When I originally read The Chronicles of Narnia I read an older boxset which has the books numbered in original publication order:

  1. The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe
  2. Prince Caspian
  3. The Voyage of the Dawn Treader
  4. The Silver Chair
  5. The Horse and His Boy
  6. The Magician's Nephew
  7. The Last Battle

This was later changed by the publishers to be in chronological order as pertaining to the timeline of Narnia:

  1. The Magician's Nephew
  2. The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe
  3. The Horse and His Boy
  4. Prince Caspian
  5. The Voyage of the Dawn Treader
  6. The Silver Chair
  7. The Last Battle

I've never understood the reason for this change and I can't think of any other cases where a series of novels' order was changed by a publisher. What was the reason the publishers decided to make this change in reading order of The Chronicles of Narnia?

  • Which publisher is/are your boxset(s) from?
    – Rand al'Thor
    Jul 18, 2020 at 16:55
  • 1
    The older one is published by Macmillan and the newer one is published by HarperCollins
    – sanpaco
    Jul 18, 2020 at 19:23
  • Yep, that fits with what I wrote in my answer :-)
    – Rand al'Thor
    Jul 18, 2020 at 19:47
  • 1
    One edition of EE Doc Smith's Skylark series had the second book in the series put into the third slot by mistake because the second book of the series is named Skylark 3 (they break the first Skylark in the first book and make the Skylark 2 all in the first book).
    – NomadMaker
    Jul 19, 2020 at 5:23
  • If a series adds prequels or "side" stories, it's unusual for people to not consume the series in in-universe chronological order after those are available. Consider Star Wars - it would be strange to watch 4-6 and only then watch Rogue One afterwards. (YMMV on other episodes, but most people agree the original trilogy and Rogue One are good.)
    – Graham
    Jul 19, 2020 at 23:58

1 Answer 1


The question of reading order for The Chronicles of Narnia is a complicated one, with much debate even among avid fans of the series. But you've asked only why publishers changed the order, which is much easier to answer objectively than which order is "best"/preferable.

The answer lies in a letter which Lewis wrote, dated April 1957, to a young American fan named Laurence Kreig. The boy preferred internal chronological order (starting with The Magician's Nephew) while his mother preferred publication order (starting with The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe). Lewis said:

I think I agree with your order for reading the books more than with your mother's. The series was not planned beforehand as she thinks. When I wrote The Lion I did not know I was going to write any more. Then I wrote P. Caspian as a sequel and still didn't think there would be any more, and when I had done The Voyage I felt quite sure it would be the last, but I found I was wrong. So perhaps it does not matter very much in which order anyone read them. I’m not even sure that all the others were written in the same order in which they were published. I never keep notes of that sort of thing and never remember dates.

In C.S. Lewis's Collected Letters, Volume 3, pp. 847-8, the following footnote is added to this letter:

In the summer of 1963 Lewis had Walter Hooper write down the order in which he preferred the stories to be read: 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; and The Last Battle. Regarding the order in which the stories were written, see CG, ‘The Writing of the Narnias’, pp. 401–5.

The US publication rights were originally owned by Macmillan, who preferred the original publication order starting with The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. In 1994, Harper Collins took over the US publication rights, and they changed the order to internal chronological order starting with The Magician's Nephew. Why? In the 2005 Harper Collins editions, the publishers added the following note:

Although The Magician's Nephew was written several years after C. S. Lewis first began The Chronicles of Narnia, he wanted it to be read as the first book in the series. HarperCollins is happy to present these books in the order in which Professor Lewis preferred.

TL;DR: Lewis himself expressed a preference for internal chronological order, at least a couple of times, and the publishers of later editions decided to follow this.

Further reading: Paul Ford, Companion to Narnia: A Complete Guide to the Magical World of C.S. Lewis's The Chronicles of Narnia, 2005. Hat-tip also to Wikipedia and Jon Ericson's blog and comments for guiding me to some useful sources.

  • 4
    Great answer and very interesting. I never knew that Lewis himself said he wanted the order changed. This actually slightly changes my opinion about the "correct" order haha. Although I'll probably stick to the order I first read them in.
    – sanpaco
    Jul 18, 2020 at 19:21
  • 6
    There are obviously things to be said in favour of both points of view. But, personally,I would find it very odd if reading the Narnia series for the first time to attempt to read an entire novel before reading The Lion The Witch and the Wardrobe. Perhaps the subsequent order is not so important, but it would be baffling to read any novel from the series prior to reading the one which explains what is happening and introduces all the characters.
    – Ed999
    Jul 18, 2020 at 21:32
  • 4
    In these quotes, at least, it seems more like Lewis was encouraging a young reader to explore literature than expressing his own advocacy for a chronological reordering. Jul 18, 2020 at 22:21
  • 2
    I'm leaning towards agreement with @chrylis-cautiouslyoptimistic-, while Lewis stated the he "thinks" he agrees with the chronological order, he also states that it doesn't matter entirely what order you read them in. The quote then by HarperCollins stating that they are presenting the series in the "order that Lewis preferred" seems to jump from a slightly leaning opinion to some kind of a dying desire to have changed the order.
    – sanpaco
    Jul 19, 2020 at 1:47
  • 3
    @ElizaWilson I don't think that follows. The Magician's Nephew assumes the reader is already familiar with Narnia. In fact Narnia is mentioned in the very first paragraph, without further explanation (and the narrative doesn't even reach Narnia until halfway through the book). By contrast, in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe the reader is properly introduced to Narnia as Lucy and the other children find out about it. Jul 19, 2020 at 8:37

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