British Edition vs. American Edition

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British Edition vs. American Edition

Postby Aslanisthebest » Mar 10, 2013 4:53 pm

(I hope it's okay to open this. I looked to find a discussion and was not able to find it.)

Narniaweb informed me of many things about Narnia that I might have missed. One thing was that there are differences in the British edition and the American edition. I thought it might have been only for things like Fenris Ulf/Maugrum, but I now understand that there are many other things that were changed? So I thought this could be a topic where we compare the two editions and discuss the differences. :)

I have a lot of questions about the American Edition, since I think I'm only familiar with the British Edition.

1. I have the Harper Collins books (printed in 1994, the ones with Chris van Allsberg's illustrations.) Are these the British Edition? (I'm assuming they are, because my book says "Maugrim")
2. What do the American Edition covers look like? Are they available for sale, or are they like the Narnia cookbook?
3. I was really surprised to find out that some endings or some character's final destinations were changed in the American Edition. Could someone recap all the things that C.S. Lewis changed from the British Edition?
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Re: British Edition vs. American Edition

Postby PhelanVelvel » Mar 15, 2013 9:23 pm

Well, all the editions now are printed with his original writings that appeared in the British versions. I believe I only ever read British versions, except for an "American" LWW in my old school's library, in which I remember the Fenris Ulf thing. I prefer Maugrim, but I liked what he said about "written as deep as a spear is long in the trunk of the world ash-tree." Oooh. That gave me shivers. I like it better than the "fire stones on the secret hill" or whatnot. I live in the U.S., but it's hard to come across the "American" versions because they're from a long time ago and newer editions are not printed with those changes. The interesting thing is that American LWW I spoke of had LWW numbered as the first book in the series. I feel I was fortunate to have found it and read it first, but it was the most popular and well-known of the series so I'm not too surprised.

I would like to quote something I found on Google from another Narnia-related forum/thread, because it talks about some changes in VDT.

Paul F. Ford wrote:From the entry DREAMS in the forthcoming fifth edition of my Companion to Narnia (ALL CAPS indicate cross-references to other entries in the book):

It is in VDT, in the experience of the DARK ISLAND, that the subject of dreams becomes most vivid, and Lewis considered this so important that he made several substantial changes in the text between the British and old American editions of the book. After the DAWN TREADER emerges from the darkness, the British edition (now the English edition for the world) says: “And all at once everybody realized that there was nothing to be afraid of and never had been. They blinked their eyes and looked about them.” In the old American editions, Lewis deletes these two sentences entirely, thinking perhaps that he was making too little of the reality of which they were afraid. He replaces these sentences with one long, beautiful simile, one of the finest he ever wrote:

And just as there are moments when simply to lie in bed and see the daylight pouring through your window and to hear the cheerful voice of an early postman or milkman down below and to realize that it was only a dream: it wasn't real, is so heavenly that it was very nearly worth having the nightmare in order to have the joy of waking; so they all felt when they came out of the dark.

This is a major change: Lewis here is highlighting the JOY of waking after a night of FEAR.

The next change comes by way of an omission. Both editions print the expectation the crew has that the ship would be covered with grime and scum. The British edition goes on to say: “And then first one, and then another, began laughing. 'I reckon we've made pretty good fools of ourselves,' said Rynelf.” The old American editions delete both sentences, thereby removing another denigration of the seriousness of night fears.

When Caspian asks what boon Lord RHOOP wishes the KING to grant, the British edition prints:

'Never to bring me back there,' he said. He pointed astern. They all looked. But they saw only bright blue sea and bright blue sky. The Dark Island and the darkness had disappeared forever.
'Why!' cried Lord Rhoop. 'You have destroyed it!'
'I don't think it was us,' said Lucy.

Lewis reconstructs this entirely for the old American editions:

“Never to ask me, nor to let any other ask me, what I have seen during my years on the Dark Island.”
“And easy boon, my Lord,” answered Caspian, and added with a shudder, “Ask you: I should think not. I would give all my treasure not to hear it.”

This is perhaps the greatest difference between the editions. The British edition says that our Dark Islands in life can be destroyed; the old American editions are much more real in their assessments.

Finally the old American editions, having deleted the destruction of the Dark Island, add a parting note about the experience. Both editions print the sentence: “So all afternoon with great joy they sailed south-east with a fair wind.” To this the American editions add the independent clause: “and the hump of darkness grew smaller and smaller astern.”


Hmmm. I see what they're getting at. The old "American" versions made the Dark Island seem a very real, serious, frightening thing, whereas the British version sort of made light of the Dark Island. Of course, I don't think Lewis made those changes because he felt people in the U.S. would be more keen on them, but really just because he saw it as an opportunity to edit some things he wanted changed. People don't see it that way now, but I sort of feel like they should. I don't think it's a case of "Oh, American audiences will like this better", which would be a reason to keep it to the original British versions, but that Lewis actually wanted to make some changes. Of course, there are some things I like about his original text and some things I like about his changes. They both exist, so I guess we can pick and choose. :P
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Re: British Edition vs. American Edition

Postby Aslanisthebest » Mar 15, 2013 9:44 pm

Thanks for that, Phelan! I looked this up after posting this and read up on the Dark Island things (and watched Rilian's video on it.) I also read somewhere that, in the original edition of VDT, Lewis says that Eustace is "too stupid to do anything himself." but in the American edition, Lewis changed it to say Eustace was "quite incapable of doing anything by himself." (quotes are not accurate; from memory.)

VDT is the one book (after PC) I only have read when I was reading the whole series, so I'm not really very familiar with the islands. I liked the simile/comparison in the American Edition, about the Dark Island. Like you said, I feel like he changed these things because he wanted to. I'm not understanding the whole scenario in context, but I think in the British edition, the Dark Island is real, while in the American edition, it is imaginary? I can't tell. However, I think I like them both.

I was able to go to the library over the week, and I actually found the American edition of VDT. I'm wondering if, like Fenris Ulf, there are other differences in the books. Maybe I'll read the American edition and my sister the British, and we'll compare. ;))
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Re: British Edition vs. American Edition

Postby waterkid72 » Mar 24, 2013 11:56 pm

Reading what Phelan write about the changes in the American version makes me wonder if we will have an opportunity to have them again. Lewis made some interesting changes that resulted in a huge improvement. And considering he published them after ite safe to say he wanted those changes.
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Re: British Edition vs. American Edition

Postby PhelanVelvel » Mar 26, 2013 8:26 pm

Yeah, I really like the changes he made about Dark Island. It really does seem such a sinister place in the American version. In the original, I think it's defeated much too easily. In the American version, they escape, but it's still there, still in existence.
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Re: British Edition vs. American Edition

Postby stargazer » Mar 27, 2013 8:28 pm

Thanks for that post, PhelanVelvel.

My first introduction to Narnia was with the old US versions back in the early 1980s, so I first read them in the publication order as numbered on the books (but that's another topic ;)) )

As I recall from my own copy of Companion to Narnia, Ford points out that the American version (the Dark Island disappears behind them rather than being abolished as in the British) has the advantage of not making light of children's nightmares. As adults we might be able to easily dismiss these, but to little kids (the books' initial audience), nightmares are a big deal - and to them can feel very real. It's a great thing to comfort our kids and reassure them we're there when they have night terrors, but dismissing them out of hand, as if they're not important, not so much. (this is a paraphrase as I don't have the book to hand at the moment).

As for LWW, I tend to prefer the Norse mythological references of the old US versions (Fenris Ulf and Yggdrasil), but that may be only because they're what I first encountered in the books, and I've long enjoyed Norse mythology.
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Re: British Edition vs. American Edition

Postby waggawerewolf27 » Mar 27, 2013 9:39 pm

All the US versions? :-\ All of the Narnia books? :-o I've never had access to them and I don't think they ever were available in Australia. I think that the cartoon version of LWW referred to Fenris Ulf and maybe some of the other productions. This startled me as the character I knew was Maugrim. And now I know what a main difference there might have been in VDT.

Who is Yggdrasil? And what were other differences between British and American editions?
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Re: British Edition vs. American Edition

Postby stargazer » Mar 27, 2013 9:58 pm

Sorry 'bout that, wagga. Didn't mean to be unclear. Yggdrasil is the name of the world ash tree mentioned in the old versions of LWW. It was a big part of Norse cosmology way back when.

One additional difference is that the US versions were numbered by publication order rather than chronological order.

Companion to Narnia has a good summary of the differences, most of which have been mentioned here. Now if I could dig up my copy...
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