Earlier this week I mentioned that The Voyage of the Dawn Treader is my least favorite of the seven Narnia books. I clarified that I love all the Narnia books; I just love VDT a little less than I love the other six books. It’s true that I consider Eustace’s dragon sequence to be among the very best scenes of the Chronicles. But as I said in a comment earlier this week,
“My biggest problem with VDT (and it’s not a huge problem) is that I don’t much like its episodic structure. Something about it feels cheaty to me, as if Lewis wanted to work in a lot of different little stories, and instead of figuring out a unified story that would let him tell those stories, he just let his characters bounce from place to place. That, I realize, is what some readers love about that book. The Odyssey works the same way, and nobody complains. I should also confess that The Charlatan’s Boy can be a little episodic itself, so I don’t have a lot of room to talk.”

Speaking of cheaty, how cheaty is that–quoting oneself from earlier in the week, and not even the body of the post but a comment!

Anyway, a couple of you chimed in to speak of your favorite Narnia book(s), but we didn’t hear much about people’s least favorite book. So today’s Audience Participation discussion topic is this: “Which Narnia book do you love the least, and why?” Here’s hoping for vigorous (though, of course, friendly) debate.

  • JJ
    2:09 PM, 3 December 2010

    Sadly I must confess to only reading through the whole series once. I had them as a kid but only read the first book, which is The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe. I don’t care how they order them now. The Magician’s Nephew is NOT book 1!!
    But I digress. I finally read through them over the course of a year after meeting the woman who would later be my wife. So unfortunately my “least favorite” won’t be based on extensive knowledge of them. It’s still hard picking a least favorite though because while they may not all be spectacular books beginning to end, there are parts in each one that make the whole book worth reading.

    The Last Battle (which I have read twice) would probably be my favorite, while at the same time my least favorite. Mainly because the story with the monkey and the donkey and the fake Aslan was just not interesting to me. I absolutely love how it ends though, and that makes slogging through (and I don’t mean that half as bad as it sounds) the first 2/3 of the book totally worth it. How Narnia starts to disappear into nothingness while they watch from inside the door, and then running through Aslan’s country. Man, it’s just spectacular. But the monkey and fake Aslan stuff. Meh. I could have done with less of that.

    Although I did enjoy the crisis it caused the Narnians and the drama of them trying to figure out who this fake Aslan was. See? It’s not easy picking a least favorite!

  • gina
    2:27 PM, 3 December 2010

    For kicks, I just asked my kids this question. They were stumped. They love them all. But my girlie said if she HAD to pick a least favorite, she would choose The Horse and His Boy. No rhyme or reason…that’s just the one she wouldn’t pick up first if she was choosing. Frustration mounted, so I stopped pressing. “Well, it’s just that The Last Battle is much better and The Magician’s Nephew is my favorite and that’s all I can say!”

  • Jenni
    2:29 PM, 3 December 2010

    I honestly like them all. But my least favorite is probably The Magician’s Nephew. (and yet, I still like it. ) My most favorite is The Voyage of the Dawn Treader; and after that, probably The Horse and His Boy, The Last Battle, and Prince Caspian in that order.

    • Jonathan Rogers
      2:36 PM, 3 December 2010

      Jenni, what’s not to like about The Magician’s Nephew? Let’s hear some specifics (if you’ve got a minute). Gina, keep pressing that daughter. She can’t go casting aspersions on The Horse and His Boy without supporting her claims. Don’t let her get away with it. And I notice, Gina, that you have sidestepped the question yourself.
      I am casting myself in the role of the mother who asks her son, “Which do you like better, chicken or pork chops?”

      “I like them both,” says the son.

      “But which do you like better?”

      “Pork chops, I guess.”

      “I thought you liked my chicken!”

  • Patrick
    2:38 PM, 3 December 2010

    My least favorite Narnia book is The Last Battle. To me, it’s like the sugar-free sweet-potato pie brought to the pot-luck party by one of my diabetic siblings in Christ, and people are talking about how much it tastes like pumpkin pie in delight, while I’m thinking “then why didn’t they make a pumpkin pie?” and “they should have used Splenda- I can taste the Sweet-n-Low”. I eat it to be polite. It doesn’t taste “bad”, it tastes like a bellow average pumpkin pie… with an aftertaste. Too me it just doesn’t seem to fit in the pie family… just like those brownies mom used to make with zucchini and spinach.(Have I carried the pie analogy too far?)
    It is a depressing story from beginning to end. The story begins with no real heroes to be found, and even after the heroes show up things are only going from bad to worse… very… painfully… slowly. Then the old Narnia is gone, and we fall down the rabbit hole to a very strange nightmarish New Narnia that just goes deeper and deeper- which is visible from a new Earth (and vice versa) because you can see forever- and all the dead people we loved are alive here… except Susan (poor girl)- and the entire place is like a vivid colored lightning-jet Xerox machine gone berserk with the printed sheets all wrapped in endless layers- And everyone seems to be happy about it- but I find it to be a disturbing reminder of my studies in Greek Philosophy. The things of this world being flawed imitations of the same yet perfect things in an odd over-stuffed endless “perfect” heaven. The End.

    • Jonathan Rogers
      4:34 PM, 3 December 2010

      Patrick, I can’t agree with your assessment of The Last Battle, but I do appreciate your thought you put into your response. You’re right, of course, that things go from bad to worse in Narnia, even after the heroes show up. And it’s very depressing–hopes are raised, hopes are dashed. The point, I think, is that end the end nobody is heroic enough to forestall the end when the end has come. This is the Father’s world, not ours. I don’t see the New Narnia as nightmarish, though. I think it’s helpful to read Lewis’s Great Divorce alongside The Last Battle when we come into the New Narnia. And I love the idea of the New Narnia being a spur off the same mountain of which the New Earth is another spur.
      As Joe and Aaron pointed out, the Emeth business is a little troubling–and not something I have the energy to get very deeply into.

      I’m like Jess in that whenever I declare one of the Narnia books my least favorite I then start thinking about all the parts I like and it doesn’t seem like a least favorite anymore. And by the way, Jess, there’s no need to correct your own grammar. You’re safe here.

      Aaron, you’re wrong. The monkey/donkey business isn’t boring.

  • Joe
    2:39 PM, 3 December 2010

    The Last Battle is probably my least favorite, though there are parts of it I greatly like. I’ve never cared for his handling of Emeth going through the door, which leaves a bad taste to me. (And just for the record, Dawn Treader is probably my favorite, though who can ever forget the wonders of first hearing The Lion, the Witch & the Wardrobe?)

  • Patrick
    2:47 PM, 3 December 2010

    I noticed some order of preference lists. Here’s mine: Magician’s Nephew, Lion Witch & Wardrobe, Dawn Treader, Caspian, Horse & Boy, Silver Chair, and Last Battle.

  • JJ
    2:54 PM, 3 December 2010

    Patrick: I have always read it like the “New Narnia” IS the New Earth. Susan lost her faith so she isn’t there. But it’s the end of both worlds. Narnia and the old Earth. The faithful then live forever on the New Earth/Narnia with Christ/Aslan. I found the end very moving.

  • Jess
    3:44 PM, 3 December 2010

    Prince Caspian. It was a pretty slow book and I had trouble getting into it because, well, my favorite characters (the Pevensies) disappeared for long lengths of time, while it focused on Caspian, who I can’t relate with at all… Although of course like most of these people I have to say that I still LOVE the book, I just LOVE it a little less than the others. I love the scene with Lucy and Aslan (“you are a lioness”), and I love the awesome part towards the end with all of the gods that serve Aslan, I love the horn that brings the Pevensies back, I love Trumpkin, I love… you probably get the point.

  • Jess
    3:52 PM, 3 December 2010

    Should I have said “WHOM I can’t relate with at all”? I’m horrible with whos and whoms 😉

  • Aaron Roughton
    4:14 PM, 3 December 2010

    Last Battle. Also disliked The Silver Chair, but I can’t remember why. I had high expectations for the Last Battle because I remembered my mom getting teary eyed as she read about the Narnia heaven. But I agree with JJ about the monkey/donkey (or modonkey) story. Boring. And someone tackle the theological questions of Susan slipping out of Alsan’s paws and the warrior of Tash who gets in because he was so faithful. To Tash. And the part where Lucy discovers that the King James version is the only true bible. Ok, not that last part. But crack open those others.

  • Jonathan Rogers
    4:39 PM, 3 December 2010

    P.S. … I’ve got a couple of deadlines today that will keep me from tackling Aaron’s tricky questions, but I’m hoping to circle back around to Susan and maybe even Emeth once I get everything rassled down. Meanwhile, anybody else who wants to jump in on those questions, please do.

  • Joe
    5:13 PM, 3 December 2010

    Just skimmed through pp. 172-173 of _The World According to Narnia_ and that helps explain what Lewis meant in the character Emeth. Still somewhat suspicious of the theology Lewis is conveying, but will have to think on it some more. Also, the name Emeth is the Hebrew word for faithfulness or truth. Surely Lewis knew that and was intentional in choosing it. So the imagery seems to be that Emeth/Faithfulness proved himself faithful to Aslan in his service to Tash (which Aslan counted as really service to him).

  • JJ
    5:26 PM, 3 December 2010

    For the record, I didn’t think the monkey/donkey stuff was THAT boring. I remember reading The Last Battle on my honeymoon (2 1/2 years ago) and thinking I didn’t like the monkey/donkey stuff. But again, as with any “least favorite” parts/books in Narnia, “least favorite” in Narnia is still better than “most favorite” in so much other fiction.
    Please excuse this rather lenghty example: I really enjoyed reading Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson series last year, and his two new books this year, The Red Pyramid (Kane Chronicles Book 1) and The Lost Hero (Heroes of Olympus Book 1). But his formula is really glaring now and is getting a little stale. And even worse, it effects my memory of the other books I’ve already read. Cheesy chapter titles in the 5 Percy Jackson books: Amusing. Cheesy chapter titles in The Red Pyramid (a totally unrelated series of books): Kind of stupid, and makes the Percy Jackson chapter titles look stupid in hindsight. They’re still fun reads, but the formula seems obvious now, not just in the chapter titles, but the whole flow of each book. My point for bringing those up: The best parts of Riordan’s books don’t compare to the “least favorite” parts of Narnia. I’ll take Narnia any day, least favorite parts and all.

    Confused yet? 🙂 This isn’t to knock Rick’s books at all. I thoroughly enjoy them and will get all the books in the Kane Chronicles and the Heroes of Olympus. But Narnia is head and shoulders above a lot of fiction out there, even with it’s less interesting parts. I guess that’s why they’re a favorite series for so many people of so many age groups.

    • Jonathan Rogers
      6:17 PM, 3 December 2010

      JJ, you alluded to something that really sets Narnia apart from other series. They are so utterly unlike one another, and yet they’re all great fun. Lewis never falls back on a formula.
      Sally, I think I know what you mean when you say you feel ill when you think about infinity. I have a similar reaction to time travel stories. They really bother me. I get really agitated.

      Joe, with some trepidation I revisited the Emeth passage in WORLD ACCORDING TO NARNIA. I couldn’t remember exactly what I had said. But I can stand by those remarks five years later.

      I see a pattern emerging: People’s favorite Narnia book varies widely, but THE LAST BATTLE is running away with it when it comes to people’s least favorite.

      • Andreas Krauß
        1:36 PM, 3 June 2012

        “I see a pattern emerging: People’s favorite Narnia book varies widely,but THE LAST BATTLE is running away with it when it comes to people’s
        least favorite.”

        Hi, John.

        Well, I notized that, too.

        But fortunately, the same doesn’t go for me: THE LAST BATTLE is by far my favorite book. While it has some bad theology: Most notably that strange message about Emereth going to what passes as “Heaven” – Aslan’s Land -, on the grounds that while Emereth believed in and faithfully served Tash, because he did so with a faithful heart, his service has been really to Aslan, not to Tash.

        I don’t need to tell you how dangerous such an idea of faith is: not only does it stink of “Evangelium of Deeds” instead of Christ’s Evangelium of Faith; but it also strongly suggests that you can worship Satan and still go to Heaven if only your faith in Satan is “true”. Seems to me like the very antithesis of Christianity.

        Also, there’s this strange attemt to merge Plato’s archetypical world model with Christianity.

        But all of this pales against the sheer beauty of the book, its strong visuals of Narnia’s apocalypse, and, even more, the beauty and bliss of what happened after Narnia’s destruction.

        The Narnia books are fantasy novels, after all. They’re not real, so I can forgive the hell-spawned theology summarized above. Just like I can forgive Lewis’ racism against Orientals and so-called “Negroes”.

        I can forgive those faults, and on that basis, given all the strengths of THE LAST BATTLE, that book remains indeed my favorite Narnia book.

  • sally apokedak
    5:52 PM, 3 December 2010

    The Last Battle was my least favorite even before I was old enough to be bothered by the Emeth business. I never had a problem with Susan, because I think people do fall away even though for a time they really looked like they were saved. The saints will persevere and the pretenders will be shaken off. And fiction can’t have perfect theology. Lewis may have been illustrating one point when he said, “once a king or queen in Narnia, always a king or king or queen in Narnia,” and an entirely different point when he showed that Susan no longer believed in children’s stories about Narnia and Aslan.
    What I didn’t like about The Last Battle was the whole melding of England with Narnia and having them all go further up and further in. I have never been able to stand thinking about infinity. I literally feel like throwing up when I contemplate an existence with no end. I can speak of it as an idea, without thinking about it, but when I actually let me mind dwell on what it means to say that God is without beginning or end, I feel ill.

  • sally apokedak
    6:09 PM, 3 December 2010

    Oh, just want to add: The Silver Chair was great, Aaron. Puddleglum is one of my favorite characters ever. In the BBC movies Puddleglum’s insistence that he’s a reshpectabiggle is so good.
    I also love the Dufflepuds. Maybe I loved Puddleglum and the Dufflepuds because I liked that I was smart enough to see their faults.

  • JJ
    6:52 PM, 3 December 2010

    Good point Jonathan. I hadn’t even considered that, even though I eluded to it. 🙂 It must be very easy to fall into a formula, especially if it works. But to write 7 books in a series that are so very different for each other yet are linked to one another in some way, that’s quite an accomplishment.
    It really makes me want to bail on my reading of The Silver Chair and just start from the beginning and read them in rapid succession. I tend to get distracted with other books and Narnia always gets sidelined. They need a dedicated reading from beginning to end.

  • Jess
    9:26 PM, 3 December 2010

    Haha I forgot that I was among feechiefolk here. I highly doubt they care about my shocking use of “who”. 😉 I forgot to say (although I did say in another post) that I have never finished The Last Battle, and I didn’t think it would be fair to judge something I haven’t finished all the way through. Perhaps if I had read it I would have joined the ranks of all these Last-Battle-haters-or-at-least-um-least-favoriters. But as of now it is still Prince Caspian. Anyways. Sally, I totally understand. I get sick, too, when I think/read about infinity. But I also get sick when I think/read about aliens and madness (please don’t laugh at me!). I think it has something to do with the fear of the unknown. Like the lights on my wall that used to scare me until I understood that it was just the moon peeking through the curtain slit. 🙂

  • S.D. Smith
    9:42 PM, 3 December 2010

    I hate all the orphans in the world.
    The one I like least is probably either The Last Battle, for some of the reasons the high-larious Aaaaaron Roughton said, or The Horse and His Boy, because of nothing except it was, perhaps, less inner-esting than the others in some ways. Is that even a reason? No. I can only discover which I like least by ordering which I like best, which is a trick I learned from an old Indian.

    (This feels wrong. Like discussing what book of the Bible doesn’t belong in the canon.)

  • Patrick
    9:57 PM, 3 December 2010

    Sally: I didn’t like the melding with England either. So, if heaven will have a replica of London in all it’s man made splendor, could I also expect that New York is on another Spur of that mountain? And maybe Hobbiton and Tatooine and Vulcan… just seemed pretty goofy to me- and then it is all replicated over and over “deeper in”… maybe all the centuries of London exist there and you can choose which decade you want to live in? I could spend eternity in 1980’s New York? Oh wait- that’s beginning to sound like time travel. Talk of infinity and time-travel both make me feel nauseous.
    Once a King or Queen of Narnia…. you can’t loose it. It’s not going to fall out of your pocket like the sleigh bell in Polar Express. Susan couldn’t have lost her crown, but apparently she gave it away in her pursuit of self? I can’t be okay with the absence of Susan… that would be like saying I’m okay with the fact that people I love might not get to Heaven. I want to cry that she’s not there. And for all the people that for whatever reason either never accepted their crowns or gave them away before the end. That’s just another depressing part of the book… a depressing part of life. I didn’t say it wasn’t true- I just said I didn’t like it.

  • Sondorik
    7:11 PM, 4 December 2010

    When I read The Magician’s Nephew as a child, the prequel creation storyline threw me for a loop. “What? The story is going backwards?” I was devastated that the tale didn’t continue with Shasta and Avaris. Plus Jardis creeped me out. By the time I read TMN again as a teen, I had recovered from this trauma. It is perhaps the least peachy of all the Narnia books, but still a big piece of the pie.

    • Jonathan Rogers
      10:11 PM, 4 December 2010

      Thanks, everybody, for your thoughtful responses. Audience Participation Friday has become a highlight of my week…except on the odd Friday when you choose not to participate. Like the time only a couple of you came through with Boy Scout stories. That was one long Friday, I can tell you.
      I feel the need to say a word on SD Smith’s behalf. I’m pretty sure he was quoting Nacho Libre when he said he hated all the orphans in the world. I don’t think he actually does. In any case, please bear in mind that his remarks do not reflect the views of Jonathan-Rogers.com, its officers, or its staff. We’re very pro-orphan here.

      One more bit of unfinished business. I had said I would speak to the questions Aaron raised about Susan and Emeth in The Last Battle. People do get upset by the fact that Susan is left out of the New Narnia. I don’t have a whole lot to say about it except that we’ve all known people who had every reason to believe the gospel–have, in fact, experienced the truth of the gospel in some measure–but rejected it. Susan has traded in Narnia for the concerns of the world. That sort of thing happens all the time. I should also point out that the door hasn’t closed on Susan. The other children died in their world, and that’s how they ended up in the New Narnia. When The Last Battle ends, Susan hasn’t died yet. There’s hope for her. Don’t you think she’ll repent? That, too, happens all the time.

      Emeth…I’m just going to cut and paste my remarks about Emeth from The World According to Narnia, which Joe brought to our attention:

      One surprise further up and further in is the presence of Emeth, a Calormene and faithful servant of Tash—at least he thought he was a servant of Tash. Aslan welcomes him: “Child, all the service thou hast done to Tash, I count as service done to me.” Aslan’s statement sounds suspiciously universalist at first—as if it were sincerity or faithfulness to one’s own beliefs (whatever they may be) that really counts because, in the end, all religions point to the same thing. But Aslan clarifies: he and Tash are not the same, but utterly different—so different that Emeth’s honest service couldn’t possibly be mistaken for service to Tash. To put it another way, if Emeth had truly been seeking Tash, he would have found him long ago. “All find what they truly seek,” says the Lion.
      In an interview Lewis spoke of the person who desires God but hasn’t found him yet: “I should say that this person has in fact found God, although it may not be fully recognized yet. We are not always aware of things at the time they happen. At any rate, what is more important is that God has found this person, and that is the main thing.” Aslan has found Emeth, and he receives the Lion’s grace with all the wonder of the truly humble: “He called me Beloved, me who am but as a dog.”

  • Laura Peterson
    4:32 PM, 5 December 2010

    It’s not Friday anymore, but I had to chime in here and stick up for The Last Batttle, because I think it’s my MOST favorite. Things are confusing and muddled and even our hero Tirian seems to be unsure of himself and what he’s working for at times, and I see that all over the place in this world too. I love the closure of the ending, how the door is closed on Narnia in such a huge, majestic way. And I love that we get to see all our favorite characterrs again. I love pondering about Emeth – I don’t have an answer there, but a lot of my favorite stories are ones in which not everything is spelled out the way I’d like it to be, and there are things to think about after I’ve finished the last chapter.
    To the actual question of least favorite – I think I have to choose The Silver Chair. I’ve never really warmed to Puddleglum as much as other folks, plus there are no Pevensies to visit with, and all that time underground is just dark and sad. Give me a forest any day. Oh….except, Silver Chair has that great speech by Puddleglum when he says “I’m going to live as like a Narnian as I can, even if there isn’t any Narnia.” !! Wow, this is tough. I love all kinds of pie!

  • Drew
    10:05 PM, 6 December 2010

    Farther from Friday, but I’ll be the lone voice in declaring “Prince Caspian” my least favorite. I yammered on about this on Sam’s blog, but I just didn’t care for it. I don’t think it helps that so much of the book is taken up by Trumpkin telling the Pevensies all about Caspian.
    And Caspian comes off rather passive throughout; Peter’s the one who ends up fighting on Caspian’s behalf at the end. There’s some cool plotting and treachery . . . but meanwhile, there’s all sorts of weirdness going on with Lucy and Susan hanging out with Bacchus and the Maenads . . . and the river god chained by the bridge and Aslan turning schoolboys into pigs and the school being consumed by vines . . . it was just . . . freaky.

    There are a few nifty parts to Prince Caspian, but they don’t add up to a satisfying whole.

    The Last Battle is really a horrible book. Bad stuff happens, then keeps happening. We witness the slaughter of a herd of talking horses. We hear (thankfully, don’t witness) of a massive slaughter of everyone at Cair Paravel. As I read this to my children, I kept trying to tone down the awfulness. My six year old kept asking if Narnia would be saved at the end. I told her only what was said in the book — that all worlds come to an end except Aslan’s Country.

    The end of The Last Battle is one of the most joyful apocalypses in “end times” fiction, and the final handful of chapters redeems the rest of the book. This keeps it from being the least favorite of the Narnia books.

    Favorites? Easy: Dawn Treader and The Silver Chair. The Silver Chair probably just edges out Dawn Treader. It has, in Jill Pole, one of Lewis’s most fully-realized female protagonists.

  • Dryad
    3:57 PM, 8 December 2010

    My least favorite is the Silver Chair, for a rather irrational reason: I am very claustrophobic, so the underground scenes were terrifying to me. For rational reasons, my least favorite was probably Prince Caspian, because I felt like the purpose of the book was for Peter and Susan to leave (which made me sad.)

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