Frequently Asked Questions
I have been asked a lot of questions since launching this site 24 years ago. Here's an effort to answer the most common ones.
Questions about Into the Wardrobe
Are you C. S. Lewis?
Are you his stepson, Douglas Gresham?
Do you have any official connection to C. S. Lewis?
Can you help me with my homework or a school project?
Okay, so then who are you and why did you create this website?
My name is John Visser. In 1994, while reading The Chronicles of Narnia for the umpteenth time, I decided to search the web for information about its author. When I discovered there was nothing available (and I mean nothing — it was 1994, after all), I did some old-fashioned research and launched this site on December 5, 1994 so that others would have a place online to learn about C. S. Lewis.
I am not a C. S. Lewis expert, but I do enjoy Lewis' books (my favorites are The Chronicles of Narnia and Till We Have Faces). The creation and maintenance of this site is a labor of love, but if you've found something of value here, please consider making a small donation to show your thanks and help support my efforts.
I have questions that need answering! Can you help?
Yup! Although not personally — that's what this website is for, and this FAQ is where I suggest you start. There's also a nifty search box on each page that will let you search the entire site. There used to be a robust online community that I closed in 2010, but you can still read through the forum archive.
Do you have any additional information you can send me?
Sorry, I do not.
Do you accept submissions of content?
Why, yes I do. If you have a favorite quote, a favorite website, an essay you've written, or something else you feel belongs on this site, send it along and I'll review it for inclusion on the site. Thanks!
Can I use any of the material on your site for [insert reason]?
Since I do not own much of the material here, I cannot give permission to use it. Please refer to the copyright page. Also, please note that I am not available for questions regarding how to include this material in your bibliography.
Why aren't there publication dates on the essays?
Yeah, I know. Sorry about that. They were all submitted many years ago when I first started the website, and at the time I didn't bother finding that out. All I can tell you is they were published some time elsewhere before 2000, and reproduced on this site with the author's permission.
Do you have an archive of quotes? May I please have it?
Yes, I do have an archive of quotes, but unfortunately, no, you can't have it. Copyright laws, you know. I was granted permission to include them here, with the request not to give access to the archive. The only way to get the daily quote is by visiting the site.
Exactly when does the daily quote change?
The daily quote changes every 24 hours at 12AM, Greenwich Mean Time (GMT).
Why don't you have anything about the Narnia films?
I made the decision long ago that the site was only going to be about C. S. Lewis and his writings. For the latest news and discussions for Narnia fans, please go to NarniaWeb.
Questions about C. S. Lewis
How can I contact C. S. Lewis?
Unfortunately, you can't. He died on November 22, 1963. Yes, that's the same day that John F. Kennedy was assassinated. Aldous Huxley also died that day.
I have questions about the life of C. S. Lewis. Can you help?
You're in luck, because there's an outline of the life of C. S. Lewis on this site.
What does the "C. S." stand for?
His full name is Clive Staples Lewis.
What did C. S. Lewis write?
Perhaps his most famous writings are The Chronicles of Narnia (which are comprised of seven books), The Space Trilogy, Mere Christianity, and The Screwtape Letters. Complete lists of his works can be found on this site.
Where can I download the text of C. S. Lewis' books?
Most of Lewis' work is still under copyright, and will be for some time. However, if you do some digging around the web, you probably can find what you're looking for (but no, I won't tell you where). Of course, you can purchase eBooks, or find the hard copies at a bookstore or your local library.
What did C. S. Lewis look like?
Just like this.
In Letters to Children, he described himself as "...tall, fat, rather bald, red-faced, double-chinned, black-haired, hav[ing] a deep voice, and wear[ing] glasses for reading."
There's a gallery of photos on this site, if you'd like to see more.
What did C. S. Lewis sound like?
Being born in Northern Ireland, then moving to England at 10 years old and being educated at public school and Oxford, Lewis had a rather unique accent. Hear it for yourself:
Why was C. S. Lewis known as Jack?
As a child, Lewis had a dog called "Jacksie" whom he really loved. When he was four years old, the poor dog got run down by one of the first cars in Ireland. He then said that from that point on he'll be known by the name of his dog (although he also didn't like his birth names). Eventually, the name evolved from "Jacksie" to Jack. From that point on, all his friends and teachers called him that, except for one of his tutors.
Is it true that C. S. Lewis was an atheist at one point in his life?
Yes. Lewis was raised in a Christian home (Church of Ireland), and became an atheist when he was 15. He converted back to Christianity (Church of England) when he was 33 with the help of his friend, J. R. R. Tolkien.
Who was Joy Davidman?
Helen Joy Davidman was an American poet and writer who first met C. S. Lewis in 1952, after corresponding for two years. A rapid friendship developed and Joy moved to England in 1953. In 1956, after her visitor's visa could not be renewed, Lewis agreed to enter into a civil marriage contract with her on April 23, 1956, so that she could continue to live in the UK. Lewis told a friend that "the marriage was a pure matter of friendship and expediency."
They continued to live separately after the civil marriage, and in October 1956, Joy was diagnosed with cancer. It was at this time that Lewis recognized that he had fallen in love with her, writing to a friend that "new beauty and new tragedy have entered my life. You would be surprised (or perhaps you would not?) to know how much of a strange sort of happiness and even gaiety there is between us."
Joy underwent several operations and radiation treatment for the cancer. In March 1957, Warren Lewis (Jack's brother) wrote in his diary: "One of the most painful days of my life. Sentence of death has been passed on Joy, and the end is only a matter of time."
The relationship between Joy and C. S. Lewis had developed to the point that they sought a Christian marriage, but it was not straightforward in the Church of England at the time because she was divorced. However, a friend and Anglican priest, Reverend Peter Bide, performed the ceremony at the hospital on March 21, 1957. The marriage did not win wide approval among Lewis' social circle, and some of his friends and colleagues avoided the new couple.
Joy's cancer went into remission, and the couple went on a belated honeymoon to Wales and Ireland. In October 1959, the cancer had returned. The following year, Lewis fulfilled her lifelong wish to visit Greece, and shortly upon their return, Joy Davidman died on July 13, 1960.
Who was Janie Moore?
Janie King Moore was the mother of Paddy Moore, Lewis' closest comrade-in-arms during the First World War. Lewis reported that the two young men made a pledge that if either man didn't make it home, the survivor would take care of Lewis' father and Moore's mother. Paddy Moore died in the war, and Lewis fulfilled that pledge for years, contributing towards Mrs. Moore's finances when he was still a poor student and setting up a home with her and Moore's young sister Maureen when he obtained a teaching position and could afford one. When her declining health (years later) required professional care, he faithfully visited the nursing home until she died. Maureen later succeeded to a Scottish title and became Lady Dunbar of Hempriggs.
The exact nature of Lewis' relationship with Janie is not certain: many people have surmised that it is connected with the "enormous emotional episode" that Lewis refers to in his book, Surprised by Joy, but says that he is not at liberty to write about. Walter Hooper wrote that "the combination of motive, means and opportunity invites, though it does not demand, the conclusion that Janie King Moore and C. S. Lewis were lovers."
Janie Moore is sometimes represented as the villain in the story of C. S. Lewis. Owen Barfield says people have turned her into "a sort of baleful stepmother." Warren, Jack's brother, described her relationship with Lewis as a "strange, self-imposed slavery." On the other hand, George Sayer wrote, "Some of those who have written about C. S. Lewis regard his living with Mrs. Moore as odd, even sinister. This was not the view of those of us who visited his home in the thirties. Like his other pupils, I thought it completely normal that a woman, probably a widow, would make a home for a young bachelor. We had no difficulty accepting her, even when we came to realise that she was not his mother."
Did C. S. Lewis win any awards or honors?
The Last Battle won the Carnegie Award, the highest honor for children's literature in the United Kingdom. Also, Winston Churchill offered Lewis a CBE (Commander of the British Empire) in 1951, but he turned it down.
Are there any tours of C. S. Lewis sites in Ireland or England? Are the Kilns open to the public?
Yes, there are! If you're interested in learning about the sites and how to make reservations, I recommend getting Touring C. S. Lewis' Ireland and England by Perry Bramlett and Ronald Higdon.
You can also contact The C. S. Lewis Foundation for information on how to make a reservation to visit The Kilns, where Lewis lived for much of his life.
Are there any other C. S. Lewis related sites that are open to the public?
In the United Kingdom:
- Magdalen College, Oxford is often open to public visits in the vacations.
- Holy Trinity Churchyard Headington Quarry, Oxford (the site of Jack's grave) is open.
- The Eagle and Child (the Bird and Baby) where many of the Inklings meetings were held is open during normal pub opening hours.
In the United States:
- Wheaton College in the far western suburbs of Chicago, houses an extensive collection relating not only to C. S. Lewis, but also to G. K. Chesterton and Dorothy Sayers. Among its treasures is the original wardrobe that C. S. Lewis supposedly had in mind when he wrote the Narnia books.
Questions about The Chronicles of Narnia
What is the correct order for reading The Chronicles of Narnia? What order do you recommend?
Simply put, I don't believe there is a correct order. But depending upon who you ask, there is a preferred order.
The books were originally published without numbers, since Lewis didn't know how many Narnia books he was going to write. When the American publisher Macmillan decided to put numbers on their editions they chose to use the order in which the books were originally published.
- The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (1950)
- Prince Caspian (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)
When HarperCollins took over the publication of the books in America, they decided to keep numbering the books, but on the recommendation of Lewis' stepson, Douglas Gresham, they adopted the order that follows Narnian chronology:
- The Magician's Nephew
- The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
- The Horse and His Boy
- Prince Caspian
- The Voyage of the Dawn Treader
- The Silver Chair
- The Last Battle
This is also the order followed by the current British editions, published by Fontana Lions.
As for my recommendation, I always suggest that the first-time reader begin with The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and then continue in the published order. Once all seven books have been read in that order, read them again (and again) however you choose. My reasoning? I find The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe to be a much more engaging book than The Magician's Nephew, and you'll find a lot more wonderful surprises throughout the series if you read them in the published order.
Is it true that there are differences in the British and American editions of the Narnia books?
Yes. In addition to the obvious spelling differences in some common words, there are some minor changes that were made to The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and The Voyage of the Dawn Treader for their American publication. For example, the name of the White Witch's agent is changed from Maugrim to Fenris Ulf, and Peter's title from Sir Peter Wolfs-Bane to Sir Peter Fenris-Bane. In the UK edition, Aslan says that the Emperor's magic is written "in letters as deep as a spear is long on the fire-stones of the Secret Hill." In the American edition, he says "in letters as deep as a spear is long on the trunk of the world ash-tree."
Where did C. S. Lewis come up with the word "Narnia"?
According to Paul Ford's Companion to Narnia:
...There is no indication that [Lewis] was alluding to the ancient Umbrian city Nequinium, renamed Narnia (after the river Nar, a tributary of the Tiber) by the conquering Romans in 299 BC. Since Lewis's first successes at Oxford were in the classics and ancient history, it is quite possible that he came across at least seven references to Narnia in Latin literature.
Four references are found in Livy's History (10:10, 27:9,27:50, and 29:15)...Tacitus's Annals (3:9)...Pliny the Elder's comment in Natural History about its unusual weather (it became drier in the rainy season)...Pliny the Younger's letter to his mother-in-law, in which he mentions the excellence of the accommodations of her villa at Narnia, especially its beautiful baths. Of all of these references, Lewis mentions only Pliny the Younger, in a letter to Arthur Greeves (They Stand Together, Macmillan, Collins, 1979, p. 171).
Do you have a recipe for Turkish Delight?
There are several Turkish Delight recipes available online. Here are a few to try:
Have something you'd like added here? Please send it along and I'll review it.