CS Lewis

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The Narnia books


The seven books
There are seven books in the Chronicles of Narnia – click the links below to read an introduction to each book and for book ordering. It is not obvious what order to read the Narnia books in. There is the chronological order of the stories, but that is not the order they were published in.

Chronological order

  • The Magician’s Nephew
  • The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
  • The Horse and His Boy
  • Prince Caspian
  • The Voyage of the Dawn Treader
  • The Silver Chair
  • The Last Battle

Published order

  • The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (1950)
  • Prince Caspian (1951)
  • The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (1952)
  • The Silver Chair (1953)
  • The Horse and His Boy (1954)
  • The Magician’s Nephew (1955)
  • The Last Battle (1956)

The order the books were written in is different again. And in fact, as some of them took much longer than others to write, the order that Lewis started them in is different to the order that he finished them in. It is The Horse and His Boy and The Magician’s Nephew which cause the problems, as they were among the last to be written, but take place early in the story of Narnia.

So what order should they be read in? Some would say the chronological order, but this gives away some of the big surprises of the series. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe ought to be read first, or it will be spoilt by The Magician’s Nephew, which repeatedly refers back to it.

As long as that’s sorted, the two rogue books can be slotted in wherever you fancy between The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and The Last Battle, which really ought to come last.

The Magician’s Nephew

Spoiler alert: Plot details follow!

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This prequel to The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe goes back to London at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries.

Two children, Digory and Polly, are given magic rings by their unscrupulous Uncle Andrew, and sent as guinea pigs out of this world. They find themselves in a “wood between worlds”, and go from it to the dying world of Charn, where Digory wakes the White Witch, who follows them back to London.

Chaos follows, ending with Digory, Polly and the Witch, and others, coming to the wood between worlds, and then on to a formless and void world, where they witness Aslan sing Narnia into being. The Witch brings evil into the new world, but Digory has to decide whether he will break Aslan’s law by stealing a life-giving apple for his dying mother.

“Do you not see, Fool, that one bite of that apple would heal her?... Use your magic and go back to your own world. A minute later you can be at your Mother’s bedside, giving her the fruit. Five minutes later you will see the colour coming back to her face… Soon she will be quite well again. All will be well again. Your home will be happy again. You will be like other boys” (the Witch tempts Digory with the apple).

As well as being a great story, the appeal of this book is its explanations for how many of the things we meet in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, including the wardrobe itself, came into being.

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

Spoiler alert: Plot details follow!

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When Lucy Pevensie finds a wardrobe in Professor Kirke’s house that (sometimes) leads to Narnia, her siblings (Peter, Susan and Edmund) are sceptical. Then Edmund finds Narnia, too, but allows himself to fall under the spell of the White Witch. She wants them dead, because a prophecy says that four humans will end her reign of everlasting winter.

Edmund agrees to bring the other three to her, in return for becoming a prince – and so he can eat more of the Turkish Delight she has given him…

“Edmund was looking very hard at the empty box and wishing that she would ask him whether he would like some more. Probably the Queen knew quite well what he was thinking; for she knew, though Edmund did not, that this was enchanted Turkish Delight and that anyone who had once tasted it would want more and more of it, and would even, if they were allowed, go on eating it till they killed themsleves.”

Finally all four children visit Narnia. Aslan, the true lord of Narnia appears, and the Witch’s winter starts to thaw. But she has Edmund, and the only way to save him is for Aslan himself to make the ultimate sacrifice. What the Witch doesn’t know is that Aslan has deeper magic on his side than she ever imagined possible.

The first of the Narnia books is, of course, the most unforgettable – magical, heartbreaking and thrilling.

The Horse and His Boy

Spoiler alert: Plot details follow!

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This book is different from the other Narnia stories; it’s the only book which does not involve children coming from England to Narnia.

The heroes are two children and two talking horses, who are fleeing from the land of Calormen to Narnia, during the reign of Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy, at the end of The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe. The boy Shasta is the adopted son of a fisherman, and Aravis is a noble girl escaping marriage to an objectionable lord.

“The cloud was bigger and thicker than it had looked at first and soon the night grew very dark. Just as Shasta was saying to himself, ‘We must be nearly at those sandhills by now,’ his heart leaped into his mouth because an appalling noise had suddenly risen up out of the darkness ahead; a long snarling roar, melancholy and utterly savage. Instantly Bree swerved round and began galloping inland again as fast as he could gallop” (Shasta meets Aravis).

As they cross through the capital city of Calormen, the Narnian royal family are visiting and Shasta turns out to be the spitting image of young Prince Cor. When Shasta learns of a Calormene plot to invade Narnian territory, he has to get there alone in time to warn them. He finally discovers the secret of his birth – and of who has been helping them on their travels.

Prince Caspian

Spoiler alert: Plot details follow!

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At the opening of Prince Caspian, 1300 years have passed in Narnia since the time of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, but only one year has passed in England.

The four Pevensie children are called back to help Prince Caspian restore Old Narnia. King Miraz, who usurped Caspian’s rightful throne, has banished all talking animals and other fairy tale creatures, and has forbidden any talk of Aslan. Caspian, aware that the King is about to have him murdered, flees on horseback and finds his way to the talking animals who can help him…

“It took some time to satisfy the Dwarfs that Caspian was a friend and not an enemy, but when they did, they all cried, ‘Long live the King,’ and their gifts were noble – mail shirts and helmets and swords for Caspian and Trumpkin and Nikabrik. The Badger could have had the same if he had liked, but he said he was a beast, he was, and if his claws and teeth could not keep his skin whole, it wasn’t worth keeping” (Caspian meets the Dwarfs).

Caspian gathers his allied to lead the counter-revolution against Miraz. Can Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy help bring him victory – and will Aslan come to their rescue?

The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

Spoiler alert: Plot details follow!

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Lucy and Edmund return to Narnia with their annoying cousin Eustace, a bully who doesn’t believe in Narnia even when he’s there. They join King Caspian on an odyssey aboard his ship, the Dawn Treader, in a quest to find the seven missing lords of Narnia and to reach Aslan’s country.

They visit strange lands – such as the Island of Darkness and the Island of Voices – with strange inhabitants, like the silly Dufflepuds and Ramandu, a star. Eustace’s mischievousness ends in him getting turned into a dragon, but in fact this turns out to be the making of him.

“But just as he reached the edge of the pool, two things happened. First of all it came over him like a thunder-clap that he had been running on all fours – and why on earth had he been doing that? And secondly, as he bent towards the water, he thought for a second that yet another dragon was staring up at him from the pool. But in an instant he realized the truth. The dragon face in the pool was his own reflection” (Edmund makes his dreadful discovery).

The end of the journey is a surprise for anyone who assumed that Narnia, like the Earth, is round.

The Silver Chair

Spoiler alert: Plot details follow!

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Eustace returns to Narnia with his friend Jill, and they are sent by Aslan on another quest, this time to find Prince Rilian (the only son of King Caspian, now an old man), who was captured when he was a child. They have a set of signs to follow to guide them towards their target, but after they forget to stick to them, it’s by no means certain they will succeed.

Puddleglum, a Marshwiggle, is there to help them, but he’s as cheery as his name suggests, so they’re not sure how much of a blessing that will be…

“It stands to reason we’re not likely to get very far on a journey to the North, not at this time of year, with the winter coming on soon, and all. And an early winter too, by the look of things. But you mustn’t let that make you down-hearted. Very likely, what with enemies, and mountains, and rivers to cross, and losing our way, and next to nothing to eat, and sore feet, we’ll hardly notice the weather…” (Puddleglum attempts to cheer the children up).

They have to cross the terrible Land of Giants – preferably avoiding being eaten there – and finally enter the underground world of the Green Queen, who has some powerful ways of making sure that they never leave.

The great attraction of this book is Puddleglum, who, for all his Eeyorishness, is one of CS Lewis’s most endearing creations.

The Last Battle

Spoiler alert: Plot details follow!

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Shift the Ape dresses Puzzle the Donkey in a lion’s skin and fools the talking animals into believing that Puzzle is Aslan, returned to Narnia. Shift leads Narnia in evil policies, which includes making an alliance with the neighbouring land of Calormen in which Narnian trees are felled and Narnian animals taken into slavery…

“‘No, no, no,’ howled the Beasts. ‘It can’t be true. Aslan would never sell us into slavery to the King of Calormen.’

‘None of that! Hold your noise!’ said the Ape with a snarl. ‘Who said anything about slavery? You won’t be slaves. You’ll be paid – very good wages too. That is to say, your pay will be paid in to Aslan’s treasury and he will use it all for everybody’s good.’ Then he glanced, and almost winked, at the chief Calormene.”

When the animals challenge the Ape and say that Aslan would never sell his people into slavery, the Ape replies that Aslan is the same as Tash, the bloodthirsty god of the Calormenes. Puzzle the Donkey, who is still playing the part of Aslan, becomes “Tashlan”, a hybrid god.

Tirian, the last King of Narnia, attempts to intervene, but he is captured by the Calormenes and tied to a tree. He falls into despair, but then remembers that Aslan always sent children from another world when Narnia was in its greatrest times of crisis. So he calls out for help, and Eustace and Jill are sent from England to help fight the last great battle for Narnia.

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About this module

Our famous follower in these pages is CS Lewis, known as ‘the apostle to the sceptics’ in 20th century Britain, but his books, including Narnia, are read around the world. He is the author of scholarly books, science fiction, popular theology and his children’s classics, the Chronicles of Narnia. All of them shot through with his imaginative and powerful retelling of the Christian story.

These pages were written by Stephen Tomkins.

Categories: Lives, Biographical, Reviews,

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arrow CS Lewis: his story

arrow Film review

arrow Faith and magic

arrow Young Jack

arrow Behind the wardrobe

arrow The Narnia books

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