WHAT IS CLASSIC REMARKS?
Classic Remarks is a meme hosted here at Pages Unbound that poses questions each Friday about classic literature and asks participants to engage in ongoing discussions surrounding not only themes in the novels but also questions about canon formation, the “timelessness” of literature, and modes of interpretation.
HOW CAN I PARTICIPATE?
Leave your link to your post on your own blog in the comments below. And feel free to comment with your thoughts even if you are not officially participating with a full post!
(Readers who like past prompts but missed them have also answered them on their blog later and linked back to us at Pages Unbound, so feel free to do that, too!)
THIS WEEK’S PROMPT:
Should The Chronicles of Narnia be read in chronological order or in publication order
Spoilers for The Magician’s Nephew!
I have a feeling many readers, as I was, are first introduced to Narnia through C. S. Lewis’s most well-known book, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, and that’s likely to influence my opinion here.
My third grade teacher read aloud The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe to my class, and from there I was hooked; I would check and recheck the books out from the school library (except The Last Battle, which I struggled with), until I finally got copies of my own to read and reread. Narnia was magic, and I fell in love with it while watching little Lucy Pevensie try to convince her siblings it was real in the first place, and then try to help save it.
I was less enthralled by The Magician’s Nephew, though I did enjoy it. Digory’s uncle is a bit nuts and, honestly, a bit frightening, and I wasn’t drawn to him as a major character when I was child. There is also something cold and austere about the place in which the children wake up the White Witch, and I wasn’t entirely sold on the in-between land of lake portals. Or the singing of creation. Or…a lot of things, really. It was all very interesting, and I think I find it even more interesting as an adult (knowing more about how Tolkien also incorporated music into the creation of Middle Earth, as well as why both he and Lewis might have chosen to do so). But I didn’t love the story or the world or the characters the way I did with The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.
There’s something that really makes sense to me about falling in love with Narnia first– and then going back to The Magician’s Nephew to see how it was all created. The origin story is interesting because the reader already knows what it’s going to be. If I’d read The Magician’s Nephew first, I wouldn’t understand who Aslan or the White Witch were. I wouldn’t know what Narnia was or why I should particularly care about its beginnings. I wouldn’t have had the fun aha! moments of thinking, “That’s how the lamp got there!” or “That’s why the wardrobe was magic!” I’m sure many people do read The Magician’s Nephew first (I probably would have, too, if I’d discovered the series on my own and had been told it was book one!). I don’t think I would have liked the experience as much, however, as starting with The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.