Introduction to the Chronicles of Narnia
The Chronicles of Narnia is a fantasy novel series written by the esteemed British author C. S. Lewis. The books in this series include –
- The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe(published in 1950)
- Prince Caspian(published in 1951)
- The Voyage of the Dawn Treader(published in 1952)
- The Silver Chair(published in 1953)
- The Horse and His Boy(published in 1954)
- The Magician’s Nephew(published in 1955)
- The Last Battle(published in 1956)
The stories aren’t in chronological order. For example, the fictional world of Narnia is created in The Magician’s Nephew, though it is the penultimate novel in the series.
The Chronicles of Narnia is an excellent fantasy series with a colorful cast of dynamic characters.
The Heroes in the Chronicles of Narnia
1. Peter Pevensie
Peter Pevensie is the eldest of the Pevensie siblings, introduced in the first book of the series, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (1950). It is set during World War II when Peter's father is off to war, and his mother sends him and his siblings to live with Professor Digory Kirke in the countryside. Being the eldest son, Peter’s responsibility is to look after his younger siblings and make sure they don’t get bored. He takes on the role of the “father” in the family, despite being young himself. However, he matures a lot during the first few days of wandering through Narnia.
Peter is noble, kind, responsible, mature, and doesn’t hesitate to admit when he’s in the wrong, as is seen by his apologizing to Lucy for not believing her about the existence of Narnia. When Edmund betrays his family and Narnia, Peter is quick to assume some of the blame on his shoulders for failing to guide his younger brother properly.
Peter is also a great warrior, as is evident during his fights with Maugrim, King Miraz and the giants. However, he is not without his faults. His faith in Narnia and Aslan is tested when he returns to Narnia again in Prince Caspian. He doesn’t believe Lucy when she claims to have seen Aslan because he cannot fathom the reason why Aslan would not show himself to him.
2. Susan Pevensie
Susan Pevensie is the second-eldest sibling of the Pevensie family. In The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, C. S. Lewis depicted Susan as someone who puts rationality and reason above fantasy. She refuses to believe her younger sister's claims about Narnia because, logically, it is impossible for another world to exist in a wardrobe. Susan is a skeptic and isn’t quick to believe in things unless shown proof.
This skepticism means she isn't impulsive and thinks through her decisions. While this might be seen as a positive quality to have for someone who is to rule Narnia, C. S. Lewis punishes Susan for her rationality. After leaving Narnia, Susan becomes so focused on her world that she dismisses her adventures and Narnia as childhood imagination. Since she doesn't remain a "friend of Narnia" any longer, Susan loses access to the world. At the end of the series, her siblings die in a trainwreck and move on to Aslan’s country (which is depicted as Heaven in the books), but Susan is left behind.
3. Edmund Pevensie
Edmund Pevensie is the second youngest sibling of the Pevensie family and is perhaps the only person amongst the Pevensies to undergo significant character growth. At the beginning of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Edmund is immature, selfish and a liar. He refuses to follow Peter’s directions and doesn’t admit to stumbling across Narnia along with Lucy.
However, after betraying his family to the White Witch for some Turkish Delight and witnessing her cruelty, Edmund has a change of heart. He is remorseful for his actions and goes out of his way to help Aslan, his siblings and the Narnians against the fight with the Witch.
In Prince Caspian, Edmund is the only sibling that believes Lucy when she claims to have sighted Aslan. He foregoes his earlier character flaws and grows up to be a kind, just and compassionate King of Narnia.
4. Lucy Pevensie
Lucy is the youngest of the Pevensie siblings and remains a constant presence throughout the series. She is the first to stumble upon Narnia and doesn't let her siblings' disbelief deter her from her belief. Her staunch belief in Narnia leads her to glimpse Aslan in Prince Caspian when her party is stranded in the forest. Again, even though Peter and Susan do not believe Lucy, she succeeds in guiding them through the forest, thereby passing Aslan’s test.
In The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Lucy is a mere child but shows more strength of character than her elder siblings. She grows up into a strong and compassionate leader who doesn't hesitate to stand up for her beliefs. In Prince Caspian, she is a confident archer, and her compassionate nature is present throughout the series.
The character of Aslan is introduced in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe as the talking lion who would often appear and help the Narnians in their fight. He is the son of the supreme rules of all worlds, the Emperor-Beyond-the-Sea. Aslan plays a pivotal role in the story, but he doesn’t remain on the scene for long. His primary role is to guide the Narnians and the rulers, share his wisdom and invoke introspection.
Several critics have compared Aslan to Jesus Christ. In the first book, Aslan volunteers to sacrifice himself to save Edmund, which further gives credit to this comparison. Moreover, just like how Jesus Christ was resurrected, Aslan, too, is resurrected after his sacrifice.
6. Eustace Scrubb
Eustace Scrubb’s introduction in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader is reminiscent of Edmund in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. He is selfish, egocentric and spiteful. However, the voyage that Eustace undergoes turns out to be a journey of personal growth for him. With the help of Aslan and the rest of the people on the ship, Eustace recognizes his shortcomings and breaks down in front of Edmund, who can also relate to Eustace since he went through the same change before.
7. Prince Caspian
Prince Caspian is introduced in the second book of the series. The story takes place in a Narnia of the future, where the Telmarines have exiled most of the Old Narnians. Caspian is the prince of the Telmarines but doesn't know that his uncle and guardian, King Miraz, murdered his father to become the King. He has always been fascinated by stories of the Old Narnians and does not show hatred and prejudice against them like the other Telmarines.
After King Miraz has his own son, Caspian senses danger to his life and flees the castle. He comes across the Old Narnians, joins hands with the Pevensie siblings, and fights for his rightful throne and for Old Narnia. Caspian is not selfish. He is extremely courageous and rules over Narnia wisely, thanks to his humility and compassionate nature. In The Silver Chair, the readers see him serving Narnia in his old age.
The Villains in the Chronicles of Narnia
1. The White Witch
The White Witch, also called Jadis, represents pure selfishness, evil and cruelty. She has no redeeming characteristics. Her only driving force is her lust for power, which leads her to kill her own sister when she would not yield the throne to her. Queen Jadis shows no remorse for turning hundreds of Narnians into stone statues. She steals the Apple of Life to remain youthful for eternity and plots to gain immense magical powers that will help her overtake Narnia. Once she succeeds, she plunges Narnia into winter for 100 years. According to Aslan, Queen Jadis can never be happy because her cruel heart seeks to spread misfortune and misery to all.
2. King Miraz
King Miraz is the primary antagonist in Prince Caspian. His desire for power leads him to murder his own brother, Caspian IX, and plot his nephew’s death once he sires a son of his own. King Miraz is the perfect example of a despotic ruler. He demands high taxes and doesn’t hesitate to treat his subordinates harshly. His egocentric and cruel nature makes him one of the most hated characters in the series. View Examples
3. Shift the Ape
Like many other animals in C. S. Lewis's series, Shift is a talking ape whose lust for power motivates his actions in The Last Battle. He doesn’t hesitate to lie and manipulate his friend Puzzle and other Calormenes in order to fulfill his desires. Shift grows increasingly evil as the story progresses and does not think twice before murdering them and selling them off into slavery. As the evil within Shift increases, he takes on a more human-like appearance. Some critics view this as a commentary on how human beings are the true evil in society.
Prince Rabadash is the son of King Tisroc of Calormene and the main antagonist of The Horse and His Boy. The Pevensie siblings had tried to improve diplomatic relations between Narnia and Calormene during Tisroc’s rule. During a visit to Narnia, Rabadash falls in love with Susan Pevensie and wants to marry her. But Susan fears he will keep the Narnians hostage until she gives in and rejects his proposal.
In revenge, Rabadash plans to conquer Archenland, a country between Narnia and Calormene. But his plot fails, and he is taken prisoner. Despite Aslan giving him the opportunity to redeem himself, Rabadash continues mocking the ruler of Archenland and Narnia. Eventually, Aslan curses Rabadash to turn into a donkey if he ventures more than ten miles from Tash’s temple. As a result of Rabadash’s restricted moving, his rule after succeeding his father was a peaceful one, earning him the title “Rabadash the Peacemaker.”
5. Lady of the Green Kirtle
The Lady of the Green Kirtle, also known as the Emerald Witch or the Green Witch, is the main antagonist of The Silver Chair. The sorceress ruled over the Shallow Lands, which she had magically created underneath Narnia, Ettinsmoor and the Wild Lands of the North.
In order to conquer Narnia, the Emerald Witch kidnaps Prince Rilian, son of King Caspian X and poisons Rilian’s mother. She keeps Rilian hostage for years using various enchantments but eventually meets her end when Rilian recognizes her serpent form and beheads her.
The Allies in the Chronicles of Narnia
1. Mr Tumnus
Mr Tumnus is first introduced in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. The male faun was a servant of the White Witch and the first Narnian to meet Lucy Pevensie. Afraid to disobey the White Witch's orders, Mr Tumnus initially planned to kidnap Lucy and present her to the Witch. However, he could not go through with the plan. He joins the fight against the White Witch and eventually gains a high position as an official in Narnia.
2. Jill Pole
Jill Pole is one of the Daughters of Eve and a friend of Narnia. She plays a significant role in The Silver Chair and The Last Battle. Jill enters Narnia along with Eustace Scrubb and is instrumental in rescuing Prince Rilian and helping King Tirian against the Calormene invasion.
Trumpkin the Dwarf is first introduced in Prince Caspian. He is extremely practical and skeptical. Though part of the Old Narnians, Trumpkin finds it hard to put his faith in someone like Aslan, whom he has never seen with his own eyes before. However, he is exhausted at being unable to live freely in Narnia and eventually joins hands with Prince Caspian to overthrow the Telmarines.
Puddlegum first appears in The Silver Chair and is mentioned briefly in The Last Battle. He is a "Marsh-wiggle" and extremely pessimistic but is a staunch companion to Eustace and Jill as they venture to rescue Prince Rilian. Though he comes off as a "wet blanket" in the initial chapters, Puddlegum manages to break the Emerald Witch’s spell and free the prince.
The Narnia series is one of C. S. Lewis's best works, where readers can encounter a rich cast of characters. Most of the heroes, allies and villains aren't one-dimensional and show impressive character growth.