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Narnia gateway takes students through the wardrobe

Two students dressed in oversized fur coats began sword fighting with plastic swords in the quad on Friday afternoon. Another student wore a white horse head and some other student wore an ape head.

If this sounds like Halloween, it was not. Instead, Gateway students created an event modeled after characters and themes in the Chronicles of Narnia series.

The two sections dedicated to the series produced the Narnia Fair as an assignment for Cary Balzer, associate professor of biblical studies.

“They are a popular set of stories,” Balzer said. “It is a fun way to include other people.”

Balzer conceived of the Narnia Fair as a way to involve both the JBU community and the residents of Siloam Springs.

“The point of Gateway is to integrate faith and learning,” Balzer said. “Narnia can be read as a story. You can read the story with the main point left out. People read Narnia and don’t understand the deeper meaning. We express the biblical themes and learning about C.S. Lewis through those themes.”

Each Gateway class split into five groups which created a poster and an activity based on the leading themes that appeared in the novel. They were graded on their creativity, presentation and how well they knew each novel.

Activities at the fair included a Dufflepud dash or a two legged race, face painting, sword fighting and white-witch freeze tag.

Freshmen engineering majors Hagen Boehmer, dressed as Shift the Ape, and Justin Burchfiel, dressed as Mr. Tumnus, were assigned the novel “The Last Battle.” For their activity, they reenacted the titular battle scene with foam-firing toys.

“It is the new-age form of archery of sorts,” Boehmer said.

Burchfiel and Boehmer said the novel paralleled the end times as seen in Revelation. At the end of the battle, Aslan comes back to end Narnia. The new Narnia is everything the old Narnia should have been, a new heaven and new earth, said Burchfiel.

The Narnia class is one out of 17 different Gateway classes JBU offers for both freshman and transfer students. Boehmer said he chose this Gateway class for a much-needed break from engineering math.

“I am a huge Narnia fan,” said Jordan Swartzendruber, a family and human services major in the class. “If I didn’t choose the class, I would regret it.”

At the entrance, the students asked for a $1 donation to pay for producing the fair. Balzer said any extra money earned would be donated to a worthy cause.

The Chronicles of Narnia first appeared in 1950 and remain in print today. From talking animals to the dark magic practiced by the series’ villains, the Chronicles of Narnia plays to readers’ imaginations.

“It is a magical feel to it,” Tara Sallee, an early childhood education major said. “It makes me feel like a kid again.”