Here are some of the attempts that have been made to hunt down the fox that is Narnia’s hidden theme.
Doris Myers argues that the Chronicles may be best understood as a miniature version of Edmund Spenser’s Faerie Queene. Elsewhere she connects them to what she calls the stages of Anglican commitment.
Don W. King and David Hulan have both made the case for reading the Narniad as a commentary on the seven deadly sins, but they assign different sins to different books.
Jim Pietrusz links the Chronicles to the seven Catholic sacraments.
Robert C. Trupia relates the tales to the three theological virtues (faith, hope, love) and the four cardinal virtues (prudence, temperance, fortitude, justice).
Peter J. Schakel sees ‘a special imaginative relationship’ between Mere Christianityand the images and stories of Narnia.
Charles A. Huttar calls the Chronicles ‘a sort of Bible’, a term he thinks ‘accurate enough as a label of the genre: a loose collection of varied material structured to highlight the climactic events of world history, beginning, middle and end’.
John Warwick Montgomery claims that the theme unifying the Chronicles into ‘an integrated single conception’ is that of redemption through Christ.
M.A. Manzalaoui notes ‘the basic governing pattern of every one of the Narnia stories – closeness of the supernatural, the divine, to the mundane, the everyday.’
Joe R. Christopher concentrates on the Chronicles’ supposed indebtedness to Tolkien (which, given Tolkien’s reaction to them, is ironic).
A.N. Wilson, despite describing the books as jumbled and full of inconsistencies, thinks that faerie land itself provides the series with ‘unity’.
Francis Spufford has it both ways by arguing that ‘the Narnia books are unmistakably unified by Lewis’s common delight in all the heterogeneous stuff he knocked it up from’.
None of these explanations has proved persuasive. To find the real solution to the mystery of Narnia’s apparently haphazard symbolism, we need to look more closely at the professional interests of C.S. Lewis.