The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

2007 Schools Wikipedia Selection. Related subjects: Novels

Title The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

Author C. S. Lewis
Illustrator Pauline Baynes
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Series The Chronicles of Narnia
Genre(s) Fantasy novel
Publisher Geoffrey Bles
Released 1950
Media type Print ( Hardcover & Paperback)
Pages 208 (modern hardcover)
ISBN ISBN 0-06-023481-4 (modern hardcover)
Followed by Prince Caspian

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is a fantasy novel for children by C. S. Lewis. Written in 1950, it is the first book of The Chronicles of Narnia and is the best known book of the series. (Though written and published first, it is second in the series' internal chronological order, and its prequel " The Magician's Nephew" is currently marketed as Book 1 due to a decision by the publisher to renumber the books according to internal chronology rather than publication date.)

The book is dedicated to Lewis's God-daughter, Lucy Barfield.

Plot summary

Spoiler warning: Plot and/or ending details follow.

Four children, Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy Pevensie, are evacuated from London during World War II, and settled with an elderly Professor in a large country-house.

The children explore, and Lucy, the youngest of the children, climbs into a wardrobe and finds it leads to a snow-covered land. She meets a faun, Tumnus, who tells her that the land is called Narnia, and that it is ruled over by the ruthless White Witch, who ensures that it is always winter, but never Christmas.

Lucy goes back through the wardrobe, which returns to normal, and is unable to convince the other children about her adventure.

Several weeks later, she re-enters Narnia, and Edmund follows. He fails to catch up with Lucy, and instead comes across the witch, who seduces him with magical sweets and promises of power. She persuades him to try to bring the other children to her castle.

The witch departs, Lucy arrives, and both Lucy and Edmund return together through the wardrobe. Out of cruelty, Edmund will not admit to the others that Narnia is real.

Finally, circumstances lead all four children to hide in the wardrobe, and they soon find themselves In Narnia. They discover that Tumnus has been captured, and the children are sheltered by a pair of talking beavers named Mr. Beaver and Mrs. Beaver.

They recount an ancient prophecy that when two Sons of Adam and two Daughters of Eve fill the four thrones at Cair Paravel, the witch's power will fail. The beavers tell of the true king of Narnia—a great lion called Aslan—who has been absent for many years, but is now "On the move again."

Edmund, still in the thrall of the witch, runs away to find her. His absence is not noticed until it is too late. Realising that they have been betrayed, the others set off to meet with Aslan.

Edmund, meanwhile, reaches the castle of the witch. She treats him harshly and, taking him with her, sets off to catch the other children.

However, her power is failing and a thaw strands her sleigh. The other children reach Aslan, and a penitent Edmund is rescued just as the witch is about to kill him.

Calling for a truce, the witch demands that Edmund be returned to her, as an ancient law gives her possession of all traitors. Aslan, acknowledging the law, offers himself in Edmund's place and the witch accepts.

Aslan is sacrificed by the witch, but comes back to life, and, during a final battle, the witch is defeated and killed.

The children become kings and queens, and spend many years in Narnia, growing to maturity, before returning to our world, where they find themselves children again.

Character list

  • Peter Pevensie is the oldest of the Pevensie siblings that left London during WWII. At first, he disbelieves Lucy's stories about Narnia, but changes his mind when he sees it for himself. Peter is hailed as a hero for his part in the overthrow of the White Witch. He is eventually crowned the High King of Narnia, King Peter the Magnificent.
  • Susan Pevensie is the second oldest of the Pevensie children. She also does not believe in Narnia until she is actually there. She seems to exhibit very little personality. Along with her siblings, she is crowned at Cair Paravel, and is referred to as Queen Susan, the Gentle.
  • Edmund Pevensie is the third Pevensie child. He also does not believe Lucy's stories about Narnia and makes fun of Lucy for telling them. When he is in Narnia, he meets the White Witch who plies him with enchanted Turkish Delight. Tempted by the White Witch's promise of power and seemingly unending supplies of Turkish Delight, Edmund betrays his siblings, but eventually regrets his actions and repents. After he helps Aslan and the citizens of Narnia defeat the White Witch, he is crowned King Edmund, the Just.
  • Lucy Pevensie is the youngest Pevensie child. She discovered the land of Narnia in the back of Professor Kirke's wardrobe. When Lucy told her siblings, they refused to believe her, particularly Edmund, who teased her mercilessly. After the restoration of Narnia, Lucy is crowned Queen Lucy, the Valiant.
  • Mr. Tumnus is a faun and the first person that Lucy meets in Narnia. Tumnus befriends her, despite being hired by the White Witch as a kidnapper. After getting to know Lucy, he changes his mind about handing her over to the witch. This gets him in trouble and he is eveutally arrested and turned into stone. He is later restored by Aslan and becomes a close friend of the Pevensies.
  • Jadis, The White Witch is the self-proclaimed Queen of Narnia. Ruling with an iron fist, she had placed a spell on Narnia so that it is forever winter and never Christmas. She has the right to kill anyone she believes to be a traitor to Narnia, which happens often. Her magic wand can turn people and animals to stone. The White Witch's only fear is of the prophecy that tells of "two sons of Adam" and "two daughters of Eve" who will come to Narnia and ally with Aslan to overthrow her.
  • Aslan is the lion, and keeps everything on a balance in Narnia. He sacrifices himself to spare Edmund, and is resurrected in time to aid the citizens of Narnia and the Pevensie children in their battle against the White Witch and her minions.
  • Professor Kirke is a professor that is given custody of the Pevensies when they evacuate London. He is the only one who believes that Lucy did indeed visit Narnia and tries to convince the other Pevensie children of this.
  • Mr. Beaver is friends with Tumnus, and he attempts to dethrone the White Witch and find Tumnus with Lucy, Susan, and Peter.
  • Mrs. Beaver is Mr. Beaver's wife. She helps the Pevensies by feeding them a good meal, and she is very optimistic.
  • Dwarf. The dwarf is the White Witch's right hand man.
  • Maugrim (or Feris Ulf) is a wolf pressed into service by the White Witch to hunt down and destroy the Pevensie children. He is the police commissioner of Narnia, their subordinates constitute the White Witch's police service. He is killed by Peter in the chapter "Peter's First Battle".
  • Father Christmas (Santa Claus) arrives when the Witch's spell of having no Christmas is broken. He gives each of the Pevensie children present a gift (Edmund was with the White Witch), which ultimately will help them defeat the White Witch.


The story takes inspiration from the Gospel themes of betrayal, death, resurrection and redemption. The "Deep Magic from the Dawn of Time," and "Deeper Magic from Before the Dawn of Time" can be seen as similar to the Old and New Covenants of Christianity, respectively. In the subsequent books, there is a nod in the direction of the Trinity concept, with Aslan in the Christ-role and a passing reference to the "Emperor over the Sea" as God the Father. The children form a disciple-group around Aslan, with Edmund as Judas and Peter the High King as St Peter. The two girls also follow Biblical precedent, as Mary Magdalene and the other Mary, through being first to see the resurrected Aslan. In addition, there are various allusions to Christ's execution, including the humiliation prior to his death and the splitting of the curtain in the Temple, represented by the cracking of the stone table. The book is not intended to be a retelling of Biblical stories in another form; it simply borrows ideas from them so as to illustrate basic conceptions of Christianity (and some other ideas as well — Platonic philosophy among them). Additionally, the White Witch is said to be descended from Lilith, who some religious texts say was Adam's first wife.

It should be noted that Edmund seems the character most close to the New Testament's Judas - but that unlike the original Judas, Edmund does not die or get consigned to eternal damnation, but is completely redeemed by Jesus/Aslan - a variation having enormous theological implications. Edmund also seems to contain elements of the Apostle Paul.

J. R. R. Tolkien was a close friend of Lewis', a fellow member of the Inklings, and an early reader of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. However, despite his sharing Lewis' Christian faith, Tolkien was rather dismissive of the book. He considered its theology to be both blatant and naive, and the mixture of different mythic elements very inconsistent. He specifically objected to the curious presence of Father Christmas, and the mixture of both Norse and Greek mythologies. In addition, he came to dislike the avuncular manner of story-telling for children — which can also be found at points in The Hobbit (Being something of a perfectionist, he later had to stop himself from rewriting that book, as told in Humphrey Carpenter's biography).

When he wrote The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Lewis did not intend for it to be part of a larger work; this may account for several inconsistencies in the series. For example, The Horse and His Boy establishes that humans live in both Archenland and Calormen during the reign of the witch, which makes the reliance on the presence of the children to break the witch's spell somewhat confusing when other humans could have been brought in from those nearer locations. Nor is there any explanation as to what has become of the descendants of the original (human) rulers of Narnia, whose dynasty was ordained by Aslan in The Magician's Nephew.

Although not specific to this book (and therefore dealt with in more detail in The Chronicles of Narnia entry), some controversy exists regarding the acceptability of the Chronicles.


Professor Kirke is based on W.T. Kirkpatrick, who tutored a 16-year-old Lewis. "Kirk," as he was sometimes called, taught the young Lewis much about thinking and communicating clearly, skills that would be invaluable to him later

Narnia is caught in endless winter when the children first enter. Norse mythology also has a "great winter", known as the Fimbulwinter that is said to precede Ragnarok.

The dwarves and giants are from Norse mythology. Fauns, centaurs, minotaurs, dryads, etc. are all from Greek mythology. Father Christmas, of course, was part of popular English folk lore.

The main story is an allegory of Christ's crucifixion. Aslan sacrifices himself for Edmund, a traitor who deserved death, in the same way that Christ sacrificed Himself for sinners. The cross is replaced by the Stone Table (which were used in Celtic religion). Additionally, the splitting of the Stone Table reflects the veil of the temple splitting at the point of Christ's death. As with the Christian Passion, it is women (Susan and Lucy) who tend Aslan's body after he dies and are the first to see him after his resurrection.(BBC News 2006) The significance of the death contains elements of both the ransom theory of atonement and the satisfaction theory: Aslan suffers Edmund's penalty (satisfaction), and buys him back from the White Witch, who was entitled to him by reason of his treachery (ransom).

The freeing of Aslan's body from the stone table by field mice is reminiscent of Aesop's Fable of "The Lion and the Mouse." In the fable, a lion catches a mouse, but lets him go free. The mouse promises to return the favour and does so when he gnaws through the lion's bonds after he has been captured by hunters

Differences between the British and American editions

Prior to the publication of the first American edition of Lion, Lewis made the following changes.

  • In chapter one of the American edition, the animals that Edmund and Susan express interest in are "snakes" and "foxes" rather than the "foxes" and "rabbits" of the British edition.
  • In chapter six of the American edition the name of the White Witch's chief of police is changed to "Fenris Ulf" from "Maugrim" in the British.
  • In chapter thirteen "the roots of the World Ash Tree" takes the place of "the fire-stones of the Secret Hill".

When HarperCollins took over publication of the series in 1994, they decided to use the British edition as the standard for all subsequent editions worldwide. (Ford 2005)

Film, television, and theatrical adaptations

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe has been adapted for television, stage, radio and cinema, including the BBC serial The Chronicles of Narnia. A Walt Disney Pictures film, entitled The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe was released in December 2005 and has grossed over $740 million worldwide.

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