In The Last Battle, the apocalyptic conclusion to C. S. Lewis's fantasy series The Chronicles of Narnia, humans, talking animals, and mythological creatures fight to restore Narnia and its lion-king Aslan, the central Christ figure.

Now a different battle is unfolding, one focused on Lewis's identity as perhaps the 20th century's preeminent literary apologist for Christianity.

Few noticed in March when HarperCollins announced its exclusive and potentially lucrative worldwide deal with the C. S. Lewis Co. in the United Kingdom (which holds the Lewis copyrights) to publish the works of Lewis in English. HarperCollins also announced plans to repackage Lewis's theological works, and to commission new Narnia picture books for preschoolers.

But several months ago Simon Adley, director of the Lewis Co., leaned on his new publishing partners to void a book deal in conjunction with a Lewis documentary because its script overemphasized Lewis's Christianity, according to documentary producer Carol Hatcher. An international controversy ensued, sparked by a front-page New York Times article headlined "Marketing Narnia Without a Christian Lion."

Much of the debate was ill-informed. Some Lewis fans and public commentators, including sociologist Andrew Greeley, misconstrued statements about HarperCollins's plan to market Lewis in a broad manner as a plan to de-Christianize the existing Narnia books.

"Plans are afoot to purge Christian content from the seven Narnia stories," Greeley wrote in mid-June. "Harper intends to censor out of C. S. Lewis' masterpiece that which is not most essential to it—its Christian imagery."

On the Internet, emotions of Lewis fans ...

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August 6, 2001

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