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First edition dustjacket
|Author||C. S. Lewis|
|Series||The Chronicles of Narnia|
|Genre||Children's fantasy novel, Christian literature|
|16 October 1950|
|LC Class||PZ8.L48 Li|
|Followed by||Prince Caspian|
First edition dustjacket
|Author||C. S. Lewis|
|Series||The Chronicles of Narnia|
|Genre||Children's fantasy novel, Christian literature|
|16 October 1950|
|LC Class||PZ8.L48 Li|
|Followed by||Prince Caspian|
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is a high fantasy novel for children by C. S. Lewis, published by Geoffrey Bles in 1950. It was the first published of seven novels in The Chronicles of Narnia (1950–1956) and the best known; among all the author's books it is the most widely held in libraries. Although it was written as well as published first in the series, it is volume two in recent editions, which are sequenced according to Narnia history (the first being The Magician's Nephew). Like the others, it was illustrated by Pauline Baynes, and her work has been retained in many later editions.
Most of the novel is set in Narnia, a land of talking animals and mythical creatures that the White Witch has ruled for 100 years of deep winter. In the frame story, four English children live in a big, old country house during their World War II evacuation from London. The youngest visits Narnia three times via the wardrobe in a spare room. All four children are together on her third visit, which validates her stories and comprises the last 12 of 17 chapters except a brief conclusion. In Narnia the siblings seem to fulfill an old prophecy, so they are soon adventuring both to save Narnia and their lives. Lewis wrote the book for, and dedicated it to, his goddaughter Lucy Barfield. She was the daughter of Owen Barfield, Lewis' friend, teacher, adviser, and trustee.
TIME magazine included the novel in its "All-TIME 100 Novels" (best English-language novels from 1923 to 2005). In 2003, the novel was listed at number 9 on the BBC's survey The Big Read. It has also been published in 47 foreign languages.
In 1940, four siblings – Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy Pevensie – are among many children evacuated from London during World War II to escape the Blitz. They are sent to the countryside to live with professor Digory Kirke.
While the four children explore the house, Lucy climbs into a wardrobe and discovers that inside it is a magical forest in a land called Narnia. At a lamppost in the midst of the forest she meets Mr. Tumnus, whom she discovers is a faun. She accepts his offer to have tea in his home. After tea, however, the faun sadly confesses to Lucy that he invited her not out of hospitality, but with the intention of betraying her to the White Witch. He explains that the witch has ruled Narnia for years and during her reign has used evil magic to make it always the same season: winter. As Tumnus explains, it is "always Winter, but never Christmas." The witch has ordered all Narnians to report or capture any Sons of Adam or Daughters of Eve (which is how Narnians refer to human beings). Mr Tumnus' intention had been to obey that order and hand Lucy over, but now that he has met a real human, Mr Tumnus feels incapable of obeying the witch's orders, so he repents of his original intention and escorts Lucy back to the lamppost.
When Lucy returns through the wardrobe, she discovers that only a few seconds have gone by in normal time during her absence. Hence, her siblings do not believe her story about there being another world inside the wardrobe. She later returns to Narnia during a game of hide-and-seek with her siblings. Her older brother Edmund, who had been particularly spiteful in his refusal to believe her story, enters the wardrobe after her and gets into Narnia as well. While searching for Lucy, he meets a lady who introduces herself as the Queen of Narnia. She is very interested in Edmund and questions him about his family. When she learns he has two sisters and a brother, she enchants him with magical Turkish delight sweets, whose enchantment is like a drug that leaves Edmund longing for more. The witch refuses to give him any more enchanted sweets until he goes back into his own world and brings his three siblings back with him. She says he must bring them with him to her castle. She points out where her castle lies, so that he will know how to get there when he returns. She emphasises to him the importance of making sure he brings his brother and sisters with him when he comes, and tells him that when he comes back she will make him into her prince and heir.
Lucy discovers Edmund by the lamppost on her way back from visiting Mr Tumnus and is delighted to find that he has also gotten into Narnia. They return together through the wardrobe. In conversation with Lucy, Edmund realizes that the lady he met was in fact Jadis, the White Witch, but the effect of the enchantment still lingers on him, and he does not tell anyone he has met her. He also lies to Peter and Susan, denying Lucy's claim that he too had entered Narnia. Unable to decide whether or not Lucy is lying or even delirious, Peter and Susan take the matter to the Professor. Much to their surprise, the Professor appears to take Lucy's side and gently chides them for their cynicism.
Soon afterward, all four children enter Narnia together while hiding in the wardrobe after an encounter with the professor's housekeeper, Mrs Macready. Peter is angry with Edmund when he learns that Edmund had been to Narnia after all. Lucy guides them to Tumnus' cave, but finds it ransacked, with a notice from Jadis' police about his arrest for high treason due to fraternising with humans. Lucy realises she is the human in question.
They are spotted by Mr. Beaver, who guides them to his house. Mr. and Mrs. Beaver (who are able to talk) tell them of a prophecy that Jadis' power will fail when two Sons of Adam and two Daughters of Eve fill the four thrones at Cair Paravel. The Beavers tell them of Aslan, the great lion who is the rightful King of Narnia. He has been absent for many years but is now "on the move again".
Having heard enough, Edmund sneaks away to Jadis' castle, which is filled with statues of Narnians she has turned to stone. Jadis is furious with Edmund for coming alone and angrier still when he informs her what he has heard the Beavers say: Aslan is back in Narnia.
Meanwhile, back at the cottage, the other three children are trying to work out where their missing brother has gone. Mr. Beaver realises Edmund has gone to the White Witch. He tells the three siblings that he knew from the look on Edmund's face that he had been in the witch's company. Knowing the White Witch will soon come to get them as soon as Edmund tells her where the other three children are, the Beavers abandon their home and set out on a trek through the snow to lead the three children to Aslan. During their journey the snow begins to melt as Jadis' spell over Narnia starts to break due to Aslan's arrival. Winter ends, and it is finally Christmas, so Father Christmas appears during their journey, with presents for the three children and the beavers. Lucy is given a dagger and a special cordial that can heal the sick; Susan is given a bow and arrows, and a special horn that will always bring help when blown; and Peter is given a sword.
Aslan welcomes the children and the Beavers to his camp at the Stone Table, and Peter is soon required to make use of his new sword by killing Maugrim, the chief wolf of Jadis' Secret Police, who tries to kill Susan. Peter is victorious, and Aslan makes him a knight. Aslan's troops run after a second wolf that runs away, and it leads them to the enemy camp, where they rescue Edmund just as Jadis is about to kill him.
Edmund is brought back to Aslan's camp to join the others, and Jadis approaches in truce to parley with Aslan, insisting that, according to "deep magic from the dawn of time", she has the right to execute Edmund for treason. Aslan speaks with her privately and persuades her to renounce her claim. That evening, Aslan secretly leaves the camp, but Lucy and Susan follow him. It appears that Aslan has bargained his own life for Edmund's, for the girls witness Jadis tie Aslan to the Stone Table and kill him with a knife. The next morning the enemies are gone, and only Susan and Lucy remain weeping over Aslan's body, when some mice come and bite through the ropes the enemy had used to tie him. Then the Stone Table is broken and Aslan is restored to life, telling Lucy and Susan that "deeper magic from before the dawn of time" (which Jadis did not know about) will resurrect an innocent killed in place of a traitor.
Aslan allows Lucy and Susan to ride on his back as he hurries to Jadis' castle. There he breathes upon the statues, restoring them to life. Meanwhile Peter and Edmund are leading the Narnian army against Jadis' army, and many of the loyal Narnians are being turned to stone. Edmund attacks Jadis and destroys her wand. Jadis, no longer able to turn soldiers to stone, fights with the stone knife instead. Edmund is seriously wounded. Aslan arrives with the former statues as reinforcements. The Narnians rout Jadis' army, and Aslan kills Jadis. Aslan walks around the battlefield breathing on those who have been turned to stone to bring them back to life, and Lucy uses her magic cordial to revive first Edmund and then all the others who have been wounded.
After the battle, the Pevensie children are crowned kings and queens of Narnia at the castle Cair Paravel. They are given the titles of King Peter the Magnificent, Queen Susan the Gentle, King Edmund the Just, and Queen Lucy the Valiant. After the coronation Aslan slips away and disappears. Lucy is sad to see him go but is reminded that he is "not a tame lion" and will come and go as he pleases.
Fifteen years later, the siblings are hunting for a white stag when they find the lamppost in the forest. Beyond it, the branches become coats. They come back through the wardrobe in the Professor's house and are suddenly children again. This is because, during their whole stay in Narnia, almost no time had gone by in the real world, despite so many years' having gone by in Narnia time.
Lewis described the origin of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe in an essay entitled It All Began with a Picture:
The Lion all began with a picture of a Faun carrying an umbrella and parcels in a snowy wood. This picture had 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.'
Shortly before World War II, many children were evacuated from London to the English countryside to escape bomber attacks on London by Nazi Germany. On 2 September 1939 three school girls: Margaret, Mary and Katherine, came to live at The Kilns in Risinghurst, Lewis's home three miles east of Oxford city centre. Lewis later suggested that the experience gave him a new appreciation of children and in late September he began a children's story on an odd sheet which has survived as part of another manuscript:
This book is about four children whose names were Ann, Martin, Rose and Peter. But it is most about Peter who was the youngest. They all had to go away from London suddenly because of Air Raids, and because Father, who was in the Army, had gone off to the War and Mother was doing some kind of war work. They were sent to stay with a kind of relation of Mother's who was a very old professor who lived all by himself in the country.
The plot element of entering a new world through the back of a wardrobe had certainly entered Lewis's mind by 1946, when he used it to describe his first encounter with really good poetry:
I did not in the least feel that I was getting in more quantity or better quality a pleasure I had already known. It was more as if a cupboard which one had hitherto valued as a place for hanging coats proved one day, when you opened the door, to lead to the garden of the Hesperides...
How much more of the story Lewis then wrote is uncertain. Roger Lancelyn Green thinks that he might even have completed it. In September 1947 C. S. Lewis wrote in a letter about stories for children: "I have tried one myself but it was, by the unanimous verdict of my friends, so bad that I destroyed it."
In August 1948, during the visit of the American writer Chad Walsh, Lewis vaguely talked about completing a children's book which he had begun "in the tradition of E. Nesbit". After this conversation not much happened – until the beginning of the next year. Then everything changed.
In his essay It All Began With a Picture C. S. Lewis continues: "At first I had very little idea how the story would go. But then suddenly Aslan came bounding into it. I think I had been having a good many dreams of lions about that time. Apart from that, I don't know where the Lion came from or why he came. But once he was there, he pulled the whole story together, and soon he pulled the six other Narnian stories in after him.":
The major ideas of the book echo lines Lewis had written fourteen years earlier in his alliterative poem The Planets:
...Of wrath ended
And woes mended, of winter passed
And guilt forgiven, and good fortune
Jove is master; and of jocund revel,
Laughter of ladies. The lion-hearted
...are Jove's children.
On 10 March 1949 Roger Lancelyn Green dined with him at Magdalen College. After the meal, Lewis read two chapters from his new children's story to Green. Lewis asked Green's opinion of the tale, and Green thought it was good. The manuscript of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe was complete by the end of March 1949. Lucy Barfield received it by the end of May. When on 16 October 1950 Geoffrey Bles in London published the first edition, three new Chronicles – Prince Caspian, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader and The Horse and His Boy – had also been completed.
Lewis's publisher, Geoffrey Bles, allowed him to choose the illustrator for the novel and the Narnia series. Lewis chose Pauline Baynes, possibly based on J. R. R. Tolkien’s recommendation. Baynes had greatly impressed Tolkien with her illustrations for his Farmer Giles of Ham (1949). However, Baynes claimed that Lewis learned about her work after going into a bookshop and asking for a recommendation for an illustrator who was skilled at portraying both humans and animals. In December 1949, Bles showed Lewis the first drawings for the novel, and Lewis sent Baynes a note congratulating her, particularly on the level of detail. Lewis’s appreciation of the illustrations is evident in a letter he wrote to Baynes after The Last Battle won the Carnegie Medal for best children’s book of 1956: "is it not rather 'our' medal? I’m sure the illustrations were taken into account as well as the text".
The British edition of the novel had 43 illustrations; American editions generally had fewer. The popular United States paperback edition published by Collier between 1970 and 1994, which sold many millions, had only 17 illustrations, many of them severely cropped from the originals, giving many readers in that country a very different experience when reading the novel. All the illustrations were restored for the 1994 worldwide HarperCollins edition, although these lacked the clarity of early printings.
Lewis very much enjoyed writing The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and embarked on the sequel Prince Caspian soon after finishing the first novel. He completed the sequel in less than a year, by the end of 1949. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe had not been widely released until 1950; thus his initial enthusiasm did not stem from favourable reception by the public.
While Lewis is known today on the strength of the Narnia stories as a highly successful children’s writer, the initial critical response was muted. At the time it was fashionable for children’s stories to be realistic; fantasy and fairy tales were seen as indulgent, appropriate only for very young readers and potentially harmful to older children, even hindering their ability to relate to everyday life. Some reviewers considered the tale overtly moralistic or the Christian elements over-stated — attempts to indoctrinate children. Others were concerned that the many violent incidents might frighten children.
Lewis’ publisher, Geoffrey Bles, feared the Narnia tales would not sell, and might damage Lewis’ reputation and affect sales of his other books. Nevertheless, the novel and its successors were highly popular with young readers, and Lewis’ publisher was soon anxious to release further Narnia stories.
A 2004 study found that it was a common read-aloud book for seventh-graders in schools in San Diego County, California. The novel was #58 on TIME's 2005 list of the 100 best English-language novels published since 1923. Based on a 2007 online poll, the National Education Association in the U.S. named the book one of its "Teachers' Top 100 Books for Children." It was one of the "Top 100 Chapter Books" of all time in a 2012 poll by School Library Journal. A 2012 survey by the University of Worcester determined that it was the second most common book that UK adults had read as children, after Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.
Lewis wrote that "The Narnian books are not as much allegory as supposal. Suppose there were a Narnian world and it, like ours, needed redemption. What kind of incarnation and Passion might Christ be supposed to undergo there?"
The main story is an allegory of Christ's crucifixion: Aslan sacrifices himself for Edmund, a traitor who may deserve death, in the same way that Christians believe Jesus sacrificed himself for sinners. Aslan is killed on the Stone Table, symbolizing Mosaic Law, which breaks when he is resurrected, symbolizing the replacement of the strict justice of Old Testament law with redeeming grace and forgiveness granted on the basis of substitutional atonement, according to Christian theology. As with the Christian Passion, it is women (Susan and Lucy) who tend Aslan's body after he dies and are the first to see him after his resurrection. The significance of the death contains elements of both the ransom theory of atonement and the satisfaction theory: Aslan suffers Edmund's penalty (satisfaction), and buys him back from the White Witch, who was entitled to him by reason of his treachery (ransom). In Christian belief, Christ is associated with the Biblical "Lion of Judah" of Revelation 5:5.
Professor Kirke is based on W.T. Kirkpatrick, who tutored a 16-year-old Lewis. "Kirk," as he was sometimes called, taught the young Lewis much about thinking and communicating clearly, skills that would be invaluable to him later.
Narnia is caught in endless winter that has lasted a century when the children first enter. Norse tradition mythologises a "great winter," known as the Fimbulwinter, said to precede Ragnarök. The trapping of Edmund by the White Witch is reminiscent of the seduction and imprisonment of Kay by The Snow Queen in Hans Christian Andersen's novella of that name.
The Story of the Amulet written by Edith Nesbit also contains scenes that can be considered precursors to sequences presenting Jadis, particularly in The Magician's Nephew. Nesbit's short story The Aunt and Amabel includes the motif of a girl entering a wardrobe to gain access to a magical place.
The freeing of Aslan's body from the stone table by field mice is reminiscent of Aesop's fable of "The Lion and the Mouse." In the fable, a lion catches a mouse, but the mouse persuades the lion to release him, promising that the favor would be rewarded. Later in the story, he gnaws through the lion's bonds after he has been captured by hunters. It is also reminiscent of a scene from Edgar Allan Poe's story "The Pit and the Pendulum," in which a prisoner is freed when rats gnaw through his bonds. In a later book, "Prince Caspian," we learn that as reward for their actions, mice gained the same intelligence and speech as other Narnian animals.
Due to labor union rules, the text of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe was reset for the publication of the first American edition of by Macmillan US in 1950. Lewis took that opportunity to make the following changes to the original British edition published by Geoffrey Bles earlier that same year:
When HarperCollins took over publication of the series in 1994, they began using the original British edition for all subsequent English editions worldwide. The current US edition published by Scholastic has 36,135 words.
The story has been adapted three times for television. The first adaptation was a ten-part serial produced by ABC Weekend Television for ITV and broadcast in 1967. In 1979, an animated TV-movie, directed by Peanuts director Bill Meléndez, was broadcast and won the first Emmy Award for Outstanding Animated Program. A third television adaptation was produced in 1988 by the BBC using a combination of live actors, animatronic puppets and animation. The programme was nominated for an Emmy and won a BAFTA. It was followed by three further Narnia adaptations.
Stage adaptations include a 1984 version staged at London's Westminster Theatre, produced by Vanessa Ford Productions. The play, adapted by Glyn Robbins, was directed by Richard Williams and designed by Marty Flood. Jules Tasca wrote an adaptation called Narnia: The Musical, which was published in 1986. The Royal Shakespeare Company did an adaptation in 1998, for which the acting edition has been published.
In 2002, the Philippines' Christian-based "Trumpets Playshop" did a musical rendition that Douglas Gresham, Lewis' stepson (and co-producer of the Walden Media film adaptations), has openly declared that he feels is the closest to Lewis' intent. It starred among others popular young Filipino singer Sam Concepcion as Edmund Pevensie. The book and lyrics were by Jaime del Mundo and Luna Inocian. Music was composed by Lito Villareal.
In 2003, there was an Australian commercial stage production which toured the country by Malcolm C. Cooke Productions, using both life-size puppets and human actors. It was directed by notable film director Nadia Tass, and starred Amanda Muggleton, Dennis Olsen, Meaghan Davies and Yolande Brown.
In 2011, a two-actor stage adaptation by Le Clanché du Rand opened Off-Broadway in New York City at St. Luke's Theatre. The production was directed by Julia Beardsley O'Brien and starred Erin Layton and Andrew Fortman. As of 2014, the production is currently running with a replacement cast of Abigail Taylor-Sansom and Rockford Sansom.
In 2005, the story was adapted for a theatrical film, co-produced by Walt Disney and Walden Media. It has so far been followed by two more films: (The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian and The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader). The latter was co-produced by Twentieth-Century Fox and Walden Media.
Multiple audio editions have been released. The best-known consists of all the books read aloud by Michael York, Anthony Quayle, Patrick Stewart, Kenneth Branagh, Derek Jacobi, Alex Jennings, Lynn Redgrave, Ian Richardson, Claire Bloom and Jeremy Northam. However, three audio CDs in the form of "radio plays" with various actors, sound effects, and music have also been released, one by the BBC, one by Radio Theatre, and one by Focus on the Family.
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