Tuesday, September 19, 2017

The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis (90 down, 10 to go)

“Yes,” said Queen Lucy. “In our world too, a stable once had something inside it that was bigger than our whole world.”

I feel terribly inadequate as I attempt to express my thoughts and feelings of The Chronicles of Narnia.

“thoughts and feelings” being the key phrase, since for me, they are the measure of a great book. Did the author evoke profound thought or powerful emotion?

Yes!  Both!

The Chronicles of Narnia is C. S. Lewis’ timeless masterpiece – timeless is probably a good third criterion for literary greatness – and again it passes the test. It may be characterized a number of ways: children’s fantasy – yes, though countless adults have enjoyed it; High Fantasy – mostly; Christian allegory – at least in part; symbolic; beautiful; frightful; joyful; powerful; triumphant – yes and yes!

This was my first read, though as a Christian, I was vaguely familiar with the allegorical theme. I have often been surprised, in the past, when I’d encounter non-Christians who enjoyed – even loved – The Chronicles of Narnia.

It surprises me no longer; it is testimony to the greatness and versatility of the author.

And to his love. Please forgive my maudlin sentiment, but I felt Lewis poured a lot of love into The Chronicles of Narnia.

In the only other work I’ve read by C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, I marked his ability to make complex ideas simple, and then to make the simple incredibly profound. There’s more of that in the Chronicles. I am far from being an expert on Lewis, but I have concluded he possessed an extraordinary mind.

The Chronicles of Narnia is composed of seven distinct novels – any of which can be enjoyed on its own – though I highly recommend reading them together, and in publication rather than chronological order. Reason? Simple, it is the order Lewis intended. He presumes the reader to know later Narnian history, when reading an earlier story.

(It’s a little like watching Star Wars in chronological order: you don’t get the stunning reveal that Darth Vader is Luke’s father.)

Wanderer’s commentary on the primary Christian themes of the seven tales (in publication order):

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe – Redemption of the lost
Prince Caspian – Corrupt religion restored to truth and purity
The Voyage of the Dawn Treader – The spiritual life
The Silver Chair – Good vs evil
The Horse and His Boy – The calling and conversion of the lost
The Magician’s Nephew – Creation of the world and the entry of evil
The Last Battle – Evil’s imitation of the benevolent creator, the final conflict, end of the old world, beginning of the new

Individually they are marvelous. Collectively they are beautiful and masterful. The Last Battle moved me to tears. Have you read The Chronicles of Narnia? In whole or in part? What did you think?

My rating: 5 of 5 Stars

…Polly Added, “But we’re not quite as bad as that world, are we, Aslan?”  “Not yet, Daughter of Eve,” he said. “Not yet. But you are growing more like it. It is not certain that some wicked one of your race will not find out a secret as evil as the Deplorable Word and use it to destroy all living things. And soon, very soon, before you are an old man and an old woman, great nations in your world will be ruled by tyrants who care no more for joy and justice and mercy than the Empress Jadis. Let your world beware. That is the warning. ~ Excerpt from The Last Battle

I’m currently reading Planet Narnia by Michael Ward which offers a compelling argument that Lewis hid more meaning in the Chronicles than most have surmised. Lewis may have been laughing down his sleeve at those, including his good friend Professor Tolkien, who thought the Chronicles were simple and incongruous. Planet Narnia is fascinating, and I’ll give a few, more technical, thoughts about both the Chronicles and Planet Narnia when I finish that book.


  1. Love these books and the unique way that Lewis presents so many issues, from Christian to societal. So many people think these books are allegorical, including me when I first read them, but Lewis himself argued against the characterization, calling them "suppositions" instead. He said:

    "If Aslan represented the immaterial Deity in the same way in which Giant Despair represents Despair [in the Pilgrim's Progress], 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 ……. This …… works out a supposition."

    Trust Lewis to do things a little differently! :-)

    I'm so interested to hear what you think about Planet Narnia when you finish. I haven't read it yet, but a respected Lewis-scholar whom I know, highly recommends it.

    1. Thanks Cleo...Planet Narnia is fascinating. I won't give a recommendation of something I haven't finished...but it's looking like a "must read" to any fan of the Chronicles thus far.

  2. I read all of these as a child, but the only two I can really remember are The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and The Magician's Nephew. I keep thinking about re-reading them, as I'm sure there must have been things I was too young to understand the first time. I'm glad you enjoyed them!

    1. Thanks Helen. This is one I definitely think is worth a reread.

  3. I agree with your thoughts, and have just finished re-reading them with my 13yo son for homeschooling. Your reason for not necessarily reading The Magician's Nephew as book one is the same as ours, and I like your succinct summing up of the main themes of each of the 7. Now to re-watch the movies. I've just finished a short but meaty book, The Great Divorce, with all of Lewis' great storytelling ability to make profound points simple to understand.

    1. Thanks Paula. Re Movies - I liked The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe...but I found the subsequent moves a bit disappointing.

  4. It's been years since I read these, though my 9-year-old is a devoted fan right now. I prefer reading them in publication order too. Especially for people new to them -- TLTWATW is MUCH easier to get into than MN.

    1. I may read them in chronological order when I get around to a reread...and this is definitely a reread.

  5. Thank you for sending me your link. I thoroughly enjoyed your review. I have Mere Christianity on my Classics Club list and I am hoping to read it this year. The Chronicles are my only encounters with Lewis and I am anxious to read more!

    Also, I am going to take your advice and read them in publication order rather than chronological order on my next reread. That makes a lot of sense. I like your Star Wars reasoning as well.


Comments are always welcome. In fact, they make my day. You needn't sign in to leave a comment. Just enter your comment, then on the "Comment as:" drop down menu, select "anonymous".