by C.S. Lewis
Gaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhh where do I even begin?!?! The Chronicles of Narnia are very, very high on my list of all-time favorite books. (It’s a mental list, by the way. That way I can make it be whatever I want whenever I want.) I first read these books when I was pretty young, probably 8 or 9 I started reading at a tender age, not to bore you with personal history, but the point is that I was reading legit chapter books by about the age of 5, and while overall I think this was positive, I think that it also sometimes meant that I read books that I wasn’t really mentally ready for even though I was capable of reading them, if that makes sense. That definitely happened with the final book in the Chronicles, The Last Battle. As a young child, I hated that book, so much so that even though I would read the other books frequently, I didn’t read that last book again until probably ten years later – and now I think it may be my favorite. But that’s a different story for a different time.
Point is, the Chronicles are fantastic. They are humorous, exciting, fun, and, somehow, plausible. I know for a fact that I’m not the only person who’s wondered about the existence of Narnia. :-D The traditional, original drawings by Pauline Baynes are fantastic overall (although every now in again I get exasperated because it’s not how I imagined it!), as well.
Okay, I think we’ll start by getting my rant out of the way. My rant has to do with the fact that the book pictured above has a “2” on the spine. UNACCEPTABLE. I am SO ANGRY at the fact that these books are now published in the wrong order. Narnia should NEVER be read chronologically (at least, not the first time that you read them!). You miss SO MUCH reading them chronologically instead of in published order, especially when people read the chronologically-first book, The Magician’s Nephew, before reading The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. I don’t even understand how The Magician’s Nephew makes SENSE when you read it first. I am EXTREMELY PASSIONATE about this. Some people drag up a supposed quote from Lewis in response to a letter written by a young reader of his, but it’s pretty apparent that the reader is asking if the books can be read chronologically and he says yes, that makes sense, but not in a AND OH HEY PLEASE REPUBLISH ALL MY BOOKS IN THIS ORDER FOREVER. My gosh. Ridiculous.
Okay, so, anyway, if you’ve never read the Chronicles, or if it’s been a long time, please read them in their published order:
- The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe
- Prince Caspian (Which, by the way, is subtitled Return to Narnia, which doesn’t really make a whole lot of sense if the book isn’t, you know, the return to Narnia, instead of the third time around.)
- The Voyage of the Dawn Treader
- The Silver Chair (These four books, by the way, are chronological to each other, and have many of the same characters.)
- The Horse and His Boy (Which takes place during the reign of Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy, so somewhere towards the end of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe)
- The Magician’s Nephew (Which is about the creation of Narnia, and truly would be super confusing if you didn’t already know about Narnia.)
- The Last Battle
Alrighty, so The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe… there has been loads of stuff written about this book. It’s been made into movies. I’m not going to tell you anything about it that you don’t already know, other than my own opinions. The Chronicles aren’t books of incredible depth and description like The Lord of the Rings. These stories are for younger readers, and are somewhat simple in scope. However, there are many layers, and even if you aren’t a Christian and don’t like the allegorical aspect to the tales, I think that that overarching story, of a god willing to sacrifice himself for someone completely undeserving, is still an excellent tale.
I’m not sure that I can explain what has drawn me back to Narnia time and again, but I know that these are books that have withstood the test of time for me – I have easily read them twenty or more times, and they never disappoint me. I never fail to find something new, to underline some different sentence that hadn’t struck me before. The redemption of Edmund is so beautiful (Edmund is one of my favorite fictional characters of all time), the resurrection of Aslan, the battle with the Witch – I love it all, down to the best advice for running a country that I’ve found yet:
And they made good laws and kept the peace and saved good trees from being unnecessarily cut down, and liberated young dwarfs and young satyrs from being sent to school, and generally stopped busybodies and interferers and encouraged ordinary people who wanted to live and let live.
If only all rulers were so wise!
In conclusion: if you’ve never read these books, you absolutely must do so. If you haven’t read them since childhood, pick them up again, because they will not disappoint. They are just as magical for me at the age of 31 as they were when I first read them as a very young child. Return to Narnia – just make sure you do it in the correct order. ;-)