The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

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

Author Biography
Plot Summary
Historical Context
Critical Overview
Further Reading


The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis is the first—although sequentially the second—of seven books Lewis wrote about the imaginary world of Narnia. It is set during World War II, at the time when London was being bombed by Nazi Germany, and was inspired by Lewis's life with refugee children who came from London to stay at his country home during the bombings. One of the children, fascinated by the black oak wardrobe standing in the Lewis's hall, wanted to know if there was a way out of the back of the wardrobe, and if so, what was on the other side. Lewis's response was The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, the story of a world under siege by the powers of darkness, only it is not Hitler who leads the attack but the White Witch. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe marked a return to a familiar Lewis theme: the battle between good and evil. As a Christian author living in a grim age, Lewis felt he could not avoid this theme.

When Lewis decided to write children's fiction, his publisher, as well as some of his friends, were less than enthusiastic. They thought producing such stories would hurt his reputation as a serious writer. Nonetheless, Lewis went ahead, helping to begin a renaissance in children's literature. Since their initial publication, the Chronicles of Narnia have sold more than 100 million copies and are beloved by readers all over the world.

Author Biography

C. S. Lewis was born November 29, 1898 in a suburb of Belfast, Ireland. His father, Albert, was a successful lawyer. The family house, called Little Lea, had long corridors, empty rooms, and secret nooks in which Lewis and his brother, Warren, played. In the attic, the boys spent many rainy days writing and illustrating stories about imaginary worlds. Sometimes, when their cousin came to visit, the three of them would climb into a black oak wardrobe, hand-carved by Lewis and Warren's grandfather, and sit in the dark while Lewis told stories.

In 1908, Lewis's mother died of cancer. Lewis spent the next six years in and out of boarding schools, and during that time, he grew increasingly antagonistic towards the idea of a benevolent God. Then his father placed him with the private tutor W. T. Kirkpatrick, who provided an education that challenged Lewis's intellect and stimulated his imagination. In 1917, Lewis earned a scholarship to Oxford University, but with England in the midst of World War I, Lewis felt it his duty to enlist. The following year, he was wounded at the Battle of Arras; after that, he returned to Oxford to pursue his studies.

As an Oxford student and eventual fellow of Magdalen College, Lewis became close friends with writers and scholars who altered his worldview and encouraged him to write. This circle of friends, whom Lewis later dubbed the "Inklings," included J. R. R. Tolkien, Charles Williams, Neville Coghill, and Owen Barfield. Each man was instrumental in showing Lewis the reasonableness of Christianity, but more than anything else, it was Tolkien's views on the relevance of myth to the Christian faith that moved him. Lewis became a Christian at the age of thirty-two.

For fifteen years, the Inklings met regularly in Lewis's sitting room to read aloud from and discuss their own work. In these friendly gatherings, Tolkien first read The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. Lewis, in turn, presented his listeners with The Allegory of Love (1936), The Problem of Pain (1944), The Screwtape Letters (1944), and his science fiction trilogy: Out of the Silent Planet (1938), Perelandra (1943), and That Hideous Strength (1945). In the late 1940s, Lewis began writing children's stories, but the Inklings no longer provided much creative support. Charles Williams's death in 1945 struck them all very hard, and afterward they met less regularly. Lewis published The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe in 1950 and went on to write six more Narnia books over the next six years. The final installment of the series, The Last Battle (1956), won the Carnegie Medal. Letters from fans poured onto his desk by the thousands, and Lewis answered every one.

After completing his Narnia series, Lewis wrote Surprised by Joy (1956), an account of his conversion to Christianity. During this time, he married Joy Davidman, a good friend who had recently been diagnosed with terminal cancer. The wedding took place in Joy's hospital room, after which Lewis took her home with him to die. Instead of dying, however, she got better, and the two of them had three years together before her death in 1960. Shortly thereafter, Lewis wrote A Grief Observed (1961). Troubled by declining health himself, Lewis resigned in the summer of 1963. He died on November 22, 1963, one week short of his sixty-fifth birthday.

Plot Summary

Chapter One: Lucy Looks into a Wardrobe

It is wartime, and four siblings (Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy) are sent away from their home in London to escape the air-raids. They go to stay at a large house in the country, where live a funny-looking old Professor (to whom they take an instant liking), a housekeeper named Mrs. Macready, and three servants. At the first opportunity the children explore the house, and after walking through a labyrinth of stairs, corridors, and rooms, they come to a spare room that is empty save for a big wardrobe. Uninterested, Peter, Susan, and Edmund move on, but Lucy stays behind to check out the wardrobe. She gets inside, moves through rows of fur coats and, to her amazement, walks right into the middle of a snow-covered forest at night. A light shining in the distance catches Lucy's eye and she goes toward it: it is a lamppost. As Lucy is wondering how a lamppost got to be in the middle of a forest, a Faun carrying brown-paper parcels steps out of the trees. The Faun is so startled at the sight of Lucy that he drops all his parcels.

Media Adaptations

  • The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe was adapted as a radio dramatization by Focus on the Family in April 1999. The full-cast production features realistic sound effects and notable actors. Paul Scofield is the storyteller, and David Suchet is the voice of Aslan. As of 2006, it was available on audio CD.
  • The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe was first adapted as a television series (nine twenty-minute episodes) in 1967 by the ABC Television Network and was directed by Helen Standage from a screenplay by Trevor Preston. As of 2006, it was unavailable for home viewing.
  • The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe was produced as an animated television special in 1979 by the Episcopal Radio-TV Foundation and the Children's Television Workshop. This production's animators were Steve and Bill Melendez; the screenwriter was David D. Connell. It aired on CBS, was watched by thirty-seven million viewers, and won an Emmy for Outstanding Animated Program. As of 2006, it was available on DVD.
  • The BBC produced The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe as a television miniseries (in a combination of live action and animation) in 1988, adapted by Alan Seymour and directed by Marilyn Fox. Over the next two years, the BBC filmed Prince Caspian, The Voyage of the "Dawn Treader," and The Silver Chair. The four miniseries were nominated for a total of fourteen awards, including an Emmy for Outstanding Children's Program. They were later edited into three feature-length films, and as of 2006, they were available on DVD.
  • Buena Vista Pictures released The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe as a major motion picture in December 2005. This Walt Disney and Walden Media production, a combination of live action and computer animation, was directed by Andrew Adamson. As of 2006, it was available on DVD.
  • The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe was adapted as a musical in 1985, with music, book, and lyrics by Irita Kutchmy. As of 2006, it was available from Joseph Weinberger Ltd.
  • Narnia, another musical adaptation of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, was written by Jules Tasca with lyrics by Ted Drachman and music by Thomas Tierney. It was first published by the Dramatic Publishing Company in 1987, and as of 2006, it was available.
  • The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe was adapted as a stage play by Joseph Robinette in 1989. As of 2006, it was available from the Dramatic Publishing Company.

Chapter Two: What Lucy Found There

The Faun introduces himself as Tumnus and invites Lucy back to his cave for tea. He serves lots of food, tells delightful stories, and plays a tune on an odd little flute that puts Lucy to sleep. When she wakes up, Mr. Tumnus starts crying uncontrollably and confesses to being in the pay of the White Witch, an evil queen who makes it always winter but never Christmas in Narnia. Her orders to him were that if ever he was to see a Son of Adam or Daughter of Eve in the forest, he must capture and deliver them to her. Mr. Tumnus explains that he was just pretending to be her friend so that he could lure her to his house, wait until she fell asleep, then sneak out and tell the witch, but now that he has gotten to know Lucy, he cannot bring himself to turn her over. Lucy thanks him, and he leads her back to the lamppost. She returns through the wardrobe and runs to tell her sister and brothers all that has happened.

Chapter Three: Edmund and the Wardrobe

Lucy's siblings do not believe her story, and when she tries to prove it by showing them the inside of the wardrobe, nothing is there except coats. Lucy is very upset, and Edmund makes matters worse by teasing her. A few days later, however, Edmund follows Lucy into the wardrobe during a game of hide-and-seek, and he too discovers Narnia. Edmund walks alone through the strange, dark wood, thinking that Lucy ran off because she is angry with him. Presently, he is met by a sledge pulled by two white reindeer and driven by a fat Dwarf. A very tall lady with pale white skin and bright red lips, sporting a white fur coat, golden crown, and golden wand, sits high up in the sledge. She does not recognize the sort of creature Edmund is, so she asks him. He has no idea what she means, so he says his name. The lady does not like the way Edmund is addressing her and asks him how he could talk to the Queen in such a manner. She is astounded to discover he did not know she was the Queen.

Chapter Four: Turkish Delight

The Queen soon finds out that Edmund is a Son of Adam, and she is about to do something terrible to him when another idea crosses her mind. She invites Edmund into her sledge and offers him a hot drink and several pounds of enchanted Turkish Delight, the kind that keeps one begging for more. She tells Edmund that he can be King of Narnia and eat all the Turkish Delight he wants if he brings his brother and sisters to her. The Queen leaves him with directions to her house and instructions not to tell anyone of their meeting. As Edmund watches the sledge disappear, Susan runs up and expresses her happiness that he got in, too. She says she just had lunch with Mr. Tumnus and found out all kinds of terrible things about the White Witch. Lucy cannot wait to tell everyone they have both been to Narnia, but Edmund is not excited about it. His stomach is hurting from the Turkish Delight, and his pride is hurt as well.

Chapter Five: Back on This Side of the Door

When Lucy tells Peter and Susan what happened, Edmund denies it and says Lucy is making it all up. Hurt and dejected, Lucy runs from the room, and Peter chastises Edmund for being "perfectly beastly" to her. The next morning, Peter and Susan go to the Professor for advice about what to do with Lucy. He surprises them by saying that since Lucy is a very truthful girl and obviously not insane, they must believe she is telling the truth. The subject of the wardrobe is dropped for some time; nobody talks about it or goes near it, that is, until the day the children run into the spare room to keep away from Mrs. Macready and a group of sightseers she is leading through the house. They think surely no one will follow them into that room, but then they hear someone fumbling at the door, and they all jump into the wardrobe.

Chapter Six: Into the Forest

The cramped, dark wardrobe opens up into the snowy wood. Peter apologizes to Lucy for not believing her, and then all eyes are on Edmund because of his lie. Peter suggests they go exploring with Lucy as the leader. She takes them to Mr. Tumnus's cave, which they find abandoned and in shambles. They also find a piece of paper with a message from Maugrim, the Captain of the Secret Police, explaining that Mr. Tumnus has been arrested on a charge of high treason. Lucy insists they go looking for him, since it was on account of his befriending her that he was arrested. Peter and Susan consent, although they have no idea how to begin looking. A bright red Robin appears, and Lucy gets the impression that the bird wants them to follow it. The Robin leads them through the forest, and all the time they are walking, Edmund questions whether they are doing the right thing.

Chapter Seven: A Day with the Beavers

The children follow the Robin to a place where they meet a Beaver, who has been cautiously observing them from behind the trees. It turns out he is a friend of Mr. Tumnus, and he tells the children they must speak quietly because the Witch's spies are everywhere. Assuming that they know more than they do, the Beaver whispers, "Aslan is on the move." The children, of course, have no idea who Aslan is, yet they all derive a certain comfort from the name. That is, all except Edmund, who is horrified by it. Lucy, who is very concerned about Mr. Tumnus, wants to know where he has been taken. The Beaver (called Mr. Beaver from now on) invites them back to his place for dinner where they can talk in secret. There they meet Mrs. Beaver, who graciously welcomes them, and they share a sumptuous meal of fish and potatoes. Mr. Beaver cocks an eye toward the window and remarks with satisfaction that it is snowing: the snow will cover their tracks and thereby prevent unwanted visitors.

Chapter Eight: What Happened after Dinner

After dinner, Mr. Beaver tells the children that Mr. Tumnus has probably been taken to the Witch's castle and turned into stone. He says they can do nothing for him without Aslan, the great lion and King of the wood, whom they are to meet the very next day at a place called the Stone Table. Mr. Beaver relates the prophecies that speak of how the White Witch's reign will come to an end when Aslan returns and two Sons of Adam and two Daughters of Eve sit on Cair Paravel's thrones. He explains that the White Witch will want to kill the children out of fear that they are the fulfillment to the prophecy. When Mr. Beaver finishes speaking, everyone notices Edmund is missing. They rush outside and call for him, but it is no use: he has gone to the White Witch. Mr. Beaver's biggest concern is that Edmund heard everything about Aslan and the meeting at the Stone Table and is going to tell the Witch; she will then try to stop them before reaching Aslan. Mrs. Beaver suggests they leave at once.

Chapter Nine: In the Witch's House

Edmund, who left the Beavers' house soon after Mr. Beaver spoke of the meeting with Aslan, stumbles over rocky and icy terrain to get to the Witch's house. As he walks, he dreams about everything he will do as King, including getting even with Peter. The Witch's house, a creepy little castle with towers, pointed spires, and shadows, has a courtyard filled with stone statues of all manner of creatures. Edmund climbs some steps to the threshold of a doorway where Maugrim the wolf lies quietly. Thinking Maugrim to be a statue like all the others, Edmund begins to step over him, but the huge wolf rises to block his way. Terrified, Edmund identifies himself and states his business. Maugrim fetches the White Witch, who is angry to see Edmund without his brother and sisters. Edmund explains that they are nearby, and he relates everything Mr. Beaver said about Aslan. The news about Aslan greatly startles the Witch. She orders her fat Dwarf to prepare the sledge.

Chapter Ten: The Spell Begins to Break

The children and Mr. Beaver impatiently wait for Mrs. Beaver as she packs food, matches, and handkerchiefs for the journey. After much fussing over what they should take, they finally set off and travel a great distance over ice and snow. Lucy is practically asleep on her feet when Mr. Beaver leads them to a secret hiding place in the ground where they rest for the night. They awake to the sound of sleigh bells. Up above, Father Christmas waits in his sledge with presents for everybody: Mrs. Beaver gets a new sewing machine delivered straight to her house, and Mr. Beaver gets a finished and fully repaired dam. Peter receives a sword and a shield, and Susan gets a bow, a quiver full of arrows, and an ivory horn that summons help whenever blown. Lucy receives a dagger (although Father Christmas tells her she is not to fight in the battle) and a cordial of special healing juice. Before leaving, Father Christmas breaks out one final present: hot tea for everyone. The children and the Beavers share an enjoyable breakfast before moving on.

Chapter Eleven: Aslan Is Nearer

Edmund could not be more miserable. He asks for Turkish Delight and the fat Dwarf brings him dry bread and water instead. Then, after ordering Maugrim and his swiftest wolves to hunt down the Beavers and humans, the Witch forces Edmund to go with her in her sledge on a long, cold journey to the Stone Table. En route, they pass a merry party of creatures feasting in the wood. This sight of such happiness angers the Witch, and when they tell her Father Christmas gave them the food, she becomes enraged. Despite Edmund's pleas, the Witch turns them all to stone then smacks Edmund hard on the face for asking favors for spies and traitors. They continue on, but their journey is slowed by a sudden thaw: the sledge keeps getting stuck in the mud. The Dwarf binds Edmund's hands, and they begin to walk. Trees bud, flowers bloom, and birds sing all around them. Spring has arrived, and, the Dwarf exclaims, it is Aslan's doing. The Witch responds, "If either of you mentions that name again … he shall instantly be killed."

Chapter Twelve: Peter's First Battle

The children and the Beavers travel across the greening countryside and up a hill to an open space where stands the Stone Table, a giant grey slab with strange lines and figures carved on it. Music heralds the approach of Aslan, who enters a pavilion surrounded by many forest animals and mythological creatures. Aslan welcomes the children and Beavers and says that all will be done to save Edmund, though it will not be easy. As a feast is being prepared, Aslan leads Peter to the eastern edge of the hilltop and shows him Cair Paravel, the far-off castle where Peter is to be king. Suddenly, the sound of Susan's horn summons Peter to battle. Maugrim and another wolf have infiltrated the camp, and to his horror, Peter sees Maugrim chase Susan up a tree. Peter kills Maugrim with his sword, and the other wolf darts away. Aslan orders his swiftest creatures after it, announcing that it will lead them to Edmund and the Witch. After Peter cleans his sword, Aslan knights him, "Sir Peter Wolf's—Bane."

Chapter Thirteen: Deep Magic from the Dawn of Time

After walking for what seems an eternity to Edmund, the Witch and the Dwarf hatch a plan to kill Edmund before he can be rescued. But just as the Witch is sharpening her stone knife, Aslan's rescue party arrives. Edmund is saved, but the Witch and the Dwarf escape using her magic. The next morning Edmund has a private conversation with Aslan that Edmund always remembers. Aslan then delivers Edmund to his siblings, telling them there is no need to speak of what has passed. Later, the Witch arrives and pronounces Edmund a traitor. She further proclaims that, according to the Law of the Deep Magic, she has the right to kill all traitors. Aslan requests a private conference with the Witch, during which they arrive at an agreement that will spare Edmund's life. The Queen, with "a look of fierce joy on her face," asks Aslan how she knows he will keep his promise. Aslan responds with a terrible half laugh, half roar.

Chapter Fourteen: The Triumph of the Witch

Aslan leads his forces from the hilltop to the Fords of Beruna, where they set up camp. He then discusses battle plans with Peter, telling him that he will be the one to lead the campaign. That night, Susan and Lucy find Aslan walking forlornly through the moonlit woods. He is sad but tells the girls he would be grateful if they walked with him for a while with their hands on his mane. They presently arrive at the hill leading up to the Stone Table, and Aslan says they must here part company. The girls cry uncontrollably as Aslan leaves and heads for the Stone Table, where the White Witch and her evil minions await. They bind, shave, and torture Aslan before dragging him onto the Stone Table. Susan and Lucy, watching from a safe distance, expect Aslan to fight back at any moment, but he never does. The Witch tells Aslan that his death accomplishes nothing because she is going to kill Edmund anyway. Susan and Lucy cannot bear to watch as the Witch drives her knife into Aslan's heart.

Chapter Fifteen: Deeper Magic from Before the Dawn of Time

The Witch charges off with her minions, and Susan and Lucy approach the Stone Table. They remove Aslan's muzzle but cannot unbind him because the knots are too tight. Suddenly, hundreds of little field mice appear and chew through the cords. The girls sit with Aslan all night, holding him and crying. At dawn they go for a walk to warm themselves and are startled by a thunderous cracking sound. They turn to see the Stone Table split and Aslan's body gone. Just as they wonder what it all means, Aslan, alive and well and standing behind them in the sunlight, explains: the Witch did not account for the Deeper Magic, which states that death will work backward when a willing victim who committed no crime is sacrificed in a traitor's stead. Overjoyed, Susan and Lucy shower Aslan with kisses, and they run and play all around the hilltop. Aslan lets out an earth-shaking roar, tells the girls to hop on his back, and off they go to the Witch's castle. When they arrive, Aslan makes a flying leap over the wall into the courtyard filled with stone statues.

Chapter Sixteen: What Happened about the Statues

Aslan frees the statues, one by one, by breathing on them. Before long, the whole courtyard erupts in joy. Susan gets a bit nervous when Aslan breathes on the Giant Rumblebuffin's feet, thinking it may not be safe, but Rumblebuffin turns out to be a friendly giant. One of the last statues to be freed is Mr. Tumnus, and he and Lucy dance for joy at their reuniting. Giant Rumblebuffin knocks down the gates with his giant club so they can get out, and Aslan leads the charge to the battlefront. They arrive to discover Peter's army badly depleted and fighting desperately. Stone statues dot the battlefield, so it is obvious the Witch has been using her wand, but at that moment, she is fighting Peter with her stone knife. Aslan erupts with another earth-shaking roar and hurls himself on the White Witch. Peter's tired army cheers, and the newcomers join in the fight.

Chapter Seventeen: The Hunting of the White Stag

Aslan kills the Witch, and the rest of his companions wipe out the Witch's forces. Peter says Edmund saved the day by smashing the Witch's wand to prevent her from turning any more of their army into stone, but in so doing Edmund was badly wounded. Lucy pours a few drops from her cordial into Edmund's mouth, he recovers fully, and Aslan knights him on the spot. The next day, Aslan crowns Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy kings and queens of Narnia at Cair Paravel. The Pevensies reign for many years, until one day they go on a hunt for the White Stag, believing that the White Stag will grant wishes to anyone who can catch him. They chase him into a thicket, where they discover a vaguely familiar lamppost. Thinking some new adventure or unexpected treasure awaits, they venture past it. Within moments, the children tumble out of the wardrobe into the spare room. Mrs. Macready and the guests are still out in the corridor. The children run to tell the Professor all that has happened, and he says that someday they will return to Narnia, but it will be when they least expect it.



Aslan is the Great Lion, King of Beasts, King of the land of Narnia, Lord of the wood, and son of the great Emperor-beyond-the-Sea. His purpose is clear the moment he returns to Narnia: to overthrow evil by serving others. The thawing of the witch's winter and renewing of spring comprise the first phase of Aslan's service, followed by the giving of gifts to the Pevensie children and the creatures of the wood through Father Christmas. After the children arrive at the Stone Table, Aslan serves them all with his hospitality, but Peter he serves more specifically by teaching him how to think and act like a military leader. Aslan's service to Edmund is threefold: he sends his forces to rescue Edmund from the White Witch, has a talk with Edmund that changes Edmund's life for the better, and, in the ultimate selfless act, sacrifices his life so that Edmund may live. At the same time, Aslan is saving all of Narnia from destruction in accordance with the Deep Magic, which states that unless life is forfeit in payment for the crime of treachery, Narnia will be destroyed by fire and water. While the witch thinks she has won the final victory and taken control of Narnia forever, Aslan knows that victory will be his because of the Deeper Magic, which states that death will work backward when a willing victim who committed no crime is sacrificed in a traitor's stead. In performing the ultimate service for Edmund and for Narnia, Aslan is able to return to life and complete his purpose. His next two acts of service bring a speedy end to evil's reign: He breathes life back into the stone statues and kills the White Witch in his jaws. The final phase of Aslan's service is to crown the Pevensie children kings and queens of Narnia, after which he leaves to tend to his other countries.

Mr. Beaver

Mr. Beaver is a wise, hardworking, and practical creature dedicated to the cause of good in the battle against evil in Narnia, and due to his unwavering faith in Aslan and belief in the fulfillment of the ancient prophecies, he takes it upon himself to lead the Sons of Adam and Daughters of Eve to Aslan. When he hears they have entered Narnia, he springs into action. At great risk to his life, Mr. Beaver befriends the Pevensie children in the wood, warns them that the witch's spies are everywhere, and invites them into his home. From there, he leads his wife and three of the children on a dangerous journey to meet Aslan, the one who will save Edmund and all of Narnia from the White Witch. At the children's coronation, Mr. Beaver is rewarded and honored for his faith and service.

Mrs. Beaver

Mrs. Beaver, the kind wife of Mr. Beaver, is dedicated to helping, comforting, and providing for others. The fact that her sewing machine is her most valuable possession reveals the extent of her dedication. With the help of her husband, she cooks a sumptuous meal for the Pevensie children, then, with little help from her husband, packs food for their journey to the Stone Table. Mr. Beaver and the children are in a great hurry to leave and feel that Mrs. Beaver is wasting valuable time by packing a dinner. During the arduous journey, however, they are grateful for her foresight. She comforts and nurses the wounded Edmund, and she sweetly takes her husband's hand while awaiting the outcome of the private talk between Aslan and the White Witch. Mrs. Beaver is dearly loved by the children, and they bestow gifts and honors upon her at their coronation.


The Emperor-beyond-the-Sea is Aslan's father and author of Narnia's laws. He is never seen, but his presence is felt in the discussions about the Deep and Deeper Magic. His "hangman," as Mr. Beaver calls her, is the White Witch, who delights in being able to bring about death, but as it was written in the Deeper Magic, death is not final, and the Emperor sends Aslan to Narnia to reveal this truth.

Father Christmas

Unlike the jolly Santa Claus depicted on the other side of the wardrobe, Father Christmas is big, glad, and most significantly, real. (They do, however, have the white beard and bright red robe in common.) To see him makes the children both glad and solemn at the same time. His arrival is a sign that the Witch's spell is weakening and that Aslan has returned. He is Aslan's helper and gives the Pevensie children—as well as all the creatures of the wood—gifts to help them continue in their fight against evil.

The Lion

The lion was turned to stone by White Witch in her courtyard, and his statue terrifies Edmund at first glance. When Edmund realizes that the lion is made of stone, he mocks this king of beasts by drawing a moustache and a pair of glasses on his face. Aslan, however, shows that he holds lions in highest regard among creatures by breathing on the stone lion first. A bit later, Aslan astounds this relatively simple-minded lion when he refers to the two of them together as "Us Lions: "Those who are good with their noses must come in the front with us lions to smell out where the battle is." In using this pronoun, Aslan treats the lion as his equal, thereby bestowing dignity and honor upon him and bringing him great joy. The children further honor and reward the lion at their coronation.

Mrs. Macready

Mrs. Macready, the Professor's housekeeper, is not particularly fond of children. It is her job to take visitors on guided tours of the house, and she gives the children strict instructions to stay out of her way when she is bringing visitors through the house. The children's adventure in Narnia begins and ends on a day when Macready is leading a tour; in order to stay out her way, the children hide in the wardrobe and make their way into Narnia. When they return, Mrs. Macready is still with the visitors.


Maugrim, or Fenris Ulf as he is known in British editions, is an evil grey wolf and Captain of the White Witch's Secret Police. He is quite crafty, as is evident when he pretends to be one of the Witch's statues in order to take Edmund by surprise, but his inability to manage his anger proves to be his downfall. After Maugrim chases Susan up a tree, Peter lashes out at him with his sword. Peter misses, but the audacity of the action enrages Maugrim so much that he has to howl, giving Peter just enough time to plunge his sword into Maugrim's heart.

Edmund Pevensie

Edmund, the second youngest of the Pevensie children and the bad one of the bunch, despises the high-minded superiority of his older brother, Peter, and the maternal control of his sister Susan. The only sibling he is older than is Lucy, and he takes his discontent out on her with a vengeance. He mocks and teases endlessly after she tells of her experience through the wardrobe and maliciously betrays her by denying her story about Narnia to Peter and Susan even after having been there himself. The moment they all get through to Narnia, Edmund slips up and says something to reveal that he has been there before, which results in Peter calling him a "poisonous little beast." Edmund resolves that he will get revenge on his brother and sisters.

The primary inducement for Edmund's revenge, however, is neither his unfortunate position in the sibling rivalry nor simply an innate badness. Rather, he is driven by his excessive appetite for food and power as brought on by the Witch's evil magic. The enchantment resulting from eating the Witch's Turkish Delight does not suppress Edmund's ability to distinguish right from wrong; it makes right and wrong appear inconsequential in contrast to his craving. As Edmund walks to the Witch's castle, the narrator says that deep down Edmund knew the Witch was evil and Aslan was good, but thoughts of power kept him from turning around and making peace with his brothers and sisters. Not until he makes the journey with the Witch does he realize the extent to which he has misjudged her and begins to have a change of heart. This change is revealed when he begs the Witch not to turn the merry little party of woodland creatures into stone. Edmund's compassion is genuine, and as the narrator states, it was "the first time in this story [Edmund] felt sorry for someone besides himself."

After Edmund is rescued by Aslan's forces and has a private conversation with Aslan, he is a new person. He apologizes to his brother and sisters, then distinguishes himself in battle by destroying the Witch's wand. Aslan knights him for his valor and later crowns him a king of Narnia. The difficult lessons Edmund learns in his early life lead him to become "a graver and quieter man than Peter, and great in council and judgment." He is lauded as "King Edmund the Just."

Lucy Pevensie

Although Lucy is the youngest of the Pevensie children, she is the most observant and perceptive, and it is through her eyes that Lewis tells the story. The moment the children first see the Robin, Lucy senses that the bird wants them to follow it, and on the night Lucy and Susan cannot get to sleep, Lucy tells Susan she feels something is wrong with Aslan and suggests they go looking for him. (In both of these instances, her intuition proves to be correct.) But it is Lucy's smaller observations that give her character depth: When Aslan claps his paws together, Lucy observes, "Terrible paws … if he didn't know how to velvet them!"; and in the moment before Aslan's death, Lucy thinks he looks "braver, and more beautiful, and more patient than ever."

Lucy also serves as a foil to Edmund: while Edmund is dishonest and selfish, Lucy is truthful and generous. She wants to help those in need and puts the best interests of others ahead of her own. Her first thought upon discovering Mr. Tumnus has been captured is that she and sister and brothers must try to rescue him, and up to the moment Mr. Beaver says Aslan is the only one who can save him, all Lucy can do is think about his safety. Similarly, the first thing Lucy wants to know from Aslan is if anything can be done to save Edmund. In accordance with her selfless and compassionate nature, Father Christmas gives Lucy a cordial made of healing juice from fire-flowers that grow on the sun, a gift she can use in service to others. Interestingly, Lucy's only mistake comes in using this gift. She administers the juice to a wounded Edmund, then waits for it to have an effect while other wounded are suffering around her. When Aslan lets Lucy know that what she is doing is wrong, she snaps at him, and he responds with a subtle yet stern reminder: "Must more people die for Edmund?" Lucy is instantly repentant and immediately goes about the task of healing the others.

Lucy is known as "Queen Lucy the Valiant" after she assumes the throne. She continues to be happy and golden-haired throughout her reign, and many local princes want her to be their queen.

Peter Pevensie

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe traces how Peter Pevensie, the oldest of the children, develops from a thirteen-year-old boy into the High King of Narnia. From early on, Peter seems to have the makings of a king: his choice of animals (eagles, stags, and hawks) he hopes to see on the grounds of the estate reveals a regal temperament; his willingness to suspend judgment on the veracity of Lucy's story until all the evidence is in reveals the kind of wisdom necessary for good leadership; and his decision to make Lucy the leader after they arrive in Narnia shows sound judgment. Peter shows more leadership ability as the story progresses. When the beavers and the children arrive at the Stone Table, Susan and Lucy are too nervous to step forward and meet Aslan, so Peter goes first. He then has the courage and honor to assume part of the responsibility for his brother's actions, telling Aslan that by getting mad at Edmund he "helped him to go wrong."

There is one leadership characteristic, however, that Peter must develop before earning the title of High King: courage in the face of battle. Aslan knows this, so at the sound of Susan's horn, he sends Edmund out to fight Maugrim alone. Peter is terrified, but realizing that both his and his sister's life are in jeopardy if he does not act, he swallows his fear and slays Maugrim. As result of this display of courage, Aslan gives Peter command of his army. Peter is, understandably, uncomfortable at the thought of having to fight a battle without Aslan by his side, but he does not back down. Instead, he rises to the challenge, and the next day he courageously leads the charge against the White Witch's evil forces. The battle itself is Peter's final preparation for high kingship because it is the ultimate test of his leadership, and in the end he prevails. Afterwards, in the ultimate noble gesture, Peter credits Edmund for the victory, and it is then that Lucy comments on Peter's changed appearance: "His face was so pale and stern and he seemed so much older." Lucy's observation reveals just how far Peter has come since the beginning of the story and indicates that he is now ready to be High King.

The courage Peter once lacked is, by the end of the story, his greatest strength. He becomes "a great warrior" with a deep chest and is known as "Peter the Magnificent."

Susan Pevensie

Susan Pevensie, the second oldest of the children and elder sister, exerts a motherly control over her siblings. Unlike Peter and Lucy, she possesses neither leadership qualities nor intuitive ability; rather, she is practical, extremely cautious, and a bit self-centered. Their discovery of Mr. Tumnus's arrest leads Susan to the conclusion that Narnia "doesn't seem particularly safe," and along with concerns over the dropping temperature and not having any food, she recommends they go home. Only after Lucy makes her arguments for rescuing Mr. Tumnus does Susan get the sense that this is the right thing to do, although she does not "want to go a step further" and "wishes [they]'d never come." After the children follow the robin, Susan's first inclination, again, is to do the most cautious and practical thing: go home where it is safe.

Susan's cautious nature stems from her propensity to see the bad in difficult situations and to expect the worst possible outcomes. Her myopia contrasts with Lucy's acuity and results in judgment errors that Lucy is always on hand to counter. For example, on the night she and Lucy discuss Aslan's strange behavior, Susan says she suspects Aslan of "stealing away and leaving" before the battle, but Lucy, who has faith in Aslan and is concerned about him personally, correctly asserts that "some dreadful thing is going to happen to him." Furthermore, when the two of them see the mice crawling over Aslan's body, Susan is instantly repulsed and tries to shoo them away. Lucy, however, notices that the mice are really nibbling at the ropes in order to free Aslan, and she points this out to Susan. Lastly, Susan takes issue with Lucy's suggestion that Edmund be told what Aslan did for him: "It would be much too awful for him." Lucy, on the other hand, thinks "he ought to know."

As Susan watches in horror as Aslan suffers cruel torture and death, she undergoes a transformation: she changes from being self-centered to having compassion for others. She cries all night with Lucy, holding Aslan in her arms, and even suggests trying to untie him. During her reign as Queen she is called "Susan the Gentle," known for her graciousness and long black hair.

The Professor

The wise and generous Professor opens his large country home to the Pevensie children during the London air raids. The children take an instant liking to him, due in part to his funny appearance. Peter and Susan turn to him for advice on what to do about Lucy, and he surprises them by saying that, if they use logic, they will conclude that Lucy's story is true. Of course, Peter and Susan soon discover the Professor is right, and when all the children run to him at the end to tell of their adventures in Narnia, he is not in the least bit surprised. In fact, he believes every word and responds by saying that they will surely return to Narnia someday.

Giant Rumblebuffin

Giant Rumblebuffin is a good giant who was turned to stone by the White Witch and is restored to life by Aslan's breath. Because of Rumblebuffin's great size and strength, Aslan enlists his help in letting everyone out of the Witch's castle. Happy to be able to serve his King and little comrades, he bashes in the gate with his huge club and wrestles down the towers. He works up such a sweat that he asks if either Susan or Lucy has a handkerchief he can use to wipe his brow. When Lucy gladly offers hers up, Rumblebuffin reaches down and mistakenly picks her up instead, thinking she is the handkerchief. This action prompts Mr. Tumnus's comment to Lucy that although the Rumblebuffins are "one of the most respected of all the giant families in Narnia" they are "not very clever." Giant Rumblebuffin receives rewards and honors at the children's coronation.

Mr. Tumnus

Mr. Tumnus is the first creature Lucy meets in Narnia. He invites Lucy to his cave under the pretense of hospitality, while his true intention is to kidnap her and take her to the White Witch. He is, however, a good Faun at heart, and he cannot bring himself to turn her over to the Witch. The Witch arrests him for High Treason and turns him to stone, but he is eventually restored to life by Aslan's breath. At the children's coronation, he is the first friend to receive honors and rewards. Many years later, he informs the Pevensies of the White Stag's return.

The White Stag

The White Stag is an enchanted creature who grants wishes to those who can catch him. Mr. Tumnus tells the four rulers that the White Stag had been seen in the Western Woods, and a royal hunt ensues. The Pevensies chase the animal through the woods and into a thicket, where they decide to dismount their horses and follow it. Their search leads them past the lamppost and back through the wardrobe.

The White Witch

The White Witch is the evil, self-proclaimed Queen of Narnia. The narrator does not say how she assumed power, but the reader knows her claim to the throne is illegitimate by way of Mr. Tumnus through Lucy: "She calls herself the Queen of Narnia though she has no right to be queen at all, and all the Fauns and Dryads and Naiads and Dwarfs and Animals—at least all the good ones—simply hate her." The good creatures hate her because of her ruthlessness and cruelty: she has cast a spell over the land so that it is always winter but never Christmas, and she indiscriminately uses her magic wand to turn her enemies to stone. The White Witch bases her claim to be Queen on the assertion that she is human, but Mr. Beaver says that although she looks human, "there isn't a drop of real human blood in [her]."

The White Witch lives in fear of the prophecy that both her life and her reign will end when two Sons of Adam and two Daughters of Eve sit on the thrones at Cair Paravel, and she does whatever she can to stay in power. When her plans to capture and kill the Pevensie children fail, she confronts Aslan and accuses Edmund of treachery, audaciously invoking the Deep Magic, which gives her the right to kill traitors. Aslan, however, offers his own life as a substitute for Edmund's, and the Witch gladly accepts, thinking that her victory is assured with Aslan out of the way. She tortures, mocks, and kills the rightful King of Narnia. Her immorality and incapacity to love prevent her from knowing the Deeper Magic—which has the power to overcome death—and secure her destruction in the end.


The Triumph of Good over Evil

Lewis's view of good and evil is predicated on the biblical doctrine of the Fall (the corruption of man's perfect state as a result of Adam and Eve's disobedience to God), to which the only remedy is God's redemption through Jesus Christ. According to Genesis, when Satan entered God's unfallen creation in the form of a serpent, he tempted Adam and Eve by saying that if they were to eat from the forbidden tree, they would become like God and have knowledge of all things. Adam and Eve succumb, or fall, and thereby introduce sin/evil into the world. Lewis shows the nature of sin and evil through the character of the White Witch in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. (In The Magician's Nephew, evil is introduced into the delightful and uncorrupted world of Narnia through the actions of characters who, like Adam and Eve, cannot resist temptation.) The nature of goodness is embodied in the character of Aslan, and its characteristics are manifested through the actions of many other characters in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe as well.

In the chapter "The Invasion" in Mere Christianity, Lewis explains that he does not see good and evil as opposites; rather, he sees evil as a perversion of good. Money, sex, and power, for example, are good things unless they are pursued for the wrong reasons. One good thing that cannot be perverted, however, is love, because as John reveals in his gospel, God is love (and God cannot be perverted). Love, therefore, is the ultimate good. If a man pursues wealth and power for selfish purposes, he is not acting out of love and, therefore, his actions are evil. Such are the actions of the White Witch. She does all she can to ensure her control over Narnia, even to the point of hurting and killing. Aslan, on the other hand, performs selfless acts for the benefit of others, sacrificing his life so that Edmund may live and breathing on the stone statues so that they may return to life. Characters such as the Beavers and the Pevensie children act out of love by showing hospitality: the Beavers serve a good meal to the children, and the children later have a feast served to their coronation guests.

Because evil is a perversion of good, Lewis reasons, it is subordinate to it. In his essay, "Evil and God," published in God in the Dock: Essays on Theology and Ethics, Lewis likens evil to a parasite living off a tree, explaining that good "exists[s] on its own while evil requires the good on which it is parasitic in order to continue its parasitic existence." The idea that evil is subordinate to good accords with Christian theology, according to which Christ defeated Satan/death by dying on the cross and rising from the dead, and one day Christ will return and put an end to evil once and for all. Although Christians differ in their eschatology (beliefs about the end times), many agree that the end will be accompanied by the destruction of evil and the triumph of good. This doctrine fuels the climax and resolution of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, as Leland Ryken and Marjorie Lamp Mead point out in A Reader's Guide through the Wardrobe: "The turning of the statues back into people, a gigantic and decisive last battle, coronations at a great hall, living 'in great joy' and remembering 'life in this world … only as one remembers a dream'—all of these have an eschatological feel to them."

Awakening to New Life

The theme of awakening to new life functions in both physical and spiritual ways. On a physical level, the children's entry through the wardrobe into Narnia is an awakening to a new life: a new world is revealed to them that they never knew existed. Their ensuing adventures leading to the overthrow of the White Witch are just the beginning of a new life for them. They become kings and queens in Narnia and reign for many happy years, and the narrator says, "if ever they remembered their life in this world it was only as one remembers a dream." Springtime in Narnia, a result of Aslan's return, is nature's awakening to new life from one hundred years of winter. After the White Witch kills Aslan, he awakens to new life because of the Deeper Magic; he rushes to the witch's castle and awakens the stone statues to new life by breathing on them. The subsequent defeat of the White Witch and the crowning of the Pevensie children as kings and queens awakens Narnia to a new life free from tyranny.

Topics For Further Study

  • An allegory is a composition, whether pictorial or literary, in which immaterial or spiritual realities are directly represented by material objects. Write a short story that is an allegory. Take an abstract concept or a virtue, such as honesty or patience or courage, and write a story in which the main character in human or animal form conveys the characteristics of your chosen abstract concept.
  • Watch the 2005 film adaptation The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, noting where the film follows Lewis's book and where it differs. Consider elements such as theme, plot, dialogue, and characterization. Why do you think the filmmakers decided to make these changes? Prepare a class presentation in which you discuss the differences, but be sure to highlight some similarities as well. Use clips (DVD or VHS) from the movie to support your conclusions.
  • The morning after Edmund's rescue from the White Witch, Aslan and Edmund have a private conversation apart from everyone else, even the reader. The narrator says, "There is no need to tell you (and no one ever heard) what Aslan was saying, but it was a conversation which Edmund never forgot." Based on your knowledge of the characters, what do you suppose Aslan said to Edmund? How do you think Edmund responded? Imagine the conversation and then write it out as a dialogue between the two characters.
  • Music plays an important part in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and occurs at four different times. Mr. Tumnus plays a tune for Lucy on his strange little flute that makes her "want to cry and laugh and dance and go to sleep all at the same time." When Mr. Beaver first mentions Aslan's name, the narrator says, "Susan felt as if some … delightful strain of music had just floated by her." Stringed music accompanies Aslan's heraldic entrance at the Stone Table. At the coronation of the four Pevensie children, the music inside the castle Cair Paravel is answered by "the voices of the mermen and mermaids swimming close to castle steps and singing in honor of the new Kings and Queens." The narrator describes these voices as being "stranger, sweeter, and more piercing" than the music inside. Choose two or more of these four occasions and locate pieces of music that you feel fit the respective occasions. Music pieces could be classical (Beethoven, Wagner, etc.), modern (Gershwin, Bernstein, etc.), or otherwise (The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, etc.). Present your findings to the class: play the recordings and explain why you feel they are suitable.

The Giving of Great Gifts

Unlike honors or rewards, gifts are given out of love and not because the recipients have done anything to deserve them. Aslan, the embodiment of love, is the great gift giver in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, and the gifts he bestows all aid in the overthrow of evil in Narnia. Through the character of Father Christmas, Aslan gives tools for battle to Peter, Susan, and Lucy; to the Beavers, he gives gifts to help improve their everyday lives; and to them all, he gives a pot of hot tea along with cups and saucers to drink it with. To Edmund and the stone statues, Aslan gives the gift of life.

All the gifts, beginning with those given through Father Christmas, aid in the overthrow of evil in Narnia. Susan's horn summons help from Aslan's subjects when Maugrim and his pack of wolves first attack. Peter kills Maugrim, a key member of the White Witch's evil forces, with his sword. This sword, along with Susan's bow and arrow, are used in the final battle against the witch's army and figure prominently in their destruction. Susan uses her cordial containing supernatural restorative powers to heal Edmund of a fatal wound, thus allowing for the fulfillment of the prophecy that evil in Narnia will end when four children sit on Cair Paravel's thrones. Susan also uses her vial to restore many other wounded to health, bringing to an end the physical suffering that results from evil. The tea service allows the children and the Beavers needed refreshment and relaxation so they can continue their journey, which ultimately ends with the witch's downfall. Mrs. Beaver's new sewing machine and Mr. Beaver's repaired dam help make their lives easier and serve as encouragements to carry on in a discouraging time. Only by carrying on without being discouraged can they defeat evil.

Next are the gifts of life given by Aslan himself. First, Aslan sacrifices his own life for Edmund's so that Edmund may live. This allows for the fulfillment of the prophecy mentioned in the previous paragraph and also directly results in evil's destruction because it is Edmund who, while fighting on the battlefield, comes up with the brilliant idea of breaking the witch's wand with his sword. The witch is unable to turn her opponents into stone with a broken wand, and Edmund's action buys his army more time before Aslan's reinforcements arrive. Had it not been for Aslan's self-sacrifice, Edmund would not have been alive to stop the witch. Furthermore, Aslan's gift of life to the stone statues enables him to form the reinforcement army that helps destroy the forces of evil in Narnia.


This theme extends the good versus evil and gift giving themes. Hospitality is, in essence, gift giving. When people express hospitality, they give the gifts of their food and the shelter of their home; quite simply, they give their guest the best of all they have to offer. Hospitality makes room for the stranger at one's own hearth, creating relationship by lovingly welcoming the outsider to one's own home. Prime examples of hospitality in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe occur when Mr. and Mrs. Beaver welcome the Pevensie children and serve them in a meal; when Aslan has a feast prepared for Peter, Susan, and Lucy upon their arrival at the Stone Table. Finally, the newly crowned kings and queens show hospitality to their guests at Cair Paravel: "And that night there was a great feast in Cair Paravel, and revelry and dancing, and gold flashed and wine flowed."

Yet the story also shows how good things can be perverted for evil purposes. Mr. Tumnus uses hospitality in order to trick Lucy: he pretends to be her friend, lures her back to his cave, serves her tea and tries to lull her to sleep with his flute, so he can kidnap her and take her to the White Witch. But because Mr. Tumnus is really a good Faun, he is unable to commit such an evil deed, so he confesses everything to Lucy and helps her escape. In similar fashion, the White Witch feigns hospitality to Edmund: she invites him into her sledge, wraps her warm mantle around him, and serves him a hot drink and the best Turkish Delight he has ever tasted. She hopes he will one day return to her with his brother and sisters, so she can kill them, thus protecting her reign in Narnia.


Biblical Allusion

Lewis makes many references to the Bible in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. (Allusions are references to other works of literature, ideas, persons, or events, which are designed to lend additional meaning to the work at hand.) Lewis uses biblical references to imbue the story with Christian meaning. (For a comprehensive compilation of allusions in the Chronicles of Narnia, see Paul F. Ford's Companion to Narnia.) The way Aslan's death is handled, for example, illustrates how Lewis draws parallels between the children's story and the story of Christ. When Susan and Lucy meet Aslan in the wood before his capture, Aslan says, "I should be glad of company tonight," and "I am sad and lonely." Lewis is probably deliberately echoing here the biblical story of the scene in the Garden of Gethsemane when Christ made similar comments to his disciples not long before his arrest (Matthew 26:38). Furthermore, before killing Aslan, his captors shave him, spit on him, and jeer at him, an allusion probably to the torments Christ endured before being led to the cross (Matthew 27:31). The moment before the White Witch plunges the stone dagger into Aslan, she says, "In that knowledge, despair and die," another Christian reference to Christ's words on the cross about being forsaken and feeling despair before dying (Matthew 27:46).

Aslan's self-sacrifice so that Edmund may live suggests Christ's self-sacrifice so that others may live (John 3:16; Matthew 20:28). By sacrificing himself, Aslan satisfies the Deep Magic, which states that the penalty for the crime of treachery is death, an allusion perhaps to the penalty for sin under the Old Testament covenant (Romans 6:23; Hebrews 9:17-22). But his sacrifice also satisfies the Deeper Magic, an incantation which causes Death to work backward when an innocent victim is sacrificed in a traitor's stead; the reference here seems to be to the remission of sins by Christ Jesus under the New Testament covenant (Romans 6:23; Hebrews 9:12-15). In these and countless other ways, Lewis elevates the children's story to the level of Christian teaching or parable.

Point of View

Lewis weaves first, second, and third person points of view throughout the telling of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Sometimes he expresses his personal opinions (first person), sometimes he addresses the reader directly (second person), and sometimes he relays the action in the voice of a third-person narrator. When done well, this style can be very effective in children's stories because it emotionally engages readers and makes them feel as if they are part of the action. For example, when the narrator relates how the Pevensie children feel when they hear the name of Aslan for the first time, he conveys their sense of wonderment and excitement directly to the reader by suggesting the reader has perhaps experienced something as mysterious in a dream:

And now a very curious thing happened. None of the children knew who Aslan was any more than you do; but the moment the Beaver had spoken these words everyone felt quite different. Perhaps it has sometimes happened to you in a dream that someone says something which you don't understand but in the dream it feels as if it had some enormous meaning—either a terrifying one which turns the whole dream into a nightmare or else a lovely meaning too lovely to put into words, which makes the dream so beautiful that you remember it all your life and you are always wishing you could get into that dream again. It was like that now.

Another example occurs when the narrator describes the sadness Susan and Lucy feel after Aslan's death. He comforts the reader, too, as a person who also knows what grief is: "I hope no one who reads this book has been quite as miserable as Susan and Lucy were that night; but if you have been—if you've been up all night and cried till you have no more tears left in you—you will know that there comes in the end a sort of quietness." In this case, Lewis draws in the reader by referring to grief experienced by the reader that may help the reader identify with the children's reaction.

What makes this style even more effective is Lewis's familiar and friendly tone. The narrator does not feign omniscience (to be all-knowing) and is never condescending or patronizing. In fact, using direct address, Lewis puts himself on the same level as his readers, apparently addressing each one of them personally. This intimate tone may contribute to the book's popularity. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe lends itself to being read aloud, which is suitable for a children's book.

Historical Context

The Battle of Britain

The backdrop of the novel is Germany's World War II bombing attacks on London, which began in the summer or 1940 and stretched through the winter months into 1941. Britain had recently withdrawn 224,000 of its troops from France and had no remaining allies on the European continent, yet Winston Churchill refused to seek terms with Hitler. Hitler prepared a landing operation against England, called Operation Sea-Lion. German High Command realized, however, that such an operation could not be successfully carried out unless they had gained air superiority over the English Channel, and in August of 1940 German bombers began daily and nightly attacks on British factories, ports, and airfields. Then, Britain launched its own night bombing raids on Berlin. Furious, Hitler ordered his air force to focus less on military targets and more on the city of London itself. In the ensuing months, parents evacuated their children from the city and many London residents spent their nights in underground (subway) stations as Nazi bombers shelled the city. But the Germans were unable to break the spirit of the British people: civilian morale remained high, industrial production continued, and the British air-fighter command put up a heroic and inspired resistance in the night skies over London. These factors, combined with the sinking of numerous German invasion transports docked in their port in France, forced Hitler to continually postpone Operation Sea-Lion. The Battle of Britain may not have defeated Hitler in the short term, but it was a defensive victory that strengthened England's resolve to continue fighting until Hitler's defeat in 1945.

The post-war years in which Lewis wrote The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe witnessed great economic instability in Great Britain. The newly elected Labor government of 1945 implemented an austerity program due to worldwide shortages of food and raw materials that Britain needed to import. Food, clothing, and sources of energy were severely rationed; in 1947, food rations were cut to well below wartime levels, and the use of gasoline by civilians was prohibited. Only when financial aid started funneling in from the Marshall Plan (the U.S. assistance program to help rebuild European economies), to the tune of $2.7 billion between 1948 and 1951, did Britain's economic situation begin to improve.

But beyond the economic and political forces at work in post-war Britain, a more sinister spiritual force was starting to take hold: moral uncertainty. Belief in a moral universe of absolutes and faith in a benevolent God were shaken by awareness of war atrocities led many to the conclusion that theirs was not a culture of moral progress and development but a culture of death. Moreover, the future prospect of living under the cold war's dark cloud of nuclear threat did nothing to strengthen a belief in mankind's capacity for goodness. As a result, church attendance in Great Britain steadily declined, and faith in a deity was replaced by faith in one's own ability to succeed in a world devoid of God. In response to this climate of skepticism and cynicism, Lewis wrote The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, a story which asserts that even in a universe corrupted by evil, there still exist beauty, truth (standards of right and wrong), joy, and the presence of a benevolent creator who will eventually make all things right.

Compare & Contrast

  • 1950: The end of World War II against Germany and Japan results in a worldwide shortage of food and raw materials badly needed in Great Britain. Unable to export at high enough levels to meet the international balance of payments, England becomes a debtor country.

    Today: England is the world's fourth largest creditor country, with the highest percentage of this money being poured into German industry. Japan is the world's largest creditor country, while the United States, by contrast, is the world's largest debtor country.
  • 1950: The cold war is underway, and Great Britain cooperates with the United States in a military campaign in Korea to drive invading North Korean forces out of South Korea. The stated U.S. goal is to stop the spread of communism and make the world safe for democracy.

    Today: The cold war concludes in the early 1990s, but the U.S. war on terror is ongoing. Great Britain cooperates with the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, which ousts dictator Saddam Hussein.
  • 1950: A golden age in children's literature begins in Great Britain, a period of intense creative outpouring on the part of children's authors. Unlike pre-war children's literature, which according to Peter Hollindale and Zen Sutherland in Children's Literature: An Illustrated History expressed British imperialism and "domestic norms of social class and sexual roles," the post-war literature is "singularly free of prescriptive ideologies."

    Today: Children's literature, while still imaginative, is restricted by fashionable ideologies of political correctness. As Hollindale and Sutherland state in Children's Literature: An Illustrated History, "From the 1970s onwards another rule-book gain[s] authority, prescribing a new agenda of political correctness in matters of sex and gender, class and race, faithfully reflecting tensions and divisions in the adult political world."

Critical Overview

Surprisingly, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe received very little critical attention when first published in 1950 considering the renown Lewis had achieved from his previous writings. Perhaps the fact that it was a children's book, and a fairy tale at that, caused it to be overlooked by many critics and not taken seriously by others. Prince Caspian (1951), the second book to be published in the Chronicles of Narnia, was more widely reviewed, probably due to the sales success of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and the fact that Lewis was beginning to stake his claim as a legitimate children's writer. Lack of critical attention aside, the reviews received by The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe were generally favorable, albeit not particularly analytical.

One reviewer who had mixed opinions about the book was Chad Walsh, whose review of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe appeared in the November 12, 1950, edition of the New York Times. He says he thought the book "well-written," adding that "one would expect that of the author of The Screwtape Letters," but found it lacked the "sense of the uncanny and magical that one finds in The Wind in the Willows and the writings of George MacDonald." Nonetheless, Walsh's children would not let him stop as he read it to them, leading Walsh to make a rather hasty generalization about children enjoying the story more than adults: "I made the mistake of reading them the first chapter, and since then it has been two chapters a night, sometimes followed by tears when a third chapter is not forthcoming. I see that children like their fairy land folk matter of fact, whereas adults prefer them whimsical or numinous."

Mary Gould Davis, in her December 9, 1950, Saturday Review of Literature review, also refers to a George MacDonald story, but not in order to show how Lewis's book is lacking; rather, she simply says The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe compares to The Princess and the Goblin in that "[it] has an underlying meaning in its theme." As regards the book's visual effectiveness, Davis compliments Lewis on his "beautifully drawn" word pictures and credits Pauline Baynes's drawings for "effectively bring[ing] out the children, Aslan, and the wood creatures of Narnia." She concludes with the praise, "It is an exceptionally good new 'fairy tale.' "

The 2000 unabridged audio release of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, celebrating the book's fiftieth anniversary, was reviewed in Publishers Weekly on November 20, 2000. With the reputation of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe as a children's classic already well established, this review's focus is on the reading of British actor Michael York, calling it "a nimble, enchanting performance." The reviewer also says York "conveys an unflagging sense of wonder and excitement, certain to captivate a broad range of listeners."


Timothy Dunham

Dunham has a master's degree in communication and a bachelor's degree in English literature. In the following essay, he analyzes common critical misconceptions of Father Christmas's place in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and offers an alternative perspective.

The presence of Father Christmas in the land of Narnia has long been a source of puzzlement and consternation for critics and admirers of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and has resulted in a variety of conjectures as to his appropriateness and significance in the story. Unlike the character of Aslan, whose role is generally interpreted one way, Father Christmas remains an enigma. Some insist that Father Christmas is a jarring incongruity in this fairy tale world of nymphs, fauns, and talking animals. Others, who are made uncomfortable by his presence yet hesitate to dismiss him entirely, try to explain him away as a literary device. Still others, in an attempt to defend his presence, imbue him with meaning by reducing him and his gifts to biblical allusions. Sifting through these discordant views reveals nuggets of truth, but on the whole, most of this scholarship seems to lack careful thoughtful analysis.

J. R. R. Tolkien registered the first negative reaction to Father Christmas as a Narnian character in 1948, two years before The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe was published. Tolkien disapproved of Lewis's mixing of creatures with distinct mythological origins in a single setting; he thought it was artistically inappropriate and especially disliked Father Christmas's attendance among the creatures. On this point of contention (not taking into account the animosity he harbored toward Lewis), Tolkien dismissed the story entirely and pronounced it so bad that it was it beyond saving. Such scathing criticism from his longtime friend and colleague hurt Lewis deeply and further weakened his confidence in a story he already feared had little merit. Lewis might not have finished the book had it not been for the encouragement of Roger Green, a former pupil and friend who shared Lewis's love of fairy tales. Green greeted The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe with great enthusiasm and, unlike Tolkien, offered praise as well as helpful criticism. But he too reacted against the appearance of Father Christmas, seeing it as an artistic liability that worked to the story's detriment. Although not unlike Tolkien's opinion, Green's reason was more objective and less based on personal taste. He viewed Father Christmas as a kind of earthly intruder whose appearance in Narnia breaks the spell of this magical world, and Green urged Lewis to take out the character. But Lewis refused both Green's suggestion and Tolkien's opinion that mythologies should not be mixed. Narnia was his own imaginary world, and he was determined to fashion it according to his own imagination. He made it his artistic prerogative to borrow from many myths and to populate Narnia with any creature he deemed necessary to fulfill his creative vision. Father Christmas fit in perfectly. The purpose of this essay is to argue how Father Christmas, given the nature of his seemingly incongruous role in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, is a completely logical choice which provides an added spiritual dimension Lewis could not have achieved with any other character.

The assertions by Tolkien and Green regarding Father Christmas's being out of place in Narnia are peculiar given the fact that Father Christmas is as much a mythical character as others in the book. Then, too, he is the figure most frequently associated with gift giving in Western culture. It makes perfect sense to some readers that Lewis should chose Father Christmas for the role of gift giver in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. If Father Christmas fits in for Narnia, why is his appearance so jarring to certain readers, namely adults? The reason, Lewis may have believed, lies in his being so familiar. Father Christmas is a prominent, indeed ubiquitous, cultural figure; like an icon, he assumes less of a mythical and more of a religious status, and for him to take on a role in a fairy tale somehow comes across to some as scandalous. In removing Father Christmas from his iconic position in Western culture and locating him in a fantasy world, Lewis makes an important point about how far Christian societies have come in supplanting the meaning of Christmas with a myth: the real incongruity is not that Father Christmas is out of place in Narnia but that he is not more out of place in Christian societies. Consequently, to view Father Christmas's incongruous presence in Narnia as some kind of error in Lewis's artistic judgment is to miss the point entirely. Arguably, Lewis knew what he was doing when he selected Father Christmas to be the Narnian bearer of gifts. Father Christmas is incongruity with intent: By drawing attention to Father Christmas as a mythical figure, Lewis points to the spiritual reality Father Christmas has replaced. Apart from acting as a kind of spiritual indicator through his incongruity, Father Christmas serves another spiritual function through his role as a gift giver.

Taking a different position, Leland Ryken and Marjorie Lamp Mead, in their book A Reader's Guide through the Wardrobe, see Father Christmas as a device to foreshadow future events. At first, it appears, they do not know quite know what to do with him and would like to dismiss him entirely, but without going so far as Tolkien or Green in deeming him inappropriate and out of place, Ryken and Mead make the following criticism:

Surely on a first reading his appearance is totally unexpected. He seems stuck into the action. He makes an appearance and then disappears from the story, as though he were some sort of phantom figure. The whole episode is interpolated into the main story, and nothing would be missing from the main action if this episode were omitted.

What Do I Read Next?

  • Readers who enjoy The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe may want to read the rest of the books in the Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian (1951), The Voyage of the "Dawn Treader" (1952), The Silver Chair (1953), The Horse and His Boy (1954), The Magician's Nephew (1955), and The Last Battle (1956). If the reader is eager to discover how Narnia began and how the lamppost and the White Witch first got into Narnia, then The Magician's Nephew (1955) is the book to read.
  • Beowulf, one of Lewis's favorite epic poems, was instrumental—along with J. R. R. Tolkien—in shaping Lewis's ideas about faith and mythmaking. This Anglo-Saxon poem narrates the adventures of the Scandinavian hero-warrior. Tales of Beowulf: Champion of Middle Earth (2006), edited by Brian M. Thomson, is available from Avalon Publishing Group.
  • Published by Ballantine Books in 1970, Phantastes, by George MacDonald, is a must-read for anyone who wants to experience the book that made a significant impact on Lewis's creative and spiritual life. It is the story of a young man's journey through Fairy Land in search of life's meaning. Phantastes is an enchanting work from the author considered to be the innovator of the modern fantasy.
  • Alan Jacobs's 2005 book The Narnian: The Life and Imagination of C. S. Lewis is an eminently readable biography that examines how the people and events in Lewis's life helped to shape his imagination. Unlike other, more conventional Lewis biographies, this one focuses on the reasons behind Lewis's decision to start writing for children.

Ryken and Mead see the character's purpose as both symbolic and prophetic. They explain that his appearance and "distributing of gifts are the first proof that a great reversal is just around the corner" and that "the particular gifts Father Christmas gives, along with the specific person whom he designates as the recipient of each present, foreshadow future action." This is all well and good, but nonetheless a misunderstanding of Father Christmas's role. The real significance of Father Christmas is as a helper who performs a similar function in Narnia as Christians believe the Holy Spirit performs in their world.

It is important to keep in mind, however, that Father Christmas is not an allegory for the Holy Spirit, but rather what Lewis thought of as a supposition. The difference between the two may be described as follows: an allegory shares a direct one-to-one relationship with the thing signified, whereas a supposed figure shares only certain characteristics with the thing signified. Lewis used the latter concept for describing the relationship between Aslan and Christ. In C. S. Lewis: Letters to Children, Lewis says his intent was not to recreate the scriptural Jesus in the form of a lion in Narnia, but something quite different: "I said 'Let us suppose that there were a land like Narnia and that the Son of God, as He became a Man in our world, became a Lion there, and then imagine what would have happened.'" If Aslan were an allegory, he would possess all the divine attributes of Christ, which he does not, and his life would parallel that of Christ's in every detail, which it does not. Because Aslan is what Lewis called a supposal (a supposed or imagined figure), he possesses only some attributed to Christ; for example, he is good, just, compassionate, self-sacrificing; he is treated as a deity, the King of creation and conqueror of death. Father Christmas is a supposal in a similar way. Unlike the Holy Spirit, Father Christmas is not a deity, nor is he a spirit who dwells within the King's followers; but like the Holy Spirit. Father Christmas bestows gifts on the faithful to help them fight the good fight while awaiting the King's triumphal return.

While some critics recognize the correlation between Father Christmas and the Holy Spirit, they tend to gloss over shared character attributes and focus on the individual gifts. In so doing, they end up over-spiritualizing the gifts and forcing parallels where they may not exist. Both Paul F. Ford, in Companion to Narnia, and Marvin D. Hinten, in his essay "'Deeper Magic': Allusions in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe," consider Father Christmas's combat gifts to be an allusion to the "whole armor of God" found in Ephesians 6:11-17, in which the shield represents faith, and the sword stands for the Word of God. But there are too many discrepancies between the armor given by Father Christmas and that found in the Bible for this theory to be convincing. There are, for example, no armor of God equivalencies for Susan's horn and bow and arrow or for Lucy's cordial and dagger. Similarly, none of the children is given a belt, breastplate, shoes, or helmet, all of which are part of the spiritual armor in Ephesians 6. Another problem with this view is that spiritual armor is not, biblically speaking, a gift, nor is the outfitting of believers with spiritual armor an activity of the Holy Spirit. Quite simply, Ford and Hinten do not provide enough evidence in order to draw a convincing parallel between the combat gifts and scriptural idea of the armor of God.

With regard to Susan's horn and Lucy's cordial, Hinten suggests these gifts have other spiritual overtones: the horn is "analogous to prayer" while the cordial represents the gift of healing. Such a reading may be valid, but because Hinton does not or cannot point out individual analogical functions for all of the gifts, it is difficult to accept. Critics such as Hinton who analyze Father Christmas's gifts in an attempt to discover Christian meanings may be missing the bigger picture. The significance of the gifts may be better understood if Father Christmas is seen to function as a supposal or supposed figure representing the Holy Spirit.

As mentioned earlier, Father Christmas is a helper who performs a function in Narnia that is similar to the scriptural description of the Holy Spirit's function. In John 14:16, Jesus tells his disciples that after He departs, the Heavenly Father will send "another Helper," namely, the Holy Spirit. The New Testament Greek word for "Helper" is "Parakletos," a word associated also with the idea of "encouragement." According to Lewis's religious beliefs, the Holy Spirit's primary activity, then, is to encourage Christ's followers, and one of ways the Spirit accomplishes this is by giving "perfect" gifts (James 1:17) to meet their needs (Philippians 4:19) and the needs of the body of believers (I Corinthians 12:7). Father Christmas's primary activity is exactly the same and so is the means by which he accomplishes it. The gifts he gives, however, have no correlation to gifts given by the Holy Spirit; they are not supposed to. Each gift is uniquely tailored to meet the needs of the individual receiving it for the collective good of Narnia. With this reading in mind, one may see Peter's sword and shield are perfect gifts for him because, at the time he receives them, he lacks the necessary courage to fight in the upcoming battles. The gifts encourage Peter to step forward in battle, become the great leader he is meant to be, and help overthrow the forces of evil in Narnia.

Land of Narnia by Brian Sibley includes a photograph of Lewis at three years of age, holding a favorite toy—Father Christmas riding a donkey. The image is striking because of the way it conjoins the myth of Father Christmas with imagery associated with Jesus. The toy evokes Jesus's entry into Jerusalem on a donkey, and it most certainly brings to mind Father Christmas's role as Helper in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Years before the book's publication, Father Christmas's function in Narnia was misunderstood and misinterpreted by critics and scholars who, fo0r whatever reason, failed to grasp the supposal. Only by applying logic, carefully analyzing the text, and looking to scripture can Father Christmas's place in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe be properly understood.

Source: Timothy Dunham, Critical Essay on The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, in Novels for Students, Thomson Gale, 2007.

Wayne Martindale with Kathryn Welch

In the following essay, the authors explore the permeating theme of eating in the Narnia books and the use of hunger as a metaphor, indicating self-centeredness or theocentric devotion.

Generations of readers hungry for the truth have found food for their souls in Lewis's Chronicles of Narnia. Fittingly, of all the image patterns weaving in and out of the Narnia books, eating ranks among the most striking. From the first book to the last, as well as in many of Lewis's other works, we are never long without food. Lewis invites us to partake of not only the domestic meal but also the kingly feast. He tantalizes our taste buds with vividly described spreads of food but also gives us many symbolic scenes ranging from devouring demons to sacramental moments echoing the Lord's Supper, addressing the gamut of spiritual significance. Spiritually, imaginatively, and intellectually, all are invited to the high table: Narnia is food for the soul.

To dwell on the metaphor for a moment, Lewis's first gift is often to whet our appetites for spiritual nourishment. David Fagerberg ponders, "Why are we not naturally conformed to God's love? Our appetites have been misdirected, leading us to believe that there is a contradiction between God's glory and our own happiness, that we cannot submit our lives to God and still have what we really want. The 'original' sin is not primarily that man has 'disobeyed' God; the sin is that he ceased to be hungry for God and God alone." Here at once we have the root of human sin, its consequence in our dysfunctional relation to God, and, serendipitously, in the word "hungry" an entrée into one of Lewis's major metaphors for the spiritual life.

As humans, we need food—and the right food; we can't eat just anything. Only certain plants and animals constitute what we know to be "people food." In The Magician's Nephew, Digory and Polly look at each other in dismay when their horse, Fledge, enthusiastically suggests that they satiate their hunger with mouthfuls of grass. "But we can't eat grass," Digory insists. It's a simple but crucial point. Our bodies require specific nutrients, as is often reflected by our cravings. Likewise, we were created to be sustained by only certain spiritual food. But occasionally we need to be reminded, "No, that's not for eating." Good food is available, but not all food is good. What we eat can spell the difference between growth and stagnation or even life and death. One of the most moving uses of food as a metaphor for spiritual nourishment comes in The Problem of Pain. "God is the only good of all creatures;… that there ever could be any other good, is an atheistic dream…. God gives us what He has, not what He has not: He gives the happiness that there is, not the happiness that is not. To be God—to be like God and to share His goodness in creaturely response—to be miserable—these are the only three alternatives. If we will not learn to eat the only food that the universe grows—the only food that any possible universe ever can grow—then we must starve eternally." Our souls must be nourished by the bread of heaven.

The fact of human hunger is inescapable and is often the occasion of God's miraculous provision. When the Pevensie children are again whisked unsuspectingly off to Narnia in Prince Caspian, the first order of business is to provide for their basic needs of food and water. Susan insightfully observes, "I suppose we'll have to make some plans. We shall want something to eat before long." In his divine goodness God provides for their hunger. The children find a freshwater pool and apple trees—apple trees amidst the now ancient ruins of Cair Paravel where they had once feasted as royalty. Aslan, while providing for their needs, was intentionally leading them to a place prophetic of Narnia's return to right rule. Returning to the plight of Digory and Polly, we find the youngsters resting in the assurance that Aslan will supply them with food. Polly does indeed find some toffee in her pocket, but it's hardly enough to sustain them through their journey. They plant a piece, in faith, hoping to repeat the miracle of the lamppost grown from an iron bar. Sure enough, they awake the following morning to the sight of a toffee tree. The supply of "daily bread" is occasion enough for the miraculous as God supplies the needs he created us with, needs which demonstrate our dependence on him.

Lewis's application of eating imagery ranges from the ordinary and natural to the extraordinary and supernatural. As we have seen in these first examples, he deals extensively with food and drink realistically as an important part of everyday life. It is crucial not to overlook the realm of the ordinary, where we should not be surprised to find deep significance from a man who cherished routine and championed domesticity. What to most would be ordinary is to Lewis extraordinary: "There are no ordinary people," he says so memorably in "The Weight of Glory," "you have never talked to a mere mortal." His sense of God's immanence extends to all creation and all human acts, asserting that "there is no neutral ground in the universe: every square inch, every split second, is claimed by God and counterclaimed by Satan." The same is true of such mundane human activity as making and eating meals and entertaining guests.

In fact, such domestic activities are, in Lewis's view, the very thing governments exist to protect, as he maintains in Mere Christianity: "The State exists simply to promote and to protect the ordinary happiness of human beings in this life. A husband and wife chatting over a fire, a couple of friends having a game of darts in a pub, a man reading a book in his own room or digging in his own garden—that is what the State is there for." If they are not aspiring to this end, Lewis continues, all of the laws and institutions of the State are "a waste of time." Lewis held quiet domesticity in such high esteem that it effectively legitimizes the state as its protector. One such encounter with the domestic comes early on in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Mr. and Mrs. Beaver host the Pevensie children in their home and generously spread before them a home-cooked meal.

The meal is not simply filler. Not only does it provide a touch of realism; it espouses the value of hospitality. Each aspect of the scene, including Mr. Beaver's fetching of the fresh fish, the generous supply of butter, Mrs. Beaver's preparing of the sticky marmalade roll, the special allotment of milk for the children, and the intimate nature of the group sitting on wooden stools around a common table demonstrates the warmth and welcome inherent in hospitality. Clearly it is a grace. Hospitality certainly wasn't a foreign concept to Lewis, who treasured the ancient epics, reading them in the original languages. Homer's writings, for example, are saturated with the practice of hospitality. Upon the appearance of a stranger, the host must meet the guest's need for food, a bath, oil for the body, and rest before inquiring about the visitor's business. Such caretaking was necessary for survival in ancient travels. The prospect of a stranger being in actuality a god or goddess in disguise added extra incentive.

Biblical injunctions to hospitality provide a parallel in the caution that we may be entertaining angels unaware (Heb. 13:2). The apostle Peter gives an even more stunning context, instructing followers of Christ on how to live, knowing that "the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved" (2 Pet. 3:10 ESV): "The end of all things is near; therefore … be hospitable." (1 Pet. 4:7, 9). Since hospitality to friends and strangers ranks as a high virtue in both the biblical and classical sources Lewis esteemed, it does not surprise us to find Lewis emphasizing them in The Chronicles of Narnia. The domestic scene at Mr. and Mrs. Beaver's, which must soon be lost in the battle with usurping evil, is among the very things to be recovered by the victory—both in Narnia and on earth. The peace and intimacy of the shared meal has been threatened by forces of evil and must therefore be reclaimed in the name of the king.

Eating in Narnia often assumes a deeper theological significance, as illustrated in the plight of young Edmund in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Edmund, as yet the very type of the spiteful and emotionally bullying older brother, has come into Narnia with egg on his face. Lucy is right; he is wrong. Enter Jadis, the white witch, with an offer he can't refuse. First, here's a chance to lord it over the others by becoming king of Narnia, knowing a secret they don't know, and tapping a power source unavailable to them. The apparent earnest on this promise is the magical appearance of his first wish, which is for the candy called Turkish delight—not for nourishment but for pleasure. Edmund assumes, since the witch came through on the Turkish delight, that she will come through on her promise to make him king. This is a case of wishful thinking, the sort that we all engage in when rationalizing some attractive indulgence we know deep down is sin.

It is no mere coincidence that, as with Adam and Eve, sin often takes the form of eating in The Chronicles. Here, abandoned to the dictates of his stomach, Edmund falls prey to the sin of gluttony. Gerard Reed remarks that "gluttony is a deadly sin because it so easily leads us to exchange essentially good things for things that superficially taste good." Edmund is later unable to appreciate the simple fare provided by the Beavers; rather, he fantasizes about Turkish delight. Gluttony necessarily excludes gratitude—the former wholly concerned with the filling of self; the latter centered on the subordination of self. Consequently gluttony focuses on the gift rather than the giver. Edmund's gorging on sweets contrasts starkly with the selfless hospitality of the Beavers and the other Pevensie children's enjoyment of their food and company. Edmund never gets enough, which is always the way with sin—it never satisfies—and, on top of that, it ruins his appetite for healthy food. So obsessed does Edmund become with the memory of Turkish delight that he is impelled to slip away from the small band at supper and seek out the white witch. Jadis recognizes the children as a threat to her claim on Narnia, so she entices this "son of Adam" by appealing to his baser nature. Like his original, Edmund is not long in Narnia before he succumbs to the tempter. Lulled into a fantasy world of endless Turkish delight and kingly command, Edmund unwittingly conspires to bring about even his own ruin. Edmund's indulgence of his appetite to a sinful degree leads him to betray his friends and family.

That gluttony is a serious sin with serious consequences we need not doubt, and Edmund is not the only one to learn this lesson. The demon Screwtape, who knows it from the other side, berates his nephew Wormwood in The Screwtape Letters upon the latter's dismissal of gluttony as inconsequential. Screwtape explains that desensitizing humans to gluttony's damning potential is one of Satan's greatest advances. In Screwtape's hands the temptation is far more subtle, and we learn that it is possible not only to partake of the wrong foods but to partake of food wrongly. Reed explains, "Too often limited to discussions of specific acts—overeating or drunkenness—gluttony actually refers to the abuse of good things. It's more an attitude than an act, more evident in the priorities by which we live than the portions of meat and potatoes we place on our plates." Gluttony is a deeply rooted sin that, while exercised on the physical level, ultimately involves the heart.

The church has traditionally understood the "vice of gluttony" as the act of eating "hastily, sumptuously, too much, greedily, daintily." Traditionally, gluttony doesn't necessarily presuppose the consumption of large portions of food. The Screwtape Letters offers a poignant example of what Lewis termed "gluttony of Delicacy, not gluttony of Excess." We make the acquaintance of a woman gluttonous in her demands on people, always wanting something other than what is offered, just a little, of course, if it is not too much trouble—but it always is. She loudly insists that her food be prepared in just such a manner as she indicates. Lewis observes that, as is true of all gluttons, this woman's "belly now dominates her whole life." Accordingly, gluttony is a sin that dictates lifestyle and mind-set alike. The main focus is self and fulfilling of selfish desires.

Eustace Scrubb, in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader and in one of the most dramatic episodes of The Chronicles, awakes to find himself in the form of a dragon. The sin of greed is at the root of his metamorphosis; and greed, of course, is rooted in self. He emerges from the dragon cave in search of food and, finding a dragon carcass nearby, devours it. He is, in fact, eating a fellow dragon in the same way that the demons (followers of "that old serpent, the Devil") see even one another as food. There is, then, some truth to the saying that "you are what you eat." Reed aptly observes that "whatever we ingest—physically, intellectually, or spiritually—we digest." In the most literal sense possible, Eustace becomes the sin that he indulges. Eustace has a dragonish greed that lures him to desert his tried shipmates and then enter a dragon's cave where he finds and dons a gold bracelet, then becomes a dragon. His greedy, dragonish thoughts precipitate his transformation into a dragon, even to the point of eating dragon's food—other dragons.

The Silver Chair, which recounts the travels of Eustace Scrubb, Jill Pole, and Puddleglum the Marshwiggle, explores the danger of selfishly focusing on personal comfort, feasting when they should be fasting. Having sought shelter at the castle of Harfang, home to a family of giants, the trio of Narnians is hosted generously. What would be a virtue in a different setting with different motives is here a treacherous trap. The queen orders comforts to be supplied to her guests, including a lavish meal and toys. One giant whispers to the weepy Jill, "Don't cry, little girl, or you won't be good for anything when the feast comes." Lulled in the lap of luxury, Jill readily yields to sleep in her soft bed. She forgets Aslan's directive to daily repeat the "signs." The danger of gluttony in this case is much more subtle and ironic: the Narnians are intended to be the feast! Only Aslan's dramatic appearance to Jill enables the Narnians to escape with their lives. As the episode of Harfang illustrates, we must take not only the right food but at the right time and in the right circumstances.

As in the book of Revelation, Aslan brings joy and feasting, a common motif in Narnia, when he finishes some great work. It draws on the chivalric elements that thread through the stories and parallel Jesus' ministry. On more than one occasion, Jesus fed multitudes miraculously, and he promises the grandest feast of all when he gathers us in heaven for the wedding feast of the Lamb. Feasting is associated both with life, as a necessity, and with joyful celebration in peace and plenty. Still there is a degree of trust involved in feasting: you must trust the host. We read that Ramandu's feast in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader is "such a banquet as had never been seen." However, the comrades are reluctant to taste the spread because it seems that magic is afoot. Edmund inquires of the young woman who invites them to eat how they can know it's safe. Her reply is simply, "You can't know…. You can only believe—or not." The party is aware that the table is set and sustained by Aslan's decree, but they are faced with risk regardless. Implicit here is the truth that eating at God's table requires an element of trust.

This feast is appropriately situated in the chapter entitled. "The Beginning of the End of the World." This reminds us that the destination of the Dawn Treader is Aslan's country. Couched in sacramental imagery and classical elements of hospitality, Ramandu's table serves a dual purpose. First, it refreshes the weary travelers on the way to their true destination. Food is provided to give strength and allow the journey to continue. Second, it prepares the travelers for what is to come. This daily-renewed feast gives a foretaste of what lies at the end of the world for those who are seeking it.

As they sail nearer to Aslan's country, references to Christ and our heavenly home accumulate quickly. Reepicheep discovers that the water is sweet! Caspian describes the phenomenon with synesthesia, using the terms of one sense experience to describe another: "It—it's like light more than anything else." The water is also filling, such that the Narnians no longer have to eat. This echoes Jesus' words to the woman at the well that one drinking of the water he gives never will thirst again. Then at the world's end the children see a lamb cooking fish on the shore, a lamb that turns into Aslan the lion. This episode is meant to recall Jesus' cooking fish for his disciples, which he eats to prove that he has risen from the dead. His appearance as lamb reminds that he is the Lamb of God, the perfect sacrifice for our sins.

Like the Narnians at Ramandu's table, Jill Pole struggles with trust as a necessity for obtaining living water in The Silver Chair. She is intensely thirsty, but the lion Aslan is between her and the stream. When Jill prevails upon him to "go away" so she can drink without perceived threat, Aslan responds with a low growl of disapproval. Since he won't move, Jill tries to exact assurances from him:

"Will you promise not to—do anything to me, if I do come?" said Jill.

"I make no promise," said the Lion. Jill was so thirsty now that, without noticing it, she had come a step nearer.

"Do you eat girls?" she said.

"I have swallowed up girls and boys, women and men, kings and emperors, cities and realms," said the Lion. It didn't say this as if it were boasting, nor as if it were sorry, nor as if it were angry. It just said it.

"I daren't come and drink," said Jill.

"Then you will die of thirst," said the Lion.

"Oh dear!" said Jill, coming another step nearer. "I suppose I must go and look for another stream then."

"There is no other stream," said the Lion.

This passage is loaded with theological significance and biblical echoes. Most immediately it evokes the account in John 4 of Jesus with a Samaritan woman at a well. Jesus implies, as he straightforwardly claims elsewhere, that he is the living water and anyone who drinks this water "will never be thirsty forever" (John 4:14 ESV). When Jill Pole decides she must risk all and drink from the stream, she finds it "the most refreshing water she had ever tasted" and that "you didn't need to drink much of it, for it quenched your thirst at once." The drinking in both events also suggests Holy Communion, in which we drink of Jesus. And Lewis often uses the metaphors of eating and drinking to suggest total commitment and hence total blessing. First the total necessity: "He claims all because He is love and must bless. He cannot bless us unless He has us…. Therefore, in love He claims all. There is no bargaining with Him."

In The Horse and His Boy, Bree the Narnian-talking war horse, like most of us, likes to be in charge and has his full quotient of pride and must, predictably, be humbled. Like Jill he wants to command his own destiny and is fearful of Aslan. Unlike either of these two, Hwin, a Narnian mare, is so trusting, so simply in love with Aslan, that she wholly submits in this poignantly metaphorical language (we read it as metaphor, but she really means it): "Please, you're so beautiful. You may eat me if you like. I'd sooner be eaten by you than fed by anyone else." This contrasts with Jill's fear of being eaten by Aslan and with eating as a selfish act of dominance, as in The Screwtape Letters with Screw-tape threatening to consume Wormwood, the demons threatening to dine on every human they can dupe, and Tash gobbling up Shift in The Last Battle. Hwin's submission to be eaten by Aslan is a desire to be consumed by him, a metaphor for complete union, which is our heart's deepest desire, the consummation of all desires. It contrasts directly with hell's aim, which is to consume and enlarge the self at others' expense. Screwtape, in his "Toast," views all humans won to hell as food. Hwin's submission to be eaten by Aslan overflows with love and trust; Screwtape's with hatred, double cross, and the gluttony of the persistently asserted self.

It is evident by this point that we have transitioned from the ordinary to the extraordinary: from the Beavers' mealtime hospitality to miraculous provisions at Ramandu's table; from raw dragon, as Eustace feeds upon his scaly counterpart, to devouring demons contrasted by the total submission of Hwin, as she literally offers herself to be eaten by Aslan. Finally we have seen episodes of eating rich with biblical allusion to Christ, from his earthly use of food to teach about himself and his kingdom to the communion meal, all with overtones of the supernatural. We have seen that every example of eating in The Chronicles, including the most ordinary, is imbued with spiritual significance of the highest degree.

We feed on the spoiled fruits of sin when we are self-centered, but our palates are ultimately satisfied by the bread of heaven and water of life when we yield ourselves to God to taste of him and see that he is good (Ps. 34:8). Thus, a dichotomy is established: the unrighteous live to eat, while the righteous eat to live. The biblical model of eating, as embodied perfectly in the person of Jesus Christ, engenders an entirely self-sacrificial devotion to God. Shortly after his conversation with the woman at the well, Jesus' disciples join him, urging him to eat something. "But he said to them, 'I have food to eat that you do not know about'" Bewildered, the disciples wonder if someone could have brought him food. "Jesus said to them, 'My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work.'" (John 4:32, 34 ESV). This is a picture of ultimate communion, where life is totally Christ centered and therefore food in and of itself. The feasting is continuous as long as we are hungry for God.

Lewis says the "joys of Heaven are, for most of us in our present condition, 'an acquired taste'—and certain ways of life may render the taste impossible of acquisition." This truth is all too apparent in The Last Battle. The dwarfs are utterly incapable of appreciating the feast spread before them by Aslan. They mistake the pies and meats for hay and turnips, and each one suspecting that his neighbor has received a better dish than he, they begin to brawl. Their prideful proclamation. "The dwarfs are for the dwarfs," amply summarizes their constriction into the self. The bread of heaven is an acquired taste. We don't have all the time in the world to acquire that taste. We have only our time in the world. In Jesus, the feast is before us, and all are invited. Let us heed Aslan's warning, for "there is no other."

Source: Wayne Martindale with Kathryn Welch, "Food for the Soul: Eating in Narnia," in Narnia Beckons, edited by Ted Baehr and James Baehr, Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2005, pp. 103-111.

Colin Manlove

In the following essay, Manlove describes The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe as the most complete volume in the Narnia series and states that it comes closest to the innocence of a fantastic world. He also explores the themes of "good" and "evil" and growth and expansion pervasive in all the Narnia books.

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, probably the best known of the Narnia books, stands alone perhaps more than any other book of the Chronicles. It is true that several of the other stories are "finished" in the sense of being self-contained: a rightful king or prince is restored in Prince Caspian, The Silver Chair, and The Horse and His Boy; a voyage to the end of the world is completed in The Voyage of the "Dawn Treader." Yet we know that these narratives are excerpts from the history of Narnia, with a before and after, where the first book is our first account of the country. (We know too that Lewis originally wrote it with no thought to a sequel.) Lewis struck in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe a blend of fantasy and the everyday that he was not again to match. The book is an extraordinary mixture of diverse things, from a lion who is a Narnian Christ to a witch out of fairy tale, from a Father Christmas out of myth to a female beaver with a sewing machine drawn from Beatrix Potter, from a society of articulate beasts and animate trees to a group of strongly characterized children partly derived from Edith Nesbit. This is the only book in which the children themselves become kings and queens of Narnia. In all the others they are relative outsiders, and in all but The Magician's Nephew the rulers of Narnia come from within the fantastic realm. This separation adds to the sense of a Narnia that goes on without them. The "proximity" of the children to Narnia in The Lion, their close involvement in its transformation from deathly winter to the spring of new life, gives that book a special poignancy: the children do not come so close to the innocence of a fantastic world again, not even in The Magician's Nephew, where the Narnia is created by Aslan. In The Voyage of the "Dawn Treader," the image of spiritual longing realized in the risen life of Aslan, and the victory and enthronement of the children as Sons of Adam and Daughters of Eve, is found only by going out of the world, by journeying across the seas to its end and beyond: what was "immanent" in The Lion is there found only by a process of transcendence. Narnia in The Lion is increasingly and uniquely shot through with holiness, embodied in the coming and eventual victory of Aslan. In the later books it is a much more secular world, with Aslan's presence more limited. The Lion seems to contain a pattern of spiritual renewal sufficient to itself: the winter of the White Witch is turned to spring, the cold laws of the Stone Table are transcended by the grace of Aslan's sacrifice, the sin of man is washed away in the restoration of Adam and Eve's lineage to their rightful thrones, the devil in the shape of the White Witch is finally slain, the paradise that was lost is regained. The whole seems to encapsulate something of the primal rhythm of Christian history, within the idiom of another world.

Lewis's method of introducing us to the realm of Narnia is, perhaps naturally, much more gradual in The Lion than in the later books, where the children are suddenly whisked away from a railway station where they are waiting to go their several ways to boarding school (Prince Caspian), or fall into a picture of an ancient sailing ship (The Voyage of the "Dawn Treader"), or are transported to Narnia via their deaths in a railway crash (The Last Battle). The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe portrays the gradual joining of two worlds. The emphasis in this novel, as in The Magician's Nephew and The Last Battle, which respectively describe the creation and eventual "uncreation" of Narnia, is on the permeability of Narnia (there through its fragility of being, here as part of a divine plan): it is entered, variously, by the children (on three different occasions), by Father Christmas, and by Aslan himself. It is of course a place that needs stimulus from the outside if it is to regain life at all, for it is a world frozen to perpetual winter by an evil witch, and nothing will change so long as she and her ice have power over it. But more than this, the book describes a gradual incarnating: not only Aslan's actions but the children's presence, long prophesied, in making themselves part of this world, will overthrow the witch and restore Narnia to its true nature.

For the moment let us deal with the first point, the gradualness of the approach. First the children are withdrawn from society by being sent away from the London air raids in wartime to their uncle's house in the remote country, "ten miles from the nearest railway station and two miles from the nearest post office." This uncle is odd-looking; he has so much white hair that it "grew over most of his face as well as on his head." The servants of the house are mentioned only to be dismissed as of no consequence to the story. The children are left free to do as they wish. All the time, identity and boundaries are melting away. The house is vast and uncharted. The world outside it seems a wilderness of mountains and woods, with the possibility of eagles, stags, and hawks among them, as well as the more domestic badgers, foxes, and rabbits. There is a hint here of likeness to the landscape of the world the children are to enter.

The discovery of Narnia, too, is gradual. One rainy day the children set out to explore the house, and one of them, Lucy (from lux meaning "light" or "perception"), investigates the inside of an old wardrobe in an otherwise empty room. It is a casual-seeming occurrence that turns to something quite other. Beyond one line of fur coats in the wardrobe Lucy finds another, and then as she pushes through that and feels the ground begin to crunch under her feet, fur turns to fir and she finds herself in a pine forest with the snow falling. The gradualism here is a marvelous tapering of everyday world into fantastic realm.

Once in this strange new world, Lucy meets a faun, Mr. Tumnus, in the forest, and it emerges, as she takes tea with him in his home, that he is a spy for the wicked White Witch. Having remorsefully confessed this, he ushers Lucy back through the wardrobe into her own world. Lucy is amazed to find that no time has passed in her absence—which could make her experience seem a dream. She tells the others of her adventure but they do not believe her, least of all the scoffing Edmund; and the wardrobe when examined by the children is now obstinately nothing but a wardrobe. Aslan's purposes transcend human wish and will. After some days, during a game of hide-and-seek on another wet day, Lucy has hidden in the wardrobe and Edmund pursues her there, only to find himself in Narnia. He then meets the White Witch herself, and she, mindful of the menace to her if the prophecy should come true and four humans become rightful kings and queens of Narnia, bribes Edmund to bring his brother and sisters to her castle. Edmund find Lucy on his way back to the wardrobe in the Narnian woods (she has been with Mr. Tumnus again), but when they return to their uncle's house and Lucy looks to Edmund for support, he tells the others that he has only been humoring Lucy's delusion. The next move occurs one day when all four children are trying to escape a group of visitors who are being given a tour through the house. They are eventually driven to the room with the wardrobe and through the wardrobe itself into Narnia. Now all believe, and what is believed in has shifted from an indefinite place to another world in which they are set. First one, then two, then four children have entered Narnia.

Once there, there are further gradations. At first visitors, the children are brought to realize that they are in part the focus of the hopes of the Narnian creatures. What seemed accident is part of a larger pattern, if they will play their part, and if Aslan comes to help. Initially guests of the Beavers, the three children (Edmund having sneaked away to the witch) are soon active agents in the cause of Narnia. And what Narnia is and means continually deepens. At first perhaps a fairy-tale world, it does not stop being that while also being a landscape of the spirit frozen in primal sin; and the witch, who seems something straight out of Hans Christian Andersen, retains something of this fairy-tale "lightness" while at the same time becoming an agent of ultimate evil, daughter of Lilith and the giants, and ancient enemy of Aslan. Then, too, we have what seem to be layers of magic, with the witch's evil wand that turns creatures to stone at one level, and the "Deep Magic" by which Aslan may through sacrificial death rise again, at quite another. Aslan himself is lion and much more than lion. As for the children, they do not till the end stop being themselves even when accomplishing heroic deeds. The Peter who slays Maugrim, the witch's great wolf, is still a frightened but resolute boy, and the Edmund who, reformed, hinders the witch from final victory in the battle by breaking her wand, is awarded plaudits which make him at once heroic and the brightest boy in the class.

But by this point the children are very "far in" (to use one of Lewis's favorite phrases). Just as the story has taken them to a world inside a wardrobe inside a room in a house within the heart of beleaguered England, so they have penetrated to the center of Narnia and in the end become its cynosures, as they sit dispensing justice and largess on the four thrones at the castle of Cair Paravel. They are the sovereign human element long missing from the hierarchy of rational or "Talking Beasts" of Narnia, and in that sense they belong most fully to that world. At that point things have changed: they are no longer children but young adults, they have forgotten their own world, and they speak the elevated language of medieval romance. That loss of former self, and the length of sojourn in Narnia, is found with no other of the children of the Chronicles: Lewis has steadily moved the children away from their old selves and understandings until they become wholly part of another world. Even the style that describes them has changed: "And they entered into friendship and alliance with countries beyond the sea and paid them visits of state and received visits of state from them. And they themselves grew and changed as the years passed over them"; "So they lived in great joy and if ever they remembered their life in this world it was only as one remembers a dream." And then having accomplished this, Lewis briskly returns the children to their own world through their pursuit of a white stag that leads them to a thicket wherein is the wardrobe; through which they return to England, abruptly restored to child form and their present-day clothes, having been absent, by the time of this world, for not one moment. This perhaps serves as an exercise in humility and a reminder that nothing that is mortal is permanent (a point to be made much more openly concerning Narnia itself in The Last Battle).

To some extent what is portrayed in this process is a form of spiritual development on the part of the children. They are asked to develop out of an old awareness into a new. They must show faith, trust, compassion, perception, and courage in transforming Narnia. It may be mistaken to see what happens too much from Narnia's point of view, with the children its promised saviors. It might be better to recall also that Lewis was steeped in allegory, and particularly in Spenser's The Faerie Queene, in which the landscape of Fairy Land is that of the soul. Narnia is, in one sense at least, a country within a wardrobe; a wardrobe seems an appropriate conveyance to Narnia, as it is a place for different clothes. If, too, we were to think of the children not just as four individuals, but also potentially as four parts of the one spirit, we might not always be wide of the mark. When the children first see Mr. Beaver surreptitiously beckoning to them from among the Narnian trees, the following exchange ensues:

"It wants us to go to it," said Susan, "and it is warning us not to make a noise."

"I know," said Peter. "The question is, are we to go to it or not? What do you think, Lu?"

"I think it's a nice beaver," said Lucy.

"Yes, but how do we know?" said Edmund.

"Shan't we have to risk it?" said Susan. "I mean, it's no good just standing here and I feel I want some dinner."

It is possible to see Susan as "the body" here, simply observing and registering physical needs, with Peter as "reason," Lucy as the enlightened soul, and Edmund as the evil side of the self. Such a reading is certainly too stark, and the characters do play other roles elsewhere in the narrative. But the story as a whole can be seen as a spiritual journey through a landscape of the soul, from the frost of original sin to the flowers of the redeemed spirit; one in which the kingship and queenship reached at the end, and the completion of the hierarchy of creation in Narnia by the humans, suggest the integration and potential perfection of the soul in Christ. Such a reading might explain why in this book, the children are frequently isolated from one another (just as, say, Una and Redcrosse are divided in the first book of The Faerie Queene): Lucy alone, then Edmund alone, then Edmund away from the other three, then the girls absent from their brothers, and finally all four united. It is as though the spirit is broken up to be reconstituted. This reading at the very least shows how no single understanding of Narnia or the characters in it is adequate—there are multiple possibilities.

Either way, literally or allegorically, what is portrayed in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is growth away from the old self. Growth out of death is a theme central to the book, as Aslan dies to bring new life and winter turns to spring: that is the allegorical and anagogical level of the book (to use Dante's terms), where with the children the development is at the moral or tropological level. The antitype here is of course the witch. She is concerned only with maintaining her power over Narnia. She does nothing with it, exists for no other reason than to keep it (in contrast to the multiple activities of the children when they are kings and queens of Narnia). And Narnia expresses the nature of her spirit: frozen, uniform, static. For all life that thinks to exist independently of her will she has one answer: turn it to stone. Her castle seems to have nothing in it, and she herself in the end is nothing. That was the course Edmund would have gone. Drawn to her by his own self-conceit (where Lucy meets Mr. Tumnus, he "happens" upon the witch), he is tempted to bring his brother and sisters into her power to satisfy his appetites in the form of the Turkish Delight she offers him.

Where those whose allegiance is to the witch take, those whose allegiance is to Aslan give. The children are the long-awaited gift to Narnia. Aslan is a gift beyond telling, his coming turning winter to spring. He gives his life for Edmund's. Even Narnia itself, as a place of recovered innocence, is a gift of high adventure to the children. Right at the center of the narrative, not the anomaly he has sometimes been seen, is the arrival of Father Christmas, with a sackful of gifts for everyone. And The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe as a whole is a "box of delights" full for the reader of the most wonderful creatures and events, which become still richer as one "opens" them. The book, as a progressive revelation of Aslan's nature and of the deepest potential of the children, is like a gift gradually arrived at.

The narrowness of the self is "answered" in the character of the narrative of the book. Its title, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, suggests its creation out of at least three separate acts of the imagination. But all come together to make a pattern long foreseen: each "separate" item is part of a larger unity. So it is with the plot itself, which is really a series of "microplots." At first there is the issue of whether or not Narnia is real. Then there is the plan of the witch to seize the children and their escape from her. With Aslan's arrival, and spring's, the witch seems defeated, especially when Edmund is rescued from death at her hands. But then there is a new plot begun by her claim to Edmund's life through an old law that makes traitors forfeit to her. The later stages of conflict with the witch involve two plots: in one Peter, Edmund, and the Narnians fight her and her forces, while in the other Aslan breathes new life into the Narnians who were made statues at the witch's castle so that they may come to the aid of the others. All these little plots amalgamate to bring about the realization of the grand design, like little selves cooperating with others. And this idea of cooperation, of society, is central. The children themselves are constituents of Narnian society, to which we are progressively introduced throughout. This particular use of microplots is unique to The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Other books (apart from The Magician's Nephew) have a much more clear-cut quest or objective from the outset, but here a series of apparently local and unconnected doings together provide the key to unlock Narnia. In a sense, too, these isolated doings might in some cases suggest the benightedness of the soul amid evil: conditions under the witch in Narnia are such that incoherence is inevitable. Then the nighttime setting of many of the scenes in Narnia is also significant; and that Father Christmas arrives, Aslan rises again, and final victory over the witch is won in the morning.

Other features of the book seem to belong to this rejection of narrowness. For one thing, there is, as already partly seen, the theme of growing and of expansion. Growth is inherent in the story itself, which from apparently small beginnings involving a girl and a faun becomes an epic on which the fate of an entire world depends. Narnia is wakened from its sleep, the talking animals from their hiding-places, the spellbound creatures from stone, Aslan from death itself. The adventure begins through a "narrow" wardrobe that turns out to open onto a whole world. Inside Narnia the perspective gradually expands. At first the omnipresence of the snow makes the adventures relatively local: Mr. Tumnus here, the Beavers there, the White Witch beyond. Gradually creatures congregate, and we begin to get a sense of Narnia as a whole and of the issues at stake. The Stone Table commands a view of all Narnia. Cair Paravel, the ultimate destination of the children, is in an open place by the shore of a sea that stretches to the world's end. The witch's castle however, is set in a hollow among hills, shut in on itself. She lives alone, but for the children the whole story involves an increase of friends: they themselves become the centers of a whole society.

We might extrapolate from the way that the White Witch has converted Narnia to a mirror image of herself in the form of one monotonous dead white, the mode by which Lewis refuses to let us settle to one view of a thing. Throughout, the children continually have their assumptions displaced. Mr. Tumnus is not just the jolly domestic host he appears to be; the wardrobe is more than a wardrobe; Narnia is not an illusion; Edmund is not rewarded by the witch; Edmund's rescue from the witch is not final; Aslan is not dead, but even more alive than before; they who were kings and queens of Narnia are in an instant returned to being modern children. Reality is not to be appropriated; its richness and depth elude ready absorption by mind. Our idea of Narnia is continually altered: at first apparently a little "play" world, it becomes more threatening with the witch, more metaphysical with Aslan, more holy in its ultimate foundation through Aslan's journey. Even then we are not to know the true and further realities until the afterworlds of The Last Battle are revealed, and Narnia upon Narnia lead us "farther up and farther in." Nothing is "mere": Lewis chose children as heroic protagonists to demonstrate that fact.

The object of the witch is to reduce all things to one dead level, to draw them back into herself. But the object of the story is in part to show how different, how "other" from one another things can be. To our minds Narnia may suggest the world of Andersen's "Snow Queen," of Kenneth Grahame or of traditional Christmas, but such a stereotype is swiftly dispelled as we find that this is a world in which the struggle between good and evil is between God and the devil. And if we then proceed to see similarities between Aslan's sacrifice and that of Christ in our world, we at once see that they are also quite different. Aslan is a lion in another world called Narnia. His voluntary death as a substitute for Edmund is not the same as Christ's less-chosen Crucifixion, nor His effective death on behalf of all men. Even the special sordid intimacy of Aslan's stabbing by the witch is quite different from Christ's more solitary and drawn-out bodily pain on the cross. Nor is it Aslan alone who saves Narnia: he does that through the mortal agency of the children and the Narnians themselves. The Deep Magic ordained by the "Emperor," whereby all traitors are forfeit to the witch or else all Narnia will be destroyed, is quite different in form from the "magic" that binds our world. Of course there are similarities. The process whereby Aslan dies only to rise again transfigured, is like Christ's death and resurrection. The breaking of the great Stone Table on which he is sacrificed is perhaps like the breaking of the power of the grave: as he tells the children, the witch did not know the "Deeper Magic" that "when a willing victim who had committed no treachery was killed in a traitor's stead, the Table would crack and Death itself would start working backwards." In terms of ultimate metaphysics, this is what Christ's death brought about in our world: though in Narnia the idea of death working backward has much more immediate and absolute import, in the sense that the deathlike winter of the witch's power over Narnia is now destroyed, and with the children enthroned Narnia will for the time become a recovered paradise. The basic pattern of the magic that Aslan enacts, because it is a spiritual rhythm based on divine reality, will be the same in all worlds; but in all worlds it will also be uniquely manifested.

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, then, dramatizes the difference between good and evil. There is more attention to the good, because it is more real. The witch as yet has no name, nor has her dwarf; she and her agents are present much less than the Narnians, Aslan, and the children. Where she is separate from Narnia, the children become progressively more involved, "farther in." She can only reduce things—Narnia to stasis, the rational creatures of Narnia to stone, Aslan to a shorn cat—even herself, at Edmund's rescue, to a mere formless boulder. In opposition to her the book is full of selves and "things." In no other of the Narnia books are the children so distinguished from one another: the impetuous, loving and perceptive Lucy, the rather more stolid and self-regarding Susan, the cynical and jealous Edmund, the rational and brave Peter. In themselves they are complex, a varying compound of good and evil that the witch can never be; and as a group they form a multiple nature. Further, they all change and develop through the narrative. Then there is the variety of creatures in Narnia, and of the objects that surround them. There are a faun, a pair of beavers, Father Christmas, a great lion who is more than lion, and a group of modern children. The variety is heightened by juxtapositions—fur coats and fir trees, a lamppost in a wood, a faun with an umbrella, a female beaver with a sewing machine. The book conveys a gradual increase of population—first one faun, then two beavers, then a party of Narnians at a table; by the time the children and the beavers reach the hill of the Stone table where a pavilion is pitched, the pace of creation seems suddenly to leap, as they find Aslan surrounded by a whole group of Narnians as though they had been begotten by him—which, since he has released them from the Narnian winter, is in part true. Still more it is true later when he recreates more of the Narnians out of the stone to which the witch has turned them by the even more deadly winter of her wand. For Aslan death "is only more life." Everything that is good grows, and grows still more like its true nature.

At the center is Aslan. We see the witch early, but he is long heralded before his appearance. When first we see him the first words are, "Aslan stood." He is the creator, not the created; he is supreme being, Yahweh, "I am" (Exodus 3:14), to the witch's negativity. He radiates being to all about him. In him oppositions are not at war, as in most mortals, but are brought into energetic unity: he is both god and lion, both lovable and fearful. "People who have not been in Narnia sometimes think that a thing cannot be good and terrible at the same time. If the children had ever thought so, they were cured of it now. For when they tried to look at Aslan's face they just caught a glimpse of the golden mane and the great, royal, solemn, overwhelming eyes; and then they found they couldn't look at him and went all trembly." In the wake of the shame and humiliation of his death he can still play with the children in a romp at which "whether it was more like playing with a thunderstorm or playing with a kitten Lucy could never make up her mind."

The theme of growth and expansion that we have seen in this story is one that will be found throughout the Chronicles of Narnia; the enemy will always be that which shuts in, isolates or immobilizes. Every story will have a variation on the idea of no time at all passing in our world while the children have their adventures in Narnia, so that they return to waiting at a railway station, looking at a picture in a bedroom, or to a school where they are being pursued by bullies, at exactly the moment they left. Every book will show a gradual increase in society, from more or less isolated figures at the start, to gathering groups and then often meetings with whole peoples. Space, too, will grow, just as in The Lion a wardrobe opened into a forest, and that forest was found to be part of a whole country, and that country of a world…. There will be a similar process in Prince Caspian. In The Voyage of the "Dawn Treader" a picture of a ship will turn into an actual ship on a wide ocean, and a voyage to the east will extend through realm after realm until it reaches the truest realm of all. In The Silver Chair we will begin to explore the lands to the west of Narnia. In The Horse and His Boy we will be outside Narnia, in the land of Calormen, travelling back. In The Magician's Nephew we will enter three different worlds by magic. And in The Last Battle the Narnia we know will give way to larger and ever more real Narnias beyond it. And all this enlargement will be preparing us for the final journey to Aslan's country at the end of The Last Battle, a place of living paradox where the smaller contains the greater, where true progression is found where there is no time, where to go "farther up and farther in" is to go farther out, and where one's true identity exists beyond the loss of self in death. Meanwhile, throughout, the Chronicles of Narnia will be telling a story, a chronicle, of the birth, life, and death of Narnia: but they will also passingly embody, through paradox, reversals of narrative and often-felt Divine Providence behind the action, a sense within each "net of successive moments" of "something that is not successive," the eternity that is Aslan ablaze about the coiled filament of Narnian time.

Source: Colin Manlove, "The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe," in "The Chronicles of Narnia": The Patterning of a Fantastic World, Twayne Publishers, 1993, pp. 30-42.


Davis, Mary Gould, Review of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, in Saturday Review of Literature, Vol. 33, No. 49, December 9, 1950, p. 42.

Ford, Paul F., Companion to Narnia, Collier Books, 1986, p. 230.

Hinten, Marvin D., '"Deeper Magic': Allusions in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe," in Narnia Beckons: C. S. Lewis's The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and Beyond, edited by Ted Baehr and James Baehr, Broadman and Holman Publishers, 2005, p. 133.

Hollindale, Peter, and Zena Sutherland, "Internationalism, Fantasy, and Realism 1945–1970," in Children's Literature: An Illustrated History, edited by Peter Hunt, Oxford University Press, 1995, p. 259.

Lewis, C. S., C. S. Lewis: Letters to Children, edited by Lyle W. Dorsett and Marjorie Lamp Mead, Macmillan, 1985, pp. 44-45.

―――――――, God in the Dock: Essays on Theology and Ethics, edited by Walter Hooper, William B. Eerdmans Publishing, 1970, p. 23.

―――――――, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Harper-Collins, 1978.

―――――――, Mere Christianity, Macmillan Publishing, 1978, pp. 32-36.

Review of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, in Publishers Weekly, Vol. 247, No. 47, November 20, 2000, p. 32.

Ryken, Leland, and Marjorie Lamp Mead, A Reader's Guide through the Wardrobe: Exploring C. S. Lewis's Classic Story, InterVarsity Press, 2005, pp. 74-75, 166.

Walsh, Chad, "Earthbound Fairyland," in New York Times, November 12, 1950, p. 222.

Further Reading

Caughey, Shanna, ed., Revisiting Narnia: Fantasy, Myth and Religion in C. S. Lewis's Chronicles, BenBella Books, 2005.

This book is a collection of twenty-five essays by writers of various disciplines and faiths, revealing a refreshingly diverse assortment of insights and interpretations on the mythological and theological nature of Lewis's Narnia stories.

Deighton, Len, Fighter: The True Story of the Battle of Britain, Castle Books, 2000.

This book gives a detailed account of the conflict, analyzing the strategies, weapons, and tactics employed by both the Germans and the British.

Hooper, Walter, C. S. Lewis: A Companion and Guide, HarperSanFrancisco, 1996.

This book, written by a well-known Lewis scholar, is an invaluable resource for those who wish to have an exhaustive biographical, textual, and historical study of Lewis's legacy at their fingertips.

Ryken, Leland, and Marjorie Lamp Mead, A Reader's Guide through the Wardrobe: Exploring C. S. Lewis's Classic Story, InterVarsity Press, 2005.

This book is a comprehensive literary and historical overview of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, which helps readers better understand both the story and its author.

Schakel, Peter J., Imagination and the Arts in C. S. Lewis: Journeying to Narnia and Other Worlds, University of Missouri Press, 2002.

This book provides in-depth analysis of Lewis's theory of imagination and demonstrates how Lewis teaches his readers, through the Chronicles and other works, the value of imagination as demonstrated in the various arts.