Ah, book love. ‘Tis like no other in the world.
Perhaps “love” is not the right term–I use it because of a favorite quote:
“Book love, my friend, is your pass to the greatest, the purest, and the most perfect pleasure.” (Anthony Trollope)
While obviously hyperbole, reading the world’s best books is a joy like few others. The seven bookshelves in my room literally fill nearly every inch of wall space–and almost all those shelves are two layers deep in books.
But be our personal library large or small, all of us have that treasured collection of books which we never tire of revisiting. For me, the one volume I love to curl up with on a cold winter’s night—after I have spent time in the Book of Books—is C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia.
My daddy brought home a slipcased set of the 7 volumes when I was no more than six and began to read The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe to me. I still remember sitting next to him, leaning against my bed and listening. Soon I was reading them on my own—over and over and over. I remember sitting against my door (I’m not sure why that particular location) with my brother and reading The Magician’s Nephew to him aloud.
Years passed, and still, the Chronicles are like returning to a comfortable childhood haunt. One of my most treasured possessions is a beautiful hardcover volume containing all seven Narnia books with splendid full-color illustrations. Dad has read from it to us, I have read from it to others, and Lord willing I will someday read from it to my own children.
I am currently enjoying A Family Guide to the Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by Christin Ditchfield. If you are an avid Narnia fan or have young siblings or children who enjoy these stories, this little book is a good resource. It looks to be geared for children, but I learned a few new things even after being a Narnia reader all my life. Each chapter in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe is examined for Biblical parallels and principles. Other Scripture verses for study and interesting facts are also presented. There is even a recipe for Turkish Delight and other activities! The parallels to Scriptural principles are simply presented so anyone can understand. I appreciated all of the Scripture included–this book was obviously well-researched. And it even has illustrations to keep the younger ones peeking over your shoulder as you read.
The Chronology of Narnia
Recently, I read Milton, Spenser and the Chronicles of Narnia by Elizabeth Baird Hardy. Some may not care for it, being that it reads like a dissertation, not a light-weight novel, but I’ve been eating it up. The author’s knowledge of Paradise Lost and Spenser’s The Fairie Queen and how Lewis gave nods to these, some of his favorite works, throughout the Chronicles is fascinating.
I also must agree with the author on the question of what order to read the Narnia books. The big, beautiful full-color hardcover edition of the Chronicles that I own is arranged chronologically instead of in the order the books were originally published (both of which are different from the order in which Lewis wrote them!) so I would not just read it straight through. I am blessed to have an old enough paperback set that it held to the original numbering system and that was the order in which I first experienced them. In my opinion (and that of others), it is by far superior.
- The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (1950)
- Prince Caspian (1951)
- The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (1952)
- The Silver Chair (1953)
- The Horse and His Boy (1954)
- The Magician’s Nephew (1955)
- The Last Battle (1956)
Paul F. Ford, the author of The Companion to Narnia, insists that “although Lewis suggested the chronological order late in his life, this order would only be better ‘if Lewis had been able to complete his intended revision.’…an arrangement that places The Magician’s Nephew first removes the delightful irony when the origins of both the wardrobe and the lamppost are revealed, as well as the thrill one receives in learning that Digory becomes the beloved Professor Kirke… The chronological arrangement also hampers the remarkable and thought-provoking contrast of creation and destruction achieved by placing TMN back to back with The Last Battle“.
In addition, how else would Lewis’s statement in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe be true? He writes:
“They say Aslan is on the move—perhaps has already landed.”
And now a very curious thing happened. None of the children knew who Aslan was any more than you do; but the moment the Beaver had spoken these words everyone felt quite different.