Home Fantasy Literature The Chronicles of Narnia: C.S. Lewis’s Masterpiece

The Chronicles of Narnia: C.S. Lewis’s Masterpiece

The Chronicles of Narnia is one of the most beloved series around the world. It will forever be a classic children’s series. Written by C.S. Lewis, the books took decades for him to write and perfect. Lewis published the series over six years. The first, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, was released in 1950. The final book, The Last Battle, was published in 1956.

The publication order ultimately became different from the order in which the books are read. Lewis’ publication order originally was The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, Prince Caspian, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, The Silver Chair, The Horse and His Boy, The Magician’s Nephew, and The Last Battle. Now, The Magician’s Nephew is read first, then The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, The Horse and His Boy, Prince Caspian, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, The Silver Chair, and finally, The Last Battle. Below, you will find information on the story’s setting, magic, characters, C.S. Lewis, the general plot, and its reception and popularity with its readers.

Setting:

The settings in The Chronicles of Narnia vary dramatically from story to story. What ties them together is the overwhelming presence of the realm of Narnia, for which the series is named. Narnia is a fantastical realm wholly separate from Earth. Narnia’s composition is much like our own, with oceans, different landmasses, and islands all mixed. Where it differs is the presence of magic, multiple different sentient races, somewhat fantastical geography.

Most books feature a setting other than Narnia as well. Most notably, the beginnings and endings of several books are set in 1940s England. Most of the main characters of The Chronicles of Narnia are children sent to Narnia from Earth to accomplish a particular task. Other alternate realms are explored as well, though for significantly less time. In The Magician’s Nephew, a realm called Charn is explored. Charn is a dying world. It is also where the White Witch, a terrible foe of a later book, was born. The Wood Between the Worlds is a place that also features in The Magician’s Nephew. It is sort of a crossroads, allowing people who find it to travel to different realms like Earth, Charn, and Narnia. The Underworld, ruled by the Green Lady, features briefly in The Silver Chair. The final realm shown is Aslan’s Kingdom in The Last Battle. Other than these three exceptions, all of the stories occur in Narnia.

The books cover a vast amount of Narnian time. Time works differently in Narnia compared to Earth. Hundreds of years can pass in Narnia, while only a few go by on Earth. Because of this disparity, the books cover the beginning of Narnia to its twilight days.

Magic:

Magic in The Chronicles of Narnia is a nebulous, powerful thing. No actual system is explained, and very rarely can the main protagonists use true magic. Any time they do, it is something external, like magic rings. Those who can use magic in the story are members of a specific race predisposed to magic or those ascendant figures like Aslan.

In each of the realms explored in The Chronicles of Narnia, magic is present, including Earth. Magic seems to be stronger in some realms than others; a good illustration is Earth compared to Narnia. Magic also manifests itself in different ways and different people depending on each realm’s unknown underlying rules. For example, Charn’s magic is quite powerful but only can be used by the nobility of that realm – or at least, so it seems. Narnian magic is generally only used by certain races predisposed to it – like nymphs, hags, witches, and deities. On Earth, it manifests weakly and rarely. The only mention of any sort of magic user on Earth is Andrew Ketterley, a bumbling magician who does not truly understand what he is doing.

When used, magic most often usurps the natural physical laws of the world. Magic-usersMagic-users can shift, change, and bend the world around them. They most often do so through rituals and spells, though some, like Aslan, have innate power they can simply use at will.

The Chronicles of Narnia uses a soft magic system. This delineation means that magic’s rules are not clear, and magic itself is not used to solve problems. Lewis avoids many of the pitfalls inherent to soft magic systems, like incorrect power creep or Deus Ex Machina. He makes magic cause problems for the protagonists, which happens many times and is entirely acceptable and encouraged, and Lewis inspires awe and wonder in the reader with his magic. The lack of rules and the rarity of magic in the series make its use stick in the reader’s memory. When Aslan breathes on the stone statues in the White Witch’s castle, his magic helps create a powerful scene of healing and light. Conversely, when the White Witch enters the final battle of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, a sense of dread permeates the scene, her terrible magic a significant part of creating this feeling. Lewis uses magic to potent effect in his epic story.

Races:

One of the most interesting draws of The Chronicles of Narnia is the diverse cast present. Lewis writes Narnia as home to many sentient races. Some of them can use magic, while most could not. Listed below are the major races, those most commonly seen in the books, and have the greatest numbers. Numerous other minor races are present in the stories, like hags and werewolves, there are far too many to list here.

Centaurs:

Centaurs are a race of half-human, half-horse people. Their lower half is a horse while the upper half is either a male or a female human. They are highly intelligent, loyal, and honorable creatures. Centaurs almost exclusively fought on the side of good, Aslan’s side. They dutifully served Aslan and the kings and queens he appointed. Many of them were prophets and stargazers, predicting the future using magic and the stars.

Dryads:

Also known as wood nymphs, hamadryads, or silvans, the dryads are beings closely tied with trees. Dryads are tree spirits that take a humanoid form, often composed of flower petals. While not in humanoid form, they live in a specific tree and can move it like a person would move their limbs. They are mysterious and magical; many other Narnians believe them to be mythical during certain times of the story. While most served Aslan, some were known to serve the White Witch during her terrible reign.

Dwarfs:

The Dwarfs are a short, stocky race of humanoids. Their skills lie in forging metals and stonework. Aslan dubbed them the Sons of the Earth, and they loved it dearly. The Dwarfs were often split in their loyalties, many of them turned traitor and served the White Witch. They forged her army’s weapons and fought as well. Those Dwarfs loyal to Aslan were almost all turned to stone by the White Witch and fought for Aslan once he freed them. This split loyalty persists amongst the other books.

Fauns:

Fauns are humanoid creatures with the lower half of a goat and the upper half a human. Faun’s passions were music and dancing, their short, quick frames allowing them to dance and sing in great circles in the woods. Fauns are kind, loyal creatures and are some of Aslan’s greatest servants, with few exceptions. Fauns are very agile and can jump and climb exceptionally well, due in no small part to being half goat.

Minotaurs:

Minotaurs are a fearsome, aggressive race of humanoids. They are part bull and part human, just like the ancient Greek myth. They stand upright and are quite tall and strong, even for their size. Minotaurs can be ill-tempered, especially if disrespected or in battle. But most could be congenial and cheerful if properly treated. Minotaurs are not among the races mentioned during Narnia’s creation. No one knows from where they originated. At first, many served beings opposed to Aslan, though they eventually became fiercely loyal to him instead of others.

Naiads:

Also known as water spirits and river nymphs, these mighty creatures lived in Narnia’s rivers and streams. When seen by others, they most commonly took on a humanoid form, albeit one made entirely of water. Their counterparts are the River Gods, essentially, male versions of the naiads. Naiads and River Gods always fight on Aslan’s side and have remained loyal to him over the many centuries of Narnia’s existence.

Satyrs:

Satyrs are similar in form and temperament to Fauns. One major difference, Satyrs’ heads were that of a goat; the rest of their bodies were also much more bestial than Fauns. They still loved music and dancing like the Fauns. Satyrs are considered wilder than their cousins but still fought for Aslan and served him well over the years.

Author Bio:

Clive Staples Lewis was born on November 29, 1898, in Belfast, Ireland. While growing up, education and reading were of great importance to his family, which rubbed off on the young Lewis. His mother graduated from the Royal University of Ireland, a great accomplishment at the time due to women normally not continuing to higher education.

From a young age, Lewis’s intelligence was clear. He began reading at age three, and when he was five, he was writing short fantasy stories. These stories were even published some years after he died in 1985 as Boxen: The Imaginary World of the Young C.S Lewis.

After serving in the British Army during World War I, Lewis studied at Oxford and did incredibly well there, achieving many academic accolades. Lewis began writing The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe in 1939, though he did not finish it until 1949. The concept for The Chronicles of Narnia began in 1914 with a picture of a Faun carrying parcels and an umbrella. Lewis had this image in his head for years and finally decided to craft a story around it. Evidently, he succeeded.

General Plot:

The Chronicles of Narnia follow the story of the Bible quite closely. It is considered by many to be an allegory. Aslan represents Jesus, sent by his father to save the world. Many of the characters represent those from the Bible. The stories can be closely contrasted with many Biblical stories.

Aside from Christian influence and imagery, The Chronicles of Narnia tells the story of Narnia as a world. The Magician’s Nephew details the beginning of Narnia, the dawn of Creation, when Aslan breathes life into the realm. The Last Battle illustrates the close of Narnia and the continuation of its people in Aslan’s Realm. The stories in between tell of times of great strife in Narnia and how people from other worlds are sent to put Narnia back on the correct path. Tales of bravery and honor lay within these books’ pages, all told with brilliant prose, humor, and intelligence that personifies C.S. Lewis’ writing.

Reception/Popularity:

The Chronicles of Narnia is one of the most famous book series ever written. Hundreds of millions of copies have been sold worldwide. The books have been translated into 47 different languages and are read by first-time readers worldwide every day. These books often feature in high-school level educational reading requirements. Much study has been done on them.

Four different film adaptations were created about The Chronicles of Narnia. The last two were portrayed in movie-length segments, though neither feature movies of all the books. Both versions, especially the most recent release, were well received. Many plays and radio productions were created as well.

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