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Chronology of the Chronicles

As I mentioned in my last post, the Chronicles of Narnia weren’t written in chronological order, nor were they published in the order they were written. This is why some box sets label The Magician’s Nephew Book 1, and others The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. It gets a little confusing. There are actually three ways to read the books:

1) Chronological Order:
The Magician’s Nephew
The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe
The Horse and His Boy
Prince Caspian
The Voyage of the Dawn Treader
The Silver Chair
The Last Battle

C.S. Lewis recommended reading them in this order. However, this is the order in which he wrote them:

2) Lewis’s Original Order:
The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe – 1948 (intended to be a stand-alone book)
Prince Caspian – 1949 (written as a sequel)
The Voyage of the Dawn Treader – 1950 (this is about when Lewis realized it was turning into a series)
The Horse and His Boy – 1950
The Silver Chair – 1950
The Last Battle – 1953
The Magician’s Nephew – 1954

Sidenote: I would give anything to be able to churn out good writing this fast. Two novels in one year?? C.S. Lewis makes me mad sometimes. Anyway, I wouldn’t recommend reading the books in this order, because The Last Battle just has to be last. It just wouldn’t feel right not to read it last.

3) Publication Order:
The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe
Prince Caspian
The Voyage of the Dawn Treader
The Silver Chair
The Horse and His Boy
The Magician’s Nephew
The Last Battle

This is my favourite way to read the series. It’s chronological enough; I mean, at least The Last Battle is last, and we have all Eustace’s adventures in order. And it gives me a better sense of how Lewis’s ideas developed over time. As much as I love the first three books (and Dawn Treader really is one of my favourites), the later books feel more complete and have more complex, well-rounded characters. They also deal with progressively more complicated themes, theological and otherwise.

But then, sometimes I make up my own reading order. As I said before, the first Narnia book I ever read was The Silver Chair, and I loved it even without the context of the first three books. Sometimes, while reading them in the publication order, I read The Magician’s Nephew right after Wardrobe, just because it feels so much like a prequel. However you read them, they’re excellent books. The main thing is to read them. Please do, if you haven’t yet. The movies are a very poor substitute. Namarie!

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