Old Friends and The Chronicles of Narnia
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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.
A Family Guide to the Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe
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.
Thank you so much for your kind comments on my book. A student in one of my classes let me know about your blog post, so I am just now seeing it. It’s nice to know that other people are as concerned I am about the order! (Actually, this book did start as my Master’s Thesis, so it’s certainly not gripping fiction!) Thanks again!
I wholeheartedly agree with you, Natalie! Perhaps for a scholarly view of the history of a place, going at it in a simply factual and chronological manner might be okay, but personally I would still prefer the “delightful,” fun way of finding out the details of the story – whether it is a fictional tale like the Narnia books or the actual history of some real place.
I’d say it’s probably more memorable that way, too! 🙂
Narnia is always called for! And I totally agree on the order thing. LWW should be read first–it makes The Magician’s Nephew so much more interesting somehow, I think 🙂
As one facebook bumpersticker says, “I routinely check closets for Narnia.”
Well, if you found that interesting…try Michael Ward’s Planet Narnia. 🙂
Definitely warranted the blog post. I’m the penultimate Narnia nerd, though.
Thank you for the post Natalie! I think there are quite a few Narnia lovers around here…I am no exception.
I came to the books in a most unusual way. I can still remember we were at the library and Mom pulled BBC’s “The Silver Chair” off the shelf saying, “Let’s give this movie a try. I think it is based off books by a Christian author. They’re supposed to be allegory or something.”
So I was introduced to Narnia in a way I would never recommend! (I usually read a book before watching the movie!)
I think I was actually to young to read at the time, because when my sister got the Chronicles for her birthday she told me the stories as she read them. They were in chronological order, and not having heard any of the debates she started from the beginning 🙂 For some strange reason I can’t remember the first book I read on my own was “The Last Battle”. Needless to say I fell in love with the stories, even from a “backward” view! Each time I read them I gain new insights. So based on experience I don’t really think the initial order one is exposed to them makes great difference. Nevertheless, when (Lord willing) I have children of my own I think I will read them the Chronicles of Narnia in the order originally published!
Ahh! I always enjoy thinking of Narnia!
It is such a relief to hear someone ELSE ranting on the “reading order”! I think I need to forward this link to some of my friends… maybe it will convince them I’m not crazy! 😉
I love your literary posts, Natalie–and agree with both the references to the classics (what else could we expect from a man like Lewis?) and to the “traditional” order. 🙂
Oh, it is worth a post!
I remember speaking to a lady at church and she had just started reading the Narnia books to her children – and had started with The Magicians Nephew. I was so sad! those kids weren’t introduced to Narnia through Lucy’s eyes, or have the thrill of seeing Aslan for the first time surrounded by his court.
And I agree – so much of TMN can’t be fully appreciated unless you have read the other books.
Oh, anything about Narnia is okay by me! I read the books chronilogically, but had seen the BBC LWW movie before that. I remember not being able to put The Magician’s Nephew down! I first read the Chronicles when I was eleven and still re-read them at twenty-two, never failing to see some new tidbit of wisdom or ceasing to be amazed by Lewis’ humor and style. Oh, yes, and I still try to knock on the back of every wardrobe I see!
It most certainly DOES warrant a blog post! Anything about Narnia catches my eye immediately.
One more book to add to my wishlist! 🙂
I think it warranted a post, Natalie! And I also happen to agree with the order best for reading the books. Our old non-chronological set is literally falling apart and has rather corny illustrations on the covers (all the trees look like balls on sticks), but they’re special. The four oldest of us children found them in our stockings one Christmas morning, far better treasures than Pez and chocolate money!
The book you mentioned which shows nods in the Chronicles to Milton and Spencer sounds intriguing! I’m ashamed to say I still need to read Paradise Lost, but I have done a bit of The Fairie Queen, and love it! I personally like the more scholarly, deeper works than those which just give summaries of each books and lessons to learn (those are sometimes good too, though).
Thanks for your thoughts on those wonderful books!
Well, I find this post very thought provoking. *smiles* Of course, I am a Narnia junkie so…
it’s interesting enough for me to actually comment on this blog post!! I am quite the Narnian at heart, and love to encourage others to read the series… and convince them of the right order in which to read them. 🙂 (and it’s not chronological).