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Article: Creating the World of Narnia

Creating the World of Narnia

After countless requests, we finally got our hands on a first American edition of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis. Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia are a staple in children’s literature. The books have sold over 100 million copies, have been translated into 47 languages, and have been adapted for television, stage and film. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe was the first book published in Lewis’ series, but is now considered second in the sequence of seven novels.

The book details the adventures of four children who are evacuated to the English countryside during the German Blitz and discover the magical land of Narnia through an old wardrobe. Lewis composed the story in bits and pieces before truly knowing where he wanted to take it as a complete series. He came up the idea of Mr. Tumnus as early as age 16, imagining “a Faun carrying an umbrella and parcels in a snowy wood.” Much later, he developed the character of Aslan, inspired from dreams he had about lions. The characters of Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy were inspired by Lewis' own experience hosting three children at his country home in Risinghurst during the 1939 London bombings.

The books were intended as a fantasy story for children. They were designed as a gift to his goddaughter, Lucy, who served as the namesake for the story's Lucy Pevensie. The dedication reads:

"My dear Lucy, I wrote this story for you, but when I began it I had not realised that girls grow quicker than books. As a result you are already too old for fairy tales, and by the time it is printed and bound you will be older still. But some day you will be old enough to start reading fairytales again. You can then take it down from some upper shelf, dust it, and tell me what you think of it. I shall probably be too deaf to hear, and too old to understand a word you say but I shall still be,

your affectionate Godfather,

CS Lewis."

In his early stages of writing, Lewis became part of a literary group called the Inklings, along with The Lord of the Rings trilogy author J.R.R. Tolkien. They both taught as professors at Oxford in the 1920s, and formed a fast friendship stoked by their passion for literature. The meetings of the Inklings served as a place for members to read their unpublished works. It can be said that Lewis and Tolkien’s friendship greatly influenced the fantasy genre as it is known today. They encouraged each other to continue to write, even during wartime- Lewis reportedly ventured out during a wartime blackout simply to drink gin with his friend and discuss Tolkien’s “new Hobbit” novel. They criticized each other's work, too: Lewis thinking Tolkien's work too long and complicated, and Tolkien claiming Lewis' work too allegorical and simple. Nevertheless, their feedback on each other's writing helped form some of the most influential and beloved fantasy novels to date.

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe was first published in the U.K. in 1950, as well as in the United States later that year. This is the first American edition of the book, stated as such on the edition page. When they sent the book to be published in the U.S., they ran into issues with the type and were obliged to reset it due to labor union laws. Lewis took the opportunity to make a few small changes to the book before the American edition was published, to include things like Edmund and Susan being interested in snakes and foxes instead of foxes and rabbits in chapter 1, the White Witch's chief of police is Fenris Ulf instead of Maugrim in Chapter 6, and the “fire-stones of the Secret Hill” is “the trunk of the World Ash Tree” in chapter 13 of the American edition. The book is presented here in the original publisher’s blue cloth hardcover boards, stamped with a blue and yellow deer illustration on the front, and the original illustrated dust jacket. Inside, the book is decorated with charming illustrations by Pauline Bayes.

Lewis accomplished his dream of writing a fantastical children's story. He also wove moral and spiritual themes into his world of Narnia to make it the epic seven book series that continues to be read through generations.

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