The test of a good story, said C. S. Lewis, is whether it is often
His own stories, the Chronicles of Narnia (also known as the Narniad,
imitating the great chronicle of the siege of Troy, the Iliad),
have surpassed that test for millions of readers. Most of us who have
fallen under the spell of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe have not only stayed to hear or read the story of Narnia from its beginning to
its second beginning (The Last Battle) but find ourselves returning
again and again, perhaps every few years, to appreciate anew its real
beauties. Each reader brings to the Chronicles his or her own story
and comes away with expanded horizons and renewed vision.
This Companion to Narnia has been written for those who know
the Chronicles to be very good stories and who want to take a friend
back with them to point out sights they haven't seen or want to see
again through another pair of eyes.
If you have ever read the Chronicles aloud to a child or group of
children, you know that they raise questions you haven't even considered.
This volume does not intend to give final answers (because no
final meaning can ever be put to a work of the imagination), but to
suggest the direction in which answers and deeper meanings can be
sought. Companion to Narnia means to help you explore the various strands that Lewis weaves into the fabric of the Chronicles -- literary, religious, philosophical, mythopoeic, homely, and personal images --the same fibers out of which our own stories are woven.
With the encyclopedic format of Companion to Narnia you may
explore whatever angle you wish to take on the books. Beginning
anywhere, with a character, an object, or a theme, you may go as
far as you wish in pursuing a thread of curiosity. (See Using the Companion,
after this Introduction, for more guidance.)
But no guide to Narnia can ever take the place of the seven
This book has been written for young people and adults who
have read the Chronicles at least once, and who now want to explore
what one critic has called the "allusive sub-text" that Lewis, as
scholar and Christian, delighted in providing older readers of his
fairy tales. Lewis was convinced that while an author intends, a
book means, that is,
the meaning of a book is the series or systems of emotions, reflections, and attitudes produced by reading it.
. this product differs with different readers . The ideally
true or right meaning would be that shared . by the largest
number of the best readers after repeated and careful readings
over several generations, different periods, nationalities, moods,
degrees of alertness, private pre-occupations, states of health,
spirits, and the like cancelling one another out when . they
cannot be fused so as to enrich one another.
As far as is humanly possible Companion to Narnia tries to ascertain
and reveal Lewis's intentions and only then proceed to suggest the
meanings of Narnian events, characters, objects, and themes.
How to Read the Chronicles of Narnia
The best way to appreciate a story is to step into it and enjoy it. As
Peter Schakel tells us, the Chronicles need to be read with the heart.
One hazard in an encyclopedic study such as this is the everpresent
risk of analyzing the life right out of a story. Stories are living
things, and the result of any vivisection is only data about the
thing and not the thing itself. The information and analyses in this
book are meant to guide you to a deeper experience of the openended
nature of the Chronicles and not to close off all debate.
Another hazard to be avoided is the desire to look for allegories,
one-to-one correspondences between philosophical or religious
concepts and the characters or events or objects in a story. Lewis
was adamant that he was not writing allegory when he wrote the
C. S. Lewis himself was very careful not to decode the Chronicles
for the young children who wrote him about their meaning .Continues.