I’m looking forward to seeing the new Chronicles of Narnia movie, Prince Caspian. I was somewhat surprised to see that in producing and releasing the films, the studio has fallen back to the original order in which the books were released. If you pick up a complete set of the Chronicles in a book store today, Prince Caspian is book number four in the series. Chronologically, that is the correct placement for the story about the Pevensies’ return to Narnia, but from a critical standpoint, I do not comprehend the publishing house’s decision to rearrange the order of the novels.
As an author, there are times when you want to start in medias res, in the middle of things. This is a commonly used literary technique which can have a much greater impact on the meaning and artistic integrity of a written work. Since the Chronicles are an allegorical work that espouses Christian values, it seems likely to me that C.S. Lewis had a purposeful reason in the non-chronological arrangement of the books. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe introduces Aslan as a Christ figure including a resurrection from the dead. Since Christ’s sacrifice for our sins is the paramount theme in Christian religions, I feel that was the first theme the author wished to convey to his young audience, and the topic of Armageddon, woven throughout The Last Battle was – well, the last.
Maybe someone at Walden Media felt as I do about the Chronicles and decided to maintain the original order, or maybe in Europe the novels are still sold in the original order and that may have been a deciding factor. J.K. Rowling’s first Harry potter novel is called The Philosopher’s Stone in Europe, but for an American audience, the publishing house felt that The Sorcerer’s Stone had a more wide-spread appeal. It’s sad that international borders actually have the ability to warp an author’s vision – or possibly just the appeal of more international currency. I must admit, I could probably be swayed by the argument to make a small change in my work to make it more lucrative abroad.
Either way, I think the difference in the order of the films and the books will be notable to the children exposed to this classic collection today. Rather than thinking about what the author wants them to ponder, they are going to leave the theater asking, “Daddy, why did they make book four as the second movie,” which I guarantee is not what C.S. Lewis wants children to ask themselves after reading Prince Caspian.
C.S. Lewis was brilliant in writing an allegorical work that taught his personal values while still captivating the imagination in the magical world of Narnia.