Wheaton College Conference: Day 1

Day One from Wheaton College Conference
by NarniaWebber Lysander

“It all began with a picture. . . . ”

Thus the 50th annual writing and literature conference at Wheaton college, this year didicated to C. S. Lewis and The Chronicles of Narnia, was opened by Walter Hooper, a longtime Lewis chronicler (no pun intended).

The picture, of course, was of a faun carrying an umbrella and parcels through a snowy wood, This image came into his head at sixteen – over thirty years before the publication of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. “I’ve never exactly made a story,” Lewis explains. “I see pictures…then do some deliberate inventing.”

The major missing puzzle peice, which he could not “deliberately invent,” was the Great Lion himself. Once Aslan came bounding in, all the Wardrobe plot elements were drawn together, and the other Chronicles pulled in swiftly after.

Each of the books, according to Rev. Michael Ward, has a “common flavor or smell,” specifically in the way Aslan is portrayed. There is also, Ward argued, a reason. Each book corresponds with one of the seven planets of medieval cosmology (yep, grab your dictionaries, folks). There appeared to be different reactions to the Reverend’s theory. Two people who stood up during the time alloted for Q&A mentioned how blessed they felt to hear him speak, while others (perhaps pointedly) said nothing.

Katharine Paterson, the Newberry Award-winning children’s author, was last to speak. In a conference day where literary criticism reigned supreme, her viewpoint was unusually refreshing. We whould all resist the temptation to infuse stories, she said, when, in and of itself, “the whole story is the meaning.”

Paterson, like all the speakers, is a huge fan of Lewis. “Aslan is not a distortion [of Christianity],” she maintained, “but a powerful image.” She even unwittingly stole the name of Leslie and Jess’ imaginary country in Bridge to Terebithia from The Voyage of the Dawn Treader.” She justified this with the knowledge that Lewis, in turn, took the word terebith from the Hebrew Bible, and “if Lewis can snitch from Holy Scripture,” she quipped, “surely I can snitch from Lewis.”

Perhaps the most inspiring section of the talk was how she related to the common man–“no one is dispensible.” In fact, we are all co-creators of God, his agents in “bringing order out of chaos.” For those of us who were aspiring authors, she certainly did not discourage us, yet “I can offer them [specifically, children] words … yet you [the people] are the words become flesh.” We can minister whatever our calling.

It all began with a picture. It is now the book millions adore. Soon, it will be a major motion picture.

Details from Day Two, including the special LWW movie preview, soon to follow.