Re: Narnia reading order
- David wrote:
<<Despite a couple of demurrals on this list, the consensus among Lewisians
that a first-time reader should begin with "Lion" is so strong that, when
Peter Schakel tried to organize a debate on the subject at the Lewis
Centenary Conference, he could find no-one to take the contrary position.>>
I wonder how much of this is due to the fact that this is how most
people (and most Lewisians) actually experienced it for the first
time, or more likely the first several times, and they simply cannot
get their head around reading it another way. On the other hand, I'm
sure there are several good scholarly reasons for why it should be
read that way. I just wonder how many of those scholarly reasons are
cover up for a distaste for changing things from the way "it's always
been." Because for all the potential literary reasons I can think of
for reading the series in one order, I can think of as many for
reading it in the other. Maybe in several years, when more young
people who read the series modernly in the other order are grown, or
people who hadn't read it finally do and in that order, and some of
them have become Lewis scholars, there will be more of a debate on
I tend to agree with Lewis ... it doesn't matter. But I think this
issue will always be a matter of personal preference and I think
that's fine. I do think it's a little dismissive to disregard Lewis's
own view regardless of how much consideration he gave to the matter.
But I do think that since is largely a matter of personal preference
that anyone should feel free to disagree with even Lewis's own view,
regardless of how considered it was. Because this is about one's own
enjoyment of the books and no one should sacrifice that even for
something the author says.
Therefore, I would suggest that everyone should read it both ways,
maybe reading the publication order first and then the chronological
order second. I think it's an interesting comparison because you get
different things out of both readings, and then you can discover for
yourself which way you prefer. The only reason I would suggest
starting with publication order is that I think it's a more
"authentic" experience, since until recently that's how most readers
of the series discovered the events of the books.
I think I've almost always read it in the order in which it was
presented to me ... meaning almost every time I have read the series I
have read it in publication order, since that what the box set I have
had since I was a child was ordered in. But the last time I read the
series was when I worked in a book store about five years ago and on
Saturdays I worked in the children/young adult section and at that
time I read the Narnia series again while I was working and the set
they had was presented in chronological order and I read it that way.
I didn't feel it was bad to read it that way ... just different. And
it was interesting to have things presented in a different way. It
definitely changed things to have the beginning at the beginning and
go through all the adventures and history before getting to the end,
than to have the beginning smack up against the end. Not a worse or
better effect, just a different one.
- At 11:17 AM 4/17/2005 -0700, Katie Glick wrote:
>I wonder how much of this is due to the fact that this is how mostNot in my case. I first read The Lord of the Rings starting with the
>people (and most Lewisians) actually experienced it for the first
>time, or more likely the first several times, and they simply cannot
>get their head around reading it another way.
appendices. I don't recommend it.
>Because for all the potential literary reasons I can think ofCan you? Narnia is so clearly meant to begin the story with Lion -
>for reading the series in one order, I can think of as many for
>reading it in the other.
evidence on request - that I can't imagine what, besides a misguided
fidelity to Lewis's offhand comment or a misplaced passion for
chronological order, could possibly be raised as an argument against it.
And stories frequently are told in other than chronological order. (Ever
read The Dispossessed by Ursula K. Le Guin?) In Lewis's Perelandra, the
last two pages of Chapter 2 take place after the entire rest of the book.
Should one skip them and go back after finishing? Should Tolkien's
publishers number The Silmarillion, The Hobbit, and The Lord of the Rings
1-2-3 in that order?
If you do have any arguments in favor of the Nephew-first order, I'd like
to know what they are. Because I can't think of any others.
>I do think it's a little dismissive to disregard Lewis'sI do think it's a little odd to treat a single offhand comment in a letter,
>own view regardless of how much consideration he gave to the matter.
never carried through on (I mean, Lewis could have asked his publishers to
issue something about reading order, but he didn't), as unalterable
official gospel, but that is what the publishers have now done. Reading
the casual nature of the comment, and knowing how unconcerned Lewis was
with his own published works, I would find it quite believable if it turned
out that he wrote the exact opposite at some other time, if evidence of
another letter on the subject turned up.
>Therefore, I would suggest that everyone should read it both ways,For subsequent readings, sure, try it another way. Skip around, even.
>maybe reading the publication order first and then the chronological
>order second. I think it's an interesting comparison because you get
>different things out of both readings, and then you can discover for
>yourself which way you prefer.
It's the first-reading experience that is unique.
- David Bratman
- In a message dated 4/17/2005 2:18:39 P.M. Eastern Standard Time,
I do think it's a little dismissive to disregard Lewis's
own view regardless of how much consideration he gave to the matter.
It was no more than a single offhand comment in a letter to a child. He
never conveyed this desire to change the order to anyone else. In particular,
he never told his publisher about this. (The real reason that the changes
were made in the mid-1990's is not the letter but the fact that Douglas Gresham
has persuaded the publisher to make the changes.) The interesting thing is
that there are some changes that he did give his publisher that are now being
ignored. There were several changes that he told the publisher to make in a
letter he wrote them. These were some minor things like a few different
names for minor characters. For some reason, only the American edition of the
books had these changes made. When the series was renumbered in the
mid-1990's, these changes were edited out of the American editions. So now we have a
new ordering that Lewis only mentioned in a letter to a child, while we don't
see the changes that Lewis asked for in a letter to the publisher.
[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
- I cast my vote for reading in publication order first. I think the story
unfolds that way. I think MN expects you to know LWW, but not the other
way around. I also like the fact that in the original ordering, Horse and
his Boy comes later, allowing you to return to the golden age of Narnia for
a little while. When someone first told me the chronological ordering was
Lewis' suggestion, I thought that if that was the case, Lewis didn't really
pay attention to what he had written.
That said, I've read them in chronological order most of the times I've
read them. After the first reading, I recommend doing that at least
One unscholarly person's $0.02.
- David Bratman wrote:
>I never could get into the Narnia series, but every now and then I'd like to try
> Narnia is so clearly meant to begin the story with Lion -
> evidence on request - that I can't imagine what, besides a misguided
> fidelity to Lewis's offhand comment or a misplaced passion for
> chronological order, could possibly be raised as an argument against it.
it. All this talk has me wanting to try again, and I wonder if anyone knows if
Lewis intended the books as a series from the get-go, or whether he just penned
LWW and, when it was a success (or because he enjoyed the tale and its creations
so much) carried on, and on. It seems from the discussions here that "nephew" is
a 'prequel' in some way, and writers tend (in general, not always) to write
prequels without planning to. That is, they write the story to its climactic
logical conclusion, then (little readers ever clamoring for 'more Narnia
please!' can only dig up some stories at the tales' roots afterwards.
I'd be very much interested in a general explanation of internal evidence that
the series was planned as such.
- At 12:04 PM 4/19/2005 -0400, pond wrote:
>I wonder if anyone knows ifIt was not planned. Lewis had no idea where LWW was going to go when he
>Lewis intended the books as a series from the get-go, or whether he just
>LWW and, when it was a success (or because he enjoyed the tale and its
>so much) carried on, and on.
thought of the story's beginning, and the sequels - at least the earlier
ones - were written without prior awareness that a sequel had to come. Nor
were they a response to success, as all of the first five - LWW, Prince
Caspian, Voyage, Silver Chair, and Horse - had been written before LWW was
published. The impetus was just the desire to write them. Only the
bookends, Magician's Nephew & Last Battle, seem to have been planned as
such, and they came last. I doubt very much that Lewis had any idea of how
Narnia had come to be when he wrote LWW. To my mind, this shows in the
work, and Nephew suffers from being forced to explain things that
originally had no explanation.