So far comparisons between the upcoming Chronicles of Narnia movie and Lord of the Rings have been unavoidable.

For starters, both films are based on beloved fantasy tomes by tweedy English academics that even happened to have lived in the same era. Also, both movies were also filmed in New Zealand. But the million dollar question is: will Narnia be as big a box-office hit as Rings? Or make that the 292,000,000 New Zealand dollars question, because that is the amount of money its producers have poured into the film thus far . . .

Both films are about the eternal struggle between Good and Evil, with capital letters: in Narnia four children enter a magical land through an old wardrobe and meet the lion Aslan who is trying to liberate the fantastic country of Narnia from the clutches of an evil Ice Queen (Tilda Swinton, Constantine). Needless to say, the children join up with the forces of Good. In Rings a similar simplistic tale of Good vs. Evil is played out in a magical realm inhabited by elves, dwarves and other fantastical creatures.

Starring a cast of mostly unknowns like Rings (at least at the time of its making), Narnia is directed – without any whiff of irony this time around – by Andrew Adamson of Shrek fame. Like Rings, Chronicles of Narnia is slotted for a December release date instead of the usually crowded American summer movie season.

"The three Lord of the Rings movies made more money than the annual GDP of a country like Mozambique!"

Comparisons are unavoidable, and there can be no doubt that Narnia is hoping to cash in on the current vogue for fantasy movies, especially with Pottermania continuing unabated and the three Lord of the Rings movies having brought in something like $2,9 billion U.S. dollars at box-offices globally – more than the annual GDP of a country like Mozambique!

Without the recent successes of Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings, it is unlikely that a project like Narnia would have been green-lit, especially since fantasy movies had a mixed reception at the box office in previous decades with expensive films such as Legend (1985) and Willow (1988) flopping at the box office. However, the new millennium seems to have ushered in new anxieties (the first Lord of the Rings movie arrived on U.S. screens mere months after the September 11 attacks) that make audiences seek out escapist fantasy fare.

So will Chronicles of Narnia be the next Lord of the Rings? It seems unlikely. The Narnia film may be more “family-friendly” than the “sombre, violent and almost morbidly death-obsessed” (as one critic described it) Rings, but the Tolkien novels, after languishing as a hippie cult favourite novel at campuses for decades, have more successfully penetrated the popular public consciousness – largely thanks to some innovative and popular calendar art work in more recent years. Put more simply: Lord of the Rings is better known than The Chronicles of Narnia. Also, Chronicles of Narnia has a whiff of Johnny-come-lately about it. After all, Lord of the Rings was first . . .

However, despite this, expect Chronicles of Narnia to still clean up at the U.S. and South African box office. December in the States isn’t as crowded at the cineplexes and Narnia doesn’t have to go up against any other major blockbuster-style movies. After all, the quiet December period has proven to be beneficial to Titanic – still the biggest box-office hit of all times – back in 1997.

So while Narnia may not exactly bring in $871 million like Fellowship of the Ring did back in 2001, expect to see some Narnia sequels in future: it was probably a wise decision of Narnia’s producers to option the six other books in the series for big screen adaptations. The books are Prince Caspian (first printed in 1951), The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (1952), The Silver Chair (1953), The Horse and His Boy (1954), The Magician's Nephew (1955), and The Last Battle (1956).

So who knows? Narnia might even be bigger than Lord of the Rings. Mike Goodridge, U.S. editor of Screen International, certainly believes so: “If you look at the Rings cast when they went into that, they were absolutely run-of-the-mill. Nobody knew who Orlando Bloom was! This being a Disney film, it’ll play very broadly. It could be huge.”




C.S. Lewis, the author of The Chronicles of Narnia, has a lot in common with   J.R.R. Tolkien, the author of The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings books. No, they weren’t both born in Bloemfontein. Check out below to see what we mean . . .


J.R.R. Tolkien

C.S. Lewis




Known by their initials:

Quick, what does the J.R.R. stand for? (See further on below.)

What does the C.S. stand for? (See the trivia section below.)

What were their day jobs?

Tolkien was professor of Anglo-Saxon at Oxford University. He had a thing for all things medieval as his academic output shows: in 1936 he gave a lecture called "Beowulf: The Monsters and the Critics" which was an aesthetic justification of the presence of the mythological creatures Grendel and the dragon in this medieval poem . . .

Lewis was a fellow of Magdalen College, Oxford, from 1925 to 1954 in which time he wrote “The Allegory of Love” (also in 1936!), which remains “a standard work on medieval literature” as one source puts it.  Spot the similarities in interests so far?

They’d be best remembered though for:

The fantasy tome, The Lord of the Rings (1954-55), which was first published in three volumes, namely The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, and The Return of the King

The Chronicles of Narnia novels, which are regarded as “classic high fantasy.”  The seven books in the series were published in more or less the same time as Rings, namely 1950-56.


Both authors were known for their conservative outlook: Rings is a lament for a rural England that is threatened by modernity and industrialisation.

“A persuasive and passionate advocate of conservative Christianity” is the phrase one comes across most when reading up on Lewis. Both their novels served as allegories for their conservative beliefs.

Played by actor Anthony Hopkins in movie versions of their lives:

Both writers were played by Anthony Hopkins in movies based on their lives. No, actually that isn’t true. As yet, Tolkien hasn’t been played by Hopkins in any movie version of his life.

Lewis was played by Hopkins in the 1993 film Shadowlands (see elsewhere).

Pointless trivia:

The J.J.R. stands for John Ronald Reuel.



C.S. stands for Clive Staples. (Initialising their names was no doubt a wise decision on the part of their publishers.)

More interesting but pointless trivia:

Tolkien fought in World War One and saw action in the bloody Battle of the Somme, but trench fever often kept him hospitalized during 1917.

Lewis died on November 22, 1963, the same day that U.S. President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. Tolkien only died a decade later in  1973, but wasn’t seen anywhere near any grassy knolls on that fateful day . . .




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