The Best (and Worst) Narnia Books | Talking Beasts | Transcript

The following is a partial transcription of the 10/17/18 episode of
Talking Beasts: The Narnia Podcast.

Listen to the full episode

Rilian: The Narnia books, of course, have a lot of unifying themes, characters in common, and structures in common, but they are also different from one another. They stand apart in basic plot structure. The Voyage of the Dawn Treader is a very different story in terms of the conflict than the book just before it, Prince Caspian. The conflicts are different, the plots are different, the setting, the mood, and just the feel, is different. We had a discussion in an episode not too long ago about how The Last Battle is the only book without a dedication, possibly because Lewis thought it was too dark to have a dedication.

Because the books are so short, it’s common for readers to read them, and then re-read them at a very different stage of life. I’ve experienced them in a lot of different stages in-between. So, it’s natural to have favorite books. And maybe it’s even more natural for, whatever book is your favorite or least favorite, to shift and change over time. So that’s what we’re going to talk about.

Glumpuddle, lets start with you. What is your favorite Narnia book, your least favorite Narnia book, and have they changed over time?

Glumpuddle: Well maybe we should all start with our favorite because I think we all have the same favorite if I’m not mistaken. My favorite is the The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. Do you guys have that one as well.

Rilian: Mine is The Voyage of the Dawn Treader.

Gymfan: Mine is The Voyage of the Dawn Treader.

Glumpuddle: Okay, here we go! High five! My favorite initially was The Silver Chair. Then the second time through it was The Last Battle. The third time through it was The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, and it has stayed Dawn Treader ever since. I’ve said so much about Dawn Treader. I did a four-hour rant about the movie on YouTube, and then did a more carefully structured analysis of it on the podcast.

My favorite movie is 2001: A Space Odyssey, for similar reasons that Dawn Treader is my favorite book. I’m just so-

Rilian: Those monkeys everywhere.

Glumpuddle: Yeah, just all the monkeys. Maybe that’s why The Last Battle was my favorite. (sarcasm)

Rilian: Sorry.

Glumpuddle: By the way, there’s only monkeys for the first 15 minutes and that is some of the best stuff in the movie.

Rilian: It’s bizarre. But continue. We’ll argue about that on the phone later.

Glumpuddle: When was the last time you watched it? And were you eating popcorn? What kind of environment was it?

Gymfan: I think this is a discussion for another day, guys. Let’s play nice.

Glumpuddle: 2001: A Space Odyssey is so effective at creating a sense of awe about the unknown. In the case of 2001, It’s space travel, it came out the year before we made it to the moon. There were questions about What kind of turning point in humanity are we coming up on right now? Are we going to have the USS Enterprise in just a few decades? What does this mean for the future of our species? And wondering what are we gonna find out there? I love the fact that we had never seen the far side of the moon. It gives me chills, just thinking about how many thousands of years humans gazed up at the moon and had not seen the other side of it. Just the sense of the unknown, the idea of a complete other world, planet, where you walk around and you’re the first to do everything. You knock over a rock, first person to do that. That gives me chills thinking of that.

And with Dawn Treader, we’re going to these uncharted waters in this magical world, so it could be absolutely anything. We know the seven lords left and never came back. Dawn Treader really taps into that curiosity I’ve always had about space travel and the unknown and what could be out there and what does it mean. I love the things they learn about the world. Like, it’s suggested Narnia is flat and the ocean is endlessly pouring over the edge. Dawn Treader has been my favorite for a while now. Dawn Treader just tickles something so personal in me. It’s unlikely that it’s going to change.

Gymfan: I echo a lot about what you said. I love the adventurous spirit of Dawn Treader, I think there are some good character moments. I love Eustace. I think he’s one of the best things C.S. Lewis ever wrote. So funny and relatable. We all either know someone like Eustace or we’ve been him, let’s be honest. Dawn Treader expands the reach of Narnia. In some of the other books, you get to go to Archenland. But this one takes you far, far, away, all the way to Aslan’s Country, as far as you can go, and different places and adventures, and discovering new things about Narnia. I would say that HHB is also one I love as well. But I would say Dawn Treader every time.

Rilian: I love Dawn Treader because it’s nothing like 2001: A Space Odyssey! It’s so fun, it’s entertaining, it’s well-done. … In all seriousness, I love the adventure of it. First of all, the quest is about honor, it’s about doing the right thing when you don’t have to. Life is more comfortable at Cair Paravel. But they’re doing the right thing, exploring the actual end of the world. And it’s about Reepicheep’s dream from when he was in his crib, and I love that story. I love his character. He and Peter are probably tied as my favorite characters. There’s so much about Reepicheep’s character that is not embodied in modern culture today. And I love that.

Glumpuddle: I just tear up when I think about Reepicheep.

Rilian: I think it became my favorite book maybe around college. I think that would be 12 years ago? I re-experienced The Chronicles of Narnia as a trilogy. The first three work so well as a trilogy. I love the completeness of Dawn Treader.

Glumpuddle: Can I add? Yes, they are trying to find the seven lords, that’s their main mission. But that’s really just there to get the voyage underway. We’ve been using the words explore and adventure. The plot of Dawn Treader really allows the characters to take a look around. When Eustace gets turned into a dragon, we’re not thinking, “When are we going to get on with the plot?.” We’re thinking, “What does this mean for Eustace?”, “What does it mean for him to have greedy dragon-ish thoughts?”, “To rely on Aslan to get him out of that?.” So many stories don’t have the kind of guts to stop and look around. Gymfan, when did Dawn Treader become your favorite?

Gymfan: I think it’s always been my favorite. I don’t think that’s ever changed. I’ve been reading through the books and actually thinking about this. And once I finally get through the books, will I have found that my favorite has changed? Thus far, it has not. But I will keep you updated because I’m actually curious to know. I haven’t finished them all yet.

Glumpuddle: Tweet us the play by play! “Ok, I just got done with this paragraph. I think this isn’t my favorite anymore.” I want to know the moment it happens!

Gymfan: I will let you know for sure.

Rilian: Here’s a question… Do we all have the same least favorite book?

Glumpuddle: On three, let’s say our least favorite. Ready? One, two, three…

All: Prince Caspian.

Glumpuddle: Aw, man, what a boring podcast!

Gymfan: But why, why is it our least favorite? It might be different for all of us. Just one thing off the top of my head. I don’t particularly care for the character of Prince Caspian. As he grows, overall he’s fine, but in the moments he’s just this kid and he’s not that interesting or cool. And High King Peter is so much better. What can I say? I think that’s one reason why I like Dawn Treader. You get to know Caspian as a character a lot more. I think he’s more of an interesting adult character in that book.

Glumpuddle: I really relate to Caspian, he really wishes the old days could be true. He’s been told all his life that all of this stuff about Aslan and the four kings and queens, talking beasts, that it’s all made up. Just going from LWW into this non-magical world of the Telmarines. I imagine how amazing it would be, to be able to visit another planet would be the most amazing thing. When Caspian has that experience, basically meeting his bed-time story characters, what would that be like to see your fantasy characters come to life? I don’t think he’s the most nuanced or developed character?

Gymfan: But we’re asking you why is this your least favorite? Not your favorite.

Glumpuddle: I think all the Narnia books really hook me right at the beginning, even if I’m re-reading it. But Caspian doesn’t poke me initially in the same way. It creates some intriguing mystery. And when Trumpkin shows up, now I’m feeling hooked.

Gymfan: It’s a very slow-burn.

Rilian: It’s pacing is, for me, the thing. Then there’s the, “Oh my goodness. He’s fallen in with the Narnians.” Then, “Oh, they don’t believe Lucy. I’m at least interested.” There are really good moments. The pacing doesn’t foster the engagement that the other books do. I think it has changed for me, because initially my favorite book was SC, for a lot of the same reasons; the mystery, the exploration. I think The Silver Chair has more of a focus on the end of the quest rather than the in-the-moment experiences Dawn Treader has. My least favorite book used to be LB, I think because it was so sad. It takes a while for the story to start becoming uplifting, and to stop being frustrating.

Glumpuddle: The most recent poll we did asking NarniaWebbers “What’s your favorite Narnia book?” The Horse and His Boy was number one with 24%, followed by The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe with 18%, then The Magician’s Nephew, The Silver Chair, Dawn Treader, The Last Battle, and Prince Caspian.

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Rilian, Gymfan, Glumpuddle

Transcript by Skillletdude