Carrie’s Chronicles of Narnia Reading Challenge ends today, so I thought I’d summarize what I read for it and a few thoughts on the experience.
At first I only committed to reading The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe because I had so many other books stacked up to read. But I had forgotten that the books aren’t that long and read fairly quickly, and, after all, once you visit Narnia, you can’t wait to go back!
I ended up not getting started til about the tenth of the month due to finishing up a couple of other books. If I had started right at the beginning I may have completed the whole series. But as it was, here is what I finished (links are to my reviews/thoughts) along with one other challenge-related post:
Narnian Magic (not a book, but a hammering out of my thoughts on the use of magic in the series.)
As you can tell, I am reading them through in publication order rather than story order. That seems to be a big debate these days, but I can’t imagine rediscovering them with anything other than LWW first. And I like reading them in more or less the order Lewis created them (though they may not have been published in the order written) and the public first discovered them.
I’m also part-way through The Way Into Narnia: A Reader’s Guide by Peter Schakel. I am going to save the rest of it for next time because it does have a chapter on each of the books and I don’t want to read those until I have read those books. But the first chapters have been delightful: one is a short biography of C. S. Lewis and the influences in his life that contributed to and may have led to his writing the Chronicles and the other has to do with expressing truth through fairy tales. Two of my favorite quotes are:
Fairy stories appeal to some adults and some children because the escape gained through fairy stories enables them to recover, or regain, a clear view of life, and to recover realities not recognized by those who limit reality to material objects…Tolkien says that spending time in an Other-world enables us as we return to see the everyday world renewed, noticing new mystery and complexity in creatures and objects we were taking for granted. (p. 29).
A fairy story is not “untrue”: “the peculiar quality of the joy in successful Fantasy can thus be explained as a sudden glimpse of the underlying reality or truth” on which the fairy story is constructed. It shows us “a far-off gleam or echo of evangelium” in an imaginary world and helps us recover that gleam in the everyday world we inhabit (p. 30). (Quoting a Tolkien lecture “On Fairy Stories” that Lewis edited for print.)
(Update: My discussion of The Way Into Narnia is here.)
My only disappointment connected with the challenge is that I ordered a set of the series — I wanted to read my own rather than the library’s — but the box that was supposed to house the set arrived broken. So I am going to send it back and look locally for the series, and meanwhile I did use library books again this time, but that was no problem.
I so enjoyed revisiting this series. I like that the challenge immerses me in the series all at once, just as Carrie‘s Lucy Maud Montgomery challenge did earlier this year. I’m thinking I need to do this one month with Laura Ingalls Wilder and another month with Louisa May Alcott as well some time. As much as I love reading new books, and have so many stacked up to get to, I love revisiting these old friends and remembering why I loved them in the first place.