Narnia vs. The Lord of the Rings | Talking Beasts

Posted September 17, 2018 6:00 am by Glumpuddle

This Fall, look for new episodes of Talking Beasts: The Narnia Podcast every 7th and 17th.


Podcast Discussion

C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien were close friends that each had an enormous impact on the fantasy genre. And, the huge success The Fellowship of the Ring movie (2001) paved the way for a film adaptation of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (2005). So, it is not surprising that these two amazing works of literature are often compared. And, it is about time we did that on this podcast.

Which is better? Many NarniaWebbers adore both worlds, so don’t assume that Narnia has home field advantage in this episode. Listen to Rilian and Glumpuddle discuss which books and movies they prefer, and what makes a good adaptation.

Voices of NarniaWeb: Send your 1-3 minute audio file to podcast[at]narniaweb.com with “Voice” as the subject. For best quality, hold the microphone within a few inches of your mouth.

39 Comments For This Story

  • Col Klink says:

    (Since Glumpuddle joked that the comments section should try to convince Rilian that the Narnia books are the best, I’d like to say that this comment isn’t to change the mind of any Tolkien fans. I doubt I’d want to do so even if I could. I’m just expressing my opinion.)

    I know I’m supposed to like The Lord of the Rings. It’s a popular with Narnia fans and a lot of my cousins really like it…but I don’t. When we were kids, my mother wouldn’t let my brother watch the LOTR movies before he was familiar with the books so he listened to them on audio. I heard them in the background a lot. While I didn’t listen to the whole thing, I did listen to more than just the first book and I found it rather meh.

    I felt like the characters’ dialogue sounded the same. (Can anyone tell which is Merry and which is Pippin?) The only character who I thought were memorable were Gollum (I was actually kind of sad when he died), Sam (though I think I mainly like him because he reminds me of Joe Gargery,a character from one of my favorite books, Great Expectations) and maybe Gandalf. The writing style was fine, I suppose. There are individual quotes that I like. But the description didn’t really stand out to me as great. I feel like the world of Middle Earth isn’t as fun as Narnia because the only fantastical races in it are hobbits, elves and dwarves. (Well, OK, there are a few other things but those are the ones that mostly come into the story.) I feel that a really long book needs characters with interesting personalities, a really good prose style, or an interesting world. All those things tend to be OK at best in The Lord of the Rings.

    I did enjoy The Hobbit when I was young, but strangely I haven’t felt like rereading it now that I’m an adult. That isn’t the case with most of the books I loved as a kid. It’s not like I’ve decided it’s a bad book. I’m just…not interested in it.

    I don’t think Tolkien would have been surprised by my opinion actually. He seems like a guy who was mostly writing to please himself, not other people. I respect that.

    P.S.
    Not to start a fight about the BBC miniseries of The Chronicles of Narnia (I know some fans are sensitive about it) but I really agree with Glumpuddle. I feel like I should like it because it’s close to the books which I love. But somehow the notes are there but not the music. Some adaptations are like that. I feel like I should enjoy them because they take so much straight from the source but whether it’s because of the actors or the sets or the music, they just bore me.

    • Larry W. says:

      Col. Klink, I am not sure if you have listened to BBC Narnia music separately from the series (not just in the background), which I think is essential. Here it is from YouTube with newer recordings from Geiffrey Burgon’s CD:

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uq-SE-4c0Tg&t=18s

      I think it is magnificent, but I like classical music, which the soundtrack resembles. Others may have different tastes. but I just like it for myself. There are many other people who do like it.

      The scripts for the BBC Narnia were great, and they could even be used (with the right permission) if the BBC would ever decide to make another Narnia TV series. However, they would be better if they would include all seven books with at least two or three hours for each one. At least the BBC/Wonderworks got something right about thirty years ago.

      • Col Klink says:

        I’m afraid I didn’t make myself clear. When I was saying that about "actors or set or music", I wasn’t thinking of the BBC miniseries of Narnia specifically. I was talking about some adaptations of books I like which I end up disliking even though stay technically stay true to the letter of the book. It was more of a general description than a condemnation of a specific of any aspect of the BBC series.
        P.S.
        If you want me to condemn them though…I’ll say that the only dialogue I liked from the BBC series was from the books. A lot of the original lines weren’t particularly good.
        Like after she hears about the deeper magic resurrecting Aslan, Lucys says "You mean we cried our hearts out for nothing last night?" Way to ruin the mood. LOL. And when Eustace fails to tear the dragon skin off himself, Aslan says "the essential you lies within." That line was so cheesy I’d have thought it was from the movie version. LOL.

      • Larry W. says:

        "A lot of the original lines weren’t particularly good". This was true of the lines that you mentioned, which I guess were not in the original books. However, I am not so sure as I haven’t checked that out. But most of the content of the scripts in the BBC Narnia series was right from the books with very few alterations. So I guess if a lot of the lines were bad you would to have to blame the source– the books themselves. Is it wise to do that?

      • Col Klink says:

        By "original lines" I meant the lines that were original to the miniseries, the ones written by the writers, not C.S. Lewis.

      • Larry Wildschut says:

        It seems like only two quotations are not enough to judge an entire script. It only shows that the script was not perfect, but few movies and TV scripts are without flaws. When is everything perfect? I thought the script was mostly excellent. Very little was changed from the books, which was much better than the scripts that were used in the movies.

      • Col Klink says:

        Larry W, I feel that you’re a little oversensitive to any criticism of the BBC series. I wasn’t even thinking much about them while I was commenting on technically faithful but unsatisfying adaptations. David Copperfield might be a better example of this than Narnia. The 1974 miniseries is longer than the 1999 one and so contains more material from the book. But it’s dull to watch and doesn’t stir the same emotions in me as the book which the shorter miniseries does.

        I think you need to accept that you aren’t going to make any converts by arguing. That is because I agree with your argument on paper. The book had great dialogue and the BBC series features dialogue from the book so it must be great. But whenever I sit down and watch part of the miniseries, I dislike it. (Note that I said dislike, not despise or anything like that.) The only reason I bothered to criticize those lines of dialogue was because you kept talking about great the scripts were and trying to shame book fans into liking the series. No fan has to like any adaptation, faithful or unfaithful.

      • Larry W. says:

        Although I did go for quite long about what I thought about it, I don’t think that is the same as shaming fans into liking that same thing that I do. I am sorry if you thought that, but doing that wasn’t my intention. It is just offering an alternative point of view. I guess you could see it as arguing or debating, but more likely it is just offering an opposite point of view. There is nothing wrong with debating an issue. It is not obligating someone to accept someone else’s ideas. And of course it works both ways– no one should be forced into not liking a movie or TV series when they actually like it.

    • Keeper of Lantern Waste says:

      I agree with you on the dialogue. Like, my favorite book in the series is Two Towers because Sam-Gollum-Frodo have actual conversations (even if I want to scream at Frodo no he’s obviously evil)

      As for the characters, well I don’t know if I’d call them unmemorable, but I would call them distant. LOTR felt real in the Historical document way so I felt like the best I could do was observe the characters from afar. With Narnia, although it has far less detail, I felt like I could walk onto the Dawn Treader, chat with Reepicheep, and not feel shy or stupid.

      The only LOTR characters who I felt I could talk to would be maybe Eowyn and Boromir (especially movie version). Incidentally, I’m glad to hear Rilian is a fan of Boromir, I have a friend who hates on him.

      (I’m team Narnia by the way)

    • Forrest Lybrand says:

      I agree with you and Glumpuddle; the BBC adaptations are dull, despite their faithfulness to the books. I tend to be a book purist when it comes to adaptations, but there’s so much more to filmmaking than the script. It’s a visual medium, obviously, and while I think the script is integral, the way in which the story is brought to life matters so much beyond basic "accuracy." Production design, editing, pacing, cinematography, etc. But then there are plenty of films that have top-notch visuals and design, and the story is a dud. Films are interesting in that light; so many different collaborative factors need to come together to make it work.

      P.S. I will say I love the BBC opening theme music more than anything that came from the Walden soundtracks. Maybe just because it’s more nostalgic to me.

  • Fireberry says:

    I’ll say this: at least Lewis’ universe(s) contain a few female characters. 🙂

    • Aracon Andaenir says:

      I’m am very sure Tolkien’s Middle-Earth has more female characters than Narnia. 😉

    • Col Klink says:

      This is probably going to start a big fight but I’ll say it anyway. I don’t understand people, men or women, who feel that there has to be a certain number of characters of their sex in a story for them to relate to it. Men and women both experience hunger, pain, loneliness, boredom, lots of things. We can empathize with people of the opposite sex. If someone wants to write a story where all the characters are women or all the characters are men, that’s their privilege. In fact, sometimes when they try to put a few obligatory male characters in a female dominated story or a few obligatory female characters in a male dominated story, it feels pathetic.

      • Fireberry says:

        All true. But this isn’t about "readers relating" (I’m a boy!). I just think it’s amazing that Tolkien could spend vast amounts of time and brain power creating a VAST WHOLE IMAGINARY WORLD, stretching through many huge books, creating 17 imaginary languages and rich backstory/lore, and have ALMOST NO FEMALES in it. I do recognize this is a product of Tolkien’s own stunted upbringing, War experience etc. But Jack Lewis was just as stunted (if not more) and he gave us many excellent female characters: Polly, Lucy, Susan, Jadis, Aravis, Jill, Hwin … Not judging, just saying: Wow, Middle Earth sure missing the estrogen. 🙂

      • Keeper of Lantern Waste says:

        You both make good points. However, this isn’t historical fiction meaning Tolkein could have created whatever gender norms he chose i.e. the idea that females didn’t go to war didn’t have to be a thing.
        Actually, didn’t Gimli even mention that the female dwarves were warriors? Why couldn’t he or Legolas or some of the Hobbits been female? Would that have made them more relatable? Not sure. As Col Klink points out token characters are annoying and obvious. But I find it pretty unbelievable that with all the countries and rulers and fantasy races no women were part of the fellowship.

        Not trying to pick a fight (I’m female and most of my favorite characters are guys) just giving my two cents.

  • Lilly says:

    Tom Bombadill is the best!

    • Forrest Lybrand says:

      I do hope one day we’ll get to see him adapted to screen! I completely understand why he wasn’t in the Jackson films, as he brings the story’s pacing to a screeching halt. But Bombadil is such a colorful character, and his mysterious origins and powers are so great. Also, the Barrow-Downs! That brief, haunting episode would be so awesome if put on screen. And a much cooler origin for the Hobbits’ swords, rather than Aragorn conveniently having four daggers in his gear, like in the film.

  • mary says:

    Come on, people! As quoted by Madeleine L’Engle, comparisons are odious. The Narnia books are for children, while the Lord of the Rings was written for adults. That said, I love them both, but the Lord of the Rings will always have a special place in my heart. It’s such a deep, humane, and tragic vision.

    This takes absolutely nothing from Narnia. Apples and oranges!

    • Glumpuddle says:

      "A book worth reading only in childhood is not worth reading even then. The inhibitions which I hoped my stories would overcome in a child’s mind may exist in a grown-up’s mind too, and may perhaps be overcome by the same means.”

      “I was therefore writing ‘for children’ only in the sense that I excluded what I thought they would not like or understand; not in the sense of writing what I intended to be below adult attention.”

      – C. S. Lewis

      • Barana says:

        @Forrest lybrand : yep 100% agree. The BBC music speaks narnia, the Sony music is great but fleeting,but I’ve listened to the BBC music 100s of times more.
        @glumpuddle: yes Narnia is named at children,but also the space trilogy is aimed at adults,with the same underlying themes, baddie vessels and redemption. "That hideous strength;: A modern fairy-tale for grownups: C. S Lewis"
        @keeper of the lantern waste: IMO, the space trilogy is narnia for grownups.
        Cleanser: yes it does seem a hodgepodge, but I you dig deeper, theresna method to the madness.outlines in Planet narnia.it all fits after reading that book. Tho, I’ve got to say reading it was like digesting concrete, (I still haven’t finished all chapters) it does indeed highlight the pattern.
        Carrie:actually, lewis makes note of that specifically in his semi biography, surprised by joy,that the narnia books aren’t specifically christian.’they are what they are’ Tho we know they point to the Christ.
        I love narnia and the trilogy. When It comes to lotr,even tho I’ve not read it(OK, I tried years ago but it gave me a headache)
        Narnia has great depth to it,but I found lotr hasnt.it is a great story, don’t get me wrong, I suspend my mind and jsr enjoy the story with lotr/hobbit,but with narnia my mind is actively lookingninto the patterns and the depth,yeah like the hermits pool,where lotr will get my ankles wet, if I’m lucky(yes like digory and polly with the wrong rings on)
        Ltr is great but its like reading a magazine, frustrating for info, but pretty pictures.
        Narnia is like reading a technical manual on your favorite thing.
        I understand Lotr is based on military battles.
        Oranges and apples? Spaceships and doilies.

    • Keeper of Lantern Waste says:

      I was always told "LOTR is Narnia for grown-ups." To this day, the only thing I see separating the two are the writing styles. LOTR doesn’t have crazy language or sex. It does have some battles but I don’t remember being anything horribly graphic (not to mention Aslan’s death scene, Eustace’s un-dragoning, and the final battle are all about as violent)

      If the only reason LOTR is "adult" and Narnia is "kids’ books" is the fact Tolkein wrote with superfluous verbosity while Lewis allowed the reader’s imagination to take over, I think I’ll stick to my kids’ books.

      • mary says:

        Keeper of the Lantern Waste, I think we’ve got to agree to differ, both about Tolkien’s beautiful, controlled prose (Ursula Le Guin, another writer I admire enormously, had a lot to say about this, as did Shippey) and about the merits of his books. But he was most emphatically writing for grown-ups. That doesn’t mean kids can’t read his books; I’ve loved them since I was ten (and I’ve loved the Narnia books since I was six). But I understand much more about what Tolkien was doing now that I’m an adult.

        Carrie, I love what you have to say! As I said in my first comment, it’s apples and oranges. They’re both excellent in their way and it’s not helpful to set them against each other, IMHO.

        Thanks for letting me chime in!

      • Keeper of Lantern Waste says:

        Apologies if I came off as hostile. I do enjoy LOTR and if you prefer wordiness more power to you, I’m just touchy because I heard that a lot before I even read it (usually it was accompanied by superior looks-_-)

  • Cleander says:

    I actually never read Tolkien, so I can’t really compare it with Narnia or anything. I will say this, though; J.R.R. Tolkien, though he was a very good friend of Lewis, strongly disliked the Narnia stories because he thought they were too great a hodge-podge of different mythical elements (Greek centaurs and fauns alongside Nordic dwarfs/dwarves and giants.) A strange objection, in my view. This big blend of historical myth actually adds to the books’ appeal for me. Sorry, J.R.R.

  • EJH says:

    There was a year or two when I was a teenager that I loved LotR more, but I returned to loving the Narnia books more because of the encouragement I get from reading them. Not that LotR isn’t encouraging, I mean the theme of having hope is very strong in the story – that’s what keeps Frodo and Sam going when they are all alone.

    I’m voting for Narnia on the Great American Read!

    I think Narnia versus LotR is more of personal preference. Both are good stories that are well written and make us better people for having read them. (Let’s not forget that C.S. Lewis even dropped references to Middle Earth in his Space Trilogy).

    • Jonathan P says:

      (Let’s not forget that C.S. Lewis even dropped references to Middle Earth in his Space Trilogy).

      Wow! That’s awesome!

      The Space Trilogy is on my list to read after Screwtape.

      • Col Klink says:

        I have to confess that even though I generally really like Lewis’ (Lewis’s? I hate names like that) writing style, I didn’t really like The Space Trilogy. I hope that you do however.

      • Larry W. says:

        I am sure you will enjoy reading The Space Trilogy. It’s been years since I have read the stories. I liked the first two books better than the third since they take place on other worlds (Mars and Venus), which is more intriguing to me. Of course those planets are not so much like what the spacecraft found in the 1970’s and later. But this isn’t so disappointing since the atmosphere of the worlds was very creative. Science has advanced so far from the time when the books were written.

  • Jonathan P says:

    The first time I learned of the LotR was finding book on our shelf when I was about 9 years old. It looked boring to me, but I wondered how there could be a book about rings? I did not read it. When I was 13 my Mum suggested that I read the Hobbit, but I didn’t get very far.
    I have watched all three films but not the extended editions. (Also I have seen the 3 Hobbit films, but I do not count them in the same realm of brilliance.) I have a plan to watch the extended ones. I really enjoy the films, particularly the theme of the burden of responsibility that Frodo has to carry the ring to Mordor. The films look classic and tell a triumphant story. The hope is beautiful.

    On the other hand, I have read all the Chronicles of Narnia books at least twice each and some 3 or 4 times. I love the settings, characters, stories and creatures. The feeling of excitement and hope, purity and joy are wonderful.

    Rillian’s comments make me want to read the Lord of the Rings! That, and my friend who was recently describing the brilliance of them. I agree, the films are masterpieces. I admire Tolkein’s contribution to literature and I think he was very influential in the genre of fantasy literature! Think of all the fantasy novels that have been directly inspired by LotR. You could say the same to a lesser extent with the Narnia books.

  • Bardu says:

    Tolkien is just incredibly overrated in general.

    • Larry W. says:

      I don’t think I would say he is overrated, but his books are somewhat difficult to read because of the burden of too many names and places. I think of the Silmarillion, which is rather heavy reading. The Lord of the Rings is easier, but it is slower paced than Narnia, which may not always be an advantage. I could never figure out why Tolkien didn’t like Narnia even though he and Lewis were close friends. Narnia is eclectic, coming from many sources (much of it was from Greek mythology). But I think Lewis wrote the books in a very interesting way and he had a really compact writing style (avoiding wordiness), which I like better. I this made his books more readable than Tolkien’s. Although I like them both, Lewis is more appealing to me because he could tell a story in fewer words and make it livelier without burdening it with complexities such as family trees of the dwarves and elves.

  • JFGII says:

    In light of serious rumors that Narnia is heading to netflix and not to another film, I want to state a brutal truth: The Chronicles of Narnia isn’t nearly as well known or beloved by the world as we supporters would like. Ouch. Talk about buying a Bible and never reading it.

    Although the series as a whole has sold approximately 120 million copies worldwide, over 85 million of those said copies are of just The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (the most well-known book in the series by an towering margin).

    On the other hand, only 35 million copies have been sold of the remaining six books (less than 6 million copies per book), making Lion over twice as profitable as the other six books combined, and almost 15 times more profitable than the individual novels:

    The Chronicles has over 70 percent of its success to thank for Lion.

    On the upside, a Narnia TV series might be a very smart move, given that amazon is developing its Lord of the Rings TV series. Narnia and Middle-Earth were published in the same decade. The series’ ought to as well.

  • Carrie says:

    I love both authors and their wonderful stories. One thing to note is that Lewis was writing for children and experienced writing success in his lifetime. Tolkien unfortunately didn’t receive any fame in his lifetime. As to how many men/women were in each story-we need to look at the historical context in which they were written! Like it or not women did not go to war, they raised the children and took care of the family. That eliminates them from Tolkein as I’ve read that he started the story while in the trenches of World War I, and it reflects his experiences. No women there! Lewis, on the other hand wrote the series as a Christian story for his Goddaughter. Please don’t judge these authors, whose stories reflect the world they lived in, by today’s standards. Rather enjoy the books and the beautiful worlds created by these talented authors. I absolutely love both authors and couldn’t pick between them if you made me!

    • Keeper of Lantern Waste says:

      I understand what you mean by "women did not go to war," during the WWI time period. However, where did Tolkien draw most of his inspiration for Middle Earth from? Norse mythology, which includes the Vakyrie, Odin’s shield-maidens and warriors.

      And I agree, it was written from a different time period and does not need to check all the modern boxes (and even those aren’t all necessary or good) but you gotta admit it would’ve been cool to at least mention women warriors charging the battlefield on winged horses.

  • Forrest Lybrand says:

    Great podcast, guys. Really enjoyed listening to this one. This question is eternal, LOTR vs. Narnia. It goes without saying that you don’t really have to pick, but it’s a fun debate nonetheless. My ears perked up when you mentioned Tolkien famously hating Narnia, as I recently wrote a blog about that very topic, and the competing views on world-building. If you care to read/listen to it (I made a recording as well), it can be found here:

    http://www.forrestlybrand.com/blog/2018/7/24/made-up-worlds-and-their-citizenry

    (If links are not welcomed in the comments, I do apologize).

    I look forward to future podcasts. Y’all are doing a great job coming up with fresh topics to choose from. And for the record, I will always prefer The Hobbit over LOTR, and Narnia over both. But both worlds are endlessly entertaining and thought-provoking.

  • waggawerewolf27 says:

    I haven’t listened to the podcast yet, but I wonder if people would be interested in discussing how influential the Narnia books have been in literature, generally? For example, one previous podcast there was some mention of how similar the seven Harry Potter books were in some ways to the Narnia series. Have there been other stories that have been clearly influenced by the Narnia chronicles?

  • hogglestock says:

    Yeah, I’m late, but I had to add my comments. 🙂 I’d have to agree with Rilian that I prefer Lord of the Rings. I love both sets of books and authors, and I’ve re-read both more times than I can count. But the depth and breadth of the Lord of the Rings is so much greater. Narnia has heroic characters and great deeds, but in a lot of ways you don’t see the struggle. In LOTR, a lot of times you see that the struggle has gone on for years or is almost debilitating, and so the noble actions shine out more clearly. Even the "bad guys" like Denethor are understandable because you can see their thinking and the things they’ve dealt with. I know a lot of people complain about the language of LOTR, but coming from an English degree background, I think it’s pretty amazing how Tolkien shifts the language used for the different characters and cultures–Tom Bombadil and all the great Old English poetic style for Rohan being my favorite examples.

    One thing that didn’t come up in the podcast was The Hobbit. Adding it to the discussion would be interesting since in style it is so much more similar to the Narnia books. But maybe that would be a bad idea because then the movies would come up too. Better to suffer our sorrow and disappointment alone. 🙂

    So to end on a happy note, I love both Lewis and Tolkien, and I regularly read/listen to their works. 🙂

  • Andy Harrelson says:

    Wow, I have a bad habit of falling behind with these podcasts! Anyway, I really enjoyed this! I personally could never choose between TCON and LOTR, they both are enjoyable in their own ways. Also, glad you’ll be doing a podcast on what you LOVE about the Warden Narnia movies! I always felt that you guys were a bit harsh, but anyway, looking forward to it!

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