The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe, C.S. Lewis (1950)

None of the children knew who Aslan was. At [his name] each one of the children felt something jump in its inside. Edmund felt a sensation of mysterious horror. Peter felt suddenly brave and adventurous. Susan felt as if some delicious smell or some delightful strain of music had just floated by her. And Lucy got the feeling you have when you wake up in the morning and realise that it is the beginning of the holidays or the beginning of summer.

lionwitchOne of my commitments this year is to read the complete Narnia series. I started with The Magician’s Nephew (some would argue that is actually the 6th book). But this one gets into the heart of the matter—the struggle between good and evil in the Land of Narnia and the ethics of choosing sides. I love the layers with which you can understand this book; how you can see a Christian allegory or “just” a magical adventure. Like many fantasies Narnia is a land where animals talk, Witches are cruel, quests are taken and bravery against evil is the key to survival.

Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy Pevensies are siblings who have been sent out of London for the duration of the war to the country home of an old professor. During one rainy day Lucy discovers that the back of the big wardrobe in a mostly empty room is actually a gateway to a magical land called Narnia. After her first adventure she returns home to tell her brothers and sister, but they do not believe her, especially after investigating the wardrobe themselves and finding nothing but old coats.

Lucy is distraught that her sanity has been called into question, even after Edmund finds his way into the Land. Finally, in one last effort to quell Lucy’s insistence her siblings try again and successfully find themselves in the cold snowy winter of Narnia. They soon realize they are caught in a battle for rulership of Narnia between the wicked White Witch who wants to subjugate the population and Aslan the Lion who wants all beings to be free. The children learn they are part of the prophecy of Narnia, which they hear from the first friends they meet, Mr. and Mrs. Beaver:

…down at Cair Paravel there are four thrones and it’s a saying in Narnia time out of mind that when two Sons of Adam and two Daughters of Eve sit in those four thrones, then it will be the end not only of the White Witch’s reign but of her life, and that is why we had to be so cautious as we came along, for if she knew about you four, your lives wouldn’t be worth a shake of my whiskers.

The children readily give themselves up to the cause and the tasks Aslan asks them to complete. The ultimate cruelty for the Witch in order to gain Narnia for herself is to kill Aslan, who willingly sacrifices himself for the greater good. His resurrection, though, is not part of her plan.

As an adult, I found some of the writing simplistic compared to the writing in The Magician’s Nephew, which was written years later. Especially at the beginning I felt like my hand was being held throughout the action. Once all of the children get into Narnia, however, the book reads like any adventure story with complex characterizations and the challenge of making moral choices. When Aslan makes his moral choice Lewis is at his writerly best when after the shock of Aslan’s murder by the Witch and her minions, he explains to the children why he cannot really die:

…that though the Witch knew the Deep Magic, there is a magic deeper still which she did not know. Her knowledge goes back only to the dawn of time. But if she could have looked a little further back into the stillness and the darkness before Time dawned, she would have read there a different incantation. She would have known 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 backward.

Aslan and the children and the rest of the animals in Aslan’s service go to the Witch’s castle in the last battle for Narnia. Her courtyard is full of statues, her enemies she turned to stone and as Aslan breathes on each one animating them back to life they join his cause. She is killed and Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy sit on their thrones, taking their rightful place as the Kings and Queens of Narnia.

But they are not meant to stay and in the course of trying to capture the White Stag, come upon the lamppost that got them to and from Narnia. Leaving their friends, they scramble back through the wardrobe, where they decide they need to tell the Professor everything. A wise man who had an adventure himself, he assures the children they will return to Narnia but not by the wardrobe. How will they know when it’s time? “Keep your eyes open.”

I am not sure what to expect next if Narnia has been saved and Aslan triumphs. Mr. Beaver tells the children about Aslan, “He’ll be coming and going….One day you’ll see him and another you won’t. He doesn’t like being tied down—and of course he has other countries to attend to. He’ll often drop in. Only you mustn’t press him. He’s wild, you know. Not like a tame lion.” Will I see these “other countries” and Aslan again? Will these children return to Narnia or go elsewhere? Will other children take their place in the stories to come?

I guess I’ll find out! And no spoilers, please 🙂


My Edition
Title: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
Author: C. S. Lewis
Publisher: HarperCollins
Device: Paperback
Year: 1950
Pages: 206

Challenges: Personal 2019 Challenge, Roof Beam Reader’s TBR

22 thoughts on “The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe, C.S. Lewis (1950)

  1. Such a classic series, and I love the paragraph you started with, revealing each of the siblings’ reaction to the name of Aslan, revealing such a lot about them as individuals too. I did your quest with a homeschooled son a few years ago, and read the Narnia chronicles through back to back. They never grow old, and I’ll look forward to following your thoughts on what’s to come.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. What a wonderful project for your son!

      Thank you for your comments on the children. I thought Lewis did a good job of fleshing out their individual characters. I am trying very hard not do any pre-research on the books until I have read them all, unless I come across comments from Lewis in the books about him I am reading.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m eager to read about your journey through these books, Laurie. Lewis led a fascinating life — one of the Inklings (and good buddy to Tolkien), an atheist who converted to Christianity, a life-long bachelor who at middle-age married a dying American woman. Very interesting.
    And I’ll be the third person to urge you to read Grossman’s The Magicians trilogy. Also, if you like witches and kids-in-jeopardy, I strongly recommend Colin Meloy’s Wildwood series. Absolutely fabulous.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I have started a biography of Lewis and I was surprised to learn he dabbled in the occult as well. He really took himself on a spiritual journey.

      It looks like I will be reading The Magicians for sure, then 🙂 And thank you for the other recommendation.

      I didn’t plan for 2019 to be a fantasy year, but it looks like that is going to take up a large portion of my reading.

      Liked by 3 people

  3. I too read the series in chronological order and not as published, Laurie, so also started with The Magician’s Nephew. Now, while I found Lewis’ allegorical approach a real stumbling block, and his avuncular tone almost intolerable, I was determined to reread the Chronicles at some stage in the future, looking out only for its storytelling instead of moralising. It’s almost time for that reread…

    Lev Grossman’s Magicians trilogy, which Jeanne recommended, riffs indirectly with the Narnia sequence but in a much darker and more grown-up way. I personally enjoyed the books, though I never got round to reviewing the last one in the series.

    If you’ve been following Begorrathon, the Reading Ireland Month, you’ll know that Lewis counts as an Irish writer, even though he spent most of his adult life in England. I’d hope to reread his posthumous The Dark Tower but, guess what, I never got round to it…

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I remember when I watched a biographical show about Lewis on public television a few years ago, I was shocked to hear he was born in Ireland. I just never knew.

      And personally, I am glad I started with the Magician’s Nephew; I think it was right for me and I found TLWW flowed from it well.

      I made a note of The Magicians from Jeanne’s comment, so thanks for seconding it 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

  4. Laurie, I love this wonderful series of books and this is one of favourites – the other is The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. Reading your thoughts, you have made me think it is high-time for another re-read! I hope you enjoy the next book, Prince Caspian. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  5. It will be interesting to read what happens next! I want to read through this series as well, but I haven’t gotten there yet. It’s nice to know that it speaks to both adults and children alike. I look forward to reading your thoughts as you read through the series. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I was thinking of this series very recently. I know I had the full set as a child and I loved this particular book but I have no memory of reading the rest. I’ll follow your journey with interest 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I really need to read this entire series as an adult. As I usually do, I will probably read the entire series through. It is interesting how you perceived that the writing matured. I guess that is true of many authors who write series for young people.

    Liked by 1 person

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