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The Lion, the Witch
and the Wardrobe  
Cover of 1950 first edition (hardcover)
Author C. S. Lewis
Illustrator Pauline Baynes
Cover artist Pauline Baynes
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Series The Chronicles of Narnia
Genre(s) Fantasy, children's literature
Publisher Geoffrey Bles
Publication date 1950
Media type Print (hardcover and paperback)
Pages 208 (modern hardcover)
ISBN ISBN 0-06-023481-4 (modern hardcover)
OCLC Number 28291231
Dewey Decimal [Fic] 20
LC Classification PZ7.L58474 Li 1994
Followed by Prince Caspian

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is a fantasy novel for children by C. S. Lewis. Published in 1950 and set in circa 1940, it is the first-published book of The Chronicles of Narnia and is the best known book of the series. Although it was written and published first, it is second in the series' internal chronological order, after The Magician's Nephew. Time magazine included the novel in its TIME 100 Best English-language Novels from 1923 to 2005.[1]

Lewis dedicated the book to his god-daughter, Lucy Barfield.


Character list

  • Peter Pevensie is the oldest of the Pevensie siblings. At first, Peter disbelieves Lucy's stories about Narnia, but changes his mind when he sees it for himself. He is hailed as a hero for his part in the overthrow of the White Witch. He is eventually crowned as High King of Narnia, and becomes known as King Peter the Magnificent.
  • Susan Pevensie is the second oldest of the Pevensie children. She also does not believe in Narnia until she actually comes there. She is crowned Queen of Narnia, and becomes known as Queen Susan the Gentle.
  • Edmund Pevensie is the third of the Pevensie children. In Narnia he meets the White Witch, who plies him with treats (Turkish Delight) and smooth talk. Tempted by the White Witch's promise of power and seemingly unending supplies of Turkish Delight, Edmund betrays his siblings, but eventually regrets his actions and repents. After he helps Aslan and the good citizens of Narnia defeat the White Witch, he is crowned King of Narnia with his brother, and becomes known as King Edmund the Just.
  • Lucy Pevensie is the youngest Pevensie child. She is the first of them to discover the land of Narnia when she slips through the magical wardrobe in the professor's house. When Lucy tells her siblings, Peter and Susan refuse to believe her and are convinced that she is just having a game, while Edmund persistently encourages and teases her about it. After the restoration of Narnia, Lucy is crowned Queen of Narnia with her sister Susan, and becomes known as Queen Lucy the Valiant.
  • Jadis, the White Witch comes from the city of Charn, in a dying world. In Narnia she proclaims herself queen and through her magic rules with an iron fist. Her spell on Narnia makes it "always winter but never Christmas". When provoked she uses her wand to turn opponents to stone. But she fears the fulfillment of a prophecy that "two sons of Adam" and "two daughters of Eve" will come to Narnia and help Aslan to overthrow her.
  • Aslan, a lion, is the true ruler of Narnia. He sacrifices himself to spare Edmund, but is resurrected in time to aid the citizens of Narnia and the Pevensie children in their battle against the White Witch and her minions.
  • Mr. Tumnus, a faun, is the first person that Lucy meets in Narnia. Tumnus befriends her, despite the White Witch's standing order to kidnap any human who enters Narnia. After getting to know Lucy, he changes his mind about handing her over to the witch. But he is betrayed accidentally by Edmund, who tells the White Witch, before he knew who she was, that Lucy had met a faun. Tumnus is eventually arrested and turned into stone. He is later restored by Aslan and becomes a close friend of the Pevensies.
  • Professor Digory Kirke takes the Pevensie children in when they are evacuated from London. He is the only one who believes that Lucy did indeed visit Narnia and tries to convince the others of her veracity. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe hints that he knows more of Narnia than he lets on; The Magician's Nephew reveals that he had been present at Aslan's creation of Narnia.
  • Mrs. Macready is the housekeeper for Professor Kirke when the Pevensies come to stay.
  • Mr. Beaver is a friend of Tumnus. He assists the Pevensies in searching for Tumnus and dethroning the White Witch.
  • Mrs. Beaver is Mr. Beaver's wife.
  • The Dwarf is the White Witch's right hand man. Unnamed in the book, he is called Ginnarbrick in the film, where he has a more significant role.
  • Maugrim/Fenris Ulf, a wolf, is the chief of the White Witch's secret police. She sends him to hunt down the Pevensie children. He is killed by Peter at Peter's first battle.
  • Father Christmas arrives when the Witch's magical hold over Narnia begins to break. He gives Peter, Susan and Lucy gifts, which ultimately will help them defeat the White Witch. (Edmund was with the White Witch at the time.) Mrs Beaver is given a better sewing machine and Mr. Beaver gets his dam completed.
  • Giant Rumblebuffin is turned to stone by the White Witch and brought back to life by Aslan. He breaks down the Witch's gate and crushes some of her army.

Plot summary

World War II has just begun and four children, Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy Pevensie, are evacuated from London in 1940 to escape the Blitz. They are sent to live with Professor Digory Kirke, who lives in a country house in the English countryside with his housekeeper, Mrs Macready.

One rainy day, the children decide to explore the house. Lucy, the youngest, is curious about the wardrobe in an empty room, and discovers that it is a portal to a snow-covered forest with a gaslight post in the center. There she meets a faun, who introduces himself as Tumnus and invites her home for tea. He tells her that the land is called Narnia and is ruled by the ruthless White Witch, who ensures that it is always Winter but never Christmas.

Lucy returns through the wardrobe, having spent hours in Narnia, to find that only a few seconds have passed in England. She is unable to convince the others of her adventure, as the wardrobe now appears merely a wardrobe. Edmund, the next youngest of the four siblings, is particularly spiteful towards Lucy.

Several weeks later Lucy and Edmund hide in the wardrobe while playing hide-and-seek, and find that it leads again into Narnia. In the forest, Edmund fails to catch up with Lucy and encounters instead a pale lady on a sledge pulled by a white reindeer. She introduces herself as the Queen of Narnia, and enchants him with some magical Turkish delight. She promises to make him Prince and eventually King of Narnia, if only he will bring the other children to her castle.

After the lady drives on, Lucy finds Edmund in the woods and they return together through the wardrobe. Lucy mentions the White Witch and Edmund realizes that she is none other than the lady who befriended him. Back in England, Edmund lies to Peter and Susan, claiming that he and Lucy were just playing and that the wardrobe is no more than an ordinary one. Lucy is very upset at his duplicity.

A few days later, all four children scramble to avoid Mrs Macready, who is showing some visitors around the house. They hide in the wardrobe and find themselves in Narnia. Lucy guides them to Tumnus's cave, but they discover that Tumnus has been arrested, just as the White Witch had threatened, and that his cave has been ransacked by Maugrim, chief of the witch's secret police. A pair of talking beavers, Mr Beaver and Mrs Beaver, shelter the children and recount an ancient prophecy that the witch's power will fail when two Sons of Adam and two Daughters of Eve fill the four thrones at Cair Paravel. The beavers tell of the true king of Narnia — a great lion called Aslan — who has been absent for many years, but is now "On the move again."

Edmund, still in thrall to the witch, steals away to her castle; and the others set off to find Aslan when they realize that they have been betrayed. The White Witch treats Edmund harshly when he arrives without his siblings, and sets out in pursuit of them. But her power over Narnia is failing, and a thaw strands her sleigh. The other children reach Aslan, and a penitent Edmund is rescued just as the witch is about to kill him. Calling for a truce, the witch demands that Edmund be returned to her, as an ancient law (the "Deep magic") gives her possession of all traitors. Aslan offers himself in Edmund's place, and the witch accepts. Aslan is sacrificed by the witch, but comes back to life through "Deeper magic": when one who is blameless willingly dies on behalf of the guilty, he may return to life.

In a final battle, the witch is defeated and killed by Aslan. The children become kings and queens, and spend 15 years reigning in Narnia. They grow to maturity before returning to our world, where they find themselves children again. They hear Mrs Macready still talking to the visitors in the passageway; their years in Narnia have taken no time at all on this side of the door.

They explain their adventure to the professor, who believes them straight away and tells them that they would return to Narnia one day, though never again through the wardrobe.


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 woodland. 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.’” [2]

During World War II, many children were evacuated from London to the English countryside to escape attacks on London by Nazi Germany. In autumn of 1939 four school girls were billeted at Lewis’s home, The Kilns, three miles outside Oxford.[3] Lewis later suggested that the experience gave him a new appreciation of children, and at this time he commenced a children’s story, but only managed to complete a single paragraph:

“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 the Air Raids, and because Father, who was in the Army, had gone off to War and Mother was doing some kind of war work. They were sent away with a kind of relation of Mother’s who was a very old professor who lived all by himself in the country.” [4]

In the summer of 1948 he told Chad Walsh, a friend, that he had started writing a children’s book in the tradition of E. Nesbit. It was a continuation of the story he had begun in 1939, when child evacuees had come to live at The Kilns. On March 10, 1949 a former student of Lewis, Roger Lancelyn Green dined with him at Magdalen college. After the meal, Lewis read two chapters from his new children's story to Green. He had previously read it to J.R.R. Tolkien and Tolkien had been unimpressed. Lewis asked Green’s opinion of the tale, and Green thought it was good. By the end of the month the complete story was ready.[5]

Initially the character of Aslan was not present in the story. Lewis had already conceived of the land of Narnia as a frozen kingdom under the terror of the totalitarian rule of the White Witch, mostly probably reflecting the events of the Second World War and the situation of countries under Nazi occupation.[6] He had suffered from nightmares for most of this life. Around the time he was writing The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe he had a number of dreams with lions in them and soon the figure of Aslan made a dramatic entrance into his imagination, effecting a complete transformation upon the story and drawing the novel and the entire series of Narnia stories together.[7]


Lewis’s publisher, Geoffrey Bles allowed him to choose the illustrator for the novel and the Narnia series. His choice was Pauline Baynes, possibly as a result of 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 of an illustrator who was skilled at portraying both humans and animals. In December 1949 Geoffrey 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 perhaps well understood by correspondence with Baynes after Lewis won the Carnegie Medal for best Children’s book of 1956 for The Last Battle, and wrote to Baynes saying “is it not rather ‘our’ medal? I’m sure the illustrations were taken into account as well as the text".[8]

The British edition of the novel had 43 illustrations. American editions generally had less. 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 thus 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.[9]


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.[10]

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 thought 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.[11]

Lewis’s publisher, Geoffrey Bles, feared that the Narnia tales would not sell and might damage Lewis’s reputation and affect sales of his other books. Nevertheless the novel and its successors were highly popular with young readers, and Lewis’s publisher was soon anxious to release further Narnia stories.[12]


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.[13]

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 Ragnarok. 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 dwarves and giants are found in Norse mythology. Fauns, centaurs, minotaurs and dryads derive from Greek mythology. Father Christmas, of course, was part of popular English folk lore.

It has been widely argued that the main story is an allegory of Christ's crucifixion:[14] Aslan sacrifices himself for Edmund, a traitor who may deserve death, in the same way that the Christ figure is said to have sacrificed Himself for sinners. The cross maybe suggested by the Stone Table (reminiscent of Neolithic dolmens). 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 tradition, Christ is associated with the Biblical "Lion of Judah", mainly on the strength of Revelation 5:5.

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.[15]

It is uncertain if Lewis was familiar with the work of Erich Kästner. However, the plot device of a magic wardrobe which provides children with an entrance to worlds of magic and fantasy appeared in 1931 in Erich Kästner's (otherwise very different) children's book The 35th of May, or Conrad's Ride to the South Seas.

Differences between the British and American editions

Prior to the publication of the first American edition of Lion, Lewis made the following changes.

  • In chapter one of the American edition, the animals that Edmund and Susan express interest in are snakes and foxes rather than the foxes and rabbits of the British edition.
  • In chapter six of the American edition, the name of the White Witch's chief of police is changed to "Fenris Ulf" from "Maugrim" in the British.
  • In chapter thirteen, "the roots of the World Ash Tree" takes the place of "the fire-stones of the Secret Hill".

When HarperCollins took over publication of the series in 1994, they used the British edition for all subsequent editions worldwide.[16]


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[17], 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.

Notable stage productions of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe have included commercial productions by Malcolm C. Cooke Productions in Australia (directed by Nadia Tass, and described by Douglas Gresham as the best production of the novel he had seen - starring Amanda Muggleton, Dennis Olsen, Meaghan Davies and Yolande Brown) and by Trumpets Theatre, one of the largest commercial theatres in the Philippines.

In 2005, the story was adapted for a theatrical film.

Multiple audio editions have been released. The best-known consists of the book read aloud by Michael York. 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.

In 1984, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe was 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. In 1998 the Royal Shakespeare Company premiered their stage version, adapted by Adrian Mitchell, with music by Shaun Davey.

Further reading

  • Downing, David C. (2005). Into the Wardrobe: C. S. Lewis and the Narnia Chronicles. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. ISBN 0-7879-7890-6. 
  • Ryken, Leland; and Mead, Marjorie Lamp (2005). A Reader's Guide Through the Wardrobe: Exploring C. S. Lewis's Classic Story. London: InterVarsity Press. ISBN 0-8308-3289-0. 
  • Sammons, Martha C. (1979). A Guide Through Narnia. Wheaton, Illinois: Harold Shaw Publishers. ISBN 0-87788-325-4. 


  1. ^ The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe - ALL-TIME 100 Novels - TIME
  2. ^ Downing, David C. (2005). Into the Wardrobe: C.S. Lewis and the Narnia Chronicles. Jossey-Bass. pp. 29–30. ISBN 978-0-7879-7890-7. 
  3. ^ Veith, Gene Edward (2005). The Soul of the Lion, the Witch, & the Wardrobe. David C. Cook. pp. 36–9. ISBN 0781442125. 
  4. ^ Downing, David C. (2005). Into the Wardrobe: C.S. Lewis and the Narnia Chronicles. Jossey-Bass. pp. 41–2. ISBN 978-0-7879-7890-7. 
  5. ^ Edwards, Bruce L. (2007). C.S. Lewis: Life, Works, and Legacy. Greenwood Publishing Group. pp. 184–6. ISBN 0275991172. 
  6. ^ Edwards, Owen Dudley (2007). British Children's Fiction in the Second World War. Edinburgh University Press. pp. 141. ISBN 0748616519. 
  7. ^ Edwards, Bruce L. (2007). C.S. Lewis: Life, Works, and Legacy. Greenwood Publishing Group. pp. 185. ISBN 0275991172. 
  8. ^ Schakel, Peter J. (2002). Imagination and the arts in C.S. Lewis: journeying to Narnia and other worlds. University of Missouri Press. pp. 30–1. ISBN 082621407X. 
  9. ^ Schakel, Peter J. (2002). Imagination and the arts in C.S. Lewis: journeying to Narnia and other worlds. University of Missouri Press. p. 32. ISBN 082621407X. 
  10. ^ Veith, Gene (2008). The Soul of Prince Caspian: Exploring Spiritual Truth in the Land of Narnia. David C. Cook. pp. 11–12. ISBN 0781445280. 
  11. ^ Veith, Gene (2008). The Soul of Prince Caspian: Exploring Spiritual Truth in the Land of Narnia. David C. Cook. pp. 12. ISBN 0781445280. 
  12. ^ Veith, Gene (2008). The Soul of Prince Caspian: Exploring Spiritual Truth in the Land of Narnia. David C. Cook. pp. 13. ISBN 0781445280. 
  13. ^ CS Lewis Institute Resources.
  14. ^ See Kathryn Lindskoog "Journey into Narnia" pp. 44-46.
    See also "C.S. Lewis: the man behind Narnia" by Beatrice Gormley p. 122
  15. ^ Project Gutenberg.
  16. ^ Ford, Paul (2005). Companion to Narnia, Revised Edition. San Francisco: Harper. ISBN 0-06-079127-6.
  17. ^ The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe at the Internet Movie Database

External links

See also

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