Study Guide

The Silver Chair

By C.S. (Clive Staples) Lewis

The Silver Chair Introduction

It's quiz time, Shmoopers. You ready? Don't worry, we promise this one's easy:

  • Do you care about truth and justice?
  • Have you ever struggled to take responsibility for your actions?
  • Do you like lions?

If you answered yes to any of the above, then you're in luck—C.S. Lewis's The Silver Chair is totally the book for you. But even if you answered no to every question (though we're not sure we believe that anyone doesn't like lions… just sayin'), there's still probably something in this book for you. After all, it's a fantasy novel that explores religion, prominently features a witch, journeys to magical lands, and culminates in a major dose of comeuppance for some school bullies. In other words, there's pretty much something for everyone tucked in these pages.

Published in 1953, The Silver Chair is the fourth book in Lewis's Chronicles of Narnia series, taking its place in line after The Lion, the Witch, and the WardrobePrince Caspian, and The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. So if you've read those, then get excited for more—but perhaps more importantly, if you like this book, then get ready to keep reading, since there are three additional books in the series. And that means lots more quality time with lions—or, the Lion, as Lewis calls Aslan in this series. Rawr.

What is The Silver Chair About and Why Should I Care?

Although we've never experienced this first-hand, word on the street is that some people don't like to read fantasy stories or fairy tales. If you are part of this rare group, don't despair—like Eustace Scrubb, you're primed for a conversion experience.

But why should you need converting? What's wrong with disliking these kinds of books? Allow us to explain.

To answer this, let's go back to The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, the book that comes before The Silver Chair in the Chronicles of Narnia series. At the beginning of that story, Eustace is a very unpleasant human being—partially because he "hasn't read the right sort of books." Instead of fairy tales and fantasies or books of adventure, Eustace just loves books that "[have] a lot to say about exports and imports and governments and drains." Unfortunately, those books are "weak on dragons"—and more importantly, on witches.

This becomes a major problem for him in two ways. First, he loves information only because it allows him to prove people wrong and intellectually bully them. But also, when Eustace actually does find himself in a dragon's lair—hey, it happens—he doesn't realize that the treasure in it will be cursed, much to his pain and suffering. Duh.

And these are just the practical repercussions of a poorly rounded literary diet. On a more intellectual and (dare we say) spiritual level, including fantastical narratives such as The Silver Chair in your life builds the muscles of your imagination and allows your mind to play with larger principles like faith, friendship, loyalty, and courage in new and interesting ways. And that's just good mental exercise, besides the fact that it's fun.

Lewis works hard to get you to flex those imaginative muscles, using tropes like aporia—a.k.a. a sense of inexpressibility—to force the limits of what we know (take a look at the description of the cliff on Aslan's mountain and you'll see what we mean). The point of having enchantments, morphing, beautiful witch queens, and two varieties of Giants Who Want to Kill You is not to fill you up with "useful information." It's to make you more receptive to the wonderful.

So don't be a Eustace and have to be turned into a dragon before you get to go on adventures and be the hero. Read The Silver Chair and open yourself to the questing life.

The Silver Chair Resources

Websites

Letters to Children
Lewis had a lot of young fans write to him over the years, asking questions about God, Narnia, writing, and just about everything else. Lewis enjoyed these letters and wrote some lovely and thoughtful responses to his young friends. This blog includes one such response and offers some writing advice to a girl named Joan.

BBC School Radio
This website was created just for elementary-aged schoolchildren to explore what life was like during World War II—which is the setting for many of the stories in the Chronicles of Narnia. This website lets you see and hear what life was like for children like this at a very difficult time in history.

The Life of C.S. Lewis
Explore the BBC's "Primary History" site to find out all kinds of cool information on the creator of Narnia. The website includes photos, videos, information, and links that will help you get the lowdown on Lewis.

Lewis and Spirituality
Lewis was also very famous for his work in Christian apologetics. This website looks at this side of Lewis, but also provides a great deal of information on his life and wonderful multimedia resources to help you better understand his work on Narnia.

The Wiki of Narnia
When there's a fantasy world as big as Narnia, you just know there's a wiki to go with it. This link will take you right to The Silver Chair section of this useful web-based encyclopedia for the Chronicles of Narnia.

Get Inspired
You're probably seeing a pattern here: The BBC seems to be in love with all things Lewis. This website focuses on Northern Ireland (Lewis' homeland) and on inspiring writers. You will find lots of information about Lewis' life and work, along with pictures and videos.

Movie or TV Productions

The Silver Chair Kicks it Old School
The BBC created a six-episode series to tell the story of The Silver Chair way back in 1990.

The Silver Chair on the Silver Screen
Because Aslan's already larger than life, and he deserves to be actually larger than life, too.

Articles and Interviews

Narnia's Sense of Place
This article explores how Lewis' childhood home in East Belfast (that's in Ireland) influenced his imagining of Narnia.

Caspian's Origin, on Screen
This is a short interview with the director of Prince Caspian, the 2008 movie that introduced Caspian into the Narnia storyline.

Meeting C.S. Lewis
One woman's account of meeting the man, the legend, the Lewis.

Video

BBC's Silver Chair Series
Take a look at the 1990 version released by the BBC in six episodes. This channel has links to all episodes, in ten-minute increments.

Another Writer in Poet's Corner
A short video about Lewis' inclusion in Poet's Corner at Westminster Abbey. This one includes footage of the places that inspired Lewis' creation of Narnia.

Audio

School of Fantasy
Children's fantasy favorites Neil Gaiman, Christopher Paolini, and Tamora Pierce tackle what makes a fantasy novel a classic. Narnia takes center stage in this discussion.

The Voice
Here is a short audio clip of Lewis speaking on the BBC. He is likely sharing content from his non-fiction work, Mere Christianity.

Images

The Art of Pauline Baynes
Enjoy the famous images that Pauline Baynes created for The Chronicles of Narnia, including book covers, maps, and calendars.

Re-Imagining Baynes's Art
Here is one artist's attempt to re-illustrate The Silver Chair, and her explanation of why it is so challenging.