The letter, written from Magdalene College, Cambridge, where Lewis was a don, contradicts this. [the idea that there is no religious content] “Supposing there really was a world like Narnia . . . and supposing Christ wanted to go into that world and save it (as He did ours) what might have happened?” he wrote.
“The stories are my answer. Since Narnia is a world of talking beasts, I thought he would become a talking beast there as he became a man here. I pictured him becoming a lion there because a) the lion is supposed to be the king of beasts; b) Christ is called ‘the lion of Judah’ in the Bible.”
In light of the current efforts to get The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe removed from the grade school reading list in Florida, this revelation might help fan the flames. I hope not, but I suspect that the controversy is far from over.
Children have read and loved the Chronicles of Narnia, and not all of them have realized that there is an underlying message. The themes of betrayal, redemption, courage, commitment, self-sacrifice, and good overcoming evil are ones that few people can speak against -- and these themes are explicitly treated in the Chronicles.
What is not very explicit is the parallel between Christ's redemption of the world and Aslan's care and love for Narnia. The closest the Chronicles come to "spelling it out" is when Lucy, having been told that she would not be able to return to Narnia, asks Aslan how she will remember him. Aslan's answer was that he WAS in her world, but under a different name. Lucy would have to learn to know him by that name.
The letter, which will be published in 2006, sheds a great deal of light light on what was going through Lewis' mind as he wrote these stories. He did not, however, write in such a way that only Christian children could read and appreciate the stories; the stories have been read and loved by children of diverse religions.
These are stories that children can love and that their parents can also read and enjoy. I first read the entire Chronicles after I turned 50 (I had read The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe and parts of The Magician's Nephew when I was in my 20s. I was brought up in "the nurture and admonition of the Lord" and that laid the ground for my continued growth, and I was able to see the underlying meaning of the Narnia books.
I regret not having taken the opportunity to read The Chronicles of Narnia as a child -- It would have been nice to experience this as a child, with a child's wonder.