Who was CS Lewis?
Writer of the Narnia stories
CS Lewis was a writer. He was also a professor, teaching university students at Oxford and Cambridge.
When did he live?
Lewis was born in Northern Ireland in 1898. He studied at Oxford University in England. He was a soldier in World War I (1914-1918). For most of his life, he worked as a professor. He married in 1957, and died in 1963.
Why is CS Lewis famous?
Many children enjoy reading The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. It is the most famous book by CS Lewis. There are 6 more books in The Chronicles of Narnia series. The Narnia books have been translated into more than 45 languages. You can enjoy the adventures in films and on TV too.
The Lewis family
Clive Staples Lewis was born on 29 November 1898. Queen Victoria was still on the throne. His brother Warren, known as 'Warnie', was three years older.
His father Albert was a solicitor. His grandfather Richard had come to Ireland from Wales. His mother Florence died when Lewis was 10.
How he became 'Jack'
Lewis was known as Jack from the age of 4. One story says he chose the name after his pet dog Jacksie was run over and killed by a car. He told his family he was now 'Jacksie', which soon became Jack.
Talking animals and fairies
Lewis loved animals, real and storybook. He read Beatrix Potter's tales of Peter Rabbit. He made up stories about talking animals. He and his brother Warnie invented a make-believe world they called Boxen, run by animals.
The children's nurse Lizzie told them Irish fairy stories, about 'little people'.
Lewis was first taught at home. Then his mother Florence became ill. After she died, when Lewis was 10, his father sent him to boarding school in England. The school was horrid, and soon closed. Lewis was very glad to come home.
His next school was close to his family home in Belfast. But he was often ill, so he was sent back to England, to a school in Malvern, Worcestershire, where the air was better for 'weak chests'. His brother was at the same school, but Lewis was unhappy there.
In the end Lewis had lessons with a tutor, WT Kirkpatrick who had taught Lewis' father. He was happy. He learned lots of wonderful stories - Greek myths, Viking tales of dragons and elves, and old Irish stories about heroes and giants.
University and war
World War I began in 1914. In 1916 CS Lewis went to Oxford University. Many students were already in the Army. In 1917 he volunteered to be a soldier, and at 19 he went to France to fight.
Wounded in battle
Lewis and his friend 'Paddy' Moore shared the dangers of battles. Sadly, Paddy was killed. In April 1918 Lewis was wounded. The war ended in November 1918.
In 1925 Lewis got a job at a university, teaching English literature. In 1954, he moved to Cambridge University.
Lewis and his Oxford friends met in a pub to talk about books. They called themselves the 'Inklings'. One friend named JRR Tolkien read bits from a story he was writing. It became The Lord of the Rings.
Becoming a Christian
Lewis was brought up a Christian, but later became an atheist. At the age of 33 he returned to Christianity. For him, this was the most important moment in his life.
Lewis had promised his soldier-friend Paddy to look after his mother Mrs Jane Moore. He and his brother Warnie shared a home with Mrs Moore and her daughter.
Later he met an American woman, Joy Gresham. They were married in 1957. Joy was already ill, and died in 1960. Lewis looked after her two sons, by her first marriage.
Lewis the writer
One day, Lewis and his friend Tolkien agreed to write science fiction stories. In 1938, Lewis wrote a space-travel book, Out of the Silent Planet. Tolkien was going to write a time-travel book, but never finished it. Lewis wrote two more science fiction books.
Lewis wrote serious books. He was interested in the literature of the Middle Ages. He wrote books about religion too. In one book, he made up letters from one devil to another! He gave talks on the radio about religion.
The Narnia books
The first of The Chronicles of Narnia books was The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. This book made CS Lewis famous.
Lewis wrote seven Narnia books, the last was published in 1956. The stories mix Christian ideas, Greek and Roman myths, and old British and Irish fairy tales.
Lewis became ill in 1961, and gave up teaching. He died at home in Cambridge on 22 November 1963.
It was the same day that President John F Kennedy was shot dead in America. Newspapers and TV were full of news of the shooting. That day, the death of the 'Narnia' writer was hardly noticed. But CS Lewis is still famous all over the world.
The Chronicle of Narnia
How it began
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe began (Lewis said) when he pictured a faun with an umbrella and parcels in a snowy wood.
When World War II began in September 1939, three girls from London came to live with Lewis and the Moores in Oxford. The children were evacuees. It was then he started to write his story about the faun.
The Narnia books
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)
Children of the Narnia books
In The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe we meet the four Pevensie children: Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy. In the land of Narnia, entered through an old wardrobe, they meet lots of other characters, including Aslan the talking lion and the wicked White Witch.
In Prince Caspian, the children go back to Narnia. Edmund and Lucy reappear in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, with their cousin Eustace. In The Silver Chair the main human characters are Eustace and his school-friend Jill. Eustace and Jill return in The Last Battle.
People have different ideas about the order you should read the seven Narnia books. CS Lewis told someone that when he wrote The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, he didn't know he was going to write any more Narnia books. So perhaps it doesn't matter!