Classic Remarks: Narnia Order

This week Krysta and Briana at Pages Unbound are hosting the discussion: Should the Narnia books be read in chronological order or in publication order?

To this I have to say, do what you want, I’m not the boss of you. And I honestly don’t have very strong opinions on this topic, other than that the first book chronologically (The Magician’s Nephew) is one of the least interesting.

I read the books in chronological order because that’s how they were labeled and I didn’t know there was another order one might read them in. *shrug* I will probably give them to my children in this same order, just because I know it am familiar with it.

BUT! I’ll read them The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe first. Because, well, obviously. It’s the best book in the series, perfect for hooking you into it. I’ll probably read it to them when they’re six or so, then when they’re old enough to read the series on their own hand it to them in chronological order.

But it wouldn’t be too hard to change my mind, I’m not super committed to this decision.

What order do you think Narnia should be read in?

16 thoughts on “Classic Remarks: Narnia Order

    1. I guess the way the series is ordered now is *different* than the way it was ordered when originally published. So I think the Narnia purists like the original publishing order, while newer readers (like myself) tend to prefer the order we were introduced to it in.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Haha, this was funny! I feel strongly that the books should be read in publication order because I think it’s fascinating to see how the world developed over time in Lewis’s imagination. But, truly, you are right. It doesn’t really matter what other people do. If they think chronological is the way to go, why not? XD

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  2. Ohhh, I feel strongly enough about this to tell people what to do – at least where The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe and The Magician’s Nephew are concerned. Reading TMN before LWW means losing so much curiosity about the wardrobe (why and how is it transporting us elsewhere?) and Narnia itself (what is this place; who’s in authority; oh, you say it’s not meant to be always winter?)

    From there, it’s a question of character introductions and story arcs. Who wants to read The Silver Chair before they’ve read Voyage of the Dawn Treader and learned Eustace’s whole story?

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    1. Was The Silver Chair published before Dawn Treader?

      I admit I never thought about Magician’s Nephew that was before. As a kid I didn’t understand the Magician’s Nephew *at all*, so I still experienced all the wonder of LWW. But I can see how older kids might not enjoy LWW as much if they read MN first.

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  3. Publication oder all the way for 5 reasons (from most important to least important):

    1. “The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe” is clearly meant to be the introduction to the world and Aslan (cf. “The children had no more idea of who Aslan was than you do” or words to that effect when he is introduced).

    2. “The Magician’s Nephew” is probably the least interesting book *unless* you have previously known plot points to connect it to as you are reading (ooooh…*that’s* why there’s a lamp post in the middle of the forest!)

    3. The story of the Pevensies (and Eustace) flows more smoothly if “The Horse and His Boy” (one of my favorites) is left in its publication position and presented as a random “here’s a tale from Narnia’s golden age long ago” rather than inserting it between “Wardrobe” and “Caspian”

    4. The idea that chronological order is “the authors preferred order” is nonsense. That characterization is based on a single letter Lewis wrote in reply to a young fan who proudly explained to him how the books could be read in chronological order. Would you write back and say “that’s nice kid, but you should read them how I wrote them…they’re in that order for a reason”? He was just being nice when he said “oh yes, I like to read them in that order myself.”

    5. I read them in publication order the first time I read them, so I have a personal attachment to that order

    That said, they really can be enjoyed in chronological order as well. (But I will always maintain that they’re more enjoyable this way!)

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    1. Wow, you’ve convinced me! I almost agree that Magician’s Nephew is the least interesting book (Still don’t understand The Horse and His Boy…), but some of the details you mentioned like the lamppost were my favorite parts of the book, even though I didn’t know anything about them, and they were what made me decide to keep reading the series.

      My feelings are developing to be similar to my feelings on Star Wars. I think the correct viewing order for Star Wars is 4-5-6, THEN go back and watch the whole thing chronologically, 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9 (I won’t be offended by all who choose to ignore 7-8-9). Narnia it seems can be enjoyed the same way. Perhaps read the 4 Pevensie books, then go back for Chronological.

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    1. Agreed. I’ll read that one to my kids, then I suppose the other three Pevensie books if they’re interested. I admit I don’t know what publication order is, but I *do* feel pretty strongly that The Final Battle should be last.

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  4. Like you, I don’t have strong feelings about this topic. I have a slight preference for publication order, especially because, as someone else pointed out, TLTWATW is clearly meant as an introduction to the world. And for some kids, it will be an intro to the whole idea of portal fantasy. More time is spent on the lead-up to the kids getting into Narnia, and a lot of ground work is laid about whether other worlds are possible, whether you should believe someone when they make a wild claim, and whether adults could ever believe this stuff. (The fact that Prof. Kirk is willing to seriously consider it establishes that this is real, not just a game all the kids are playing or a world that they “make” real by imagining it.)

    If you read them in publication order, you also get a progressive reveal of the Narnia universe. I think Lewis was a pantser, who was discovering this stuff as he wrote about it.

    I can’t decide which is my fave (whichever one I am reading is my fave) but I do love Magician’s Nephew. It has a lot to say about science/magic as a search for power (while giving an example of a budding scientist who just wants to satisfy his curiosity, in Digory). There is a lot of humor in the scenes in London. And I can’t read the scenes that have to do with Digory trying to save his mother, without getting choked up.

    Sorry, long comment.

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