Lion, the Witch & the Wardrobe, The by Lewis, C.S., 1950

Lion, the Witch & the Wardrobe, The by Lewis, C.S. - Book cover from

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I have always been a voracious reader. As a child I would be happy reading the back of a bottle of shampoo (and in fact, I was one of the first in my family to get the "lather, rinse, repeat" joke the first time we heard it on Saturday Night Live). When I was a little kid I used to stack books around me in my bed, hoping to read them all before I fell asleep. I remember being shocked at age six when someone told me that was a stupid way to do it. Anyway, there is no possible way for me to remember all the children's and YA books I read as a young boy, but one series among them all stands out as the best: C.S. Lewis' The Chronicles of Narnia. I really am not such a fan of fantasy these days though, and I doubt that I would ever have picked these books up again had it not been for my son, who begs me every night to read him some more of them. And I gotta tell you, I don't think its the books so much as the boy's presence, but I'm absolutely loving them. So far we have finished book two, which was actually the first published and the best known of the seven in the series, The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe. The story is pretty much straight traditional fantasy that draws inspiration, imagery and situation from Greek mythology, Norwegian mythology, and heavily from the Christian tradition. It presents a magical world that is replete with the strange and the familiar, such as spells, magic wands, centaurs, dwarves, intelligent animals, evil witches and much, much more. The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe is also a light adventure story with a strong message that stays upbeat and remains suitable for the young'ns throughout.

Four siblings, Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy Pevensie have been shipped out of London to the north to a professor's mansion so that they would be spared the destruction of the Battle of Britain. While exploring one day, Lucy, the youngest, entered a wardrobe to hide. The wardrobe was actually a portal into the realm of Narnia, a magical realm stuck in an endless winter. There she met a faun (half man, half goat) named Tumnus, who took her in, warmed her, fed her and entertained her. Or, at least so she thought. Tumnus admitted before too much time that he had tried to trap her so that the White Witch, Jadis, the pretender to the Throne of Narnia, could capture her. The Witch had issued orders that any "sons of Adam" or "daughters of Eve" (humans) be captured and taken to her immediately. Tumnus feared the Witch, but did not have the heart to turn Lucy over to her, so he helped her escape through the wardrobe and back into our realm. When she returned through the wardrobe Lucy learned that no time at all had gone by since she left for Narnia, even though she had been there for hours. She told her sibiligns, but they didnt believe her at all, until one day Edmund, the brattiest of the children, hid in the wardrobe himself, then was expelled into Narnia throught the back of the wardrobe. But instead of Tumnus Edmund met the White Witch who bribed him with sweets to bring his brother and sisters back. Edmund also inadvertently disclosed the fact that Tumnus had helped Lucy. A short time later all four children went through the wardrobe where they were met by a robin and a beaver. The beaver told them that Tumnus had been taken and turned to stone by the White Witch for helping Lucy. He also told the children that it was the Witch whose magical curse made winter endure forever in Narnia, and that Christmas never came because of her magic! The beaver was really a member of an underground organization opposed to the Witch's rule, and who supported Aslan, the true ruler of Narnia.

The beavers took in the Pevensie brood and prepared them for the brewing battle between Aslan and the White Witch, but before they could finish Edmund snuck out and made for the Witch's castle. Thinking he would be eventually made a king, and longing to brood that over his siblings, Edmund was surprised to be made a prisoner. After a brief interrogation the Witch set out to capture the other three siblings, and planned on putting them to death all at once. Before she could reach the Beaver's home the Beavers and the three remaining Pevensie children made a cross country journey to a place called The Stone Table where they met Aslan. As soon as Aslan made it back to Narnia his power started to destroy the Witch's spells, and Springtime returned to the land. Edmund escaped from the Witch, and before too long though Aslan and the White Witch confronted each other directly. Aslan championed the children, but the the Witch invoked a rule of Narnian law which required Aslan to stand in as a sacrafice for Edmund. Arslan agrees and was killed upon a stone table in the woods, but rose from the dead, freed all those whom the Witch had turned to stone, and led them as reinforcements in a battle against the Witch's forces that Peter had lead in advance of Aslan.

The strongest imagery in the story is clealry Christian imagery, and the strongest of that was Aslan's resurrection from the dead. Many of the important images in this book are metaphors for stories from the Gospels. Consider: Even with the bare bones description I have provided above it should be pretty easy to see that Aslan sacraficed himself for the sins of Edmund, and literally died for him, just as Christian dogma says that Jesus Christ died for man. More, the death and resurrection of Aslan occurs as Narnia is entering, finally, its Springtime, and Aslan's resurrection takes place in the presence of females. Father Christmas even makes an appearance as the children fled from the White Witch, probably to boost the feeling of joy as the story progressed, but out of the blue and completely out of context otherwise.

I'm not sure what an adult and experienced fantasy reader would get of this book. Probably nothing, but since I'm not a fantasy reader any longer, I doubt I am the one to talk to about this. But for those of you with kids, especially one or more who are under ten years old, get it and read it to them.

Reviewed by GTT · Rating Rating of 3.5 star(s)


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