25

When looking at discussions of reading order of Narnia books, I see two contradictory opinions: that C.S. Lewis opined in favor of reading "The Magician's Nephew" in published order (e.g. here), or that he indicated chronological order is fine (Wiki seems to allude to this version).

Can someone resolve this by an actual quote(s) from C.S. Lewis on the topic?

  • Related to (heck, inspired by) scifi.stackexchange.com/questions/15841/…, but that question's answers contain no reference to Lewis's explicit opinion. – DVK-on-Ahch-To Dec 28 '13 at 19:04
  • To whoever downvoted and VTCed - if you carefully read the answers in that question, you will see that none of them answer mine (the most specific is an answer stating "it is said that Lewis himself said they books should be read in chronological order" with no detail or reference whatsoever). – DVK-on-Ahch-To Dec 28 '13 at 19:29
  • 2
    I didn't do the first VTC (and didn't downvote at all), but in a just world where time machines existed I'd actually be in favour of the other question being closed as a dupe of yours (and yours being extended to a more general "CSL's preferred reading order for all books" - otherwise one could ask this question of each book in the series and claim it's not a dupe, and so we'd have 7 questions; likewise for any other series where reading order may be ambiguous). – user8719 Dec 28 '13 at 20:32
  • @JimmyShelter - Interesting point. I'm less worried, because my question was due to seeing different secondary sources saying contradictory things (without primary proof, BUT referring to the same primary source). I don't think other books have this confusion. – DVK-on-Ahch-To Dec 28 '13 at 20:33
27
+500

C.S. Lewis stated unequivocally in a letter to a fan that the books can be read in any order but that his personal preference was that they should be read in the chronological order in which they were written.

"I think I agree with your order {i.e. chronological} for reading the books more than with your mother's. 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. But I found as I was wrong. So perhaps it does not matter very much in which order anyone read them. I'm not even sure that all the others were written in the same order in which they were published."

The last sentence is especially apt given the that order of publishing was not the order in which they were written.

The writing order appears to have been;

  1. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe
  2. (Abandoned version of Magician's Nephew)
  3. Prince Caspian
  4. The Voyage of the Dawn Treader
  5. The Horse and His Boy
  6. The Silver Chair
  7. The Magician's Nephew
  8. The Last Battle

Whereas the publishing order was;

  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)

There is extensive discussion on the point of reading order on wikipedia

  • 8
    Your use of "chronological" here to mean "order they were written" contradicts both the fan site and the Wikipedia article you link to. Both are clear that Lewis in his letter was referring exactly to internal chronological order. – Daniel Roseman Dec 28 '13 at 21:54
  • 4
    Interesting. I read it the other way, that he was specifically referring to the chronology in which they were originally written. There are very many instances (too many to note but check the wiki page for examples) where reading them in strict in-univere chronology would result in spoilers or phrases that would be non-sensical. – Valorum Dec 28 '13 at 22:13
  • 4
    I have to agree with @Daniel: if we interpret that parenthetical "chronological" as writing order, then we're saying the quibble is over (and only over) whether to read Silver Chair before or after Horse and His Boy. Since that's obviously stuff and nonsense, we have to conclude that Lewis meant what everyone else means by "chronological", namely story order. – Martha Dec 29 '13 at 23:51
  • 3
    You say it's obviously nonsense, but why? There are numerous spoilers if you read the books in in-universe chronology, largely in part due to the fact that CS Lewis didn't plan to keep writing sequels and prequels. – Valorum Dec 30 '13 at 0:20

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.