by C. S. Lewis (Harper Collins, 1951 – 1954)
When C. S. Lewis was writing the Narnia books, I was a child, but I never read them as a child; I discovered them as an adult. I don’t remember how, but it may have been after I read and enjoyed Out of the Silent Planet, which is still one of my favorite books (although I did not care for the two sequels in that trilogy). In any case, I read The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe and followed that up with the remaining six in the series. Since then, I have re-read The Lion… and seen the movie a couple of times, but I never re-read the other books. Now that I am retired, I decided to revisit them.
I began with Book 3, The Horse and His Boy (published in 1954). This story of the boy Shasta (not his real name!) and the talking Narnian horse Bree takes place during the reign of Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy as kings and queens of Narnia following the defeat of the White Witch in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. Having nothing to lose, Shasta sets out with Bree to escape his native country of Calormen. They join forces with the Princess Aravis and the talking mare Hwin, and together they have many adventures before ending up in Archenland, a country to the south of Narnia.
Next, I read Book 4, Prince Caspian (1951). This one takes place one year after the four children have returned to England, but in Narnia, hundreds of years have gone by, and Narnia is undergoing dark days again, having been conquered by the Telmarines, a human race. The talking animals and dwarves of “Old Narnia” have gone into hiding. Prince Caspian should by rights have succeeded his father Caspian IX as king, but his evil uncle Miraz has usurped the throne, and Caspian is forced to flee for his life. However, he is able to summon Peter and his siblings from England to help him defeat Miraz and restore Narnia to its magical subjects. The movie follows the plot pretty closely but is more violent than the book.
Book 5, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, was published in 1952. In this Odyssey-like voyage, Edmund and Lucy are drawn into Narnia with their annoying cousin Eustace, and all three accompany Caspian (now King of Narnia), the mouse Reepicheep, and other Narnians on a voyage to the end of the world. On the way, they explore a number of islands, where they encounter some extremely strange beings and situations. When they find themselves in really sticky situations, Aslan always rescues them. We are going to watch the movie on Friday. Like the movie of Prince Caspian, the movie looks much more exciting than the book!
After reading these three of the Narnia chronicles, I am kind of underwhelmed. I remember them as better than I am finding them this time. They are OK, but there is little that is amazing.
English language learners who enjoy fantasy will not find these difficult to understand.