Saturday, May 05, 2007

Thoughts of Narnia

I'm rather cross with the edition of The Chronicles of Narnia which I bought recently, published in one volume and stating "all seven books - unabridged." Though the text is, indeed, fully intact, the edition excludes a great number of Pauline Baynes's illustrations. Had I realised this, I would not have bought it. For me, since childhood, Miss Baynes's work is an integral part of my Narnian experience. And while I am griping, here's something else I object to: the insistence that one should read the books beginning in a certain order, i.e. with the most boring of them all (again, an opinion since childhood) The Magician's Nephew. Had I started with that book as a child, I would not have finished the series! I actually started with The Silver Chair, which I loved, and then sought out the book which I truly believe is the best one to start with, i.e. The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe. Why? Because you couldn't possibly get the full thrill out of the creation of Narnia if you hadn't already bonded with that land through the first book written about it. Nowadays we would call The Magician's Nephew a prequel - something written after the original work, but referring to events chronologically preceding it. By its very nature, a prequel requires the prior experience of the original work for full comprehension and enjoyment. A final thought: while I have loved The Chronicles of Narnia all my life and always will, I do feel that the two weakest books are the ones which really can't stand alone, i.e. The Magician's Nephew and The Last Battle. The first and the last stories in chronological terms, these books require the others in the series for emotional impact. The stories just aren't strong enough to engage you on their own, like say, The Horse and His Boy.

1 comment:

Bernard said...

Strange. My opinion is actually at the other end of the spectrum. I started off with The Magician's Nephew and absolutely loved it, but I never could finish The Horse And His Boy. Must be because I'm too into serials and recurring characters. Or because my 10-year-old-mind didn't like horses.