The Narnia Books
The Chronicles Reviewed
Irish born, British raised author C. S. Lewis is best known for this well-loved children's literary classic with its beautiful landscapes, talking animals, magical themes, child heroes and the constant battle between good and evil. The Chronicles of Narnia is made up of seven novellas which were originally published in the early 1950s as separate complete books.
The first book published was The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe followed by The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, The Silver Chair, The Horse and His Boy, The Magician's Nephew and The Last Battle. Today they are encouraged by publishers to read in a different order (see below).
All the stories are conversational from a "storyteller" perspective with a flip-flop omnipresent point-of-view. C. S. Lewis is careful to make them suitable for children by approaching death and war without the gore an adult would witness. I certainly enjoyed revisiting these stories as an adult with the perspectives I now carry. I hope you do too.
The Chronicles of Narnia consists of:
- 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
Citation: image copyright M. E. Wood.
How Old Are You?
The Magician's Nephew Review
The Magician's Nephew was first published by C. S. Lewis in 1955, five years after The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. In these fifteen short chapters we are introduced to Digory Kirke and Polly Plummer, neighbours in London who decide to play in the rafters of the adjoining homes hoping to sneak into an empty abode on the end. Instead they end up in Digory's strange uncle's private attic office.
In this room they learn Uncle Andrew (Mr. Andrew Ketterley) has created yellow and green magic rings which he has been testing on various guinea pigs with varying degrees of success and survival. What the rings do he does not know but he has been researching magic and trying to make the rings proficient in their use. His only dilemma is the pigs can't tell him where they've been.
Uncle Andrew tricks the children into testing them. On their adventures they find an in-between world they call The Wood between the Worlds. It bridges our world with many others. Many things from The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (LWW) are explained here. Polly and Digory witness the birth of Narnia and the talking beasts, they meet Aslan and inadvertently are the cause of the White Witch's (the Queen Jadis from Charn) immigration to Narnia. By the end the reader also learns who were the first King and Queen of Narnia and where the magical Wardrobe came into be being. This book is also an introduction for Digory who is seen in later novellas as Professor Kirke.
When I first started reading about the rings I immediately thought of J. R. R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings and wondered, since both authors were friends, the influence they had on one another. One of my favourite lines in The Magician's Nephew is when Narnia is born and Aslan speaks, "Narnia, Narnia, Narnia, awake. Love. Think. Speak. Be walking trees. Be talking beasts. Be divine waters."
This edition is laced with morals such as, "For what you see and hear depends a good deal on where you are standing: it also depends on what sort of person you are."
Even though this book is written as more of an explanation of the LWW it was an enjoyable story, complete of itself. One of which adults will surely enjoy revisiting.
"For what you see and hear depends a good deal on where you are standing: it also depends on what sort of person you are."
Meet Me at the Lamp PostClick thumbnail to view full-size
The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe Review
The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe was first published in 1950 and is the most popular of the C. S. Lewis chronicles. In the seventeen short chapters we are introduced to the adventures of the Pevensie children. Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy are sent to live with old Professor Kirke and his servants in a country mansion far from the air raids of London. Their first day there they decide to explore the grounds but a downpour keeps them housebound and they end up exploring the crooks and crannies of the labyrinth mansion.
The youngest, Lucy becomes separated from the older children when she decides to check out a wardrobe full of furs in an otherwise vacant room. She can't believe how deep the wardrobe is and travels to the back with outstretched arms until she suddenly finds herself in a snowy forest, where she runs into a unique faun named Mr. Tumnus. He politely introduces himself and the land around them as Narnia.
Twist and turns finally lead the rest of Lucy's family into Narnia where they are separated from a 'spiteful' Edmund who is secretly under the White Witch's spell. These four children are told by the neighboring beavers they are the four daughters and sons of Adam and Eve come to free Narnia from the witch's cold spell. With the help of talking animals and the mighty Aslan they hope to save their brother and free Narnia from the wicked witch.
There are a few discrepancies that sidetracked (after reading The Magician's Nephew) me but don't influence the enjoyment of the story. They did make me wonder if I'd notice had I read in the published order instead of the chronological order. First, during Edmund's visit he tells the Queen he doesn't know the way back to his country she tells him: "Do you see that lamp?" She pointed her wand and Edmund turned and saw the same lamp-post under which Lucy had met the Faun. "Straight on, beyond that, is the way to the World of Men..." How is it possible she knows this if no one has travelled through the wardrobe before?
Later on the Beavers are talking to the kids about the prophecy of their coming and they say human's have never been to Narnia before. "We've heard of Aslan coming into these parts before -- long ago, nobody can say when. But there's never been any of your race here before." Again, according to the first book the first King & Queen were human.
And thirdly, the "Emperor's Magic" is mentioned often but I have no idea who he is and what his role was/is in Narnia.
The stereotypes really become evident when Santa visits the children to pass out their "gifts". The girls aren't expected to do battle. "Battles are ugly when women fight." Battles are ugly when men fight too. Later when the wolves attack, the impression of strength is given then taken away. Susan has the strength of mind to blow her horn, run to a tree out of reach of an attacking wolf but Peter sees her as about to "faint" and be eaten.
He often references parents with his mild humour in storyline departures. When describing the witch's henchmen Lewis says "and other creatures whom I won't describe because if I did the grown-ups would probably not let you read this book." While these side comments are amusing they do take you out of the story briefly.
Even now I still have the same emotional connection/reaction to the story and the characters especially when the freed stoned animals come across the great battle. This is still my favourite story from the Chronicles of Narnia. I recommend you revisit it.
“Turkish Delight, please, your Majesty"
After reading how Edmund cannot resist the taste of Turkish delight you might want to try making some of your own. Here is an easy recipe for this addicting treat that is simply the best fresh.
- 4 cups granulated sugar
- 1 1/4 cups cornstarch
- 1 teaspoon cream of tartar
- 4 1/4 cups water
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1 1/2 tablespoons rosewater (can be found in ethnic section of grocer)
- 1 cup icing sugar
- vegetable oil
Care For Some Turkish Delight?
- Grease a 9" pan with vegetable oil, line with wax paper and set aside.
- Combine lemon juice, sugar and 1 1/2 cups water in a saucepan and heat on medium. Stir continually until dissolved.
- When mixture begins to boil reduce heat and allow to simmer. If you have a candy thermometer you can keep checking on it until it reaches 240 degrees. Remove from stove and set aside while mixing other ingredients.
- In a fresh pot combine cream of tartar, 1 cup corn starch and remaining water in saucepan over medium heat. Whisk until smooth and continue to stir until mixture boils. When it starts to thicken gently stir in lemon juice, water and sugar mixture you created earlier. Continue to heat for another five minutes.
- Turn heat to low and let simmer for the next hour. It's important to stir frequently to prevent it from building up on the bottom of the pot and burning.
- Add rosewater and mix gently and thoroughly. Spread in 9" pan and allow to cool overnight in fridge.
- Sift remaining cornstarch and icing sugar.
- On a clean counter or cutting board turn out Turkish delight and cut into one or two inch squares or rectangles. You can oil the knife or heat it with warm tap water(wipe before slicing).
- Roll each piece in your sugar/cornstarch mixture.
The Horse and His Boy Review
The Horse and His Boy was first published by C. S. Lewis in 1954 and in the collection I'm reading is the third book in The Chronicles of Narnia. In the fifteen short chapters we are introduced to many new characters but the focus of this story is the slave child Shasta and his adventures with Bree a talking horse.
Like most slave children Shasta is yelled at and beaten daily by his owner, Arsheesh. Arsheesh found Shasta when he was a baby. He washed ashore in a boat with nothing but his swaddling and the lifeless body of the man who was caring for him.
When the opportunity arises Shasta runs away with a talking horse named Bree with hopes of scaling the large desert between his current home in Calormen to the beauty and freedom of Narnia. They set out initially, alone; but are joined by a young princess named Aravis and her talking horse, Hwin. Aravis and Hwin are also headed for Narnia. Like Shasta, Aravis is fleeing confinement (through matched marriage) for freedom.
Some of the main themes of The Horse and His Boy are trust, loyalty and respect. Shasta and Aravis come from two different lifestyles, as do Bree and Hwin, and despite disliking one another they learn to develop a respect, trust and loyalty for one another very quickly and it's unbreakable through their hardships and separation.
Susan, Lucy and Edmund Pevensie make a short appearance as the escorts of Prince Corwin (who bears a striking resemblance to Shasta) and later Lucy and Edmund are present for a battle. They are older, wiser and settled into their roles as king and queens. Edmund has come into his own as a dashing and brave warrior.
What is a chronicle of Narnia without Aslan? The great beast appears a few times on a low key level encouraging events and people in a certain direction. My favourite part was when Shasta was sitting on the edge of the desert waiting for his comrades. It was dark and the noises of the land began to spook him. Aslan appears as a small cat and sits back to back throughout the night as comfort for Shasta.
Of the three novellas I've reacquainted myself with so far this is my least favourite. The children are whiny as are the horses and this diminished my interest. Overuse of the word "presently" became a tad tiresome. Still, for 100 pages it really isn't an inconvenience if you want to be true and read all the chronicles.
Prince Caspian Review
This is the fourth novella of C. S. Lewis's Narnia collection. It was first published in 1951. In the fifteen short chapters we are introduced to a new era of Narnia as well as a new character and future King. Prince Caspian is a 14 year boy growing up with his Uncle Miraz (current King) and his wife. Prince Caspian and all his people are not native Narnians. They are Telmarines who came from the land of Telmar, beyond the Western Mountains. The Prince is delighted with tales of "old Narnia" while the King wants to keep the old stories of talking animals and friendly all powerful lions buried. When the King's wife finally produces a son, Prince Caspian is forced to flee for his life with the help of his half dwarf half human tutor Doctor Cornelius.
Eventually he will have to stand up and battle King Miraz to claim his throne but he can't do it alone. In his possession is the mighty Horn that Susan carried in the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe which he blows in hopes of bringing Aslan or perhaps the old kings and queens of Narnia to his defense.
Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy are joined one year after their first Narnia adventure as they are heading back to boarding school. While waiting in the train station to go their separate ways some form of magic begins to pull away their surroundings until they find themselves in a wooded land that is different in so many ways but yet so familiar and adored by them. On further inspection they realize they are at the Ruins of Cair Paravel, their once beloved castle over a thousand years later. They soon learn they have been called back to Narnia for a purpose when they rescue a Dwarf named Trumpkin from being drowned. Peter, Susan and Lucy collect their gifts previously given to them by Father Christmas and then find their way to Prince Caspian with the dwarf's help; as well as a little help from a golden lion.
I have enjoyed re-reading Lewis's novellas very much but his excessive use of the word "presently" drives me insane. Beyond that this is probably my second favorite in the series (The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe being the first). I think it is a good story for young and old although there is a section about killing and eating a bear that might be disturbing to younger readers. As for religious themes I felt it more in this book. Do as I say unquestioned and you shall be rewarded; don't, and you shall not. There's also the usual fight of good against evil and those who are good and persevere will find glory at the end of the road. The Pevensie children are actually quite charming compared to the children from The Horse and His Boy. They are really quite sensible children; thinking to preserve food and collect firewood before it gets dark so it is no wonder Aslan chose them to be Kings and Queens of Narnia.
If you haven't read this adventure / battle tale yet, it is definitely worth your time. With such small chapters it was over before I knew it but I was with the conclusion of the tale.
"We are all waiting to cut off our own tails if our Chief must go without his."
The Chronicles of Narnia - All in one book!
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