Did C.S. Lewis pre-plan Narnia's History?

In The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, several elements, such as the lamp post, the wardrobe, the White Witch, etc. are included in the plot without any explanation or backstory. Several books later in The Magician’s Nephew, C.S. Lewis provides explanations for how these things came about. Did he have these explanations in mind when he wrote the first book or did he make them up afterwards?

Based on the origins of the lamp post alone, I would almost think that he had the information in mind already. It seems kind of out of place alone in the “Lantern Waste” in a magical world like Narnia?

“The Magician’s Nephew” the first book in the set.

Right. They are, in 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
The Last Battle

The Magician’s Nephew has only been the first book in the series since it was re-ordered within the last ten years. This was a decision by the publisher and the C. S. Lewis estate. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe was the first book published. The publisher decided to re-order the series to put the books into the order of the internal chronology instead of the publishing order.

Wendell Wagner is correct. This page shows the beginning dates for each work.

I suspect that details in The Magician’s Nephew were back-written.

I also agree that the details were back written. The weird stuff in LW&W doesn’t sound planned, the way, for instance, Tolkein’s stuff does. LW&W has a lot of whimsy that just seems to be there because it’s fanciful, and in a children’s book, fanciful is exciting. I mean, I know I checked the back of my wardrobe after the first time I read the book. Same with the lamppost - it’s an unusual thing to stumble across in a wood.

My guess is that they’re both just strong, exciting images that capture a child’s imagination, rather than being the intricately planned details of an extensive backstory.

From Lewis himself:


Great information, everyone! Thanks.

C.S. Lewis said that the beginning of the whole series was his imagination of the scene in “The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe”, where Lucy meets Mr. Tumnus - a faun coming home in the snow with his Christmas shopping. The rest followed from there.


Yes, he worked out, in advance, that the the shadows and the Vorlons would eventually come to war and that Sheridan would survive his fall on Z’Ha’Dum.

Thanks for the information, Usram.

I was kind of shocked myself when I went recently to purchase the set and found that they were no longer available in the order they were written. I guess a whole new generation of C.S. Lewis fans grow up thinking that the revised order is how they were written in the first place.

I think it’s really best to read them in the original order. Or at least read LW&W first; it would lose a lot of its charm if you knew more than the characters do about where they are and what’s going on. And “The Magician’s Nephew”, on the other hand, is more fun and makes more sense if you already know something about Narnia: “Oh, so that’s where the lamppost came from!”, etc.

I wonder if we can start a good debate here. Anybody want to defend the new order?

I’m vehemently opposed to the re-ordering of the books, which is why I’m still reading my battered, falling-apart copies rather than buying a new set. If I can find an original set on ebay or amazon.com’s auctions, I might buy a new set, but I steadfastly refuse to own the newly numbered copies.

Fie on those who decided it needed to be done.

Far be it from me to disagree with the Empress of Charn. I might end up being turned to stone in a castle somewhere. Fortunately, I agree wholeheartedly. I think that its amazingly stupid that they re-ordered the book. Part of the fun of The Magician’s Nephew (as in any well done prequal) is seeing the backstory of story elements that you’re already familiar with. Does anyone think that the discription of the apple tree and where it ended up would have the same impact when read before the other books? Or the appearance of Aslan?

Part of the problem is that publishers just don’t give kids enough credit (since they are, on the surface, written as childrens’ books). They are afraid that the poor dumb kids will just get confused. There were a whole lot of people who read them in their original order, and I don’t know anyone who’s been confused yet. Except for the poor souls who think that The Magician’s Nephew comes first.

Unfortunately, the change in order is due to a recommendation from C.S. Lewis himself, as this website says: http://members.lycos.co.uk/Jonathan_Gregory76/faq.htm#Read

And from http://www.loc.gov/nls/bibliographies/minibibs/narnia.html:

Quite frankly though, I agree with you. They’re more enjoyable read in the published order.

Another voice of “LW&W is first dangit” here. When I started working at a bookstore and saw that every last copy of the Chronicles was numbered with Magician’s Nephew first I was quite irate. For me, the coolest bit was realizing just where the wardrobe came from and why it led to Narnia.

They may not have been pre-planned, but Lewis certainly did come up with novel ways to bring it all together in Magician’s Nephew.

I was surprised when I bought my eldest niece a boxed set of the Chronicles of Narnia for her birthday a couple of years ago, and found that the books had been renumbered; I had to put them in the right order before I wrapped them up, and enclosed a note suggesting that she ignore the numbers and start with LL&W. I don’t know if she did or not, but hope so.

Others have already said it, but I do think that the best thing about reading The Magician’s Nephew is that wonderful sense of discovery, when you realize how some of the oddities of Narnia came to be and how it all connects. Those moments of “Oh, so that’s how the lamppost got there!” or “That’s why the wardrobe’s magical.” It just isn’t the same if you read the explanations first.

I have to say I hate the whole Narnia thing, especially “The last Battle”. Too much Christian preaching hell fire and doom. I hate and fear christianity in all of it’s various forms.

Thank you for your close-mindedness, Theom.

Regarding Narnia, the original order is definitely the best way to go about it. At the least, read LW&W first.

Okay, colour me stupid, but when I read the Narnia chronicles as a kid I never got any ‘christian’ influence from 'em. Yes, humans are referred to as sons of Adam and daughters of Eve, but at the time I just thought that was a hokey way of referring to people, much in the same way that “african savages” in some novels talk about the White Man’s God.

Hellfire? Heck, there’s just a bunch of people doing nice things, and a bunch of people doing not-nice things, but no one is burning in flames (except for the people who like burning, that is).

As for the order, I’ve always checked out the copyright dates in book series, and read them according to that timeline.