The Chronicles of Narnia
The Chronicles of Narnia is a series of seven fantasy novels written by C.S. Lewis. Written between 1949 and 1954, the stories focus on adventures in the magical land of Narnia. Many of the books have been adapted for TV or film. The series has obvious Christian inspiration and themes, but they can also be read and enjoyed without considering these aspects.
The books were originally published in the following order:
- The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
- Prince Caspian
- The Voyage of the Dawn Treader
- The Silver Chair
- The Horse and His Boy
- The Magician's Nephew
- The Last Battle
Some packaged sets have included them in chronological storyline order instead; see the chronology section below.
The world of Narnia exists in a universe parallel to our own. It is filled with talking animals and other magical creatures. Narnia is monitored by a benevolent lion named Aslan. Aslan is not technically a ruler, but he appears to have a high degree of special powers, and he occasionally appears to give guidance or magical support to the people of Narnia in times of dire need.
Narnia also has a neighboring country called Calormen. Narnia and Calormen are separated by a large desert and the country of Archenland. The people of Calormen are described as dark-skinned people with a garlic-scented breath, who wear turbans and pointy slippers and are armed with scimitars. Some of the villains of the series come from Calormen.
In each book (except for The Horse and His Boy) some children from the "real" world find a gateway to the world of Narnia and have some adventures there.
Time passes differently between Narnia and Earth. A child who visits Narnia always returns to Earth to discover that no time has passed, even if they were in Narnia for many years. Between trips to Narnia, months or years may pass.
Chronology and book details
Taken in chronological order, the story arc runs as follows.
- The Magician's Nephew: Around the turn of the century two children, Digory Kirke and Polly Plummer, are given some magical rings. The rings can transport them to numerous other worlds. In the second half of the book, they watch as Aslan creates the world of Narnia.
- The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe: Set many years after The Magician's Nephew, the story follows the Pevensie siblings, Lucy, Edmund, Susan, and Peter. They discover a gateway to Narnia in a wardrobe. After they help Aslan to defeat the white witch who threatens Narnia, they grow to adulthood, yet when they return to Earth it is moments later and they are children again.
- The Horse and His Boy: The only book to be set entirely in the Narnian world, The Horse and His Boy chronicles the journey of Shasta, a young boy living in Calormen. After meeting a talking horse named Bree, Shasta escapes from slavery and travels to Narnia, saving them from a war with the Calormenes in the process.
- Prince Caspian: The Pevensie kids return to Narnia and discover that a thousand years have passed since their reign. They meet Prince Caspian, the rightful Narnian monarch who has been usurped by his wicked uncle Miraz.
- The Voyage of the Dawn Treader: Lucy and Edmund are joined in Narnia by their unpleasant cousin Eustace Scrubb. They arrive on a ship owned by King Caspian, and sail across the world with him.
- The Silver Chair: Eustace is joined by his school friend Jill Pole. Eustace and Jill are charged by Aslan with the task of rescuing Prince Rilian, Caspian's son. Along the way they are also joined by an odd creature named Puddleglum.
- The Last Battle: Two hundred years after the The Silver Chair, Narnia is threatened by a false god and a Calormen invasion. All the Earth characters from the previous books make an appearance, including the adults Digory and Polly, as they try to save the world and the people in it.
C.S. Lewis was Professor of Medieval and Renaissance Literature at the University of Cambridge and a lifelong student of mythology and fairy tales. The books reflect these influences as well as Lewis' Christian beliefs. Many have described the series as Christian allegory, though Lewis preferred to call them "suppositional" - the distinction being that allegory consists of figurative language to relay literal meaning while the Narnia series is a literal work in a fictional setting. From a literary standpoint, Lewis may be correct but some claim that this view considers the book on its own, while considering the book in the context of an extended message for life beyond the fantasy realm renders it allegorical. The confusion of terms has little bearing on the fact that books do, intentionally, place the character of Jesus Christ in an alternate reality, with another body and another name (Aslan).
With regard to motive, Lewis stated:
"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 in Of Other Worlds
Regardless of his initial plan, the parallels between Aslan and Jesus exist and were structured, Lewis claims, to give "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?'" The parallels have made this a favorite series for Christians while the fantasy elements have endeared the books to non-Christians as well.
Despite the parallels, there are some Christians who object to this series. Some feel that depicting Jesus as an anthropomorphic lion is blasphemous while others object to pagan and occult references as well as the positive depiction of mythical creatures traditionally associated with evil.