The Chronicles of Narnia

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

by C.S. Lewis

C.S. Lewis's The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

Book review by Sherri Trudgian

Ages 8+

Fantasy-Adventure unapologetically Christian in its imagery

First published in 1950, The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe has literally stood the test of Time. It has the honor of being listed in Time Magazine’s “All-Time 100 Novels” and has been translated into 47 languages. Although it is the first and best loved book in The Chronicles of Narnia series, Lewis did write a prequel, The Magician’s Nephew.

A delightful fantasy, it involves children, animals and fairy creatures. The overall theme is one of "redemption."

Review - The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe

Four young siblings (Peter, Susan, Edmond and Lucy) have been sent from London by their parents to the English countryside during the Blitz. They have been entrusted to the care of an eccentric professor. His house is a perfect setting for any child with a ripe imagination. It is old, isolated and “… the sort of house that you never seem to come to the end of … full of unexpected places.”

In their explorations the children discover a picture gallery, a suit of armor, some very old books and “a room that was quite empty except for one big wardrobe.” The three elder children continue their explorations but Lucy lingers in the empty room. Being curious, she tries the door of the wardrobe and the adventure begins. Pushing her way through several fur coats, she enters a winter wonderland. She meets a faun named Mr. Tumnus who invites her to his house for tea.

Mr. Tumnus reveals that he is in the service of the White Witch who controls the Kingdom of Narnia. She keeps it in perpetual winter which is extremely sad because Narnia is “always winter and never Christmas.” Mr. Tumnus has been enlisted by the White Witch to capture any Daughter of Eve or Son of Adam he finds and turn them over to her. After sharing tea and getting to know Lucy, the tender hearted Mr. Tumnus repents of his plan and returns her safely to the back entrance of the wardrobe.

Edmond is the next to pass through the portal and unfortunately meets up with the White Witch. She entices him with treats of Turkish Delight (a candy). She promises that if he returns with the other three children, she will not only give him more Turkish Delight but will make him a prince and eventually King of Narnia. As a middle child Edmond is quite taken with the idea of possessing such power over his older siblings and the thoughts of more Turkish Delight lingers!

Review - The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe

4 different artist conceptions of Narnia on a map

One day all four children find themselves in the wardrobe trying to hide from the housekeeper Mrs.Macready. They discover that things have changed in Narnia. Mr. Tumnus is missing and his house has been ransacked. The children meet a new friend Mr. Beaver who invites them home for dinner. He warns the children that they are in grave danger from the White Witch. He tells them about a strange prophecy involving two Sons of Adam, two Daughters of Eve and a great Lion named Aslan. The children are nervous but excited because the prophecy tells of an epic battle where Aslan will break the power of the White Witch, place four children of Adam upon thrones and return spring to Narnia.

Edmond can’t contain his desire for Turkish Delight and sneaks off to find the castle of the White Witch. He betrays the whereabouts of his siblings to the White Witch but is bitterly disappointed when he learns that he has been deceived and there is to be no Turkish Delight and no golden crown.

Mr. and Mrs. Beaver understand that the only safety for Peter, Susan and Lucy is with Aslan. The White Witch needs to rid herself of the four children of Adam to retain her power in Narnia and decides to hold Edmond as her bargaining chip. Thus a great race ensues to reach Aslan. As the journey continues the landscape begins to change. As they get closer to the great lion the sun begins to warm the earth, melting the snow. Blossoms appear on the trees, and birds can be heard chirping. Aslan’s return has given spring the power to break the power of winter.

The White Witch confronts Aslan. She reminds him that the “deep magic from the dawn of time” demands the death of the traitor Edmond. Here the book becomes thick with Christ imagery. The great lion Aslan steps in as his substitute. He willingly sacrifices his life to pay the penalty for Edmond’s treachery. Like Christ, Aslan is resurrected and fights the final battle against evil. He breathes life back into the many animals the White Witch has turned to stone. The four children who bravely join in the battle are given the honor of ruling Narnia.

Years later, while hunting a stag in the forest, the siblings recognize the back entrance to the wardrobe. They leave Narnia behind to find that in real time only several minutes have elapsed.

What a strange but wonderful adventure.

Review - The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe

Lewis wrote The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe for his god-daughter Lucy. He loved children and his care for their wellbeing can be seen in his gentle reminder to never close a cupboard door after stepping inside.

“She had, of course, left the door open, for she knew that it is a very silly thing to shut herself into a wardrobe.”

Lewis’ British heritage is evident throughout the story. Mr. Tumnus for example serves Lucy a boiled egg, buttered toast with honey and a sugar topped cake for tea. How very English!

This story is obviously written for children. The language is simple, almost sparse. Three of the siblings seem under developed as characters. Lucy is gentle. Susan is optimistic and Peter is brave. I did have to remind myself that this is the case in most of the classic fairy tales. After all we never do get to know the deeper thoughts of Little Red Riding Hood, Sleeping Beauty, or Hansel and Gretel.

The only exception is Edmond. The reader is first given a glimpse of Edmond’s deceptive nature when he meets the professor. Edmond pretends to blow his nose while he is actually laughing at the professor’s physical appearance. Later he blatantly lies about meeting up with Lucy in Narnia.

Edmond has a negative nature and is constantly grumbling. “Of course it’s raining!”

His sister Susan is seen on the receiving end of his bad temper.

“Oh, come off it! … Trying to talk like Mother… And who are you to say when I’m to go to bed? Go tobed yourself.”

Then there is Aslan. He brings hope when everything seems hopeless. His goodness appears in sharp contrast to the evil White Witch. He offers light and life. She offers darkness and death.

As a writer Lewis doesn’t hide his Christian faith. He celebrates it. This is particularly evident in Edmond’s life. Through most of the book he is self-absorbed. He is willing to sacrifice his brother and sisters for a few pieces of Turkish Delight, which hints of silver. Ultimately the treat doesn’t satisfy and he is left bitterly disappointed. He does repent but his choices do have consequences. According to the laws of Narnia he must die. However, Aslan, reminiscent of the great “Lion of Judah,” graciously takes Edmond’s place. He is redeemed and the power of darkness is broken!

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is a fun adventure in fantasy. Most children will miss the allusions to the Christ imagery unless they are well versed in the Christian faith. It is a classic, a must read for every child. However, it should be read snuggled up in front of a fireplace with a steaming mug of hot chocolate or if you’re English a pot of Earl of Grey tea!

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