Monday 30 June 2008


It was a strange weekend: on Saturday I noticed, splashed across the front page of the Daily Mail, an announcement that the paper - in association with the BBC - was marking the opening of the Walden Films/Disney movie, Prince Caspian with a free copy of an audio-book version of the story for EVERY READER!

"Ooo, that's good!" I thought. Then I realised that the audio-book on offer was --- none other than MY OWN BBC radio dramatisation!

So, nice of the Beeb to tell me about this... Even nicer of them to give away these CDs rather than sell them so that the dramatist and cast could earn a few pennies from the sale!!

Oh well... Needless to say, I've sent for my freebie: grateful to have something since I obviously won't have to bother about checking the next BBC royalty statement!

Do me a favour and make sure you send for your free copy: let's cost the BBC as much as we can!

And do note, won't you, that they're "also giving you the chance to get the other two books in the trilogy - The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and The Voyage of the 'Dawn Treader' - for the exceptional price of just £12.99."

Funny that, I didn't know it was a trilogy - in fact, I always thought there were seven 'Chronicles of Narnia'. Good job the authoritatively researched journalism of the Daily Mail was there to put me right...

Then, on Sunday evening, I was prattling away on the subject of C S Lewis and the books (and films) about Narnia on BBC Radio 4's kid's programme, Go4It, with presenter Barney Harwood and three young Narnia fans.

Happily, since the show was pre-recorded, I didn't know about the great BBC/Daily Mail Give Away and really enjoyed being quizzed by the bright, inquisitive youngsters. All of them - I'm pleased to report - had, at some point, tried to find their own way into Narnia through a wardrobe or, in one case, an airing cupboard!

If you - or your kids - missed the broadcast, you can Listen Again (at least for the next seven days) on the Go4It website.

As for the latest Narnian film: it has Peter-Jackson-Wetaesqaue special effects (battlefields covered with bristling legions of digital warriors and trundling siege machines) and its undeniable kinship with The Lord of the Rings films is enhanced by the stunning New Zealand locations.

When the trailer's narrator tells potential viewers, "Everything you know is about to change", he is not far off the mark since the film invents several new dramatic highlights, including an elaborate nighttime attack on the villain's castle that has no basis in Lewis' book and a spectacular return of the White Witch which is a wild extrapolation of the original text.

Then there are the numerous tweakings of character relationships - tensions between the High King Peter and Prince Caspian, a hint at burgeoning romantic feelings between Susan and the Prince, but there is also an almost breathless sense of excitement, wonder and pure magic that serves C S Lewis' intentions well and which, mercifully, is not totally subjugated to the demands to make what is, essentially, a children's story into a epic fantasy-spectacular for movie-goers of all ages.

Anyway, if you haven't already seen it, you'll get a sense of what's in store from the trailer...


Boll Weavil said...

At least you have other money earners Mr B ! Mike Oldfield was mortified to find the Beeb had given his Greatest Hit (Tubular Bells) away as a complete album in the very same paper... goodbye steady little earner.
Looking forward to seeing PC on the big screen with all its plot changes (although Doug Gresham has done well at keeping things within sensible limits upto now).If I recall, you yourself were not above the odd bit of licence with the story ! It is, afterall, the most boring of the seven. The romantic interest for Susan sounds a little silly though. If they'd bothered to read TVOTDT script (which is already in production) they'd have realised PC is off elsewhere and Susan's not in it anymore anyway !

Anonymous said...

I never read the Narnia chronicles... possibly because my mother always nagged me to read them (among other things)! I did try to get into the "Lion, Witch & Wardrobe" a few years ago but it just didn't do it for me. However, I did often hide in wardrobes and imagine secret passage ways leading off from them.

Lesson to parents everywhere... don't pester your kids to read your favourite literature; it's the best way to put them off!

Brian Sibley said...

BOLL - "At least you have other money earners Mr B!"

Well, oddly enough, you see, I don't! Forgive me wearing my heart on my sleeve, but the BBC gave up promoting my radio Lord of the Rings serial some time ago and it hasn't featured on a royalty statement for the last two years. So Narnia really was the last of those "money earners" - although an annual cheque of approximately £250 doesn't go far these days...

So, yes, my sympathies are indeed with Mike Oldfield.

What is truly bizarre is that people who don't know, seem to think that having your work given away gratis with a newspaper must mean you're in the money!

When HarperCollins dumped the unsold stock of my first LOTR movie-book as a give-away to readers of (God held me!) The People - coincidentally owned, like HarperCollins, by Rupert Murdoch! - the manager of our local restaurant kept the whole page announcement featuring my book and the necessary collectable tokens (redeemable, by the way, at branches of that well-known bookshop Toys R Us!) and displayed it as an indication of the fame and success of one of their patrons!

Back to the film and the romantic attachment between Susan and Caspian: I imagine the scriptwriters thought that the fact that Susan can't return to Narnia gave added poignancy to the emotion - and the couple's almost-passionate farewell kiss.

Of course, those of us who've read the rest of the books will know that this early experience of unfulfilled desire is providing the later motivation for Susan no longer being "a friend of Narnia" and, thus, being excluded from the wrap-party following The Last Battle...

SUZANNE - Sound advice! :-)

SharonM said...

Is there nothing that can be done to protest against the freebie practice - at least to get the papers to pay some kind of fee to those involved?
I haven't read the Chronicles - but do have an audio copy read by Ian Richardson, Claire Bloom, Anthony Quayle and Michael York that for some reason I've never quite got around to listening to. From what you've said I should imagine it's better to wait until after I see Prince Caspian tomorrow before listening to ti.

Brian Sibley said...

LISAH - Enjoy the film for it's own - considerable - merits then read (or listen) to the book...

Bentos said...

With the exception of the prequel the Magician's Nephew the Narnia books really hurtle downhill after Dawn Treader. And it would be difficult to maintain focus for the films once the original 4 children are out of the picture.

To call it a trilogy and end it there seems like a good plan to me. Does anybody really want to see the film of the Silver Chair?

Boll Weavil said...

It seems a bit of a liberty that you weren't even consulted Mr B ! Surely the pay-off the Beeb receives from the Mail should be coming your way as a percentage ?
LISAH - if you're going to listen to audio books,try Michael Hordern's readings.Although mercilessly hacked, they are very good. To Bentos, I know people who think 'Silver Chair' is the best of the lot and although I'm not one of them, I certainly rate it better than at least three of the others.I can't wait to see it.

SharonM said...

Well, I saw Prince Caspian last night and enjoyed it - good escapism. I couldn't help being reminded of Shrek 2, both by the swordsmen mice and by the voice of the actor who played Prince Caspian, which reminded me of Antonio Banderas as Puss in Boots.
I thought the funniest moment was when we heard a Cockney bear.

Linda Pieterse said...

Dear Mr. Sibley,

As a child I grew up listening and re-listening the cassette tapes of Narnia in English.. They were sent over to Holland, where I live, by my aunts every birthday and Christmas. Thank you so much for all the wonderful hours that I spent listening to these great dramatisations!

About two weeks ago I started te read The Magician’s Nephew to my ten year old son, Lance, in English. He understands most of it, and I stop to translate things to him in Dutch where necessary.
As I always kept the original cassette, and even the old cassette player that I used to listen to them on, safety in a box, I promised my son that he could listen to the tapes as soon as we finished the book. It would be so great for his English if he would be able to read a long whitest he is listening. I have look around on the web, but I haven’t been able to find a copy of the text dramatised by yourself. My grate hope is that you will be able to tell me with this.

Many thanks in advance,

Kind regards,

Linda and Lance