Why C.S. Lewis Stopped Writing Narnia Books
Have you ever wished for more Narnia books? If yes, you’re not alone.
It seems as though readers have been yearning for more of The Chronicles of Narnia ever since The Last Battle was published. But although C.S. Lewis originally had no plans for how many books there would be in the series, his letters suggest that he concluded that his work was finished after seven entries.
The order that Lewis wrote the books is neither the order in which they were published, nor the order that they are currently numbered. The first book to be written (and published) was The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.
When I wrote [The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe] I did not know I was going to write any more. Then I wrote [Prince Caspian] as a sequel and still didn’t think there would be any more, and when I had done [The Voyage of the Dawn Treader] I felt quite sure it would be the last. But I found I was wrong.”C.S. Lewis, 1957
But by 1953, Lewis already seems to have settled on seven as the final number of the chronicles: “The [Voyage of the] ‘Dawn Treader’ is not to be the last: There are to be 4 more, 7 in all.” He reiterates this number in September of the same year, “There are to be 7 Narnian stories altogether,” and makes similar statements in at least two letters the following year.”
Lewis gave a fuller explanation in a correspondence with a reader:
“I’m afraid there will not be any more of them. You see, once a story stops telling itself to me inside my head–like a tap turned off–I can’t go on. And if I tried to, it would only sound forced. Anyway, seven is a good number.”C.S. Lewis, 1959
Although Lewis had no plans to write an eighth Narnia novel, he kept the door open for readers to imagine further tales. In responses to letters from children, Lewis wrote:
“But I’m afraid there will be no more of these stories. But why don’t you try writing some Narnian tales?”C.S. Lewis, 1961
“I’m afraid I’ve said all I had to say about Narnia, and there will be no more of these stories. But why don’t you try to write one yourself?”C.S. Lewis, 1962
In yet another letter in 1962, Lewis again affirms he is done, but that more stories are waiting to be written:
And why not write stories for yourself to fill up the gaps in Narnian history? I’ve left you plenty of hints—especially where Lucy* and the Unicorn are talking in The Last Battle. I feel I have done all I can!”C.S. Lewis, 1962
*Here Lewis may have been referring to the conversation in Chapter 8 between Jill and Jewel.
While Lewis did write Narnian poems and a timeline which have since been published in books, Lewis never wrote another Narnia novel. Instead, others have continued to build upon the Narnian mythos through fan fiction, retellings, spin-offs, and of course, adaptations.
Though I really like Narnia novels and hope there would be more, ‘The Last Battle’ just seems to be a perfect ending for the series. Sometimes I think that another might be unnecessary.
I always wanted an 8th entry, but I recently heard that Francis Spufford wrote the 8th entry titled, ‘The Stone Table’ it was written without permission from the C.S. Lewis Estate as far as I know.
I think Lewis did not want to overuse a good idea. Seven books are enough to complete a series, and an eighth might have been too much. The Last Battle had a great conclusion. There would not have been much point in the addition of another story.
While I thought The Last Battle was a fitting conclusion to the series, I think there is opportunity to create more stories in the Narnia universe. Now that Netflix has Narnia in the works, there is a possibility to do more stories.
While I think the Last Battle has to be the final book (both series and published wise) I am a little sad there weren’t a few more in the the series before LB. I feel like another in-Narnia only book (a la HHB), or another with Polly and Digory could have been quite good.
Wow, does that make Lewis one of the first authors to condone fanfiction?
Correct. Because Spufford chose to publish it (he printed and distributed over 70 copies), the Estate and the HarperCollins legal people are looking into this, which is essentially a breach of copyright.
Haha, no, he didn’t think it through in the way that a modern author would. He did not tell his child readers to grow up and use his material to publish books (and make money?)
It was much more a case of children being encouraged to have a try at writing while they were children – not expected to be a complete novel but a simple story. He would have been aghast at some of the things fans write in their stories.
Actually, not correct. I did write The Stone Table without permission, but never with any intention except to seek permission from the Estate. I didn’t get it, so the book will not be published until either the copyright term ends or the Estate changes its mind. Giving the book to friends did not count as publication, because no single copy has changed hands for money, at any point. Nor have I breached copyright – which, as a writer, I depend on for my own livelihood.
Most fan-fiction writers are not writing to make money from someone else’s characters, but only because they MUST write — the stories are there and have to be written down. They don’t try to publish them, either, though they may make them available on fan-fiction sites such as Archive of Our Own. Such sites have generally been considered “fair use”.
Didn’t he write 7 books because there were 7 planets in medieval cosmology?
If there were a way to go back in time, I would sit down with Lewis over a pour of tea and try to convince him to write books for Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto… it might take more than one conversation but the more I study of the planetary archetypes the more in move with them I become.
A reply from THE Francis Spufford?!?!?! Welcome!!! I’m going to need to get on a diet and exercise regime so I can live to see your book published!
I agree i am quite satisfied with the story, and though Lewis indicated that there was no specific order that the books where to be read i feel like they are currently arranged in such a way that they lead into each other perfectly
“Didn’t he write 7 books because there were 7 planets in medieval cosmology?”
That is speculation which has never been confirmed (and can’t really be unless someone unearths new writing from C. S. Lewis, who didn’t write much about his creative process.)
“You see, once a story stops telling itself to me inside my head–like a tap turned off–I can’t go on. And if I tried to, it would only sound forced.” -CS Lewis
But didn’t he decide on 7 books long before he had even worked out LB and possible HHB/SC? The story that was being told in his head was clearly (imo) the medieval planetary themes being fulfilled in Aslan. How exactly that story was unfolding wasn’t even yet known to the author before the magical number of 7 was selected…
Edit: Ah yes, written in 1952, he admitted TLB hadn’t been formulated in his head but he had already decided on 7:
“The new book is called The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. Lucy and Edmund find Caspian (now King of course) on board ship, sailing to the Eastern end of the Narnian world. There will be lots about Reepicheep. And there will be a Sea Serpent, and a Dragon, and lots of strange islands. I do hope you will all like it. I intend to have seven of these stories altogether—that is, four more after the next one. They will be called The Chronicles of Narnia. The fifth sixth book goes right back to the beginning and explains how there came to be that magic Wardrobe in the Professor’s house—for of course you will have guessed that the old Professor must have known something about things like that himself, or else he would never have believed what the children told him. I don’t know yet what will happen in the seventh. What do you think would be a good thing to end the whole series with? Of course Aslan will come into them all.“
I hope this doesn’t sound like I’m criticizing Movie Aristotle for choosing this topic, but I don’t actually get why there needs to be a specific reason why C. S. Lewis wrote as many Narnia books as he did. I mean he had to stop to some time and seven is as good a number as any. 🙂
If you don’t mind me asking, when you said “giving the book to friends” are you referring to like, a version you printed off and put in a three ring, or a professionally bound version through like a website like Book Baby or something?
I was assuming the former because I’m pretty sure the latter would be a breach of copyright, judging from the fact I can’t legally use sticker making websites to make fan art stickers to just give to friends. But if it is just a home-print off, I’m a little confused why an author wouldn’t just electronically share the pdf with their friends? Although I do get that e books aren’t everyone’s cup of tea
This I agree with this. HHB seemed an anomaly in the series because it wasn’t about a story that was necessarily significant to the entire history of Narnia. It was a story about things that happened to tangentially related characters. What was cool about it though was you got to know Lewis’ vision about some of the other countries. I would have liked a story about the Lone Islands and how they became part of Narnia or story about the reign of Queen Swanwhite. There is a lot more stuff he could have done. My feeling was that had he been younger and hadn’t gone through what he went through there might have been more.
It makes sense. While there are not a lot of details in the books themselves, it kind of leaves you to your own imagination.
Perhaps seven was a good number. The number seven comes up a lot in the series- seven lost lords, Seven Isles, seven dwarf brothers, the seven friends of Narnia, Emeth (who’s my favorite character in the whole series) the seventh son of Harpha Tarkaan, and of course seven books. So I wonder if CS Lewis knew about the number seven, and decided to stop there.
If Netflix wants to make The Last Battle into a two-part movie, I suppose they would have to find a way to extend on the story.
I agree The Last Battle is the natural conclusion to the series, but Lewis would of been able to write another book set within MN-LB (think HHB) without ruining the “perfect ending”.