“Some day you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again.”
-The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe
C.S. Lewis

Plot Introduction:

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe is the first book written in the unforgettable Chronicles of Narnia. The story was originally written for Lewis' niece, upon whom the character Lucy is based. Later, Narnia was made available to everyone.

Four children, sent away from home during World War II, have discovered a way into another world. In this land of Narnia, fantastic creatures live under the rule of the White Witch, who has made eternal winter. After visiting, they realize that their coming has been foretold. And they, the “Sons of Adam” and “Daughters of Eve”, are to bring Aslan, the Lord and King of Narnia back to fight the White Witch. Armed with only their own wits, they quickly discover that Narnia holds many surprises for them. And this book is their first journey into that great Land.

Edmund and Lucy gain entrance into Narnia before their siblings, with very different results. Lucy befriends a Faun working for the White Witch and convinces him that there is no need to harm human children, which he seems to whole-heartedly agree with as he lets her go home. Meanwhile, Edmund meets up with the same White Witch whom the Faun was working in the service of. She bewitches him to bring his brother and sisters to her castle, where she can stop them from fulfilling any prophecies and continue her reign.

Thus begins the children's first adventure in the land of Narnia...

Characters:

The Pevensie Children

"Once there were four children whose names were Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy..."

Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy are the books main characters. Peter and Susan are the eldest children and, of course, the most responsible. Lucy is young, but extremely mature for her age. Edmund, on the other hand, is a brat. He looks out only for himself and risks ruining Narnia, just for his own gain.

These four are to become the Kings and Queens of Narnia. And it is they who must save Narnia, regardless of their own misgivings. Edmund himself is set up to betray his family, as well as the whole of Narnia. This is due in part to his own flaws of greed and envy.

The White Witch

“It's she that makes it always winter. Always winter and never Christmas; think of that!”

The Witch rules over Narnia, quite simply, because she is evil. She covets rank and the power that comes with it. From her there is no seed of goodness to be weeded out. She represents cruelty, sadism, evil, and greed. When the land of Narnia lives in peace, she comes by and takes over. Using magic, she covers the land in eternal snow and destroys all happiness. When anyone displeases her, she turns them to stone in order to punish them. It is with these powers that she rules over the land's creatures.

While evil, she is not stupid. She is tricky and devious, in order to get what she desires. And in the case of this book, she wants naught but to keep her power. Which happens to involve the death of the Pevensie children.

Aslan the Lion

"All shall be done, but it may be harder than you think."

Aslan is the Witch's opposite. Where she is evil, he is pure good. While she destroys, he creates. He saves. He restores. Aslan sets right all wrong-doings and stands for all that is right in the world. His limitless power and benevolence makes him an ideal god-head. And those in Narnia seem to see him as such, both fearing and awaiting his return.

Where the White Witch seduced Edmund to the path of evil, Aslan teaches him the wrongness of his ways and steers the boy towards good. The Lion-King of Narnia dies in order to save Edmund the betrayer, showing his love for all, including those who do wrong.

Personal Review:

“But if the Professor was right it was only the beginning of the adventures of Narnia.”

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe opens up the world of Narnia. And that is the world that every child hopes exists. One of fantastic creatures, of heroes, of good and evil. A world where anyone could enter into, if they were keen on the signs around them. And is that not every child's dream? To be able to disappear off and adventure.

Lewis wrote a fairy tale. And he wrote it in a manner to excite the mind. The reason I fell into Narnia was because he wrote for a child's mind, with the assumption that children can think. Narnia was my first real entrance into fantasy books. From there, I went to the high fantasy of Tolkien and ever onward. But it was Lewis that started me off and it was this book that did it.

While people look at it as a children's novel, it is much more then that. Yes, it's a book with religious undertones. But I don't believe they are there to preach to you. I think he's telling a story with what he knows best. Which, yes, involves religion. But if you won't pick up a book because it dabbles in Christianity, then you're cutting off your nose, to spite your face. This book borrows from Lewis' religion, much like any writing borrows from the author's lives.

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe is one of those books that I suggest people read, even if they hate fantasy. Lewis starts it off quickly and doesn't let you stop. It isn't a terribly long read, but it is worth-while. If nothing else, you'll just have faint flickerings back to when you used to imagine that every corner had a mystery and every doorway was a portal to another world.

Title: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe
Author: C.S. Lewis
ISBN: 0-02-044220-3
Publisher: Collier Books
Date Published: 1950
Length: 186 pages
Genre: Fantasy


An E2 Quest: Writeup Redemption submission.
Dedicated to wertperch who happens to be getting married today!

Sontra's excellent writeup above emphasizes the fairy tale components of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, but I think it is relevant to delve a bit deeper into why the book is also a Christian allegorical tale.

C.S. Lewis was an eminent author and a brilliant Christian scholar. Most of his books are serious matter, challenging the conceptions of the Christian God, and conveying Lewis' take on some of the more fundamental ethical questions in ChristianityThe Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is a children's book, however, and Lewis uses the setting of wonderous fairy tale world to explain some central tenets of Christianity, as Lewis views them.

The heroes of the book, the four children, stumbles into another dimension.  It is a world of eternal Winter and terror, ruled by a descendant of Lilith; the White Witch.  There is hope, however, for it is prophesied that Aslan, the true lord of World will someday return and with his return the rule of evil will end.  The children witness the return of Aslan. Christmas, personified, is the first indication of his arrival; the second is the coming of Spring.  When they meet Aslan face to face, he is terrifying but good. "He is not a tame lion."

At this point of the story, one of the children, lured by greed and spite, has betrayed the others to the Witch.  He has repented, but the most ancient magic in Narnia commits the life of traitors to the White Witch, and she claims him from Aslan.

"And so," continued the Witch, "that human creature is mine. His life is forfeit to me. His blood is my property."
        "Come and take it then," said the Bull with the man's head in a great bellowing voice.
        "Fool," said the Witch with a savage smile that was almost a snarl, "do you really think your master can rob me of my rights by mere force? He knows the Deep Magic better than that. He knows that unless I have blood as the Law says all Narnia will be overturned and perish in fire and water."

Aslan refuses to give the Witch the child, but he makes a secret agreement with the Witch.  Only witnessed by two of the children, he walks to an ancient site of magic and ritual executions.  There the Witch's creatures wait for him, and he allows himself to be captured, beaten and mocked. His great mane is cut off, he is tied and gagged, and the Witch kills him.

Another roar of mean laughter went up from her followers as an ogre with a pair of shears came forward and squatted down by Aslan's head. Snip-snip-snip went the shears and masses of curling gold began to fall to the ground. Then the ogre stood back and the children, watching from their hiding-place, could see the face of Aslan looking small and different without its mane. The enemies also saw the difference.
        "Why he's only a great cat after all!" cried one.
        "Is that what we were afraid of?" said another.
        And they surged round Aslan, jeering at him, saying things like "Puss, Puss! Poor Pussy," and "How many mice have you caught today, Cat?" and "Would you like a saucer of milk, Pussums?"
        "Oh, how can they?" said Lucy, tears streaming down her cheeks. "The brutes, the brutes!" for now that the first shock was over the shorn face of Aslan looked to her braver, and more beautiful, and more patient than ever."

Aslan, the great lion; the lord of the world, who explicitly could easily have avoided it or defended himself, allowed himself to be killed by the Witch, to save the life of the traitor.  The children keep a wake during the night, but as dawn breaks a thunderous crack destroys the ancient magics of the site, and Aslan, alive and seemingly more radiant than ever, has returned from the dead.

Aslan and the children then finally defeats the Witch in a great battle. The end.

Please pardon me for this rather brusque outline.  It does not do justice to the magical writing in the book.  But let us not beat around the bushC.S. Lewis is trying to convey what he sees as the wonder of Christianity to children.  The story of the coming of a savior, who allows himself to be killed to save the blood of a sinner, and who finally rises from the dead to destroy the evil, is, in no uncertain terms, a Christian tale.  This is made clear in the third book, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader:

"You are too old, children," said Aslan, "and you must begin to come close to your own world now."
        "It isn't Narnia, you know," sobbed Lucy. "It's you. We shan't meet you there. And how can we live, never meeting you?"
        "But you shall meet me, dear one," said Aslan.
        "Are — are you there too, Sir?" said Edmund.
        "I am," said Aslan. "But there I have another name. You must learn to know me by that name. This was the very reason why you were brought to Narnia, that by knowing me here for a little, you may know me better there."

That is no reason to particularly like or dislike the book, regardless of religious beliefs or not.  The story is exciting, the writing is excellent, and as Sontra points out, it is never patronizing to the children for whom it was intended.  I would never hesitate to recommend this book to anyone.

The book was the first in the series that became known as The Chronicles of Narnia.  With the exception of a few of the later books, it is the book with the heaviest allegorical content.  They are, nonetheless, all intelligent, and, in my humble opinion, some of the best fantasy novels ever written.

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