The Definitive Collection of Narnia Book Orderings

At some point well into my lifetime, C.S. Lewis’s Narnia books were re-numbered into a sort of faux-story-chonology order. My own 1987 Scholastic trade box set numbers them correctly–in the order they were written–but modern editions (including my Gyldendal library-bound Danish editions) adopt the new order.

As we learned with the Star Wars movies, there’s no such thing as a “prequel” to an already released story. There can be sequels that take place earlier, but the structure of reveal, suspense and surprise–that is, storytelling–can’t be reorganized once it’s fixed. Watch the long, suspenseful introduction of Darth Vader at the beginning of Star Wars [*sigh* Episode IV: A New Hope] again. Silence. Sudden violence. Billowing smoke. Then the music… It’s a masterclass in villain reveals. Can one really believe that explaining and humanizing this character beforehand would enhance the scene? I feel bad for any kid who watches the Star Wars movies for the first time in “episode” order.

With the Narnia books there’s something more insidious: The implication that children can’t understand a flashback. Yes, as both explain quite clearly, The Horse and His Boy and The Magician’s Nephew take place before the events of The Silver Chair. Lewis himself took a bright view of children’s comprehension abilities. He was writing for 9-11 year olds, but even much younger children get “because this happened earlier.” They understand out of order storytelling, because that’s how humans communicate. All stories are flashbacks. In The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, the moment of sublime wonder created by the lit lamppost in the snowy forest is in no way enhanced by knowing that, in the Creation era of this world, a villain briefly made it into our world, caused some trouble, tore off a piece of lamppost, lost it in Archean!Narnia, and because the Narnia Inflationary Field was still in play, it grew into a sort of natural lamppost tree thing. It’s a fun moment, when it comes, but that’s because we get to go back into our memory and connect something in an unexpected and fun way, not because we were confused and frustrated by it.

The modern Narnia book order is a mess, but there are alternatives. Below, I’ve attempted to compile is the most definitive list to date of Narnia series orderings.

By Order of Current Publication (Faux-Chronological Order)

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

By Actual Story Order

1. The Magician’s Nephew
2. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
~ 2.5. The Horse and His Boy 
(The Horse and His Boy takes place during The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe)
3. Prince Caspian
4. The Voyage of the Dawn Treader
5. The Silver Chair
6. The Last Battle

By Length

1. The Silver Chair
2. The Horse and His Boy
3. The Voyage of the Dawn Treader
4. Prince Caspian
5. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

6. The Last Battle
7. The Magician’s Nephew

By How Long They Feel

1. The Last Battle (God what a slog…)
2. The Silver Chair
(Only kind of a slog)
3. The Magician’s Nephew
(Plenty of cool stuff for your time, at least)
2. The Horse and His Boy
(Moves right along, but mostly you’re still fagged out from 
The Silver Chair)
4. The Voyage of the Dawn Treader
(Moar!)

4. Prince Caspian
5. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
(That was it?)

By Obviously Out of Place Christian Symbolism

1. The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (WTF’s up with the lamb?)
2. The Last Battle
(Wait, desert demon Tash of the MusselCalormen is real?)
3. Prince Caspian
(“You must learn to know me by another name-” “Baphomet?” “No you stupid prig.”)
4. The Magician’s Nephew
(Yeah yeah, wizards are all horrible…)
5. The Silver Chair
(Stung by a serpent, blah blah…)
6. The Horse and His Boy
(Same as the lashes of your servant, that’s fine.)
7. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

By Order I Read Them In

1. Prince Caspian
2. The Voyage of the Dawn Treader
3. The Silver Chair
4. The Horse and His Boy
5. The Magician’s Nephew

6. The Last Battle
7. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
(My mom found the missing book from my box set at a library book sale when I was in college!)

By Current Danish Publisher’s Order

1. Troldmandens Nevø (Yes, the Danish word for magician is “troll man.”)
2. Løven, Heksen og Garderodeskabet (The definite article is usually a suffix in Danish.)
3. Hesten og Drengen (Shouldn’t it be
Hesten og hans Dreng?)
4. Prins Caspian 
(Free square!)
5. Morgenvandrerens Rejse (Now that is an impressive Germanic compound.)
6. Sølvstolen (Sounds a bit like a French person saving “seulv-.”)
7. Det Sidste Slag (At least the Danes admit it’s a slag.)

By Order I Bought Them in Danish

1. Løven, Heksen og Garderodeskabet (Saxo.com)
1. Prins Caspian 
(Saxo.com)
1. Morgenvandrerens Rejse (Saxo. The bank’s computer froze my credit card.)
2. Sølvstolen (Copenhagen bookshop)
2. Hesten og Drengen (The same Copenhagen bookshop)
3. Det Sidste Slag (I looked all over the damn city for this one.)
4. Troldmandens Nevø
 (Didn’t find it until I was studying in Ringkøbing this year.)

By Quality

1. The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (What adventure!)
2. Prince Caspian
(What mystery!)
3. The Magician’s Nephew
(What magic!)
4. The Horse and His Boy
(What a yarn!)
5. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
(What a children’s book!)
6. The Silver Chair
(What… grayness)
7. The Last Battle (What a slog)

By Order of Writing

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

By Correct Order

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

 The Definitive Collection of Narnia Book Orderings

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