In the Mind’s Eye: Books vs. Movies

Books matter in our family. You might say we’re passionate about them. At last count we had over 1500 books in our house. There should be no surprise, then, when I tell you about a pact that one of my sons made with me. Having read out loud the entirety of The Lord of the Rings to my boys, I assumed he would be eager to see the movies when they first came out.

Not so. He emphatically told me, “I don’t want to have someone else’s ideas of the characters replace my own.” And he made me agree with him not to watch them.

Like I said. He’s passionate about books.

Personally, I don’t think the movies could re-draw the deeply etched images I have from reading and re-reading the books. But I admire his dedication to the pure connection between the author and reader.

Why is the connection between a reader and the printed story so strong? It’s because readers are asked to be co-creators with the author. Madeleine L’Engle, in her book, Walking on Water, writes that readers are involved in “imagining the setting of the story, visualizing the characters, seeing facial expressions, hearing the inflection of voices. The author and the reader “know” each other; they meet on the bridge of words.” In movies, however, we’re passive. We don’t meet on the bridge; we simply sit back and have the story brought to us.

If you or your child is a fan of The Chronicles of Narnia, you’re going to have this same dilemma. As you may know, a major film version of the series is on its way. And like the film of Tolkien’s masterpiece, these movies will probably get the stories right – replete with amazing special effects.

But I suggest thinking it over before going. Don’t be quick to let a movie define a book for you or your child. Talk it out between you. Maybe even make a pact – to abstain, like my son and I did; or to see it together and discuss it afterward.

And if your child hasn’t read the series, then treat them: read it aloud. Enter into the powerful weaving of images in your mind’s eye. Meet the author on the bridge of words.

Bruce Van Patter

all material ©2005 Bruce Van Patter