Tales Before Narnia: The Roots of Modern Fantasy and Science Fiction
Edited by Douglas A. Anderson
Review by Gayle Surrette
Del Rey Paperback ISBN/ITEM#: 9780345498908
Date: 25 March 2008 List Price $15.00 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
Ever wonder where authors get their ideas? Sure you have, most of us do, but we know not to ask. Mostly, their ideas come from their experiences and their life. That's why I enjoy books such as Tales Before Narnia which give us some of the same stories that the author read as he was growing up, or in school. Douglas A. Anderson has collected some of the stories that may have been influential reading for C.S. Lewis.
Most of the stories are ones that were referenced by C.S. Lewis in correspondence with others, or written about in his papers, or based on other clues, and the popularity of the work during his life may have led them to be read by him -- thus influencing the Narnia books.
Some of the stories were ones that I was familiar with such as: "The Snow Queen" by Hans Christian Anderson, "The Magic Mirror" by George MacDonald, and "The Aunt and Amabel" by E. Nesbit.
Other stories were totally new to me. Some of the stories I truly enjoyed, such as: "The Man Who Lived Backwards" by Charles F. Hall, "Letters from Hell: Letter III" by Valdemar Thisted, and "The Tapestried Chamber; or, The Lady in the Saque" by Sir Walter Scott.
The only story I really didn't care for was "Undine" by Friedrich de la Motte Fouque. I found myself stalled in reading the book, putting it down after a few paragraphs, until finally I gave myself permission to give up. But instead I persevered and it is well told; just way too long for the story it tells, but probably perfect for its day.
I thought of giving simple summarys of the stories but most of them have been in print for a very long time and some are available from the Gutenberg Project. The importance of the collection for me is that these are stories that C.S. Lewis most likely read during his lifetime and more than likely parts of them -- phrases or scenes -- may have stuck in his mind helping to form the idea that eventually became the Narnia stories.
Probably not quite proper literary influence, but none the less, a good collection of classic stories that perhaps should not be forgotten.