The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe Summary and Analysis of Chapters 16-17: What Happened About the Statues & The Hunting of the White Stag

When Aslan leaps into the Witch's courtyard with Lucy and Susan on his back, Lucy immediately notices the stone statues. Aslan breathes on the statues, and they return to life; a lion, returned to his former self, leaps in delight and licks Aslan's face. "Instead of all that deadly white the courtyard was now a blaze of colours." Aslan rescues a friendly giant named Giant Rumblebuffin, and commands the creatures to search the interior of the Witch's fortress, as well as the dungeon, for prisoners. Lucy finds Mr. Tumnus, and Aslan brings him back to life. The courtyard surges with "liberated statues."

Aslan then asks the giant to help them get out of the fortress, and it bangs on the gates so hard that they all fall down. In gratitude for his assistance, Lucy offers the giant her handkerchief; in a humorous moment, the giant initially mistakes Lucy for the handkerchief, but then recognizes his error and uses the cloth to wipe his face. A sheep-dog organizes the crowd, and, with a noise "like an English fox-hunt only better," they flee together to a narrow valley, where Lucy hears the ominous sound of shouting and the clash of metal against metal. They discover Peter and Edmund, along with Aslan's army, fighting against a much larger crowd of horrible creatures. Peter is fighting the Witch, who wields a stone knife; seeing this, Aslan roars terribly, leaping onto the Witch.

The battle is over after a few minutes, and the Witch lies dead. (Again, the narrative skips over any actual description of the killing.) Peter and Aslan shake hands, and Lucy notices that Peter suddenly looks changed: "his face was so pale and stern and he seemed so much older." Edmund, Peter explains, heroically smashed the Witch's wand. After that, they stood a chance against her, since she no longer had the power to change everyone into stone. They find Edmund lying near Mrs. Beaver, covered in blood, his face green. Lucy pours a few drops of her Christmas present into his mouth, recalling the words of Father Christmas. Aslan tells her to move on and help the others who are wounded, and when she responds crossly, anxiously hovering over Edmund, he pointedly asks her how many more must die for Edmund. She moves on to help others, and later finds Edmund fully recovered: "He had become his real old self again and could look you in the face." In recognition of his courageous actions, Aslan makes him a Knight. Lucy and Susan discuss whether or not they should tell Edmund about the sacrifice that Aslan made for him.

That night, they all sleep in the valley, and in the morning Aslan presents them with food. Together, the children head east, to the sea and the castle of Cair Paravel, where the four assume their thrones. Aslan tells them, "Once a king or queen of Narnia, always a king or queen of Narnia." The mermen and mermaids sing, and there is much celebrating. In the meantime, Aslan quietly slips away, and Mr. Beaver explains to the children that he is always coming and going; he has many countries to attend to.

The new kings and queens of Narnia destroy the last of the Witch's army, and, as they grow, they become known as Peter the Magnificent, Susan the Gentle, Edmund the Just, and Lucy the Valiant. They make "good laws," "[keep] the peace," and "[encourage] ordinary people who wanted to live and let live." Their old life beyond the wardrobe becomes something like a dream, until one year a middle-aged Mr. Tumnus tells them that the White Stag has appeared in the Western Wood. It offers wishes to anyone who catches him, so together the siblings go to hunt in the wood, speaking like the kings and queens of long ago. They see the lamp-post, and Peter calls it "a tree of iron." Edmund remarks that it reminds him of something from a dream, or "in the dream of a dream." They all agree that they feel the same way, and move forward. Gradually, they remember that the "iron tree" is called a "lamp-post," and the branches around them transform into fur coats. Soon, they are tumbling out of the wardrobe into the empty room in their old clothes. They hear Mrs. Macready speaking to the visitors in the passageway; luckily, however, the tour skips over the room.

The children tell their story to the Professor ("a very remarkable man"), feeling that they must explain what has happened to four of the fur coats. He believes their story, but thinks it unlikely that they will ever be able to return to Narnia by that route. He does, however, assure them that one day they will find their way back: "Once a King in Narnia, always a King in Narnia," he says, echoing Aslan. He advises them to keep the story a secret, and not to talk about it with anyone who has not had a similar experience themselves. In the end, he laments, "Bless me, what do they teach them in these schools?" The adventures in Narnia draw to a least for the time being.


With Aslan's life and strength restored, he runs as fast as he can to the home of the White Witch, where his breath returns life to the stone statues. Aslan's regenerative powers cast him as a god-like figure. All of the White Witch's evil works are reversed, redeeming those who had been punished for their "crimes" against the "Queen". Mr. Tumnus's return and the reappearance of the handkerchief of friendship signal that things are falling back into place.

The resolution of the story occurs during the battle against the White Witch. Lewis carefully includes the detail that the White Witch holds a stone knife as she fights Peter, something Father Christmas warned Lucy and Susan not to do ("Battles are ugly when women fight," he said.) This passage has received a great deal of criticism from feminist thinkers: Lewis portrays the White Witch - an aggressive and ambitious woman - as evil and "ugly", while Susan and Lucy, benevolent "Daughters of Eve", refrain from fighting and participate in the battle only by ministering to the wounded.

Aslan is the one who slays the Witch: this is another reversal in the narrative, since it was she who ended his life at the Stone Table, albeit temporarily. The narrative again skips over the violence of the killing, most likely out of sensitivity to younger readers. The White Witch, however, has no Deeper Magic to appeal to. She is the ultimate "traitor" to both Narnia and the Emperor's moral law, and Aslan metes out the proper punishment of death, thereby fulfilling the prophecy. While Edmund is forgiven, because he has successfully discovered his fundamental goodness, the White Witch is beyond redemption.

Over the course of the battle, Peter comes of age: when everything is over, Lucy notices that his face has grown older. He has built on his prior experiences and has shown that he is capable of leading Aslan's army against the White Witch without the lion to guide him. Edmund, likewise, proves his courage by fighting valiantly; at last, he proves that he has learned to use good judgment, rightly perceiving that the source of the Witch's power lies in her wand. Edmund succeeds in destroying the wand, helping pave the way to victory.

Lucy uses the gift of the vial from Father Christmas to heal Edmund of his wounds in the same way that Peter used his gifts of the sword and shield to answer Susan's call for help. Edmund's gift, of course, is the forgiveness of his brother and his sisters, in addition to Aslan's act of self-sacrifice, though Edmund may not ever be aware of the extent of the lion's selflessness. Aslan teaches Lucy not to favor one life over any other; even though she is personally tied to Edmund, she must learn that all lives are equally valuable. Lucy shares the vial of cordial with all of the wounded creatures, and this becomes one of the fundamental lessons that will help her become a wise ruler.

Edmund's transformation is completed when Lucy gives him the juice of the fire-flower, healing him both physically and symbolically. Finally, Edmund too comes of age: his character has undergone profound internal changes over the course of the story, and in the battle against the White Witch he finally reveals how far he has come. Like Peter, he is rewarded for his courage and made a Knight. The rift between the brothers appears to be healed, and even seems to have reached a deeper level than ever before. Peter demonstrates his awareness of how much Edmund has changed by expressing admiration for Edmund's quick thinking on the battlefield. After the children assume their thrones, Edmund becomes known as "Edmund the Just". To be "just", Lewis implies, one must have experience both with justice and with injustice.

Susan's character is somewhat neglected throughout the story. Although she is a constant, gentle presence, she has little if any impact on the dramatic events taking place. This may largely be a consequence of the fact that she and Edmund do not visibly clash; since it is he who is the center of the tension in the tale, Susan has little to do if she does not directly confront him. Susan is calm, gentle, cautious, and practical; in other words, she possesses characteristics ideally suited for a queen. Lucy, in contrast, is far more spirited, and thus plays a greater role in the progression of the plot.

The children's reign is just, peaceful, and good, standing in direct contrast to the reign of the White Witch, with her Secret Police and everlasting winter. They become very much a part of Narnia, and after some time even forget about their previous lives. Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy, in other words, become a part of the fantasy. Their memories are sparked, however, when they see the lamp-post, and return to them completely once they tumble out of the wardrobe, back into the very moment in which they were hiding from Mrs. Macready and the tour group. Mrs. Macready, oblivious to the events that have taken place, announces to the group that there is nothing of value in the Wardrobe Room, suggesting that the children's experience is privileged. (The idea of "privilege" is further intensified by Lewis' illustration of monarchical reign in his story; the experience of the truth, in the end, is limited to only a select few.) Now it is Narnia that seems like a dream, but they believe in their experience, and the lessons they learned remain with them. The Professor believes their story entirely because his past experiences have shown him that the children are truthful. Their fantastic story, therefore, must be real. Through this story, Lewis suggests that fables are not impossible, but are at the very least truthful in the lessons that they teach.