Meeting Mr. Tumnus

new friends may be found in the strangest of circumstances

customised phone cover / ink on bristol

Meeting Mr. Tumnus

 


Anyone who grew up reading CS Lewis’s Narnia books will instantly recognise this iconic scene, when Lucy stumbles into the enchanted world inside the wardrobe for the first time and startles the faun, Mr. Tumnus, underneath the lamp-post - and thus begins the adventure.

I was a kid in the 90s. We didn’t have the internet yet, and we lived in smallish towns; a lot of the time, I was homeschooled. We had a beautiful set of Encarta encyclopedias (I remember when my parents bought them from a door-to-door salesperson, a hugely extravagant purchase for people without a lot of extra money). I spent endless hours browsing entries, looking at pictures of things I’d never seen before, getting a sense of the size of the world.

One of the other sets of books deemed precious enough to live in the glass bookcase was my mom’s box-set of the Chronicles of Narnia, from when she was a kid herself. Being allowed to handle these books was like a rite of passage when I was six or seven years old; the semi-forbidden nature of these special books in the glass case that I had to ask before touching only made me want them more.

While re-reading them from an adult perspective has shown me a lot of the problematic biases of the author that I was unaware of as a kid, those books still were some of my earliest experiences of how magical reading could be, and I retain a fondness for a lot of the pieces of those narratives that I all but memorised before the pages began falling out in spite of my delicate handling. During one of the worst school-years of middle school (4th grade), I discovered the live-action video series at the local library and probably single-handedly checked them out more than they’d ever been rented in their history to that point.

When I got older, I read the first several books in the series aloud to my sisters, sharing that love of reading and stories with them; when I was away at university, I would video-call and read to them.

So. When I decided to make a piece of art to be my mom’s phone cover, this scene seemed an obvious choice, and was a fun excuse for a moment of nostalgia. In the years since I made it, it’s been clear this encounter sparks that same memory of joyful imagination in many of those who see it, and I couldn’t ask for a better reception than that.

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