To start off our event, here are some discussion questions for The Chronicles of Narnia series in general. Feel free to post your answers on your own blog at any time or comment below!
- Do you think The Chronicles of Narnia should first be read chronologically or by date of publication?
- What do you think the Christian elements add or detract from the series?
- Do you think it is important for children’s books to have more humor than this series?
- Who are your favorite characters from the series and why?
1. Do you think The Chronicles of Narnia should first be read chronologically or by date of publication?
I was first introduced to the series when my third grade teacher read The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe to my class. I fell in love and obsessively read and reread the series for at least the following year. I may be biased because of that, but I have since concluded that beginning with The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe does make sense. It is a more immediately gripping and interesting story than The Magician’s Nephew in my (and many readers’ opinions) and therefore a better tactic for getting new readers to like the series. The Magician’s Nephew is also more interesting in retrospect, as readers can see details like the origins of the infamous lamppost and think, “Oh, so that’s how that got there!”
2. What do you think the Christian elements add or detract from the series?
When I initially read the series as a child, I did not notice the books were Christian allegory—and this certainly was not due to an ignorance of Christian teaching on my part—so I can personally see no argument that the Christianity takes something away from the books. They’re good, adventurous stories.
In defense of the allegory, however, I do think it is worth something that C. S. Lewis was invested in putting what he saw as truth into his books. Great books are always something in which the authors truly believe, and they contain things the authors think are important. Lewis’s commitment to Christianity, I think, is part of what gives Narnia lots of heart. And, to be honest, Christianity is full of great stories, even if one is a non-believer, so they are interesting reworked into fantasy, as well.
3. Do you think it is important for children’s books to have more humor than this series?
It never even occurred to me that The Chronicles of Narnia were not funny until I read a few pieces of literary criticism that took a huge issue with its lack. Apparently, children are just not drawn into books that are funny, or books that do not crack jokes are too serious for them to handle. Either way, I do not think Narnia is suffering from its lack of humor; I loved the books as a child and continue to do so now. Also, books that try intentionally and often to be funny run the risk of alienating readers who have different senses of humor from the author.
4. Who are your favorite characters from The Chronicles of Narnia and why?
I was always a fan of Lucy as a child. She’s the youngest, the underdog who is generally right and generally good, but no one believes it of her. What child wouldn’t identify with that?
I also love Reepicheep, however, for being a fantastic combination of bravery, nobility, and cuteness. He has some of the most quotable lines, as well.
6 thoughts on “C.S. Lewis Read-Along: The Chronicles of Narnia Discussion Questions”
Cool! Now I just need to go re-read something of his…. 🙂
Fantastic questions (and answers!) I’d totally agree that The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe is a more immediately gripping story than The Magician’s Nephew, which I found interesting but never loved in quite the same way. And it startled me to hear that anyone would complain about there being not enough humor in the books. I read them at seven, and never once thought they needed to be funnier.
Being a Christian, I take a lot of delight in the themes and imagery of the stories. To be fair, finding emphatic atheistic subtext in a book tends to be rather less interesting to me. 🙂 Of course, it seems that much of what I’ve come across has not been very artistic, whereas Lewis’ treatment was very much so, so flat comparisons are hard to make. I’ve seen agnostic storylines that didn’t bother me.
Lucy is my favorite. Hands down. I loved her innocent brightness, her love for Aslan and light. But I also had a touch of a crush on Peter as a kid. He’s so noble. With age, I appreciate Edmund more, too, and I adore Cor and Aravis.
I have completely forgotten where I read the criticism of lack of humor because I encountered it several years ago, but I remember reading as being a very shocking experience. First, I thought, “Wait, Narnia isn’t funny?” And then i was surprised that anyone would care, if they’re good books all the same. I agree with you, however. I just re-read The Magician’s Nephew and found Uncle Andre in particular quite hilarious.
I can understand that reaction to atheistic subtexts. Just from the point of story, it seems somehow less interesting to me to argue that there is nothing in the universe than to argue and then talk about the something ruling the universe. And I like books that argue for something, regardless of whether I agree with it, as opposed to books that seem preoccupied with arguing against some other belief. It’s a more positive experience at any rate.
Lucy has so many fans! I think I remember thinking I’d want Peter as a brother. He also got points for being nicer to Lucy, my favorite character, than some other characters.
1. I think the series should definitely be read in order of publication date. I, too, find The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe is a more gripping read, but obviously that’s a matter of preference. Maybe what we should really consider is that since Lewis wrote LWW first, he wrote it as an introduction. Travelling to Narnia through the wardrobe with Lucy is quite different from jumping through a pool with Diggory. It’s a more drawn-out, magical experience. Furthermore, you have moments in LWW where the children hear the name of Aslan for the first time and things like that. If you already know who Aslan is, you don’t identify with the children in quite the same way. Rather, you’re looking at them from the outside.
Besides LWW serving very well as an introduction, I find the juxtaposition of The Magician’s Nephew and The Last Battle fascinating. Surely it is no mistake that readers see the beginning of the world and the end immediately next to each other?
2. Reading the Chronicles of Narnia as a child, I saw parallels between Aslan and Christ, but I didn’t know what allegory was, so I wasn’t reading the books in that light. I read them initially as purely fantasy and they work well that way. Lewis never sacrificed his art to get a philosophical or theological point across–and that’s what is really significant about the books. He showed that religion and imagination do not have to be at odds. However, I do think the allegory gives the books a depth that would otherwise be lacking. I appreciated Narnia and what Lewis had accomplished with it a lot more after I’d read some of his theological works. Before that, I hadn’t quite seen what he was trying to do in some of the stories.
3. I, too, never noticed a lack of humor and Narnia and was shocked the first time I read such criticism. It’s a very odd criticism, isn’t it? Either it’s saying that children cannot handle serious literature or it’s saying that every discussion or person lacking in humor is a bore. The criticism says a lot more about the critics than it does about the books.
4.Lucy and Reepicheep for sure! Lucy’s bright innocence and her instinctual love of beauty both give her a sort of magnetic personality. However, I also love Reepicheep’s flamboyance and his martial flair. His pride in honor makes him human (so to speak), but he never puts himself first. He’s willing to make sacrifices, to fight for his friends, and to give up everything worldly to see the face of God. I have to point out, though–isn’t Reepicheep sort of funny? Who says Narnia is lacking in humor?
Great questions, Briana! I’ve only read The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, so I can’t really answer them. I’m going to read them in order of publication date, but I can see why some people would want to read them chronologically.
I think reading in order of publication date definitely gives a good perspective on how Lewis was thinking of the creation of his own world. For many, like myself, there may not be much of a choice since children tend to be introduced to The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe first, but I see the appeal of a chronological approach, as well. That is, after all, how we read most stories! (Though I guess Tolkien has a somewhat similar dilemma. No one really reads The Silmarillon first!)
Tolkien is a bit of a different case, though, isn’t he, since he never published The Silmarillion and because he continually revised all his work in an effort to make it consistent. Although I believe there is evidence Lewis did not write the Narnia books strictly in the order they were published, there is more of a linear relationship among them, so to speak, so that you can indeed argue that reading them in order of publication date shows his thought process. And that’s really why I think reading them in order of publication is the most intriguing. I’m not interested so much in the chronological history of Narnia as I am in the ideas that move Narnia.
Tolkien is different because his history is so integral to the ideas contained within his works. Knowing Galadriel’s past, for example, makes certain parts of The Lord of the Rings more meaningful whereas knowing the past of the lamp post is interesting, but not exactly mind-blowing. I’m sure someone really invested in Narnia can make a great philosophical argument about the lamp post, but the significance doesn’t seem as obvious to the casual reader. The history just doesn’t inform the work in the same way. Indeed, if you need to know any history, Lewis tends to remind you of it in the story itself (such as in Prince Caspian, where we get little snippets of information about the events of LWW).