C.S. Lewis and the Land of Narnia

C. S. Lewis spent his first years at the family home, called Little Lea, in Belfast, Ireland. He was never really called C. S. or even Clive (C. S. stands for Clive Staples). This young man wanted to be called Jack. Like another college professor (Indiana Jones), Jack nicknamed himself after his beloved dog, Jacksie, who died when the author was quite young. His friends called him "Plain Jack Lewis," and it suited him. He was not especially handsome, but he was kind and bluff and came to have many friends.

Among his favorite books as a child were Beatrix Potter's Squirrel Nutkin, Frances Hodgson Burnett's The Secret Garden, and Robert L. Stevenson's Treasure Island. He believed truly great and good books, such as these, should be read at least once a year, and he kept the habit of rereading his childhood favorites all his life.

Jack Lewis had a rough time of it as a youngster. His mother died of cancer when he was only nine years old. His father had a bad temper, possibly made worse by his wife's death. Jack was sent off to Wynyard School in England soon after. He hated this strict boarding school where caning was the usual punishment. His Christian faith was important to him then, and he would have his own conversations with God.

When Wynyard closed down permanently the next year, Jack was happy to be sent back home to Belfast. That fall he went to school nearby at Campbell College (a preparatory school) and was pleased to come home on weekends. There he would find a quiet room and settle in with a huge pile of books--science fiction, adventure, and the Bible--and a lovely pile of strawberry jam sandwiches. But he soon developed a bad cold and a chest condition. His father thought it best that he be sent to school in Malvern, an English town famous as a health resort. Jack very much liked this new school. The teachers, called masters, were kind and encouraged him to enjoy learning.

He did not have such an enjoyable time later at Malvern College. He wasn't skilled at sports, and that was a focus of good times to be had back then. He didn't like the other boys very much, but a special teacher, nicknamed "Smudgy" taught him to love poetry. Jack never did do too well with mathematics, either, unlike his mother who had a genius for it.

When he was fifteen, his father told him he could leave Malvern and be taught privately at a family friend's home. Mr. Kirkpatrick, an elderly teacher who had first taught Lewis' father, was a hard taskmaster, but Lewis liked being challenged by him. Mr. Kirkpatrick, an atheist, argued with Jack about his Christian beliefs and eventually succeeded in turning him away from them.

Cover to The Voyage of the Dawn TreaderIt was about this time that Jack discovered a new favorite author, George MacDonald, who was to influence his later writing. MacDonald wrote fantasies, mostly for adults although he is most famous for children's pieces such as The Princess and the Goblin. His works blended religious symbolism with exciting, fantastic stories. Jack Lewis loved them.

He went to Oxford University and then entered the army at the tail end of World War I. He made good friends in the army, including another Irishman named Paddy Moore. Before they shipped out to the front, Paddy and Jack promised that if one of them didn't make it back, the surviving friend would look after his friend's parent. As it happened, Paddy did not come home, and Jack spent the next twenty-plus years looking after Mrs. Moore as if he were her own son.

After the war, Jack got a job teaching at Oxford's Magdalen College. He was naturally good at teaching and easily held his students' attention. When he was 31, he came to the Christian faith again. His conversion inspired him to write famous books for adults that discussed the problems of Christianity.

During the Second World War, Professor Lewis had four young visitors to his country house. Like Lucy, Edmund, Peter, and Susan, these children had been evacuated to the countryside for their own safety. Jack realized that the children were lonely and knew few stories of their own, so he began a tale which would become The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.

He and fellow professor J.R.R. Tolkien (The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings) were part of a group of writer friends at Oxford called the Inklings. They had wonderful times at the local pub. His older brother and good friend, Warren Hamilton, nicknamed Warnie, was one of the Inklings. It's true that J.R.R. Tolkien never liked the Narnian Chronicles, but Jack persisted. In all, he wrote seven books in the series to the delight of fans everywhere.

Jack got on very well at Oxford, but he eventually changed schools, moving over to Magdalen College at Cambridge. In later years, passersby would see the professor wearing a tweed jacket, smoking a briar pipe, and sometimes reading a book or newspaper as he walked. Often while walking, he would make up stories and poems.

These are the Chronicles of Narnia, listed in chronological order. This is not the publication order, but rather it is the order in which the events occur. The links will take you to video and audio editions as well as the books themselves.

The Magician's Nephew
In which Jadis the White Witch first comes on the scene, dragging a pair of young friends along for the ride, and Aslan creates Narnia.

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe
Four children discover the magical world of Narnia, where the White Witch has ruled wickedly for many years.

The Horse and His Boy
A poor slave boy runs away with the help of a clever talking war horse named Bree.

Prince Caspian, the Return to Narnia
Susan, Edmund, and Lucy Pevensey return to Narnia to help young Prince Caspian regain his throne from his horrid uncle.

The Voyage of the Dawn Treader
"There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it."
Caspian, now king of Narnia, and the brave mouse Reepicheep sail towards adventure as they look for the seven lost lords of Narnia. Edmund, Lucy, and their obnoxious cousin Eustace get drawn through a magical painting to join the expedition.

The Silver Chair
At Aslan's bidding, Eustace Scrubb and Jill Pole must save Prince Rilian from the evil Emerald Witch.

The Last Battle
Two hundred years have passed in Narnian time since The Silver Chair, but in our world it's only been a year. Eustace and Jill must help King Tirian gather his troops together for a final battle that will decide Narnia's fate.

All the books have also combined into one volume: The Chronicles of Narnia.

Books about C.S. Lewis and Narnia:

A Book of Narnians: The Lion, the Witch, and the Others by C. S. Lewis ; text by James Riordan.
Cover to The Narnia CookbookDrawings and information about thirty-three mostly non-human characters from the chronicles.

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Patterning of a Fantastic World by Colin Manlove.
This is a good choice for middle school and upper grade students who need an understanding of the author's storytelling craft.

C. S. Lewis: Christian and Storyteller by Beatrice Gormley.
Here is a biography that examines Jack Lewis' faith, friends, and family and their influences on his work.

The Land of Narnia: Brian Sibley Explores the World of C. S. Lewis.
A companion to "The Chronicles of Narnia," explaining how their creator, C.S. Lewis, came to write them, what sort of person he was, and the hidden meaning of the Narnia stories. Includes beautiful illustrations.

The Man Who Created Narnia: The Story of C. S. Lewis by Michael Coren.
This cozy and thoroughly enjoyable biography has many photos from Lewis' life.

The Narnia Cookbook: Foods from C. S. Lewis's The Chronicles of Narnia with commentary by Douglas Gresham.
A collection of recipes devised from some of the foods mentioned in the Chronicles of Narnia, along with a history of the dishes and stories from Lewis's life.
Anyone for Lucy's Roast Apples or Tea Cakes with Lemon Curd Filling?

For Fun Online

The Big Toe Radio Shoe: C. S. Lewis
http://www.bbc.co.uk/bigtoe/authors/lewiscs/
A quick biography and a small photo.

C. S. Lewis' Outline of Narnian History
http://www.infoplease.com/spot/narnia-history.html
Here you will find the author's own chronology of Narnian events. The main Narnia page has quizzes on each of the books, a crossword puzzle, and other fun things.

Narnia Trivia Game
http://www.kidsreads.com/funstuff/trivia/narnia-triv.asp
Test your Narnian knowledge online.

A Partial Encyclopedia of Narnia
http://www.calormen.com/Calormen/encyclopedia.htm
A little encyclopedia of the lands and creatures of Narnia.

Web Sites for Research

C. S. Lewis and the Inklings Resource Blog
http://cslewisblog.com/

C. S. Lewis Chronicles
http://www.scriptoriumnovum.com/l.html

The C. S. Lewis Foundation
http://www.cslewis.org/

Into the Wardrobe: A C. S. Lewis Web Site
http://cslewis.drzeus.net/