The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe Study Guide

C. S. Lewis was already a well-known literary critic and religious writer by the time he embarked on what has become his best-loved project: The Chronicles of Narnia. The first in the series, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, was published in 1951 to much acclaim, and gave Lewis the opportunity to present issues of faith and logic, as well as strong moral and ethical messages, against a mythological landscape that includes well-known elements, including fauns, giants, evil witches, spells, and Father Christmas, to name just a few.

During World War II, Lewis, like the Professor in the story, opened his home to children evacuated from London during the air raids. This experience sowed the first seeds of the story, as Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy come to stay at the Professor's home for the same reason. Additionally, Lewis took images that particularly struck his imagination, such as a faun carrying an umbrella and a queen on a sledge, and then knit them into his story. He was particularly attracted to the fairy tale form because he had found new depth in it as an adult, especially admiring its restraint at avoiding unnecessary digressions. He appreciated the weight of each word and detail, and found that the form helped him to distill the tale of Narnia.

The land of Narnia presents readers with an alternate universe, one with a timeline quite different from our own. The wardrobe is one of the locations that serve as a bridge between the two worlds. Lewis uses the wardrobe to symbolize the coming-of-age of his characters: when they move past the boundaries of Narnia, they awaken to an awareness of the difference between "good" and "evil". The children's experiences in Narnia present an alternative method for communicating strong moral teachings about courage, honesty, kindness, reconciliation, forgiveness, and friendship. The touch of enchantment and wonder in the tale has also contributed to the popularity of - and, indeed, the fascination with - the Narnia stories.

In The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Lewis skillfully presents complicated intellectual concepts in a relatively simplistic manner, allowing readers to accept the possibility of the existence of such a remarkable place. He demonstrates the path to spiritual wonder and faith by first awakening the imagination; once the reader has opened his mind, the spiritual journey begins. While some have been tempted to read The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe as a strict allegory of Christianity or, in more recent years, as an expression of Lewis's sexism, the story is best understood purely as a vehicle for the imagination, as it welcomes readers into a world where the most precious lessons of human life are taught.