The Chronicles of Narnia is a series of seven high fantasy novels by author C.S. Lewis. It is considered a classic of children's literature and is the author's best-known work, having sold over 100 million copies in 47 languages. Written by Lewis between 1949 and 1954, illustrated by Pauline Baynes and originally published in London between October 1950 and March 1956, The Chronicles of Narnia has been adapted several times, complete or in part, for radio, television, the stage, and film.
Set in the fictional realm of Narnia, a fantasy world of magic, mythical beasts, and talking animals, the series narrates the adventures of various children who play central roles in the unfolding history of that world. Except in The Horse and His Boy, the protagonists are all children from the real world, magically transported to Narnia, where they are called upon by the lion Aslan to protect Narnia from evil and restore the throne to its rightful line. The books span the entire history of Narnia, from its creation in The Magician's Nephew to its eventual destruction in The Last Battle.
Inspiration for the series is taken from multiple sources; in addition to adapting numerous traditional Christian themes, the books freely borrow characters and ideas from Greek, Anatolian and Roman mythology as well as from traditional British and Irish fairy tales. The books have profoundly influenced adult and children's fantasy literature since World War II. Lewis's exploration of themes not usually present in children's literature, such as religion, as well as the books' perceived treatment of issues including race and gender, has caused some controversy.
Background and conception
Although Lewis originally conceived what would become The Chronicles of Narnia in 1939, he did not finish writing the first book The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe until 1949. The Magician's Nephew, the penultimate book to be published, but the last to be written, was completed in 1954. Lewis did not write the books in the order in which they were originally published, nor were they published in their current chronological order of presentation. The original illustrator, Pauline Baynes, created for the Narnia books pen and ink drawings which are still used in the books as published today. Lewis was awarded the 1956 Carnegie Medal for The Last Battle, the final book in the saga. Fellow children's author Roger Lancelyn Green first referred to the series as The Chronicles of Narnia, in March 1951, after he had read and discussed with Lewis his recently completed fourth book The Silver Chair, originally entitled Night under Narnia.
Lewis described the origin of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe in an essay entitled "It All Began with a Picture":
The Lion all began with a picture of a Faun carrying an umbrella and parcels in a snowy wood. This picture had been in my mind since I was about sixteen. Then one day, when I was about forty, I said to myself: 'Let's try to make a story about it.'
Shortly before the start of World War II, many children were evacuated to the English countryside in anticipation of attacks on London and other major urban areas by Nazi Germany. As a result, on 2 September 1939, three school girls, Margaret, Mary and Katherine, came to live at The Kilns in Risinghurst, Lewis' home three miles east of Oxford city centre. Lewis later suggested that the experience gave him a new appreciation of children and in late September he began a children's story on an odd sheet of paper which has survived as part of another manuscript:
This book is about four children whose names were Ann, Martin, Rose and Peter. But it is most about Peter who was the youngest. They all had to go away from London suddenly because of Air Raids, and because Father, who was in the Army, had gone off to the War and Mother was doing some kind of war work. They were sent to stay with a kind of relation of Mother's who was a very old professor who lived all by himself in the country.
In "It All Began With a Picture" C. S. Lewis continues:
At first I had very little idea how the story would go. But then suddenly Aslan came bounding into it. I think I had been having a good many dreams of lions about that time. Apart from that, I don't know where the Lion came from or why he came. But once he was there, he pulled the whole story together, and soon he pulled the six other Narnian stories in after him.
The manuscript for The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe was complete by the end of March 1949.
The name Narnia is based on Narni, Italy, written in Latin as Narnia. Lancelyn Green wrote:
When Walter Hooper asked [C. S. Lewis] where he found the word 'Narnia', Lewis showed him Murray's Small Classical Atlas, ed. G.B. Grundy (1904), which he acquired when he was reading the classics with Mr Kirkpatrick at Great Bookham [1914–1917]. On plate 8 of the Atlas is a map of ancient Italy. Lewis had underscored the name of a little town called Narnia, simply because he liked the sound of it. Narnia — or 'Narni' in Italian — is in Umbria, halfway between Rome and Assisi.
The Chronicles of Narnia's seven books have been in continuous publication since 1956, selling over 100 million copies in 47 languages and with editions in Braille.
The first five books were originally published in the United Kingdom by Geoffrey Bles. The first edition of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe was released in London on 16 October 1950. Although three more books, Prince Caspian, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader and The Horse and His Boy, were already complete, they were not released immediately at that time, but appeared (along with The Silver Chair) one at a time in each of the subsequent years (1951–1954). The last two books (The Magician's Nephew and The Last Battle) were published in the United Kingdom originally by The Bodley Head in 1955 and 1956.
In the United States, the publication rights were first owned by Macmillan Publishers, and later by HarperCollins. The two issued both hardcover and paperback editions of the series during their tenure as publishers, while at the same time Scholastic, Inc. produced paperback versions for sale primarily through direct mail order, book clubs, and book fairs. Harper Collins also published several one-volume collected editions containing the full text of the series. As noted below (see Reading Order), the first American publisher, Macmillan, numbered the books in publication sequence, but when Harper Collins won the rights in 1994, at the suggestion of Lewis' stepson they used the series' internal chronological order. Scholastic switched the numbering of its paperback editions in 1994 to mirror that of Harper Collins.
The seven books that make up The Chronicles of Narnia are presented here in order of original publication date:
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (1950)
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, completed by the end of March 1949 and published by Geoffrey Bles in the United Kingdom on 16 October 1950, tells the story of four ordinary children: Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy Pevensie, who have been evacuated to the English countryside from London in 1940 following the outbreak of World War II. They discover a wardrobe in Professor Digory Kirke's house that leads to the magical land of Narnia. The Pevensie children help Aslan, a talking lion, save Narnia from the evil White Witch, who has reigned over the land of Narnia for a century of perpetual winter with no Christmas. The children become kings and queens of this new-found land and establish the Golden Age of Narnia, leaving a legacy to be rediscovered in later books.
Prince Caspian: The Return to Narnia (1951)
Completed after Christmas 1949 and published on 15 October 1951, Prince Caspian: The Return to Narnia tells the story of the Pevensie children's second trip to Narnia. They are drawn back by the power of Susan's horn, blown by Prince Caspian to summon help in his hour of need. Narnia, as they knew it, is no more, as more than 1,000 years have passed and their castle is in ruins, while all Narnians have retreated so far within themselves that only Aslan's magic can wake them. Caspian has fled into the woods to escape his uncle, Miraz, who has usurped the throne. The children set out once again to save Narnia.
The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (1952)
Written between January and February 1950 and published on 15 September 1952, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader sees Edmund and Lucy Pevensie, along with their priggish cousin, Eustace Scrubb, return to Narnia. Once there, they join Caspian's voyage on the ship Dawn Treader to find the seven lords who were banished when Miraz took over the throne. This perilous journey brings them face to face with many wonders and dangers as they sail toward Aslan's country at the edge of the world.
The Silver Chair (1953)
Completed at the beginning of March 1951 and published 7 September 1953, The Silver Chair is the first Narnia book without any of the Pevensie children. Instead, Aslan calls Eustace back to Narnia together with his classmate Jill Pole. There they are given four signs to aid them in the search for Prince Rilian, Caspian's son, who disappeared after setting out ten years earlier to avenge his mother's death. 50 years have passed in Narnia and Caspian, who was barely an adult in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, is now an old man, while Eustace is still a child.
Eustace and Jill, with the help of Puddleglum the Marsh-wiggle, face danger and betrayal on their quest to find Rilian.
The Horse and His Boy (1954)
Begun in March and completed at the end of July 1950,The Horse and His Boy was published on 6 September 1954. The story takes place during the reign of the Pevensies in Narnia, an era which begins and ends in the last chapter of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. A talking horse called Bree and a young boy named Shasta, both of whom are in bondage in the country of Calormen, are the protagonists. By "chance", they meet and plan their return to Narnia and freedom. Along the way they meet Aravis and her talking horse Hwin who are also fleeing to Narnia.
The Magician's Nephew (1955)
Completed in February 1954 and published by Bodley Head in London on 2 May 1955, the prequel The Magician's Nephew brings the reader back to the origins of Narnia where we learn how Aslan created the world and how evil first entered it. Digory Kirke and his friend Polly Plummer stumble into different worlds by experimenting with magic rings made by Digory's uncle. They encounter Jadis (The White Witch) in the dying world of Charn, and witness the creation of Narnia. Many long-standing questions about the world are answered as a result. The story is set in 1900, when Digory was a 12-year-old boy. He is a middle-aged professor and host to the Pevensie children by the time of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe 40 years later.
The Last Battle (1956)
Completed in March 1953 and published 4 September 1956, The Last Battle chronicles the end of the world of Narnia. Jill and Eustace return to save Narnia from Shift, an ape, who tricks Puzzle, a donkey, into impersonating the lion Aslan, precipitating a showdown between the Calormenes and King Tirian.
Fans of the series often have strong opinions over the order in which the books should be read. The issue revolves around the placement of The Magician's Nephew and The Horse and His Boy in the series. Both are set significantly earlier in the story of Narnia than their publication order and fall somewhat outside the main story arc connecting the others. The reading order of the other five books is not disputed.
|Original publication order||Harper Collins order (chronological)|
|The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe||The Magician's Nephew|
|Prince Caspian||The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe|
|The Voyage of the Dawn Treader||The Horse and His Boy|
|The Silver Chair||Prince Caspian|
|The Horse and His Boy||The Voyage of the Dawn Treader|
|The Magician's Nephew||The Silver Chair|
|The Last Battle||The Last Battle|
When first published, the books were not numbered. The first American publisher, Macmillan, enumerated them according to their original publication order, while some early British editions specified the internal chronological order. When Harper Collins took over the series rights in 1994, they adopted chronological order. To make the case for chronological order, Lewis' stepson, Douglas Gresham, quoted Lewis' 1957 reply to a letter from an American fan who was having an argument with his mother about the order:
I think I agree with your [chronological] order 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 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.
In the 2005 Harper Collins adult editions of the books, the publisher cites this letter to assert Lewis' preference for the numbering they adopted by including this notice on the copyright page:
Although The Magician's Nephew was written several years after C. S. Lewis first began The Chronicles of Narnia, he wanted it to be read as the first book in the series. Harper Collins is happy to present these books in the order in which Professor Lewis preferred.
Paul Ford cites several scholars who have weighed in against this view, and continues, "most scholars disagree with this decision and find it the least faithful to Lewis's deepest intentions". Scholars and readers who appreciate the original order believe that Lewis was simply being gracious to his youthful correspondent and that he could have changed the books' order in his lifetime had he so desired. They maintain that much of the magic of Narnia comes from the way the world is gradually presented in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe – that the mysterious wardrobe, as a narrative device, is a much better introduction to Narnia than The Magician's Nephew, where the word "Narnia" appears in the first paragraph as something already familiar to the reader. Moreover, they say, it is clear from the texts themselves that The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe was intended to be read first. When Aslan is first mentioned in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, for example, the narrator says that "None of the children knew who Aslan was, any more than you do" — which is nonsensical if one has already read The Magician's Nephew. Other similar textual examples are also cited.
Doris Meyer, author of C. S. Lewis in Context and Bareface: A guide to C. S. Lewis, writes that rearranging the stories chronologically "lessens the impact of the individual stories" and "obscures the literary structures as a whole". Peter Schakel devotes an entire chapter to this topic in his book Imagination and the Arts in C. S. Lewis: Journeying to Narnia and Other Worlds, and in Reading with the Heart: The Way into Narnia he writes:
The only reason to read The Magician's Nephew first [...] is for the chronological order of events, and that, as every story teller knows, is quite unimportant as a reason. Often the early events in a sequence have a greater impact or effect as a flashback, told after later events which provide background and establish perspective. So it is [...] with the Chronicles. The artistry, the archetypes, and the pattern of Christian thought all make it preferable to read the books in the order of their publication.
Aslan, the Great Lion, is the eponymous lion of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, and his role in Narnia is developed throughout the remaining books. He is also the only character to appear in all seven books. Aslan is a talking lion, the King of Beasts, son of the Emperor-Over-the-Sea. He is a wise, compassionate, magical authority (both temporal and spiritual) who serves as mysterious and benevolent guide to the human children who visit, as well as being the guardian and saviour of Narnia. C. S. Lewis described Aslan as an alternative version of Jesus as the form in which Christ might have appeared in an alternative reality.
The four Pevensie siblings are the main human protagonists of The Chronicles of Narnia. Varying combinations of some or all of them appear in five of the seven novels. They are introduced in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, and eventually become Kings and Queens of Narnia reigning as a tetrarchy: High King Peter the Magnificent, Queen Susan the Gentle, King Edmund the Just, and Queen Lucy the Valiant. Although introduced in the series as children, the siblings grow up into adults while reigning in Narnia. They go back to being children once they get back to their own world, but feature as adults in The Horse and His Boy during their Narnia reign.
Echoing the Christian theme of betrayal, repentance, and subsequent redemption via blood sacrifice, Edmund betrays his siblings to Jadis, the White Witch, but quickly realises the true nature of the witch and her evil intentions towards his siblings, and joins Aslan's side. At that point he is redeemed by the sacrifice of Aslan's life and he joins the fight against the White Witch. Lucy is the youngest of the four Pevensie siblings. Of all the Pevensie children, Lucy is the closest to Aslan, and of all the human characters who visit Narnia, Lucy is perhaps the one who believes in Narnia the most.
All four appear in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe and Prince Caspian; in the latter, however, Aslan tells Peter and Susan that they will not return, as they are getting too old. Susan, Lucy, and Edmund appear in The Horse and His Boy – Peter is said to be away fighting giants on the other side of Narnia. Lucy and Edmund appear in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, where Aslan tells them, too, that they are getting too old. Peter, Edmund, and Lucy appear in The Last Battle.
Susan doesn't appear in The Last Battle because by that time she has stopped believing in Narnia. Asked by a child in 1958 if he would please write another book entitled "Susan of Narnia" so that the entire Pevensie family would be reunited, C. S. Lewis replied: "I am so glad you like the Narnian books and it was nice of you to write and tell me. There's no use just asking me to write more. When stories come into my mind I have to write them, and when they don't I can't!..."*
Eustace Clarence Scrubb is a cousin of the Pevensies, and a classmate of Jill Pole at their school Experiment House. He is portrayed at first as a brat and a bully, but comes to improve his nasty behaviour when his greed turns him into a dragon for a while. His distress at having to live as a dragon causes him to reflect upon how horrible he has been, and he soon becomes a better person so Aslan changes him back into a boy. In the later books, Eustace comes across as a much nicer person, although he is still rather grumpy and argumentative. Nonetheless, he becomes a hero along with Jill Pole when the pair succeed in freeing the lost Prince Rilian from the clutches of an evil witch. He appears in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, The Silver Chair, and The Last Battle.
Jill Pole is not related to any of the other children who enter Narnia. She is merely a classmate and neighbour of Eustace Scrubb. She appears in The Silver Chair, where she is the viewpoint character for most of the action, and returns in The Last Battle. In The Silver Chair Eustace introduces her to the Narnian world, where Aslan gives her the task of memorising a series of signs that will help her and Eustace on their quest to find Caspian's lost son. In The Last Battle she and Eustace accompany King Tirian in his ill-fated defence of Narnia against the Calormenes.
Digory Kirke is the character referred to in the title of The Magician's Nephew. He first appears as a minor character in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, but his true significance in the narrative is only revealed in The Magician's Nephew.
Polly Plummer appears in The Magician's Nephew and The Last Battle. She is the next-door neighbour of the young Digory Kirke. She is tricked by a wicked magician (who is Digory's uncle) into touching a magic ring which transports her to the Wood between the Worlds and leaves her there stranded. The wicked uncle persuades Digory to follow her with a second magic ring that has the power to bring her back. This sets up the pair's adventures into other worlds, and they witness the creation of Narnia as described in The Magician's Nephew.
Prince Caspian / Caspian X
Prince Caspian, later to become King Caspian X of Narnia, Lord of Cair Paravel and Emperor of The Lone Islands – also called "Caspian the Seafarer" and "Caspian the Navigator" — is the title character of the second book in the series, first introduced as the young nephew and heir of King Miraz of Narnia. Prince Caspian: The Return to Narnia is set 1300 years after the rule of High King Peter and his siblings, when Old Narnians have been driven into hiding by Caspian's ancestors the Telmarines. Caspian is also a central character in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, and appears briefly at the beginning and end of The Silver Chair.
White Witch / Jadis
Jadis, commonly known during her rule of Narnia as the White Witch, is the main antagonist of The Magician's Nephew and The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe. She is the witch responsible for the freezing of Narnia resulting in the Hundred Year Winter. The White Witch was born in the world of Charn, before the creation of Narnia, and died in battle in Narnian year 1000.
Shasta / Cor
Shasta, later known as Cor of Archenland, is the principal character in The Horse and His Boy. Born the eldest son and heir of King Lune of Archenland, and elder twin of Prince Corin, Cor was kidnapped as an infant and raised as a fisherman's son in the country of Calormen. Sold into slavery in The Horse and his Boy, Shasta escapes to freedom, saves Archenland and Narnia from invasion, learns his true identity, and is restored to his heritage. Shasta grows up to become King of Archenland, marries the Calormene Tarkheena Aravis, and fathers the next king of Archenland, Ram the Great.
Aravis, daughter of Kidrash Tarkaan, is the secondary protagonist in The Horse and His Boy. Escaping a forced betrothal to the loathsome Ahoshta, she joins Shasta on his journey and inadvertently overhears a plot by Rabadash, crown prince of Calormen, to invade Archenland. She later marries Shasta, now known as Prince Cor, and becomes queen of Archenland at his side.
Bree (Breehy-hinny-brinny-hoohy-hah) is Shasta's mount and mentor in The Horse and His Boy. A Talking Horse of Narnia, he wandered into Calormen as a foal and was captured. He first appears as a Calormene nobleman's war-horse; when the nobleman buys Shasta as a slave, Bree organises and carries out their joint escape. Though friendly, he is also vain and a braggart until his encounter with Aslan late in the story.
Trumpkin the Dwarf is the narrator of several chapters of Prince Caspian; he is one of Caspian's rescuers and a leading figure in the "Old Narnian" rebellion, and accompanies the Pevensie children from the ruins of Cair Paravel to the Old Narnian camp. In The Voyage of the Dawn Treader we learn that Caspian has made him his Regent in Narnia while he is away at sea, and he appears briefly in this role (now elderly and very deaf) in The Silver Chair.
Puddleglum the Marsh-wiggle guides Eustace and Jill on their quest in The Silver Chair. Though always comically pessimistic, he provides the voice of reason and as such intervenes critically in the climactic enchantment scene.
The last King of Narnia is the viewpoint character for much of The Last Battle. Having rashly killed a Calormene for mistreating a Narnian Talking Horse, he is imprisoned by the villainous ape Shift but released by Eustace and Jill. Together they fight faithfully to the last and are welcomed into Aslan's Kingdom.
Appearances of main characters
|The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (1950)||Prince Caspian: The Return to Narnia (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)|
|Reepicheep the Mouse||Major||Cameo|
|Jadis (The White Witch)||Major||Major|
|Shasta (Prince/King Cor)||Major||Cameo|
|Trumpkin the Dwarf||Major||Minor||Cameo|
The main setting of The Chronicles of Narnia is the world of Narnia constructed by Lewis and, in The Magician's Nephew, the world containing the city of Charn. The Narnian and Charnian worlds are themselves posited as just two in a multiverse of countless worlds that includes our own universe, the main protagonists' world of origin. Passage between these worlds is possible, though rare, and may be accomplished by various means. Narnia itself is described as populated by a wide variety of creatures, most of which would be recognisable to those familiar with European mythologies and British fairy tales.
- See also: Narnia creatures and List of The Chronicles of Narnia characters
Lewis' stories are populated with two distinct types of character: Humans originating from the reader's world of Earth, and Narnian creatures and their descendants created by Aslan. This is typical of works that involve parallel universes. The majority of characters from the reader's world serve as the protagonists of the various books, although some are only mentioned in passing depending on chronology. Lewis does not limit himself to a single source of inspiration; instead, he borrows from many sources,including ancient Greek and German mythology, as well as Celtic literature.
The Chronicles of Narnia describes the world in which Narnia exists as one major landmass faced by "the Great Eastern Ocean". This ocean contains the islands explored in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. On the main landmass Lewis places the countries of Narnia, Archenland, Calormen, and Telmar, along with a variety of other areas that are not described as countries. The author also provides glimpses of more fantastic locations that exist in and around the main world of Narnia, including an edge and an underworld.
There are several maps of the Narnian universe available, including what many consider the "official" one, a full-colour version published in 1972 by the books' illustrator, Pauline Baynes. This is currently out of print, although smaller copies can be found in the most recent HarperCollins 2006 hardcover edition of The Chronicles of Narnia. Two other maps were produced as a result of the popularity of the 2005 film The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. One, the "Rose Map of Narnia", is based loosely on Baynes' map and has Narnian trivia printed on the reverse. The other, made in a monochromatic, archaic style reminiscent of maps of Tolkien's Middle-earth, is available in print and in an interactive version on the DVD of the movie. The latter map depicts only the country Narnia and not the rest of Lewis' world.
A recurring plot device in The Chronicles is the interaction between the various worlds that make up the Narnian multiverse. A variety of methods are used to initiate these cross-overs which generally serve to introduce characters to the land of Narnia. The Cosmology of Narnia is not as internally consistent as that of Lewis' contemporary Tolkien's Middle-earth, but suffices given the more fairy tale atmosphere of the work. During the course of the series we learn in passing, that the world of Narnia is flat and geocentric and has different stars from those of Earth, and that the passage of time does not correspond directly to the passage of time in our world.
- See also: Narnian timeline and History of Narnia
The Chronicles cover the entire history of the world of Narnia, describing the process by which it was created, offering snapshots of life in Narnia as its history unfolds, and how it is ultimately destroyed. As is often the case in a children's series, children themselves, usually from our world, play a prominent role in all of these events. The history of Narnia is generally divided into the following periods: creation and the period shortly afterwards, the rule of the White Witch, the Golden Age, the invasion and rule of the Telmarines, their subsequent defeat by Caspian X, the rule of King Caspian and his descendants, and the destruction of Narnia. Like many stories, the narrative is not necessarily always presented in chronological order.
Lewis' early life has parallels with The Chronicles of Narnia. At the age of seven, he moved with his family to a large house on the edge of Belfast. Its long hallways and empty rooms inspired Lewis and his brother to invent make-believe worlds whilst exploring their home, an activity reflected in Lucy's discovery of Narnia in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Like Caspian and Rilian, Lewis lost his mother at an early age, spending much of his youth in English boarding schools similar to those attended by the Pevensie children, Eustace Scrubb, and Jill Pole. During World War II many children were evacuated from London and other urban areas because of German air raids. Some of these children, including one named Lucy (Lewis' goddaughter) stayed with him at his home The Kilns near Oxford, just as the Pevensies stayed with The Professor in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.
Influences from mythology and cosmology
Drew Trotter, president of the Center for Christian Study, noted that the producers of the film The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe felt that the books' plots adhere to the archetypal "monomyth" pattern as detailed in Joseph Campbell's The Hero with a Thousand Faces.
Lewis was widely read in medieval Celtic literature, an influence reflected throughout the books, and most strongly in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. The entire book imitates one of the immrama, a type of traditional Old Irish tale that combines elements of Christianity and Irish mythology to tell the story of a hero's sea journey to the Otherworld. Medieval Ireland also had a tradition of High Kings ruling over lesser kings and queens or princes, as in Narnia. Lewis' term "Cair," as in Cair Paravel, also mirrors "Caer", or "fortress" in the Welsh language. Reepicheep's small boat is a coracle, a type of vessel traditionally used in the Celtic regions of the British Isles. Some creatures in the book such as the one-footed Dufflepuds reflect elements of Greek, Roman and Medieval mythology while other Narnian creatures are borrowed from Greek and Germanic mythology: for example, centaurs from the former and dwarfs from the latter.
In 2008 Michael Ward published Planet Narnia, which proposed that each of the seven books related to one of the seven moving heavenly bodies or "planets" known in the Middle Ages according to the Ptolemaic geocentric model of cosmology (a theme to which Lewis returned habitually throughout his work). At that time, each of these heavenly bodies was believed to have certain attributes, and Ward contends that these attributes were deliberately but subtly used by Lewis to furnish elements of the stories of each book:
In The Lion [the child protagonists] become monarchs under sovereign Jove; in Prince Caspian they harden under strong Mars; in The "Dawn Treader" they drink light under searching Sol; in The Silver Chair they learn obedience under subordinate Luna; in The Horse and His Boy they come to love poetry under eloquent Mercury; in The Magician's Nephew they gain life-giving fruit under fertile Venus; and in The Last Battle they suffer and die under chilling Saturn."
Similarly, Lewis' interest in the literary symbolism of medieval and Renaissance astrology is more overtly referenced in other works such as his study of medieval cosmology The Discarded Image, in his early poetry as well as in Space Trilogy. Narnia scholar Paul F. Ford finds Ward's assertion that Lewis intended The Chronicles to be an embodiment of medieval astrology implausible, though Ford addresses an earlier (2003) version of Ward's thesis (also called Planet Narnia, published in the Times Literary Supplement). Ford argues that Lewis did not start with a coherent plan for the books, but Ward's book answers this by arguing that the astrological associations grew in the writing.
George MacDonald's "Phantastes" (1858) influenced the structure and setting of "The Chronicles". It was a work that was " a great balm to the soul"
Influences on other works
Influences on literature
The Chronicles of Narnia has been a significant influence on both adult and children's fantasy literature in the post-World War II era. Examples include:
Philip Pullman's acclaimed fantasy series His Dark Materials is seen as a response to The Chronicles. Pullman is a self-described atheist who wholly rejects the spiritual themes that permeate The Chronicles, yet his series nonetheless addresses many of the same issues and introduces some similar character types, including talking animals. In another parallel, the first books in each series – Pullman's Northern Lights and The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe – both open with a young girl hiding in a wardrobe.
Neil Gaiman's young-adult horror novella Coraline has been compared to The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, as both books involve young girls travelling to magical worlds through doors in their new houses and fighting evil with the help of talking animals. His Sandman comic book series also features a Narnia-like "dream island" in its story arc entitled A Game of You.
The novel Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson has Leslie, one of the main characters, reveal to her co-protagonist Jesse her love of Lewis' books, subsequently lending him The Chronicles of Narnia so that he can learn how to behave like a king. Her book also features the island name "Terabithia", which sounds similar to Terebinthia, a Narnian island that appears in Prince Caspian and The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. Katherine Paterson herself acknowledges that Terabithia is likely to be derived from Terebinthia:
I thought I had made it up. Then, rereading The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C. S. Lewis, I realized that I had probably gotten it from the island of Terebinthia in that book. However, Lewis probably got that name from the Terebinth tree in the Bible, so both of us pinched from somewhere else, probably unconsciously."
Science-fiction author Greg Egan's short story "Oracle" depicts a parallel universe in which an author nicknamed Jack (Lewis' nickname) has written novels about the fictional "Kingdom of Nesica", and whose wife is dying of cancer, paralleling the death of Lewis' wife Joy Davidman. Several Narnian allegories are also used to explore issues of religion and faith versus science and knowledge.
Lev Grossman's New York Times best-seller The Magicians is a contemporary dark fantasy about an unusually gifted young man obsessed with Fillory, the magical land of his favourite childhood books. Fillory is a thinly veiled substitute for Narnia, and clearly the author expects it to be experienced as such. Not only is the land home to many similar talking animals and mythical creatures, it is also accessed through a grandfather clock in the home of an uncle to whom five English children are sent during World War II. Moreover, the land is ruled by two Aslan-like rams named Ember and Umber, and terrorised by The Watcherwoman. She, like the White Witch, freezes the land in time. The book's plot revolves heavily around a place very like the "wood between the worlds" from The Magician's Nephew, an interworld waystation in which pools of water lead to other lands. This reference to The Magician's Nephew is echoed in the title of the book.
J. K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter series, has said that she was a fan of the works of Lewis as a child, and cites the influence of The Chronicles on her work: "I found myself thinking about the wardrobe route to Narnia when Harry is told he has to hurl himself at a barrier in Kings Cross Station — it dissolves and he's on platform Nine and Three-Quarters, and there's the train for Hogwarts." Nevertheless she is at pains to stress the differences between Narnia and her world: "Narnia is literally a different world", she says, "whereas in the Harry books you go into a world within a world that you can see if you happen to belong. A lot of the humour comes from collisions between the magic and the everyday worlds. Generally there isn't much humour in the Narnia books, although I adored them when I was a child. I got so caught up I didn't think CS Lewis was especially preachy. Reading them now I find that his subliminal message isn't very subliminal."New York Times writer Charles McGrath notes the similarity between Dudley Dursley, the obnoxious son of Harry's neglectful guardians, and Eustace Scrubb, the spoiled brat who torments the main characters until he is redeemed by Aslan.
Influences on popular culture
As with any popular long-lived work, contemporary culture abounds with references to the lion Aslan, travelling via wardrobe and direct mentions of The Chronicles. Examples include:
Charlotte Staples Lewis, a character first seen early in the fourth season of the TV series Lost, is named in reference to C. S. Lewis. Lost producer Damon Lindelof said that this was a clue to the direction the show would take during the season. The book Ultimate Lost and Philosophy, edited by William Irwin and Sharon Kaye, contains a comprehensive essay on Lost plot motifs based on The Chronicles.
The second SNL Digital Short by Andy Samberg and Chris Parnell features a humorous nerdcore hip hop song titled Chronicles of Narnia (Lazy Sunday), which focuses on the performers' plan to see The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe at a cinema. It was described by Slate magazine as one of the most culturally significant Saturday Night Live skits in many years, and an important commentary on the state of rap. Swedish Christian power metal band Narnia, whose songs are mainly about the Chronicles of Narnia or the Bible, feature Aslan on all their album covers. In anticipation of the 9 December 2005 premiere of the film The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, various Christian artists released a collection of songs based on The Chronicles of Narnia.
During interviews, the primary creator of the Japanese anime and gaming series Digimon has noted the heavy influence of The Chronicles of Narnia on his series.
A convert to Christianity in later life, Lewis had authored a number of works on Christian apologetics and other literature with Christian-based themes before writing the Narnia books. The character Aslan is widely accepted by literary academia as being based on Jesus Christ. Lewis did not initially plan to incorporate Christian theological concepts into his Narnia stories. Lewis maintained that the Narnia books were not allegorical, preferring to term their Christian aspects a "supposition".
The Chronicles have, consequently, a large Christian following, and are widely used to promote Christian ideas. However, some Christians object that The Chronicles promote "soft-sell paganism and occultism" due to recurring pagan imagery and themes.
Accusations of gender stereotyping
In later years, both Lewis and the Chronicles have been criticised (often by other authors of fantasy fiction) for gender role stereotyping, though other authors have defended Lewis in this area. For example, Lucy gets a healing potion and a dagger, while Peter gets a sword. Most allegations of sexism centre on the description of Susan Pevensie in The Last Battle when Lewis writes that Susan is "no longer a friend of Narnia" and interested "in nothing nowadays except nylons and lipstick and invitations".
J.K. Rowling has said:
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.
Philip Pullman, inimical to Lewis on many fronts, calls the Narnia stories "monumentally disparaging of women". His interpretation of the Susan passages reflects this view:
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.
In fantasy author Neil Gaiman's short story "The Problem of Susan" (2004), an elderly woman, Professor Hastings, deals with the grief and trauma of her entire family's death in a train crash. Although the woman's maiden name is not revealed, details throughout the story strongly imply that this character is the elderly Susan Pevensie. The story is written for an adult audience and deals with issues of sexuality and violence and through it Gaiman presents a critique of Lewis' treatment of Susan.
Other writers, including fan-magazine editor Andrew Rilstone, oppose this view, arguing that the "lipsticks, nylons and invitations" quote is taken out of context. They maintain that in The Last Battle, Susan is excluded from Narnia explicitly because she no longer believes in it. At the end of The Last Battle Susan is still alive with her ultimate fate unspecified. Moreover, in The Horse and His Boy, Susan's adulthood and sexual maturity are portrayed in a positive light, and therefore argued to be unlikely reasons for her exclusion from Narnia.
Lewis supporters also cite the positive roles of women in the series, including Jill Pole in The Silver Chair, Aravis Tarkheena in The Horse and His Boy, Polly Plummer in The Magician's Nephew, and particularly Lucy Pevensie in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Alan Jacobs, an English professor at Wheaton College, asserts that Lucy is the most admirable of the human characters and that generally the girls come off better than the boys throughout the series (Jacobs, 2008: 259). In her contribution to The Chronicles of Narnia and Philosophy, Karin Fry, an Assistant Professor of Philosophy at the University of Wisconsin, Stevens Point, notes that "the most sympathetic female characters in The Chronicles are consistently the ones who question the traditional roles of women and prove their worth to Aslan through actively engaging in the adventures just like the boys." Fry goes on to say:
The characters have positive and negative things to say about both male and female characters, suggesting an equality between sexes. However, the problem is that many of the positive qualities of the female characters seem to be those by which they can rise above their femininity ... The superficial nature of stereotypical female interests is condemned.
Accusations of racism
In addition to sexism, Pullman and others have also accused the Narnia series of fostering racism. Over the alleged racism in The Horse and His Boy, newspaper editor Kyrie O'Connor wrote:
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.
Gregg Easterbrook, writing in The Atlantic, calls the Calormenes "standins for Muslims", while novelist Philip Hensher raises specific concerns that a reader might gain the impression Islam is a "Satanic cult". In rebuttal to this charge, at an address to a C. S. Lewis conference, Dr. Devin Brown observed that there are too many dissimilarities between the Calormene religion and Islam, particularly in the areas of polytheism and human sacrifice, for Lewis' writing to be regarded as critical of Islam.
Adaptations of The Chronicles of Narnia
Various books from The Chronicles of Narnia have been adapted for television over the years, including:
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe was first adapted in 1967. Comprising ten episodes of thirty minutes each, the screenplay was written by Trevor Preston, and directed by Helen Standage. Unlike subsequent adaptations, it is currently unavailable to purchase for home viewing. The book was adapted again in 1979, this time as an animated cartoon co-produced by Bill Meléndez and the Children's Television Workshop, with a screenplay by David D. Connell. Winner of the 1979 Emmy award for Outstanding Animated Program, it was the first-ever made-for-television feature-length animated film. Many of the characters' voices in the British TV release were re-recorded by British actors and actresses with the exception of the characters Aslan, Peter, Susan, and Lucy.
Between 1988–1990, the first four books (as published) were adapted by the BBC as four television serials. They were also aired in America on the PBS/Disney show WonderWorks. They were nominated for a total of 14 Emmy awards, including "Outstanding Children's Program", and a number of BAFTA awards including Best Children's Programme (Entertainment / Drama) in 1988, 1989 and 1990. The serials were later edited into three feature-length films (the second of which combined Prince Caspian and The Voyage of the Dawn Treader into one) and released on VHS and DVD.
A critically acclaimed BBC Radio 4 dramatisation was produced in the 1980s, starring Maurice Denham as Professor Kirke. Collectively titled Tales of Narnia, the programs covered the entire series with a running time of approximately 15 hours. In Great Britain, BBC Audiobooks release both audio cassette and compact disc versions of the series.
Between 1999 and 2002 Focus on the Family produced radio dramatisations of the entire series through its Radio Theatre program. Over one hundred performers took part including Paul Scofield as "The Storyteller" and David Suchet as Aslan. Accompanied by an original orchestral score and cinema-quality digital sound design, the series was hosted by Lewis' stepson Douglas Gresham and ran for just over 22 hours. Recordings of the entire adaptation were released on compact disc between 1999–2003.
Many stage adaptations of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe have been produced over the years.
In 1984, Vanessa Ford Productions presented The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe at London's Westminster Theatre. Adapted by Glyn Robbins, the play was directed by Richard Williams and designed by Marty Flood. The production was later revived at Westminster and The Royalty Theatre and went on tour until 1997. Productions of other tales from The Chronicles were also staged, including The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (1986), The Magician's Nephew (1988) and The Horse and His Boy (1990).
The Royal Shakespeare Company premiered The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe in Stratford-upon-Avon in 1998. The novel was adapted as a musical production by Adrian Mitchell, with music by Shaun Davey. The show was originally directed by Adrian Noble and designed by Anthony Ward, with the revival directed by Lucy Pitman-Wallace. Well received by audiences, the production was periodically re-staged by the RSC for several years afterwards. Limited engagements were subsequently undertaken at the Barbican Theatre in London and at Sadler's Wells. This adaptation also toured the United States in the early 2000s.
Sceptical that any cinematic adaptation could render the more fantastical elements and characters of the story realistically, Lewis never sold the film rights to the Narnia series. In answering a letter with a question posed by a child in 1957, asking if the Narnia series could please be on television, C. S. Lewis wrote back: "They'd be no good on TV. Humanized beasts can't be presented to the eye without at once becoming either hideous or ridiculous. I wish the idiots who run the film world [would] realize that there are stories [which] are for the ear alone." Only after seeing a demo reel of CGI animals did Douglas Gresham, Lewis's stepson and literary executor, and the films' co-producer, give approval for a film adaptation.
The first novel adapted was The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe as The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe released in December 2005. Produced by Walden Media and distributed by Walt Disney Pictures, the film was directed by Andrew Adamson, with a screenplay by Ann Peacock, Stephen McFeely and Christopher Markus. The movie was a critical and box-office success, grossing over $745 million worldwide and as of March 2011 ranked 38th on the list of highest-grossing films in nominal terms. Disney and Walden Media then co-produced a sequel The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian, released in May 2008, which grossed over $419 million worldwide.
In December 2008 Disney pulled out of financing the remainder of the Chronicles of Narnia film series. Already in pre-production at the time, 20th Century Fox and Walden Media eventually co-produced The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, which was released in December 2010 going on to gross over $415 million worldwide.
- Bruner, Kurt & Ware, Jim Finding God in the Land of Narnia, Tyndale House Publishers, 2005
- Bustard, Ned The Chronicles of Narnia Comprehension Guide, Veritas Press, 2004
- Duriez, Colin A Field Guide to Narnia. InterVarsity Press, 2004
- Downing, David Into the Wardrobe: C. S. Lewis and the Narnia Chronicles, Jossey-Bass, 2005
- Gormley, Beatrice (2005). C. S. Lewis: The Man behind Narnia. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Books for young readers. ISBN 0-8028-5301-3.
- Hein, Rolland Christian Mythmakers: C. S. Lewis, Madeleine L'Engle, J. R. R. Tolkien, George MacDonald, G.K. Chesterton, & Others Second Edition, Cornerstone Press Chicago, 2002, ISBN 978-0-940895-48-5
- Jacobs, Alan The Narnian: The Life and Imagination of C. S. Lewis, HarperSanFrancisco, 2005
- McIntosh, Kenneth Following Aslan: A Book of Devotions for Children, Anamchara Books, 2006
- Ward, Michael Planet Narnia: The Seven Heavens in the Imagination of C. S. Lewis, Oxford University Press, 2008
- BBC News, 18 November 2005
- The Chronicles of Narnia Wiki
- , hosting ebooks of the Chronicles of Narnia (public domain in Canada as of 2014)