C. S. Lewis, best known as the author of The Chronicles of Narnia, was also one of the most profound thinkers of twentieth century Christianity. Along with J. R. R. Tolkien, he has inspired millions of people, include all of the authors at Lantern Hollow Press. On Sundays we would like to take a moment to offer up a little Lewis for your consideration.
There is a simmering debate into which every mere Lewisian descends at some point or other during the course of their life: What is the “best” way to read the Chronicles of Narnia? Should we read them in the order they were published or in chronological order according to the actual timeline of Narnia? Lewis himself weighed in on that question in a letter to response to one of his young pen pals:
I think I agree with your order for reading the books [the chronological one] more than with your mother’s [who thought the published order was intentional]. The series was not planned beforehand as she thinks. When I wrote The Lion I did not know I was going to write any more. Then I wrote P. Caspian as a sequel and still didn’t think there would be any more, and when I had done The Voyage I felt quite sure it would be the last. So perhaps it does not matter very much in which order anyone reads them. I’m not even sure that all the others were written in the same order in which they were published. I never keep notes on that sort of thing and never remember dates.
—Letters to Children
In the end, readers will likely glean something from either approach. It is far easier to get a real sense of the growth and history of Narnia if we read chronologically, but also, perhaps, a unique insight into Lewis’s own mind and life to read them in the order they were published.
In either case, the journey is more than justified. “Further up and further in!”
Click here for the entire run of “Meditations with C. S. Lewis” so far. Interested in more about C. S. Lewis? Check out Passing Through the Shadowlands–an extended project where I am blogging through his life in letters, essays, and books.