I’m quite ashamed to admit that at my age — having read popular fantasy series like J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books, Raymond Fiest’s The Riftwar Saga and Terry Brook’s Shannara Trilogy — I haven’t got to read The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis.
Same as Tolkien’s epic trilogy, Lewis’s beloved children’s books was made known to me through its 2005 movie adaptation: Disney’s The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Since enjoying its cinematic version I’ve been intending to read the series, but opportunity to do so seems scarce.
You may already know enough about me, Gentle Reader, that I’m a very picky book buyer/collector, so it took me long while to find the edition that pretty much suits me. Just imagine my joy when I got a boxed set for a nice deal and a commemorative edition of the first book in the beloved children’s series in one fell swoop during a Surprise Splurge!
I’ve often grumbled in this corner that it’s been months since I last read anything from the fantasy genre and reading The Chronicles of Narnia is a delightful comeback to hearken me to magical lands.
This marks my first time to encounter C. S. Lewis’s work. Significantly, what makes this time special is that I got to make a blog feature out of it for today, November 29, 2011, I join fans and the rest of the world in celebrating Jack’s 113th birthday — and as you probably know how I do it my own style in this dark alley — by choosing him as the Author of the Month.
However, I found out one don’t just burst through the doors of Narnia, for as much as I want to jump the gun one doesn’t simply crack open the “first” book. Much has been said and debates continue up to this day regarding the order one should read the Chronicle. A quick look as at this Wikipedia entry gives some of the reasons why this has become so along with the series’ arrangement according to the book’s publication and internal chronological order.
As someone who’s relatively new to Lewis’s work (nitpicking and obsessive-compulsive as I might sound), I decided I must start the Chronicles with the right book, else I turn back on the series midway with wilting interest. Admittedly, both sides have compelling arguments (much to their credit), yet the “Voice” and I, too, are not swayed enough. That’s when I decided, according to Robert Frost, to take the road less traveled.
The answer I’ve been waiting for I found from Paul Ford’s indispensable Companion to Narnia wherein he rather (radically to me, at least) suggests that there’s another way one may profitably read the Chronicles which he calls “The Order by Essential Completion by Lewis Himself”. This arrangement proposes that the series be read according to the succession Lewis wrote them sequencing it thus:
- The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (spring 1949)
- Prince Caspian: The Return to Narnia (fall 1949)
- The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (winter 1950)
- The Horse and His Boy (spring 1950)
- The Silver Chair (spring 1951)
- The Magician’s Nephew (fall 1951)
- The Last Battle (spring 1953)
Ultimately, it’s not it that made me follow the reading order as Ford put it forward. It’s the reason behind it that won me over: “This order makes possible the reading of the book with the heart by attending to them in the order in which they came into Lewis’s own heart and mind.”
After that I never looked back. It’s one of the best reading decisions I’ve made much to the chagrin of my patented I-Must-Read-Them-As-It-Is-Published self. Certainly the author’s intention for his work transcends any marketing strategy or publishing assessment any day. I never would’ve love Lewis’s series — and made me want to read some of his works, chiefly the Christian ones, soon — had I done otherwise. How I felt so is a point I wish to express in the coming review of the individual books.
I maybe in the minority of minorities here, yet knowing the land of Narnia and its creature’s as Lewis envisioned it, I’ll never have it any other way. Nevertheless, there’s so many paths, so many doors that leads to Narnia — it takes more than a wardrobe into it.
Happy Birthday Clive Staples Lewis!