The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

Posted on October 23, 2011 by

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The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe is the first in The Chronicles of Narnia. And, some maintain, it is the best.  The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe introduces the reader to the land of Narnia with fresh eyes and leaves us open to a number of questions and possibilities, which Lewis eventually answers or realizes in the six books that follow.

There are no assumptions that the reader has any prior knowledge of Narnia, which means we get to be introduced to important concepts – such as Aslan – with new eyes. It is this unique quality which makes The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe possibly the best of the Narnia books to start with – better even than its chronological predecessor.

Right from the start we are introduced to the four Pevensie children: Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy.

Peter is the eldest. Peter is a leader, and though he still has much to learn, is ultimately the most mature of the children. While lacking Lucy’s childlike innocence, Peter is not cruel and foolish like Edmund, nor does he have a falsely-inflated idea of his own maturity – one of Susan’s defining features.

Susan is already very “grown-up” at the time of this first story. Ultimately, Susan will be featured in fewer of the Narnian stories than any of her siblings. Susan is beautiful and talented and would rather not be treated like a child. I think Susan is a good example of someone who changes without really growing. Lewis said it this way in his essay, On Three Ways of Writing for Children:

 “…surely arrested development consists now in refusing to lose old things but in failing to add new things? I now like hock, which I am sure I should not have liked as a child. But I still like lemon-squash. I call this growth or development because I have been enriched: where I formerly had only one pleasure, I now have two. But if I had to lose the taste for lemon-squash before I acquired the states for hock, that would not be growth but simple change… A tree grows because it adds rings: a train doesn’t grow by leaving one station behind and puffing on to the next.”

Edmund is a brat. He is self-centered and verbally cruel in the way which little boys can often be. It is he who changes the most during the events of this story, and the change is a significant one. By the end of the book, Edmund will have emerged as a penitent, redeemed, heroic figure, who will go so far as to sacrifice his own well-being for the good of others. It’s this same Edmund who will go onto heroism in The Horse and His Boy, Prince Caspian, and The Voyage of the Dawn Treader.

Edmund’s redemption at Aslan’s expense is the central compelling theme of the book. It makes the character of Edmund more relatable because of Christ’s own sacrifice for us, and it makes that same sacrifice more significant and personal because we are able to see it through Edmund’s eyes.

And finally, there is Lucy. Lucy the Gentle. Lucy the protagonist. Lucy who is a little girl in every sense of the word – Lucy who is desperately in love with Aslan and desperately in love with life. She is the primary protagonist of at least three of the Narnian books, and she is always the closest to Aslan.

Throughout The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, it is Lucy’s eyes through which we are seeing this brand-new world. And, I think, it is through Lucy that Lewis communicates to the reader his own child-like joy and wonder at life and at God’s world. It will be Lucy who gives us our first exposure to Narnia, when a girl steps into a wardrobe to escape the dreariness of a wet summer day and finds adventure.

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