Sunday, July 16, 2017

The Chronic Ails Of Narnia

The full set of Narnia
A couple of weeks ago I wrote that we were on Book 4 of the Chronicles of Narnia, Prince Caspian, and that we were still enjoying them. Reader, I spoke too soon. And interestingly enough, this is the same place I got to as a child before I got fed up with yet another battle and another quest and more talking animals and more mythical woodland creatures, and just more and more same, same, same.

Last night DD and I finally agreed that we weren't interested in finishing Prince Caspian. However, we did want to know what happened in the end. Not what happened to Caspian - he obviously became King Caspian and who actually cares? But we wanted to know what happened to the children so we read the final few pages of the book and were totally satisfied.

And then we needed to know what happened in the final three books, although not in so much detail that we had to actually fight the battles with them. So we read the blurb on the back and the slightly longer blurb inside the front cover, and the first and last few pages of each book.


If you, like us, can't be bothered to read through seven books of very similar plot, here is a synopsis of the Chronic Ails Of Narnia.

1. The Magician's Nephew (1955). Diggory and Polly, next door neighbours in Edwardian London, are sent into another world by Diggory's magician uncle. They find a dying world and wake up an evil witch who follows them as they escape and enter into another new world- Narnia. Aslan the lion (God) creates the new world in a similar fashion to the creation story in Genesis, and appoints a human King and Queen to rule over it. It's all very Garden of Eden. The witch is hiding somewhere on the fringes of Narnia, biding her time. Diggory brings home an apple and plants the seeds in his garden. Wood from the resulting apple tree was used to make the wardrobe in the next book.

2. The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe (1950). Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy are evacuated during WW11. They are staying with an old professor (Diggory) in his country house. The find the wardrobe and go through it into Narnia. There they find that the Witch is in power and it is perpetual winter (though never Christmas). They defeat the witch with the help of the magical creatures and talking animals, and Aslan of course. Aslan sacrifices himself as payment for Edmund's betrayal but comes alive again a few days later. The children become the four Kings and Queens of Narnia and they rule for many happy years before one day, finding the path back to the wardrobe and walking through it to return to the country house just a few minutes after they had first left.

3. The Horse and his Boy (1954). This story was fitted in later and is about one episode that happened while Kings Peter and Edmund, and Queens Susan and Lucy, were on the throne of Narnia. A boy and a girl run away from their lives in an oppressive southern land (Calormen - later thought to be based on pre-Islamic pagan countries in the Middle East) with the help of two talking horses originally from Narnia. They help save Narnia and discover that the boy is in fact a Prince of the neighbouring Archenland who was kidnapped as a baby. They get married and become the King and Queen of Archenland.

4. Prince Caspian (1951). The four children are sitting on the railway platform waiting for their trains to return them to their boarding schools, when they are pulled into Narnia where the orphaned Prince Caspian had blown the magic horn to summon them back. It's a few hundred years after their last reign and they find their castle in ruins. Another race now rules Narnia and they've tried to eradicate the talking animals and magical creatures who are of course living in hiding in the woods. They defeat the oppressive rulers and King Caspian takes the throne. The children get back to the station in time to catch their trains.

5. The Voyage of the Dawntreader (1955). Only Edmund and Lucy go back to Narnia as the other two are too old. They are accompanied by their odious cousin Eustace. In this story they help King Caspian as he voyages on a roots tour to find the seven lost friends of his father. It is Edmund and Lucy's last trip to Narnia.

6. The Silver Chair (1953). Eustace and his schoolmate Jill find Narnia as they try to escape from the school bullies and ineffectual headmistress. Eustace is of course a good boy now. King Caspian is old but his son Rilian has disappeared whilst on a journey of his own. The two children have to find Rilian. After they find him they return to school where Aslan makes sure the bullies and the headmistress catch a glimpse of the magic and are terrified into better behaviour. The head mistress actually loses her mind and her job.

7. The Last Battle (1956). This one is incredible, as in you won't believe how it ended. Jill and Eustace are thrown back into Narnia to find it at its darkest hour. All the baddies are at war in one final struggle between the forces of good and evil. In the midst of all this, Peter, Edmund and Lucy arrive. They were waiting on a station platform for their parents' train which they see approaching and suddenly they are in Narnia. And their parents are there too. And they meet all the characters form the previous six adventures, including Diggory and Polly and the first King and Queen of Narnia. (Susan wasn't with them as she had grown too old and sophisiticated for Narnia "games".)

Can you guess what happened? The train they'd seen approaching had crashed into them and they'd all died and gone to Narnia. I could not believe that that was the ending. C.S. Lewis wouldn't get away with that today. And how come I never knew that? Why didn't anyone tell me before?

Here is a link to the Wikipedia article about religion in the Chronicles of Narnia in which C.S. Lewis is quoted as writing:
The whole series works out like this.
The Magician's Nephew tells the Creation and how evil entered Narnia.
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe the Crucifixion and Resurrection.
Prince Caspian restoration of the true religion after corruption.
The Horse and His Boy the calling and conversion of a heathen.
The Voyage of the "Dawn Treader" the spiritual life (especially in Reepicheep).
The Silver Chair the continuing war with the powers of darkness.
The Last Battle the coming of the Antichrist (the Ape), the end of the world and the Last Judgement.[3]

So there you have it, the Chronic Ails of Narnia. Next stop E. Nesbit (yes I have the full set). And meanwhile, does anyone want to buy the full set of Narnia for 100 shekels?


  1. Ha! Prince Caspian was my favourite of the Narnia books, but yes even though I adored them, I did find the Last Battle a bit cringy, even as a young child.

    Looking forward to hearing how you both get on with the E Nesbitt books (some of those were read at bedtime to my kids too)

    1. I'm looking forward to E. Nesbitt. I took a sneak peak at the first chapter of The Railway Children and it seems like an enjoyable read - not heavy with too much description.