Are you up for a Narniathon?

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After I posted a review of Katherine Langrish’s excellent From Spare Oom to War Drobe one blogger expressed the thought “how wonderful a group read of the Narniad followed by Langrish’s book would be!” She teasingly added “Host it, Chris, host it next year!” And then another blogger joined in… Thanks so much, Laurie and Sandra, I hope you’re not offering me what could turn out a poisoned chalice!

Well, as leery as I am of potentially onerous commitments here I am actually contemplating it. Who knew? So what form should it take? When should it start? Which of the Chronicles of Narnia should a readalong begin with? And would any bloggers be interested in joining in?

I haven’t run a poll in quite a while so you lucky people will be treated to a short series now. To get you focused I’m borrowing a title previously used on social media (for, I think, watching screen adaptations of the series), namely Narniathon — short, precise and hopefully memorable.

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Laurie outlined an easy approach to a Narniathon, taken from a Thomas Hardy readalong: “Each month we read the title and discuss it the last weekend of the month. The moderator throws out maybe three questions and we use those as springboards.” As moderator I would pose the questions in a dedicated post and readers could then discuss them in the comments section. This has the virtue of being simple and requiring the least effort from me, so I shall go with it! One title a month, with a discussion of Langrish’s book to finish, would cover two-thirds of a year. Easy-pimps!

So, are you interested? If so, when to start? And what order should the books be read in? (As the WordPress Reader doesn’t seem to show the polls you may need to view this post directly here.)

The publication order of the books, which appeared between 1950 and 1956, are as follows:

  1. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.
  2. Prince Caspian.
  3. The Voyage of the Dawn Treader.
  4. The Silver Chair.
  5. The Horse and His Boy.
  6. The Magician’s Nephew.
  7. The Last Battle.

On the other hand the internal chronology has a different sequence, and is said to have been sanctioned by C S Lewis himself, and though I read The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe decades ago this was the sequence I read many years later.

  1. The Magician’s Nephew.
  2. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.
  3. The Horse and His Boy.
  4. Prince Caspian.
  5. The Voyage of the Dawn Treader.
  6. The Silver Chair.
  7. The Last Battle.

Peter J Schakel in an essay (‘The “Correct” Order for Reading The Chronicles of Narnia?’) echoes many Lewis scholars when he bemoans the confusion created by recent publishers, who have adopted the chronological order without reference to the original order they appeared in:

In one sense, then, as Lewis said, the order in which The Chronicles are read doesn’t really matter, but it unquestionably does make a difference—which he didn’t acknowledge, and perhaps didn’t recognise fully. The decision to renumber and rearrange The Chronicles in current editions may or may not be considered unfortunate. [… But I]t is a decision that detracts from, not enhances, recognition and appreciation of the artistry and meaning of Lewis’s best-known books.

Peter J Schakel in ‘Revisiting Narnia’ edited by Shanna Caughey (Benbella Books, 2005: 91-102)

I will go with whatever you all democratically decide, but should there be a tie I’ll have the casting vote; as a decision regarding this isn’t an urgent matter I suggest a cut-off point around mid to late July, with an announcement in, say, early August.*

Over to you now!

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A note on the The Chronicles of Narnia: my first full foray into Narnia (‘Landscapes to walk in’) found me fairly dismissive, which is why I subsequently decided to reembark on the journey. Michael Ward’s Planet Narnia: the seven heavens in the imagination of C S Lewis was a catalyst for a revisit (‘Contemplating the Narniad’), as was Lev Grossman’s part-parody, part-homage trilogy beginning with The Magicians (‘A book of Fillory tales’). What’s clinched the deal, though I’d already started with The Magician’s Nephew, was Katherine Langrish’s From Spare Oom to War Drobe. (All links to my reviews.)


* Coincidentally, today is the longest day of the year for us folks north of the equator or, for antichthones, the longest night. Anyway, Happy Solstice, wherever you are!

37 thoughts on “Are you up for a Narniathon?

  1. You know I can’t resist a group discussion, and these are books I think I’d enjoy rereading more for having that context. I’m open-minded on reading order – I’ve only ever read chronologically, so I’d be mildly curious to see how publication order works – and on timing, although I’d vote to start December or later.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. If collectively we decide to go for publication order it would make sense to start in December with The Lion, wouldn’t it, especially with that first step into the snow from the wardrobe and the appearance of Father Christmas! That was my initial thought when the readalong was mooted, and as Witch Week would still be running the first few days of November I wouldn’t be posting about starting a Narniathon till the month was well on its way. Anyway, I’m glad you’re up for this! If we started in December I think a hashtag #Narniathon21 might. distinguish it from any previous events.

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  2. Am I up for a Narniathon? Chris, I’m beaming from ear to ear at the thought! This is just the prompt I needed to reread these childhood favourites that meant so much to me. I’ve answered your poll and will look forward to seeing the outcome. Although as a child I read them in publication order I think perhaps in this instance chronological order may add to the experience but I will be happy either way. Thank you for brightening up a wet Monday morning.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. So pleased I brightened your day, Anne! I read them in chronological order as an adult, which made some sense to me, but nothing beats the magic of that first sight Lucy has the snow and the lamppost as she emerges from the fur coats and camphor. I’m really looking forward to the outcome of the polls now! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m with you, Annabel, The Lion in winter it has to be, and December is the only month to read it! But then relating Piranesi to Narnia’s birth is tempting too. Hmm… I could go with either—even though I reread The Magician’s Nephew only recently. Let’s go with the democratic vote! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    1. The Last Battle appears to be the most problematic one of all, so I’m not surprised you haven’t got round to it—no shock or horror necessary! I do hope you can join in though. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

        1. It’s a very common trope, isn’t it: you could see it as Beowulf being bested by the dragon or, beloved by those into American mythic history, Custer’s Last Stand or The Alamo. It’ll be interesting to see bloggers’ reaction to this after a reread.

          Liked by 1 person

    1. Now you mention it, Julé, it’s certainly his style! Unfortunately, even though it’s all over Instagram, Pinterest and Facebook (the shadowed version I’ve used on this post, more than the ‘clean’ original) nowhere is it credited, and Mr Google hasn’t so far been of any help.

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  3. I’ve been thinking of doing a Narnia reread so this is perfect timing! I will always maintain that it makes more sense to read in publication order because The Magician’s Nephew is so very much a prequel, written to explain what was at first rather tantalizingly mysterious in Lion, and thus spoils that atmosphere of the earlier book if read first. The others are chronological either way with the exception of Horse, which can be read anytime except first, as it’s not even a Narnian story really.

    Anyway, thanks Chris, I’m looking forward to this! I’ve been wanting to read Langrish’s book too.

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    1. Oh good, I’m glad it’s presenting itself at a good time for you, Lory, hope you can wait till later in the year! I’m inclining towards publication order too, though we’ll see where a vote takes us. And the Langrish book is good, as you might have gathered: it’s in the London Times “100 Best Books to Read for Summer” and the Guardian’s “Summer reading: the 50 hottest new books everyone should read” if those are recommendations to rate!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I’ll be happy to take part in… parts of Narniathon, I don’t think I can stand reading The Horse and His Boy or The Last Battle one more time 😉 But I’m very much up for the rest! 😀 I think the start should be The Lion… as it presents the first enticing mystery of an already existing world – whereas The Magician (which I like the most) is after all an explanation post factum 😉

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    1. I’ve entered your name in my big red book now, Ola, you can’t back out now! Okay, you’re allowed to absent yourself for the unpleasant bits, even though that will only give you a 71% attendance mark, so long as you get an adult to sign your note…

      And publication order is looking like a strong contender, and a December start. Hope you can cope with that despite the Land of the Long White Cloud enjoying its high summer!

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      1. We still have Father Christmas here, just in beach shorts 😉 I might pretend to be reading the unpleasant bits if it makes in any more palatable for you, Chris – just like school, eh? 😂

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Oh this sounds like fun! Thanks for being willing to host. I’ve read the books in both orders and I STRONGLY recommend publication order. It gives the Magician’s Nephew some meat otherwise it makes a little less sense, if that makes sense. In any case, I’m looking forward to it!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Publication order for this readalong is looking strong, Cleo, at least from the comments, which suggests to me a December start—if you can wait that long. 🙂 Glad to have you aboard, even if you’ve only bought a ticket!

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  6. I’m in! 😀 I shall think positively and assume I’ll be able to join in throughout! I seem to be in line with the majority too – starting later this year and starting with Lion. Publication or chronological order would throw up some interesting discussion i think, but the former feels more closely aligned to Lewis’s path through the process. I’m delighted you’re taking this on, Chris, thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yay, I hoped you would go for it! If we read one a month—most of them are relatively short—then when we get to near the end of the month most of us should have had enough time to have a good think for a discussion. That’s the theory anyway!

      If we start at the end of the year it’ll still be during the seventieth anniversary of the series being first referred to as The Chronicles of Narnia — by Lewis’s friend the writer Roger Lancelyn Green — in March 1951, apparently. And, neatly, seven decades on we should be discussing the seven books of the Narniad! 🙂

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  8. What a great idea. I’ve never read the entire series so would be very interested in this. I was thinking November/December would make a good start but tbh I don’t mind and would go with the general consensus.
    I’ve been a bit hit and miss with comments the past two months so I hope I don’t miss your final decision.
    Lynn 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Lynn, no problem, the decision hasn’t been made yet but a November/December start with the publication order is looking increasingly likely, so I may announce the outcome sooner rather than later. It would be good to have you aboad! (And I’m hoping my reread of The Lord of the Rings may be finished by then… 😁)

      Liked by 1 person

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