Reality vs. Fantasy: Comparing Two Worlds in Two Fantasy Novels
Fantasy novels help readers step outside their everyday world for a while to consider a subject from a different point of view. Like the stories in C.S. Lewis’ The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, both novels try to unite two entirely separate worlds, the primary one which is similar to our real world and the other one that has magical beings that thrive within it. By presenting the differences of real and fantasy worlds, people learn something about what it means to be a human being, living with reality and imagination.
As these books describe magic that often appear impossible and wondrous to ordinary people, the commonality of their quests or struggles in real life becomes the strands that connect the readers to these make-belief worlds. As good and evil battle, often the central plot of contemporary fantasy novels, these fantasy tales can be set in our own everyday world or in a “secondary” world somewhat like our own.
By identifying between the “real world” and the “fantasy world”, people exercise their creative imagination as they keep in touch with those feelings and attitudes of early childhood in order to realize their creative potential. It is this non-literal mode of thinking, so prevalent during early childhood that balances and complements literal thinking.
Both being fantasy novels, this article will try to assess these “strands” of commonality between the fantasy novels The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone and how the laws that govern in the “fantasy” worlds become realistic as the writers try to rationalize these worlds and convince their readers to enjoy reading their stories..
Similarities in Two Fantasies
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe effectively used traditional methods of answering the questions as they come, this method of enthralling readers empower them to discover about things in the parallel world. As the story unfolds, immediately or slowly as needed, the author C.S. Lewis began the answering of every question. For instance, the first mention of the name “Narnia” created such questions about what kind of world is it.
Tumnus the Faun asks Lucy how she came into Narnia, and Lucy asks what the reader also wants to know: “Narnia? What’s that?” Tumnus replies, “This is the land of Narnia, … where we are now; all that lies between the lamp-post and the great castle of Cair Paravel on the eastern sea” (LWW, 9). The reader will want and need to know more, of course, but for now he or she has been supplied the necessary basic information and given adequate orientation.
Another important revelation in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, when it is read first, is the buildup to the introduction of Aslan. The first reference to Aslan is by Mr. Beaver, when he meets the children in the woods: “They say Aslan is on the move—perhaps has already landed.” These words create a gap for the Pevensie children and—presumably—for the reader: “None of the children knew who Aslan was any more than you do; but the moment the Beaver had spoken these words everyone felt quite different” (LWW, 54).
Similarly, in Harry Potter, although the Dursleys try to intercept the letters delivered by strange owls, readers are enthralled to ask what those letters for? When Hagrid takes Harry away to a small island to escape, Harry learns the truth about his parents and introduces him to the magical world. Harry also learns of Lord Voldemort and his murder of Harry’s parents, as well as Voldemort’s lingering reputation despite being inactive (even a large and strong individual like Hagrid refuses to speak his name). As Rowling introduces the secondary world of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, nothing in the Hogwarts world could be the same as Harry’s world with the Dursleys:
There were a hundred and forty-two staircases at Hogwarts: wide, sweeping
ones; narrow, rickety ones; some that led somewhere different on a Friday;
some with a vanishing step halfway up that you had to remember to jump.
Then there were doors that wouldn’t open unless you asked politely, or
tickled them in exactly the right place, and doors that weren’t really
doors at all, but solid walls just pretending. It was very hard to remember
where anything was, because it all seemed to move around a lot. The people
in the portraits kept going to visit each other, and Harry was sure the
coats of armor could walk (HPAPS, 132).
Like the real world, the secondary parallel worlds had their own rules that should be followed. While Narnia is based on the pretense that animals have intelligence and speech (what child hasn’t wished animals could talk or pretended that they could?), the Harry Potter books pretend that magical powers are real and that wizards and witches possessing those powers really exist. In Narnia, one of the children Edmund fell under the spell of the White Witch.
However, her power is failing and the other children reach for Aslan, and a penitent Edmund is rescued just as the witch is about to kill him. Calling for a truce, the witch demands that Edmund be returned to her, as an ancient law gives her possession of all traitors. Aslan, acknowledging the law, offers himself in Edmund’s place and the witch accepts. In connection, Hogwarts is set like a school, the first-year students are limited to do some complex magical spells and they are assigned to houses or dormitories by sitting on a stool and putting on a singing hat that magically reads their thoughts and desires and “sorts” them accordingly: if the students will be assigned to Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw or Slytherin (HPAPS, 118).
Making and Breaking Rules
In both stories, magic transformed into a literary device that helps the reader transcend the ordinary and the familiar and enter an extraordinary and unfamiliar “other” world. In both Hogwarts and Narnia, readers are invited to suspend belief in the natural and believe instead in the supernatural. For example, the natural laws of gravity are defied in Harry Potter, for example, where people can fly using brooms. The natural laws of time and chronology are suspended in Narnia, where the Pevensie children spend years in Narnia, while only a few minutes go by on the other side of the wardrobe in England. If natural laws are broken or suspended, however, there are spiritual laws that never change no matter what world the children are in.
Like all rules in the real world, there is breaking of these rules that become a central part of the tradition of most fantasy stories—much of the tension generated in the stories comes from whether the characters will get away with what they have done. In the real world, people may not reinforce the kind of behavior. Fantasy stories, like what happened to Harry and the Pevensie children, consequences of breaking rules are shown though they do not moralize about them; many of the difficulties characters encounter are created by, or complicated by, untruths or law breaking (Griesinger, 2002).
Although there are few accusations that stories about magic could expose young children to the world of occult, people could delineate responsible literary approach to The Lion, Witch and The Wardrobe and Harry Potter as understood in the context of a fantasy world that is similar to reality world. This exemplified in the lessons that Harry learns from Dumbledore and in Hogwarts School and the choices he has to make to become a wise wizard, while the Pevensie children in Narnia learned to realize how the consequences of Edmund’s treachery.
In conclusion, The Lion, Witch and The Wardrobe and Harry Potter succeeded in making parallel attempts to enact the difference between the “real” from the “fantasy” world. Both are strengthening to any reader’s imaginations, which the children who read or hear the stories could base their own imagination by relating to what Lewis and Rowling had shared through their stories.
Griesinger, E. Harry Potter and the “Deeper Magic”: Narrating Hope in Children’s Literature. Christianity and Literature, 51.3 (2002): 455
Lewis, C.S. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. New York: Harper-Collins, 2005 (Re-Print).
Rowling, J.K. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. New York: Scholastic, 1997.