NARNIA is the Disney empire's latest venture: the advertising and
merchandising are everywhere. Among the T-shirts, stickers, and plastic dolls
is a wide range of books, quite apart from the original version of
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.
Some of the biggest and glossiest of these come from the publisher of the
book itself, HarperCollins. It has issued three large-format paperbacks of
photos and colour images from the film. The most lavish, featuring colour
photos on every page, is
The Chronicles of Narnia, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe: The
official illustrated movie companion by Perry Moore, the film's
executive producer (£14.99; 0-00-720817-0). It contains interviews with the
stars of the film, and articles about how it was made. It's the type of book
dedicated fans will love, but it also offers much to the casual dipper.
A lighter version of this from the same publisher is Cameras in
Narnia: How The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe came to life
by Ian Brodie (£8.99; 0-00-721482-0), filled with colourful photos of the film
being made. If you want to see behind the scenes, and study the costumes,
special effects, and camera angles, this is the one for you.
The Chronicles of Narnia: Beyond the Wardrobe: The official
guide to Narnia by E. J. Kirk (£12.99; 0-00-720571-6) focuses more on
the story and less on the filming process, though it also has colour pictures
on every spread. It includes chapters on the book's background and characters,
and should help young readers to enter the imaginative world of Narnia.
For readers who might want to visit or revisit the original, HarperCollins
has also put new covers on the seven Narnia novels, as well as on other C. S.
Lewis titles, such as the "Cosmic Trilogy",
Out of the Silent Planet, Perelandra, and
That Hideous Strength.
Guides to Narnia
For those who are looking for some help in finding their way through the
stories, various American books offer guides for readers. A Reader's
Guide Through the Wardrobe: Exploring C. S. Lewis's classic story
(IVP, £7.47; 0-8308-3289-0) is by Leland Ryken and Marjorie Lamp Mead, both
from Wheaton College, Illinois - whose study centre has preserved the revered
This describes itself as "an interactive, informative book", presenting
background information about the story, interspersed with boxes of questions
"for reflection or discussion". So we have chapters on "The Romance genre" and
"Parallels to the Passion story", with an encouragement to "seek to interpret
the religious references and meaning of what is happening". The approach might
seem too like trainspotting for some, but it will have its devotees.
Less laboured, but in a similar vein, is The Way into Narnia: A
reader's guide by Peter J. Schakel (Eerdmans, £7.99; 0-8028-2984-8),
Professor of English at Hope College, Michigan. It covers all seven Narnia
chronicles, treating them as fairy tales: hence chapters entitled "Magic and
meaning in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe" and "Believing and
seeing in Prince Caspian". It also has 40 pages of annotations on the
novels, which will amuse a UK audience ("tea: In Britain, a light
meal, usually including tea, sandwiches, and cakes, eaten in the late
afternoon. Meals and the delights of eating are a recurrent motif in the
A couple more volumes from the US bridge the gap between the works and the
life of their author. Into the Wardrobe: C. S. Lewis and the Narnia
Chronicles by David C. Downing (Wiley, £12.99; 0-7879-7890-6) is also
by a professor of English from the United States. He addresses "moral
psychology", as well as questions such as "Are the Chronicles politically
incorrect?", and ones about "the spiritual vision of the Narnia Chronicles"
. He covers all seven novels, but thematically rather than having a
chapter on each, as The Way into Narnia does. The approach is more
fluent and mature than others', but you still need to be quite a fan.
The Magic Never Ends: The life and work of C. S. Lewis by
John Ryan Duncan, a film-maker, is based on a documentary Duncan made (Augsburg
Books, £8.61; 0-8066-5280-2). It features interviews with "Lewis scholars"
and people who knew him, including his stepson Douglas Gresham, and his
literary executor Walter Hooper. It focuses more on the life than the work, and
that in a respectful, even reverential, way. But it does offer clues to the
author's appeal, particularly for a US audience ("I think American society
looks quite vigorously for proofs of God's existence. . . And Lewis gives them
that," says Mr Gresham.)
Biographies of CSL
Anyone looking for a more straightforward treatment of C. S. Lewis's life
will be spoilt for choice. There are at least three new biographies, and three
reissued ones. The rival Christian publishers DLT and SPCK each have a new life
of the author. For DLT, Colin Duriez, who has produced several volumes on Lewis'
s life and work already, has written The C. S. Lewis Chronicles: The
indispensable biography of the creator of Narnia full of little-known facts,
events and miscellany (£9.95; 0-232-52646-X).
This is set out in an unusual but accessible format, giving events in Lewis
's life in short sections under dates - not every day, but often several a
month. These are interspersed with lists and tables, in a style reminiscent of
Schott's Original Miscellany: "Word frequency in The Problem of
Pain", and "Lewis's science-fiction planets", for example. This is all
done with a light touch, and furnishes both a sense of the everyday events of
the subject's life and some of the building-blocks of his work. It is a useful
addition to the literature.
SPCK's offering feels more weighty: The Narnian: The life and
imagination of C. S. Lewis by Alan Jacobs of Wheaton College (£12.99;
0-281-05784-2). The biographer states his aim as "to write the life of a mind,
the story of an imagination", rather than taking a conventional approach. It
makes for a fascinating read that will draw in those keen enough to attempt
more than 300 large-format pages.
The third new biography is by Michael White, who has already written lives
of Tolkien, Stephen Hawking, and Isaac Newton: C. S. Lewis: The boy who
chronicled Narnia (Abacus, £10.99; 0-349-11625-3). It lacks the
reverential tone of so much of the US material - to an extent that many will
find gratuitous: "He had a problem with women. . . Lewis disliked children and
knew very few of them . . ." Mr White concludes of Lewis's books that "the
world is a richer place because of them", but he seems perplexed by Lewis's
One of the reissued biographies also studies these complexities: C.
S. Lewis: A biography by A. N. Wilson (HarperCollins Perennial, £8.99;
0-00-720271-7). This was well received in literary circles on its first
publication in 1990, but greeted more coolly by Christians - and not just
because of the conclusions the biographer reaches about his subject's sex life.
Another reissue is Jack: A life of C. S. Lewis by George
Sayer, the former head of English at Malvern College, who was a friend of Lewis
(Hodder & Stoughton, £8.99; 0-340-90903-X). First published in Britain in
1997, this offers a warm "insider's view", though without the excessive respect
of some. He has now come to believe, for example, that Lewis and Mrs Moore were
Finally, reissued from 1985, but with a couple of pages of new introduction,
is Shadowlands: The true story of C. S. Lewis and Joy Davidman
by Brian Sibley (Hodder & Stoughton, £7.99; 0-340-90865-3). This focuses on
the story of C. S. Lewis's marriage to Joy Davidman, as familiar from the stage
play, the BBC film, and the feature film of the same name. The author finds
Lewis's faith shining through, despite his wrestling with doubts.
Beyond the lamp-post: Lucy in Narnia. From the same book as top photo