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Tuesday, 5 June, 2001, 13:48 GMT 14:48 UK
Narnia plans spark anger
The witch, played by Barbara Kellerman, confronts the lion, in a 1988 BBC production of the book
Good and evil meet in a BBC adaptation
The possible rewriting of CS Lewis's classic children's fantasy books, the Chronicles of Narnia, has provoked a furious reaction from academics and fans.

Earlier in the year CS Lewis publisher HarperCollins signed an agreement with the CS Lewis Company making them the primary publisher of Lewis's works.

HarperCollins has since developed plans to write new books based on the existing titles, which have already sold more than 65 million copies worldwide.

1998 BBC adaptation
Enduring charm: The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe

Prominent writers including novelist Piers Paul Read and CS Lewis biographer AN Wilson are among those who have denounced the plans.

"They're turning Narnia into a British version of Mickey Mouse," John G West, co-editor of The CS Lewis Readers Encyclopaedia told the New York Times.

"What they've figured out is that Harry Potter is a cash cow. And here's a way they can decompartmentalise the children's novels from the rest of Lewis."

The Chronicles of Narnia
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
The Horse and his Boy
The Magician's Nephew
Prince Caspian
The Voyage of the Dawn Treader
The Silver Chair
The Last Battle

Academics are most angry at reports that religious references will be removed.

Lewis was inspired by religious themes throughout his work. The Narnia stories are an allegory of the life of Christ.

In the books, the character of Aslan, an inspiring lion, represents Christ, who is persecuted but eventually triumphs.

"I think it (rewriting the books) is an appalling idea," Brian Sibley, CS Lewis biographer and author of A Treasury of Narnia, told BBC News Online.

"Lewis wrote the books by his own admission to show people what he believed in," he said.

The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe
The Chronicles are Lewis's only books for children
"That's what the books were about and taking this out leaves the books as much less than they really are."

Lewis wrote the series with a clear ending - at the end of The Last Battle everybody is dead and living happily in an afterlife - so writing a sequel would be extremely difficult, said Mr Sibley.

He added he was not opposed in principle to the idea of new adventures based on the Narnia characters, but asked: "Who would be up to writing them?"

The Lewis estate has denied that the rewriting plan is part of a calculated move to reshape the author's image.

cover of The Horse and His Boy
HarperCollins reissued the originals with new covers in May
A HarperCollins spokesman said the reason for the new books was to capture a broader audience.

Whatever happens, the company insists it will continue to publish the unaltered original works.

Clive Staples Lewis was born in Belfast and became a professor of Medieval and Renaissance English at Oxford, where his circle included JRR Tolkien.

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe was first published in 1950, before the six other Narnia books.

It was chosen as the most influential children's book of the 20th Century last year by parents, teachers and librarians.

It has been adapted many times for the stage, television and radio.

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