The Chronicles of Narnia is a seven-book series by the legendary C. S. Lewis. The fantasy novels are considered classics of children's literature and have sold more than 100 million copies worldwide in 47 languages. Initially published between 1950 and 1956, the series has since inspired movie adaptations, TV shows, stage productions, and computer games. To this day, The Chronicles of Narnia remains a highly influential and acclaimed work, leaving a lasting impression on not only fantasy literature but also pop culture as a whole.

Warning: The following article contains spoilers for The Chronicles of Narnia series.

What inspired The Chronicles of Narnia?

As author C.S. Lewis has stated, the idea for The Chronicles of Narnia came from an image of a faun with an umbrella carrying parcels in the snowy woods. In his essay "It All Began with a Picture," Lewis explains: "This picture had been in my mind since I was about sixteen. Then one day, when I was about forty, I said to myself: 'Let's try to make a story about it.'"

The children of Lewis's stories were inspired by real-life experiences. During World War II, children were being evacuated from London to protect them from anticipated military attacks on the city. At this time, Lewis was living in Risinghurst, three miles east of Oxford city centre, and opened his home to a family of three young girls, the Kilns.

Which book in the series should I listen to first?

While the books were not originally written or published in chronological order, the author's family and the publishers now insist that Lewis would want the books to be listened to in chronological order, starting with The Magician's Nephew. Meanwhile, some scholars and fans of the books argue that the world of Narnia is best introduced through The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, and so that book should be heard first, even though it is not the first book chronologically.

What is The Chronicles of Narnia about?

The Chronicles of Narnia envisions a world parallel to ours, and the series sees people from our world travelling over to that world, meeting characters there, exploring, and having adventures. While the series is not explicitly about Christianity, C.S. Lewis was an author of Christian apologetics before he wrote this series. The Chronicles of Narnia story is influenced by Christian theology. Faith, forgiveness, and salvation are major themes in all of the Narnia books.

Who are the main characters of The Chronicles of Narnia?

  • Aslan is a lion and a major character in all of The Chronicles of Narnia audiobooks—he is widely believed to be a Christ-like figure. Wise and kind, Aslan acts as a guide to the characters from our world who journey to Narnia. He often appears in the story when characters need to be rescued or are in need of moral guidance.

  • Lucy Pevensie is the youngest of the Pevensie children and the first of the children to journey into Narnia through the wardrobe and meet Mr. Tumnus. Perhaps because she is the youngest, Lucy is the one who has the most faith in Narnia.

Edmund Pevensie is the second youngest Pevensie. When he enters Narnia, he betrays his family and sides with the White Witch. Later, however, Edmund is redeemed and fights alongside his family to protect Narnia.

  • Susan Pevensie is the second eldest Pevensie. She later becomes queen of Narnia. As an adult, she is courted by the scheming Prince Rabadash. When she refuses his proposal, Rabadash becomes angry and nearly incites a war.

  • Peter Pevensie is the eldest of the Pevensies and leads the Narnian army against the White Witch in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. Peter is brave and responsible, which is why Aslan counts on him to close the door to Narnia in The Last Battle.

  • Mr. Tumnus is a faun and the character who first introduces Lucy (and the listener!) to the magical world of Narnia in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. Initially, Tumnus brings Lucy to his home in an effort to turn her over to Jadis—but after befriending her, he simply can't betray her. Having failed to do as she ordered, the White Witch turns him into stone.

  • Prince Caspian is the title character of Prince Caspian, the second book published in The Chronicles of Narnia. With the help of the Pevensies, Caspian must take back the throne from his evil uncle, King Miraz, and return Narnia to the magical, wonderful place it once was.

  • Eustace Scrubb is the Pevensies’ cousin. He is first introduced in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader as a bratty, selfish boy—but after his greed turns him into a dragon, he changes his perspective and helps save Prince Rilian in The Silver Chair and King Tirian in The Last Battle.

  • Jill Pole is Eustace's schoolmate who travels to Narnia to help find the lost Prince Rilian in The Silver Chair.

  • Digory Kirke is the titular character in The Magician's Nephew. He is also "the Professor" in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, who the Pevensies come to stay with after they're evacuated from London. Digory is the one who accidentally awakens Queen Jadis. To make up for that terrible mistake, Aslan asks Digory to find a magical apple with the power to heal his ailing mother and ultimately help to protect Narnia.

  • Polly Plummer is a friend of Digory's who ends up stranded in the Wood between the Worlds when Digory's wicked uncle tricks her into touching a magic ring.

  • Queen Jadis, also called the White Witch in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, is responsible for freezing Narnia, sending it into the Hundred Year Winter. She turns her enemies into statues. She's the only villain to return for more than one book. In The Magician's Nephew, the prequel to The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, Digory awakens her.

  • King Miraz is the main villain in Prince Caspian. He murders Prince Caspian's father, Caspian the Ninth, and usurps the throne. Then when Miraz has a son of his own, he seeks to kill his nephew, the rightful heir, so that his own son can take the throne.

  • The Lady of the Green Kirtle is the main villain in The Silver Chair. She rules an underground kingdom using magical mind control. She is also known as Queen of the Underland or simply "the Witch."

  • Prince Rabadash is the arrogant eldest son of the Tisroc and the main villain in The Horse and His Boy. When Rabadash invades Archenland and is defeated, Aslan punishes him by turning him into a donkey.

  • Shift the Ape is the main antagonist in The Last Battle. Although the books never describe what kind of ape he is, Pauline Baynes's illustrations depict him as a chimpanzee. Shift is clever and greedy, and he convinces the naïve donkey Puzzle to impersonate Aslan so that he can overtake Narnia.

What happens in The Chronicles of Narnia series?

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (1950)

This novel introduces listeners to young Lucy, Edmund, Susan, and Peter Pevensie, who have been evacuated to the English countryside following the outbreak of World War II. While staying with Professor Digory Kirke, the siblings discover a magical wardrobe that transports them to the land of Narnia. Together, the Pevensie children help Aslan, a talking lion, save Narnia from Queen Jadis, the evil White Witch, who has sent Narnia into a perpetual winter with no Christmas.

Prince Caspian (1951)

In Prince Caspian, the Pevensies return to Narnia a year after their first adventure. Prince Caspian summons them to Narnia with the help of Susan's magic horn. Although only one year has passed in their world, 1,300 years have passed in the world of Narnia, and much has changed. Now the children must save Narnia from the evil King Miraz, who has usurped the kingdom.

The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (1952)

Three Narnian years after the events of Prince Caspian, this novel sees Edmund and Lucy Pevensie return to Narnia with their cousin, Eustace Scrubb. In Narnia, the children join Caspian's voyage on the ship Dawn Treader in search of the seven lords who were banished when King Miraz took control of Narnia.

The Silver Chair (1953)

The Silver Chair is the first book in The Chronicles of Narnia that does not involve the Pevensie children. In this adventure, Eustace returns to Narnia with his classmate, Jill Pole. Half a century has passed in Narnia since Eustace was last there, and now he and Jill are searching for Caspian's son Rilian, who disappeared ten years ago on a quest to avenge his mother's death.

The Horse and His Boy (1954)

The Horse and His Boy is the first book set outside of the chronological order of the series. The events of this novel take place during the reign of the Pevensies in Narnia. This book tells the story of Shasta, a runaway boy; Aravis, a runaway aristocrat girl; and Bree and Hwyn, talking Narnian horses.

The Magician's Nephew (1955)

This is the second novel in the series to take place outside of chronological order. The Magician's Nephew is a prequel and the origin story of Narnia, which is why some critics and fans argue it should be heard first. It tells the story of a young Digory Kirke, later known as "the Professor," who stumbles into an alternate world after he and his friend Polly experiment with rings given to them by Digory's uncle. When in the dying world of Charn, Digory accidentally awakens Jadis, who goes on to become the antagonist in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.

The Last Battle (1956)

In The Last Battle, Jill and Eustace return to Narnia to save the world from Shift the Ape, who has taken over Narnia after convincing Puzzle the donkey to impersonate Aslan. This story ultimately leads to the end of Narnia as we know it, but in the end, Aslan reveals his true form and that this was only the beginning of the real story, "which goes on forever, and in which every chapter is better than the one before."

So, what are the differences between The Chronicles of Narnia books and movies?

The Chronicles of Narnia was most recently adapted, between 2005 and 2010, as a film series. The first two films—The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and Prince Caspian—were directed by Andrew Adamson. The third film, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, was directed by Michael Apted. While there had been plans to make a fourth film, it has since been announced that new adaptations of the films are in the works for Netflix. Here are the major differences between the three most recent film adaptations and the books.

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

  • While the book only mentions the bombings in London, the movie actually shows the Pevensie children hiding in a shelter.

  • In the movie, Edmund meets Tumnus when they are both captured by Jadis and share a cell. By the time Jadis gets her hands on Edmund in the book, Tumnus has already been turned into stone.

  • The movie includes a thrilling chase on a frozen river that was simply added to the adventure and does not appear in the novel.

  • In the movie, the battle of Beruna is shown in much greater detail for a longer period of time. In the book, listeners stay with Susan, Lucy, and Aslan, who don't get to the battle until it's nearly over.

The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian

  • The movie ages the character of Prince Caspian significantly. In the book, he is only about 13 years old at the beginning of his story (although he ages up later). In the movie, he is a young adult of about Peter's age at the very start.

  • The movie shows Miraz being crowned king. In the books, Miraz is already king and has been for years—since he secretly murdered his brother, Prince Caspian IX.

  • Probably in an effort to amp up the action in the movie, a chase scene is added on the way to Dancing Lawn.

  • The movie also adds more action when the Narnians launch an attack on Miraz's castle. In the book, they consider an attack, but the plan is abandoned.

  • In the book, Susan never engaged in the battle—it was only Peter, Edmund, and Caspian who fought. Meanwhile, Susan and Lucy stayed with Aslan to help him restore Narnia to its former glory.

  • A romantic storyline between Caspian and Susan was added to the film. This was never a part of the novel or the series. At the end of the movie, Susan and Caspian kiss, but, again, this doesn’t happen in the books.

  • In the movie, before the Pevensies leave Narnia to return to their world, Peter gives Caspian his sword. In the book, Caspian is instead gifted with Susan's horn.

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

  • The final adaptation of the three probably makes the most changes, but overall the story of The Voyage of the Dawn Treader film remains faithful to the novel.

  • The biggest change is the quest for the seven swords. Apparently, these swords were all once owned by the Seven Lost Lords, and Caspian is looking for the swords to complete Aslan's table. All of this was made up for the movie. This storyline is not in the book.

  • In the book, Aslan changes Eustace back from a dragon, and then Eustace is able to follow the Dawn Treader. In the movie, however, Eustace remains a dragon until almost the very end.

  • The encounter with the Slave Trader is different in the book than in the movie as well. In the book, Caspian is sold as a slave and later recognized by one of the seven lords as the king. In the movie, the crew of the Dawn Treader rescues Caspian before anything happens.

  • In the book, Lucy is tempted by the Book of Incantations when she sees an image of herself as a beauty surpassing that of Susan. In the movie, however, she sees herself as an exact image of Susan.

  • In the movie, Eustace and Jill Pole are already friends. But in the books, they did not become friends until later. At first, Jill despises Eustace and considers him a bully. It isn't until after he changes during the events of the book that she sees him as a friend.

  • Edmund's character arc is changed for this movie, perhaps to be more in line with the Edmund viewers would recognize from The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. In The Voyager of the Dawn Treader movie, Edmund is tempted by the power of the water to turn objects into gold. In the book, however, Caspian is the one tempted to use the power. Meanwhile, Edmund tries to warn people to stay away from the waters.

  • The movie seems intent on preserving Caspian's image as a noble king with no temptations to do anything rash or irresponsible. In the film, Caspian decides not to go to The World's End because of his duty as a king. In the novel, however, Aslan forbids Caspian from going to The World's End, and this is the only reason Caspian doesn't go.

  • Last but not least, the dreaded White Witch makes an appearance in the film version of The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. In the book, she's only briefly mentioned by Lucy.