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Disney film brings a Narnia field day.

Byline: By David Whetstone

Most children come to C S Lewis's magic land of Narnia via The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe, published in 1950.

It was the first of seven Narnia Chronicles to be published but as ardent fans will tell you, the epic actually begins with The Magician's Nephew, which came out five years later.

Lewis once told a young fan that he believed it best if the books were read chronologically with the above novels followed by The Horse and his Boy, Prince Caspian, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, The Silver Chair and The Last Battle.

But later he said it didn't matter. Each is an adventure in itself with a dramatically different mood and setting. They were published in higgledy piggledy fashion up until 1956.

The first one I read was Prince Caspian and I can remember being entranced, and devouring all the rest within months. As a 10-year-old, they really were the most exciting books I had ever read. The notion of them as Christian allegory, with Aslan the lion as a Christ-like presence, added weight and depth.

Anyone who loves a story will feel a sense of ownership and may also feel suspicious of any re-telling, particularly in a different medium. That's why I am not over-excited about Disney's film version of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, out next week.

It will come with all that modern special effects can deliver, probably leaving little to the imagination (although I have to say, I have yet to see a pretend lion that didn't look a bit like Lenny). If you want a foretaste, there are three movie tie-in books in the shops, all published by HarperCollins, which is having a Narnia field-day (all books mentioned below come from that company).

The Official Illustrated Movie Companion (pounds 14.99) is a sumptuous paperback with features on all the cast, including Tilda Swinton as the White Witch and James McAvoy as Mr Tumnus, and lots of interviews. The photos really are beautiful.

The smaller Cameras In Narnia (pounds 8.99) is more for the cine-anorak with photos of the crew using steadi-cam and boom etc. Then there's Narnia: Beyond The Wardrobe (pounds 12.99), a colourful and easily digestible history of the Narnia phenomenon with pictures of Clive Staples Lewis ( or Jack as he liked to be known ( and the home in Belfast where he was born in 1898.

The original stories have been reissued ( as is the fashion, post-Harry Potter ( in an adult edition (pounds 5.99 each) and on CD (unabridged, pounds 14.99 and pounds 15.99).

For those with a serious interest in the author, A N Wilson's brilliant C S Lewis: A Biography, first published in 1990, is reissued as a Harper Perennial (pounds 8.99).

There you will find that we shouldn't be too precious about the tales we love. Also re-issued next week is Lewis's lesser-known Cosmic Trilogy ( Out of the Silent Planet, Perelandra and That Hideous Strength (pounds 6.99 each) ( which was published in the late 1930s and 1940s.

It begins with the abduction by aliens of a Cambridge academic, Dr Ransom.
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Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:Nov 29, 2005
Words:528
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