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He would ultimately conceive a six-book chronology of a fairy tale kingdom where a familiar yet different version of Biblical history - from Creation to Apocalypse - would play itself out. And he was quite steadfast about what it meant and didn't mean: Aslan was no allegory for Christ, he was Christ - as He might have appeared in a world of talking animals, anyway.

In a manner of speaking, one could almost call Narnia a massive work of religious fan fiction, although Aslan's "gospel" often owes more to Jack than it does to Matthew, Mark, Luke or John. In The Last Battle (Narnia's Book of Revalations) Aslan comforts a former-follower of Tash - the demonic "false-god" of Narnia's enemies - who now fears punishment for having worshipped the wrong idol. Aslan dismisses his fears, explaining that since he'd lived a morally-upstanding life it didn't matter. Good deeds were good deeds, regardless of which god they were done for, so welcome to Aslan's Country (read: Heaven.) That's about as far away from "No one comes to the Father but through me!" as you can get.

That same inclusiveness carried over to his conception of Narnia itself. The approach by Lewis that so bothered Tolkien - the "anything goes" inclusion of Greek, Norse, Celtic and miscellaneous mythologies, plus fairy tale creatures and even Santa Claus - is by far its most enduring impact on the genre. Narnia as the archetypal Fantasy Kitchen Sink; today the "default setting" of most of the genre, especially after the advent of RPGs. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings may have given role playing its parties and quests, but it's Lewis' grab-bag world they trek through.

Clive Staples Lewis, "Jack" to his friends, died on November 22nd 1963. His passing was not much remarked upon, as on the same day President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. In his final years he found some of the peace that eluded him since childhood in marriage to Joy Davidman, and a new test when she was stricken with cancer. He left the world a legacy of stories that would enrapture generations of children, a mythology that would help reframe a genre, and a complex study of spirituality that still inspires - and divides - to this day.

Bob Chipman is a film critic and independent filmmaker. If you've heard of him before, you have officially been spending way too much time on the internet.

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