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The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

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The Lion, the Witch
and the Wardrobe
Author(s) C.S.Lewis
Original title The Lion. The Witch and the Wardrobe
Translator LWW
Illustrator Pauline Baynes
Cover artist Pauline Baynes
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Series The Chronicles of Narnia
Genre(s) Fantasy, children's literature, Christian 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 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. It has also been published in 47 foreign languages.

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

Character list

  • 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 ridicules 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.
  • Edmund Pevensie is the third of the Pevensie children. In Narnia he meets the White Witch, who plies him with treats ( Magical 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.
  • Susan Pevensieis the second oldest of pevensie children. She does not believe in Narnia until she actually goes there. She is crowned Queen of Narnia,and becomes known as Queen Susan the Gentle.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • The White Witch, as she is referred to by her Narnian subjects, is the land's self-proclaimed queen, tyrannizing all through her magic-imposed rule. Her spell on Narnia has made it "always winter but never Christmas" for a hundred years. When provoked, she turns opponents to stone by waving her wand. 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. Her actual name "Jadis" appears in one official written proclamation in this book, and Lewis's later prequel The Magician's Nephew tells of her origin and how she came to the Narnian world.
  • 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 knows who she is, 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 wants to tell; The Magician's Nephew reveals that he had been present at Aslan's creation of Narnia.
  • 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 in some editions), 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.
  • Mrs. Macready is the housekeeper for Professor Kirke when the Pevensies come to stay.
  • Giant Rumblebuffin, who had been 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

The story begins in 1940 during World War II, when four children, Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy Pevensie, are evacuated from London to escape the Blitz. They are sent to live with Professor Digory Kirke, who lives in a country house in the English countryside.

While the four children are exploring the house, Lucy looks into a wardrobe and discovers a portal to a mysterious world called Narnia, in which she meets a faun named Tumnus who takes her to tea in his home. He confesses he planned to report her to the tyrannical White Witch but has thought better of it. Upon returning to our world, Lucy's siblings do not believe her story about Narnia. Her spiteful older brother Edmund enters the wardrobe and meets the White Witch, who befriends him and offers him magical Turkish delight that enchants him. She encourages him to bring his siblings to her in Narnia, with the promise that he shall rule over them. Edmund meets Lucy in Narnia and returns to England with her, but after returning to our world he denies to Susan and Peter that there is anything behind the wardrobe.

Eventually all four of the children enter Narnia together while hiding in the wardrobe. They meet Mr. and Mrs. Beaver, who invite them to dinner. The beavers recount a 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 sneaks away to the White Witch. Her castle is filled with stone statues; enemies whom she petrified. The beavers realize where Edmund has gone and abandon their home, leading the children to join Aslan. As they travel, they notice that the snow is melting, indicating that the White Witch's spell is breaking. A visit by Father Christmas confirms this.

The children and the Beavers meet with Aslan and his army. Peter engages in his first battle, killing a wolf who threatens Susan.

The Witch approaches to speak with Aslan, insisting that according to "deep magic from the dawn of time" she has the right to execute Edmund as a traitor. Aslan speaks with her privately and persuades her to renounce her claim on Edmund's life. That evening, Aslan secretly leaves the camp, but is followed by Lucy and Susan. Aslan has bargained to exchange his own life for Edmund's. The Witch ties Aslan to the Stone Table and then kills him with a knife. The following morning Aslan is restored to life; for unbeknownst to the witch, "deeper magic from before the dawn of time" allows someone who willingly dies in the place of another to be returned to life.

Aslan allows Lucy and Susan to ride on his back as he travels to the Witch's castle, where he breathes upon the statues and restores them to life. Peter and Edmund lead the Narnian army in a battle against the White Witch's army, and Aslan arrives with the former statues as reinforcements. The Narnians rout the evil army, and Aslan kills the Witch.

The Pevensie children are named kings and queens of Narnia. On a hunt several years later, they rediscover the lamp post, walk through the wardrobe, and end up right back in the mansion just moments after they had entered 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 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 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."

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.":

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 Kaspian, The Voyage of the Dawn Threader 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. 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 evident in a letter Lewis 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 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.

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.


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 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.

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 Christ sacrificed Himself for sinners. The cross may be 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.

There are several parallels between the White Witch and the immortal protagonist of H. Rider Haggard's She , a novel greatly admired by C.S.Lewis.

The Story of the Amulet written by Edith Nesbit also contains scenes that can be considered as sources to sequences presenting Jadis, mostly in The Magician's Nephew.

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 favour 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.

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 of the American edition, "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.


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. The Royal Shakespeare Company did an adaptation in 1998, for which The acting edition has been published. 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 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 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 films, the third one 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.


1980s UK comedy show The Young Ones spoofed The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe in the episode "Flood". Punk rocker Vivian ( Ade Edmondson) enters Narnia while playing hide-and-seek via a wardrobe and meets the White Queen and her dwarf Shirley ( David Rappaport). Like Edmund in the original story the queen offers Vivian Turkish Delight only to be met with "No thanks. Got any kebabs?" She then demands to know who broke wind to which Shirley and Vivian squabble over who has the most ridiculous name.

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