This was a reread of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (1950) as part of #Narniathon21 hosted by Chris at Calmgrove. He has discussion prompts for the book up so do head there if you’d like to join in.

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The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is a truly classic children’s fantasy tale which can appeal to children and adults alike, giving one different aspects to enjoy at different times in life. Lewis himself of course, knew this as he observes in his wonderful dedication of the book to his god-daughter, Lucy (the dedication was something I immediately loved, even on my first read, and I’d decided I’d love the book even before I started it.)

…you are already too old for fairy tales, and by the time it is printed and bound, you will be older still. But some day you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again….

The story of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is one probably familiar to all. Four siblings, Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy are sent away to the country during the war, as was common. There they are to stay in a huge house with an eccentric but immediately likeable old Professor and his much less likeable housekeeper, Mrs Macready. Exploring the house one rainy day, Lucy, the youngest walks into a huge wardrobe. But this is no ordinary wardrobe but a door to a magical land, Narnia. Here she meets a faun, Mr Tumnus and learns of the White Witch who has Narnia under her spell. When Lucy returns and describes her adventures, the always truthful girl is disbelieved. Edmund separately finds Narnia and meets the White Witch who entices the spiteful and selfish boy with enchanted Turkish delight and promises of Narnia’s crown. But he wants to keep all to himself and refuses to back Lucy. Eventually the truth is revealed and all four children enter Narnia and find they are the subject of a prophecy and only they with Aslan the lion, lord of all the world can free Narnia from the witch’s spell, because of which ‘it is always winter but never Christmas’. And so begins their first adventure in which they must take on and defeat the witch. In the process they meet and befriend many creatures and must also face danger, some of it coming from their own.

This was as I found on my previous reads a magical and charming story, but not one that is entirely in the realm of fantasy for we deal with very real characters and situations including betrayal by one’s own. The scene of Aslan’s sacrifice is another which makes one feel angry and helpless, even a sense of guilt (the reader feels at one with Susan and Lucy) in that he must face not only death but humiliation for the deeds of another. In these emotions, some of the allegory in the book also stands out. This was in fact the first time when reading the book, the allegorical elements actually stood out clearly to me–Aslan dying for a betrayer/sinner, Edmund, his ‘resurrection’ and Edmund as the ‘Judas’. (Of course, this is probably barely surface level, and there is plenty to ponder over.)

The story has most of the classic fantasy elements, a group of children accidentally finding a magic world, talking animals and other magical creatures, trouble or a curse on that world, and a prophecy according to which it is them on whom the task of rescuing that world falls. One thing perhaps not usual in fantasy stories was having an adult in the form of the old Professor who not only believes the children, but encourages them in their adventures. In fact it is he who by simple logic convinces them of the truth of Lucy’s story. Lucy has told them of her time in Narnia and meeting with Mr Tumnus but Peter and Susan put it down to her imagination, somewhat reminding one of instances in other children’s fantasies (Peter Pan or the Little Prince, for instance) which bring up the need for belief in ‘magic’ or children’s ability to be able to ‘see’ and accept what adults cannot, are too rigid to, perhaps. I loved how the Professor was able to show them so simply what they were unable to see.

Narnia itself is cold and depressing, under the witch’s spell, but even within this snowy place, there is warmth in its inhabitants–Mr Tumnus’ cave or the Beavers’ little home, their friendship and hospitality. With the arrival of the children and the return of Aslan, some of the spell automatically begins to break as Father Christmas too returns, and slowly spring begins to break through–a bit of magic I loved very much.

In the children themselves we see different characteristics–Lucy is honest and caring, open to magic and adventure and wants to help her friends, Peter and Susan are just and caring but falling into rigid human ways unable to believe magic till they are shown the way; they are able to face their fears as well, Peter in battle and Susan her reluctance to continue on. Edmund is right from the start spiteful, selfish and somewhat greedy too, and ends up betraying his siblings and their friends (a contrast to Mr Tumnus who risks his life to protect Lucy, all but a stranger). But then he redeems himself somewhat by his bravery in battle. One thing that I had forgotten from my previous reads was some explanation that we get for his nature–the school he is attending. He may have learnt his lesson but I still felt he would be a kind of person that would remain hard to trust.

Coming to some lighter things, I also loved all of the food in the book, very reminiscent of Enid Blyton, and a staple I look for in children’s stories.

This was a lovely revisit, and I’m looking forward to continuing on with the rest of the books soon!

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14 thoughts on “Book Review: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis #Narniathon21

  1. I loved these books as a child and have the entire set still. I reread them a few years ago and while some parts are dated or uncomfortable, I think that generally the stories stand up really well today.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Glad to hear that 🙂So they do. I read them first quite late when I was in college though I knew of them before. I love that one can enjoy them in different ways at different times. The magic and adventure I’d have loved back then and even enjoy now, but now I can also get the allegorical aspects which would have gotten past me back then. I have six of the books but am missing the Last Battle. I’ll try and secure a copy by the time we get to it in the readalong

      Liked by 1 person

  2. It does stand up well to adult reading, doesn’t it? I love the thaw – possible my favourite bit of the book, although of course the Stone Table scene is the most powerful. After I’d re-read this one a few years ago I then read Prince Caspian and found it far less entertaining which I think was true when I was a child too. I use to re-read them all frequently, but this one was always the standout for me, head and shoulders above the rest. I might dip in with one or two during Chris’s readalong throughout the year – it’s been interesting reading everyone’s thoughts on this one.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I’ve been enjoying reading everyone’s thoughts too, though I have plenty to catch up with. I only ‘saw’ the allegorical elements on this read, and now after seeing your thoughts realised that there are other figures from folklore there too which I didn’t consciously register.

      Now I’m curious to read the rest and see what I missed in them previously

      Liked by 1 person

  3. A lovely, gentle review which I enjoyed reading, and thank you also for your thoughts on my discussion post! I sense that many bloggers were pleased for a chance to reappraise or reevaluate LWW or even simply to assert their love for it! 🙂

    Like

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