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The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is a fantasy novel for children by C. S. Lewis, published by Geoffrey Bles in 1950. It is the first published and best known of seven novels in The Chronicles of Narnia (1950–1956). Among all the author's books it is also the most widely held in libraries. Although it was written as well as published first in the series, it is volume two in recent editions, which are sequenced by the stories' chronology (the first being The Magician's Nephew). Like the others, it was illustrated by Pauline Baynes, and her work has been retained in many later editions.
Most of the novel is set in Narnia, a land of talking animals and mythical creatures that one White Witch has ruled for 100 years of deep winter. In the frame story, four English children are relocated to a large, old country house following a wartime evacuation. The youngest visits Narnia three times via the magic of a wardrobe in a spare room. All four children are together on her third visit, which verifies her fantastic claims and comprises the subsequent 12 of 17 chapters except for a brief conclusion. In Narnia, the siblings seem fit to fulfill an old prophecy and so are soon adventuring both to save Narnia and their lives. Lewis wrote the book for, and dedicated it to, his goddaughter Lucy Barfield. She was the daughter of Owen Barfield, Lewis's friend, teacher, adviser, and trustee.
In 1940, four siblings – Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy, whose surname we will learn in a later book is Pevensie – are among many children evacuated from London during World War II to escape the Blitz. They are sent to the countryside to live with an old professor, later to be named Digory Kirke. Exploring the professor's house, Lucy finds a wardrobe which doubles as a magic portal to a forest in a land called Narnia. At a lamppost oddly located in the forest, she meets Tumnus, a faun, who invites her to tea in his home. There the faun confesses that he invited her not out of hospitality, but with the intention of betraying her to the White Witch. The witch has ruled Narnia for years, using magic to keep it frozen in a perpetual winter. She has ordered all Narnians to turn in any humans ("Sons of Adam" or "Daughters of Eve") they come across. But now that he has come to know and like a human, Tumnus repents his original intention and escorts Lucy back to the lamppost.
Lucy returns through the wardrobe and finds that only a few seconds have passed in normal time during her absence. Her siblings do not believe her story about another world inside the wardrobe, which is now found to have a solid back panel.
During a game of hide-and-seek on some days later, Lucy again passes into Narnia. This time her brother Edmund chances to follow her. He meets Jadis, who calls herself Queen of Narnia. When she learns that he is human and has two sisters and a brother, she places an enchantment on him. She urges him to bring his siblings to her castle, promising in return to make him her heir. When Lucy and Edmund return together through the wardrobe, Edmund realizes that the queen he met and the witch Lucy describes are one and the same. He denies to the others that he has been in Narnia at all. Peter and Susan are puzzled by Lucy's insistence, and consult the Professor, who surprises them by taking Lucy's side in the debate of Narnia's existence.
Soon afterward, all four children enter Narnia together after hiding in the wardrobe to avoid the professor's dour housekeeper, Mrs. Macready. Remembering the winter cold ahead, they take coats from the wardrobe before exploring. Lucy guides them to Tumnus's cave, but they find it ransacked, with a notice from Jadis (the White Witch) proclaiming his arrest for harbouring humans.
A talking beaver intercepts them, proves himself a friend, and hides the children in his den. There, he and Mrs. Beaver tell them of a prophecy that the Witch's power will fail when two Sons of Adam and two Daughters of Eve fill the four thrones at Cair Paravel. Aslan, the great lion and the rightful King, has been absent for many years but is now "on the move again" in Narnia.
Edmund steals away to the White Witch's castle, which is filled with statues of Narnian victims she has turned to stone. The Witch is furious when Edmund appears alone and angrier still to learn that Aslan may have returned. She takes him on her sledge to catch the others or to reach Aslan's court before them.
Meanwhile, Mr Beaver realises that Edmund has betrayed them, and they set off at once to seek Aslan at the Stone Table. As they travel, the Witch's spell over Narnia begins to break: Father Christmas (who has not been seen in Narnia for a hundred years) arrives with magical presents: a sword for Peter, a help-summoning horn and a bow with arrows for Susan, a knife and a bottle of healing cordial for Lucy. The snow melts, and winter ends. Aslan welcomes the children and the Beavers to his camp near the Stone Table. Upon hearing Edmund's situation, he orders a rescue party of loyal Narnians.
After much hardship at the hands of the Witch and her sledge driver, Edmund is rescued from their camp and reunited with his siblings. The White Witch approaches in truce to parley with Aslan. She insists that, according to "deep magic from the dawn of time", she holds the right to kill Edmund following his treason. Aslan bargains with her privately and she renounces her claim.
That evening, Aslan secretly returns to the Stone Table, shadowed by Susan and Lucy. Upon noticing them, Aslan welcomes their company but warns them not to interfere with what is about to happen. He has traded his own life to the Witch for Edmund's, and the girls watch from the bushes as the Witch oversees his shaming before her underlings. She orders Aslan tied to the Stone Table, shaved and muzzled; and she administers the killing blow herself.
Confident now of victory, the Witch leads her army away to battle. Susan and Lucy remain and keep vigil all night, weeping over Aslan's abandoned body. They un-muzzle him and see mice gnaw away his bonds. As the sun rises, the Stone Table breaks and Aslan is restored to life. He tells Lucy and Susan that Jadis was unaware of the "deeper magic from before the dawn of time" that will resurrect an innocent killed in place of a traitor.
Aslan carries Lucy and Susan on his back as he hurries to the Witch's castle. He breathes upon the stone statues in the courtyard, restoring them to life.
Meanwhile, Peter and Edmund lead the Narnians against the Witch. Edmund breaks her wand, thus preventing her from turning more Narnians into stone, but is seriously wounded. Aslan arrives with the former statues as reinforcements. The Narnians rout the Witch's supporters, and Aslan kills the Witch. Aslan breathes life into those she has turned to stone on the battlefield, and Lucy uses her magic cordial to revive the wounded, starting with Edmund. The Pevensie children are crowned kings and queens of Narnia at Cair Paravel. Soon afterward, Aslan slips away and disappears. The land enjoys a Golden Age under the tetrarchs' rule.
Fifteen years later, the four rulers chase a wish-granting white stag through the forest whereupon they rediscover the lamppost, and have the strangest feeling that they have seen it before. They soon find their way not through branches but coats. They come back through the wardrobe in the Professor's house and are suddenly children again, dressed in their old clothes. Almost no time has passed in the real world, despite their many years in Narnia.
The four children consult the Professor. He forgives them the absence of the four coats they stole, and hints that theirs would prove not to be the first adventure in Narnia, nor by any means the last.
The Pevensie Siblings
Raised in London, evacuated to the Dorset countryside, and reaching adulthood in Narnia, they are the four main characters. In one chapter, Father Christmas arrives to endow those present (three Pevensies and two beavers) with a feast, weapons, and magical items. After the restoration of Narnia, a Tetrarchy is established with the four siblings as the rulers.
At the Country Home
The house that shelters the Pevensie children is run by a Professor, staffed by servants, and frequently toured by historians.
The magical land of Narnia is populated by talking animals, mythological species, and sentient flora.
Lewis described the origin of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe in an essay titled "It All Began with a Picture":
Shortly before the Second World War many children were evacuated from London to the English countryside to escape bomber attacks on London by Nazi Germany. On 2 September 1939 three school girls, Margaret, Mary and Katherine, came to live at The Kilns in Risinghurst, Lewis's home three miles east of Oxford city centre. Lewis later suggested that the experience gave him a new appreciation of children and in late September he began a children's story on an odd sheet that has survived as part of another manuscript:
How much more of the story Lewis then wrote is uncertain. Roger Lancelyn Green thinks that he might even have completed it. In September 1947 Lewis wrote in a letter about stories for children: "I have tried one myself but it was, by the unanimous verdict of my friends, so bad that I destroyed it."
The plot element of entering a new world through the back of a wardrobe had certainly entered Lewis's mind by 1946, when he used it to describe his first encounter with really good poetry:
In August 1948, during a visit by an American writer, Chad Walsh, Lewis talked vaguely about completing a children's book he had begun "in the tradition of E. Nesbit". After this conversation not much happened until the beginning of the next year. Then everything changed. In his essay "It All Began With a Picture" Lewis continues: "At first I had very little idea how the story would go. But then suddenly Aslan came bounding into it. I think I had been having a good many dreams of lions about that time. Apart from that, I don't know where the Lion came from or why he came. But once he was there, he pulled the whole story together, and soon he pulled the six other Narnian stories in after him."
The major ideas of the book echo lines Lewis had written fourteen years earlier in his alliterative poem The Planets:
This resonance is a central component of the case, promoted chiefly by Oxford University scholar Michael Ward, for the seven Chronicles having been modelled upon the seven classical astrological planets, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe upon Jupiter.
On 10 March 1949 Roger Lancelyn Green dined with Lewis at Magdalen College. After the meal Lewis read two chapters from his new children's story to Green. Lewis asked Green's opinion of the tale and Green said that he thought it was good. The manuscript of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe was complete by the end of March 1949. Lucy Barfield received it by the end of May. When on 16 October 1950 Geoffrey Bles in London published the first edition, three new "chronicles", Prince Caspian, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader and The Horse and His Boy, had also been completed.
Lewis's publisher, Geoffrey Bles, allowed him to choose the illustrator for the novel and the Narnia series. Lewis chose Pauline Baynes, possibly based on J. R. R. Tolkien’s recommendation. Baynes had greatly impressed Tolkien with her illustrations for his Farmer Giles of Ham (1949). However, Baynes claimed that Lewis learned about her work after going into a bookshop and asking for a recommendation for an illustrator who was skilled at portraying both humans and animals. In December 1949, Bles showed Lewis the first drawings for the novel, and Lewis sent Baynes a note congratulating her, particularly on the level of detail. Lewis’s appreciation of the illustrations is evident in a letter he wrote to Baynes after The Last Battle won the Carnegie Medal for best children’s book of 1956: "is it not rather 'our' medal? I’m sure the illustrations were taken into account as well as the text".
The British edition of the novel had 43 illustrations; American editions generally had fewer. The popular United States paperback edition published by Collier between 1970 and 1994, which sold many millions, had only 17 illustrations, many of them severely cropped from the originals, giving many readers in that country a very different experience when reading the novel. All the illustrations were restored for the 1994 worldwide HarperCollins edition, although these lacked the clarity of early printings.
Lewis very much enjoyed writing The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and embarked on the sequel Prince Caspian soon after finishing the first novel. He completed the sequel by end of 1949, less than a year after finishing the initial book. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe had few readers during 1949 and was not published until late in 1950, so his initial enthusiasm did not stem from favourable reception by the public.
While Lewis is known today on the strength of the Narnia stories as a highly successful children’s writer, the initial critical response was muted. At the time it was fashionable for children's stories to be realistic; fantasy and fairy tales were seen as indulgent, appropriate only for very young readers and potentially harmful to older children, even hindering their ability to relate to everyday life. Some reviewers considered the tale overtly moralistic or the Christian elements over-stated — attempts to indoctrinate children. Others were concerned that the many violent incidents might frighten children.
Lewis's publisher, Geoffrey Bles, feared that the Narnia tales would not sell, and might damage Lewis’ reputation and affect sales of his other books. Nevertheless, the novel and its successors were highly popular with young readers, and Lewis's publisher was soon eager to release further Narnia stories.
In the United States a 2004 study found that The Lion was a common read-aloud book for seventh-graders in schools in San Diego County, California. In 2005 it was included on TIME's unranked list of the 100 best English-language novels published since 1923. Based on a 2007 online poll, the U.S. National Education Association named it one of "Teachers' Top 100 Books for Children". In 2012 it was ranked number five among all-time children's novels in a survey published by School Library Journal, a monthly with primarily U.S. audience.
A 2012 survey by the University of Worcester determined that it was the second most common book that UK adults had read as children, after Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. (Adults, perhaps limited to parents, ranked Alice and The Lion fifth and sixth as books the next generation should read, or their children should read during their lifetimes.)
TIME magazine included the novel in its "All-TIME 100 Novels" (best English-language novels from 1923 to 2005). In 2003, the novel was listed at number 9 on the BBC's survey The Big Read. It has also been published in 47 foreign languages.
Lewis wrote that "The Narnian books are not as much allegory as supposal. Suppose there were a Narnian world and it, like ours, needed redemption. What kind of incarnation and Passion might Christ be supposed to undergo there?"
The main story is an allegory of Christ's crucifixion: Aslan sacrifices himself for Edmund, a traitor who may deserve death, in the same way that Christians believe Jesus sacrificed himself for sinners. Aslan is killed on the Stone Table, symbolizing Mosaic Law, which breaks when he is resurrected, symbolizing the replacement of the strict justice of Old Testament law with redeeming grace and forgiveness granted on the basis of substitutional atonement, according to Christian theology. As with the Christian Passion, it is women (Susan and Lucy) who tend Aslan's body after he dies and are the first to see him after his resurrection. The significance of the death contains elements of both the ransom theory of atonement and the satisfaction theory: Aslan suffers Edmund's penalty (satisfaction), and buys him back from the White Witch, who was entitled to him by reason of his treachery (ransom). In Christian belief, Christ is associated with the Biblical "Lion of Judah" of Revelation 5:5.
Professor Kirke is based on W.T. Kirkpatrick, who tutored a 16-year-old Lewis. "Kirk," as he was sometimes called, taught the young Lewis much about thinking and communicating clearly, skills that would be invaluable to him later.
Narnia is caught in endless winter that has lasted a century when the children first enter. Norse tradition mythologises a "great winter," known as the Fimbulwinter, said to precede Ragnarök. The trapping of Edmund by the White Witch is reminiscent of the seduction and imprisonment of Kay by The Snow Queen in Hans Christian Andersen's novella of that name.
The dwarves and giants are found in Norse mythology; fauns, centaurs, minotaurs and dryads derive from Greek mythology. Father Christmas, of course, was part of popular English folklore.
There are several parallels between the White Witch and the immortal white queen, Ayesha, of H. Rider Haggard's She, a novel greatly admired by C.S. Lewis.
The Story of the Amulet written by Edith Nesbit also contains scenes that can be considered precursors to sequences presenting Jadis, particularly in The Magician's Nephew. Nesbit's short story The Aunt and Amabel includes the motif of a girl entering a wardrobe to gain access to a magical place.
The freeing of Aslan's body from the stone table by field mice is reminiscent of Aesop's fable of "The Lion and the Mouse." In the fable, a lion catches a mouse, but the mouse persuades the lion to release him, promising that the favor would be rewarded. Later in the story, he gnaws through the lion's bonds after he has been captured by hunters. It is also reminiscent of a scene from Edgar Allan Poe's story "The Pit and the Pendulum," in which a prisoner is freed when rats gnaw through his bonds. In a later book, "Prince Caspian," we learn that as reward for their actions, mice gained the same intelligence and speech as other Narnian animals.
Themes other than religion are uncommonly researched. Many scholars focus on the theme of religion and seldom are other themes discussed. One scholar, Roger Chapman, focuses on the underlying theme of the Cold War. It is speculated that this theme of war contributes to the massive popularity of The Chronicles of Narnia novels. The characters are on a quest to help Narnia, much like the west was doing; launching a quest against communism. The trials many of the children face in Narnia are comparable to those children faced in resilience to communism, which Chapman compares to a spiritual testing. Chapman points out that C.S. Lewis was a fan of the novel Animal Farm, which spread the anti-communism ideology.
When Lucy enters the land of Narnia, she meets Tumnus who explains that the world is always winter and how they never have Christmas. This correlates with how the Cold War was perceived, with the cold symbolizing a negative political ideal. The cold and freezing temperatures were also the stereotypical image of Russia. There is also this hint of atheism with the lack of Christmas, which the Soviet Union was associated with.
Narnia is full of secret police and spies, much like Nazi Germany and Russia. ￼Chapman points out that Lewis names chapter fourteen "The Triumph of the Witch", which he claims is an obvious play of words for the Nazi film "Triumph of the Will". Then, with the arrest of Tumnus it resembles Stalin's purges, or Stalinization. Chapman claims that the similarities to Narnias totalitarian government is undeniable and was something many children connected to during the time of the Cold War.
Then, the White Witch's description matches what many Westerners thought of the Iron Curtain and the lives behind it; where she shuts out others, isolating herself and those under her rule, and making them incapable of moving from under her rule. This leaves many inhabitants, much like Mr. And Mrs. Beaver, awaiting freedom and help from someone else. That someone else being Aslan. Aslan is not only a representation of Christ in the religious aspect, but also the United States. The President of the United States of the time was described as "a kind and magnificent lion who can roam wifely and do great deeds" (Chapman 7). Which correlates to Aslan being a lion as a symbol of the United States.
One of the biggest themes seen in C.S. Lewis’s The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe is the theme of Christianity. Various aspects of characters and events in the novel reflect biblical ideas from Christianity. The lion Aslan is one of the largest examples, as his death is very similar to that of Jesus Christ. While many readers made this connection, Lewis denied that the themes of Christianity were intentional, saying that his writing began by picturing images of characters, and the rest just came about through the writing process. While Lewis denied intentionally making the novel a strictly Christian story, he did admit that it could help young children accept Christianity into their lives when they were older.
After the children enter the world of Narnia through the wardrobe, Edmund finds himself in trouble under service of the White Witch, as she tempts him with Turkish Delights. When Edmund is threatened to be killed, Aslan offers to sacrifice himself instead. Aslan is shaved of his fur, and stabbed on an altar of stone. This is similar to how Jesus was publicly beaten, humiliated, and crucified. After his sacrifice, Aslan is later reborn, and continues to help the children save Narnia. While this sequence of events is comparable to the death of Jesus, it is not identical. There are a few differences, such as the fact that Aslan’s death was not done to save the entirety of Narnia because they broke the law, his death was only for Edmund. Aslan is also only dead for one night, and comes back the next morning, as opposed to Jesus returning on the third day. Despite these differences, the image of Aslan and the event of his death and rebirth reflect those of the biblical account of Jesus’s death and resurrection, adding to the theme of Christianity throughout the novel.
Differences between editions
Due to labor union rules, the text of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe was reset for the publication of the first American edition of by Macmillan US in 1950. Lewis took that opportunity to make the following changes to the original British edition published by Geoffrey Bles earlier that same year:
When HarperCollins took over publication of the series in 1994, they began using the original British edition for all subsequent English editions worldwide. The current US edition published by Scholastic has 36,135 words.
The story has been adapted three times for television. The first adaptation was a ten-part serial produced by ABC Weekend Television for ITV and broadcast in 1967. In 1979, an animated TV-movie, directed by Peanuts director Bill Meléndez, was broadcast and won the first Emmy Award for Outstanding Animated Program. A third television adaptation was produced in 1988 by the BBC using a combination of live actors, animatronic puppets and animation. Only this last one was the first of a series of 3 Narnia adaptations. The programme was nominated for an Emmy and won a BAFTA. It was followed by three further Narnia adaptations.
Stage adaptations include a 1984 version staged at London's Westminster Theatre, produced by Vanessa Ford Productions. The play, adapted by Glyn Robbins, was directed by Richard Williams and designed by Marty Flood. Jules Tasca, Ted Drachman, and Thomas Tierney collaborated on a musical adaptation published in 1986.
In 1997, Trumpets Inc., a Filipino Christian theatre and musical production company, produced a musical rendition that Douglas Gresham, Lewis's stepson (and co-producer of the Walden Media film adaptations), has openly declared that he feels is the closest to Lewis's intention. It starred among others popular young Filipino singer Sam Concepcion as Edmund Pevensie. The book and lyrics were written by Jaime del Mundo and Luna Inocian, while music was composed by Lito Villareal.
In 1998, the Royal Shakespeare Company did an adaptation by Adrian Mitchell, for which the acting edition has been published. The Stratford Festival in Canada mounted a new production of Mitchell's work in June 2016.  
In 2003, there was an Australian commercial stage production which toured the country by Malcolm C. Cooke Productions, using both life-size puppets and human actors. It was directed by notable film director Nadia Tass, and starred Amanda Muggleton, Dennis Olsen, Meaghan Davies and Yolande Brown.
In 2011, a two-actor stage adaptation by Le Clanché du Rand opened Off-Broadway in New York City at St. Luke's Theatre. The production was directed by Julia Beardsley O'Brien and starred Erin Layton and Andrew Fortman. As of 2014, the production is currently running with a replacement cast of Abigail Taylor-Sansom and Rockford Sansom.
Multiple audio editions have been released, both straightforward readings and dramatizations.
In 1981, Michael Hordern read abridged versions of the classic tale (and the others in the series). In 2000, an unabridged audio book was released, narrated by Michael York. (All the books were released in audio form, read by different actors.)
In 1988, BBC Radio 4 mounted a full dramatization. In 1998, Focus on the Family Radio Theatre also adapted this story. Both the original BBC version and the Focus on the Family version have been broadcast on BBC radio. Both are the first in a series of adaptations of all seven of the Narnia books. The BBC series uses the title Tales of Narnia, while the Focus on the Family version uses the more familiar Chronicles moniker. The Focus on the Family version is also longer, with a full orchestra score, narration, a larger cast of actors, and introductions by Douglas Gresham, C.S. Lewis' stepson.
In 2005, the story was adapted for a theatrical film, co-produced by Walt Disney and Walden Media. It has so far been followed by two more films: The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian and The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. The latter was co-produced by Twentieth-Century Fox and Walden Media.