Exploring Narnia

It's been 60 years since The Lion, the Witch & the Wardrobe was published—the first of an eventual seven-book series released between 1950 and 1956. Enormously popular, the books have been translated into 47 languages and sold over 100 million copies. Countless readers have been captivated by the stories, which have spawned many dramatizations, comic books, films, biographies of the author.... The Chronicles of Narnia are so well-known they hardly need introduction.

Lewis believed the best stories for children are those that do not talk down to them. As a result, the Narnia books may be enjoyed by anyone of any age, though they are geared toward 8-12 year olds. Plenty of parents have delighted in reading them to their preschool children, and it's obvious that many adults still love the books as well. If you're reading them for the first time, we suggest reading them in the order they were originally published (they were renumbered in 1994). This order offers a better character development arc and more plot surprises. Lewis offered different advice later in life, but he didn't seem to think it that important. We recommend the following order:

  1. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (1950)

  2. Prince Caspian (1951)

  3. The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (1952)

  4. The Silver Chair (1953)

  5. The Horse and His Boy (1954)

  6. The Magician's Nephew (1955)

  7. The Last Battle (1956)

Narnia is not without critics. J.R.R. Tolkien (one of Lewis' closest friends) didn't care for the books, and it's easy to understand why secularists complain: the Christian themes of sacrifice, resurrection and redemption are overt. Perhaps more intriguing are evangelical complaints that Lewis promotes the occult in his writing. For the most part, we believe these well-meaning Christians miss the point of Narnia entirely. Recently, pastor Douglas Wilson has written a book called What I Learned in Narnia, in which he argues that Lewis clearly teaches such character attributes as respect for authority, nobility, and love of story. Beyond that, he shows how Lewis teaches true confession of sin, the importance of spiritual disciplines, an understanding of grace and (through a love of Aslan) a love of God. We think he gets it right.

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