The Chronicles of Narnia is a series of seven fantasy novels by C. S. Lewis. Written by Lewis, illustrated by Pauline Baynes, and originally published in London between 1950 and 1956, The Chronicles of Narnia has been adapted for radio, television, the stage, and film. The series is set in the fictional realm of Narnia, a fantasy world of magic, mythical beasts, and talking animals. It narrates the adventures of various children who play central roles in the unfolding history of the Narnian world. Except in The Horse and His Boy, the protagonists are all children from the real world who are magically transported to Narnia, where they are sometimes called upon by the lion Aslan to protect Narnia from evil. The books span the entire history of Narnia, from its creation in The Magician’s Nephew to its eventual destruction in The Last Battle.
The Chronicles of Narnia is considered a classic of children’s literature and is the author’s best-known work, having sold over 100 million copies in 47 languages.
Background and conception
Although Lewis originally conceived what would become The Chronicles of Narnia in 1939 (the picture of a Faun with parcels in a snowy wood has a history dating to 1914), he did not finish writing the first book The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe until 1949. The Magician’s Nephew, the penultimate book to be published, but the last to be written, was completed in 1954. Lewis did not write the books in the order in which they were originally published, nor were they published in their current chronological order of presentation.:24 The original illustrator, Pauline Baynes, created pen and ink drawings for the Narnia books that are still used in the editions published today. Lewis was awarded the 1956 Carnegie Medal for The Last Battle, the final book in the saga. The series was first referred to as The Chronicles of Narnia by fellow children’s author Roger Lancelyn Green in March 1951, after he had read and discussed with Lewis his recently completed fourth book The Silver Chair, originally entitled Night under Narnia.
Lewis described the origin of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe in an essay entitled “It All Began with a Picture”:
The Lion all began with a picture of a Faun carrying an umbrella and parcels in a snowy wood. This picture had been in my mind since I was about sixteen. Then one day, when I was about forty, I said to myself: ‘Let’s try to make a story about it.’
Shortly before the start of World War II, many children were evacuated to the English countryside in anticipation of attacks on London and other major urban areas by Nazi Germany. As a result, on 2 September 1939, three school girls named Margaret, Mary and Katherine came to live at The Kilns in Risinghurst, Lewis’s home three miles east of Oxford city centre. Lewis later suggested that the experience gave him a new appreciation of children and in late September he began a children’s story on an odd sheet of paper which has survived as part of another manuscript:
This book is about four children whose names were Ann, Martin, Rose and Peter. But it is most about Peter who was the youngest. They all had to go away from London suddenly because of Air Raids, and because Father, who was in the Army, had gone off to the War and Mother was doing some kind of war work. They were sent to stay with a kind of relation of Mother’s who was a very old professor who lived all by himself in the country.
In “It All Began With a Picture” C. S. Lewis continues:
At first I had very little idea how the story would go. But then suddenly Aslan came bounding into it. I think I had been having a good many dreams of lions about that time. Apart from that, I don’t know where the Lion came from or why he came. But once he was there, he pulled the whole story together, and soon he pulled the six other Narnian stories in after him.
Although Lewis pled ignorance about the source of his inspiration for Aslan, Jared Lobdell, digging into Lewis’s history to explore the making of the series, suggests Charles Williams’s The Place of the Lion as a likely influence.
The manuscript for The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe was complete by the end of March 1949.
The name Narnia is based on Narni, Italy, written in Latin as Narnia. Green wrote:
When Walter Hooper asked [C. S. Lewis] where he found the word ‘Narnia’, Lewis showed him Murray’s Small Classical Atlas, ed. G.B. Grundy (1904), which he acquired when he was reading the classics with Mr Kirkpatrick at Great Bookham [1914–1917]. On plate 8 of the Atlas is a map of ancient Italy. Lewis had underscored the name of a little town called Narnia, simply because he liked the sound of it. Narnia — or ‘Narni’ in Italian — is in Umbria, halfway between Rome and Assisi.
The Chronicles of Narnia’s seven books have been in continuous publication since 1956, selling over 100 million copies in 47 languages and with editions in Braille.
The first five books were originally published in the United Kingdom by Geoffrey Bles. The first edition of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe was released in London on 16 October 1950. Although three more books, Prince Caspian, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader and The Horse and His Boy, were already complete, they were not released immediately at that time, but instead appeared (along with The Silver Chair) one at a time in each of the subsequent years (1951–1954). The last two books (The Magician’s Nephew and The Last Battle) were published in the United Kingdom originally by The Bodley Head in 1955 and 1956.
In the United States, the publication rights were first owned by Macmillan Publishers, and later by HarperCollins. The two issued both hardcover and paperback editions of the series during their tenure as publishers, while at the same time Scholastic, Inc. produced paperback versions for sale primarily through direct mail order, book clubs, and book fairs. Harper Collins also published several one-volume collected editions containing the full text of the series. As noted below (see Reading order), the first American publisher, Macmillan, numbered the books in publication sequence, whereas Harper Collins, at the suggestion of Lewis’s stepson, opted to use the series’ internal chronological order when they won the rights to it in 1994. Scholastic switched the numbering of its paperback editions in 1994 to mirror that of Harper Collins.
The seven books that make up The Chronicles of Narnia are presented here in order of original publication date:
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (1950)
Main article: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, completed by the end of March 1949 and published by Geoffrey Bles in the United Kingdom on 16 October 1950, tells the story of four ordinary children: Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy Pevensie, who have been evacuated to the English countryside from London following the outbreak of World War II. They discover a wardrobe in Professor Digory Kirke’s house that leads to the magical land of Narnia. The Pevensie children help Aslan, a talking lion, save Narnia from the evil White Witch, who has reigned over the land of Narnia for a century of perpetual winter with no Christmas. The children become kings and queens of this new-found land and establish the Golden Age of Narnia, leaving a legacy to be rediscovered in later books.
Prince Caspian: The Return to Narnia (1951)
Main article: Prince Caspian
Completed after Christmas 1949 and published on 15 October 1951, Prince Caspian: The Return to Narnia tells the story of the Pevensie children’s second trip to Narnia. They are drawn back by the power of Susan’s horn, blown by Prince Caspian to summon help in his hour of need. Narnia as they knew it is no more, as 1,300 years have passed, their castle is in ruins, and all Narnians have retreated so far within themselves that only Aslan’s magic can wake them. Caspian has fled into the woods to escape his uncle, Miraz, who has usurped the throne. The children set out once again to save Narnia.
The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (1952)
Main article: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader
Written between January and February 1950 and published on 15 September 1952, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader sees Edmund and Lucy Pevensie, along with their priggish cousin, Eustace Scrubb, return to Narnia, three years after their last departure. Once there, they join Caspian’s voyage on the ship Dawn Treader to find the seven lords who were banished when Miraz took over the throne. This perilous journey brings them face to face with many wonders and dangers as they sail toward Aslan’s country at the edge of the world.
The Silver Chair (1953)
Main article: The Silver Chair
Completed at the beginning of March 1951 and published 7 September 1953, The Silver Chair is the first Narnia book not involving the Pevensie children, focusing instead on Eustace. Several months after The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, Aslan calls Eustace back to Narnia along with his classmate Jill Pole. They are given four signs to aid them in the search for Prince Caspian’s son Rilian, who disappeared ten years earlier on a quest to avenge his mother’s death. Fifty years have passed in Narnia since the events from The Voyage of the Dawn Treader; Eustace is still a child, but Caspian, barely an adult in the previous book, is now an old man. Eustace and Jill, with the help of Puddleglum the Marsh-wiggle, face danger and betrayal on their quest to find Rilian.
The Horse and His Boy (1954)
Main article: The Horse and His Boy
Begun in March and completed at the end of July 1950, The Horse and His Boy was published on 6 September 1954. The story takes place during the reign of the Pevensies in Narnia, an era which begins and ends in the last chapter of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. The protagonists, a young boy named Shasta and a talking horse named Bree, both begin in bondage in the country of Calormen. By “chance”, they meet and plan their return to Narnia and freedom. Along the way they meet Aravis and her talking horse Hwin, who are also fleeing to Narnia.
The Magician’s Nephew (1955)
Main article: The Magician’s Nephew
Completed in February 1954 and published by Bodley Head in London on 2 May 1955, The Magician’s Nephew serves as a prequel and presents Narnia’s origin story: how Aslan created the world and how evil first entered it. Digory Kirke and his friend Polly Plummer stumble into different worlds by experimenting with magic rings made by Digory’s uncle. In the dying world of Charn they awaken Queen Jadis, and another world turns out to be the beginnings of the Narnian world (where Jadis later becomes the White Witch). The story is set in 1900, when Digory was a 12-year-old boy. He is a middle-aged professor by the time he hosts the Pevensie children in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe 40 years later.
The Last Battle (1956)
Main article: The Last Battle
Completed in March 1953 and published 4 September 1956, The Last Battle chronicles the end of the world of Narnia. Jill and Eustace return to save Narnia from the ape Shift, who tricks Puzzle the donkey into impersonating the lion Aslan, thereby precipitating a showdown between the Calormenes and King Tirian. This leads to the end of Narnia as it is known throughout the series, but allows Aslan to lead the characters to the “true” Narnia.
Main article: Aslan
Aslan, the Great Lion, is the eponymous lion of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, and his role in Narnia is developed throughout the remaining books. He is also the only character to appear in all seven books. Aslan is a talking lion, the King of Beasts, son of the Emperor-Over-the-Sea. He is a wise, compassionate, magical authority (both temporal and spiritual) who serves as mysterious and benevolent guide to the human children who visit, as well as being the guardian and saviour of Narnia. C. S. Lewis described Aslan as an alternative version of Jesus as the form in which Christ might have appeared in an alternative reality.
The four Pevensie siblings are the main human protagonists of The Chronicles of Narnia. Varying combinations of some or all of them appear in five of the seven novels. They are introduced in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (although we do not learn their surname until The Voyage of the Dawn Treader), and eventually become Kings and Queens of Narnia reigning as a tetrarchy. Although introduced in the series as children, the siblings grow up into adults while reigning in Narnia. They go back to being children once they get back to their own world, but feature as adults in The Horse and His Boy during their Narnian reign.
All four appear in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe and Prince Caspian; in the latter, however, Aslan tells Peter and Susan that they will not return, as they are getting too old. Susan, Lucy, and Edmund appear in The Horse and His Boy – Peter is said to be away fighting giants on the other side of Narnia. Lucy and Edmund appear in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, where Aslan tells them, too, that they are getting too old. Peter, Edmund, and Lucy appear as Kings and Queens in Aslan’s Country in The Last Battle; Susan does not. Asked by a child in 1958 if he would please write another book entitled “Susan of Narnia” so that the entire Pevensie family would be reunited, C. S. Lewis replied: “I am so glad you like the Narnian books and it was nice of you to write and tell me. There’s no use just asking me to write more. When stories come into my mind I have to write them, and when they don’t I can’t!…”
Main article: Lucy Pevensie
Lucy is the youngest of the four Pevensie siblings. Of all the Pevensie children, Lucy is the closest to Aslan, and of all the human characters who visit Narnia, Lucy is perhaps the one who believes in Narnia the most. In The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe she initiates the story by entering Narnia through the wardrobe, and (with Susan) witnesses Aslan’s execution and resurrection. She is named Queen Lucy the Valiant. In Prince Caspian she is the first to see Aslan when he comes to guide them. In The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, it is Lucy who breaks the spell of invisibility on the Dufflepuds. As an adult in The Horse and His Boy she helps fight the Calormenes at Anvard. Although a minor character in The Last Battle, much of the closing chapter is seen from her point of view.
Main article: Edmund Pevensie
Edmund is the second child to enter Narnia in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, where he falls under the White Witch’s spell from eating the Turkish Delight she gives him. Instantiating that book’s Christian theme of betrayal, repentance, and subsequent redemption via blood sacrifice, he betrays his siblings to the White Witch. But he quickly realizes her true nature and her evil intentions, and is redeemed by the sacrifice of Aslan’s life. He is named King Edmund the Just. In Prince Caspian and The Voyage of the Dawn Treader he supports Lucy; in The Horse and His Boy he leads the Narnian delegation to Calormen and, later, the Narnian army breaking the siege at Anvard.
Main article: Susan Pevensie
In The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe Susan accompanies Lucy to see Aslan die and rise again. She is named Queen Susan the Gentle. In Prince Caspian, however, she is the last of the four to believe and follow Lucy when the latter is called by Aslan to guide them. As an adult queen in The Horse and His Boy she is courted by Prince Rabadash of Calormen but refuses his marriage proposal, and his angry response leads the story to its climax. In The Last Battle, we are told that she has stopped believing in Narnia and remembers it only as a childhood game, though Lewis mentioned in a letter to a fan that he thought she may eventually believe again.
Main article: Peter Pevensie
Peter is the eldest of the Pevensies. In The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe he kills a Talking Wolf to save Susan, and leads the Narnian army against the White Witch. Aslan names him High King, and he is known as Peter the Magnificent. In Prince Caspian he duels the usurper King Miraz to restore Caspian’s throne. In The Last Battle it is Peter whom Aslan entrusts with the duty of closing the door on Narnia for the final time.
Main article: Eustace Scrubb
Eustace Clarence Scrubb is a cousin of the Pevensies, and a classmate of Jill Pole at their school Experiment House. He is portrayed at first as a brat and a bully, but comes to improve his nasty behaviour when his greed turns him into a dragon for a while. His distress at having to live as a dragon causes him to reflect upon how horrible he has been, and his subsequent improved character is rewarded when Aslan changes him back into a boy. In the later books, Eustace comes across as a much nicer person, although he is still rather grumpy and argumentative. Nonetheless, he becomes a hero along with Jill Pole when the pair succeed in freeing the lost Prince Rilian from the clutches of an evil witch. He appears in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, The Silver Chair, and The Last Battle.
Main article: Jill Pole
Jill Pole is a schoolmate of Eustace Scrubb. She appears in The Silver Chair, where she is the viewpoint character for most of the action, and returns in The Last Battle. In The Silver Chair Eustace introduces her to the Narnian world, where Aslan gives her the task of memorising a series of signs that will help her and Eustace on their quest to find Caspian’s lost son. In The Last Battle she and Eustace accompany King Tirian in his ill-fated defence of Narnia against the Calormenes.
Main article: Digory Kirke
Digory Kirke is the character referred to in the title of The Magician’s Nephew. He first appears as a minor character in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, known only as “The Professor”, who hosts the Pevensie children when they are evacuated from London and defends Lucy’s story of having found a country in the back of the wardrobe. In The Magician’s Nephew the young Digory, thanks to his uncle’s magical experimentation, inadvertently brings Jadis from her dying homeworld of Charn to the newly-created world of Narnia; to fix his mistake Aslan sends him to fetch a magical apple which will protect Narnia and heal his dying mother. He returns in The Last Battle.
Main article: Polly Plummer
Polly Plummer appears in The Magician’s Nephew and The Last Battle. She is the next-door neighbour of the young Digory Kirke. She is tricked by a wicked magician (who is Digory’s uncle) into touching a magic ring which transports her to the Wood between the Worlds and leaves her there stranded. The wicked uncle persuades Digory to follow her with a second magic ring that has the power to bring her back. This sets up the pair’s adventures into other worlds, and they witness the creation of Narnia as described in The Magician’s Nephew. She appears at the end of The Last Battle.
Main article: Mr. Tumnus
Tumnus the Faun, called “Mr Tumnus” by Lucy, is featured prominently in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and also appears in The Horse and His Boy and The Last Battle. He is the first creature Lucy meets in Narnia, as well as the first Narnian to be introduced in the series; he invites her to his home with the intention of betraying her to Jadis, but quickly repents and befriends her. In The Horse and His Boy he devises the Narnian delegation’s plan of escape from Calormen. He returns for a brief dialogue at the end of The Last Battle. A mental image of a faun in a snowy wood was Lewis’s initial inspiration for the entire series; Tumnus is that faun.
Main article: Prince Caspian (character)
Caspian is first introduced in the book titled after him, as the young nephew and heir of King Miraz. Fleeing potential assassination by his uncle, he becomes leader of the Old Narnian rebellion against the Telmarine occupation. With the help of the Pevensies, he defeats Miraz’s army and becomes King Caspian X of Narnia. In The Voyage of the Dawn Treader he leads an expedition out into the eastern ocean to find Seven Lords whom Miraz had exiled, and ultimately to reach Aslan’s Country. In The Silver Chair he makes two brief appearances as an old, dying man, but at the end is resurrected in Aslan’s Country.
Main article: Trumpkin
Trumpkin the Dwarf is the narrator of several chapters of Prince Caspian; he is one of Caspian’s rescuers and a leading figure in the “Old Narnian” rebellion, and accompanies the Pevensie children from the ruins of Cair Paravel to the Old Narnian camp. In The Voyage of the Dawn Treader we learn that Caspian has made him his Regent in Narnia while he is away at sea, and he appears briefly in this role (now elderly and very deaf) in The Silver Chair.
Main article: Reepicheep
Reepicheep the Mouse is the leader of the Talking Mice of Narnia in Prince Caspian. Utterly fearless, infallibly courteous, and obsessed with honour, he is badly wounded in the final battle but healed by Lucy and Aslan. In The Voyage of the Dawn Treader his role is greatly expanded; he becomes a visionary as well as a warrior, and ultimately his willing self-exile to Aslan’s Country breaks the enchantment on the last three of the Lost Lords, thus achieving the final goal of the quest. Lewis identified Reepicheep as “specially” exemplifying the latter book’s theme of “the spiritual life”.
Main article: Puddleglum
Puddleglum the Marsh-wiggle guides Eustace and Jill on their quest in The Silver Chair. Though always comically pessimistic, he provides the voice of reason and as such intervenes critically in the climactic enchantment scene.
Shasta / Cor
Main article: Shasta (Narnia)
Shasta, later known as Cor of Archenland, is the principal character in The Horse and His Boy. Born the eldest son and heir of King Lune of Archenland, and elder twin of Prince Corin, Cor was kidnapped as an infant and raised as a fisherman’s son in Calormen. With the help of the talking horse Bree, Shasta escapes from being sold into slavery and makes his way northward to Narnia. On the journey his companion Aravis learns of an imminent Calormene surprise attack on Archenland; Shasta warns the Archenlanders in time and discovers his true identity and original name. At the end of the story he marries Aravis and becomes King of Archenland.
Main article: Aravis
Aravis, daughter of Kidrash Tarkaan, is a character in The Horse and His Boy. Escaping a forced betrothal to the loathsome Ahoshta, she joins Shasta on his journey and inadvertently overhears a plot by Rabadash, crown prince of Calormen, to invade Archenland. She later marries Shasta, now known as Prince Cor, and becomes queen of Archenland at his side.
Main article: Bree (Narnia)
Bree (Breehy-hinny-brinny-hoohy-hah) is Shasta’s mount and mentor in The Horse and His Boy. A Talking Horse of Narnia, he wandered into Calormen as a foal and was captured. He first appears as a Calormene nobleman’s war-horse; when the nobleman buys Shasta as a slave, Bree organises and carries out their joint escape. Though friendly, he is also vain and a braggart until his encounter with Aslan late in the story.
Main article: Tirian
The last King of Narnia is the viewpoint character for much of The Last Battle. Having rashly killed a Calormene for mistreating a Narnian Talking Horse, he is imprisoned by the villainous ape Shift but released by Eustace and Jill. Together they fight faithfully to the last and are welcomed into Aslan’s Kingdom.