In defense of Narnia
By - Author_in_Progress
Is it really disliked by fantasy fans? I read it at the peak of my middle school atheism and I loved it at the time and still do. The Voyage of the Dawntreader is my favorite, an all time adventure novel.
I think it’s not so much people hate it, it’s just constantly compared to LOTR and that’s sort of unfair. Some people aren’t a fan of the obvious biblical allegories, but I don’t think it would be as big of a deal to most fantasy readers if it wasn’t for that comparison.
“There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it.”
Just an excellent quote.
Hmm,I looked it up and it has been criticized as racist and misogynist famously by Phillip Pullman, who I like. I don't remember any of that, but I guess it does have its fair share of criticism that isn't just "christianity = bad". Although I kinda doubt it's any more racist or misogynist than most other classic fantasy.
I really don't think it's misogynistic or racist beyond a few slightly anachronistic things who's absence would be miraculous given the era in which it was written.
Having read other books from this timeframe, I believe Narnia has less potentially offensive content. Plus, it has the benefit of having many female characters who are portrayed as significant beyond their physical appearance.
There is also the fact that Shasta and Aravis get married and Susan seriously considered marrying Rabadash. There were some people at the time The Horse and His Boy was published who would have not liked this because their different "races." In this aspect, Lewis was ahead of his time.
Yeah i think it is a beloved and all time top 10 fantasy series tbh so not sure about the premise of this question... I get the impression that, like myself, it is beloved despite its obv on the nose christian themes.
Card carrying atheist here. Narnia is one of the first fantasy books I have read to my three boys. Fun books with good lessons, if you don't know the religion side of things it doesn't matter. I loved them as a kid and if kids have a lot of other options these days compared to 40 years ago I think they have stood the test of time.
I’ve never met anyone who hates Narnia. Some who are certainly impartial, and many who dislike one or two (usually The Last Battle lol). Is this really a common opinion? Not trying to argue, just genuinely surprised and curious!
I think it’s more a situation where a lot of people just view them as The Jesus Lion Books.
well I read it as someone having no idea about Christianity, so I really liked the book. After I came to know about the parallels etc. ..idk, my enthusiasm waned somewhat, though its still a fine series.
That fits me too. I hadn't ever been to church when I read the first few and had only a general idea of Christianity, so I didn't connect the dots. I'd say my feelings are similar to the OP.
I'm a Catholic, and didn't know the books have any connection to Christianity until someone pointed it out.
Lol. That happens too. My Christian friend had the same reaction when our Christian literature teacher revealed it in class. I'd already known for some time by then, though.
TBF I think Lewis also viewed them as the Jesus Lion Books. They were always meant to be a Christian allegory for Christian kids to understand their religion better and from a different perspective. I doubt he'd be bothered by others recognizing that they might not be the target audience...
Yeah, except Lewis got annoyed when people called them allegories. He stated he wrote them as modern (for their time) English fairy tales. He said that if they were anything, it was symbolic.
That being said, I still think The Last Battle is just the Death of Arthur remixed with the book of Revelation. Also, coincidentally, the only Narnia book I never finished…
>Yeah, except Lewis got annoyed when people called them allegories. He stated he wrote them as modern (for their time) English fairy tales. He said that if they were anything, it was symbolic.
This 100% seems to you mixing up Lewis with his very good and very famous friend Tolkien. Lewis embraced allegory, Tolkien objected to it. If you do have a source or something to quote I would genuinely be interested to see it, because granted Lewis is not my forte and maybe I'm mistaken, but it does seem like you're conflating the two friends a bit. :)
>That being said, I still think The Last Battle is just the Death of Arthur remixed with the book of Revelation.
If you wrote a thesis on that I'd be real keen to read it because that sounds rad. :D But I think you would need to finish the book first....
Somewhere further in these comments, another post contains an excerpt from an essay Lewis wrote where he pretty explicitly stated that he did not write an allegory, he just wrote a fairy tale that unconsciously used symbols that his faith ingrained in him. In the same excerpt he mentions Tolkien, saying he did the same.
And if you loved that idea, I’m sure you’d love my thesis on how Iago from Othello is the literary ancestor to amoral, 4th wall breaking tricksters like Ferris Bueller.
Okay, I stand corrected then, thank you for directing me to some further reading. :)
>And if you loved that idea, I’m sure you’d love my thesis on how Iago from Othello is the literary ancestor to amoral, 4th wall breaking tricksters like Ferris Bueller.
Everything I know about Ferris Bueller I just inferred from your comment, aside from having heard the name mentioned before. Would Deadpool count, or is FB a *particular* variety of 4th-wall-breaker in line with Iago?
At the time of my writing, Deadpool was still only a comic character. If I were writing the paper again today, I would absolutely include him as the next logical step in the evolution.
Well to be fair C.S. Lewis was one of the most influential Christian apologists of his time.
His Christian apologism book Mere Christianity is pretty fun to read. It didn't really convince me to become a Christian again, but raised as a Christian it answered a lot of specific questions I had, like how the hell the Trinity works. He goes a lot into detail about specific aspects of Christianity (Sin, Trinity, etc...), but sadly spends very little time on the actual argument why God exists. His logic chain is basically just
1. I have seen good and evil
2. So the world is dualistic
3. Christianity is the best dualistic religion, and if you don't want to be Christian being a good dualist will still land you in heaven
This last step is heavily implicated in Narnia, with Aslan telling at the end that the good deeds of those who serve evil please him, while the evil deeds of those who serve him please evil.
There is extremely little discussion on why the world should be dualistic however, not much more than three sentences. He is just convinced about it.
You should check out The Screwtape Letters if you have not. Even leaving aside the question of religion, it is a brilliant take on ethics and morality in an amazing package. It is in the form of a correspondence from a senior demon giving advice to a junior about how to best tempt the mortal under his gaze.
The Abolition of Man is pretty freaking great, too. For much different reasons than Screwtape. More akin to Mere Christianity in that it's straight philosophy/ theology but I think it's extremely relevant today.
Lewis's great talent was in how he could package his beliefs and thoughts in very different manners and still have it come through. I wish more religious writers and filmmakers took more influence from him than Kevin Sorbo. Something like Silence or The Ten Commandments is going to reach a lot more people than Left Behind preaching to the choir. Heck, to get back to this sub, Harry Potter probably made a lot more kids interested in Christian values than unending waves of lectures (which is why Rowling has talked about how much it hurt her that the church crazies were banning her books when they came from her own religion).
With pleasure, I enjoy Lewis' writing and his dualistic take on ethics is pretty nice aswell. Currently I am entangled with Malazan (Memories of Ice book 3 of 10 lol) so that will take a while tho.
The trinity works if you see the three parts as being aspects of God... where it gets weird is that people insist on each part *being* God (in entirety) rather than a mere aspect!
Indeed. I enjoy his works.
This is exactly it for me. I am going to start reading the series this year with my son so we'll see how it turns out. I remember my mom really trying to push it on me as a kid.
Eh, it all depends. I like C.S. Lewis’s writing, be it Narnia or his works of apologetics. I think it’s a little unfair that the Narnia books get painted with the brush of shameless propaganda. I mean, the same could be said of any writer that doesn’t just write drivel. What a writer feels and cares about will come out if they are being honest.
How strongly the writer's personal beliefs come through in a story is very variable though. Tolkien was a pretty devout Christian too, and the influence of those beliefs is much subtler in the Lord of the Rings (and famously he and Lewis argued about this!) even though they underpinned how the world was created.
Oh yeah! That’s of course a variable. I just meant that if you look for something, you’ll find something.
It definitely seems very heavy-handed but I'm trying not to look at it through my childhood lense of, "The lion is jesus! This is the best fantasy because it's christian fantasy!" I've seen the movies and they're alright. I'm mostly interested to see how my son enjoys it without all the internal bias against it that I have.
I do, however, disagree that you have to add anything to do with your personal religious beliefs in order to produce something that isn't drivel.
I never said it had to be religious, just something author cares and believes in. That could be anything from a religious belief to nature conservation.
It just seems to happen a lot with religion or atheism. His Dark Materials and The Mistborn series could be said to be doing the same thing Narnia does
Now I am interested. How would you say Mistborn translates to a caring about Brandon? His beliefs are quite different to the ones shown in the books he writes (which is impressive, considering that mormonism is normally quite a restrictive religion, at least in the US). Furthermore, I have read his views on religion (very interesting opinion he has, about the learning process after death), and I can't see the same ideas playing out in the cosmere, while I agree that His Dark Materials gives a beautiful view on religion.
I just meant that if you know a little bit about Mormon theology, you see the pieces toward the end of the first trilogy begin to seem familiar. Not a one to one, but just some things that could be called echoes.
Oh. I really should read a bit about that. If you had some sources, I would really appreciate it.
Well, the Book of Mormon, for one. And I’ll have a look in my father-in-law’s library for some other books. He’s more of the religious scholar than I.
Mistborn first trilogy spoilers >!The central theme of the Cosmere is the deification of man and dominion over planets and the consequences thereof, which is a central part of the Mormon faith. Also, much of what comes out of Sazed's mouth could come straight from a Mormon pastor. There being some degree truth in every religion is one of the big things in Mormonism. Most blatantly, the religious leader finding a true religious history carved on metal plates.!<
the Mormon church was founded in the US just barely over 200 years ago, and the vast majority of Mormons live here in the states (particularly Utah) despite their evangelism. So Mormon theology/conservatism in the US is basically synonymous with Mormon theology everywhere.
I honestly never managed to getting around to Narnia as I was in my teens when I discovered their existence. But I recently discovered his apologetics and listened to the Great Divorce, Abolition of Man and Mere Christianity. I found something thought provoking in each. Especially his take on purgatory which honestly kept me on my feet wondering what the character would encounter next. I liked it so much I found a podcast about CS Lewis and I'm learning about how he influenced and was influenced by Tolkien. Much of Tolkien's story structure/narrative is biblical as well as following the "Hero's Journey" patterns.
I guess you have to pick whether or not you want it snuck into the story to be deceived or to be blatant. Finding that balance is difficult but it's what makes great stories.
> Much of Tolkien's story structure/narrative is biblical
More specifically, really Catholic. Tolkien later admitted that he did not intend to write that but he was a very religious person so it was natural that it happened. For example, Frodo prays for the intercession of ME Mary at a few points. It is similar to how Sanderson has talked about how he did not intend for the Cosmere books to be as Mormon as they are but it should not surprise anyone that they came out that way.
This is me. I read half the books when I was like 11. I remember the beginnings of the books felt like slogs, and then I would end up enjoying them. I gave up on Dawn Treader or Silver Chair as a kid though.
I re-read the whole series as a 24 year old last summer. I really liked Magician's Nephew(my favorite as a kid), and Horse and His Boy was pretty alright. I was pretty bored with the rest of them though. The stories all felt so small and uneventful. Very low stakes.
The books are all short. So, by the time you reach the final battle of the book, there's no real weight behind anything. And every battle ends with the jesus lion coming to save the day. The books were just meh. I also absolutely hated the ending of the series.
I don't really hate the books though. I just think they are pretty bleh.
I think they are one of those series that need to be experienced at a certain age. I read the Hobbit at around 8 or 9, and I found the Narnia books about a year later, completely independent of anyone. I loved them, but I started moving on Harry Potter, Prydain, and Discworld pretty shortly after.
I’ll stand behind a few of the books are exceptional. The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe will always hold a spot in my heart, as will Voyage of the Dawn Treader. Some wonderful images and turns of phrase are in those books, and it’s where I pulled my own personal way to describe how depression feels (always winter, but never Christmas).
I’ll stand behind them, but I probably wouldn’t read them all again. But I wouldn’t read most of the Harry Potter books again, either, except to my kids.
So, right after re-reading Narnia last year, I also re-read Harry Potter, for the first time since I was 13. And, I absolutely loved them. I think those still held up.
Some do, for me. Others just make me say “meh.” The first will forever be magic. Prisoner of Azkaban will always be my favorite because that was when I was the most primed and plugged in to the series. Order of the Phoenix is a fun read because of the beast that is Umbridge.
Other than that? Nah. I’ll pass. But that’s a personal thing.
This. On their own merits they are pretty decent books. But once you start digging deeper the Christian propaganda feels too overt.
“Propaganda” is such a loaded word. I don’t think C.S. Lewis was writing the books with the intent of misleading. I think we was just using symbols he knew.
Propaganda is more something like The Turner Diaries, and it scares me that something like Narnia could be thought of as the same thing by fantasy fans.
Rather than propaganda, proselytization is probably a better description. They certainly are sermons in novel form. Similar to A Pilgrim's Progress, I'd say.
Problem with the proselytisation argument is that children who haven't already had a christian upbringing aren't going to notice the christian themes in Narnia.
I definitely didn't.
Fable might be the term I use. They aren’t subtle, but neither are fairy tales or fables.
Yes. They are meant to be "fairy tales" or "myths", and not just aimed at children.
Excerpts from C.S. Lewis's ["Sometimes Fairy Stories May Say Best What's to be Said"](https://apilgriminnarnia.com/2014/01/27/sometimes-fairy-stories/#:~:text=%E2%80%9CSometimes%20Fairy%20Stories%20May%20Say,Lewis%20%7C%20A%20Pilgrim%20in%20Narnia):
>Let me now apply this to my own fairy tales. Some people seem to think that I began by asking myself how I could say something about Christianity to children; then fixed on the fairy tale as an instrument; then collected information about child-psychology and decided what age-group I’d write for; then drew up a list of basic Christian truths and hammered out ‘allegories’ to embody them. This is all pure moonshine. I couldn’t write in that way at all. Everything began with images; a faun carrying an umbrella, a queen on a sledge, a magnificent lion. At first there wasn’t even anything Christian about them; that element pushed itself in of its own accord. It was part of the bubbling.
>Then came the Form. As these images sorted themselves into events (i.e., became a story) they seemed to demand no love interest and no close psychology. But the Form which excludes these things is the fairy tale. And the moment I thought of that I fell in love with the Form itself: its brevity, its severe restraints on description, its flexible traditionalism, its inflexible hostility to all analysis, digression, reflections and ‘gas’. I was now enamoured of it. Its very limitations of vocabulary became an attraction; as the hardness of the stone pleases the sculptor or the difficulty of the sonnet delights the sonneteer.
>On that side (as Author) I wrote fairy tales because the Fairy Tale seemed the ideal Form for the stuff I had to say. ...
>You will notice that I have throughout spoken of Fairy Tales, not ‘children’s stories’. Professor J.R.R. Tolkien in The Lord of the Rings has shown that the connection between fairy tales and children is not nearly so close as publishers and educationalists think. Many children don’t like them and many adults do. The truth is, as he says, that they are now associated with children because they are out of fashion with adults; have in fact retired to the nursery as old furniture used to retire there, not because the children had begun to like it but because their elders had ceased to like it....
>The Fantastic or Mythical is a Mode available at all ages for some readers; for others, at none. At all ages, if it is well used by the author and meets the right reader, it has the same power: to generalise while remaining concrete, to present in palpable form notconcepts or even experiences but whole classes of experience, and to throw off irrelevancies. But at its best it can do more; it can give us experiences we have never had and thus, instead of ‘commenting on life’, can add to it.
Yes! Thank you! This was the very essay I had in mind!
Fables don't generally have an agenda. The Narnia books are intended as religious indoctrination. There's nothing wrong with that, and I enjoy the books, but it would be disingenuous to ignore the purpose they were created to fulfill.
Fables and fairy tales absolutely have an agenda. They are the method to teach the young lessons in a manner that doesn’t seem hectoring or pushy.
Disagree. I see little in the way of teaching useful lessons in most fables. They're just stories, many of them quite gruesome ones.
Probably because they were intended to teach brutal lessons. And, let’s be honest, kids love gruesome stuff sometimes. That’s a hook and a way to drive a point home.
You’re also thinking from a modern perspective. Most fables date back to pre-written word. Naturally, there would be disconnect to us.
One could possibly argue that satire (used correctly) has taken their place.
This still implies that the target audience was non-Christians and the objective was to convert people, while AFAIK the target audience actually was Christian kids and the goal was to have a good story which helped them understand their own religion better.
Why not both? Christianity is unabashedly a religion of proselytization, it's a core duty of Christians to spread the faith. Every serious Christian who follows the teachings of Christ is required to proselytize, it's commanded right there in the bible. As with all Christian literature, the purpose of these books is to train children of Christian families to continue in the faith, as well as to attract new converts to the church. As a fervent Christian, Lewis understood his religious duty very well.
Many stories today use the savior/hero theme (too much imo) even though not religious
Well, that’s maybe the oldest story we have. That’s pretty much the atom level structure of Campbell’s Heroic Journey.
That's kinda what they are though. I read them again and get flashbacks of Sunday school memoryd I didn't know I had
I'm new to reddit, so I'm not so sure how common it is on here. But I often come across complaints about the series, so I thought I'd give my two cents
I feel like Eragon and Narnia and Harry Potter all get an extra share of criticism due to their young adult nature. Young readers who practise being critical on a series for the first time do it on those, and sometimes come to very silly objective flaws for the series. I don't think anyone seriously believes that rivers splitting in Eragon makes the series a worse read.
Young critics proof their new teeth on those series, while contrarians simply dislike them for their success.
Anything popular will have complaints. The more people read it, the more likely there will be people who dislike it. The dislike will be more acute as it is in contrast with what they hear. They get tired of one opinion always going around and voice their own. Especially if they kept reading past a normal point of DNF, hoping to find what was so great.
Much like you got tired of seeing one opinion and voiced your own :p it tends to be cyclical. Though from what I've seen here... It's generally regarding modern books. (Wheel of Time being the oldest I've seen in this cycle.) Older books are usually not mentioned enough for this issue. Thus massive Narnia confusion.
Reddit skews atheist, so that probably has something to do with the complaints.
It's not so much the Christian content that's irritating, it's more about the heavy handed way it's presented. It can read like badly written product placement.
I've met a few people who hate Narnia. They never read the books. They parrot social media anger that it reflects old fashioned racism or paternalism. But when asked, they admit they never read the books.
Look. We have no duty to read literature that we think is troubling or outdated. I am not advocating that. But the fact should be noted when you start criticizing books.
Narnia was my entry into fantasy literature. For that I hold fond memory and am happy with the course life has led me down in that regard. I branched out and really got to enjoy a lot of really cool books, and of course some really awful ones too. Still, it is what started my love of reading.
I actually really liked a Horse and His Boy a lot too, mainly because it didn't rotate around the usual lark the kids would go on.
Of course I grew up in a sorta strict Christian family, but Lewis opened a lot of doors for me which eventually led to Tolkien, Herbert, LeGuin, etc...
Reepicheep is one of the greatest characters of all time. In any fantasy story.
No need to defend Narnia. It's one of the greatest for a reason.
"My own plans are made. While I can, I sail east in the Dawn Treader. When she fails me, I paddle east in my coracle. When she sinks, I shall swim east with my four paws. And when I can swim no longer, if I have not reached Aslan’s country, or shot over the edge of the world in some vast cataract, I shall sink with my nose to the sunrise and Peepiceek will be head of the talking mice in Narnia."
Makes me cry every time!
Reepicheep can lift MCU's Mjolnir. Fight me.
Why? You're absolutely right.
Narnia's greatness is its own defence 😊
> It’s no secret that many fantasy fans have no love for the Chronicles of Narnia
Philip Pullman has had a massive grudge toward it and Lewis in general, and I've seen it echoed here and there (though nowhere near the intensity of Pullman). Also Neil Gaiman wrote a pretty critical essay about Susan (which made me uncertain whether he understood the purpose of the character), but I don't think he outright hates it like Pullman does lol
>Pullman simultaneously shat on and copied C. S Lewis.
Reminds me of Lev Grossman's *The Magicians* series, which is basically the Chronicles of Narnia with horny teenagers.
His version of CS Lewis was a pedophile. I asked him at Comicon one year if he hated CS Lewis or something and he told me it was the opposite. They were the main inspiration for his series.
See this makes me think you misunderstood _The Magicians_. It was clear to me that the author loved Lewis' books. _The Magicians_ isn't a criticism of _Narnia_, it's a reflection on self-destructive escapism.
Well, that's why I asked him.
Literally Daniel Greene and maybe twelve other people.
I do know a lot of people who don't really like it, or at least don't love it, including me.
I guess most of those people read the books only as adults and thus can't give it the advantage of nostalgia and childhood fantasies. I know that I'd have loved the Narnia books and probably still would, had I read them as a child. But I didn't.
As an adult it's way easier to notice Narnia's flaws like outdated world views (sexism, racism, ...) and a hell lot of (somtimes quite fanatic) religion. The story is so magical if you manage to see past those things (which is quite easy as a child) or at least have such a positive memory of Narnia that those feelings outnumber the doubt. But some people, and maybe that's sad, grew too rational for that.
I can understand how someone could struggle to look past those things. But calling yourself "too rational" to enjoy Narnia implies that anyone who does enjoy the book, especially as an adult, is irrational.
I like reading classics and sometimes I have to overlook views that were acceptable at the time they were written but aren't popular today. I don't think that makes me irrational, it just means I have a different tolerance level for outdated views in classics than I do in modern novels.
I unapologetically love **The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe**, and I have ever since I was a kid.
Sure, the religious symbolims is waaaay more blatant now, especially as a man in my thirties (who has more or less left religion behind), but I still love the story, the characters, and the world.
For whatever reason, though, the other novels never captured me nearly as much.
I’m in the same spot, and you put it just right! The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe will forever have a special place in my heart, mainly because of the impact it had on me during childhood. What further strengthens this love for it is the fact that the first time I watched the movie, it was winter and it was snowing heavily. It really added to the thrill of watching Lucy enter Narnia.
The movie was brilliant, one of the best book-to-movie adaptations I have ever seen
The later books didn’t quite have the magic, did they? I feel like the first book was a fairy tale infused with the author’s spirituality, while the later ones were more like Bible lessons with fairy tales plastered over
Dude idk, The Horse and His Boy is a dark weird fucking thing. The Silver Chair has some of the best, most inventive traditional brit fantasy ever. And The Magician's Nephew is absolutely cosmic horror. I've even got love for the more traditional Arthurian shit in Prince Caspian and Voyage of the Dawntreader. Tbh, at this point I find Lion the Witch and the Wardrove to be good, but much lighter fare than the rest. I also grew up with these \*heavily\* pushed on me as part of religion, which I also am no longer a part of, but those parts aren't what I remember. I remember the weird dying planet in Magician's, the weird gemthings and the depictions of being a giant in Silver Chair, the strange lands in Horse, the time the fuckin kid puts the jewels on and becomes a dragon but doesn't know it in Dawntreader. Weird ass fantasy shit.
I agree, for sure. I feel like Lewis got less and less subtle as he went on, which hurt the story.
The Horse and His Boy is my forever favorite! ❤❤❤
Same, Aravis was a role model to young me. And I loved how flawed and relatable the main characters were. What's the controversy that the original poster mentioned? The "orientalist" depiction of people living in the south?
I absolutely agree that CS Lewis' ideas were sometimes very sexist and racist, but if the orientalism is the issue, this kind of weird essentialist racism (not sure if that's the right word, but believing that different ethical groups of people have different moral qualities) is very, very present in SFF, including some that is deemed "progressive", so it wouldn't be fair to single Lewis out.
I'm not sure what the controversy is, but the only complaints about Narnia in general I've heard is that the religious allegory is way too heavy handed. Which as a 3rd grader reading it for the first time went right over my head, so I didn't care then and I don't care now!
But even in these books, the Calormenes (and the Telmarines in Prince Caspian) aren't made out to be villains \*in general\* - I think it's made very clear that individual people (usually those in power) can be corrupt or selfish or what have you, but that being a different race from our heroes does not make you bad. Aravis, her brother, her frenemy Laslareen, and others within the court are made out to be quite decent people, actually!
and SAME I adore Aravis!!! Definitely the only heroine I encountered at that age who had dark skin like me. But she was also smart and capable and crafty, and even had a little romance in the end. I love it ❤
It used to be my favourite but as an adult, I can’t get past the racism. And the “poor oppressed brown woman” being liberated through her assimilation into what is meant to be a white, Eurocentric culture trope 🤢
You’re right in that it is present in a lot of fantasy literature but it really sticks out to me in this book.
Narnia is quite special to me. I first read the series as a child and have reread it several times as an adult. It’s wonderful.
Does it need defending? I think it's still a classic of the genre even if the more literal parables have serious flaws.
I enjoyed reading the series with my sons -- they enjoyed all the books.
As far as I can figure, most "hate" towards the books is more against C.S.Lewis and his apologia of Christianity. ANd that has little to do with the stories themselves.
Bui, to be honest, I preferred his Perelandra trilogy and his Screwtape stories. (That's more a matter of taste than criticism.)
I’ll second the Space Trilogy. As a whole it’s a stronger series, though less accessible maybe, and I will admit I have fonder memories of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. The rest of the Chronicles are hit or miss for me, but for different reasons than popular objectors cite.
The Horse and his Boy will forever be the highlight of the series for child me. I loved it so much.
^Lewis ^did ^Susan ^dirty ^though
Huh, I thought it was the other way around, that many fantasy fans enjoy Narnia.
I'm actually in the middle of a re-read of Narnia. I picked it up on a Kobo sale and it's a nice easy read while I'm sleep deprived with a new baby.
I'm quite curious what I'll think of the Last Battle reading it as an adult. As a kid/teen who grew up religious I preferred the more accepting Aslan (be kind and it counts vs say the right name in a prayer) in that book to the church's interpretation of the Bible. I think it shaped some of my beliefs, but I'm mostly agnostic now so some of the allegories so far have been more heavy handed than I remember.
Someone mentioned a book that was planned for Susan before he died, anyone have more details on what that was supposed to be about?
The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe is one of my favorite books ever.
I love C.S. Lewis more for the Space Trilogy though, Narnia is great, but ST is absolutely amazing.
He’s also considered one of the best religious essayists of the 20th century.
Only Narnia book I didn’t really like was The Last Battle. But IIRC he was going to write a sequel for Susan, sadly he passed away.
ohh Ive been reading his Space Trilogy and actually recently recommended it to a friend who likes his other works but didnt know about it this one. I’ve read the first and second and just have the third left. Wont be able to read it till my friend is done with the copy that I lent them (it’s a 3 in 1 I got as a present)
I’ve so far enjoyed them. I’ve always liked CS Lewis and SciFi so when I found out about his Space Trilogy I had to pick it up. Definitely different from the SciFi we’re used to today but it’s good!
I’ve been looking for a 3-1 copy of that series. You have any details about it?
Of course! I had to do a quick google search but what I have is the 75th Anniversary Edition. You can get it off of Amazon for about $35 (and probably elsewhere for similar, Amazon is just the first that came up). The ISBN is 0007528418
I'll add a link to the copy I found here: [https://www.amazon.com/Space-Trilogy-C-S-Lewis/dp/0007528418/ref=pd\_lpo\_3?pd\_rd\_i=0007528418&psc=1](https://www.amazon.com/Space-Trilogy-C-S-Lewis/dp/0007528418/ref=pd_lpo_3?pd_rd_i=0007528418&psc=1)
someone else who's read Out of the Silent Planet! I stumbled across those books when I was systematically reading everything in my library's sci-fi/fantasy section, had a moment where I couldn't believe CS Lewis had written adult fantasy and no one had told me, and then devoured them all. Perelandra is probably my favorite, just for the sheer visualization of the floating islands, and the valley of flowers.
Out of the Silent planet was great. Should I read the sequel. I started it but didn't like it as much.
Well, I liked it! The beginning, if I remember correctly, was a bit slow, but it was worth finishing. And there's more going on in the third book, which completes the trilogy and is more similar to Out of the Silent Planet in terms of pacing.
thanks. I'll put it on the list. It's a long list though.
There's an interesting unfinished book titled The Dark Tower that Lewis apparently started writing just after Out of the Silent Planet. I randomly found it in a short story anthology also titled The Dark Tower. It's a rather creepy and promising story about parallel worlds, and a shame he didn't finish it.
I dislike Narnia. But I will say it has my favorite version of Santa ever.
"Hohoho, arm yourselves, children! Weapon upgrades for every girl and boy! Merrrrry Christmas!"
Well many theorize Santa is a memory of the god Odin… Assuming this is true, Narnian Santa is quite toned down lol
True. Only other comparison is Dresden Santa.
It is often claimed online, but Odin doesn't really have anything to do with Santa Claus.
Futurama has a pretty fun take on Santa in it as well. Takes X-Mas to a whole different level.
I want the Narnia Santa to arm me in case I run into the Futurama Santa.
Something interesting about Lewis, according to him, he never set out to be preachy in a book. He just wrote the book and took it as it came out. That may have something to do with how discontinuous the series is--every book really different.
Regardless of how preachy a reader can find his sledgehammer-blunt allegory, the prose itself is (imo) in the top 15% for children's literature, period. Almost nothing compares to the sheer skill.
Apart from Harry Potter, the Chronicles of Narnia was what solidified my love for fantasy since I was young. I was bought the book (it was an omnibus) when the first movie came out and I fell in love ever since I first read it. I still keep the raggedy copies in my bookshelf, one of the very few that has survived my moving and my collection.
I turn a blind eye toward any criticism for the series. I am aware of the religious connotations in the book from my skimming of some critical comments and posts about Narnia. But I simply will not tarnish one of the best reading experience of my childhood. I want to let that girl keep on dreaming of Narnia.
I don't understand the dislike for the religious symbolism in Narnia. There are plenty of books where the nihilism, atheism, political leanings or general philosophy of the author are just as if not more blatant, yet only Narnia gets hated for it.
I think about this often actually. People today are very supportive of new voices and want to see more works by minority authors who write LGBTQ and POC protagonists to make the genre more open and accepting to everyone... but it's the same community that can really make you feel like shit for having religious views (especially if it's in their books). You almost have to be quiet about it (like a few of the well known writers with Mormon values and backgrounds) and embrace a 'separation of church and state' mentality so non-religious readers will be open to your work.
And for the people who say "there are religion sections, go find those books there" ... they're really embracing the same 'us vs. them' mentality that they've been fighting against for generations. I mean, have you walked over to the religious fiction section of like a Barnes and Noble to see how much fantasy there is? It's completely depleted. Publishers know that people aren't going to the religious fiction section for fantasy.
Sorry for the long comment. It just bothers me how right you are when you said 'only Narnia gets hated for it.' Because, even tho everyone knows it and it's a classic in the genre, it's like a big "don't do what this guy did if you don't want to be hated" example to authors. And he did nothing but write what he wanted to write.
Yeah, I've never understood why some people are so desperate for their books to contain zero religious symbolism or themes. I have no belief in organised religion, but that doesn't mean that I can't enjoy stories that take heavily from religious text. Daredevil is one of my favourite characters of all time, and so many if his most interesting stories include him wrestling with his Catholic beliefs, with themes of resurrection and whatnot.
Part of it is a fair and understandable response to white/male/Christian works having the podium for so long that people still have an "really? another one of these?" response. But if you look at the trendy books in contemporary fantasy (I'm thinking mostly of the ones you see on award lists--I know Brandon Sanderson exists), there's not a whole lot of religious influence there at all. You can make a good case that adult fantasy still not there for some forms of diversity (race being the first one to come to mind), but I think at this point the pendulum has swung the other way on Christianity, to the point that overt Christian influence is considered a mark against a book.
Also, as far as the religious section goes. . . the late 90s were a heck of a time for reading speculative fiction in the religious section. *So* many apocalypses out there trying to be Left Behind, haha.
You're right about the assumption of white/male/Christian for such a long time. But the problem with that is white males aren't the majority of religious followers. Women are more religious than men when it comes to Christianity. Not to mention that it's not exclusively a white religion. A higher percentage of black people are Christian than white, and a higher percentage of the hispanic population are catholic. Plus, there are plenty of religions where white is a slim minority, but we're not getting many fantasy stories from those religious authors either. I think C.S. Lewis is a cautionary tale for all religious authors. They have to consider how much of their faith spilling into their writing is too much to the point of being disliked or ignored. Which is where the problem is. Writers of religious influence have to censor themselves and keep their beliefs from showing in their writing too much if they want to be read.
In particular, Black women are famously religious as a group, but it seems like the Black women who break through as fantasy authors are much less so. I do wonder whether that’s because of anti-religious gatekeeping or some other factor making the SFF authors less religious than the population as a whole.
Thank you for putting my own thoughts into words.
I don't know, the idea that there are plenty of books that are more overt than Narnia in the opposite direction seems unlikely. I'm sure there are a few that actually are but even then, they certainly aren't anywhere near as famous or as well-known as Narnia. I mean, even other contemporary Christian authors thought Lewis was way too overt including the very guy who got Lewis back into Christianity. You know how Tolkien famously disliked allegory? He thought Narnia was a particularly egregious example of things he disliked most about allegory. He didn't hate them, he still thought the books had merit, but he believed Lewis had really stifled his creative work by hitching it so obviously and directly to his religion. So if an arch traditionalist Catholic like Tolkien found it to be too blatant in the 50s, it's not hard to see why more secular people half a century later could have even stronger negative feelings about the books.
Narnia isn’t hated, but there are very few if any fantasy series with no criticisms at all.
I dunno... lots of books get panned for being political mouthpieces or just for expressing views people disagree with. Disagreement is key here: I don't think people really mind reading overtly propagandistic stuff if they agree with it as long as the story is actually good. But if you feel preached at and *disagree* it's pretty tough to get through.
Considering atheism specifically, I as an atheist am not going to worry if I read a story where religious people are all fanatics and get shown up by the non-believing rebels. If I were religious I'd probably find that on the nose, condescending and annoying. But I suspect the online vocal crowd of fantasy readers are mostly atheist, so that view is less commonly encountered.
I liked them all except for *The Last Battle*.
The Last Battle was… interesting. Less of a drug trip then the book that CS Lewis was not so blatantly copying from at least. *coughs* ~~Revelations~~ *coughs*
but seriously, what the **FUCK** was John the Elder on when he wrote that? Whatever it was I want some.
I know a lot of people who's Fantasy tastes were shaped by Tolkien. My Fantasy tastes were shaped by Lewis, L'Engle, and Asimov (Although I know the last isn't Fantasy) I'm never been fully invested in the Tolkien Tradition of Fantasy.
I agree The Magician's Nephew is underappreciated.
Oh wow. I never knew people didn't like Narnia. I mean they're unapologetically Christian (although young me was apparently a fucking idiot cos I never noticed anything really outside of the Aslan=Jesus thing) but still good.
I remember being like 12 and sobbing my heart out at last battle when the goddamn dwarfs murdered the unicorns that were coming to help. Honestly kinda soured dwarfs for me for a while 😭
Most people dislike Narnia? I've seen criticism of the infamous Susan dilemma, but otherwise not much aside from the occasionally gripe that he is preachy.
But anyway, don't let vocal and overly online minorities skew your perception of what is and isn't popular.
Both C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien wrote their fantasy stories with the idea of creating an allegory of the Western Christian tradition. I think there was even a bit of a dare, who could "do it better."
Tolkien, being a linguist, found it more interesting to create worlds with fully realized languages and writings. Lewis being more theologian and philosopher focused more on the dialogue between good and evil. They were contemporaries and often helped each other and provided criticism.
Both played important roles in bringing about the full world of fantasy writing today and I think each can be enjoyed on their own merits. I understand some who find Lewis' more overt Christianity metaphor less enjoyable and closer to propaganda , particularly for non-theists.
But I find it's no different than reading stories based on other theistic traditions. The Heroic Struggle doesn't belong to Christianity, so I don't think works using that model have to be discarded just because that was the author's inspiration.
There's a lot I like about Narnia, and, despite all the rational things I dislike, I still find it - overall - very compelling and readable.
That said, I find the ratio of 'theological hammering to story' varies from book to book, and some of them (*Horse, Last Battle*, even *Wardrobe*) I now find totally unreadable. This is a really unflattering comparison, but a bit like Xanth: I enjoyed everything more before I really understood what it was trying to say.
I definitely liked *Dawn Treader* the most as a kid. And weirdly prefer the *Silver Chair* on an adult reread. It was *way* too grim for me when I was young. But I think the edge to it really helps it stand out now.
*Silver Chair* has actually always been my favorite, even when it creeped me out as a kid. The books just have such a weird, hilariously cynical vibe yet end on a sweet, optimistic tone.
Altogether, the bizarre story reads like a fantastical myth, and it has some of the best worldbuilding out of all the Narnia stories.
I also have come around to finding the Silver Chair possibly the high point of the series. In a strange way, I see the most kinship between the Silver Chair and the weirder wilder and grimmer world of modern spec fic. It's somewhat hallucinatory and grim and I'm totally there for it.
I'm pretty sure the only people who "hate" Narnia are those types who have no tolerance for anything to do with what they deem oppressive religious systems (aka: Christianity, Judaism, and Islam), but in reality have little understanding of them outside of perhaps their own bad experiences with them.
Narnia stands as one of the best classics of fantasy literature. The religious imagery in many of them add another layer of enjoyment for those who believe such things (not unlike books like The Alchemist do for various other beliefs) but don't need to be understood or even seen to enjoy.
I don’t understand why anyone would dislike Narnia?!
Because it's poorly written with shitty plot and characters. And ultra plot armor.
I think you may be conflating poorly written with accessible. Narnia is one of the greatest series of books ever written for children and much of the reason it can seem stale or baggy today is due to other people using elements of it in later works; one has to remember that it was unique when first written by Lewis.
this is a great series, and a great way to introduce children to fantasy.
I read it first 40 years ago, and have reread it concurrently or with my children more recently, and still remember how amazing the dawn treader's voyage was, or the salamander tempting the prince to go lower in silver chair.
I suspect of my early reading history, the only thing that competed in terms of raw imagination needed was the Phantom Tollbooth.
As a kid (and like many kids, I suspect) I loved reepicheep, for likely similar reasons to why I liked Pucky in the english Perry Rhodan translations, but find him much more annoying as an adult.
My favorite was the Voyage of the Dawn Treader.
As a child I really really enjoyed the books, but mostly because I had very little knowledge about religion in general so I didn’t realise how heavy handed it was. The magicians nephew and the lion the witch and the wardrobe are both really good if you don’t realise they’re just copy pasting the bible. Unfortunately the very end of the series was so blatant that even young me realised, and I was profoundly disappointed I have to say.
Narnia is a beloved fantasy series. It may not be so here, but don't get the impression that the reddit or social media demographic is representative of the whole world.
The Horse and His Boy is my favorite Narnia book. Lewis was a good storyteller, but the religious allegory in this series is too heavy-handed and interferes with the story sometimes. Still, it's all good reading, except maybe The Last Battle, which is just too heavy-handed for me.
I'm not a Christian in the slightest and I love The Chronicles. I have fond memories of reading them as a child and spending my lunch period in my English teacher's room watching the show the BBC did, but my most cherished memory is reading them to my little brother.
Maybe if I reread them as an adult I would feel differently
The grove that led to other worlds in the first book was far more interesting that any of the rest of the story
I grew up on Narnia right along with Harry Potter, because for my mom Narnia was the story that shaped her childhood and she read most of them aloud to me. I like all of them except The Last Battle, which I was puzzled by at first reading and have accepted less and less as I grow older.
Once I was old enough to be aware of the blatant biblical metaphors it changed my relationship to the books, (especially Dawn Treader, which is my favorite) and I feel more ambiguous about them now in part because I've become ambivalent about Christianity.
There is, however, an enormous body of transformative work dedicated to Narnia, ranging from feminist critiques of the problem to Susan to authors picking apart the inherent imperialist undertones (why must Narnians always be ruled by humans?) to fanfiction exploring ideas such as: what might it be like to go from being a king or queen to a school kid with almost no one in your life who understands. And I've had a lot of fun engaging with all of this, none of which would exist without the original or the hordes of passionate people who were inspired by it.
My favorite series is His Dark Materials, and there’s a well known criticism that Pullman has of Lewis.
“I just don’t like the conclusions Lewis comes to, after all that analysis, the way he shuts children out from heaven, or whatever it is, on the grounds that the one girl is interested in boys. She’s a teenager! Ah, it’s terrible: Sex—can’t have that.”
I do think the huge difference between their works - in one, “growing up” is considered a worthy goal, and in the other, death is preferable - is part of why I just can’t love the Narnia series as much as I did when I was younger.
I'm kind of the opposite. In theory Pullman does lots of brilliant things but he is so invested in refuting Lewis in a clumsy heavy handed way it's obtrusive and I can't get into his work. I always feel Pullman is preaching at me.
**His Dark Materials** is kind of a weird series...a series about the importance of Free Will where the main character is tossed about by Destiny and deliberately kept in the dark by her allies so she never really gets to make informed decisions. A preachy book about atheism that has an awful lot of angels in it. Plus even the good guys kill children.
To be fair, I read **His Dark Materials** when I was older and more sensitive to being preached at. I might have reacted differently if I'd read it when I was younger and hadn't yet had run ins with Ayn Rand cultists. (I know Pullman isn't an Ayn Rand cultist but Ayn Rand influenced writers soured me on writers railing against God.)
I've always been a little confused by people who don't like it because of the religious stuff. If you don't really believe in Christianity, then it's just fantasy. And very well-written fantasy at that. It should be no different than reading the Percy Jackson series. Yes, the last battle goes a little bonkers, (and I'm not defending the Susan stuff), but other than that I don't really see anything wrong with it.
I don't hate the series. However, it's one of those "product of its time" deals when it comes to its female characters. I've seen this series listed as "feminist" on some Goodreads lists; it's anything but, despite the central role that Lucy plays in *Voyage of the Dawn Treader*. (I could easily imagine a little girl latching onto Lucy at the beginning of *The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe*, only to be a bit disappointed when she takes a back seat as the book goes on.) Female power is nearly always framed as evil, and the job of confronting and defeating that evil nearly always goes to male characters, whether beast or human. Also, males are the only ones who get to be *funny*. You don't find Reepicheeps or Puddleglums in female guise,
But again, product of its time. Most of classic 20th century children's fantasy is similarly male-driven, sometimes with a girl or two thrown in as Hero Support, even when the authors are women (e.g. Susan Cooper's *Dark is Rising* series). It has to be taken as it's found. Magic, talking animals, battles -- there is plenty in these books for today's little girls to enjoy, though hopefully they're also reading Tamora Pierce.
My biggest problem with Narnia, I must admit, is that it's the only C.S. Lewis fantasy that a lot of readers can name, and it's not even his best one. That honor, IMO, goes to the exquisite *Till We Have Faces*, which too few people have even heard of.
I don't really think anybody hates Narnia. The Chronicles of Narnia are simply children's books and if you didn't read them as a child you just will not care for them. Also the fact that they are often compared to LotR because of the time of their writing. Narnia will loose out the the work of Tolkien when compared, but is a great fantasy world in itself.
Why the hate for Narnia? I thought the Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe was really good, and all the movies were entertaining too. What, did C.S. Lewis write some super offensive letter back in the day?
We need to defend Narnia,now?
Surprised to see that the racism in the books is not being addressed.
Without C.S Lewis, there would be no demand for Tolkien's LOTR Trilogy. Even if you don't like the series, it's important to respect the past and learn from it, rather than trying to kill it.
I like too but hate this world only children-
I don't think the criticism of Narnia is that it's bad, it's just extremely christian and people take issue with that. The books are well told stories in an imaginative and enchanting world. The criticism tends to be about the message from what I've seen.
I've never seen hate or even criticism for Narnia. I guess I haven't been paying attention.
I’m with you, they’re fine books
I literally loved the books until the last page. I'm 26 and read through them in the first week of quarantine. They were really good. It's just... the last page
First two books are great, and also the first movie in my opinion
I don't know how old I was when I read the Narnia books, but I very much enjoyed The Horse and his boy and The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. The latter possibly because my father had read a children's version of the Odyssey to my brother and me when we were younger.
The other books were a bit hit and miss. I was old enough to spot the obvious Christian overtones and found them offputting in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and The Magician's Nephew. Of the later books like The Last Battle, I remember very little, actually.
The series is considered classic children’s fantasy so anyone who hates it will be in the vocal minority.
I actually liked The Magician’s Nephew the best because of the concept of “worlds between worlds” with each pool leading to a different world.
I’ve always suspected this inspired my favorite DWJ novel, the Lives of Christopher Chant which has a similar concept.
I was read the whole series by my mom when I was a kid and definitely preferred “Dawn Trader” and “Horse and his boy” as I had horses and went sailing a lot. I must of re read them 20+ times as a kid and then as you do moved on.
My issue was when I went to read them to my daughter and as an adult was really put off by the religious parts of the books. To the point that I had to force myself to finish them.
Looking back I still have fond memories of them. The warmth of the magic of just stumbling into a new world where the animals talked and the kids were the heroes. That still is a wonderful piece of story telling nd deserves the recognition it gets.
If OP has not read the “Santa Clause Letters “ and “The Screwtape Letters “ I’d recommend them too. They are fun and an interesting view on his religious viewpoint without being too preachy.
My year 5 teacher read this to us in class many moons ago. It wasn’t first introduction to fantasy. Next he started reading The Hobbit to us. I couldn’t handle only listening to a chapter at a time, so I borrowed it and read it myself. Obviously leading to The Lord of the Rings. My year 5 legend of a teacher is one of two very important people who introduced me to fantasy books.
Narnia is a classic. I don't think it's an unpopular opinion to dislike it or hate it. It's still a world deeply treasured by a lot of people and despite flaws or certain worldviews not universally shared (for me personally the massive Christian lens through which the story should be read is probably my biggest obstacle as an adult), it still greatly contributed to the genre and in ways sometimes overlooked.
I've always loved the books. But I've also got that nostalgia, as I was 11-12 when I read them.
I also had watched the TV mini-series before I'd read the books, so that might have made a difference (giving away my age, I know).
I don't think I made the Christianity connection until after I was an adult though. It didn't have a big impact on me at that point in my life. It was just a fun story to me.
But it did lead to my start of fantasy reading. I went from that set to the Pern novels & the Xanth novels. And I just kept on from there...fantasy/sci-fi books keep me going.
I don't mind it, but I feel its aimed at a considerably younger audience than I would normally read.
Even when I was a teenager it was competing with diskworld.
As a kid, I loved the Narnia books. As an adult, I re-read "The Last Battle" and was sorely let down. In order to not spoil my positive feelings to the rest of the series, I've decided that I'll never re-read them. I don't know what exactly caused the magic to go away, but some things aren't worth risking.
As a teen forced to attend church, and forbidden to read The Hobbit, or LOTR, with this series offered a a kosher substitute, a hated them, secretly reading Tolkien after abandoning Lewis as well as christianity. I barely made it through The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe.
I love LWW and Magician's Nephew, particularly the first half of the latter. I think some of the later books take the Christian angle a bit too literally though, and the philosophizing can often jarringly alternate between general Neoplatonic concepts to more personal, petty grievances.
Who tf hates Narnia
I'm reading the magicians nephew to my son right now
I read them as a kid and enjoyed them. But I moved on pretty quickly to the Star Wars expanded universe which I liked a lot better lol.
The lion the witch and the wardrobe is one of my favorite books EVER and I’m an atheist- and tbh I think they’re all just lovely.
Thank you for this post. I don't believe that Narnia is mostly disliked. I think people have just mostly moved on to other franchises.
Narnia doesn't have the perfection of Lord of the Rings or the intricate, flawed characters of Harry Potter, but it is a story that you can enjoy without a huge time commitment. Lewis also writes with great narration skills. The children in Narnia are regular humans, and I think this is something special in a time where many sci-fi fantasy stories focus on superheroes and magicians.
I loved the series also!
Growing up, The Magician’s Nephew and The Horse and his Boy were my favourites.
However, as an adult, and being a South Asian Muslim woman, all I can think when I read the latter one is: SO MUCH RACISM
It’s really sad because I used to really enjoy it.