Douglas Gresham, the stepson of C.S. Lewis, was the guest of honor at the Past Watchful Dragons conference at Nashville’s Belmont University November 4-7. Speaking at a dinner on Thursday night, Gresham talked about how both the The Chronicles of Narnia books and movie came about. In the late 1940’s, Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien were talking about children’s books, commenting upon the lack of honor, chivalry and personal responsibility in modern tales. “They decided if no one else was doing it, they better do it themselves,” Gresham noted. The first result was The Hobbit, closely followed by the Narnia series.
Reminiscing about his youthful hours spent in the English pub that was home to the Inklings, Gresham said he would watch Lewis, Tolkien, and their friends laughing as they smoked and sampled the pub’s brew and “tore each other’s books to shreds.” He told the audience, “In Jack’s world you sought out people who would disagree with you” as part of the refining process of writing. Gresham added that while Jack wrote all the Narnia books down, “I believe the true author is the Holy Spirit of God.”
A co-producer of the film, representing his stepfather and the Lewis estate throughout the process, Gresham said that the main people involved in putting The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe on the screen had the same desire to stay true to the book. In fact, when producer Mark Johnson was asked “What’s Mr. Gresham got to do with the movie,” Johnson replied, “He’s to blame!”
Involved with the writing of the script, the making of the movie, and even the merchandising of the spinoff products, including the toys for McDonald’s Happy Meals, Gresham called the movies “visually beautiful” and said, “Everything you need to see from The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe is there.”
Gresham recounted meeting and growing up with Lewis. Lewis was still working on the Narnia series in 1953 when 8-year-old Douglas met him. Young Douglas was already in love with the books, but terribly disappointed in their frumpy author. That disappointment soon turned into a loving friendship. “I was brought up by Jack. He was the only parent I had for any length of time,” Gresham shared. “Jack died when I was 18. I miss him dreadfully, even now.”
At one point in his youth Douglas approached Lewis about changing his own last name to Lewis since Gresham’s parents had divorced when he was young. Lewis said no pointing out, “The Bible says to honor your father and your mother.” Gresham said the lesson was that we acknowledge who our parents are and give them the honor that is due.
Gresham shared his views on faith throughout the dinner speech and subsequent Q & A. “We talk carelessly about faith and faithfulness because we believe in Jesus Christ. Well, so does the devil, but that doesn’t make him a Christian. I would like to think a faithful Christian is one who lives out his duty to Christ every minute of every hour of every day. I watched as Jack displayed his Christianity in a loving fashion every day.”
Asked what Lewis would have wanted the audience to take from the Narnia books and movies, Gresham responded that he thought Lewis would want people to “look at themselves as if they were in Narnia. Who would you be? Where would we stand if we found ourselves in Narnia?” After all, Gresham pointed out, sooner or later someone will offer each of us some Turkish Delight.
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Past Watchful Dragons at Belmont U.
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