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The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

From Academic Kids

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe is a fantasy novel for children by C. S. Lewis. It was the first of the Chronicles of Narnia to be written, in 1950, and is the best known. The Magician's Nephew is thus a "prequel".

Contents

Synopsis

Four English children, Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy have been sent to stay in a large house owned by an old professor, Digory Kirke, as part of the evacuation of children from English cities during World War II. Whilst playing a game of hide and seek, Lucy enters a wardrobe, and finds herself in a snow-covered forest (which curiously features a lighted lamp post). She meets Mr Tumnus, a faun, who befriends her. Over tea and buttered toast, Mr Tumnus intimates that Narnia is in thrall to a tyrant, the White Witch, who turns her enemies into stone, and has made it "always Winter, but never Christmas".

When Lucy returns, she is surprised to discover that the other children have not noticed her long absence. She takes them into the wardrobe, but it is just a normal wardrobe, with a solid wooden back.

Some time later, both Lucy and Edmund enter Narnia. Lucy meets Mr Tumnus again, but Edmund encounters the White Witch herself, and her Dwarf. The witch gives Edmund Turkish delight, and extracts details of what he knows.

On their return, to Lucy's disgust, Edmund pretends that he has not really been in Narnia. Peter and Susan speak to Professor Digory Kirke about their concern that Lucy persists in treating her "made up story" as real, but the professor refuses to dismiss it. Rather, he defends Lucy, asking the others to compare her record of truthfulness against Edmund's.

Finally, all four children go into Narnia. They discover that Mr. Tumnus is missing, and his house has been ransacked. They meet Mr. and Mrs. Beaver, who speak of Aslan who is rumoured to be arriving to save Narnia. They prepare to set off on a journey to the Stone Table to meet Aslan. They notice that Edmund has disappeared, and realise that he had, in fact, been in Narnia before, and has betrayed them. Along the way, they are overtaken by Father Christmas, who gives them all useful presents; a sword and shield for Peter, a horn and bow for Susan, and a healing cordial and dagger for Lucy. Father Christmas goes on to hint that the power of the Witch is waning.

Meanwhile, Edmund has met up with the White Witch and her dwarf again, who are travelling via sledge. Along the way, they come across a party of animals who are celebrating Christmas with a feast provided by Father Christmas. The enraged Witch turns them all into stone and Edmund, who unsuccessfully tried to persuade her otherwise, realizes to his horror the evil he has allied with. Eventually, they have to abandon the sledge, as the snow has begun thawing.

The other three children meet Aslan who reveals that they (along with Edmund) are prophesized to become the future kings and queens of Narnia. After an attack by a wolf, who is killed by Peter, Aslan orders an armed force to retrace the animal's steps and find his master. The warriors find and rescue Edmund, who is about to be killed by the Queen in order to cancel the prophecy. She escapes. Upon returning to Aslan, Edmund and the Lion have a long private conversation in which the boy is forgiven. Later there is a parley with the Witch who demands Edmund as her right as executioner, but Aslan has a private bargaining with a counterproposal. It later transpires that the price for this is that Aslan has agreed to forfeit his own life. The requirement that a life be paid is described as "Deep Magic from the Dawn of Time". Aslan is slaughtered by the Witch and her minions on the Stone Table.

But as dawn breaks, a "Deeper Magic from before the Dawn of Time" which the applies to the willing self sacrfice of a good person on behalf of a repentant traitor raises Aslan from the dead, and the Stone Table is broken in two.

The Witch is vanquished, and the four children become the Kings and Queens of Narnia. Peter, the oldest, is appointed High King.

After many years' reign — which incidentally encompasses the whole of the time-period of The Horse and His Boy — the kings and queens, now adults, go on a hunt for a rare white stag. While in pursuit, they find the lamp post in the forest, pass through the wardrobe, and find themselves back in our world, where they are still children and where no time has passed since they left. Consulting with the professor about their experience, he tells them that while the wardrobe portal cannot be used again, this is hardly the end of their adventures in Narnia.


Evacuation

The four Pevansie children, Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy, were evacuated from London in 1940 and went to stay at the large country home of Professor Digory Kirke. Several days after arriving, they were exploring the house and one of the rooms they came across was a spare room with nothing inside except a wardrobe.


Mr Tumnus

Lucy looked into the wardrobe and found that it led to a snowy wood. She reached a lamp-post in the middle of the forest and at this lamp-post she came face to face with a faun, who introduced himself as Mr Tumnus and told Lucy that she had found her way into the land of Narnia. He invited her back to his cave for tea, and Lucy asked him about life in Narnia. Mr Tumnus said that life in Narnia had once been beautiful, but it was now endless winter. He then began to play his flute and Lucy fell asleep. She later woke up to find Mr Tumnus in tears. He confessed to her that he was in the pay of the White Witch, who had ordered him to hand over any Sons of Adam or Daughters of Eve that he saw in the forest. But Mr Tumnus said that he hadn't known what humans were like before he met Lucy, so he said he couldn't give her up to the witch and showed her the way home instead.


Edmund and the Wardrobe

Lucy thought she had been away for hours, but when she came out of the wardrobe it appeared that she had been away for only a few seconds - the other three children were still within sight of the room with the wardrobe in it. She explained to them about what she had seen in Narnia, but they wouldn't believe her and she got very upset.

A few days later, the four children were playing hide and seek when Edmund followed Lucy into the wardrobe. At first Edmund was surprised at not being able to find Lucy in the wardrobe, but he soon found that there was indeed a snowy wood at the back of the wardrobe. Edmund made his way through the wood, continually shouting out for Lucy, until he heard jingling bells in the distance. A sledge appeared and it was being pulled by reindeer, with a dwarf sitting on the front seat and a tall lady with very white skin sitting on the back seat. The sledge halted and the lady introduced herself as the Queen of Narnia. At first, Edmund felt uneasy about the way she was speaking to him, but in the end she invited him to sit on her sledge and gave him a warm drink. She then produced a box of Turkish Delight (at Edmund's request) which Edmund ate. During their conversation the Queen got Edmund to tell her that he had two sisters and a brother, and she seemed especially interested in the fact that there were four of them. The Queen then promised to make Edmund a prince if he came back into Narnia with his brother and sisters, and promised that he would become King of Narnia when she was gone. The Queen then departed and Edmund headed back through the forest. As he reached the lamp-post, Lucy appeared and told him that everything was all right - because the White Witch hadn't done anything to Mr Tumnus for not handing her over. Lucy then describes the White Witch and Edmund realises that she is the lady he has just made friends with. But he was still determined to taste more of that Turkish Delight.

When Lucy and Edmund return through the Wardrobe, they find Peter and Susan. Lucy tells them that Edmund has got into the Wardrobe as well, but Edmund does something extremely spiteful and says that they had been playing a game by pretending that the country in the wardrobe was true. Lucy is upset again, while Peter is furious with Edmund. He still believes that Lucy's story about the country in the wardrobe is untrue, but is angry with Edmund for encouraging her to 'tell lies' and then jeering at her. The four children then all agree to stay away from the Wardrobe and relations between them improve. Edmund stops jeering at Lucy and they both manage to enjoy other activities in and around the house.


Back in Narnia

The four children return to Narnia a few days later when hiding in the wardrobe from Mrs Macready, the housekeeper who was angry with them for being in the way when she was showing people round the house. Edmund forgets that he must pretend never to have been in Narnia before, and says that they should be heading in a certain direction to reach the lamp-post. Peter is disgusted on realising that Edmund has tried to make Lucy look like a liar, and calls him a 'beast'. Edmund responds by saying to himself: 'I'll pay you all out for this, you pack of stuck-up, self-satisfied prigs'.

Lucy then says she wants to take the others to see Mr Tumnus. They finally reach his cave but a terrible surprise awaits them. Mr Tumnus is gone and his cave has been ransacked. A letter has been left there and it says that Mr Tumnus has been arrested and is awaiting his trial on a charge of high treason. Lucy knows that this means Mr Tumnus has been arrested for disobeying the White Witch's orders to hand her over.


Mr and Mrs Beaver

As they walk away from the cave, the four children meet a beaver who takes them to his house on the dam where he lives with his wife. Mr and Mrs Beaver give the four children tea and Mr Beaver says that he knows what has happened to Mr Tumnus. A bird who knows Mr Beaver told him that Mr Tumnus was taken away by the White Witch's secret police and taken to her house. He couldn't say for sure what had happened to him, but it is well known in Narnia that not many people taken into her house ever come out again. Mr Beaver has heard, supposedly from people who made it out of the house, that the witch's house is full of statues of people - and animals - that she has turned to stone.

Mr Beaver then tells the children about the great lion Aslan, who has returned to Narnia after many years away and that the White Witch will soon be moved out of power. Mr Beaver promises to take the children to meet Aslan at the Stone Table, which is a distance down the river from the Beaver's house. He also tells them about the prophecy of Cair Paravel, which means that when two sons of Adam and two daughters of Eve sit on the thrones at Cair Paravel then it will be not only the end of the White Witch's reign but of her life. That's why Mr Beaver and the children had to be so cautious as they made their way to the house, because the White Witch would be extra specially dangerous if she knew about them.

Everyone had been attending so hard to what Mr Beaver was saying that they noticed nothing else for a long time. Suddenly, Lucy notices that Edmund is missing. They all rush outside and shout his name but to no avail. Mr Beaver then tells the children that he has no doubt where Edmund has gone. 'Don't you understand?' he tells them. 'He's gone to her - to the White Witch. Edmund has betrayed us!'

Mr Beaver then orders everyone to get ready for a long journey because 'There's not a moment to lose!'


Edmund and the White Witch

As Mr Beaver guessed, Edmund had gone to the White Witch. He found it very difficult to get there because the sky was getting darker and the snow getting heavier all the time. When Edmund reaches the house, after first explaining himself to Maugrim (Chief of the White Witch's Secret Police), the White Witch was very angry that he had come alone. Edmund then tells the Witch that he was brought his brother and sisters into Narnia and that they were at the Beaver's house. He also tells the Witch that Aslan has also come to Narnia. The Witch is absolutely horrified and immediately orders one of her slaves (a dwarf) to prepare the sledge without bells. 'We'll creep up silently, and burst open them!' she says to herself. She then calls for Maugrim, and orders him to take the swiftest of his wolves and go down to the house of the beavers, and kill anyone that he finds there.


The Spell Begins to Break

The beavers and the three children set off on their journey through the winter night, with Mr Beaver leading them along a carefully chosen route that he knew the White Witch's sledge would not be able to travel along. After they left the house, Maugrim arrives and finds it empty. He is unable to find any tracks because of the freshly-fallen snow, and the scent is cold.

After walking several miles in the snow, Mr Beaver suddenly leads his wife and the three humans into a cave - he says: 'This is an old hiding place for beavers in bad times.'

They soon fall asleep and wake up hours later to hear a jingling of bells - a sound they'd been thinking about since starting their journey. Mr Beaver is convinced that it is the White Witch and scrambles out of the cave to hide in the bushes and watch from a distance as the Witch's sledge passes by. But he soon discovers that the jingling bells are not coming from the Witch's sledge, and shouts for the others to come out and join him. He says to the children: 'Did I ever tell you that the Witch made it always winter and never Christmas? Well - who is this?'

Father Christmas has finally got into Narnia. The Witch has kept him out for a long time, but he's got in at last. And the great lion Aslan is on the move!

Father Christmas gives presents to the three children - Peter receives a sword and shield, Susan receives a bow and arrow, Lucy receives a dagger and a small bottle of cordial which will restore the health of anyone who is wounded. Father Christmas then gives the five travellers a feast of food which will be their Christmas dinner. He then sets off on his sledge and the travellers re-enter the cave to eat their dinner, before setting off again on their long journey.


Winter Meets its Death

Edmund was forced to travel with the Witch on her sledge and the journey seemed to last forever. It didn't look like the Witch still wanted to make Edmund a king. All those nice things he said about her sounded pretty silly now. He would have given anything to be with the others now, even Peter!

The Witch's sledge was still travelling through the snow in the morning, and they suddenly came across a group of animals who were sitting at a table eating dinner. Edmund could smell plum pudding, and was convinced that the animals were eating Christmas dinner. The White Witch demands to know where all the food came from, and one of the animals - an old fox - says that they were given the food by Father Christmas. The Witch is furious and turns the animals into stone. Edmund now realises that he has joined sides with evil and is regretting it. But the next thing he notices is a change in the weather. The snow is gradually turning into slush and the frozen river running alongside the road is flowing again. Eventually, the Witch's reindeer are unable to go any further and she orders them to walk, despite the dwarf's protestations that they could never reach the Stone Table on foot - she tells him: 'Are you my councillor or my slave - do as you're told!'

Edmund's hands are tied behind his back and he is forced to walk with the Witch and her dwarf behind him for miles and miles until they finally stop in a wood. By that time the snow has melted completely.


Aslan

Peter, Susan, Lucy and the two beavers finally reach the Stone Table and meet Aslan. Mr Beaver has to explain to Aslan that Edmund has betrayed them and joined the White Witch, and Aslan assures everyone that all will be done to rescue Edmund.

Aslan then shows Peter the far-off view of Cair Paravel and tells him that he will be High King of Narnia, being the oldest of the four children. Suddenly, they hear Susan blowing her ivory horn and Peter rushes back towards the Stone Table to witness a scene of panic - people are running everywhere and screaming. A wolf is standing on the Stone Table and Peter draws out his sword and shield. After a fierce struggle, Peter finally managed to kill the wolf - who was Maugrim, Chief of the Secret Police. One of Maugrim's wolves is spotted nearby and Aslan orders some of his animals - including a winged horse - to follow the wolf as it is their chance to rescue Edmund.

Aslan's creatures rescue Edmund just as the White Witch is preparing to kill him, and he is brought to the Stone Table where he is reconciled with his brother and sisters.


Deep Magic From the Dawn of Time

One of Aslan's satyrs informs him that there is a messenger from the enemy who craves audience. The messenger is the White Witch's dwarf, with the message that the White Witch requests to speak with Aslan on safe conduct. The Witch herself later appears and tells Aslan that he has a traitor with him. Everyone knows straight away that the 'traitor' is Edmund. The Witch reminds Aslan that every traitor is her property and that for every treachery she has a right to kill, and unless she has blood the whole of Narnia will be overturned and will perish in fire and water. Aslan then goes to speak with the Witch in private and later reassures everyone that he has settled the dispute.

Aslan then announces that there will be a battle the next day between his side and the White Witch's side, and gives Peter guidance on how to control the battle lines. Aslan is then quiet for the rest of the evening and everyone who is camping with him in the woods is concerned.

Later that night, Susan and Lucy see Aslan walking away from the encampment and follow him. He soon sees them and asks them to walk with him. They reach the border of the hill on which the Stone Table stands, and he tells them to stop there and not to let themselves be seen. When Aslan proceeds towards the Stone Table, the two girls realise that the table is surrounded by the White Witch and all of those on her side. Aslan is set upon by the Witch's people and they tie him to the Stone Table.

The Witch finally approaches Aslan and informs him that - as agreed in their pact - she will kill him instead of Edmund and that the Deep Magic of the Dawn of Time will be appeased. She then announces that she will go back on her word and kill Edmund as well before killing Aslan with a stone knife. She then orders her people to follow her and boasts about how she will set about what remains of the war, and is confident of winning now that Aslan is dead.

As soon as the Witch and her people are gone, Susan and Lucy approach Aslan's body on the Stone Table and soon realise that mice are biting away the cords which are holding the body to the table. Both girls are extremely upset and have no sleep all night.


Deeper Magic from the Dawn of Time

That morning, Susan and Lucy hear a loud cracking noise and find the Stone Table cracked in half. Aslan has come back to life and reveals that there was a Deeper Magic from the Dawn of Time which meant that any unlawful traitors would be brought back to life. Susan and Lucy then get on Aslan's back and he flies to the White Witch's castle, where Aslan restores hundreds of statues back to life - including Lucy's friend Mr Tumnus. But the gates are locked, and all of the prisoners are worried about getting out. Never fear, Giant Rumblebuffin kicks the doors open and all the prisoners escape.


The Great Battle

Meanwhile, the battle between the sides is in full swing. The Witch is turning members of Aslan's army into stone, while at the same time Aslan's army are finishing off many of the foe - especially Giant Rumblebuffin. The Witch is just about to turn one of Aslan's satyr's into stone when Edmund brings his sword crashing down on her wand. She then gives him a massive blow in the stomach with her blunt wand, but is then chased away by Peter. She reaches the edge of a cliff when Aslan roars very loudly and causes her to fall into a ravine, she is killed instantly. By this stage, most of the Witch's army are dead and those who are still living are giving themselves up or taking to flight.

Edmund and all the other injured friends of the Great Battle are restored to health by Lucy's potion. They then return to the encampment and Aslan promises to take everyone to Cair Paravel the next day.


The Prophecy is Fulfilled

Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy are all crowned kings and queens of Narnia and rule as monarchs for the next 40 years. They keep the country in good order and are very popular with Narnians. Then, after 40 years on the throne, they suddenly return home through the wordrobe door and are schoolchildren all over again.

Back in the spare room, they hear voices outside the door. It is Mrs Macready, still talking. But luckily she does not come into the room and they aren't caught. They then go and tell the professor about their adventures, and are most concerned about the coats they left behind in Narnia. He tells them not to worry about four moth-eaten old coats, and that they wouldn't get able to get back into Narnia again - not by that route.

The professor was proved right in saying that it was the end of the adventures in the Wardrobe. But it was only the beginning of the adventures in Narnia.


Commentary

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. 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 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 through being first to see the resurrected Aslan. The book is not intended to be a re-telling 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).

Modern perspectives

Some view the values in Lewis's books as being in ways more traditional than modern or postmodern. The book, and the rest of the Narnia series, have been criticised for sexism, racism, and other offences against modern sensibilities. However the series, and this book in particular, remain popular with children and adults alike. At the end of this book, Lewis tells us that the four children grew to adulthood in Narnia, turning into a kind of Arthurian Camelot (complete with a cod-Shakespearean vocabulary), with their lives in England almost completely forgotten until they stumble back into the wardrobe, instantly shedding the years and turning back into schoolchildren. In Narnia, they had been on the verge of maturity, being courted by Narnian humans, and the subtext suggests that this was the reason they were ejected back into an earlier, more innocent stage of life. Some critics have suggested (from this and later material) that Lewis may have regarded some forms of sexual maturity as something of a fallen state, such as in "The Last Battle", when Susan is described with some disgust as having lost interest in Narnia and become more concerned with "lipstick, nylons and invitations". In later adventures in the Narnia series, the children do not visit for such a long subjective time, returning home as soon as their immediate involvement is completed.

The above quote rather suggests Susan had left behind her faith as so many children do upon reaching their teenage years. Lewis spends a great deal of time addressing the modern views of sexual maturity, encouraging some and discouraging others, in his book That Hideous Strength. In these and other writings, Lewis views many things as being in a fallen state, but that sexual maturity is not inherently fallen, only often found in such states.

Cultural references

  • The book inspired the song "Narnia" by Steve Hackett, and was sufficiently well-known to be briefly parodied in an episode of The Young Ones.
  • The second game from the Simon the Sorcerer series has the title The Lion, the Wizard and the Wardrobe, and the wardrobe is also used as a transportation device. Presumably, the series contain many other references to Narnia.
  • In the television series Black Books, the character "Gus" (who is played by the actor who played the Witch's dwarf and Trumpkin in the BBC adaptations) asks for some Turkish Delight.
  • In Roald Dahl's book Matilda, the character Matilda mentions that she loves the book "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe".
  • An episode of South Park, Here Comes the Neighborhood, includes scenes with a pride of lions. The leader of the lions is named Aslan, copying the voice intonation and general animated look from an earlier animated film, "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe", but with actions and response inconsistent with Aslan as written by Lewis.
  • In an episode of Friends, Chandler says sarcastically that pressing his third nipple opens a door "to the magical land of Narnia."
  • In an episode of Family Guy, Peter climbs into his dryer looking for a sock and he encounters a faun who introduces himself as "Mr. Tumnus."
  • In an episode of Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Willow has a nightmare in which she is dressed as a nerd and doing an oral book report on "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe" to a very uninterested class. The title may have been chosen to emphasize her lack of social belonging in the dream.
  • A song by the band Phish is titled "Prince Caspian" and features what may be 'the sound of horse's hooves galloping under water' and the repeating lyrics "oh to be Prince Caspian, afloat upon the waves... with nothing to return to but the demons in their caves."
  • The Discworld series of humourous fantasy novels by Terry Pratchett contain occasional references to wardrobes that lead to magical lands, although none of the wardrobes encountered thus far in the series are known to do so.
  • In The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen comic vol. 2, #1, reference is made in a text fragment to the apple tree from The Magician's Nephew. A text piece in #2 refers to the possibility of making a wardrobe from it.

This novel is being adapted into a film directed by Shrek's Andrew Adamson and is scheduled for release December 9th of 2005.

The Chronicles of Narnia
C. S. Lewis
The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe | Prince Caspian | The Voyage of the Dawn Treader
The Silver Chair | The Horse and His Boy | The Magician's Nephew | The Last Battle
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The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe (Google books) (http://print.google.com/print?q=&ie=UTF-8&id=6hZTSN9DRgwC)nl:Het betoverde land achter de kleerkast sv:Häxan och lejonet

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