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The Lion's World: A journey into the heart of Narnia

4.10  ·  Rating details ·  282 ratings  ·  54 reviews
Following the appearance of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe in 1950, C. S. Lewis's Chronicles of Narnia have enchanted children and adults alike for over half a century. In The Lion's World, Rowan Williams explores the moral landscape of all seven novels in the series, and offers an astute guide to their spiritual subtext. He draws on significant aspects of their ...more
Paperback, 151 pages
Published August 3rd 2012 by SPCK (first published August 1st 2012)
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Based on the Archbishop of Canterbury's 2011 Holy Week lectures, Williams provides a reading of Narnia that sees them not as religious tracts in disguise, but as actual stories; stories that communicate "the feel" of "coming across the Christian story as if for the first time." Avoiding condescension on one side, and mindless devotion on the other, Williams engages critically (but charitably) with Lewis' most famous books and in the process draws out some genuine theological and literary ...more
Mar 16, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Those who want to learn more about Narnia
Here is a lovely handbag/large pocket -sized book to savour with delight, puzzlement, understanding, and above all, curiosity and interest; perhaps pausing periodically to lay the book down so as to quietly and pensively also consider in a greater depth of thought the tremendous experience acquired of life, and wisdom through faith, that flows from the pen of Archbishop Rowan Williams, as he considers and delves into exploring the moral landscape of C.S. Lewis’ Narnia.

Williams doesn’t insult
Dan Glover
Jul 23, 2013 rated it really liked it
I was pleasantly surprised by this book. I have to admit that I didn't have high hopes for it considering the fact that I have very often disagreed with the perspectives of it's author. However, Williams really gets at the heart of much of what Lewis wants to reveal about God and ourselves in the Narnia books (and, in broader discussion, his other works). Sometimes I felt the language could have been more definite in its conclusions, but I chalked it up to years of Williams' speaking politically ...more
Mar 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Like Lewis' wardrobe, this small book is bigger on the inside than the outside. It has depths upon depths.
Jan 03, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I love this book. Rowan Williams' scholarship is very evident, but he conveys the depth of his knowledge and understanding without being obscure or condescending.
He lays out clearly the Christian ideas that were important to Lewis, and which he explored through the Chronicles of Narnia. Some of these ideas are quite challenging to the modern world - even to modern understandings of Christianity - and Williams examines and explains these challenges.
Lewis has been criticised for his attitudes to
Adam Shields
May 02, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Short Review: The Lion's World: A Journey into the Heart of Narnia by Rowan Williams - a short and helpful book about Lewis, Narnia and how they both point back to Christianity. While I definitely gained new insight into Lewis and Narnia, what most strikes me about the book is how Rowan Williams reads Lewis generously. It is not that he reads Lewis uncritically, Williams is a scholar and is bringing scholarly tools to the task of reading Lewis. But he always gives Lewis the benefit of the doubt ...more
Clare Holman-Hobbs
I've tried and failed to read this book three times now since I got it for Christmas and I think I'm just going to give up now. What I wanted from this book was a comprehensive list/accumulation of all of the Christian mythology and symbolism from the Chronicles of Narnia books but this edition failed to capture my attention. It was dense and long winded and I wanted something more straight to the point.
Feb 05, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: spirituality
Enjoyed this analysis of what Lewis attempted to achieve in his Narnia stories. "Mouthwash for the imagination" indeed!
Sep 30, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The first four chapters were a bit slow for me. That said, they cleared the way for much enjoyment in the last two chapters (and conclusion). Chapters 5 and 6 really open my eyes to more of the beauty in Lewis's writings. Rowan Williams did a fantastic work here.

I was longing for more cross-references to, what seemed to me to be, very clear allusions to passages and motifs in the Bible.

For the reader, it'd be helpful to be familiar with Lewis's other works outside of Narnia; That Hideous
Chris Callaway
Mar 08, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
A good read for fans of Narnia (and those who used to be and perhaps those who never were). The cover art is OK, but there are wonderful illustrations inside that I wish would find their way into a new edition of the Chronicles. This book would nicely accompany Laura Miller's excellent, "The Magician's Book: A Skeptic's Adventures in Narnia."
Tan Clare
Sep 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
God is the wildest greatest form of magic.
Aug 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: adult, non-fiction
Very moving and intelligent. How I wish Rowan Williams we’re still the Archbishop of Canterbury!
Aug 14, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An excellent examination of the Narnia series. Williams is always a pleasure to read and he addresses many of the controversial aspects of the series in a level-headed way.
This book straddles the line between the scholarly and the approachable, which, depending on a reader’s experience and preference, can be either a strength or weakness. This commentary is succint, but I would have preferred a more thorough investigation into some of Williams’ points (including comparisons to Dostoyevsky that I disagreed with).

Ultimately, this book is a good start for a casual reader of Lewis who wants to dip their toe into scholarly commentary and deeper analysis. Meanwhile,
Apr 19, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
I've been a big Narnia fan ever since my Dad started reading me the series -- before I can remember! -- and I've been reading analyses and criticism of C. S. Lewis since my early teens. So, when I started this book, I really wondered whether it would impart anything new.

I am delighted to say that this book is a great read, and very illuminating besides! I would recommend it wholeheartedly to anybody with an interest in Narnia. And Monica Capoferri's illustrations are an added bonus -- they are
Lillian Shuff
Sep 15, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: soul-reading
I felt a sort of home-coming reading this, looking again at all Narnia offers and examining the why behind many aspect of the tale. Rowan Williams is, of course, remarkable and I think the only reason I didn't give this book more stars is that, while it is very easy to get into and does open the mind, it involves less soul searching and brings less soul piercing wisdom than some of his other books. Still well worth the 144 pg read!
Alyssa Nelson
*I received a free copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.*

I'm not a very religious person, but I find it interesting how some authors can seamlessly weave metaphors and allusions to other narratives within their stories. Lewis was a master at this, and I thought that the best way to learn more about this religious undertones was to read literary criticism from someone who has a lot of knowledge about Christianity.

What I liked:
- Williams doesn't
Nov 28, 2013 rated it really liked it
I was interested to read what Rowan Williams, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, would write about the well-known fiction series by C.S. Lewis.

Though the books are known as children's literature, they are popular with adults as well. Williams points out that the series has its share of critics. Apparently Lewis' friend JRR Tolkien hated them because of the books' "random mixture of mythologies."

Williams points out that the books are intended to present a fresh view of Christian ideas. The
Christian McKay
Sep 12, 2013 rated it really liked it
If anyone could convert me, it's C.S. Lewis. His stories ring with a brightness . . . you know, I don't know why I bother trying to come up with a description. I'll just borrow his phrase. They're like "mouthwash for the imagination." That being said, the man is not without his faults (something he's well aware of, which makes his work all the more convincing, if you ask me). Rowan Williams has framed the importance of the Narnia series in this short but vital essay. The author is a deeply ...more
Feb 07, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This treasure of a book has a chapter entitled 'Bigger inside than outside' and that neatly sums up this examination of the Narnian world, holding as it does more depth of experience and insight into life than one might expect of 144 pages. Reading it gave me the same sense of joy I also received from Williams' longer book on Dostoevsky. It is not easy to let go of the stories we tell about ourselves and to embrace the narrative that the Great Storyteller has in mind for us but the lasting ...more
Sep 11, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I've read quite a few books about Lewis and Narnia and this was one of the absolute best. It is about the "heart of Narnia" meaning it finds the central focus/purpose/meaning rather than touching on different issues. I loved that focus and think Rowan Williams has found the heart, which of course also makes this a very moving book. I would probably also count it as one of the best books I've read, period, but I'd also say I'm sure that would not be the case for anyone that hasn't already read ...more
Keith Beasley-Topliffe
Mar 05, 2015 rated it really liked it
An invitation to reflection on the Narnia books for those who have read them. Or, as the subtitle has it, a journey into the heart of Narnia. It would not be a good introduction for someone thinking about reading the series or for someone who only knows the movies. I've read the series 3 or 4 times (and listened to the audiobook set once) so I could follow the references and found the analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of Lewis as storyteller and Christian apologist helpful to deeper ...more
Aug 10, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Although it was a bit convoluted at times, and its brevity left many of Williams' insights underdeveloped, I found that it was a pleasant read. Rowan Williams is a first rate theologian whose command of that subject as well as Western literature provides ample fuel for a keen discussion of many of Lewis' themes in the Narnian literature. Even though I have paged through other analyses of Lewis and Narnia and Christian faith, I found this little volume quite illuminating. I would recommend it as ...more
Don Zabriskie
Apr 16, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Strong Stimulus

This insightful investigation of various themes in CS Lewis' books concerning Narnia and the central figure of Aslan will have me back into the originals ASAP. A careful reading of this delightful collection of observations will require several readings for full benefit. I expect to return to it after digging through my library for old copies of Lewis' works. Rowan Williams has done a great job of promoting deeper reading of each of the tales of Narnia.
Mar 25, 2016 rated it it was amazing
There is little that can be said apart from this little book by Rowan Williams deserves to become a standard text on C.S. Lewis' theology as illustrated in his Narnia Chronicles. He is (dare I say) unusually lucid, as befits a study of children's fiction. For those who think the Narnia chronicles straightforward (whether as good or bad fiction), then this book should not only make us think again, but encourage us to go "further up, and further in."
Roy Howard
Dec 05, 2015 rated it it was amazing
If you love the Chronicles of Narnia, and want to know more about the stunning imagination of C.S. Lewis, read this book. Rowan Williams gives an excellent account of the depth of the Narnia tales while providing a (positive) critical overview of Lewis' imaginative work. Clearly, Williams has studied Lewis and the Chronicles. He brings out the riches in both even while addressing the critics of Lewis. It's a brief book that contains more wisdom than the brevity suggests.
Jen H.
Jan 05, 2014 rated it really liked it
First book I've read by the former Archbishop of Canterbury. I really liked his conclusion (a three-parter - sorry, you'll have to read the book to find the details). Williams has a bit of a different take on the story behind the story, but it's a take I appreciated.

Asian truly is, and always will be, on the move.
Andrew Mccracken
Mar 10, 2013 rated it it was amazing
"'The reader is brought into Narnia for a little in order to know Aslan better in this world. All that we have been trying to do in these pages is make sure the doors between the worlds are in reasonably good order, so that we may share that slowly flowering awareness of something constantly discovered and rediscovered and always new"
Oct 07, 2012 rated it it was ok

I don't think this was proof read by the Plain English Society! Detailed and intellectual, (of course, how could it be otherwise?) it misses the point that CSLewis wrote these magical books for children. I think it is a shame to spoil whatever deeper meaning they might suggest by taking it all so seriously.
Peter Haslehurst
Aug 28, 2012 rated it really liked it
I had the impression that serious theologians are somewhat embarrassed by CS Lewis, but here's Rowan Williams with a delightful little book about the Narnia stories. Lovely writing, full of insights, that will send me back to Lewis's books with renewed relish. A real refresher for my sometimes weary faith.
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Rowan Douglas Williams, Baron Williams of Oystermouth, is an Anglican bishop, poet, and theologian. He was Archbishop of Canterbury from December 2002-2012, and is now Master of Magdalene College, Cambridge and Chancellor of the University of South Wales.