Ranking the Chronicles of Narnia from 1 to 7 | Talking Beasts

The Chronicles of Narnia are seven fantastic books… which is what made this episode so agonizing to record. Listen to Glumpuddle and Rilian reveal how they would rank these masterpieces:

  • The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (1950)
  • Prince Caspian: The Return to Narnia (1951)
  • The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (1952)
  • The Silver Chair (1953)
  • The Horse and His Boy (1954)
  • The Magician’s Nephew (1955)
  • The Last Battle (1956)

Disagree with the lists? Post a comment below!

Post-Show Chatter: The podcasters discuss how kid-friendly Netflix’s Narnia movies should be.

Rilian, Glumpuddle

27 Responses

  1. chris says:

    I think the lion the witch and the wardrobe is my favourite book for reasons Glumpuddle mentioned, it’s so perfect in it’s simplicity and packs so much timeless imagery and children’s fantasy tropes into it that it doesn’t have time to more developed – and doesn’t need to be. It’s almost as if the other six chronicles are there to develop some of the themes, characters, tropes etc in LWW. There’s a very brief “road trip” to the stone table in LWW which the Horse and Boy and Silver Chair make entire books out of, the cast of magical creatures in LWW is bigger than any other book packing in witches, wolves, giants, centaurs, fauns, dwarfs, they all get a mention and later on in each book Lewis seems to cherry pick from that cast some of those creatures to develop a little more and give time in the spotlight to (Prince Caspian has dwarfs take center stage alongside the heroes while Silver Chair had witches and giants as the main villains etc) And of course the magician’s nephew is a direct prequel to LWW explaining how everything got there, while Prince Caspian is a direct sequel… the characters spend pages and pages literally talking and debating about the events in LWW! For me LWW doesn’t have to be more developed or detailed, it’s almost like a premature “Greatest Hits” of Narnia and the other books delve into all of the wonderful things Lewis introduces in that first book.
    I don’t know how I’d rank the others but the last battle is my least favourite, not because I don’t think it’s a good book but it’s rather painful to read. A lot of the magic is gone (in the first half of the book at least) but I suppose that’s the point of it.

    • Col Klink says:

      That’s interesting because I feel like those things make LWW my least favorite Narnia book (or close to it anyway.) While the description of the harrowing journey is great, (for being my least favorite book in the series, it might have some of my favorite descriptive writing), it’s so short that it doesn’t have the impact of similar “road trips” in the other books. And while the descriptions of the fantastic creatures are great, the tight story requires them to be so brief that I don’t feel the impact as much when I read the book.

      Fans seem to either like that The Last Battle is so much more depressing than the other Narnia books or dislike that it is so much more depressing than the other Narnia books. Personally, I’d never want the other books to be more like LB but neither would I want LB to be more like the other books. They’re all great in their own ways.

      • Christopher says:

        I suppose the road trip to the stone table is more of a chase scene, which is why it’s probably so short, I agree it certainly doesn’t have the same impact some of the traveling in the other books have. I really enjoy later in the chronicles the little details we get about the adventures, like in the silver chair when Lewis describes the messiness of plucking and cooking a bird to eat. The children never have to worry about how they are going to eat in LWW, the beavers inexplicably have all that food and later on Aslan pulls out a evening tea for everyone out of nowhere! I certainly feel the books improve on writing quality in terms of little details and dashes of realism that immerse you in the story as the series progresses but LWW is still my most beloved despite that

    • Larry W. says:

      The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe is the best book to begin reading Narnia. The scene of Lucy Pevensie entering the wardrobe is the most powerful introduction to the world of Narnia, and there is nothing else like it in literature. It isn’t surprising that many people choose it as their favorite. The book actually is my second choice because I am a little more intrigued by Voyage of the Dawn Treader and its incredible realistic sea journey. It was a very hard decision, but I might like the Dawn Treader and its voyage a little better. But I love them both very much to be honest. 🙂

  2. Col Klink says:

    What the podcasters said about how they’re ranking some books lower just because other books are so great, not because there’s anything wrong with them, really resonated with me. If I’m honest, I think all the Narnia books are about the same, with my favorites being A+’s and my least favorites A-‘s. (All the rest are A’s.)

    The Last Battle is pretty low on my list too and sometimes I feel bad about that. It really is a masterful piece of writing. Apart from it being the finale, like this episode talked about, I wonder if the reason I don’t rank it higher is because controversial books tend to annoy me. (They come across as begging for attention.) If you look at all the episodes on this podcast that talk about Narnian controversies, you’ll find most of them are either about The Last Battle or could relate to The Last Battle.

    I love that you guys talked about whether the ending to The Magician’s Nephew is an unhealthy wish fulfillment fantasy. (Actually, I think I’ve been wanting you discuss that for years.) Like Glumpuddle, I think it works wonderfully from a dramatic standpoint, though I’m willing to listen to counterarguments. I find it a really cool idea that Digory only is given a cure for his mother after he surrenders all hope of doing so. The case can definitely be made that this undermines the message but I’d say it makes the story more interesting.

    People who like sad endings can sometimes look down on people who like happy endings, thinking that they just have their heads in the sand all the time and can’t face reality. (Part of the reason I don’t love A Series of Unfortunate Events is because I feel it encourages people to take this view.) While a love of optimistic endings could reflect this weakness, a love of pessimistic ones could also indicate an unhealthy morbidity. It could…but I don’t think it often does. What I see as the big problem is people who like different endings negatively stereotyping each other. People who like tragedy assume that people who prefer the opposite are unaware of or willfully blind to the sad reality of life, but a lot of times people are already fully aware of sad reality and look to stories for something different. People who like uplifting endings assume that people who like tragic ones want everyone else to be as miserable as they are, but if wanting to know you’re not alone in your problems is selfish, it’s also unavoidable. Both camps are simply using stories to help them deal with life’s problems in their own way. They probably have much more in common than they realize.

    What Glumpuddle said about how he was surprised he ranked LWW so highly reminds me of myself when I rank books by Charles Dickens. Oliver Twist ends up near the top even though other, later Dickens, like Little Dorrit or Bleak House, are more interesting. The thing is those books also have big flaws that Oliver Twist lacks, although they also have big virtues it lacks. I guess being more complex and interesting is a double-edged sword. It means the possibility of greater highs and the risk of greater lows.

    Man, it’s good to have this podcast back!

  3. Hasdrubal says:

    I think the best have to be The Last Battle and The Magician’s Nephew. Digory surrendering his mum’s cure was the most emotional scene in the entire series. Add in the creation of Narnia, The Witch’s backstory – its just the most interesting and unique. And with The Last Battle – again, I love how different it is compared to other fantasy books which conclude a series. As I kid, it was just so shocking and interesting to witness the end of the world and how brutal it all way.

  4. Reepicheep775 says:

    It’s great to hear a new podcast – and to have Rilian back on the show.

    I should probably finish my re-read of the series before I do this (I’m currently on VDT), but here is my list right now:

    1. VDT
    2. SC
    3. PC
    4. LWW
    5. HHB
    6. MN
    7. LB

    I’ve had a similar experience to glumPuddle recently with LWW. I think there’s something about the current state of the world (the pandemic, political division etc.) that made the themes of the story really resonate with me and it reminded me of why I fell in love with LWW (and later the entire series in the first place).

    I don’t know if there’s ever been a time in my lifetime where there has been such a global lack of joy and optimism. It does feel like a hundred year winter and the scene of Tumnus recounting the good days in Narnia made me ache with longing… not just for our world pre-2020 (because, of course, that was hardly paradise either), but for a better world.

    I probably would have put LWW at 5 or 6 before my last re-read. I might even see it over-taking PC…

    I really want to hear glumPuddle’s comparison of Reepicheep and Uncle Andrew now. 😛

  5. Bundibird says:

    I can’t believe you guys ranked the Last Battle in last place!!!! That one is my FAVOURITE!! Unquestionably!! I love the characters, but also, it’s such a unique book. It’s an “End Of The World” book…. but it’s so HOPEFUL. The world ends, yeah, but what comes after is actually… BETTER. True Narnia is brighter and bigger and more wonderful than regular Narnia was, and (almost) everyone is there – Peter and Edmund and Lucy and Tumnus and Diggory and Caspian and Reepicheep… I just love it. I love how, initially, sure, it was all terrible and horrible and the world was literally ENDING, but what came after was so GOOD. So fantastic and vibrant and full of love and life and hope.

    And from an ethical/theological perspective I always loved the concept of good deeds done in the name of a bad deity/bad deeds done in the name of a good deity are actually attributed to the opposite deity. The Calormen soldier who was loyal to Tash, but he was a good dude who did good things “In the name of Tash,” but those good deeds were actually done in the name of Aslan, because they were good; versus everything that Shift did “in the name of Aslan” actually going to Tash. As a concept, I loved that. That who you do acts in the name of doesn’t matter so much as what those acts are.

    And the dwarves, and how their cynicism and disbelief carried through even to True Narnia and meaning that when they were given the most incredible, amazing fruits, they all thought that they had been given donkey dung. Again, concept-wise, I loved that. That your attitude has a direct and significant affect on the way you interpret and interact with the world.

    Plus, I always lovvvved Tirian and Jewel. There’s a lot of Narnia character’s on my Favourites list (Edmund is at the top), but Tirian is wayyyy up there. He’s such a Good Dude, I love him. Steadfast in the face of doubt, absolutely willing to put everything on the line for his people, even at the literal end of the world…. I love him.

    And in terms of emotional impact, for me, Last Battle has the absolute most emotional scene. The Horses? When they came to help and for a moment you thought the tide was turning in the Narnian’s favour — only to have the rug suddenly and brutally pulled out from under your feet?? Oof – UNQUESTIONABLY the most emotive scene in the series, for me. Devastating.

    Anyway Last Battle is absolutely my favourite of the series and I Do Not understand why you folks listed it last. 🙂

    For me it would go:
    1 – Last Battle
    2 – LWW
    3 – Horse and His Boy
    4 – Prince Caspian
    5 – Voyage
    6 – Magician’s Nephew
    7 – Silver Chair

    • Glumpuddle says:

      Thanks so much for the comment. I feel your pain, seeing your favorite low on our lists. I felt a similar way when I saw Dawn Treader all the way down at #5 on your list! It’s my favorite book EVER and has shaped me so much as a person, and it still makes me weep.

      I adore all 7 of these books, including The Last Battle. Actually, after my second reading of the series, it was my #1 favorite.

      Why was LB #6 on my list… Well, I gave some reasons in the episode, but the short answer is: Because there were five books in front of it haha. They’re all amazing.

    • Keeper of Lantern Waste says:

      I was/am surprised how low it’s ranked on people’s lists too! Like okay, it’s around spot 3-4 for me depending on the day, but not because I have any criticisms of it, just because I love HHB and VDT so much.

      For me, LB hits me in all the feels, fear/suspense, excitement, despair, triumph. When the horses die, just like, actually???? And Shift, he is 100% my favorite villain, because he just seems too real to me! The cleverness and opportunistic ruthlessness, and even small things like demanding all the squirrel’s nuts or posing as a human, just makes me want to strangle him.

      I love Tirian’s character (as you say, he’s a Good Dude), and it actually makes me super curious what it would have been like if Lewis had written more than just 1 adult protagonist. The doubt he faces when confronted with something claiming to be the mouthpiece of Aslan, almost being taken in before remembering what Aslan should be like. Just AUUUHGGG I could keep talking.

      And yeah, Tirian and Jewel are amazing and I love their dynamic of not being the same species but still being best friends and bashing enemy heads together.

      And Jill and Eustace in here, scared of what’s ahead but deciding that fighting and dying for something that’s right is right is better than running and hiding the rest of your life. And they don’t act like adults in the bodies of children, they quarrel with each other, they aren’t used to killing the Talking Beasts or Calormene Soldiers and feel sick afterwards. Just AUAUAHAUAGAU I really could go on.

      I also think it’s interesting that the first book (chronologically) and the last book both warn against shutting your eyes and ears, making yourself stupider because you’re unwilling to even try believing in something.

  6. SGK474 says:

    LWW is my favourite probably followed by The Silver Chair. My least favourite is probably Prince Caspian although I feel bad saying that as I love them all.

  7. Lord Argoz says:

    Why is no one talking about The Giant Surprise?

  8. JFG II says:

    I read LWW when I was 9. Very postive reaction, except for the battle at the end (Where was it?).

    I heard all of the books on audio when I was 12. Mixed reactions all round. Generally postive to generally negative (depending on the book).

    I’ll be honest: I’m hear on NarniaWeb because of Wardrobe. Its the only Narnia book to completely steal past my watchful dragons. Both at age 12 and now. The others books were either singed or badly burned depending on what irked me about them. I won’t go into that. I still like them enough to recommend them.

    I can’t rank the Narnia books – and remember the joy of reading Wardrobe – without remembering some of the negativity I felt hearing the other books for the first time. Must have had something to do with British narrators; Not down-to-earth enough for 12-year-old American me. (face-palm)

    my 12-year-old rank:
    1 – LWW: 9/10
    2 – SC: 7/10
    3 – MN: 7/10
    4 – HHB: 6/10
    5 – PC: 6/10
    6 – VDT: 5/10
    7 – LB: 4/10

    my rank right now:
    1 – The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe: 9/10
    2 – The Silver Chair: 8/10
    3 – The Magician’s Nephew: 8/10
    4 – The Horse and His Boy: 8/10
    5 – The Voyage of the Dawn Treader: 8/10
    6 – The Last Battle: 8/10
    7 – Prince Caspian: The Return to Narnia: 8/10

    The rank of the Narnia hasn’t changed much, but my attitude towards them has.

    Side Note: I’m a very prickly reviewer. Never gave anything a 10/10. Never will. I’d give The Bible an 8/10, which I guess shows what kind of bloke I am.

    • Col Klink says:

      I used to have a problem with giving things 10/10 too (or A+) because nothing is perfect. But then I decided, oh well, the rating exists, so I might as well use it (for things where I feel the flaws are super easy for me to ignore.) 🙂

  9. Cleander says:

    Welcome back guys!
    My ranking changes every year and with every reread I think, but
    I’ll keep this quick and simple if I can:
    1. VDT.
    2. SC
    3. HHB
    4. PC
    5. MN
    6. LWW
    7. LB

    My reasoning runs like this:
    I like VDT best because of it’s sense of longing; as has already been pointed out, it’s something that resonates with almost everyone.
    2. Silver Chair is a close second because of it’s cool Northern imagery and the existence of Puddleglum.
    3. The Horse and His Boy is just all round a solid world building book. There’s nothing especially evocative to me in the atmosphere, really, but seeing the “gritty realistic” political side of Narnia always intrigues me. And it has an EPIC BATTLE!!!! (Woot woot!)
    4. Like Glumpuddle, I used to like Prince Caspian a lot more than I do now. As I read it more I found myself getting tired of the ponderous “flashback” and the subsequent trek to find Caspian followed by what felt like a cheap victory. (It is somewhat unsatisfying that Miraz gets defeated by tripping and then getting murdered by his own henchmen.) I like the atmosphere of this book, but not the plot.
    5. Magician’s Nephew just doesn’t feel very Narnian… for good reason. It’s well written and fun to read, but you don’t get much of a “Narnian experience” since most of it doesn’t take place in Narnia.
    6. I’m surprised I put LWW down here…. but my reasons for not ranking it highly are the same as everyone else’s I guess… awkward moments and behavior among the characters, an almost literal Deus ex machina victory at the end… and the fact that Aslan clapped his paws and shook hands with Peter.
    7. Last Battle is last because it’s still depressing, despite the New Narnia bit.
    Just wait. This order will probably reverse itself in the next decade…. but apparently that’s the case for a lot of people, lol.

    • Col Klink says:

      Prince Caspian is lower on my ranking than yours but I actually kind of like how Miraz dies. Given the setup of Peter and MIraz fighting to determine the outcome of the conflict, you expect Peter to kill him. (If you aren’t expecting Aslan to kill him, given the precedent set by LWW.) Then the scene goes in a totally different direction.

      I can see why it seems out of nowhere to people though. In the book’s defense however, the characters of Glozelle and Sopespian are kind of set up earlier, though not by name.

      “And when there was no one to speak a word for (Caspian), then (Miraz’s) flatterers (as he had instructed them) begged him to become kind. And of course he did.”
      Chapter 5

      “Not forgetting,” said (Glozelle), “that it was we who first put him on the throne. And in all the years that he has enjoyed it, what fruits have come our way? What gratitude has he shown us?”
      Chapter 13

      Of course, none of that is to say other people have to like it. I’m just trying to explain why I like it.

      • Cleander says:

        Of course!
        I guess you could argue that both possible conclusions do get some setup…. it’s just that the duel scene kind of promises that Peter will kill Miraz and then turns that idea on its head. Or maybe it’s just a really clever plot twist and I just don’t get it. ;D

  10. Larry W. says:

    I have always liked Voyage of the Dawn Treader the best since I love sea voyages. I love the idea of taking a trip to Aslan’s country through the Eastern Ocean.

    Here is my ranking for all seven books:

    The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. 9/10

    Prince Caspian 7/10

    Voyage of the Dawn Treader. 9/10

    The Silver Chair 8/10

    The Horse and His Boy 7/10

    The Magician’s Nephew. 8/10

    The Last Battle 8/10

    Prince Caspian is okay, but I didn’t care much for the flashback with Trumpkin the dwarf. The continuity is not the best with that part of the story.

    I. thought of giving The Last Battle a perfect 10/10 rating because it does have a great ending, but I did not like the idea Shift the Ape having Puzzle the donkey dressed up with a lion’s skin. The animals should have been too clever to have been fooled by that scheme. Otherwise, The Last Battle is a very good book.

    • Keeper of Lantern Waste says:

      I used to think that the talking beasts in LB were taken in pretty easily, but now I don’t think so.

      For one, Tirian mentions he had never seen a talking or dumb lion before, making it seem like they may have gone almost extinct centuries ago. In fact, I don’t remember there being a lion other than Aslan mentioned anytime chronologically after HHB. They also might not have necessarily been able to trust paintings of lions, like we have paintings of mermaids based on manatee sightings.

      Second, Shift didn’t just show up one day, broad daylight, and announce Puzzle was Aslan. He was tricky, starting rumors about Aslan sightings and really, why would any of the Narnians think someone was lying about seeing Aslan? That would be blasphemy. And when he revealed Puzzle, he did it at night by a creepy red fire. In my experience, it’s not easy to clearly see what people look like in firelight, especially if they’re a few yards away.

      Third, Shift created an atmosphere of fear, making the talking beasts unsure of who to tell their doubts about. Their king was beaten, dragged off, and then completely disappeared after he confronted Shift. I’m guessing the doubters would be afraid of the same happening to them. Actually, now that I think about it, I am 99% sure that Ginger and other beasts “in” on the scam probably reported the doubters to Shift, who had they ambushed and taken away (like I think that’s what happened to the lamb right?)

      Four, well Aslan is always portrayed as not a Tame Lion. It’s like His whole deal. Narnia doesn’t really have a definitive record of what Aslan did I.e. their version of the Bible. Misunderstandings, exaggerations, or lies could easily happen if something is mostly passed down through oral tradition, or some things even forgotten. They might not have the best idea what Aslan should be doing (Mr. Beaver describes Aslan as not safe, but good, something the Narnians in LB seem to have forgotten)

      And five, well, even in our world people believe some straaaaaange stuff. And that’s with a fact checking computer in their pocket so honestly, the Narnians being taken in doesn’t really Surprise me

      Sorry for the long response, it’s been a long time since I’ve been able to talk Narnia with anyone:)

  11. Larry W. says:

    The Horse and His Boy had a good story, but I did not care much for Calormen or Tashbaan, its capital. The city was just a nasty place to get out of. Calormen was kind of a boring desert setting and the landscape was a bit too dry for me. However, the talking horses Bree and Hwin were quite likable. Shasta was good too. Hence my rating of 7/10.

    I loved Puddleglum in the Silver Chair. He was the best pessimist in the Narnia books. The Silver Chair deserves 8/10 even if the Witch’s underground world was a bit tedious. I loved the adventure of the journey to Harfang too. 🙂

  12. Keeper of Lantern Waste says:

    Late to the party, but I have (1-2 and 3-4 can swap on any given day)
    1. HHB
    2. VDT
    3. SC
    4. LB
    5. MN
    6. LWW
    7. PC

    PC always has been my least favorite for reasons mentioned in the podcast, but ultimately I think the reason the first two books rank last for me is because I don’t think writing style-wise they’re on par with the rest of the series. Still great books, but just not the best in my opinion.

  13. Great discussion, as usual, guys. Y’all describe each book’s special qualities so well, with nuanced points that I’ve never considered.

    I just want to say it’s so nice to listen to you talk about Narnia, whatever the subject or debate. It’s refreshing to listen to thoughtful conversation about a series that means so much to me. Makes me want to go reread the Chronicles, or get excited to read them to my kids one day, or work on my own writing. This podcast conjures pleasant, uplifted attitudes. Thanks, and keep it up.

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