On this day in pop culture history: ‘The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe’ was published
65 years ago today, readers were transported to Narnia with the Pevensie children for the first time as C.S. Lewis’ “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” hit the shelves of bookstores in England. The classic children’s fantasy novel was published on October 16, 1950.
It was the first of Lewis’ seven Narnia books to be released and to be written, though it became volume 2 in recent editions of the series, sequenced chronologically according to Narnia history, putting “The Magician’s Nephew” first.
Lewis wrote “Lion, Witch and the Wardrobe” over the course of 10 years, at the same time his dear friend J.R.R. Tolkien was working on “The Lord of the Rings.” The two Brits frequently met on Monday mornings to talk about writing. Ultimately, though, Tolkien was critical of the Narnia books. There’s much speculation as to why the “Hobbit” scribe had a negative reaction to his friend’s fantasy series. Was it because Narnia was too allegorical for Tolkien’s taste? Was it because Lewis churned out his children’s stories so quickly, while Tolkien labored over the meticulously crafted world of Middle-earth? Was it Tolkien’s dislike of Lewis mixing mythologies, putting fauns and dragons and Father Christmas in the same world?
We may never know exactly why. As to what Tolkien himself has said on the matter, he once wrote in a letter, “It is sad that ‘Narnia’ and all that part of C.S.L.’s work should remain outside the range of my sympathy, as much of my work was outside his.”
Any lack of a Tolkien stamp of approval didn’t keep the Narnia books from finding success and a lasting place in pop culture. Three of the “Chronicles of Narnia” books were adapted into movies, and they remain among the best-selling books of all time.
Other notable October 16 happenings in pop culture history:
• 1942: “Rodeo,” the ballet with music by Aaron Copland, opened at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York.
• 1951: Little Richard had his first recording session, in Atlanta.
• 1973: “Don’t Look Now,” the thriller starring Donald Sutherland, opened in theaters.
• 1992: Sinead O’Connor was booed off stage at Madison Square Garden during a show to honor Bob Dylan.
• 2008: The iTunes Store reached the milestone of 200 billion television episodes sold.
Birthdays: “Murder, She Wrote” actress Angela Lansbury (turns 90 today), singer-songwriter John Mayer (38), Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist Flea (53), “The Shawshank Redemption” actor Tim Robbins (57), “Grey’s Anatomy” actress Caterina Scorsone (34), “Step by Step” actress Suzanne Somers (69)