Skip to content

Book #9: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

Quick Facts

  • Though The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe was the first book C.S. Lewis wrote in the Chronicles of Narnia series, the book is second in the chronological order of the series. The Magician’s Nephew precedes it.
  • The Chronicles of Narnia has sold over 100 million copies and has been published in 47 languages since The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe was first published in 1950.
  • The movie based on the book was released in 2005 and has grossed $745 million, currently making it the 37th highest-grossing film of all time worldwide.
  • It All Began With A Picture is an essay by Narnia author C.S. Lewis in which he describes the origins of the Narnia series.
  • Lewis was an atheist-turned-Christian who also wrote The Screwtape Letters, Mere Christianity, The Space Trilogy, and countless other fiction and non-fiction books.
  • Lewis died on November 22, 1963—the same day as John F. Kennedy’s assassination.

Opening Line

“Once there were four children whose names were Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy. This story is about something that happened to them when they were sent away from London during the war because of the air-raids.”

My Thoughts

Finally, a short and easy read. Thank you, C.S. Lewis. But that’s not the only bonus of this book—it’s also my first re-read on the Time list. At 208 small pages, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe will probably be my quickest read of the 101.

I’m sure you know the story, but here’s a quick recap: Four siblings, Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy, are relocated to a mysterious, large house of “the professor” during World War II in England. While exploring the house, they stumble across a magical wardrobe that connects to the fantasy land of Narnia—a land with dwarves, giants, centaurs, minotaurs, dryads, witches, talking beavers and wolves. It’s kind of like The Lord of the Rings without the hobbits.

Narnia has long prophesied about the eventual coming of the four—known as “the sons of Adam” and “the daughters of Eve.” Once they stumbled into Narnia (Lucy first, followed by Edmund, and then the whole group), they realize that a war is brewing between the White Witch and Aslan—a god-like lion who’s got most of the country on his side. The witch has enchanted Narnia and made it “always winter but never Christmas.” Did C.S. Lewis know how to connect with kids or what?

The kids get caught up in the middle of all of it. Edmund betrays his peeps for the White Witch, and Aslan sacrifices himself (but resurrects the next morning) in order to keep Edmund alive. In the end, the good guys win and the four children sit on the throne…that is, before they stumble back through the wardrobe into their normal lives where time stood still.

This is a classic children’s novel. C.S. Lewis said he dreamed up the plot after seeing a painting of a faun carrying an umbrella in snowy woods. In his essay entitled It All Began with a Picture, he said, “this picture has been in my mind since I was about sixteen. Then one day, when I was about forty, I said to myself: ‘Let’s try to make a story about it.’” From there, Narnia was born.

The book is loaded with symbolism. Lewis drew heavily from his Christian roots while creating the story. The main plotline in is an allegory of Christ’s crucifixion. Just a few examples: Aslan is the Christ-like figure who gives himself up for a traitor, Edmund, to an angry mob who ridicules and mocks him. The Stone Table on which Aslan dies parallels the cross on which Christ was crucified. Susan and Lucy, much like Mary Magdelene and the women in the gospels, are the first to witness the resurrected Aslan.

While some people criticized Lewis for trying to “indoctrinate” children, I believe a good story is a good story. And that’s what Lewis created. For years, authors have been writing allegories to Christ’s death. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe has to top the list.

Aslan, as featured in the movie.

On a personal note, I’ve always been a fan of Lewis’ writing. Mere Christianity was a book that marked a turning point in my life, so I’m obviously a bit biased and fond of his work. I love authors with a knack for verbalizing thoughts and feelings in ways that I myself can’t articulate. It’s a testament to C.S. Lewis that he can take theology and melt it down to something readable for ten year olds.

As you can imagine, the writing is simple, straightforward, and easy to understand. If Hemingway wrote fantasy novels for children, he might write them like C.S. Lewis. This is not Cormac McCarthy or Thomas Pynchon. Nothing heady here. But, at the same time, Lewis manages to write beautiful prose that creates vivid mental images—kind of like McCarthy without the stark, barren wasteland, blood and gore.

Most, if not all, of the books on Time’s list are timeless (pun intended?). That’s what makes a great book. The story itself carries on for years and years after its author is gone. There is no exception here. Whether or not you read the books as a kid, Lewis somehow manages to carry you back to your childhood—when your imagination was wide open and anything could happen.

Several years from now, I look forward to introducing my son to Aslan, the White Witch, Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy, Tumnus, the Beavers, and the land of Narnia. It’s really an amazing series of books. If you haven’t read them, then go read The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe…like, now. It will take about two hours, if that, to read. Thank me later.

Other Stuff

The Meaning: As I mentioned above, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe is a Christian allegory. Even if you choose to not dig deeper into its meaning, the story itself is still amazing. Redemption. Sacrifice. Forgiveness. Honor. It’s all right there.

Highlights: Can it get any better than the moment in which the Stone Table cracks and Aslan comes back to life—with a full mane of hair, no less? Great scene.

Lowlights: Thanks to the movie, I kept imagining all of the actors while I was reading the book. That totally messed me up. Granted, Tilda Swinton was pretty creepy as the White Witch. But that’s why, whenever possible, read the book first or you’ve cheated yourself. Some Hollywood casting director has told you what the characters should look like. I’ve read this book before, but it’s been a long time.

Memorable Line: “Wrong will be right, when Aslan comes in sight / At the sound of his roar, sorrows will be no more / When he bares his teeth, winter meets its death / And when he shakes his mane, we shall have spring again.” – Old rhyme cited by Mr. Beaver

Final Thoughts: If you are a kid or ever once were a kid, you should read The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. It’s an amazing story by an amazing writer.

Up Next: Rabbit, Run

Advertisements
41 Comments Post a comment
  1. Patti #

    Nice review for a wonderful book. The first time I read it I was just out of college reading it to a girl I was baby-sitting for. Here parents had been reading it with her and had gotten about halfway through. I started reading it to her during an afternoon rest time and finished it off! Her parents were a bit peeved with me because they had been looking forward to it.

    Like

    February 15, 2011
  2. Great review of one of my very favorite books ever! I was twelve when my 6th grade teacher read part of this to our class, and after that I was hooked. I didn’t grow up in a church and totally missed the allegory, not figuring it out until I was much older. But as you say, a good story is a good story. I fell in love with Aslan and Narnia (how I wanted there to be such a place, and such a King … had I but known) and even now I re-read the series roughly once a year. 😀

    Like

    February 15, 2011
  3. I read the book just before the movie came out. (I was a film reviewer at the time). It was so simple and so flimsy. I thought “this has made people swoon?” Perhaps that is what makes it wonderful. I still think about the old man who tries to go to Narnia from the wardrobe and realizes he can’t. It is sad and wonderful at the same time.

    Like

    February 15, 2011
    • Yes, it’s very simple. But there’s a lot going on underneath. I think that’s what makes it brilliant.

      Like

      February 15, 2011
  4. I’m really enjoying your reviews, I think in large part because you give great insight into the author and their influences. I love the autobiographical standpoint, it’s a fascinating (and relevant) way to review a book. Thanks muchly to you.

    Like

    February 15, 2011
    • Without the author, there is no book. That’s why I think it’s important to at least talk about the author a little bit. Everyone who writes a book is influenced from somewhere. Thanks for reading my reviews and checking out the blog.

      Like

      February 15, 2011
  5. Alex #

    I’m like aka gringita- I fell in love with the series in elementary school, but had no idea about the Christian parallels until I re-read the books much later. Do you have any thoughts on the fact that the ‘order’ of the books has been rearranged to reflect the chronology? (A friend had a wonderful rant about this recently, so I was curious about your opinion.)

    Like

    February 16, 2011
    • The Lion is such a great introduction to the series, it’s hard to imagine starting it with something else, but that’s what C.S. wanted. I get it, though. Before I read Lord of the Rings, I read The Hobbit. I liked to read stuff in order, so I understand why he changed it. But, like I said, the changes do take away some of the mystery of Narnia.

      Like

      February 16, 2011
  6. That sounds like an interesting adventure story, perfectly connects to the modern time in my thought of a wardrobe and the name of the land, Narnia…

    Like

    February 18, 2011
  7. the book is cool

    Like

    August 20, 2011
  8. As with most of CS Lewis’s work, this one doesn’t disappoint. This was a good, honest review of the book (but don’t stop there, read the series!). If anyone is looking for a bit more adult series, Lewis’s space trilogy (Out of the Silent Planet, Perelandra, and That Hideous Strength) is definitely worth a read.

    Eric
    – inkedkisses.wordpress.com

    Liked by 1 person

    October 5, 2011
  9. Love it for exactly those reasons.

    Like

    October 7, 2011
  10. I actually first was introduced to the series with the Silver Chair, and went back and read the series from the beginning in chronological order. I have to say, of all the books this one was probably one of the most memorable. Definitely a better place to get into the series than most of the other books. I really love this review, it brilliantly simple and hits all the important points. And I enjoy the added facts and history of the book, I even learned something.

    Like

    October 11, 2011
  11. Loved the book too. I read it in December and although I’m 21 years old, it took me back to my childhood. I wish I had read it in those days. Nice review.

    Like

    May 14, 2012
  12. Nel #

    I took this book to school with me for Show and Tell when I was in Kindergarten. I still have that beat up paperback copy, complete with tape repair jobs, food smears from reading at the table, and my name written in large, wobbly, five-year-old print on the back of the front cover. I’ve got good childhood memories of reading the whole series. It doesn’t ever get old.

    Like

    June 25, 2012
  13. My grade 2 teacher read this to us and i remember myself clinging on to every word. It was such a great book and i think i might go re-read it soon.
    great review! brough back so many memories!

    Like

    July 12, 2012
    • DigitalRain #

      Amen. I’m far from a Christian. I’m a Catholic-turned-atheist-turned-pantheist-by-way-of-liberation-theology-and-Jewish-humanism-and-Islamic-egalitarianism-and-marijuana-and a-few-Catholic-and-Hindu-and-Buddhist-and-Mormon-ideas-about-the-good-life-and-the-after-life, and I love these books. Read Lewis with an open mind, and be sure to treat it as good storytelling and interesting philosophy as opposed to theology with those with whom you share it. And Fuck, Winston Churchill is turning in his grave with the end of that that sentence.

      Like

      February 17, 2013
  14. C.S. Lewis is one of my all-time favorites. Nice review.

    Like

    December 30, 2012
  15. Reblogged this on Kyle R. Bullock and commented:
    Ugh – this story sounds a lot like that movie I saw the other day. Way to be original, people.

    How many times have you said this? For years, storytellers have been repackaging successful stories in order to make a quick buck. It’s not a new problem and isn’t it frustrating? Didn’t Avatar seem a lot like Pocahontas? Didn’t White House Down look a lot like Olympus Has Fallen? Didn’t The Great Gatsby look exactly like the book, The Great Gatsby!? (Oh, wait… that last one may have been on purpose…) Still, recycling stories can be a real no-no in my book.

    But I’ll make an exception for C.S. Lewis.

    The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe is a retelling (an allegory) of the story of Jesus. Retelling the best-selling story of all time in the land of Narnia, Lewis paints an absolutely gorgeous and brilliant picture of a wonderful story. Even if you aren’t a Christian, this book is an incredibly story about love, which is why I repost it here for all to engage and enjoy. It’s also an easy book to read (it takes about an afternoon to read for adults, maybe a week for kids) so there really is no excuse not to read it.

    I recently reread this adventure a few weeks ago. I left it with such a sense of awe and wonder that I wore a smile for several days afterward. It’s worth the read. Take a look at Robert Bruce’s review on the book (and take a look at his blog, 101 Books). I love what he said, especially his summation of the book:

    Even if you choose to not dig deeper into its meaning, the story itself is still amazing. Redemption. Sacrifice. Forgiveness. Honor. It’s all right there.

    And if you haven’t read this story yet, may I be the first to shame you into doing so.

    SHAME.

    🙂

    KB

    Like

    November 3, 2013
  16. Love this review. One of the greatest Christian allegories of all time.

    Love your quote: “Even if you choose to not dig deeper into its meaning, the story itself is still amazing. Redemption. Sacrifice. Forgiveness. Honor. It’s all right there.”

    I hope you don’t mind that I reposted this on my blog. Thanks for the words!

    Like

    November 3, 2013
  17. Gret items frkm you, man. I’ve be mindful yourr stuuff prior to and you’re simploy too excellent.
    I actually lik whzt you’ve received right here, certainly like what you’re stating and tthe best way
    byy which you say it. You make iit entertainong and yoou continue to take are of to kewp it smart.

    I can’t wait to read much more from you. This iis actually a wonderful
    site.

    Like

    July 23, 2014
  18. Bethany Hawkins #

    I didn’t know that there links to Christianity in this book, but as soon as you mentioned all of the links I saw them. It’s incredible that the book has such symbolism but is still just a really good childrens book too! You write a very detailed review of all of the books you have read and I am looking forward to reading through many more and reading a few more of the books on the list to see if I agree or disagree with your reviews!

    Like

    April 3, 2015
  19. Great review, made me want to dig out my copy of the book and give it another read. Interested to hear you like Lewis’ other work, Mere Christianity, as that is a book I am currently reading and I agree he does have a knack for making complicated ideas more easy to understand. Got intrigued to read this other book after reading a crime fiction novel by Kel Richards, who has C. S. Lewis as his amateur sleuth and during the course of the book he and another character discuss theological points, which draw on texts such as Mere Christianity. Got a fuller review of it here: https://crossexaminingcrime.wordpress.com/2015/09/04/c-s-lewis-as-detective-in-kel-richards-the-corpse-in-the-cellar-a-1930s-murder-mystery-2015/

    Like

    October 3, 2015
  20. David Bradley #

    I want your opinion on what you think about the differences between the book and the film. What is your preference, the movie or the book?

    There are some differences in the book that are not present in the movie “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.” The film is way better in visual learning in my opinion instead of just reading the book and certain information is not in the book but on the film.

    In the film, they showed scenes that weren’t in the book like upcoming scenes of how of the war all started or the purpose of why Aslan the Great Lion was murdered for the life of Edmund. The angels and views of the war were amazing having back and forth face-shots of the main warriors that are fighting for somebody or something.

    The scene when the children went to go see Aslan to talk to him about their little brother Edmund, the children’s journey through Narnia to see the Great Lion expressed a lot of feelings of how much they wanted to get their little brother back from the White Witch. Face shot angles of young Edmund before he gave them a signal. What I’m really trying to get at is what is the difference between the film and the book because I think they’re the same thing but some important information that is not on film is either in the film or in the book.

    Like

    November 22, 2016
  21. Eddie Buerrero #

    After reading this article about The Lion. The Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis. I had the opportunity to hear an aural text, watch a visual text, and read a book. I loved hearing the aural text, it was different from reading the book. Aural text has sounds, voices and can visualize situations and meanings from the characters. Also, a written text is very different from watching a movie. Written text explains in more detail and provides more than visual and aural but I like to visualize the details. Therefore, my favorite media form happens to be the visual text because I think watching is a better understanding for me. Visual text I filled with sounds, action, and music. Aural text and written text don’t provide a lot of what visual text does. Visual text shows good impressions and a tone of voice from characters. For example, when Lucy enters the wardrobe and reaches Narnia, the music describes it is a magical place and full of winter theme. Also, seeing Lucy and her reaction to seeing Narnia. The visual text allows me to see what the character sees and have an idea what there thinking from their reaction and personality. Everything that I can see or hear I can visualize and think about the situation in the movie. I can think freely about what I see in visual text and hear the voices of different characters. In my opinion, visual text describes and helps me understand more in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.

    Like

    November 22, 2016

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Rankings Updated Through Book #15 | 101 Books
  2. Q&A With Lev Grossman from Time: Part 1 | 101 Books
  3. Next Up: A Clockwork Orange | 101 Books
  4. Your Search Questions Answered, Volume 5 | 101 Books
  5. Book #30: Animal Farm | 101 Books
  6. Death Match! Aslan Battles Napoleon! | 101 Books
  7. 5 Classic Faith-Based Novels | 101 Books
  8. How Do You Decide What Your Kids Read? | 101 Books
  9. 12 Scratch & Sniff Versions Of Famous Novels | 101 Books
  10. Will You Read A Book More Than Once? | 101 Books
  11. My 2-Year-Old Judges Books By Their Covers | 101 Books
  12. 101 Books Mailbag #1 | 101 Books
  13. These Literature-Inspired Benches Are Unbelievable | 101 Books
  14. The Time Robin Williams Read Narnia To His Daughter | 101 Books
  15. Infographic: When Did Famous Authors Publish Their Breakthrough Novels? | 101 Books

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: