One of the most influential writers of his generation, scholar and author Clive Staples Lewis wrote more than thirty books in his lifetime, including academic publications and works of popular philosophy but remains best-known for creating the wonderful fantasy world of Narnia.
Cair Paravel to the Eastern Sea
Born in Belfast, Lewis’s early career didn’t mark him out as an obvious figure to create one of the best-loved works of fantasy fiction. A distinguished academic, he was educated at Oxford University and, after serving in the British Army during the First World War, returned to take up the post of Tutor of English Literature at Magdalen College, Oxford. Lewis had a life-long love of fantasy literature, myth and folklore - an interest fostered by his long-friendship with fellow academic and The Lord of the Rings’ creator J.R.R. Tolkien. The pair became friends in 1926 and were both members of the literary circle, The Inklings, meeting regularly in the Eagle and Child pub in Oxford to discuss ideas, philosophy and religion.
There is evidence that Lewis had been imagining ideas for the series that would become his Chronicles of Narnia as early as 1914 but he didn’t publish the first novel in the series, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, until 1950. He claimed that the world began with the image of the figure who would become Lucy Pevensie’s friend, Mr Tumnus, saying, ‘The Lion all began with a picture of a Faun carrying an umbrella and parcels in a snowy wood. This picture had been in my mind since I was about sixteen. Then one day, when I was about forty, I said to myself: 'Let's try to make a story about it.’ Lewis addressed the first Narnia story to his goddaughter Lucy Barfield, saying in his letter to her ‘you are already too old for fairy tales, and by the time it is printed and bound you will be older still. But some day you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again.’
Faith and FellowshipAlthough an atheist in early life, Lewis converted to Christianity in 1931. Many of his best-known works of non-fiction are responses to his faith and the questions and doubts it provoked. These include: Surprised by Joy, Mere Christianity, The Screwtape Letters, How to Pray, How to be a Christian, The Problem of Pain, Miracles and The Four Loves. When Lewis was in his fifties, he met and married Joy Davidman Gresham, but their marriage was to be tragically short-lived. Joy died in 1960, just four years after they were married and in response to her death, Lewis wrote his classic work on faith and mourning, A Grief Observed.
The Chronicles of Narnia
A magical world of talking beasts, evil witches, epic battles, misplaced lampposts and enchanted Turkish Delight: this is Narnia. Reached only through hidden doorways from our world by those with the imagination to see them, Narnia is a world where good and evil battle to hold sway across the centuries.
Across seven novels (in reading order: The Magician’s Nephew, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, The Horse and His Boy, Prince Caspian, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, The Silver Chair and The Last Battle) readers encounter the children who enter Narnia and play a part in its unfolding history. Isn’t it time you peered through the wardrobe?