C. S. Lewis’ “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe”
C. S. Lewis’ “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe” follows the adventures of the Pevensie children – Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy. During World War II, their parents sent them to live in the country with a certain Professor Kirke to keep their children safe. On a rainy day, the Pevensie children play a game and explore Professor Kirke’s house. Lucy, the youngest among the four children, discovers a wardrobe in one of the rooms. Entranced by the wardrobe, Lucy opens it and steps inside only to discover another world. Lucy ventures into the woods where she meets Mr. Tumnus, a faun, who told her about the world she just discovered. Mr. Tumnus tells Lucy about Narnia and later on allows her to go home. Back at Professor Kirke’s house, Lucy tells her siblings about Narnia. At first, Peter, Susan, and Edmund refuse to believe Lucy but after hiding in the wardrobe, the four of them find themselves in Narnia. In Narnia, they learn that the White Witch, the ruler, captured Mr. Tumnus. Peter, Susan, and Lucy also learn that the White Witch bewitched their brother Edmund. Along with the lion Aslan, Peter, Susan, and Lucy set off to free their brother and Narnia from the rule of the White Witch. In the end, the Pevensie children learn about their destiny as the true rulers of Narnia.
“The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe” as a Fantasy Book
Even without getting into the technical definition of fantasy, one can easily say that Lewis’ “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe” is a fantasy novel because it takes place in an imagined or fictional world. Moreover, most aspects of the book are dreamlike because both animate and inanimate objects take on human characteristics such as the wardrobe that transports the Pevensie children to Narnia and the animals in Narnia that can talk like human beings, among others. Technically speaking, however, “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe” is considered a fantasy because the novel defies the conventions of reality or realism. In reality, things or objects are inanimate. The novel violates this reality because the wardrobe seems to have a life of its own. Moreover, animals in Narnia assume human characteristics because they talk normally just as human characters do. Different fantastical creatures also live in Narnia such as Mr. Tumnus the faun – a half man, half goat – dwarves, and naiads or nymphs.
Another important feature of the fantasy genre that defies reality is the inclusion of magical elements. As formerly noted, Narnia is ruled by the powerful White Witch. The White Witch has powers that allows her to control the seasons in Narnia, turn people and animals into stone, and bewitch other people to draw them to her side.
Developmental Stage of Target Audience
Lewis’ “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe” is primarily for children and adolescents but adults may also read it because of the complex story line. Children would be interested in the book because of the fantastical or magical elements in the novel while adolescents and adults may also find serious themes in the novel such as war to be of interest. Hence, there is something appealing for people of all ages in the novel because of the universality of inherent themes or subjects in the story.
Childhood Themes in the Book
One of childhood themes in Lewis’ novel is belonging. In the beginning of the story, the Pevensie children were forced to move to the country away from their parents. As children and adolescents who would have to look after themselves, the Pevensie children formed a strong, supportive, and loving bond that made them feel that they belong, especially after the White Witch’s demise. Another important theme is authenticity. Children and adolescents respond well to honesty and authenticity. The Pevensie children’s behavior reflects this idea. Although Edmund followed the White Witch’s bidding in the beginning, he eventually saw through the latter’s veneer. Hence, Edmund wanted to leave the White Witch due to the absence of authenticity in their relationship.
Responses and Impression while Reading the Book
While reading the book, I thought that the world building was incredible because it was well thought out. Lewis described Narnia well, which made me feel that I was being transported to this world just as the Pevensie children had been in the novel. Moreover, the author wrote it in a way that would help readers visualize the setting. I formed a vivid image of Narnia in my head while I was reading the novel, which made me feel like I was there. Hence, I was very engaged while reading the book.
I also felt the tension in the novel. I was drawn to the ‘good versus evil’ plot in the novel and so I was rooting for the Pevensie children, Aslan, Mr. Tumnus and their other friends. The thought of the White Witch defeating Aslan and the Pevensie children, and of Edward fully succumbing to the White Witch’s tricks made me feel anxious about the story. As a person would want his or her hero or heroine to succeed, I similarly felt hopeful and wished that the protagonists would be able to defeat the White Witch and restore peace and order in Narnia. At one point in the novel, I felt that the White Witch would succeed. I also felt saddened when Aslan sacrificed his life to save Edmund. More importantly, I felt that Lewis’ novel is relevant because it tackles war, which is an important issue that not only adults but also children and adolescents must know and understand.
Three Things Learned from the Book
First, I learned that children seek the trust and support of their parents and family. When Lucy told her siblings about Narnia, none of them believed her. In the story, I learned that it is important to listen to children’s stories as this would make them feel supported and loved. Second, I learned that it is important to provide opportunities for children to explore by themselves. Creating a safe environment where children and adolescents may go on adventures without parental supervision is important in developing a sense of independence and self-sufficiency in them. The Pevensie children certainly learned many lessons from their unsupervised adventures in Narnia. Lastly, I also learned the importance of setting realistic expectations for children and offering them various opportunities to accomplish them. In a way, this idea builds on the concept of self-fulfilling prophecy. In the novel, when Aslan told Peter about the prophecy and the Pevensie children’s roles as rulers of Narnia, it made them take responsibility and take courage despite the difficulty of their situation.
Another theme that would resonate with children is the absence of parents in the novel. Although Professor Kirke stands as the Pevensie children’s guardian, the four children explore Narnia by themselves. Children and most especially adolescents who read the novel would find the absence of parental control and influence appealing because they are at the stage of their lives where exploring and going on adventures without the knowledge of their parents becomes thrilling and interesting. Older children and adolescents in this stage are working towards becoming independent and self-sufficient. Adolescents, especially, are in between childhood and adulthood and in this stage, they would be trying to explore the world and people around them and pursue their personal interests on their own.
Lucy’s discovery of the wardrobe also helps readers understand children better because her behavior in the book reflects innocence and curiosity, which are common traits or behaviors in children. Lucy’s traits and behavior in the book reflect Furthermore, the Pevensie children’s seeming retreat to Narnia reflects the inherent nature of children or adolescents to use their imagination and creativity to cope during difficult situations. Retreating to the ‘fantasy world’ is one way for children and adolescents to manage problems and other challenging situations, especially when their parents are not around to guide them.
Spiritual Implications of the Book
One of the main themes in the book include the struggle between good and evil, and this resonates in children because at an early stage in their lives, they are trying to learn and distinguish right from wrong. Edmund’s story arc in the book accurately represents this theme because his character’s transformation illustrates the shift from being evil to becoming good. Discerning good from evil or right from wrong is particularly important to children not only because they need good people or characters in literature to look up to but also because it helps them know right from wrong when it is clear cut in the stories they are reading. Consequently, the knowledge and understanding of right from wrong would contribute to children or adolescents’ spiritual growth because it develops moral understanding and views in them. Lewis’ novel also contributes to spiritual development within the context of religion if one draws a parallel between the story and the journey of Jesus Christ in the Holy Bible. Aslan sacrificed himself to save Edmund and help the Pevensie children and their allies defeat the White Witch in the same way that Jesus sacrificed his life to save people’s sins. Hence, the novel’s spiritual implications largely depend on the context.
Negative Ethical and/or Cultural and/or Societal Issues with the Book
As formerly noted, Lewis wrote “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe” against the backdrop of World War II. Hence, war is a negative issue that raises ethical and social concerns when children and adolescents read the novel. Although talking about war, particularly the reasons behind it and its outcomes or implications on society, is very important, discussing this with children raises an ethical issue because some aspects of war are difficult for children to understand. Hence, it is similarly important to be mindful of how war would be presented or portrayed in novels and in classroom discussions. Nonetheless, Lewis’ novel is a good material that would help children realize the detrimental impact of war, particularly the separation of parents and children.
Lewis, C. S. (1950). The lion, the witch and the wardrobe. New York, NY: Harper Collins.