Tales Before Narnia, by Douglas A. Anderson (ed.)

February 28, 2011 at 13:47 (Book Reviews, Children's Books, Fairy Tales, Fantasy, Fiction, Mediocre Books) (, , , , )


This was a little misleading in its title. Tales Before Narnia is not strictly Tales That Inspired CS Lewis To Write The Chronicles – some of the stories included were similar to his work, but never read by him. Others were works that inspired him greatly, but of vastly different genres and occupied with subject matter quite unlike anything Lewis himself worked on. The editorial introductions were helpful and of just the right length, and it was very pleasant to find so many stories either unpublished or else published in old and out of print anthologies. For this resurrection of forgotten short stories this is a very precious book. As for the stories themselves they range from dull and dreary (The Dream Dust Factory, by Lewis’ wife’s ex-husband) to the sublime (Tolkien’s and Dickens’ entries fit this category well). The extracts are short, which mingles the blessing of having only to suffer briefly with poorer entries with the unsatiated whetting of the appetite for the full catalogues of the wonderful authors who provided the bedrock of C. S. Lewis’ literary upbringing. Unfortunately, besides a handful of brilliant entires and a handful of the usual dreadful, this anthology contains a great deal of filler material that is utterly useless in drawing a sketch of Lewis and only of passing interest on its own merits.

1 Comment

  1. David said,

    You’re right that the title is misleading, and that a few of the stories seemed to have little reason to be there. But overall I enjoyed it immensely. In fact, I thought “The Dream Dust Factory” and Chesterton’s “The Coloured Lands” were far and away the most brilliant and entertaining entries. “Factory” in particular really moved me. The two ones about demons were quite boring, though, and I couldn’t finish them, while Kipling’s story was absolutely atrocious. Anyway, I comment on all of the stories on my own review of this collection. Have you read Anderson’s other volume, Tales Before Tolkien? I haven’t yet, but intend to find it sometime.

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