Wednesday, September 4, 2013

BOOK REVIEW: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis

There are six required categories for the Back to the Classics Challenge. I’d finished 4/6 books, so I chose a classic for my next read from the category "a classic that prominently features an animal." I picked The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis.

I don’t know how I missed reading this as a kid. My first real exposure to the story was the movie that came out 8 or so years ago. That was a significantly long time ago when I consider how much younger my kids were then. We watched the movie together and afterward, my husband read the Narnia Chronicles to them. I was reading other things with them at the time, so I missed out. I don’t feel an obligation to read all the books, but I have wanted to read this one ever since.

It’s a classic fantasy adventure for children. The four Pevensie children—Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy—are exploring the many rooms of an old house in the country where they have been sent for safety during the bombing of London. One room contains an old wardrobe. Lucy ventures into the wardrobe and out the back of it. Beyond the wardrobe is the magical land of Narnia.

Narnia is a land where animals talk and live side-by-side with mythical beings such as fawns and giants. It would be a beautiful place except that it has fallen under the rule of the evil White Witch, who calls herself the Queen of Narnia. She has put the whole land under a wintry spell so that spring (and Christmas) can never come. With her magic wand, she can turn any animal that crosses her into stone. But the White Witch is aware of a prophecy stating that when humans come to Narnia, the evil times will be over. Naturally, she is on the look-out for any human invaders.

Lucy eventually brings her brothers and sister to the place she has discovered. Edmund has an encounter with the witch and is, for selfish and childish reasons, swayed to her side. The other three siblings, with the help of animal friends, bravely set out to find Aslan, the Great Lion. Aslan is the source of an ancient power greater than that of the witch.

This all sets the stage for a final battle between good and evil, requiring sacrifice and redemption.

It’s a very straightforward story and a fine adventure for children. It even has an appearance by Santa Claus (or Father Christmas.) The movie had more high tension and some scenes that could be scary for kids, but the book is quite tame and matter-of-fact in its narration. I think kids would understand the emotions–the sibling quarrels that get out of hand because of the circumstances, but it’s not overwhelming. The only real evil in the book stems from the White Witch. There is no nuance or complexity to worry about, so it’s a nice introduction to fantasy adventure for young children. I know there is a whole literature about the Christian allegory in the book. You can compare Aslan to Jesus and Edmund to Judas and find a bunch of other examples of how Lewis is alluding to Christian themes in this story. I suppose that is one way to make the simple story more interesting–to play with it a bit. But I think it works best as an adventure story to read with quite young children, who will simply be thrilled to see good triumph over bad. Trying to read it with children for the Christian allegory might be too confusing for them and ruin the fun of the story, while for adults, I think there are novels that work in the Christian themes in a more subtle way with a more complex and interesting storyline.

The Back-to-the-Classics Challenge is hosted by Sarah Reads Too Much.


  1. THANKS for your review. You always have such nice reviews.

    And...thanks for stopping by my book blogger hop earlier.

    Happy Hopping!!
    Silver's Reviews
    My Blog Hop Answer

  2. I read this as a child and didn't pick up on the Christian message at all, but as an adult it felt as subtle as a sledgehammer!
    I'm glad you liked it, I like this one too, but found the rest of the series a bit weak at times.

  3. I remember reading this as a kid in 4th grade and the Christian imagery was completely over my head. I was astonished to discover years later that Aslan could be read a s Christ figure-just completely mind-blown. I do think Prince Caspian and Voyage of the Dawn Treader are worth reading if you can squeeze them in (I especially adore Dawn Treader.)

  4. I like your review of this book and how you touch on the religious aspects of it. However, I do wonder how you came to the conclusion of the White Witch being the only real evil in the book? In my opinion the White Witch is an evil character, or one could even conclude that she is compared to the devil. Also, I believe Edmund is an evil character. If Edmund is always the Witch’s follower, reporter, and spy then wouldn’t you be able to come to the conclusion that he could be compared to a demon? I know this may seem a little far-fetched but, Edmund is always reporting back to the witch and sticking by her side even if what she is doing is wrong. If you were to look at the relationship between Edmund and the Witch, it is much like the relationship of the devil and a demon. Would you agree?

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  6. I really like your review and im wondering what your opinion is on this? How did a wardrobe creep its way into the title The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe? How could such an ordinary object be important? The book uses the wardrobe as a sort of portal from Narnia to the real world. The children are just playing a normal game of hide and seek and Lucy just happens upon the wardrobe room. When she goes in the room she decides to hide in the wardrobe and finds the world of Narnia. C. S. Lewis could’ve used the most amazing way to get into Narnia, but chose to use just a normal wardrobe as the gateway to the magical land of Narnia. Why do you think he used something as simple as a wardrobe?

    1. Hello fellow bloggers! You were blogging about how the wardrobe snuck its way into the title of the book. The title of the book is a very key part, it’s what first catches the reader’s attention. How I think the wardrobe got put in the title is how some things foreshadow events. The wardrobe foreshadows how the kids will eventually get into Narnia. A way into another world or realm. The kids can go back and forth into the real world and the fantasy land of Narnia but time doesn’t change on earth. The Wardrobe part of the title is the most foreshadowing part.

  7. In reading your review, I like how you point out the difference in reading the book through a child's eyes verses an adult's eyes. I believe that children read for the adventure and can see the good and evil without analyzing key figures, but as adults we tend to point out how different characters could be religious figures. A child might see Edmund going off with the White Witch just to get have all the Turkish Delight, and not having to share it with his siblings. Now an adult might see him as Judas as you pointed out. While both mean the same thing in the big picture, they have different meanings within the age groups. I believe reading to your children plays an important part in teaching life lessons on right and wrong.

  8. In reading your review, I admire the way u point out how the book use the story through the eyes of children's and not only adults. when a child read a book of like this one it shows them the difference between good and evil in a way they can understand. the witch to a child that read the story is evil because of what she did Aslam on top of the stones. An adult might think she is the the devil. while both mean the same thing they have just been look at in a different perspective.

  9. You say in the article The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis located on ‘You can compare Aslan to Jesus and Edmund to Judas and find a bunch of other examples of how Lewis is alluding to Christian themes in this story.’ I found that the wardrobe was given a holy feeling and the producers made it almost god like. This is because the scene was shot from behind Lucy and she was looking up at this big, detailed wardrobe. Lucy was dwarfed by the wardrobe as she looks up at it. This gives the wardrobe a holy feeling. It is like looking up to god. The wardrobe is an escape from the horrifying times of war, which relates to faith as you can have a spiritual escape during tough times.
    Lucy was a believer because she had seen inside the wardrobe and its magical properties. Peter, Edmond and Susan had not seen what is inside the wardrobe. They didn’t believe Lucy. Lucy tried to explain what the wardrobe contained and what Narnia was like, but they continued not to listen and thought Lucy was crazy. This has a strong connection with religion as there are believers and non-believers, followers and non-followers.