About Narnia, C.S. Lewis, the books, and the movies

I read the books when I was 8 or 9 years old, and hard-cover editions of them were given to me for subsequent birthdays. I liked the stories a lot, and read several of the books many times.

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is a fairly magical set-up of the little world of Narnia and its parameters. Even as a small child I “got” that this was an allegory for the story of Jesus.

Prince Caspian, the book I could never finish. I’m just not interested in battles.

The Voyage of the Dawn Treader is just a series of adventures, but each of them is pretty exciting. I read this one many times.

The Silver Chair is the best of the books, a terrific adventure with magical, talking creatures, a great villain, and a beginning, middle and end. And little need for allegorical allusions. My favorite.

The Horse and His Boy, which I dutifully read once, seemed out of place and oddly dull. There are no humans in it. It turns out to have been written before the Narnia series, and then rewritten to take place in Narnia. My second least favorite of the books (after Prince Caspian).

The Magician’s Nephew is great fun, for the fantasy elements but also for the “historical” elements of turn-of-the-century London. This book, along with the 3 others mentioned, I read quite a few times.

The Last Battle is an OK wrapup. It’s nice to revisit familiar beloved characters like Jill, but even as a child I thought the very end was obvious and a let-down. I read this book twice, and was let-down twice.

As an adult, I remembered the books with fondness, until the movies began to be made…

The first one is memorable primarily for Tilda Swinton, a perfectly-cast White Witch. Otherwise, the story has become very tedious. I simply don’t believe that children faced with battles and witches wouldn’t be calling for their mother, who exists in the very real world of World War II. And speaking of battles, must every movie in the 2000s have a battle to the death? Ugh, very disappointing movie.

Prince Caspian was better, simply because the story itself isn’t as allegorical, and the movie was less self-important. And I never finished the book anyway. Still, another battle.

And there it is. I’ll look forward to the other movies, because I liked the books better.

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4 Responses to About Narnia, C.S. Lewis, the books, and the movies

  1. I agree with most of this. I liked the Last Battle and the first Narnia movie more than you did, but I think your observations are spot on.

    I reread the books within the past two years, and I had remembered that both Prince Caspian and The Horse and His Boy were lousy, but I was pleasantly surprised by the fact that Horse and His Boy sucked less than I’d remembered, while Caspian sucked more. In my case, I think it may have been an issue of managed expectations.

  2. dfletcher says:

    On your recommendation, I might pick up The Horse and His Boy, again.

    I think the movie of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe would have been helped if it had just begun in the country, at the professor’s old house with the wardrobe. By starting it in London, where we meet the children’s mother, the movie is all too real. WWII was a real event, with real casualties, which made the fantasy world and its battles seem quite insipid.

    The four Pevensies grow into adults while in Narnia, and then return to our world, and they’re children again. In the book, this is handled nicely, but in the movie, one wonders, “didn’t any of them miss their mother, while they were reigning in Narnia?” I just can’t get beyond this, and it ruined the movie for me.

  3. dfletcher says:

    And by the way, I read Lord of the Rings as a teenager, which I enjoyed very much. And I liked the movies too, mostly (too many battles).

    But I shudder at the thought of ever revisiting those movies. Too long, too violent, too much of everything.

  4. tjohn says:

    Loved all of the Narnia books first time around for the most part (read in 4th grade) but I have to agree that The Horse and His Boy was one of my least favorite — The Last Battle was actually my least favorite (I liked Prince Caspian a lot). In the Last Battle, it just seemed like the world of Narnia ended with such a whimper– the bad guys and the good guys weren’t quite “big” enough to explain why this should be the end of Narnia , even to my 4th grade mind. They didn’t seem different than other bad guys and good guys in the other stories. So why does everything end this time when Aslan shows up?

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