Donald T. Williams, PhD
P.O. Box #800807
Toccoa Falls, GA. 30598


Colin Duriez, A Field Guide to Narnia. Downers Grove, Il.: InterVarsity Press, 2004. ISBN 0-8308-3207-6, pbk., 240 pp., $13.00.

This is a book for people with a particularly strong case of the hobbit's desire "to have books filled with things that they already knew, set out fair and square with no contradictions" (FOTR 27). It appears to be a miscellany of various bits of writing about Narnia that Duriez had in his files, none of which was substantial enough to be a book or original enough to be an article, but which were lumped together under one cover in the fond hope that the result would be more than the sum of its parts.

The first of those parts is called "The Creation of Narnia," though relatively little of it is about any such thing. It consists of yet another summary of Lewis's life, made slightly interesting by a series of photographs of Irish landscapes thought by Duriez to be possible inspirations for Narnian geography; a pedestrian treatment of books Lewis had read which might have given him ideas for Narnia; a discussion of the relation of the Chronicles to Christian Orthodoxy and the Christian worldview; and a brief survey of literary features of the books. There is nothing objectionable here, but neither is there anything particularly helpful. The Narnia books are pretty clear sailing. Children read them without any help at all and understand them well. They don't need and wouldn't read such an introduction. People who have become such enthusiasts for the books that they go from reading them to studying them and discussing them in print are going to want more depth and insight than Duriez provides.

The next section is entitled "All About The Chronicles of Narnia." It gives us completely unnecessary summaries of the stories, an overview of Narnian history and geography, etc. It contains nothing anyone couldn't learn with much more pleasure from reading the Narnia books themselves. Then there is a lame attempt to relate Lewis's other writings to Narnia, which usually produces one of two reactions: "Duh!" or "That's a bit of a stretch."

We finally come to the last section, one which does at least provide the hobbit's pleasure in books filled with things we already know set out squarely. It is called "The A-Z of Narnia," and is an encyclopedia of Narnian characters, places, events, institutions, and things, from Adam to Zardeenah. This part is actually well done in its kind and could well give the hobbit's pleasure that is the promise of that kind. Unfortunately, it only covers fifty pages-hence the unfortunate necessity of padding the book with the rest of its contents. If the hobbit's desire is strong enough in you that you will gladly buy 240 pages in order to get fifty, then this book is for you.

Updated Jan-25-2005