on June 26, 2004
Radio Theatre has set a standard for itself and meets it in spades with The Chronicles of Narnia. The cast is solid and gives a wonderful dramatization. The Horse and His Boy is our favorite, and it is best to listen to at night while you are traveling in the car, because the characters travel at night alot during the story -- of course, they are not in a car, they are on horseback.
C.S. Lewis was many things - a popular theologian (almost a contradiction in terms today), an engaging academic (see above qualification, as it applies here, too), and an expert storyteller, the craft of which came from his careful blending and imaginative use of the previous two. The Chronicles of Narnia stand up favourable to the work of Lewis' longtime friend and contemporary academic and storyteller, Tolkien (of Lord of the Rings fame). Narnia, however, does not go off into the same fantastic realms of Tolkien, but rather charts a different path, in that while Tolkien strives to use fantasy and mythic elements to tell more general philosophy, Lewis in the Narnia tales deliberately crafts the imagery to fit a Christian framework, and a fairly Anglo-catholic one at that.
Narnia is series of adventures for children, but like the best of such stories, continues to hold power for adults who read them as well. Resurgence in popularity of late has occurred because of the film, 'The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe', second in the series (depending upon which chronology one follows), but the whole series is a charmer. In 'The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe', the story focuses upon Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy, four exiles from war-time London in the English countryside who discover the portal to Narnia in the back of a mysterious wardrobe. The king of Narnia, Aslan the lion (whose imagery fits both Christian and English mythic lore) is battling the icy witch, who styles herself as Queen of Narnia. Through a classic struggle of good and evil in epic battle format, the pure-hearted children and the graceful king Aslan win the day, but eventually the children must return to their own world, even after such adventures.
'Prince Caspian' takes place long after (in Narnia time - one discovers the passage of time from one world to the next is variable), as Caspian befriends many of the creatures of Narnia, both natural and fantastic. The four children, enthroned as kings and queens of Narnia at the end of the first adventure, must return to help Caspian, whose main desire is to live in old Narnia, forbidden tales of which he has heard.
'Voyage of the Dawn' sees Edmund and Lucy drawn back into Narnia through a painting, together with their horrid cousin Eustace Scrubb. Caspian is now king, on a knightly quest to discover lost knights of old, and also to seek the end of the world (in a literal sense). Sea voyages and other journeys take them far and wide, until Aslan again appears to return the children home. Eustace becomes a better person for his Narnia adventures, much as Edmund had transformed during his first major Narnia experience.
Eustace returns in the 'The Silver Chair', this time from his school, with fellow student Jill, who is also less than popular. Jill, like the earlier Edmund, must find redemption, and seeks to save Rilian (son of the now-dying Caspian). Here we encounter the Parliament of Owls as well as the bottom of the world - once again, Aslan helps to save the day, despite the nay-saying of Puddleglum.
Shasta is the boy and Bree is the horse in 'The Horse and His Boy'. Shasta is about to be sold into slavery when he escapes with Bree, and they meet Aravis and Hwin, another escaping duo, on their way to Narnia. They uncover a plot against Narnia, and must work to save the kingdom of their dreams.
'The Magician's Nephew' is often considered the first of the series, with events that preceed 'The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe'. It gives background and insight into the overall workings of Narnia. Polly and Digory discover the portal to the Woods between the Worlds, and there is a greater mix of worlds here than in any other story. However, this is also the beginning of the other stories, with Aslan providing the same kind of guidance he would throughout the series.
'The Last Battle' is, as the title suggests, the last of the series. Narnia falls into the final conflict of good and evil, with a false Aslan (a false messiah figure) appearing and humans destroying all things around, particularly the natural environment. Old Narnia must pass away, but a new Narnia is held in promise as the real Aslan returns to lead the faithful.
While many of Lewis' original readers were occasionally disturbed by the Christian overall (and indeed, at Lewis' interpretation of Christian lore), in fact the state of biblical illiteracy is such today that most will miss much of the Christian allegory unless it is specially spelled out. Narnia can stand on its own merits as a story independent of its underpinnings, but just as most mythological and even biblical stories can achieve, this one becomes stronger the deeper one explores the symbolic meanings.
Lewis is very much a creature of his culture - this is very post-Victorian (read, more Victorian than the Victorians) in style and morals, even in the 1950s (a time so many in our present culture look back to as a high point in moral culture) he was looking back to a better time - perhaps it is no surprise that instead of finding it in the past, he found it in Narnia?
This is a series that is wonderful for children of all ages, and for adults - the tales bear repeating over and over, and many editions of these texts come with wonderful artwork. This particular one has illustrations by Pauline Baynes, the original illustrator for the series, and they are wonderful indeed.
on November 12, 2001
I would not read if these stories didn't exist, I would not write if these stories didn't exist, I would not appreciate literature the way that I do if these stories didn't exist. These seven adventures, written by a master of tales, inspired every imaginative process in my brain and brought out every emotion in my being.
The Chronicles of Narnia present a seemingly never-ending epic of immense proportions that bring forth various situations from victory to catastrophe, mystery to explaination, and life to death. We follow the wondrous journeys of four young children through the enchanting land of Narnia, a land you will never forget. Various supporting characters grace the pages, from Father Time, to Aslan the Lion, and even Reepicheep the Mouse, each giving beautiful insight and wonderful understanding. Never will you forget what takes place in these stories.
I highly... HIGHLY recommend these books for anyone who feels the need to be enchanted. If you read them as a Biblical allegory or not (and I didn't), these stories will do nothing less than touch your life.
on March 23, 2006
I'm normally one for "real" fiction-you know, those books EVERYONE has read or is supposed to read ("LIFE OF PI" by Martel or "KATZENJAMMER" by McCrae), so WHAT A RELIEF it was to find this (not-so-little-gem). I think there are many aspects of these books that make them such favorites. For one, unlike many children's books, the story is not particularly gendered, and this set can be appreciated equally well by boys and girls. For another, the characters are strong and interesting, the plots are lively, and the stories include strong elements of adventure and fantasy. Third, while there are certainly some moral lessons imbedded in these books, they are not overemphasized, and Lewis never talks down to his readers. Can't go wrong with this boxed set-gift for someone or for yourself. THE CHRONICLES OF NARINA is the most superb set you can get today-either for yourself or as a gift for a friend!
In the first half of the twentieth century, two drinking buddies wrote vastly different fantasy series -- one was the classic "Lord of the Rings," and the other was the "Narnia" series. A close pal of J.R.R. Tolkien's and a fellow "Inkling," C.S. Lewis was one of the first widely-read fantasy writers, and his books are still widely read and enjoyed by children and adults alike.
"The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe" opens as four children (Lucy, Edmund, Susan and Peter) are being shipped to the English countryside at the beginning of World War II. While exploring the vast house where they are staying, Lucy accidently ventures into a winter-locked world called Narnia, which is ruled over by the evil White Witch. The king Aslan is about to return -- but the Witch quickly gets a hold on Edmund's soul.
"Prince Caspian" takes place long after the events of "Lion" (though in our world, only a short time has passed). Young Prince Caspian escapes his uncle's castle when his life is threatened, and he finds refuge with the hidden races of Narnia -- dwarves, talking animals, dryads, centaurs and many others. And to help Caspian regain the throne, the two kings and two queens of Narnia are called back...
"Voyage of the Dawn Treader" begins when Edmund, Lucy and their obnoxious cousin Eustace are sucked through a painting into Narnia, where their pal Caspian is now king of Narnia (and an adult to boot). Caspian is heading toward the end of the world to find several knights who were banished, and vanished into the perilous islands along the sea.
"The Silver Chair" heads into slightly darker territory when Eustace returns to boarding school. He and outcast girl Jill Pole are drawn into Narnia, where Jill must perform a task to redeem herself for a stupid act. She must find the dying Caspian's son Rilian, who vanished many years before. The search will send the two children across Narnia with the pessimistic Puddleglum, to carnivorous Giants, creepy underground creatures, and an enemy worse than they could have imagined...
"Horse and His Boy" shoots back in time to the middle of "Lion." Shasta lives with the man he thinks to be his father in a hovel by the sea, but when a Calormene warrior purchases him, he escapes with the man's talking horse, Bree. He meets the escaping noblewoman Aravis (who also has a talking horse), and the two are planning to escape to Narnia and freedom. But in the capital city, there is a conspiracy brewing against the visiting Narnian kings and queens...
"Magician's Nephew" clears up many of the questions about Narnia, Aslan and the White Witch. Digory and Polly end up in very serious trouble when they encounter Digory's weird, slightly nutty uncle, a magician who has created magical rings that send the user to other worlds. The two kids end up in the "wood between the worlds," and venture into a dying land where they set loose the evil Queen Jadis -- who follows them to the newborn world of Narnia.
"The Last Battle" is definitely the end of the series, where Narnia decays slowly into the final battle between good and evil. Humans are destroying the trees and killing the dryads, and a false Aslan is appearing to mislead the inhabitants of Narnia. Old and new friends will band together as the true Aslan prepares to lead them to a new land.
If you don't like allegory (religious or otherwise), then steer clear of the Chronicles. While Lewis's beliefs are presented in a more complicated and subtle manner in his other fictional works, here the parallels to basic Christian beliefs are very obvious. Reportedly even Tolkien, one of Lewis's best pals, found the allegory annoying.
But if you can get past the slightly ham-handed treatment, it's a fantastic read. Lewis reshapes typical mythical elements like dwarves, nymphs, talking animals, centaurs and wicked witches into shape in his invented world. And Narnia is an inviting place -- it isn't always fun or pleasant, but there is always the feeling that the good guys will ultimately -- if not immediately -- come out on top.
Lewis's writing can become a bit precious at times, in the tradition of many British authors writing for children. But he puts plenty of detail and mystery in his stories, sprinkling them with little mysteries and questions that are explained as the story goes on. Where did the lamppost come from, for example?
Now, enough with the story. I was able to see this edition on bookshelves a bit before its official release, and it's a gorgeous edition -- well-made, good extras from "Beyond the Wardrobe" that add a bit of depth to the story, and a map illustrated by Pauline Baynes (the artist who drew the charming pen-and-ink illustrations for the actual series).
While not quite as well known as his pal Tolkien's work, C.S. Lewis's Narnia series still a fun and dramatic fantasy story. For a bit more insight into the origins of fantasy as we know it, check out "The Chronicles of Narnia."
Many decades ago, two drinking buddies wrote vastly different fantasy series, which set the groundwork for the fantasy genre. One was J.R.R. Tolkien, author of the classic "Lord of the Rings" and "The Hobbit." And the other was C.S. Lewis, the author of the philosophical "Space Trilogy." Before these two, fantasy was only a few books by a small number of obscure authors.
Many years later, C.S. Lewis is still a classic, much-read author, and his books just hit the big screen -- "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe" was a smash hit in December, following the footsteps of Tolkien's movie adaptations. So, dust off the Narnia Chronicles and reacquaint yourself with these fantasy stories.
"The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe" opens as four children (Lucy, Edmund, Susan and Peter) are being shipped to a country mansion to avoid German bombings. While exploring the house, Lucy accidently ventures into a winter-locked world called Narnia, ruled over by the evil White Witch. The god-king Aslan is about to return to destroy the Witch -- but she has a hold on Edmund....
"Prince Caspian" takes place long after the events of the first book. Young Prince Caspian escapes his uncle's castle when his life is threatened, and he finds refuge with the hidden races of Narnia -- dwarves, talking animals, dryads, centaurs and many others. And to help Caspian regain the throne, the two kings and two queens of Narnia are called back...
"Voyage of the Dawn Treader" begins when Edmund, Lucy and their obnoxious cousin Eustace are sucked through a painting into Narnia, where their pal Caspian is now king of Narnia (not to mention fully grown). Caspian is heading toward the end of the world to find several knights who were banished, and vanished into the perilous islands along the sea. But the Dawn Treader's voyage will literally take them where no one has gone before... and returned to tell about it.
"The Silver Chair" heads into slightly darker territory when Eustace returns to boarding school. He and outcast girl Jill Pole are drawn into Narnia, where Jill must perform a task to redeem herself for a stupid stunt. She must find Caspian's missing son Rilian. This search will send the two children across Narnia with the pessimistic Puddleglum, where they will encounter carnivorous Giants, creepy underground creatures, and an enemy worse than they could have imagined...
"Horse and His Boy" shoots back in time to the middle of the first book. Shasta lives with the man he thinks to be his father in a hovel by the sea, but when he learns that he was a foundling, he escapes with a talking horse, Bree. During his escape, he meets the escaping noblewoman Aravis (who also has a talking horse). The two plan to escape to Narnia. But in the capital city, there is a conspiracy brewing against the visiting Narnian kings and queens, and Shasta and Aravis are drawn into it.
"Magician's Nephew" clears up many of the questions about Narnia, Aslan and the White Witch. Digory and Polly end up in very serious trouble when they encounter Digory's weird, slightly nutty uncle, a magician who has created magical rings that send the user to other worlds. They accidently set loose the evil Queen Jadis, who goes on a rampage through London -- until they pull her out of our world, and into the newborn world of Narnia.
"The Last Battle" is definitely the end of the series, where Narnia has decayed into violence and hatred, as a prelude to the final battle between good and evil. Humans are destroying the trees and killing the dryads, and a false Aslan is appearing to mislead the fearful inhabitants of Narnia. Old and new friends -- some from other worlds -- will band together as the true Aslan prepares to lead them to a new land.
Anyone who dislikes allegory -- religious or otherwise -- should steer clear of the Chronicles. While Lewis' beliefs are presented in a more complex and subtle manner in his other books, like the Space Trilogy, the parallels to Christian belief are very obvious here. Even Tolkien, who was Lewis' longtime friend, found that annoying.
But as a fantasy, this series is a fantastic read, and was also the first of the kids-get-swept-into-other-worlds novels. Lewis reshapes typical mythical elements like dwarves, nymphs, talking animals, centaurs and wicked witches into shape in his invented world. Moreover, his land of Narnia is a complex and very inviting place. It's not always fun, but Lewis always leaves you with the feeling that the good guys will come out on top.
Like many other British authors writing for kids, Lewis' writing can get a bit precious. But he includes loads of detail, mystery and cultural intrigure in his stories -- and not just for Narnia either. For example, Calormene is a sort of generic Middle-Eastern land, very Arabian Nights. It's full of culture and beauty, but also with good guys and bad guys.
What's more, readers can appreciate the mysteries and questions that Lewis sprinkles through the book, and which are explained as the story goes on. Where did the lamppost come from, for example? Why are there humans in Narnia? Where did Reepicheep go? Most of these are answered at one point or another.
The Chronicles of Narnia are a longstanding classic, fun and dramatic and action-packed. For a bit more insight into the forthcoming movie -- and the history of fantasy -- check out "The Chronicles of Narnia."
on March 19, 2000
The Narnian Chronicles have been my favorite series since I first read (and devoured) them in third grade (I'm now 30). I have since reread them many times, enjoying them even more each time as I see new things previously undiscovered or not understood. They are entertaining, imaginative, and thought-provoking from many perspectives, and will appeal even to the mature 5 or 6-year-old child as a read-aloud adventure. These books are truly worthy of discussion with your elementary, middle school, or high school student. College students have even written theses about these books and their many intriguing themes. I recently gave the entire set to my eighty-year-old grandmother as a gift, and she read them all within a couple of weeks! She said they were so good, she couldn't put them down, and she has loved talking to me about them ever since! My husband's 90-year-old grandmother is also an avid reader, finishing a book every few days. I am planning on giving the Narnia books to her as well! You simply can't go wrong purchasing these books. This is a wonderfully appealing fantasy series for all ages- it will surely be an enduring classic for generations to come.
on December 15, 1999
THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA were the most wonderful and important books I read as a child. I am still upset by this set HarperCollins has published in the last few years that has re-ordered the seven volumes chronologically based on the historical line in the novels. This is apparently according to Lewis's wishes, if so, Lewis was wrong! The best part of the series was reading "The Magician's Nephew" sixth and discovering with a beautiful and never-replicated surprise about all the things that happened before "The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe." (See several reviews below that already say this better.) By all means buy these books for your children, godchildren, nieces and nephews, but PLEASE, specify that the FIRST time they read them that they read them in the original order: LWW, PC, VDT, SC, HHB, MN, LB. They will reread them for the rest of their lives, in every possible order, but something great and beautiful and unsurpassed will be stolen from them if they read The Magician's Nephew first.
on June 9, 2005
I bought this particular compilation for my 7 year son, and went along with the chronological order of the books. There's already enough said about that in other reviews. What surprised me the most however was how few of the original illustrations were included, only one per chapter in fact. Given how much the Amazon review touted the illustrations, I was very disappointed.
on June 5, 2011
Regarding the quality of the stories, there are few collections of Children's literature that can compare with "The Chronicles of Narnia." CS Lewis created a masterpiece that has been and continues to be enjoyed throughout the world by Children and Adults alike.
This particular rendering places "The Magician's Nephew" first which is the proper position for the chronology of Narnia itself. At first I was concerned that there might be some confusion but as I read through the book aloud to my 10 year old daughter, my concerns were allayed and set aside. Lewis indeed, wrote this to stand alone well enough that there are not any inklings (inside joke and pun intended) beyond those intended by the author of what is yet to come.
In terms of the quality of the physical book itself, the Hardcover edition is beautifully bound and illustrated. I would not recommend getting the entire volume in the Trade edition. The size of the volume combined with the probable use for Children combined further with the fact that it will be read and re-read, argues forcefully in favor of spending the extra money for the better binding.
If you must get paperbacks, steer clear of this form and purchase a box set where the individual books in paperback form stand a much better chance of weathering the coming storm!
While many note correctly that this series is a very thinly masked allegory of Christianity, don't be fooled into thinking that this is any sense a vapid or shallow rendering. The character creation is masterful and endearing. While the allegory has afforded parents reading to their children the opportunity to spring from the story to applications and teaching moments, the story line itself is first rate and will entertain any reading of it whether the reader is sympathetic toward or looking for the allegorical parallels.
Don't hesitate to add this to your permanent collection!