I began this blog way back in 2011 as a sandbox project for thoughts about C.S. Lewis’ writings. “Pilgrimage” was a word-picture I was using a lot for my life then, at a time when I couldn’t afford to go anywhere! As a result, I was trying to create pilgrimages of the mind and heart.
Thinking about the reader joining other pilgrims on the palmer’s way gives us a powerful way to appreciate our journeys into Narnia, Middle-earth, Discworld, Lilliput, Earthsea, New Urth, Panem, Ringworld, Oz, the Enderverse, the Field of Arbol, ancient Avalon and Númenor, the worlds of Harry Potter or the Dark Tower, Jane Austen‘s drawing-room, the New England states of H.P. Lovecraft or Stephen King, Neil Gaiman‘s London or America, or L.M. Montgomery‘s land of wonder, Prince Edward Island. These worlds are not just destinations, but by going there we are shaped and challenged and given new visions of what is good and true and beautiful.
Intriguingly, I also believe that by going to fictional and fantastic worlds we are given new visions of what is possible.
The word-picture of “Pilgrimage” worked, I think. And it still works. That’s largely a fluke. Though I should update the blog design, I have found the header to be constantly relevant to what I am doing. As I imagined it myself, readers can imagine C.S. Lewis walking down that country road. For whatever reason, we can imagine walking with him to whatever land he wants to take us to in his children’s novels, his science fiction, his theological novels, his myths retold, his literary history, and his teaching about spiritual life.
Again, largely outside of my hands, the blog has certainly grown. A lot of that is that I consistently post, and I tend to post good material. There are some howlers and some posts that fall out of relevance, but not much I regret.
The blog has grown in scope. Very quickly I realized that the Inklings were implicated with one another–philosophically, religiously, historically, and in terms of their experiments in mythmaking, poetry, and fiction. So I knew that A Pilgrim in Narnia needed to be an Inklings project. I don’t always speak with authority in the things I write, but I do try to speak as a good reader.
And A Pilgrim in Narnia has grown in impact. I will share some statistics in a follow-up post, but a quick glance at the data is cool. I had to leave the US out of this map because they are 80% of my visitors and made ll the world pale, but you can see the global reach of A Pilgrim in Narnia to 215 countries and independent territories.
And, statistically, contact has been good. A Pilgrim in Narnia has received more than 895,000 hits, with fairly consistent growth. With 18,000 comments, 100 guest posts, hundreds of thousands of shares–almost 50,000 shares on Facebook alone!–and 7,500 followers, I’m sort of amazed at the reach of what I still think of as an “academic blog.”
It is pretty humbling, honestly.
So, today, as we celebrate our 1,000th post on A Pilgrim in Narnia, let’s have a little party!
Where I live in Prince Edward Island, it is really dishonourable to have a party–even an unexpected one–that doesn’t include food and drink–an ethic the Inklings shared, I think. There’s a chance below for you to extend that part of the party, but meanwhile, why don’t we have some fun?
Let’s do some sharing and a bit of a giveaway.
Throughout the day, I’m going to update this post and share some of my favourite posts on Twitter, @BrentonDana and @PilgrimInNarnia–from my tentative first post to the terrible most popular post. In the comments below, I’d love for you to share some of your own highlights:
- Regardless of genre or author, what book (or series) is, for you, the most powerful place of pilgrimage?
- What for you remains C.S. Lewis’ most impactful book?
- What is your favourite story, poem, cycle, or character in Tolkien’s expansive legendarium?
- What have you discovered of the “other Inklings” over your years of reading?
- Beyond Narnia and Middle-earth, what is your favourite speculative universe? What draws you to that world?
- If you are new to the blog, welcome! If you are a long-term reader, what has been one of the more memorable posts that you think is worth sharing?
- Now that Christopher Tolkien has died, what do you hope the next Middle-earth volume will be?
- Where should the field of Inklings Studies go?
- Are there any Inklings of the future writing today?
- What will adaptations of Inklings stories look like on film and TV in the 2020s?
- The First Post: “The Art of Letter Writing in the Digital Age” was the very first post I wrote, on Aug 11, 2011, and I have updated it since because I still kind of like it. I think that C.S. Lewis’ letters are a great treasure. That he detested writing them makes them even more valuable: there was a cost to his personal correspondence, and we are richer for it.
- The First Viral Post: Featured on WordPress’s “Freshly Pressed,” my first viral post was published on Jul 4, 2013, and republished in 2018. “The Land Where Oz is North of Middle-earth: Reflections of a Speculative Cosmographer” was just a short, fun post about how fantasy maps are pretty neat! By the time this came out, I had found my stride, and the post helped boost readership.
- The Worst Post … And the Most Popular: I don’t regret writing this post, but I almost do. With more than 28,000 hits, “Fifty Shades of Bad Writing” remains my most popular post–though that audience has slid away. I don’t love that my tone is so mocking in this sarcastapost. Perhaps E.L. James is a lovely person, and I don’t love doing bad book reviews. It also makes me cringe that hundreds of posts on some of the best literature of history, it’s the 50 Shades phenomenon that hit big.
- The Top C.S. Lewis Post: Though I have gone out in a dozen directions, C.S. Lewis is my bread and butter in terms of popularity, engaged readership, and thoughtful posts that I have put a lot of work into. Viewed more than 20,000 times, “Screwtape on Pleasure and Distraction” remains my top Lewis post, and 13 of my top 15 posts are about Lewis.
- The Top Tolkien Post: I am very cautious about writing Tolkien posts. Tolkienists are precise about their reading and sometimes exacting in their assessment of other people’s work. I respect the scholarship and don’t feel that I have something to challenge there. I have ten Tolkien posts, though, that have been viewed 1,000 times or more. At the top of that list is “The Tolkien Letters that Changed C.S. Lewis’ Life,” which has been viewed 6,665 times as of today! It’s a cool post about a transformational letter.
- The Least Popular Post Ever: At the very bottom, with only 236 views, is “1946 TIME Review of C.S. Lewis’ The Great Divorce.” That’s pretty cool, so it surprises me. Also don’t on that list is “The Peculiar Background to L.M. Montgomery’s “The Alpine Path” (L.M. Montgomery Series) #LMMI2018‘”–a funny exploration post, I thought–and “Teaching Screwtape for a New Generation: My Conference Talk & Paper,” a post that early readers appreciated before the world moved on.
I will also host a little giveaway, with some C.S. Lewis resources including a 1st edition copy of The Great Divorce. It is not an expensive item (perhaps about $40 value), but a relatively rare souvenir of what I think is Lewis’ most important work of fiction (someday I’ll have to defend that claim!).
Besides the 1st edition, another second can pick between one of these great prizes:
- Lyle Dorsett’s edited volume, The Essential C.S. Lewis;
- C.S. Lewis’ Space Trilogy in a single volume;
- Jerry Root’s The Surprising Imagination of C.S. Lewis; or
- Marsha Daigle-Williamson’s Reflecting the Eternal: Dante’s Divine Comedy in the Novels of C.S. Lewis
There are some provisos and rules below–including the apology that the mailed prizes are limited to the US, Canada, and Europe. If you win from another country, I’ll share something digital with you that you’ll enjoy and pick another winner.
Here’s how you can join in the 1,000 Post Party and be eligible for a prize:
- Follow the Blog: You can click “follow” to read the blog in the WordPress Reader, or follow by email, or like the Pilgrim in Narnia facebook page
Plus, I would like you to do one or more of these three things:
- Share A Memory: On this post or on Wednesday’s party post, share your favourite blog, guest post, comment convo, or series on A Pilgrim In Narnia (if you share your memory here, that may jog some memories of my own)
- Share a Link: Reblog, facebook-share, or retweet this announcement, and then share the link to that share with the blog’s twitter account, @PilgrimInNarnia
- Share a Meal: Send a ham to a professor of literature in postwar country and get an entry! Okay, a ham may not be the best gift, and maybe you don’t know any professors in distress. But if you share on this post or tweet the deets to @PilgrimInNarnia that you have donated a meal to a family displaced by war, I will put in the draw
I appreciate the many great folks who share my work on facebook and other social media (approaching 100,000 direct social media shares, not including viral shares), but I don’t have a way to track those shares. This is basically a one entry per person kind of thing. My personal Twitter account is @BrentonDana, and I hope you will follow me there (I will follow back). I’m using @PilgrimInNarnia for this giveaway because I have a lot of @BrentonDana conversations that make it harder to track. Follow @PilgrimInNarnia and share this news for a chance to win.
I’ll close the contest Friday at 4pm Eastern. As I noted, I can only mail the prizes to residents of Canada, the United States, or Europe, including the UK. My apologies to the world, but the UK, the US, and Canada do make up 90% of my visitors, and I have worked hard to make this blog free–even paying out of my own pocket to erase the ads. The giveaway books are from my own collection. The copy of The Great Divorce is a 1st printing, 1st edition from 1945 without a dust cover, eminently readable in fair to good condition with some pencil marks. It is more of a personal collection than an investment. If a US reader wins, for safety reasons I may wait to mail with US post when I go there in May.