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C. S. Lewis - Narnia, etc.

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Re: C. S. Lewis - Narnia, etc.

Postby Paul Austin » 27 May 2016, 11:34

"could end up being several thousand years in Narnia... after which I'm sure Caspian WOULD look very different from before!!"

Reminds me of those stories where characters are kept alive for centuries past the possible biological human lifespan.
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Re: C. S. Lewis - Narnia, etc.

Postby Courtenay » 28 May 2016, 03:39

Here we are - I thought someone would have it online: Narnian Timeline

This is the same one written by C.S. Lewis himself, which was reprinted in a couple of different books I have (which are back in Australia!). Going by this, the Pevensies vanish out of Narnia (and return to being children in our world) in Narnian year 1015; then they are summoned back to Narnia by Prince Caspian in 2303, which makes it a gap of 1,288 years!! :shock: (No wonder Cair Paravel was an overgrown ruin by then.)

The events of The Voyage of the Dawn Treader happen in 2306-07; Caspian's son Rilian is born in 2325 and goes missing at the age of 20, in 2345. Eustace returns to Narnia with Jill (in The Silver Chair) in 2356; Caspian at this stage, according to the timeline, is 66 (he was born in 2290). I would have expected him to be a lot older than that, going by the descriptions in the book! Maybe Narnians age faster than people in our world...

That said, I've always had the impression that Lewis deliberately wasn't being meticulous with his timelines, unlike, say, Tolkien and some other epic fantasy authors. It's the stories themselves and their intended meanings that matter most, not the exact dating of events or how consistently (or not) they fit into a chronology.
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Re: C. S. Lewis - Narnia, etc.

Postby Moonraker » 28 May 2016, 10:01

Only just caught up with this thread and that's a great cross-stitch, Courtenay. Well done! :D
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Re: C. S. Lewis - Narnia, etc.

Postby Anita Bensoussane » 28 May 2016, 10:20

Courtenay wrote:That said, I've always had the impression that Lewis deliberately wasn't being meticulous with his timelines, unlike, say, Tolkien and some other epic fantasy authors. It's the stories themselves and their intended meanings that matter most, not the exact dating of events or how consistently (or not) they fit into a chronology.

I've always had that impression too. Tolkien criticised the Narnia books for being illogical and inconsistent, but I don't mind too much about that because part of the joy of them is that they're an outpouring from the heart, like many of Enid Blyton's stories, and they have that same feeling of spontaneity and flow.
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Re: C. S. Lewis - Narnia, etc.

Postby Paul Austin » 28 May 2016, 15:10

Tolkien would no doubt have criticised Blyton too - her stories are not "great literature" as the snobs would consider it, but more like the family sized block of Cadbury's you sneak off with to your room, or the mince pie you enjoy with a snifter of Port at Christmas.
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Re: C. S. Lewis - Narnia, etc.

Postby Courtenay » 14 Sep 2016, 20:59

I've just finished reading C.S. Lewis's Out of the Silent Planet — the first of his "space trilogy", originally published in 1938, and I think the first novel he ever wrote. I'm sorry to say I was disappointed. It really did have its moments — especially Ransom living with the hrossa and gradually learning their culture and language (though he seemed strangely quick in picking up enough of the latter to discuss deep philosophical concepts without much hesitation!) — but overall, I just found it far too overdone somehow.

It's a little hard to explain, but it felt to me like Lewis was letting his imagination run beyond wild in dreaming up all kinds of bizarre and lurid landscapes and creatures — to the point where my mind was boggling just trying to picture them while scrambling to follow the story at the same time — and then, simultaneously, he loads all this even further with heavy theological and philosophical themes that are neither very well disguised nor very well carried out. And the ending, in which Lewis claims to be writing this on behalf of the "real" Ransom as a veiled warning of impending danger on a cosmic scale that few will understand, came across as far more pretentious than portentous. :roll: I realise, of course, that this book was written nearly 80 years ago and maybe it seemed more original and daring and exciting in those days, but I somehow get the feeling it would have been more than a little overwrought even by the standards of its time.

I guess I just found myself (perhaps unfairly) comparing Out of the Silent Planet to the Narnia books, which came some years later (1950 onwards). If it wasn't for the name on the cover and my having read biographies of Lewis, I'd find it hard to believe they were written by the same author! In the Narnia series, Lewis also deliberately bases his stories on Christian themes, but he does it with so much more simplicity and clarity and lightness of touch than I found in Silent Planet. Of course, these are books aimed specifically at young readers, and no doubt his style and skill as a writer had developed and matured over the years — especially after the 1940s when, during the war, he did a lot more writing and speaking on topics of faith for laypeople. But I can only conclude he was more talented at writing for children than for grown-ups, at least as far as his fiction goes! :wink:
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Re: C. S. Lewis - Narnia, etc.

Postby Anita Bensoussane » 14 Sep 2016, 21:51

Interesting observations, Courtenay. I've never read the "space trilogy" books but I'm glad the Narnia series came later on when C. S. Lewis had honed his skills as a writer.
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Re: C. S. Lewis - Narnia, etc.

Postby Courtenay » 14 Sep 2016, 22:29

I should mention I also read Lewis's autobiography, Surprised by Joy, recently and was also sadly quite disappointed. It's always touted as his spiritual journey from atheism to Christianity, which would indeed be a very interesting topic if he spent much time on it in the actual narrative. Unfortunately, he only occasionally goes into any depth about the development of his faith — much of the book largely focusses on how dreadful most of his schools were!! :shock:

I get the impression this was because, as he admits in the preface, he really didn't at all like writing about his personal life in any detail, especially on such an intimate topic; he was naturally a very private man and of course grew up in an era when one didn't lay one's soul bare in public. So I didn't find Surprised by Joy gave much of a real sense of who he was, what mattered to him and exactly how it was that he came to believe in God after many years of largely dismissing religion. Touring his home in Oxford earlier this year was a much better learning experience! :wink:
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Re: C. S. Lewis - Narnia, etc.

Postby Courtenay » 25 Nov 2017, 19:10

While looking up a quote from C.S. Lewis for another discussion, I came across the source of it, which I hadn't read before — a letter he wrote to a young fan of the Narnia books in 1956. He gives some great advice on good writing which is all still very relevant today and I thought others here might like to read it too. I found the letter in full on this blog called Letters of Note.

Now I think I might have to get hold of the book C.S. Lewis's Letters to Children — sounds like it'd be a fascinating read! :D
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Re: C. S. Lewis - Narnia, etc.

Postby Anita Bensoussane » 25 Nov 2017, 20:05

Thanks for the link, Courtenay. What a thoughtful, helpful response to a young fan. Children must have treasured Lewis's letters.
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Re: C. S. Lewis - Narnia, etc.

Postby Yak » 29 Nov 2017, 21:38

I love the Space Trilogy but in my opinion the last book, That Hideous Strength, is by far the best of the three. It can be read as a stand alone, if you can't be bothered to get through Perelandra (the weakest of the three, IMO) just yet.

Been a long time since I've read Surprised by Joy .. I can't remember much about it.
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Re: C. S. Lewis - Narnia, etc.

Postby Yak » 29 Nov 2017, 21:39

I'd also recommend Till We Have Faces - fantastic book, beautifully and sensitively written.
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Re: C. S. Lewis - Narnia, etc.

Postby Courtenay » 02 Dec 2017, 16:57

That's interesting, Yak — I'm sure I read somewhere that Lewis himself considered Perelandra one of his best books, so I guess it's all a matter of taste! :wink: I haven't read Till We Have Faces, but have heard about it and it does sound well worth it, so that's on my (ever-growing) to-read list. Thanks for the recommendations.

At the moment I'm reading A Guide Through Narnia by Martha C. Sammons, apparently one of the first lengthy studies ever written on the Narnia books. Unfortunately, while there are some good points in it, it's surprisingly sloppily written (paragraphs and even sentences that don't clearly follow on from what came before, repeats of what's been said already, not much depth in general, and even occasional outright errors), so I don't think I'll keep it once I've finished with it. I've got another one, though, The Lion's World by Rowan Williams, which I read and enjoyed a couple of years ago, so that might be due for a re-read soon.
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Re: C. S. Lewis - Narnia, etc.

Postby Daisy » 02 Dec 2017, 19:52

Yak wrote:I love the Space Trilogy but in my opinion the last book, That Hideous Strength, is by far the best of the three. It can be read as a stand alone, if you can't be bothered to get through Perelandra (the weakest of the three, IMO) just yet.


I read and thoroughly enjoyed the Space Trilogy when I was in my teens and liked the first best - Out of the Silent Planet - but on rereading much more recently I found Perelandra rather tedious and decided to give That Hideous Strength a miss altogether. I think I was originally a bit disappointed that it was set firmly back on Earth although I appreciated the story to a degree. Being more than 50 years since my last reading of it, I really should give it another chance.
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Re: C. S. Lewis - Narnia, etc.

Postby Yak » 02 Dec 2017, 20:49

Definitely Daisy :). Courtenay, Perelandra is much more religious in theme than THS or OoTSP and I know a lot of my Christian friends consider it the best. As an unsaved agnostic I find it a bit heavy at times.
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