The Chronicles Of Narnia

Posted on: 06 May 2008 by Gareth Hargreaves

We explore the inspiration behind C S Lewis' magical tales.

The Chronicles of Narnia by C S Lewis are one of the all-time classic fantasy series.

The adventures of Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy have delved into the imaginations of children and adults alike for over fifty years, and many major fantasy authors writing today have credited Narnia with inspiring them when they were young including Harry Potter creator J K Rowling and Eion Colfer, author of the Artemis Fowl series.

The books have been published in 49 languages, most recently in Sinhala, and this summer sees a new Prince Caspian film in cinemas.

As a child, C S Lewis lived in Belfast, Northern Ireland, and had an Irish nanny named Lizzie Endicott who told him wonderful bedtime stories about giants and leprechauns. Lizzie and her stories probably inspired the nurse in Prince Caspian who told the prince tales about Old Narnia.

It was C S Lewis' good friend, the writer Roger Lancelyn Green, who encouraged the author to complete the first book about Narnia and, later, suggested giving the seven books the overall title, The Chronicles of Narnia.

After writing The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, C S Lewis started work on a second book, a prequel. It was a story about a boy called Digory that would eventually be published as The Magician's Nephew.

No one knows for certain why C S Lewis called his other world 'Narnia'. He may have come across a reference to the Italian town of Nequinium which the Romans renamed Narnia, after the river Nar, when they conquered it in 299 BC. Narnia has its own stars and planets including Tarva the Lord of Victory and Alambil the Lady of Peace.

As a student C S Lewis studied Greek and Latin, and he incorporated characters from the mythologies of ancient Greece and Rome into The Chronicles of Narnia, such as the wine-god Bacchus and his companion, Silenus, as well as fauns, centaurs and the tree and water nymphs known as dryads and naiads. There are also other historic and linguistic references - the name Aslan comes from the Turkish word for 'lion', and the word 'how' in the name Aslan's How comes from an Old Norse word meaning 'hill'.

When C S Lewis started writing his first story about Narnia, he began with the words, "This book is about four children whose names were Ann, Martin, Rose, and Peter. But it is most about Peter who was the youngest." Peter was the only one of his original names for the children to be used in the books though he became the eldest not the youngest.

C S Lewis probably chose the name 'Peter' because it had been the name of a pet mouse that he had kept when he was a young boy, who inspired him to write stories about a heroic little character called Sir Peter Mouse. Sir Peter, who carries a sword and conquers the nearby country of Cat-land, later became Reepicheep in Prince Caspian.

One of C S Lewis' favourite books when he was a boy was Beatrix Potter's The Tale of Squirrel Nutkin, a character who inspired Pattertwig the chatterbox squirrel in Prince Caspian, one of the animals that help the young prince. This character was originally going to appear in the story that became The Magician's Nephew. Pattertwig was going to talk to the boy Digory and - as he does with Prince Caspian - was going to give him a nut from his secret winter store.

Prince Caspian discovers that his uncle Miraz became ruler of Narnia by murdering his brother, Caspian's father, King Caspian IX. As C S Lewis would have known this plot is similar to the events in Shakespeare's play Hamlet. The name Caspian may have been suggested by the Caspian Sea in the Middle East, which is the world's largest inland sea.

The book, Prince Caspian was dedicated to Mary Clare Havard, the daughter of C S Lewis' doctor. Dr. R E 'Humphrey' Havard was an 'Inkling'. The Inklings were a group of friends interested in writing who met at Oxford University, including Lewis and J R R Tolkien.

The Chronicles Of Narnia 7Web Links - The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian is released by Disney/Walden Media in June 2008.

The Chronicles of Narnia by CS Lewis are published by HarperCollins Children's Books and available from all good bookshops, or you can purchase the box set for £23.99 online at Amazon.

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