The Chronicles of Narnia – C. S. Lewis

Post 96

One of my all-time favourite fantasy book series for children has to be The Chronicles of Narnia by Irish author C. S. Lewis. Clive Staples Lewis wrote more than thirty books and is considered one of the most influential writers of his day (1898 – 1963). The Narnia books are his most famous and also most popular books: they have sold over 100 million copies.

The Chronicles of Narnia are, as the title suggests, a collection of 7 books or “chronicles” about the magical and mysterious land of Narnia, overseen by the talking lion Aslan. There is a lot of discussion about the best way to read Lewis’s masterpiece. The version of the book I have (cover pictured above) proposes the stories in chronological order, as such:

As this is the order in which they appear in my book, I read the stories like this the first few times. However, this is not the order in which C. S. Lewis published the books. He first started out with The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe in 1949. Following the book’s massive success, Lewis published another six books, set in the same world of Narnia. A lot of people swear by reading the books in publishing order, and not in chronological order. I have read them both ways, and I think there is something to be said for both. People who are familiar with the stories, should read them in chronological order as it changes the reading experience a little. I would suggest that new readers follow the publication order because the books that were first published are also the best known:

Over 50 years after the first publication, the books are still being read by children all over the world. The Chronicles of Narnia have moved beyond the fantasy genre and have become part of the canon of classic literature, much like Tolkien‘s The Lord of the Rings for example. And, once again much like Tolkien’s series, Lewis’s books have also been translated for the big screen. Three movies have come out so far:

  1. The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (released in 2005)
  2. The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian (released in 2008)
  3. The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (released in 2010)

As you can see, the movies follow the publication order of the book series, and not the chronological order. They started with The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe which is the most popular book of the series, and then went on according to the publication order. A fourth movie, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Silver Chair is in the works but no release date has been set yet.

I am not going to go into detail for every one of the seven books, but I will explain the setting of the books. The books play out mostly in Narnia, a magical land in another dimension that can only be reached through certain portals (like magic rings or a wardrobe for example). This magical land is inhabited by a whole slew of creatures and talking animals that seem to have walked straight out of a storybook. The land is watched over by its fierce protector, a big lion named Aslan (who is from another land himself). Humans are drawn into Narnia by Aslan to help the forces of good fight the evil that has invaded the land (ranging from witches and evil queens to corrupt lords, dwarves and even sea serpents).

Each one of the seven books is a fantastical, epic masterpiece that is set in the same fictional world where magic meets reality. Every book is set up in the same way: humans are brought over to Narnia where they travel through parts unknown and meet magical beings on the way to epic battles between good and evil. The setting of the scene is simple and direct, which is probably why The Chronicles of Narnia have continued to captivate fans over the years with adventures, characters and truths that speak to readers of all ages.

 

Children will see this as a series of extraordinary, almost fairytale-like stories with different heroes and heroines who save the day, and the world, repeatedly. They will discover an interesting mix of fairy tale elements, magic, talking animals and travelling to other worlds/dimensions. an adventure around every corner. More mature readers will be able to look beyond that and discern a lot of social criticism on modern-day life; because the stories show an ideal world, and what can happen to it. Of course, even mature readers can put that aside and just enjoy the magical stories of Narnia.

In short: a pleasure to read for young and old!

Have you read any of the Narnia stories already? Which is your favourite? If I have to choose it would either be Prince Caspian or The Horse and His Boy. And now that I’ve finished this review, I feel like rereading all of them! I know what I’ll be doing come this weekend…

Happy reading,

Loes M.

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