" and "Lewis says that", but at other times he identifies himself quite closely with Lewis, so perhaps this is just Rowan Williams the former professor elapsing into an academic style of writing. Most of the time, this book is very readable and certainly worth reading. But I can only give it four stars because of the PC aspect.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
spiritual wisdom for living today
Published 8 days ago by Anne
5.0 out of 5 stars Two eminently readable authors
.........and you do not have to be in sympathy with their views to enjoy reading the book. Although the book is entitled for the Narnia books Williams makes frequent reference to... Read more
Published 3 months ago by Noah's Grandfather
5.0 out of 5 stars A Different Angle
I enjoyed it,as it gave me an informed theological insight into the Narnia books, which I have been rereading. it also sent me back to C.S. Read more
Published 4 months ago by Corinne Lever
5.0 out of 5 stars Why I bought this book
This is Rowan Williams at his most understandable providing a sympathetic literary and theological criticism of perhaps one of the most successful and brilliant Christian writers... Read more
Published 5 months ago by robin barratt
5.0 out of 5 stars Much better that I expected
I borrowed my wife's copy of 'The Lion's World' and probably would not have bought it myself. I am not a big fan of Rowan Williams and in fact wrote an essay 'The disappointing... Read more
Published 6 months ago by Stephen F. Hayes
4.0 out of 5 stars Lucid and insightful
This would be worth buying for the illustrations alone - they are wonderful, luminous and playful with exactly the atmosphere of Narnia - but the text is also a real addition to... Read more
Published 7 months ago by Aravis
5.0 out of 5 stars Revealing reading
Over the years I have struggled to read a number of Rowan Williams books. This is a gem. Full of insights into Christian thought on the connections of theology with humanity's... Read more
Published 7 months ago by Learning Curve
5.0 out of 5 stars A great read
This very readable book challenged me and kept my interest throughout, even though I have never read a Narnia book.
Published 8 months ago by G. Brierley
5.0 out of 5 stars The Lions World
This is a most thought provoking book and needs rereading or discussed with a friend. I now feel I need to read the complete works again with my eyes open to hidden meanings.
Published 9 months ago by daphne wooldridge
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book
I would not have chosen to read a book by Rowan Williams, mainly because I think he is far too intellectual for me, but this book was recommended so I decide to give it a try. Read more
Published 9 months ago by Joutet
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