Revisiting The Chronicles of Narnia Part 1: The Book Series
By: Angela Russo (@Amaruki99)
A nerd never forgets their first encounter with fantasy. C. S. Lewis’s The Chronicles of Narnia were my first foray into the magical genre. Mythical reverence coupled with daring quests and the mysteriously mesmerizing figure of Aslan were an enthralling combination that whet my appetite for Fantasy. What the Harry Potter books were to other kids my age, The Chronicles of Narnia were to me. It was the life-blood to the early stages of my imagination.
“For me, reason is the natural organ of truth; but imagination is the organ of meaning.”
As an english major and a total literature-nerd, I need to take a moment to appreciate what makes this series come to life. Lewis strongly believed that the imagination is a powerful and vital part of life, and had an impeccable talent for instilling this into the mind of his readers. It is certainly impossible to read Narnia without the tangible sensation that your imagination is being cultivated and fertilized, blossoming into new realms of exciting possibility. To open the pages is to enter Narnia. The writing style is rich, sensory, and vibrantly evocative to such a powerful degree that the books genuinely feel infused with magic.
Every fantasy series has magic at the heart of it and Narnia is no exception. Everything is tied together with the enigmatic concept of deep magic. Portrayed as being an expansive and powerful force, it is present in a variety of different forms from enchantments and artifacts of power, to mythological creatures and magical entities. However, the true deep magic of Narnia remains a largely enigmatic force. You only get tantalizing hints and tastes of it that leave you hungry for more. The author and unifying feature of the magic of this universe is undeniably Aslan. It is he who spans the series through all seven books, and he who holds the key to every quest.
From The Magician’s Nephew to The Last Battle, each installment of the series offers a completely different adventure into a new corner of the Narnian universe. I could write at length about all seven books, but must be satisfied with tipping my hat to some of the highlights:
1. As the origin story of Jadis and our introduction to the deep magic and creation of Narnia, The Magician’s Nephew is a vastly underrated tale. Following Polly and Digory as they wander through Charn into the hauntingly eerie Hall of Images makes your hair stand on end. I just knew one of them was going to come to life. Considering Jadis is the future White Witch it’s no surprise that her story would give the reader chills.
2. The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe is without a doubt the most well-known book of the series bearing the complete destruction of Jadis, and the crowning of the four rulers of Narnia. As much as it is a pivotal novel, I do feel that it is also the most overhyped. It is said that even Lewis himself never felt completely satisfied with the end result. However, out of all of the other books it contains the most content regarding Aslan by far – which certainly distinguishes the book from the others in more ways than one. What reader can resist the inevitable draw of the great lion?
3. Some might consider The Horse and His Boy to be the “black sheep,” or “ugly duckling,” of the group, but I can’t agree. Journeying through the exotic desert country of Calormen to the lush green mountains of Archenland gave a very different glimpse into the cultures and traditions of realms outside Narnia. It was a nice change of pace and perspective from the usual format of entering Narnia from another world entirely.
4. Prince Caspian was the first Narnia book that I read. Even completely out of order, it is certainly an engrossing story of knightly honor and the protection of the Narnian throne by the kings and queens of old. One of the things that sets Prince Caspian apart from the rest of the series is its heightened attention to the mythological creatures of the realm. From carousing with Bacchus, to freeing the river-god, and feasting with the great talking trees, the book is chock full of the true spirit of Narnia.
5. Occurring during a time of peace, the seafaring expedition of The Voyage of the Dawn Treader bears a varied assortment of mini-adventures complete with the transformative journey of Eustace from beastly boy to helpful dragon to human…and who could resist the larger than life, bold and dashing exploits of the honorable Reepicheep. Full of encounters with sea-serpents, and enchanted tropical islands the book is positively drenched in the mystery of what lies beyond the edge of the world.
6. From evading giants, to rescuing a spellbound prince, and slaying an evil enchantress in the eerie realm of the underlands, The Silver Chair does not disappoint. Now that the Pevensies can no longer return to Narnia, Eustace and Jill take center stage. Although some readers consider the shift in cast to be unwelcome, I found their journey into the wild mountainous northlands with a no-nonsense Marsh-wiggle from Ettinsmoor to be comically diverting. Besides, what good fantasy series doesn’t explore an underground realm at some point?
7. The Last Battle is arguably the darkest story of all. I find myself conflicted about how I feel about this book, but taken as the final chapter of Narnia’s existence, and looking back to the end of Charn in The Magician’s Nephew, it is clear that the darkness is intentional. In contrast, the last few chapters of the book are like a wonderful happy dream. Although the beloved friends of Narnia have passed out of their earth, they are welcomed into the newly created Narnia to remain happy for all time.
Enjoyable at all Ages
“No book is really worth reading at the age of ten which is not equally – and often far more-worth reading at the age of fifty and beyond.” – C.S. Lewis
This particular quote sums up the series better than anything I could ever contrive to say. The Chronicles of Narnia is certainly a series that is just as relevant and enjoyable at ten as it is now closer to thirty – in many ways, even more so! As an adult I still appreciate the adventure and fantasy aspects, but also notice and understand the true spiritual depth of the novels. It is widely known to be a christian work, but it is so well-crafted that anyone can read it without feeling remotely preached to. Another joy of rereading the series comes to light as Lewis’s snarky humor sneaks into the pages – especially when he references things of the human world. His opinions about raising children, politics, and fads become hysterically apparent. Lewis certainly had a talent for reaching into the heart of the reader regardless of age or understanding. The multifaceted nature of the series is undoubtedly key to why it is such a legendary classic. To this day among my own friends, The Chronicles of Narnia remain a much-beloved fan favorite.