The Way into Narnia: A Reader's Guide


The practical companion you need for your journey through C. S. Lewis's Chronicles of Narnia

How did a middle-aged professor with no children write books that have become beloved classics of children's literature? What is the best order for reading the Chronicles of Narnia? Whatever one's question, The Way into Narnia offers valuable guidance for first-time visitors to Narnia and fresh insights for those who have already traveled there often.


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The practical companion you need for your journey through C. S. Lewis's Chronicles of Narnia

How did a middle-aged professor with no children write books that have become beloved classics of children's literature? What is the best order for reading the Chronicles of Narnia? Whatever one's question, The Way into Narnia offers valuable guidance for first-time visitors to Narnia and fresh insights for those who have already traveled there often.

Exploring ideas from Lewis's friend J. R. R. Tolkien, Peter Schakel shows that the best way to enter Narnia is to read the Chronicles as fairy tales. After walking readers through each of the books, he concludes the tour with a unique section of annotations that clarify unfamiliar words and unusual passages.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Journal of Inklings Studies
"Schakel's The Way into Narnia teaches readers how to peek behind the veil and behold the literary power at work on their imaginations."
Disney's film version of perennial fantasy favorite The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe will pique interest in C. S. Lewis's Chronicles of Narnia. This title provides readers with excellent information about all seven books in the series. Schakel's third book about the Chronicles focuses on the books as fairy tales. This volume has three parts: The first concerns Lewis, the second analyzes the books, and the third provides annotations for each book. Analytical and scholarly without being ponderous, this book gives readers insight into the allusion and allegory in the Chronicles. The annotations are superb for definition and clarification of the texts. High school readers will appreciate this splendid source for a deeper understanding of the series. VOYA CODES: 4Q 2P S (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses; For the YA with a special interest in the subject; Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12). 2005, Eerdmans, 212p.; Index. Further Reading., $14 Trade pb. Ages 15 to 18.
—Rachelle Bilz
Children's Literature
This expert on the seven "Narnian Chronicles" begins by recommending that the best reading sequence is the order of publication. This way the entry into Narnia is established, along with several characters which appear later. Although the last published book has the same time frame as the first book we are advised to read it later as a flashback. Fairy tale, fantasy, and myth are given definition. The Chronicles are analyzed and related to the life and interests of C. S. Lewis. Although most metaphors of the Chronicles relate to Christianity, Greek and Norse mythology were also appropriated. Extensive notes at the back compare the wording of English and various American editions. There is an index and a list of books and articles for further reading. This is a book for teachers of the Chronicles or for Narnia aficionados. 2005, William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Ages 12 up.
—Carlee Hallman
Library Journal
Schakel (English, Hope Coll.) has written or edited five books on Lewis, including two about "The Chronicles." Here he revisits the series by providing some fresh insight, arguing that the most rewarding way to read the series is not as allegory (as many have previously suggested) but as fairy tales. He also delves into Lewis's friendship with J.R.R. Tolkien and considers his immense knowledge of medieval and Renaissance literature. Extensive annotations for all seven books help first-time readers. An accessible and important contribution to the Narnia scholarship; highly recommended. Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780802829849
  • Publisher: Eerdmans, William B. Publishing Company
  • Publication date: 7/28/2005
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 202
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Table of Contents

The chronicles : the author and the books 1
1 The story-maker and his stories 3
2 Controversies over texts and reading order 13
The chronicles as fairy tales 23
3 The storytelling : fairy tale, fantasy, and myth 25
4 Magic and meaning in The lion, the witch and the wardrobe 39
5 Believing and seeing in Prince Caspian 50
6 Longing and learning in The voyage of the "dawn treader" 60
7 Freedom and obedience in The silver chair 71
8 Place and personal identity in The horse and his boy 82
9 Endings and beginnings in The magician's nephew 94
10 Endings and transcendings in The last battle 103
11 The stories told : fairy-land and its effects 114
The chronicles : annotations 119
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  • Posted January 19, 2010

    Debbie Higgens, Ph.D. Reviews: The Way into Narnia: A Reader's Guide by Peter Schakel

    As Aslan breathes life into his Narnian characters, so Peter Schakel breathes life into an understanding of C.S. Lewis's creation of his fantasy world. In his approach to Lewis's writing, Schakel seems to have a heart inside the literature which illuminates everything! Schakel sheds light on Lewis "the story-maker" as he picks through the multitude of biographical information and forges a picture with important facts that bear solely on Lewis's writing.

    Schakel's background in literary studies provides unique insight into the threading of Lewis's journey through childhood as he embraced Northern myth, his childhood creation of Animal Land, his studies of medieval literature, and especially Spenser's Faerie Queene, as well as his literary friendship with J.R.R. Tolkien and the later crucial element of his Christian experience.

    After providing a very readable but solid literary structure, Schakel enlightens the reader to textual controversy and arguments concerning reading order that have affected the Chronicles over the past 20 years.

    Schakel then expands his structure by setting the Chronicles within the solid base of fairy tale, fantasy, and myth. Readers will delight to find Lewis's friendship with J.R.R. Tolkien extended to embrace Tolkien's essay "On Fairy-Stories" in a wonderful interlacing of Lewis's and Tolkien's fairy story characteristics for the remainder of the chapters-each addressing a Narnian chronicle.

    Schakel's approach to each of the Narnian stories is original and refreshing, and very different then his previous book, Reading with the Heart: The Way into Narnia (also well worth reading). For example, in the chapter on The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Schakel details the "storyteller's magic" in his creation of this secondary world filled with wonder. He sheds light on why Lewis describes his created world as suppositional and not allegorical, clearly explaining the difference alongside illustrations from the text. Then in the following six chapters Schakel expertly blends Lewis's world of each particular book with the themes involved, their suppositional meaning, and relevant literary criticism. The book closes with an invaluable section clarifying problem areas of the Chronicles, such as archaic words, allusions, and parallels to other works by Lewis.

    Readers who have ever lost themselves in one of Lewis's engaging tales of Narnia, stepping into a land of snow and ice, envisioning fawns, Dufflepuds, Marsh-wiggles, and adventures untold, Peter Schakel's book is guaranteed to take that magic one step further. As C.S. Lewis said, "Further up and further in." The Way into Narnia: A Reader's Guide is a must read.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 5, 2005

    The Way Into Narnia-A 'Must' for all Narnia travelers and adventurers

    Peter J. Schakel's 'The Way Into Narnia: A Reader's Guide' is a fascinating, in-depth look into the beautiful realm of C. S. Lewis's land of Narnia. In each chapter Schakel develops and shapes the key underlying ideas that are hidden just under the surface of all seven of the Chronicles. Schakel's 'Guide' is a great companion to use while reading the Narnia series. Not only is Schakel's approach intelligent and enlightening, but it is also fun and very user/reader-friendly. 'The Way Into Narnia' is a treasure...I only wish I had it when I was reading Lewis's series the first time! Perfect for anyone wanting to learn what lies beneath the surface and have a clearer understanding of why Lewis wrote the Chronicles of Narnia. Also quite helpful are the annotations and the chapter discussing the order of the series.

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