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Curse Those Evil Octopi!
Okay, this has nothing to do with cursing octopi, but it's a great exclamation when one is frustrated. (It comes from Nihao My Concubine -- Ranma 1/2, the second movie.)
We had a wonderful time visiting the Rosenes on Friday. At one point, we got to talking about the recent Prince Caspian movie. "We haven't seen it yet, " Nancy said, "Steven's on book two, and we're finding it very slow going."
Prince Caspian, slow going? Steven's a super reader. I was shocked.
...but no. They were not reading Prince Caspian. They were reading The Horse and His Boy -- victims of the recent renumbering of the Narnia books which put them out in every order except the one they were released in.
I probably would not be so sad about these changes if I were not a writer. As a writer, I spend a lot of time thinking about scene order, about when to reveal something in order, verses flashbacks. When to reveal something up front, when to wait and use it to expand the readers enjoyment of the story. The idea of taking scenes meant to expand on what we know and putting them up front seems...disturbing.
It's not really the Horse and His Boy that bothers me...it's thinking abou those people who are reading the Magician's Nephew first, instead of later, as a glimpse into the origins of a place you already know and love.
Just seems wrong.
The Cherubim is in the other room repeating "I want peanutbutter" over and over again. Better go make him a sandwich."
While I agree with you, my understanding is that Lewis did not intenionally set out to write them in a specific order, and at least once, he is on record saying that chronological order is as viable as any other. But then, who knows what an author might reply to a fan? Especially one who was probably a child.
I've heard that, too, but I suspect he answered the letter without really thinking it out.
As the commenter below says, it doesn't necessarily harm the series to read them out of order...but it does take away from the sense of uncovering a mystery. In particular, reading the Magician's Nephew later, when you are discovering the origin of this world you already love, has so many additional connotations lost if you read them in chronological order.
I love that sense of mystery, of unwrapping a present, of that upward and inward, layers of the onion effect of seeing a glimpse behind the curtain of how we got to where we are. It seems so sad to me to rob anyone of this.
I don't mind the idea that a child might put them in the chronological order...what I don't like is that some publisher is deliberately ordering them that way...one can't help wondering what their motivation is.
I wonder though, do we love the order, because objectively that's true? Or is it the order we knew them in, so that we feel vested in that experience?
I liked the original printed order. Don't get me wrong about that. I wonder though, how much of that was because that's how I first came to them. Taking each one out of the library in turn, making so much of an event of the experience.
To me, it is the issue of whether the Magician's Nephew is a glimpse behind the scenes or an opening. It makes a wonderful glimpse behind the scenes. It's not the opening to Narnia I would want to write or to have someone read. Much of the magic I like so much about it would be gone.
That is not to say that it doesn't have a magic of its own and that people can't enjoy it first...but they could not get out of it the strange, wondrous sense of nostalgia and explaining behind the scenes that I associate with it.
The Magician's Nephew is by far my favorite of the series. As a child I was fascinated by the nature of evil and how it affected people, particularly those who appeared trustworthy on the surface, such as Uncle Andrew, and the terrible choices even children are forced to make, re: the golden apple.
The front story seemed more real to me and therefore it was more wonderful when the children discovered both the magical and simply odd things which lay beyond the surface of their everyday existences.
Just my take on it, but then again I write non-fiction and very much enjoy sharing the underreported bits of history.
I read them (in the 80s) in chronological order, and didn't realize that they were supposed to be read any other way, nor did it noticeably harm my enjoyment of them. Just sayin'. :)
That's encouraging, at least. ;-)
It's not really the Horse and His Boy that bothers me...it's thinking about those people who are reading the Magician's Nephew first, instead of later, as a glimpse into the origins of a place you already know and love.
I'm with you on the wrongness of rearranging the order of the Chronicles. Lewis ordered them the way he did for a reason. When my son read them, I made sure he read them in the original order, regardless of what number was printed on each book.
Jagi's right, that Lewis didn't intend to make a series when he sat down to write LW&W, therefore you cannot use author's intent as an argument. However, you can use author's subconscience as an argument. I pick publication order over chronology every time I can and it has always proven true.
The author tends to write the next book because of ideas that arrose from the current book he was writing, so he either finds out what happens next or he finds out where something came from. In such cases, authors who write 'out of order' tend to provide lots of inadvertant foreshadowing when you read a series in publication order. So far I have found this to be true of Lewis' Narnia, Brust's Taltos, Jaques' Redwall, even Lackey's Valdemar. Anne McCafferey to a lesser extent, but that's primarily because I didn't like all the Pern trillogies and haven't made a point of reading everything.
Sigh. I couldn't find the peanut butter.
As a kid, I remember the wonderful thrill I got upon the shocking realization that Digory became wonderful old Professor Kirke. I will forever be a fan of the original ordering.
Saw Prince Caspian, and don't really have strong feelings about it one way or the other. Some things I liked a LOT (i.e., the river god, Susan's battle gear--archery in a skirt, say no more!--Miraz and Pruniprismia) and some things I didn't (the castle battle, the lack of the bacchanal, and Reepicheep felt too much like Shrek's Puss in Boots to me).
Honestly, I'm still really fond of the old BBC movies. :)
I liked the new movie very much! But I agree that Reep was too much like Puss.
I really liked their take on Caspian, a character I adored as a child. They made him feel...real.
I read them in the publication order as well, in the late 80s, early 90s. That is still the order I prefer them in... The Magician's Nephew loses it's impact if it preceeds the others... and Heck, what about the sense of wonder LW&W should evoke upon reaching Narnia? Or the Wardrobe itself?
I am most adamant about reading them in published order, rather than in internal chronology.
How does The Horse and His Boy get to be the second book? If you read in chronological order, Lion is second; if you read (correctly) in publication order, it's Prince Caspian. Is there yet another order that I don't know about?
That I don't know. It is possible that they knew to start with LW&W and went from there with the new numbering.
I hope so. As long as Lion is first instead of The Magician's Nephew, what comes second is less important.
If the problem is ease of reading, is Horse any harder than Caspian? It's actually better in terms of keeping the plot moving along, but I'm not sure about vocabulary and such.