Whether or not you subscribe to the Christian beliefs underpinning C.S. Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia series, his influence on fantasy readers and writers is undeniable. The details of his books–children climbing through a magical wardrobe and joining forces with the lion Aslan to save Narnia–are instantly recognizable. By the same token, many contemporary fantasy authors–including Neil Gaiman, Lev Grossman and J.K. Rowling–have pulled from the Narnia tales in constructing their own magical worlds.
In 2013, on the 50th anniversary of his death, Lewis was honored with a memorial at Westminster Abbey. What’s more, “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” was voted one of the top 10 most beloved books for children in the UK in a recent poll. As the memory of Lewis’ work lives on, discover these five awesome book series fueled by ideas and themes from his books.
Worldbuilding and magical barriers
From the early days of the Harry Potter series, J.K. Rowling has acknowledged the influence that the Narnia books had on her worldbuilding–especially one specific detail. “I found myself thinking about the wardrobe route to Narnia,” she told the Sydney Morning Herald in 2001, “when Harry is told he has to hurl himself at a barrier in Kings Cross Station–it dissolves and he’s on platform 9 3/4, and there’s the train for Hogwarts.” However, she stressed that while Narnia is on an entirely separate plane from England, much of her humor and conflict comes from the fact that the wizarding world exists within the Muggle realm.
2. Artemis Fowl
Author Eoin Colfer cites “Prince Caspian” as his entry into the Narnia series, saying, “I have never been able to see a fantasy world with such clarity” since his first read as a child in the 1970s. The magical rules and rivalries between humans and faeries in his Artemis Fowl series owe a debt to the epic battles over Narnia, led by Aslan.
Philip Pullman has made no secret of his distaste for the Narnia series, calling Lewis’ writing “not honest storytelling” but religious propaganda. With that in mind, one can read the His Dark Materials trilogy as a polar opposite to the Narnia books, especially as Pullman pits Will and Lyraagainst an evil, church-like entity. Then there are the two authors’ treatments of their young heroines: Where older girl Susan is judged for abandoning Narnia when she grows up, Lyra heals broken universes by embracing her sexuality.
Source: Chicken Smoothie
In a speech he gave as the guest of honor at the Mythopoeic Society in 2012, Neil Gaiman shared that he had loved Lewis’ books from an early age. Even as he became an adult and found himself disagreeing with some of the themes, he said, he was fascinated to discover “how much of the Narnia books had crept inside me: As I would write, there would be moment after moment of realizing that I’d borrowed phrases, rhythms, the way that words were put together; for example, that I had a hedgehog and a hare, in ‘The Books of Magic,’ speaking and agreeing with each other much as the Dufflepuds do.”
Respectfully poking fun at Narnia
Lev Grossman incorporates countless literary allusions into his work, but Narnia’s influence is clear–and he’s transparent about calling out the series. In a 2011 interview, he explained that at first he was worried about criticizing Lewis or angering Narnia fans. “I quickly realized,” he said, “that the danger isn’t going too far, it’s not going far enough. If you’re going to borrow from Lewis, you have to travesty him, openly poke fun at him, say something about him. Anything less and readers will see your allusions as merely plagiarism.”