Chronological or Original

An issue of grave importance (well, that might be an exaggeration) has come to the forefront in the past few months. I was first aware of this issue a few years ago, at Christmas. You see, I had asked for a full set of the Chronicles of Narnia. These had been some of my favorite books as a child and I had not ever had a complete set.

I opened the package on Christmas Day and discovered that someone, somewhere had decided to change the order of The Chronicles of Narnia. After pondering the package for a few moments, I realized that they were now in chronological order. The issue of order has come up again in my mind because of the release of the movie we've already been talking about here. It appears the creators of the movie have perhaps decided to go with the original canon.

Original Comment by: Tim
Original order all the way; although it took me awhile to finish The Silver Chair (I don't know why, Ren and Stimpy was on or something. It was a while ago.) I don't think it would feel the same starting with The Magician's Nephew instead of TLTWATW. I haven't read it both ways either, but then again- I'm a coward, so perhaps I feared my whole C.S. Lewis universe would implode.

Likewise, I'm a fan of the original order. It's the order I read them in and I think Narnia is as much nostalgia as anything, so I'm loathe to think about reading them in the "wrong" order.

A related issue is going to develop for fans of the Star Wars films: In what order should the new viewer (for instance, a nephew turning of age) watch them? Watching the prequels first would ruin Episode IV and especially Episode V. I've developed a preferred viewing order, as IV, V, I, II, III, VI. I think that maintains all of the suspense and plot twists as well as the climactic nature of Return.

Let's see. Harry Potter, at least, suffers from none of these confusions. Lord of the Rings, of course, does, as we have to wonder about reading the Hobbit first or not, as well as when to read the Silmarillion...

Original Comment by: Jesse

If you care what Lewis thought:

'I think I agree with your order {i.e. chronological} for reading the books more than with your mother's. The series was not planned beforehand as she thinks. When I wrote The Lion I did not know I was going to write any more. Then I wrote P. Caspian as a sequel and still didn't think there would be any more, and when I had done The Voyage I felt quite sure it would be the last. But I found as I was wrong. So perhaps it does not matter very much in which order anyone read them. I'm not even sure that all the others were written in the same order in which they were published.'

From a letter written in 1957 to an American boy named Laurence.

Ahh, right Jesse. I believe I'd heard that somewhere before, but hadn't actually seen the specific response - thanks for posting that. And I can see how that would work. Each one certainly is a story in and of itself. I have actually read The Chronicles both ways, chronological last year, in fact. I quite enjoyed it, but it is a different experience, as some things are explained much earlier in the series that way.

Brilliant how he wove in the various characters over time if they were, indeed, not planned.

Original Comment by: Brinstar
I read them in original order, and I also remember being initially confused when the events in the books did not happen chronologically. I think I'll have to read them chronologically now to see how I feel about that.

Original Comment by: plangent
Be warned, if you go for chronological The Magician's Nephew tends to drag a bit. The up side though is that you get to The Horse and His Boy a lot sooner.

Original Comment by: Andrea Appel
Ooohh so that's why the books are arranged in a different way. I was really wondering if that was somethind done on purpose or another screwed up idea from the editors... I've never tried to read it in a chronological way, I might try it soon.

Original Comment by: Staarkhand

sI can't imagine reading them in chronological order. The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe is an excellent and engaging introduction to the world. The Magician's Nephew is obscure and only relevant to those already invested and knowledgable. The creation of some world I don't know or care about? What is this stupid lamppost anyway and why should it be mentioned? But read in the original order these are delightful discoveries. Oh, so that's why the professor seems to know about Narnia, that's why the wardrobe is magical, that's why there's a lamppost in the woods, that's why Reepacheep and his ilk are so large, etc. It just makes sense from an artistic, dramatic point of view.

Try insisting that Silmarillion be read before The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings and see how that works out - and considering the author's creative process there's probably a better argument for that than for rearranging Narnia.


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