Frequently Asked Questions
Throughout the 20+ years I've had this site, I have been asked a lot of questions. Here's an effort to answer the most common ones.
Are you C. S. Lewis? Are you his step-son, Douglas Gresham? Do you have any official connection to C. S. Lewis? Can you do my homework for me?
Okay, so then who are you and why did you create this website?
My name is John Visser. While reading The Chronicles of Narnia, I did some online research on its author and discovered there was nothing available (and I mean nothing — it was 1994, after all). To remedy that, I did a little homework and launched this site on December 5, 1994. It was quickly discovered by others, and over the years the site grew as other people contributed more content.
I am not an expert on the subject of C. S. Lewis, but I am somebody who enjoys his work (my favorites are The Chronicles of Narnia, and Till We Have Faces). The creation and maintenance of this site is a labor of love, and all I ask is that if you've found some value here, please consider buying me a beer or coffee. ;)
How can I contact C. S. Lewis?
Unfortunately, you can't. He died on November 22, 1963. The same day that John F. Kennedy was assassinated, by the way.
I have questions that need answering! Can you help?
My hope is that you'll find something on this site that will help. The first thing to do is thoroughly look around, starting with this page. There's also a nifty search box on each page that will let you search the entire site. We used to have a robust online community, which I had to close to in 2010, but you can still search the forums archive.
Do you have any additional information you can send me?
Sorry, I do not.
Where can I download the text of C.S. Lewis' books?
Most of Lewis' work is still under copyright, and will be for some time. However, if you do some digging around the Web, you probably can find what you're looking for. Don't forget that you can always find the hard copies at a bookstore or library.
Can I use any of the material on your site for [insert reason]?
Since I do not own much of the material here, I cannot give permission to use it. Please refer to the copyright page.
Do you have an archive of past quotes I can have? Can I receive the quotes by email?
Yes, I do have an archive of quotes, but no, you can't have it (copyright laws, you know). The only way to get the daily quote from the site is by visiting the site daily.
I want news about the Narnia films! Why don't you have any?
I made the decision long ago that website was going to be a site about C. S. Lewis. Other people, I figured, would make sites solely about The Chronicles of Narnia and his other books. The same goes for the Narnia films. For the latest news and discussions for Narnia fans please go to what I consider to be the best online fan site: NarniaWeb.
What religion was C. S. Lewis?
He was raised a Christian. When he was 15, he became an atheist, then converted back to Christianity when he was 33.
What is the correct order for reading The Chronicles of Narnia? What do you recommend?
Simply put, there is no correct way. But there definitely are preferred ways.
If you are reading them for the first time, there are two logical ways of numbering the books. When the American publisher Macmillan decided to put numbers on their editions they chose to use the order in which the books were originally published:
- The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (1950)
- Prince Caspian (1951)
- The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (1952)
- The Silver Chair (1953)
- The Horse and His Boy (1954)
- The Magicians Nephew (1955)
- The Last Battle (1956)
When HarperCollins took over the publication of the books in America, they decided to keep numbering the books, but on the recommendation of Lewis' stepson, Douglas Gresham, they adopted the order that follows Narnian chronology:
- The Magicians Nephew
- The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
- The Horse and His Boy
- Prince Caspian
- The Voyage of the Dawn Treader
- The Silver Chair
- The Last Battle
This is also the order followed by the current British editions, published by Fontana Lions.
As for my recommendation, I always suggest that the first-time reader begin with The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and then continue in the published order. Once all seven books have been read in that order, read them again (and again) however you choose. I find The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe to be a much more engaging book than The Magician's Nephew, and you'll find a lot more wonderful surprises throughout the series if you read them in the published order.
Is it true that there are differences in the British and American editions of the Narnia books?
Yes. Some minor changes were made to The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and The Voyage of the Dawn Treader for their American publication. For example, the name of the witch's agent is changed from Maugrim to Fenris Ulf and Peter's title from Sir Peter Wolfs-Bane to Sir Peter Fenris-Bane. In the UK edition, Aslan says that the Emperor's magic is written "in letters as deep as a spear is long on the fire-stones of the Secret Hill." In the American edition, he says "in letters as deep as a spear is long on the trunk of the world ash-tree."
Do you have a recipe for Turkish Delight?
There are several Turkish Delight recipes available online. Here are a few to try:
- Non-Evil Turkish Delight (Epicurious.com)
- Turkish Delight (Instructables.com)
- Turkish Delight (Allrecipes.com)
Why was C. S. Lewis known as Jack?
As a child, Lewis had a dog called "Jacksie" whom he really loved. When he was five years old, the poor dog got run down by one of the first cars in Ireland. He then said that from that point on he'll be known by the name of his dead dog (although he did not like his birth names either). Eventually, the name evolved from Jacksie to Jack. All his friends and teachers called him Jack, except for his one tutor.
Where did C. S. Lewis come up with the word "Narnia"?
According to Paul Ford's Companion to Narnia:
...There is no indication that [Lewis] was alluding to the ancient Umbrian city Nequinium, renamed Narnia (after the river Nar, a tributary of the Tiber) by the conquering Romans in 299 BC. Since Lewis's first successes at Oxford were in the classics and ancient history, it is quite possible that he came across at least seven references to Narnia in Latin literature.
Four references are found in Livy's History (10:10, 27:9,27:50, and 29:15)...Tacitus's Annals (3:9)...Pliny the Elder's comment in Natural History about its unusual weather (it became drier in the rainy season)...Pliny the Younger's letter to his mother-in-law, in which he mentions the excellence of the accommodations of her villa at Narnia, especially its beautiful baths. Of all of these references, Lewis mentions only Pliny the Younger, in a letter to Arthur Greeves (They Stand Together, Macmillan, Collins, 1979, p. 171).
Who was Mrs. Moore?
Janie King Moore was the mother of Paddy Moore, Lewis' closest comrade-in-arms during the First World War. Lewis reported that the two young men made a pledge that if either man didn't make it home, the survivor would take care of Lewis' father and Moore's mother. Paddy Moore died in the war, and Lewis fulfilled that pledge for years, contributing towards Mrs. Moore's finances when he was still a poor student and setting up a home with her and Moore's young sister Maureen when he obtained a teaching position and could afford one. When her declining health (years later) required professional care, he faithfully visited the nursing home until she died. Maureen later succeeded to a Scottish title and became Lady Dunbar of Hempriggs.
The exact nature of Lewis' relationship with Mrs. Moore is not certain: many readers have surmised that it is connected with the "enormous emotional episode" that Lewis refers to in his book, Surprised by Joy, but says that he is not at liberty to write about. Walter Hooper writes that "The combination of motive, means and opportunity invites, though it does not demand, the conclusion that Janie King Moore and C.S. Lewis were lovers."
Mrs. Moore is sometimes represented as the villain in the story of C. S. Lewis. Owen Barfield says people have turned her into "a sort of baleful stepmother." Warren, Jack's brother, described her relationship with Lewis as a "strange, self-imposed slavery." On the other hand, George Sayer writes:
Some of those who have written about C.S. Lewis regard his living with Mrs. Moore as odd, even sinister. This was not the view of those of us who visited his home in the thirties. Like his other pupils, I thought it completely normal that a woman, probably a widow, would make a home for a young bachelor. We had no difficult accepting her, even when we came to realise that she was not his mother.
Who is Walter Hooper?
Walter Hooper is a sort of literary manager to C.S. Lewis Pte. Ltd. He met Jack briefly in 1963, and has since dedicated his life to bringing Jack's works before the public. He is originally American but has lived in England for many years.
Did C. S. Lewis win any awards or honors?
The Last Battle won the Carnegie Award, the highest honor for children's literature in the United Kingdom. Also, Winston Churchill offered Lewis a CBE (Commander of the British Empire) in 1951, but he turned it down.
Are there any tours of C. S. Lewis sites in Ireland or England? Are the Kilns open to the public?
Yes, there are! If you're interested in learning about the sites and how to make reservations, I recommend getting Touring C. S. Lewis' Ireland and England by Perry Bramlett and Ronald Higdon.
You can also contact The C. S. Lewis Foundation for information on how to make a reservation to visit The Kilns, where Lewis lived for much of his life.
Are there any other C.S. Lewis related sites that are open to the public?
In the United Kingdom:
- Magdalen College, Oxford is often open to public visits in the vacations.
- Holy Trinity Churchyard Headington Quarry, Oxford (the site of Jack's grave) is open.
- The Eagle and Child (the Bird and Baby) where many of the Inklings meetings were held is open during normal pub opening hours.
In the United States:
- Wheaton College in the far western suburbs of Chicago, houses an extensive collection relating not only to C. S. Lewis, but also to G. K. Chesterton and Dorothy Sayers. Among its treasures is the original wardrobe that C.S. Lewis supposedly had in mind when he wrote the Narnia books.