The Chronicles of Narnia, by C.S. Lewis, is a very quotable set of stories. A couple years ago in our library, we scattered several Narnia quotes throughout the building as part of our Christmas theme, and today there are still some hanging up around corners and on the end of book shelves. Honestly, I don’t have the heart to take them down. Those of you who have grown up with Lewis’ Narnia stories might understand–Narnia quotes stick with you. You pin them repeatedly on Pinterest; you hang them up as decorations in your house; your eyes tear up every time you hear a passage read aloud though you might not care to admit it.
All of this begs the question–why is The Chronicles of Narnia so quotable? Well, there might be several reasons, but I’ll discuss a few of them.
First, C.S. Lewis is a great writer, and he understands people. Lewis has written several nonfiction works for adults, some of which I have read (though I’m eager to read more). Those books which I have read, such as The Four Loves and The Screwtape Letters, express an understanding of the human condition and explain things in a way that I have never thought about before, even though his explanations are so incredibly simple and true to everyday life. Why should Lewis’ writing for children be any different?
Second, the spiritual overtones of the stories speak immensely to Christians, though–I might add–these stories can be enjoyed by anyone. David C. Downing discusses in his book how Lewis’ intention was not to write a Christian work of fiction for children. He simply had an idea for a children’s story and wrote it. His Christian life and beliefs simply flooded into the writing. Some people have described The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe as an allegory. However, Downing explains that “despite their rich spiritual overtones, it does a great dis-service to the chronicles to read them as allegories, as if all the major characters and incidents are merely disguised Bible stories” (Downing 2005). In fact, Lewis did not like his stories to be described as allegories, either. Instead, he used the word “supposals,” as in “Let us suppose that there were a land like Narnia and that the Son of God, as he became a Man in our world, became a Lion there, and then imagine what would happen” (Lewis 1996).
Lastly, the Narnia stories are simple and magical. I’ve heard from various sources that C.S. Lewis published each of his Narnia books one right after the other, with just a year’s space between each one (unlike his friend Tolkien who spent years developing The Lord of the Rings before he ever published them). The Narnia stories are simple and straight-forward, no overthinking things. And with this, there is magic that sinks down into the soul that–in its simplicity–we accept with a child-like faith.
I say all this to lead up to the following list of some of my favorite Narnia quotes. I reread the series this summer, a welcome distraction from my last semester of graduate classes. During my reading sessions, I made sure to highlight all of the passages and quotes that touched my heart and mind. Following are my absolute favorites from each of the seven books:
From The Magician’s Nephew
“For what you see and hear depends a good deal on where you are standing: it also depends on what sort of person you are.”
“Up till then he had been looking at the Lion’s great feet and the huge claws on them; now, in his despair, he looked up at its face. What he saw surprised him as much as anything in his whole life. For the tawny face was bent down near his own and (wonder of wonders) great shining tears stood in the Lion’s eyes. They were such big, bright tears compared with Digory’s own that for a moment he felt as if the Lion must really be sorrier about his Mother than he was himself.”
“For the rest of that day, whenever he looked at the things about him, and saw how ordinary and unmagical they were, he hardly dared to hope; but when he remembered the face of Aslan he did hope.”
From The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe
“But someday you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again.” From the dedication to his god-daughter Lucy.
“At the name of Aslan each one of the children felt something jump in its inside. Edmund felt a sensation of mysterious horror. Peter felt suddenly brave and adventurous. Susan felt as if some delicious smell or some delightful strain of music had just floated by her. And Lucy got the feeling you have when you wake up in the morning and realize that it is the beginning of the holidays or the beginning of summer.”
“‘Safe?’ said Mr. Beaver; ‘don’t you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.'”
From The Horse and his Boy
“Nearer still, my son. Do not dare not to dare.”
From Prince Caspian
“‘It is hard for you, little one,’ said Aslan. ‘But things never happen the same way twice.'”
“‘You come of the Lord Adam and the Lady Eve.’ said Aslan. ‘And that is both honor enough to erect the head of the poorest beggar, and shame enough to bow the shoulders of the greatest emperor on earth.'”
From The Voyage of the Dawn Treader
“But no one except Lucy knew that as it circled the mast it had whispered to her, ‘Courage, dear heart,’ and the voice, she felt sure, was Aslan’s.”
“In our world,’ said Eustace, ‘a star is a huge ball of flaming gas.’ ‘Even in your world, my son, that is not what a star is but only what it is made of.'”
“‘It isn’t Narnia, you know,’ sobbed Lucy. ‘It’s you. We shan’t meet you there’…’But you shall meet me, dear one,’ said Aslan…’There I have another name. You must learn to know me by that name. This was the very reason why you were brought to Narnia, that by knowing me here for a little, you may know me better there.'”
From The Silver Chair
“‘You would not have called to me unless I had been calling to you,’ said the Lion.”
“Suppose we have only dreamed, or made up, all those things–trees and grass and sun and moon and stars and Aslan himself. Suppose we have. Then all I can say is that, in that case, the made-up things seem a good deal more important than the real ones. Suppose this black pit of a kingdom of yours is the only world. Well, it strikes me as a pretty poor one. And that’s a funny thing, when you come to think of it. We’re just babies making up a game, if you’re right. But four babies playing a game can make a play-world which licks your real world hollow. That’s why I’m going to stand by the play-world. I’m on Aslan’s side even if there isn’t any Aslan to lead it. I’m going to live as like a Narnian as I can even if there isn’t any Narnia.”
From The Last Battle
“In our world too, a stable once had something inside it that was bigger than our whole world.”
“The term is over: the holidays have begun. The dream is ended: this is the morning.”
“All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read: which goes on forever: in which every chapter is better than the one before.”
Downing, David C. 2005. Into the Wardrobe: C.S. Lewis and the Narnia Chronicles. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Lewis, C.S. 1996. Letters to Children, ed. Marjorie Lamp Mead and Lyle Wesley Dorsett. New York: Scribner.
Lewis, C.S. 2005. The Chronicles of Narnia. New York: HarperCollinsPublishers.