- 1950: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
- 1951: Prince Caspian
- 1952: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader
- 1953: The Silver Chair
- 1954: The Horse and His Boy
- 1955: The Magician’s Nephew
- 1956: The Last Battle
They are now being made into Hollywood films in the same order. The first one came out in 2005. The “Dawn Treader” is in theatres now (2010).
Narnia is a world of talking animals, witches, castles, dwarves, dragons and so on. In the early 1900s there were secret passageways between England and Narnia that opened and closed, allowing children to visit Narnia.
In the first book the secret passageway is at the back of a wardrobe. Lucy Pevensie discovers it during a game of hide and seek. She and her two brothers and one sister go to see Narnia. When they get there they find that it has been winter for a hundred years. It is always winter but Father Christmas never comes – because Narnia is under the magic spell of the White Witch. With the help of a wise, talking lion named Aslan, they defeat her and become kings and queens.
Aslan is more than just a nice old talking lion: he created Narnia. He is to Narnia what Jesus Christ is to our world: God made flesh. He even saves Narnia by allowing the White Witch to kill him!
Lewis said that the Chronicles were, in effect, the Bible rewritten for children, written in a way that would appeal to English children in the 1950s and speak to their understanding.
Lewis was a professor whose big thing was the use of allegory in the Renaissance and the Middle Ages. But he also wrote books for the general public about the Christian faith. He did that in different ways for different audiences. For children he did it through the Chronicles, mostly through allegory. Christian ministers in his day talked over the heads of most people.
The Chronicles were first read at the Inklings, a writing club at Oxford that both Lewis and Tolkien belonged to. Each week they would meet and read from what they had been writing. So it is where “Lord of the Rings” was first heard too. The two stories are alike in some ways (dwarves, dragons, good against evil, etc), but the Chronicles is aimed more squarely at children and is not as rich of a story.
Reading to children: In my own experience, Narnia is one of the few books, along with Winnie the Pooh, Alice in Wonderland, Pinocchio, Greek myths and Grimm’s tales, that you can read to children ages 6 to 11 and still enjoy yourself. It helps you to understand this world – even though it is about another world.
The boy who appears in “The Magician’s Nephew” later appears as a professor in “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe”. It is almost certainly C.S. Lewis himself.