Dreams, re­al­ity and the blurred line in be­tween

The Nar­nia char­ac­ters and sto­ries still sell, and As­lan is one who can teach us a lot

The Hamilton Spectator - - Comment - Find Thomas Froese at www.thomas­froese.com THOMAS FROESE

NI­A­GARA-ON-THE-LAKE — I had a dream the other night, an out­ra­geous foray into the sub­limely bizarre. I was fight­ing a go­rilla. He wore glasses, which, funny enough, looked like mine. I stood in the cleft of a rock­face, and had a mo­tor­cy­cle in my shoul­der bag. I was go­ing to ride away, fly, some­how. Crazy for sure.

Our dreams are such a mys­tery. Then again, so is our re­al­ity. So is the some­times blurred line be­tween the two.

Jung, the psy­chol­o­gist, told of the power of dreams, es­pe­cially shared dreams. Which leads us to As­lan, the lion, a sort of king of dreams. He said some­thing sim­i­lar. He said that our present world is the dream. (And a dull dream at that, one that will even­tu­ally give way to a re­al­ity far be­yond any­one’s imag­i­na­tion.)

“The term is over. The hol­i­days have be­gun. The dream is ended. This is morn­ing.” This is how As­lan, who is lit­er­a­ture’s best-known lion, once ex­plained it. It’s a wild lion thought, the sort of idea that you can fly with.

Not that As­lan’s ways are not well-rooted. When I was a boy I worked a veg­etable gar­den on a plot of earth where five houses now stand. So I know the ground and root­ed­ness even as I know As­lan. He’s not flighty in that sense.

He just helps lighten the some­times crush­ing loads and crap that are left for you or me or any old ox to pull. He gives you, that is the char­ac­ters in his sto­ries, a light, easy yoke. It’s like a well-worn gar­ment that’s made just for you, one that fits even your strangest idio­syn­cra­sies.

And some days, the best of days, it does seem as if you can fly. If any­one tells you oth­er­wise, then they just don’t know As­lan. And they don’t know them­selves. They cer­tainly don’t know what it’s like to dream. Which would make it hard to un­der­stand any shared dream.

I tell you all this all be­cause, with the chil­dren and their mother, I was re­cently at the Shaw Fes­ti­val’s show­ing of The Ma­gi­cian’s Nephew. This is a Nar­nia chron­i­cle, the first of seven writ­ten by C.S. Lewis more than 60 years ago now.

The Nar­nia sto­ries still sell — to date, more than 100 mil­lion books in 47 lan­guages — and they still get adapted to stage and film.

And it seems to me that this suc­cess is be­cause of As­lan. Not that he ap­pears very of­ten. He doesn’t. You wouldn’t want him to. He’s not a tame lion, you know.

But As­lan’s coun­try — a shared dream if there ever was a shared dream — has a cer­tain pull to it. It’s about an em­bark­ing, an ad­ven­ture and, at the same time, a home­com­ing. As Jewel, a uni­corn, put it, “I’ve come home at last. This is my real coun­try. I be­long here. This is the land I’ve been look­ing for all my life, but I never knew it till now.”

I could share more about Lewis, in many ways the last per­son you’d imag­ine telling these sorts of sto­ries. Or I could tell you more about what hap­pened in this par­tic­u­lar Nar­nia story. But you can find that any­where. It’s the dream is­sue, re­ally, that needs sort­ing out.

Even be­fore this stage play be­gan, there were so-called dream in­ves­ti­ga­tors milling about the theatre. There, with notepads and news­boy caps, look­ing like old-time re­porters, they asked the au­di­ence about, not sur­pris­ingly, their dreams.

One boy said that he’d had a night­mare. So he turned it into a mu­si­cal. Which is an­other fine way to think about As­lan and his ways, this big story.

Yes, in Nar­nia, Lewis cre­ated a re­mark­ably di­verse place, as hope­less and hope­filled and mixed and mixed-up as what you’ll find on any street around here: a place with cen­taurs and dwarfs, giants and fly­ing horses, queens and ma­gi­cians, all try­ing to fig­ure things out.

All this, with, of course, the chil­dren, who, with pierc­ing re­al­ism and love, As­lan calls the sons of Adam and daugh­ters of Eve.

Lewis re­ally did man­age quite a cre­ation. Or maybe As­lan, who goes by a dif­fer­ent name in our world, cre­ated Lewis. And you. And me. And any­one who is bur­dened enough and alive enough to look for an ap­pear­ance of the great beast.


As­lan, (played by Kyle Blair), in the Shaw Theatre’s The Ma­gi­cian’s Nephew, is a char­ac­ter who can help us think about the na­ture of dream and re­al­ity, writes Thomas Froese.

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