The youth-written stories in YCteen give inspiration and information to teens in foster care while offering staff insight into those teens’ struggles.

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The Lion, the Witch, and the Japanese-American Girl Who Loves Narnia
Kristine Hoessel
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When I was a little girl in Japan, my grandmother and father read The Chronicles of Narnia to me and my brother. It is a well-known series of seven books written by C.S. Lewis during the 1950s. My father’s parents also read these stories to him when he was little.

Even though my country, culture, landscape, and language are vastly different from England, where the Narnia books take place, my brother and I still identified with so many aspects of the series. The second book, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, had a particularly strong influence on me.

The story begins during World War II, when the four Pevensie children are sent to an enormous country house so they’re safe from the German bombings in London. One day, Lucy is exploring the mansion, and discovers a wardrobe that transports her to magical woods beyond the heavy coats. This is Narnia. It is a cold, snowy land and she sees a lamppost standing in the middle of the woods. (This one image stayed with me. Whenever I see a lamppost near trees on a snowy day, I think about Narnia.) Her other siblings, Peter, Edmund, and Susan, do not believe what she has found in the wardrobe at first, but later on, she returns to Narnia. There, they join Aslan, the magical lion, in the fight against the evil White Witch, Jadis, who keeps Narnia in eternal winter.

When I was small, I had a black wooden closet in my room, which seemed like it was about ten feet tall. I kept my coats and dresses in it, and since it was big, there were also some of my brother’s and parents’ clothing in it too. Because the closet was made of wood, it smelled like trees to me. It was this smell that attracted me to go into the closet to see if there were actually woods beyond the coats. Of course I was disappointed that nothing was there.

A Narnia of My Own

Still, I loved how the wardrobe in the story connects to an entire fantasy world. So my brother and I created a similar place in the woods behind my grandfather’s house. Even though the trees were bamboo, not pine, my brother and I played in the woods with swords, bows, and arrows made of branches, pretending to be Lucy and Peter. I felt connected to Lucy. I have great curiosity and am adventurous like her.

We hit stiff trees with our handmade swords, pretending they were evil characters. Sometimes I pretended I was the Witch and I’d fight with Peter. But our favorite part was to ride on a rock that looked like a horse, lift our right hand with the wooden sword and shout, “For Narniaaaaaaaaaaa!” which is what Peter said before charging into battle against the Witch.

There was a carpet of thin dried bamboo leaves on the ground and I loved the earthy smell. I sometimes saw rabbits. I loved hearing the birds sing and seeing the afternoon sun rays that pierced between the leaves and showed parts of the shadowy woods.

The Narnia in the book and the one I created in the bamboo woods were both exciting and dangerous. Narnia was a magical place but there were evil creatures as well as the evil White Witch. Mosquitoes bothered me in the summer when I forgot to spray insecticide on my arms. The bamboo woods also had harmful vipers, poisonous caterpillars, and centipedes. You would encounter them only if you went beyond the mud trench deeper in the woods, where my brother and I were prohibited from going. But just knowing that the dangerous creatures existed was thrilling for me.

My grandfather had a Labrador named Momo that reminded me of Aslan. She was a friendly, lively, and curious dog. She had soft cream-colored fur that smelled like shampoo.

Sometimes in the evenings she would stand on a rock in the yard in just the right place to catch the scarlet sun setting behind her; this made her fur look the same orange color as Aslan’s. And of course, I was shorter at that time so she looked massive, especially on that rock.

Although there are seven books in the series, I only read the first three. I was a slow reader, and English is not my first language. By the time I finished the third book in the series, I was older, and the child-like feelings that lived inside me were fading away. I wanted to read more advanced books for older readers.

However, recently, I decided to read The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe again. I enjoyed it just as much as I did the first time, although I have a different perspective now. When I read it as a child, I simply loved the magical world. But now, even though I know Narnia doesn’t exist, reading about C.S. Lewis’s world makes me see and feel things the way I did when I was a child. It is like a time machine for me. And I think it is important to be able to think like a child and relive those memories. It helps me forget about my teenage difficulties.

As I grow up, these feelings of innocence, wonder, and the desire to play fade out. But somewhere in the corner of my mind, I still have them, and will continue to cling to them so that I can go back to Narnia whenever I wish.

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(NYC-2015-09-24)

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