The Chronicles of Narnia
- For the film, see The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.
The Chronicles of Narnia is a series of seven fantasy novels for children written by C.S. Lewis. It is considered a classic of children's literature and is perhaps the author's best known work. More than 95 million copies of the books have been sold in 41 languages. Written by Lewis between 1950 and 1956, The Chronicles of Narnia contains Christian themes and borrows from Greek and Roman mythology as well as traditional English and Irish fairy tales. The books have been adapted for radio, television, stage and cinema. Pauline Baynes illustrated the original books in the series.
The books that make up The Chronicles of Narnia are presented below in the order in which they were originally published (see reading order below). They are by far the most popular of C.S. Lewis' works having sold more than 95 million copies in 41 languages. Template:Harvard citation Template:Spoiler
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
Published in 1950, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe presents the story of four ordinary children, Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy Pevensie, who find their way into the magical land of Narnia where they meet the great lion Aslan and take part in breaking the evil White Witch's amazing power.
Published in 1951, Prince Caspian: The Return to Narnia tells the story of the Pevensie children's second trip to Narnia where they discover that an evil king from Telmar has taken control of Narnia. This foreign ruler has tried to kill off the magical creatures of Narnia, but there are still many hiding in the remote corners of the land. The four children help the young Prince Caspian organize his army of Talking Beasts, and, with the help of the great lion Aslan, Narnia is once more freed of evil.
The Voyage of the Dawn Treader
Published in 1952, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader returns Edmund and Lucy Pevensie, along with their priggish cousin, Eustace Scrubb, to Narnia. Once there they accompany King Caspian on a voyage to find the seven lords who were banished when Caspian's evil uncle Miraz stole the throne. This perilous journey brings them face to face with many wonders and dangers as they sail toward Aslan's country at the end of the world.
The Silver Chair
Published in 1953, The Silver Chair is the first book without the Pevensie children. Instead, Aslan calls Eustace back to Narnia together with his fellow student Jill Pole. There they are given four clues to find Prince Rilian who is missing. Eustace and Jill face danger before finding Rilian and breaking him free from the spell of the Emerald Witch.
The Horse and His Boy
Published in 1954, The Horse and His Boy tells the story of Bree, a talking horse, and Shasta, a young boy, who have been held in bondage in a country to the South of Narnia. By chance, one day they meet and plan their return to Narnia and freedom. On their journey they discover that the Calormenes are about to invade Narnia and sound the alarm. We once again meet up with the Pevensie children and they arrive with Aslan to set things right.
The Magician's Nephew
Published in 1955, the prequel The Magician's Nephew brings us back to the very beginning of Narnia where we learn how Aslan created the world and how evil first entered it. Many mysteries of Narnia are revealed as another group of children stumble into Narnia via an entirely different route.
The Last Battle
Published in 1956 and awarded the Carnegie Medal, The Last Battle chronicles the end of the world of Narnia. Jill and Eustace are returned to Narnia to help save it from treacherous invaders and a false Aslan.
Fans of the series often have strong opinions over the correct ordering of the books. When the books were originally published, they were not numbered. The first American publisher, Macmillan, put numbers on the books in the order in which they were published. When HarperCollins took over the series, the books were renumbered using the internal chronological order, as suggested by Lewis's stepson, Douglas Gresham.
|Publication order||Chronological order|
|1. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe||1. The Magician's Nephew|
|2. Prince Caspian||2. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe|
|3. The Voyage of the Dawn Treader||3. The Horse and His Boy|
|4. The Silver Chair||4. Prince Caspian|
|5. The Horse and His Boy||5. The Voyage of the Dawn Treader|
|6. The Magician's Nephew||6. The Silver Chair|
|7. The Last Battle||7. The Last Battle|
Gresham quoted Lewis's reply to a letter from an American fan in 1957 who was having an argument with his mother about the order:
- "I think I agree with your order (i.e. chronological) for reading the books more than with your mother's. The series was not planned beforehand as she thinks. When I wrote The Lion I did not know I was going to write any more. Then I wrote P. Caspian as a sequel and still didn't think there would be any more, and when I had done The Voyage I felt quite sure it would be the last. But I found as I was wrong. So perhaps it does not matter very much in which order anyone read them. I'm not even sure that all the others were written in the same order in which they were published." Template:Harvard citation
Fans of the series who appreciate the original order believe that Lewis was only being polite to a child and that he could have changed the order in his lifetime had he so desired. Template:Harvard citation Other arguments for the publication order include that Prince Caspian is subtitled "The Return to Narnia", and that the following quotes from The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe support it as the first book in the series:
- "None of the children knew who Aslan was, any more than you do."
- "That is the very end of the adventure of the wardrobe. But if the Professor was right, it was only the beginning of the adventures of Narnia."
The Chronicles of Narnia contain many allusions to Christian ideas which are easily accessible to younger readers; however, the books are not weighty, and can be read for their adventure, colour, and mythological ideas alone. Because of this, The Chronicles of Narnia have become favourites with both children and adults, Christians and non-Christians.
Although he did not set out to do so, in the process of writing his fantasy works, Lewis (an adult convert to Christianity) found himself incorporating Christian theological concepts into his stories. As he wrote in Of Other Worlds:
- "Some people seem to think that I began by asking myself how I could say something about Christianity to children; then fixed on the fairy tale as an instrument, then collected information about child psychology and decided what age group I'd write for; then drew up a list of basic Christian truths and hammered out 'allegories' to embody them. This is all pure moonshine. I couldn't write in that way. It all began with images; a faun carrying an umbrella, a queen on a sledge, a magnificent lion. At first there wasn't anything Christian about them; that element pushed itself in of its own accord."
Lewis, an expert on the subject of allegory, himself maintained that the books were not allegory, and preferred to call the Christian aspects of them "suppositional". This is similar to what we would now call alternative history. As he wrote in a letter to a Mrs. Hook in December of 1958:
- "If Aslan represented the immaterial Deity in the same way in which Giant Despair [a character in The Pilgrim's Progress] represents despair, he would be an allegorical figure. In reality however he is an invention giving an imaginary answer to the question, 'What might Christ become like, if there really were a world like Narnia and He chose to be incarnate and die and rise again in that world as He actually has done in ours?' This is not allegory at all." Template:Harvard citation
New Yorker essayist Adam Gopnik recently suggested that, as a strict Christian allegory, the The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe is not especially accurate. Specifically, he points out that
- "a central point of the Gospel story is that Jesus is not the lion of the faith but the lamb of God, while his other symbolic animal is, specifically, the lowly and bedraggled donkey. The moral force of the Christian story is that the lions are all on the other side. If we had, say, a donkey, a seemingly uninspiring animal from an obscure corner of Narnia, raised as an uncouth and low-caste beast of burden, rallying the mice and rats and weasels and vultures and all the other unclean animals, and then being killed by the lions in as humiliating a manner as possible—a donkey who re-emerges, to the shock even of his disciples and devotees, as the king of all creation—now, that would be a Christian allegory. A powerful lion, starting life at the top of the food chain, adored by all his subjects and filled with temporal power, killed by a despised evil witch for his power and then reborn to rule, is a Mithraic, not a Christian, myth" Template:Harvard citation
With the release of 2005 Disney movie there has been renewed interest in the Christian parallels found in the books. Some find them distasteful, while noting that they are easy to miss if you are not familiar with Christianity. Template:Harvard citation Alan Jacobs, author of The Narnian: The Life and Imaginaton of C.S. Lewis, says flatly that Lewis has become "a pawn in America's culture wars" Template:Harvard citation. Some Christians see the chronicles as an excellent tools for Christian evangelism. Template:Harvard citation
To offer another point of view, some scholars point out that since most of the stories and legends within Christianity are borrowed from earlier pagan religions, one could say that the story is only as Christian as the person reading it, or that it is as much a work of paganism as it is Christianity. Certainly the books overtly display more occult-style magic and mythological pagan creatures (on the good side, no less) than vague allusions to Christian stories. One could just as easily find Biblical references in other works, if one so desired.Template:Citeneeded
Influences on Narnia
Lewis' early life has echoes within the Chronicles. Born in Belfast, Ireland in 1898, Lewis' family moved to a large house in the country when he was seven. The house contained long hallways and empty rooms, and Lewis and his brother invented make-believe worlds while exploring their home. Like Caspian and Tirian, Lewis lost his mother at an early age, and like Edmund, Jill and Eustace, he spent a long, miserable time in English boarding schools. During World War II, many children were evacuated from London because of air raids. Some of these children stayed with Lewis at his home in Oxford. Template:Harvard citation
Lewis was part of the Inklings, a literary discussion group associated with the University of Oxford, England. Its members included such notables as J. R. R. Tolkien, Charles Williams and Hugo Dyson. Readings and discussions of the members' unfinished works were the principal purposes of meetings. These readings and discussions were usually held on Thursday evenings in C. S. Lewis's college rooms at Magdalen College. The Inklings were also known to gather at a local pub, The Eagle and Child.
===Name=== According to Paul Ford's Companion to Narnia: There is no indication that Lewis was alluding to the ancient Umbrian city Nequinium, renamed Narnia (after the river Nar, a tributary of the Tiber) by the conquering Romans in 299 BC. However, since Lewis's first successes at Oxford were in the classics and ancient history, it is quite possible that he came across at least seven references to Narnia in Latin literature. Template:Harvard citation
Narnia's influence on others
A more recent British series of novels, Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials, has been seen as an "answer" to the Narnia books. Pullman's series favours science and reason over religion, wholly rejecting the themes of Christian theology which permeate the Narnia series, but has many of the same issues, subject matter, and types of characters (including talking animals) as the Chronicles of Narnia.
The short story The Problem of Susan written by Neil Gaiman tells the story of Susan Pevensie long after the conclusion of Lewis' series (available in Flights: Extreme Visions of Fantasy edited by Al Sarrantonio). Additionally, Gaiman's Sandman graphic novel series, in its story arc entitled "A Game of You", features a Narnia-like "dream island".
Influence on popular culture
- Main article: The Chronicles of Narnia in popular culture
As one would expect with any popular, long lived work, references to The Chronicles of Narnia are relatively common in pop-culture. References to the lion Aslan, travelling via wardrobe, and direct references to The Chronicles of Narnia occur in books, television, songs, games and graphic novels. Recently, Chris Parnell and Andy Samberg from Saturday Night Live did a skit where they rapped about a trip to see The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe at a movie theater. In addition to appearances in mainstream pop-culture, because of its content references to Narnia are even more prevalent among Christian recording artists.
C.S. Lewis and the Chronicles of Narnia series have received various criticisms over the years, much of it by fellow authors. Allegations of sexism centre around the description of Susan Pevensie in The Last Battle. Lewis characterizes Susan as being "no longer a friend of Narnia" and interested "in nothing nowadays except lipstick, nylons and invitations".
- "There comes a point where Susan, who was the older girl, is lost to Narnia because she becomes interested in lipstick. She's become irreligious basically because she found sex, I have a big problem with that." Template:Harvard citation
- "Susan, like Cinderella, is undergoing a transition from one phase of her life to another. Lewis didn't approve of that. He didn't like women in general, or sexuality at all, at least at the stage in his life when he wrote the Narnia books. He was frightened and appalled at the notion of wanting to grow up."Template:Harvard citation
But others oppose this view, arguing that the "lipsticks, nylons and invitations" quote is taken out of context because, Susan is excluded from Narnia in The Last Battle specifically because she no longer believes in it. Moreover, in The Horse and his Boy, Susan's adulthood and sexual maturity is portrayed in a positive light. They also cite the positive roles of women in the series, like Lucy Pevensie and Aravis Tarkheena, who are main characters in the The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and The Horse and His Boy, respectively. It is asserted that Lucy is the most admirable of the human characters, and that in general the girls come off better than the boys through the stories. Template:Harvard citation, Template:Harvard citation, Template:Harvard citation
In addition to the sexism accusation, Pullman has also implicated The Chronicles of Narnia series in fostering racism. He writes:
- "[For Lewis] Death is better than life; boys are better than girls; light-coloured people are better than dark-coloured people; and so on. There is no shortage of such nauseating drivel in Narnia, if you can face it." Template:Harvard citation
About racism in The Horse and His Boy specifically, O'Connor writes:
- "It's just too dreadful. While the book's storytelling virtues are enormous, you don't have to be a bluestocking of political correctness to find some of this fantasy anti-Arab, or anti-Eastern, or anti-Ottoman. With all its stereotypes, mostly played for belly laughs, there are moments you'd like to stuff this story back into its closet."Template:Harvard citation
The racism critique is also made by Hensher, and is based on a perceived negative representation of other races and religions, particularly the Calormenes, as enemies of Aslan and Narnia Template:Harvard citation. The Calormenes are described as oily and dark-skinned people who wear turbans and pointy slippers and are armed with scimitars. This depiction has been cited as a blatant allegorical comparison to the traditional attire of Islam and Sikhism. Turbans are worn by Muslim clerics, and most adult Sikh males. Scimitars originated in the Middle East, and are highly symbolic of Islam. The Calormenes worship the "false god" Tash, who is portrayed as a stereotypical Satanic being requiring evil deeds and sacrifices from his followers.
On the other hand, there are Calormene characters portrayed in a positive light throughout the series. In The Horse and His Boy, one of the main characters, Aravis, is a female Calormene princess that ends up marrying an Archenlander prince of a presumably different ethnicity. In The Last Battle, the Calormene Emeth is accepted by Aslan although he is a worshiper of Tash. Template:Harvard citation
Lewis supporters point to the fact that Lewis writings have a particularly British Victorian era flavour that was much in fashion during his lifetime, but that may be seen as politically incorrect nowadays. The fact that Lewis and other similar-minded contemporaries such as J.R.R. Tolkien and Charles Williams remained popular over such a long period of time suggests to some that many of the criticisms which have been voiced are minority views, not thought to be significant by the reading public. O'Connor writes, "In his time, people thought it was amusing to make fun of other cultures. We don't. Read the stories, ask questions, and remember that the person who wrote this story was altogether too human."
Some of the criticism may be related to Narnia's Christian content. According to Jacobs, "Those who dislike Christianity itself can be far more harsh: Thus the English novelist Philip Hensher chastised Lewis a few years ago because his books 'corrupt the minds of the young with allegory,' and suggested (only half-jokingly, I think) that parents should give their children 'Last Exit to Brooklyn' to read rather than a Narnia tale." Pullman is also an outspoken atheist.
The Narnia universe
Most of The Chronicles of Narnia take place in the world of Narnia. The Narnian world itself is one world in a multiverse of countless worlds including our own. Passage between these worlds is possible though rare and may be accomplished in various fashions. Visitors to Narnia observe that the passage of time while they are away is unpredictable. Narnia itself is populated by a wide variety of creatures most of whom would be recognizable to those familiar with Roman/Norse mythology and Irish/English fairy tales.
Narnia in other media
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe was first turned into a television series in 1967. The ten episodes, each thirty minutes long, were directed by Helen Standage. The screenplay was written by Trevor Preston. Unlike subsequent adaptations, it is currently unavailable to purchase for home viewing.
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe was turned into an animated television special in 1979. It was a co-production of Bill Melendez (Charlie Brown) and the Children's Television Workshop (Sesame Street and The Electric Company). The screenplay was by David D. Connell. It won the Emmy award for Outstanding Animated Program that year.
The Chronicles of Narnia were turned into a series of successful BBC television miniseries in 1988–1990. They were nominated for a total of 14 awards, including an Emmy in the category of Outstanding Children's Program. Only The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, Prince Caspian, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, and The Silver Chair were filmed. The four miniseries were later edited into three feature-length films (combining "Prince Caspian" and "The Voyage of the Dawn Treader") and released on DVD.
The critically acclaimed BBC Radio 4 dramatization was produced in the 1980s. Collectively titled Tales of Narnia it cover the entire series and is approximately 15 hours long.
Between 1999 and 2002 Focus on the Family produced radio dramatizations of all 7 books. Production included a cast of over 100 actors, an original orchestral score and cinema-quality digital sound design. Total running time is slightly over 22 hours. Douglas Gresham, the stepson of C.S. Lewis, hosts the series. From the Focus on the Family website:
- "Between the lamp post and Cair Paravel on the Western Sea lies Narnia, a mystical land where animals hold the power of speech … woodland fauns conspire with men … dark forces, bent on conquest, gather at the world's rim to wage war against the realm's rightful king … and the Great Lion Aslan is the only hope. Into this enchanted world comes a group of unlikely travelers. These ordinary boys and girls, when faced with peril, learn extraordinary lessons in courage, self-sacrifice, friendship and honor."
In 1998 the Royal Shakespeare Theatre premiered The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Dramatized by Adrian Mitchell and originally directed by Adrian Noble with revival directed by Lucy Pitman-Wallace, the production was well received and ran during the holiday season from 1998 to 2002. The London Evening Standard wrote:
- "...Lucy Pitman-Wallace's beautiful recreation of Adrian Noble's production evokes all the awe and mystery of this mythically complex tale, while never being too snooty to stoop to bracingly comic touches like outrageously camp reindeer or a beaver with a housework addiction... In our science and technology-dominated age, faith is increasingly insignificant - yet in this otherwise gloriously resonant production, it is possible to understand its allure."
There are also other dramatisations including musicals of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and The Magician's Nephew that have been performed in various community playhouses in recent years. Adaptations were created by Irita Kutchmy ; Jules Tasca, Thomas Tierney & Ted Drachman; Adrian Mitchell; Joseph Robinette; and Aurand Harris.
A film version of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, titled The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, produced by both Walt Disney Pictures and Walden Media, was released in December 2005. It was directed by Andrew Adamson. The screenplay was written by Ann Peacock. Principal photography for the film took place in the Czech Republic and New Zealand. The movie achieved critical and box office success, and it seems likely that Disney will produce a sequel Prince Caspian with an expected release date of December 2007.
- Duriez, Colin. A Field Guide to Narnia. InterVarsity Press, 2004.
- Ford, Paul. Companion to Narnia, Revised Edition. HarperSanFrancisco, revised edition 2005.
- Ditchfield, Christin. A Family Guide to Narnia: Biblical Truths in C.S. Lewis's the Chronicles of Narnia. Crossway Books, 2003.
- Bruner, Kurt & Ware, Jim. Finding God in the Land of Narnia. Tyndale House Publishers, 2005.
- Williams, Thomas. The Heart of the Chronicles of Narnia: Knowing God Here by Finding Him There. W Publishing Group, 2005.
- Wagner, Richard. C.S. Lewis & Narnia For Dummies. For Dummies, 2005.
- A Guide for Using The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe in the Classroom. Teacher Created Resources, 2000.
- The Lion, Witch & Wardrobe Study Guide. Progeny Press, 1993.
- The Magician's Nephew Study Guide. Progeny Press, 1997.
- Prince Caspian Study Guide. Progeny Press, 2003.
- Jacobs, Alan. The Narnian: The Life and Imagination of C.S. Lewis. HarperSanFrancisco, 2005.
- Into the Wardrobe — A site devoted to C.S. Lewis and his works
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- What Order Should I Read the Narnia Books in(And Does It Matter?)
- Narnia's lion really is about Jesus
- The Lion King: C.S. Lewis' Narnia isn't simply a Christian allegory., Meghan O'Rourke, Slate magazine, 9 December 2005
- RapidNet.com — C. S. Lewis FAQ
- The Proper Order of The Chronicles of Narnia: A Case for Publication Order
- Narnia.com — Disney Narnia movie official website
- NarniaWeb.com — A large Narnia fan site
- NarniaFans.com — Dedicated to the Chronicles of Narnia
- C. S. Lewis on Wikiquote.
- The Lion's Wardrobe — A Narnia RPG and Discussion forum
- Narnia Confidential — A wiki devoted to The Chronicles of NarniaTemplate:NarniaBooks
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