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Friday 22 November 2013

Remembering C S Lewis

Photo by Norman Parkinson/Corbis
Illustration by Dave Stevenson
Source: HarperCollins
Today, 22 November 2013, marks the fiftieth anniversary of the death of author C. S. Lewis (1898 – 1963), whose work has been translated into 46 languages and sold over 100 million copies. Considered the most influential Christian writer of his time (Mere Christianity, The Screwtape Letters, The Great Divorce), and an “intellectual giant”, Lewis created some of the world's most-loved children's books: the Chronicles of Narnia series.

The Narnia books have hooked children into reading ever since, and are loved just as much by adults, many of whom remember them as having a special place in their childhood. The world of Narnia stands the test of time, cleverly merging fantasy with reality, and has been recreated in three major motion pictures – it was recently announced that The Silver Chair, the fourth in the Narnia series, will also go into production. 

Did you know?
  • Clive Staples Lewis, known to his friends as Jack, was born in Belfast, Ireland.
  • He was an English Fellow who tutored English Language and Literature at Magdalen College, Oxford for thirty years.
  • In Oxford in 1926, Lewis became friends and colleagues with J. R. R. Tolkien.
  • The Inklings was the name given to the club formed by a group of writing friends which included C. S. Lewis and his brother Warren "Warnie" Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkien, Owen Barfield, and Charles Williams. 
  • C. S. Lewis appeared on the cover of Time magazine on 8 September 1947, three years before The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe was published.
  • One of his favourite books was The Place of the Lion by Charles Williams.
  • He became the chair of Medieval and Renaissance Literature at Cambridge in 1954.
  • The first screen production of a Narnia story was a 1968 made-for-television version of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.    
  • In 1998, Britain's postal service, the Royal Mail, released a twenty-six-pence stamp featuring Lucy, Mr Tumnus, and Aslan.    
  • The 2005 movie of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe was co-produced by C. S. Lewis' stepson, Douglas Gresham.
Coinciding with the fiftieth anniversary of his death, a memorial will be dedicated to C. S. Lewis at Westminster Abbey, in the Poet's Corner. An anniversary tribute has also been created by compiling a collection of quotes about C. S. Lewis and what his Chronicles of Narnia meant to other writers and notable people. Follow the official social media accounts (Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter) to see what they have to say.

You can explore the work of C. S. Lewis online through two websites (where you can also buy eBooks of his work). The official website of C. S. Lewis provides an introduction to his life and a blog, as well as links to official social media accounts and C. S. Lewis organisations. The Chronicles of Narnia website has news and trivia about Narnia books and movies, and reading group and classroom activity guides.

C. S. Lewis' legacy lives on through these websites, reprints of his work (like an annotated version of The Screwtape Letters), and new publications (like seven eBook-only editions of Lewis' works of criticism and literary essays). A special digital collection of the Chronicles of Narnia is being released, and includes a bonus eighth book called Boxen. which is described as “The lost tales of 'Animal-land', written and illustrated by C.S. Lewis and his brother Warnie, which they developed into the chronicles of the kingdom of Boxen, [and is] newly published to mark the centenary of the first story.”

Tell us about your memories of reading C. S. Lewis' stories, and what influence the Chronicles of Narnia series had on your life.