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C.S. Lewis

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Also Known As: Clive Staples Lewis Died: November 22, 1963
Born: November 29, 1898 Cause of Death: Kidney Failure
Birth Place: Belfast, , IE Profession:

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

One of the United Kingdom's most esteemed 20th-century authors, C.S. Lewis is best known for his Chronicles of Narnia fantasy series. Born and raised in Belfast, Ireland, Lewis was an avid reader in his youth. Attending Oxford University and excelling as a scholar, Lewis went on to tutor at the school, and fell in with a literarily inclined group that included J.R.R. Tolkien. In 1933, Lewis' debut novel, The Pilgrim's Regress, was published to little attention. The far bolder and more imaginative Out of the Silent Planet (1938) followed, and the science-fiction story led to two sequels. Meanwhile, Lewis kept busy with various nonfiction works that often carried Christian themes. In 1942, he unveiled the satirical novel The Screwtape Letters, but his greatest literary success arrived in 1950, when he released The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, the first installment in his seven-book Narnia series, which became the foundation of his legacy. Lewis died in 1963, and appreciation for his work has endured over the decades, with popular movie adaptations of his Narnia stories introducing younger generations to his thoughtful, engaging and wonder-filled writing. A native of Belfast, Clive Staples Lewis...

One of the United Kingdom's most esteemed 20th-century authors, C.S. Lewis is best known for his Chronicles of Narnia fantasy series. Born and raised in Belfast, Ireland, Lewis was an avid reader in his youth. Attending Oxford University and excelling as a scholar, Lewis went on to tutor at the school, and fell in with a literarily inclined group that included J.R.R. Tolkien. In 1933, Lewis' debut novel, The Pilgrim's Regress, was published to little attention. The far bolder and more imaginative Out of the Silent Planet (1938) followed, and the science-fiction story led to two sequels. Meanwhile, Lewis kept busy with various nonfiction works that often carried Christian themes. In 1942, he unveiled the satirical novel The Screwtape Letters, but his greatest literary success arrived in 1950, when he released The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, the first installment in his seven-book Narnia series, which became the foundation of his legacy. Lewis died in 1963, and appreciation for his work has endured over the decades, with popular movie adaptations of his Narnia stories introducing younger generations to his thoughtful, engaging and wonder-filled writing.

A native of Belfast, Clive Staples Lewis grew up heartily identifying with his Irish heritage. The son of a lawyer, he was curious and creative even as a young boy, and, along with his brother, Warren, he dreamed up a magical world known as Boxen. Fascinated by mythology and suspicious of religion, Lewis, who preferred the first name Jack, declared himself an atheist as a teen, a move partially influenced by his mother's death years earlier. Later winning a scholarship to Oxford's University College, he acclimated to English life with reluctance, but academics suited him well. With the arrival of World War I, Lewis served with the British Army and subsequently returned to school, thriving in philosophy and literature. Hired on as a tutor at Oxford, he eventually found his way into the social circle know as "the Inklings," where he met fellow fantasy-loving scholar J.R.R. Tolkien. Though drawn to the supernatural, Tolkien was a faithful Catholic and gradually guided Lewis towards Christianity. Shortly after this conversion in 1931, Lewis began his long run as a prolific and eclectic writer.

Taking the Everyman concept of John Bunyan's classic tale Pilgrim's Progress and updating it for the pre-World War II era, Lewis' first novel, The Pilgrim's Regress didn't win many fans. For his second book, however, Lewis turned to science fiction, devising a pensive space adventure entitled Out of the Silent Planet, which featured religious themes tucked away in its fantastical plot. The book's main protagonist, Dr. Elwin Ransom, a character partially based on Tolkien, returned for two well-received sequels, Perelandra (1943) and That Hideous Strength (1945), the three novels becoming known as The Space Trilogy. An unapologetic skeptic of Christianity despite his beliefs, Lewis combined religion and fiction more blatantly in The Screwtape Letters (1942), which presented letters from Screwtape, an experienced demon, to his nephew Wormwood, a youth learning how to properly tempt humans to the path of evil. During this period, Lewis wrote numerous nonfiction books on theology, some of which were later collected as the lauded anthology Mere Christianity (1952).

Returning to his lifelong love of animals and mythology, Lewis created Chronicles of Narnia, which began in 1950 with The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. The novel introduced the four young Pevensie siblings, who find their way into a magical land populated by talking mammals and mythological creatures, as well as by mystical forces of good and evil. Lewis spent the first half of the 1950s working on further installments of the enchanted tale, including Prince Caspian (1951) and The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (1952), which both featured the Pevensies. The next book, The Silver Chair (1953), introduced a number of new characters, with the familiar heroic lion, Aslan, making an appearance, as in all Narnia novels. Subsequent books went back further in the world's chronology, and the entire series culminated in the fittingly epic finale The Last Battle (1956).

Around this time, Lewis, a perennial bachelor, married Joy Davidman Gresham, an American author who had left her first husband and the United States for a new start in England. The couple's happiness was cut short, however, when she was diagnosed with bone cancer. She reportedly contributed significantly to Lewis' overlooked final novel, Till We Have Faces (1956), a story based on the Greek myth of Cupid and Psyche. Following her death in 1960, Lewis contended with his sorrow, even writing a book about the subject, A Grief Observed (1961), under the alias N.W. Clerk. For the rest of his life, Lewis concerned himself primarily with theological writing. After experiencing kidney-related problems, he seemed to be on the mend, but he died in 1963 on the very same day that American president John F. Kennedy was killed, significantly reducing media coverage of his passing.

In 1967, a 10-part live-action television adaptation of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (ITV) aired, but, given the scope of the story, as well as most of Lewis' other fiction work, no further interpretations were attempted until a 1979 animated TV movie, which was directed by Bill Melendez of "Charlie Brown" fame. In 1988, the BBC launched an ambitious "Chronicles of Narnia" live-action TV series, which began with "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe," followed by a combined run of "Prince Caspian/The Voyage of the Dawn Treader" and a subsequent six-part take on "The Silver Chair." Lewis himself became the subject of "Shadowlands," which depicted his close relationship with Joy Gresham, first as a 1985 BBC TV movie and later as a 1993 Academy Award-nominated feature film starring Anthony Hopkins and Debra Winger.

Meanwhile Lewis' work went on to influence countless fantasy and sci-fi writers, including Harry Potter scribe J.K. Rowling. Lewis' cherished tales finally made the leap to the big screen in 2005 with the well-received release of a big-budget, CGI-enhanced version of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, directed by Andrew Adamson and featuring major acting talent, including Tilda Swinton and Liam Neeson. Adamson returned for the second installment, "Prince Caspian" (2008), and handed the reins to veteran filmmaker Michael Apted for "The Voyage of the Dawn Treader" (2010). The four remaining Narnia books, however, awaited their respective adaptations while held up in legal/development limbo. Outside of the Narnia stories, no major productions of other Lewis work have been adapted for screen. This has led legions of devoted Lewis readers to have their own personal versions of beloved books such as The Screwtape Letters and The Space Trilogy, a notion that the strong-willed author surely would have approved.

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Milestones close milestones

1933:
Published debut novel, <i>The Pilgrim's Regress</i>
1938:
First sci-fi book, <i>Out of the Silent Planet</i>, released
1942:
<i>The Screwtape Letters</i> published
1950:
<i>The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe</i> debuted
1952:
<i>Mere Christianity</i> collected
1967:
The first TV version of <i>The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe</i> aired
1993:
The Lewis feature biopic "Shadowlands" debuted
2005:
<i>The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe</i> adapted into a blockbuster movie
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Education

Malvern College: -
University College, Oxford University: -

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