IT HAS BEEN AN INTEGRAL PART OF MANY CHILDHOODS
So what is the secret of The Chronicles Of Narnia’s seemingly never-ending success?
Since the publication of The Lion, The Witch, And The Wardrobe, in 1950, and the subsequent releases of the following six books of The Chronicles Of Narnia between then and 1956, C.S. Lewis’ classic children’s fantasy series has remained in print continuously.
It is a testament to the popularity of the series, that if you were to stop a hundred random people on the street today and ask them to name any children’s fantasy book series, chances are good that most would mention The Chronicles Of Narnia.
So what is the reason for the enduring popularity of C.S. Lewis’ most famous work?
IT’S A KIND OF MAGIC
If you cast your mind back to when you were a child, you will surely remember that childhood is the period of life in which our imaginations are most fertile; a time in which we enjoyed and revelled in the make-believe. This without doubt is at the heart of The Chronicles Of Narnia’s allure. Reading C.S. Lewis’ tales during childhood is a magical experience, in every way; and the young audience for these stories are the most receptive to what they have to offer.
How many children can resist the idea of being taken to an imaginary world populated with mythical beings and talking animals? How many dream of engaging in heroic adventures; of being princes or princesses? Very few I’d wager. After all, childhood is the time when we so much want these things to be as real as the world around us.
On a personal note, I first read The Lion, The Witch, And The Wardrobe, as a seven year old child way back in 1984, and upon finishing it, I immediately went to my bedroom wardrobe, stepped inside and checked the back to see if I could get to Narnia. I don’t believe for a moment that I am the first or only child to ever do this, and I know with certainty that I am not the last person who will ever attempt to reach Narnia via a wardrobe.
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THE RETURN TO INNOCENCE
Since the time I was first exposed to The Chronicles Of Narnia in early childhood, up until my mid-teens, I regularly read each book of the series. I don’t think it would be an exaggeration to say that I must have read the books over three hundred times, combined. Yet despite this, it wasn’t until much later as an adult that I came to be aware of any controversies associated with C.S. Lewis’ books.
Much to my surprise there has been a considerable amount of academic discourse criticising The Chronicles Of Narnia; accusing the author of racism, sexism, and religious bigotry. I do not want to argue for or against the validity of these accusations in this article, but I do believe that these types of discussions among some adult readers, serve to further illustrate why children continue to be receptive to Lewis’ magical tales.
As I mentioned earlier, childhood is the time in which we are most open to the make-believe. But it in addition to that, childhood is a time of innocence. A brief period of our lives when we remain blissfully unaware of the more unpleasant aspects of the world we live in. So while some adult readers may not be able to overlook some of the allegedly contentious elements of the books, children are able to read them and remain oblivious of any controversy.
For this reason I have no qualms in stating C.S. Lewis’, The Chronicles Of Narnia, are books that all children should have the opportunity to read. I certainly cannot agree with the type of person who writes long-winded tirades, decrying how evil the books are, and arguing that children should be protected from exposure to them at all cost.
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A LIFE LESS ORDINARY
I believe that another reason why The Chronicles Of Narnia has retained its appeal to children after all these decades, is that the young protagonists of the books are just ordinary people. There is nothing inherently special about the Pevensie children, for example. They do not possess super powers or magical abilities; they are just like us. So, in turn, when we as young children read their adventures, we imagine that we can be just like them. That we, too, can be thrown into extraordinary situations and experience magical escapades.
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THE GOOD WILL OUT
Last but not least, one of the main attractions of the series, is that at its core The Chronicles Of Narnia, sticks resolutely to the trope that good triumphs over evil. While as adults we are able to observe that in the real world this is rarely the case, I think that children should be allowed to believe this illusion when they are young. There is more than enough time for them to learn and accept the harsh reality once they come of age.
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Now that I’ve laid out why I feel that The Chronicles Of Narnia has stood the test of time; to conclude this article, I just want weigh in on the preferred reading order debate. Chronological or publication order?
The Lion, The Witch, And The Wardrobe was the first book of the series that I read, but that’s because I was unaware that it was part of a seven book series. When I subsequently received the full series as a Christmas present, I would always read the books in chronological order, even after realising that they were not written and published in that order. To this day, I still think it makes more sense for the books to be read in chronological order, and I will always advise people to do just that.
Thanks for reading. If you want to chime in on why The Chronicles Of Narnia remains so popular, feel free to leave a comment.
Insights, reflections and opinions on various subject matters related to the literary world of fantasy and science fiction, for comment and discussion.