Analysis

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Last Updated on August 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 389

C. S. Lewis was a professor who was passionate about mythology and historical literature. Therefore, it is not surprising that these elements are seen throughout his magnum opus, The Chronicles of Narnia. His story is reminiscent of many ancient tales of folklore and fantasy.

One of his prominent sources...

(The entire section contains 1714 words.)

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C. S. Lewis was a professor who was passionate about mythology and historical literature. Therefore, it is not surprising that these elements are seen throughout his magnum opus, The Chronicles of Narnia. His story is reminiscent of many ancient tales of folklore and fantasy.

One of his prominent sources of inspiration is the tale of King Arthur and his court. Known as the Once and Future King, Arthur is regarded as a paragon of chivalry, and it was rumored that he would return to save England one day. In Lewis's story, the Pevensie siblings become kings and queens of the land of Narnia. They are leaders of righteousness and uphold morality and values as well as the law throughout the land of Narnia, just as King Arthur did. In the story, they are summoned back to Narnia by Prince Caspian in his time of need, once again reminiscent of Arthur's proclaimed return to England.

In addition to pulling from Arthurian legend, Lewis draws a large portion of his world-building from folklore and mythology. Fawns, unicorns, druids, and dwarves are prevalent throughout his stories, as well as lesser gods from Ancient mythology. For example, the Greek god of wine and celebration, Bacchus, shows up to help overthrow Miraz and the Telmarine army, and he follows their victory with a celebratory parade throughout the nation.

A list of Lewis's sources of inspiration would be incomplete if it failed to reference the Christian canon of scripture. C. S. Lewis clearly draws much of his story from biblical narratives and events. For instance, the beginning of Narnia is shown to involve an intelligent creator singing the land into existence from a dark and formless void, echoing the beginning of the book of Genesis. This is followed shortly by a quest to find a mythical fruit which brings healing but also ends up cursing the young world with sin and evil when the Witch consumes it without permission. Aslan acts as a Christ figure, dying on a table and being resurrected for the sins of Edmund and to rid the world of the White Witch. The end of the series culminates in the apocalyptic end of Narnia, in which the world is destroyed and Aslan's faithful followers are taken up into a perfect Heavenly Narnia, much like the rapture the book of Revelation delineates.

The Plot

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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1136

The seven books constituting the Chronicles of Narnia tell how Aslan the Lion, son of the Emperor-beyond-the-Sea, sings Narnia into being from nothing and later saves it from evil by sacrificing himself and rising again. He spares nothing to make others good if they are open to change. The fictional history of the adventures does not correspond to the order of either composition or publication, but author C. S. Lewis provided a suggested order for reading the stories that is adhered to in the following plot summaries.

In The Magician’s Nephew, the adult Andrew Ketterley, who dabbles in magic, discovers rings that can transport their wearers into other worlds and back (he thinks). He tricks his nephew Digory Kirke and Digory’s friend, Polly Plummer, into trying the rings. The two children discover that yellow rings transport them to the Wood between the Worlds. Once there, green rings can plunge them into pools magically leading to other worlds.

In the dead world of Charn, Digory’s unbridled curiosity leads him to release an evil witch, Jadis, from a deathlike enchantment. Jadis forces her way back to Earth, where she works her destructive evil. The children use the rings to get her out of Earth, but instead of getting her back to Charn, they go to Narnia, a new world the lion Aslan is singing into existence. Because Digory and Polly brought evil into Narnia, Aslan gives them a role in containing it. They ride a winged horse to a far garden, bringing back an apple to plant in Narnia as temporary protection against Jadis. Aslan gives Digory an apple to take back to Earth and use to cure his dying mother. Digory plants the apple’s core, and from the tree that grows he has a wardrobe made.

In The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Digory is the mature Professor Kirke. Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy Pevensie come to his home to escape the London air raids of World War II. While playing hide and seek, they enter the enchanted wardrobe and pass into Narnia. Edmund betrays his siblings and all of Narnia for the White Witch Jadis’ offer of Turkish Delight candy and power.

The Witch has created a never-ending winter with no Christmas, but she fears an ancient prophecy that when two boys and two girls take the thrones at Cair Paravel, her reign will end, and Aslan will return and claim his rightful rule. According to the magic built into Narnia at its creation, Jadis has rights to all traitors, but by a deeper magic, an innocent person may die in place of the guilty, which Aslan does. The Witch thinks Aslan a fool and herself the conqueror when she kills Aslan on the Stone Table. By a deeper magic that she does not know, Aslan rises from the dead, frees Edmund and all the Witch’s captives, and leads a victorious conquest. Aslan destroys the Witch and places the children on the four thrones of Narnia. After many years, while hunting the White Stag, the children unintentionally stumble back through the enchanted wardrobe to the professor’s house, with no lapse of Earth time.

The action in The Horse and His Boy takes place entirely in Narnia and surrounding countries. A talking horse, Bree, born a free Narnian but stolen young and used as an ordinary riding horse by an evil Calormene master, rescues a boy named Shasta. Shasta actually is Prince Cor, the older twin son of King Lune, ruler of Archenland, a friendly neighboring country of Narnia. Shasta was stolen because of a prophecy that he would one day save Archenland. Bree and Shasta escape with two others. Through many adventures, they save Archenland and Narnia from surprise invasion.

The four Pevensie children, earlier kings and queens of Narnia, return in Prince Caspian. While waiting for the train back to boarding school, they vanish into Narnia at the blast of a magic horn Susan had left in Narnia. The Pevensies help Prince Caspian wrest Narnia from the Telmarines and his evil and usurping Uncle Miraz, who has tried to erase every memory of Narnia. Peter Pevensie, former High King himself, faces Miraz in single combat and is about to defeat him when the evil forces attack. Aslan calls the trees to life, and the Telmarines are routed. All who wish, even Telmarines who will accept forgiveness, may enter Narnia through a magic door, but the Pevensies must return to the railway station and school.

Edmund and Lucy return to Narnia in The Voyage of the “Dawn Treader.” They are accompanied by their selfish and obnoxious cousin Eustace Scrubb. They enter Narnia by falling through a Narnian seascape hanging on a wall, and they are rescued from the sea by their old friend King Caspian, who is fulfilling a vow to search for seven Narnian lords. One of the faithful seven helps Caspian save the Lone Islands from slave trade. Eustace becomes a dragon because of his greed but is painfully “undragoned” by Aslan. Reepicheep the Mouse, the most fearless of the Narnians, fulfills his quest to find Aslan’s true country.

In The Silver Chair, Eustace Scrubb and Jill Pole escape school bullies through a courtyard door and enter Narnia. They are met by Aslan and given four signs to aid in rescuing Prince Rilian from the evil queen of Underland. Underland is deep underground and is peopled by Earthmen, whom the queen rules by terror and plans to use in overthrowing Narnia. The wise Marsh-wiggle Puddleglum helps the children release Rilian from an enchanted silver chair and return him to Narnia.

The Last Battle is a complex account of the end of Narnia and its re-creation into a permanent paradise by Aslan the Lion, creator and rightful ruler of Narnia. Various children have been called, by various means, from Earth into a Narnia in crisis. This time, a train crash sends all the earthly friends to newly created, everlastingly good Narnia, but they must first fight in the old Narnia’s last battle. A clever ape named Shift forces his donkey companion Puzzle to wear a lion’s skin so that he can masquerade as Aslan. By this deception, they rule Narnia. When the deception is broken, the Calormenes, under Rishda, launch an attack on the Narnians. Rishda calls on the evil god Tash, who destroys Rishda himself in the end.

Tirian, the present king of Narnia, and the friends from Earth all die in the battle, but as they see Narnia destroyed by a cataclysmic flood, then swallowed by a dying sun, death becomes for them the doorway to a new and better Narnia. They are invited “farther up and farther in.” The “Great Story” begins, “in which every chapter is better than the one before.”

Bibliography

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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 189

Sources for Further Study

Barratt, David. Narnia: C. S. Lewis and His World. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Kregel, 2005. A useful introduction to Lewis for the general reader. The first two chapters deal with the Narnia stories.

Duriez, Colin. The C. S. Lewis Encyclopedia. Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway, 2000. Every name in the Narnia chronicles is listed here; longer entries on genres and themes explain Lewis’s ideas.

Ford, Paul F. Companion to Narnia. Rev. ed. Foreword by Madeleine L’Engle. San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 2005. An updated edition of this popular guide to the places, characters, and themes of Narnia.

Hooper, Walter. Past Watchful Dragons: The Narnian Chronicles of C. S. Lewis. New York: Macmillan, 1974. Hooper was Lewis’s main editor and guardian of his works. Here he examines the Narnia chronicles as children’s literature, showing how Lewis’s Christian message is conveyed.

Manlove, Colin. C. S. Lewis: His Literary Achievement. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1987. A leading scholar of fantasy literature assesses the quality of Lewis’s fantasy writing.

Sayer, George. Jack: A Life of C. S. Lewis. Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway, 1994. The fullest and most sympathetic account of Lewis’s life.

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