The Lion, the Witch & the Wardrobe, completed in the winter of 1949 & published in 1950, tells the story of four ordinary children: Peter, Susan, Edmund & Lucy Pevensie. They discover a wardrobe in Prof. Digory Kirke’s house that leads to the magical land of Narnia, which is currently under the spell of a witch. The four children fulfill an ancient, mysterious prophecy while in Narnia. The Pevensie children help Aslan (the Turkish word for lion) & his army save Narnia from the evil White Witch, who’s reigned over the Narnia in winter for 100 years.
This edition follows the original numbering scheme. Recent publishers have renumbered the volumes so they are ordered chronologically.
I have read this book (and series) so many times that there is no way to count. I’ve owned all the books on multiple occasions and in multiple formats – my current format is a trade paperback omnibus edition. I truly believe this is a book that is a such a treat for the eyes that all should have the opportunity to read it at least once. The book was written for children and it does read that way…but this is not a “childish” book (or series) in any sense of the word.
The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe (as well as the entire Narnia Chronicles) is definitely a Christian allegory but it’s written in a very…non preachy way. Most young children who read this book are unlikely to recognize the Christian elements. I remember reading this series several times as a child (as well as watching the BBC movies*, which I love and own) and it took me quite some time (as well as age) before I started to notice the Christian elements. I think that is one of the things that makes this book so beloved: even if you’ve never heard the story of Jesus you can thoroughly enjoy this book.
Some of the Christian elements in this book include a Messiah, a god-like figure (the Emperor Over Sea), the sacrifice and death of the Messiah for the sins of another, a resurrection of the Messiah and the miraculous healing of others. Aslan the Lion is the son of the Emperor Over the Sea and the Messiah figure of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. All of Narnia had been ruled for centuries by the evil White Witch but her downtrodden subjects dreamed and whispered of Aslan returning and liberating them from her cruel reign.
While the Christian elements mentioned are very clear to those who are familiar with Christianity, Lewis did not start by trying to create a parable.
“Some people seem to think that I began by asking myself how I could say something about Christianity to children; then fixed on the fairy tale as an instrument, then collected information about child psychology and decided what age group I’d write for; then drew up a list of basic Christian truths and hammered out ‘allegories’ to embody them. This is all pure moonshine. I couldn’t write in that way. It all began with images; a faun carrying an umbrella, a queen on a sledge, a magnificent lion. At first there wasn’t anything Christian about them; that element pushed itself in of its own accord.”
~ from Of Other Worlds by C. S. Lewis
The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe has always held magic for me. From the very first moment when Lucy opens the Wardrobe door to the last word in the book – pure magic. Even though I’ve read this book many, many times (both as a child and as an adult) I still get excited as Lucy discovers Narnia, my breath still catches in my throat when the children are being chased by the White Witch and I still get sad and anxious during Aslan’s sacrifice.
One of the things that has greatly enhanced this particular re-reading is that it was a group read with one of my bookclubs. It’s been wonderful discussing this book with others and I find that I’ve learned new things this time around. We had a wonderful discussion about myriad parts of the book. That is what a good bookclub is for and I feel that my next read of this wonderful favorite will be even better.
*The stupid Disney versions should not exist. They are…atrocious. 😦