Gregory Rummo has shared several reviews of C.S. Lewis books on the blog this summer. This is his last, the first of C.S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia. Spoiler Alert: Because the book is familiar to many, Rummo includes discussion of the plot outcome. If you are new to the Narnia stories, you may wish to refrain from reading this review until after you’ve read the book.
The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe is the first of C. S. Lewisâ€™s seven-part series, The Chronicles of Narnia. It is a fantasy story about four siblings, Lucy, Susan, Edmund and Peter Pevensie who are sent to the countryside to an estate of an eccentric professor to escape the bombings in London during the Second World War. Upon arrival, they meet Mrs. Macready, the housekeeper who obviously dislikes children. After an uncomfortable introduction, the children are warned not to bother the professor. They set out to explore their new surroundings by playing a game of hide and seek. Lucy, the youngest hides in a wardrobe among hanging fur coats. As she backs up, deeper into the wardrobe, the coats slowly become snow-covered pine trees. She ultimately finds herself standing in snow next to a lamppost in another world, which she soon learns is called Narnia. She meets Mr. Tumnus, a faun, who addresses her as â€œdaughter of Eve.â€ He takes her to his home in a cave where, over tea and a light snack, he explains that Narnia is under the spell of the White Witch and it is always winter but never Christmas. He warns her that he is under orders from the White Witch to report sightings of any children (sons of Adam or daughters of Eve). Lucy returns to the lamppost, escorted by Mr. Tumnus. She finds the portal from Narnia back into the wardrobe, emerging through the doors mere seconds after leaving, virtually no time having elapsed in her world.Â
None of the other three siblings believe Lucy, who shortly ventures back. Her younger brother Edmund follows her and he meets the White Witch, who offers him a steaming cup of some beverage to warm him along with his favorite candy, Turkish Delight, in exchange for information about his brothers and sisters and the promise to bring them back with him. When Lucy meets Edmund, she warns him what Mr. Tumnus told her about the White Witch, that she is evilâ€” â€œa perfectly terrible person,â€ with no right to call herself the Queen of Narnia and that she is hated by all and capable of turning people â€œinto stone and do all kinds of horrible thingsâ€ (43). Edmund plays dumb and the two go back through the wardrobe portal.
Upon their return, despite Edmund now having been in Narnia, he accuses his younger sister of making it all up. Edmundâ€™s worst character traits have been magnified by his proximity to the White Witch. He has morphed into both a liar and a traitor to his own family something that will later become an uglier betrayal. Peter accuses Edmund of bullying his younger sister similarly to the younger children he has bullied at school.
The four finally visit the professor for insight. He asks them why they would think their sister, Lucy, is lying since she has always told the truth in the past. But Peter and Susan are thinking something worse, that Lucy has gone mad. The professor however remains open to there being another world around the corner and explains it could exist in a temporal time warp.
The mansion was such a unique place it had become a tourist attraction. During one such tour, led by the fearsome Mrs. Macready, the children, upon hearing the sound of approaching voices seemingly coming from all directions run into the Wardrobe Room to hide. In the ensuing panic, the voices growing louder and louder, they all enter the Wardrobe and close the door behind them.Â
The children find themselves in Narnia, and they don the fur coats in the wardrobe to ward off the cold. They quickly discover that Mr. Tumnus has been arrested and at Lucyâ€™s urging, they press on, determined to find out what happened. They are led by a bird to a place where they meet two Beavers who address them as Sons of Adam and Daughters of Eve. The Beavers explain that â€œAslan is on the move,â€ but none of the children know who Aslan is or what this means but suddenly, â€œeveryone felt quite differentâ€ (74).
Over dinner in the Beaverâ€™s den, the children learn that Aslan is a lion and the King of Narnia, â€œthe Lord of the whole woodâ€ (85) and the â€œson of the great Emperor-beyond-the-seaâ€ (86). As the discussion continues, the children learn that Aslan has returned and they are the only humans that have ever come to Narnia. But even more intriguing, they learn they are the fulfillment of a prophecy that one day, the four thrones in Cair Paravel, the castle by the sea, would be occupied by two Sons of Adam and two Daughters of Eve, thus ending the reign of the White Witch. In the middle of this discussion, the children suddenly realize that Edmund, still under the Witchâ€™s spell from having eaten the Turkish Delight, has slipped away. The others quickly surmise that he will tell the White Witch of their plans to meet Aslan at the Stone Table. Fearing that the White Witch will capture the children before they can fulfill the prophecy, Mr. Beaver warns, â€œWe must all get away from here. Thereâ€™s not a moment to loseâ€ (94). And so, they flee the Beaverâ€™s den, in search of Aslan.
Meanwhile Edmund finds his way to the White Witchâ€™s castle where, in the courtyard, he comes across stone statues of various figures including a lion. He steps over what he thinks is a stone statue of a large wolf only to realize too late it is merely asleep. It is Maugrim, the Chief of the White Witchâ€™s Secret Police. Maugrim summons the White Witch who invites Edmund inside. â€œHow dare you come alone!â€ (106) She screams at Edmund. He apologizes and then explains that he has indeed brought the others â€œquite closeâ€ (107). After revealing their location, he adds that he learned Aslan has returned.
This is unsettling to the White Witch who summons her sledge and together with Edmund and one of her dwarves, takes off in search of the three other children. But her spell over Narnia has slowly begun to break. The snow begins to melt. More birds begin to sing. There is a brief visit of Santa Claus to the three children bringing three gifts that will shortly turn out to be very important. It is Christmas, albeit briefly, in Narnia once again.
Peter, Lucy and Susan press on until finally arriving at a great open green space where they can see the sea in the distance. And there in the middle of the hilltop is the Stone Table, an encampment close by, and a pavilion with tents and flags blowing in the breeze. Standing in the middle of it all is Aslan, surrounded by a myriad of his loyal followers.
A feast is prepared for the children during which Aslan reveals more details about the prophecy. Their conversation is interrupted by an attack from the White Witchâ€™s wolves. Susan climbs a tree to escape from one of them, which Peter kills using the sword he received as a gift from Santa Claus. The rest of the wolves scatter and are followed by Aslanâ€™s army knowing they will lead them back to the White Witch and allow Edmund to be rescued.
The rescue party returns to Aslanâ€™s encampment with Edmund. Shortly after breakfast, Aslan and Edmund take a walk together and have a private conversation about something that is never revealed by any of the characters or the narrator. â€œIt was a conversation which Edmund never forgotâ€ (152) and that Aslan cautioned there was â€œno need to talk to him about what is pastâ€ (153).
Edmund apologizes to his siblings and they forgive him. The meeting is interrupted by a leopard with a message from the White Witch who requests an audience with Aslan. She confronts Aslan telling him he simply cannot forgive Edmund because his sin was against her and she reminds Aslan, according to the Deep Magic written on the Stone Table, â€œEvery traitor belongs to me as my lawful prey and that for every treachery I have a right to a killâ€ (155). Aslan agrees to go to the Stone Table to die in Edmundâ€™s place as a substitutionary death, his blood for Edmundâ€™s. The White Witch agrees, thinking she has finally won.Â
Aslan begins the journey to the Stone Table. Susan and Lucy sense there is a great weight of sadness that they donâ€™t quite understand. They follow him through the woods until he confronts them. They offer him some comfort along the way. Arriving at the Stone Table, the White Witch is waiting with her hordes of demon-like creatures. They shear Aslanâ€™s mane. They muzzle him. And the White Witch taunts,
And now who has won? Fool! Did you think by all this you would save the human traitor? Now I will kill you instead of him as our pact was and so the Deep Magic will be appeasedâ€¦ Understand, you have given me Narnia forever, you have lost your own life and you have not saved his. In that knowledge, despair and die. (170)
And with one swift motion, the White Witch plunges the knife into Aslan, killing him. After the hordes leave. Lucy and Susan are left alone to attend to the limp body of Aslan. They kneel and kiss his cold face, and stroke his beautiful fur (172). It isnâ€™t long before something magic begins to happen. The sky begins to lighten. Mice appear and begin to gnaw away at the cords that had held him fast to the Stone Table. One by one, the birds begin to sing. As the girls walk off heartbroken, they hear the sound of a huge crack. Turning to look back they see the Stone Table has been split in two and Aslan has disappeared. Suddenly Aslan appears in the light of the bright morning sun. â€œWhat does it all mean?â€ (178) Susan asks Aslan who explains,
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 of 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 traitorâ€™s stead, the Table would crack and Death itself would start working backward.
The girls and Aslan go to the White Witchâ€™s castle and Aslan frees all the creatures who had been turned to stone. He then leads them all back to the encampment, where a fierce battle between the forces of good and evil is being waged. In the final battle scene, Aslan falls on the White Witch, destroying her once and for all, as the few surviving enemy hordes flee in terror.Â Â
The Pevensie children are crowned and with much fanfare, assume their thrones fulfilling the prophecy. Years later, as adults, while pursuing a White Stag through the woods, they come upon a place that is vaguely familiar. Dismounting, they discover the lamppost. And then they remember. Following the trail, they come across the portal back into the Wardrobe where they return to their world, as the children they were when they left.
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is unmistakably a Christian allegory rich in Bible symbolism. It is a brilliant example of Lewisâ€™s characterization of â€œa childrenâ€™s story [being] the best art-form for something you have to say.â€ We are all sons of Adam and daughters of Eve, living in an alternate realityâ€”to us it is our temporal realityâ€”yet there exists another dimension, a spiritual realm that Scripture characterizes as a battle against â€œcosmic powers â€¦and spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.â€ Eph. 6:12. As the Earth â€œgroans in travailâ€ (Rom 8:22) for the return of Jesus so did Narnia for the return of Aslan. Edmund might be thought of as an archetype of Judas Iscariot for betraying his siblings for [30?] Pieces of Turkish Delight. But as far as we know, unlike Edmund, Judas was not offered an opportunity for repentance and forgiveness. Edmund is a better representation of humankind as we all are under the curse of sin. The White Witch is an archetype of Satan and Aslan of Christ. Aslan had committed no treachery and therefore could die in Edmundâ€™s place, satisfying not only the Deep Magic but the â€œmagic deeper still.â€ Lucy and Susan remind the reader that it was women who comforted Jesus along the way to the cross and who were the first to visit the empty tomb. The one major flaw in the allegory is that Edmund had sinned against the White Witch, yet, our sin is against Christ, not Satan.Â
 Although Lewis wrote The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe first, he wanted The Magicianâ€™s Nephew to be read as the first installment of The Chronicles of Narnia.
 C. S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Harper Trophy, a Division of Harper Collins, New York, N.Y., 1950, 1978.
 â€œThen one of the twelve, whose name was Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said, â€œWhat will you give me if I deliver him over to you?â€ And they paid him thirty pieces of silver. And from that moment he sought an opportunity to betray him.â€ Matt. 26:14-16
 â€œ[F]or behold, the winter is past; the rain is over and gone. The flowers appear on the earth, the time of singing has come, and the voice of the turtledove is heard in our land.â€ â€“ Song of Solomon 2:11-12
 â€œAnd going into the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh.â€ Matt. 2:11
 â€œIf we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.â€ 1 John 1:9
 â€œWe know that we are from God, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one.â€ 1 John 5:19
 â€œIndeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.â€ Heb. 9:22
 â€œ[T]he blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.â€ 1 John 1:7b
 Reminiscent of the women on the Via Dolorosa who offered comfort to Jesus as he carried the cross.
 The Disney adaptation captures this scene with horrifying imagery. I watched the movie after reading the book. It is a very disturbing scene and illustrative of the demonic forces that poured out their filth and horror on Jesus as he hung on the cross, bearing our sinâ€”the other filth and horror: â€œHe who knew no sin was made sinâ€¦â€. 2 Cor. 5:21
 â€œAnd very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, [the women] went to the tomb.â€ Mark 16:2
 â€œIn the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.â€ John 1:1
 â€œAnd when the thousand years are ended, Satan will be released from his prison and will come out to deceive the nations that are at the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them for battle; their number is like the sand of the sea. And they marched up over the broad plain of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city, but fire came down from heaven and consumed them.â€ Rev. 20:7-9
 C. S. Lewis, â€œOn Three Ways of Writing for Children,â€ Of Other Worlds, Essays and Stories, First Harvest, 1975.
 Gregory J. Rummo, â€œAre We Living in a Christ-Animating Simulation?â€ Minding the Campus, September 16, 2022.