The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, by C. S. Lewis
The wardrobe, fashioned from the timbers of the Narnian apple tree serves as the gateway to Narnia. Lucy first discovers this gateway while playing hide-and-seek. With the proclamation of her discovery, Lucy’s siblings think she is being puerile, but eventually they all discover the truth. God wants child-like faith. Only child-like faith is permitted to enter Narnia.
The first time that Lucy enters Narnia, she meets a Faun, Tumnus. Tumnus reveals that he is supposed to deliver Lucy to the White Witch; however, he has compassion and lets her return home. The first time that Edmund enters Narnia, he is also alone. Instead of meeting Tumnus, Edmund meets the White Witch. Once she learns that Edmund is a son of Adam, her ire is abated, and she treats him like royalty, magically creating irresistible Turkish Delights. The Turkish Delights are so delicious that Edmund craves nothing more. He promises to bring his brother and sisters to the Queen’s palace, in exchange for kingship and bottomless Turkish Delight. Just like the devil tempted Jesus with food and the promise of kingship over a land that was not his to give away (Matthew 4), the Queen also tempts Edmund with food and kingship over a land that is not hers. The promises of the devil are sweet, and they appeal to our present cravings. But we must not yield to temptation.
Who is the Professor? He assures Peter and Susan that Lucy is not insane, and says that there is likely some truth in her wardrobe story about the magical kingdom. The Professor claims that Lucy has no motivation for pretending, that she is likely telling the truth, and that the existence of other worlds is highly probable. The Professor is Digory, the boy who is responsible for bringing the White Witch to Narnia in “The Magician’s Nephew.” No wonder he believes Lucy; he has been to Narnia and other worlds himself.
While hiding from adults, all four of the children enter the wardrobe together, push through the coats, and enter Narnia. For their first destination, Lucy brings them to Tumnus’s house. At the house, they see a notice posted that the Faun has been arrested for aiding humans. Next, the children meet Mr. and Mrs. Beaver, who are friends of Tumnus the Faun. The Beavers are friendly, feed the children, and discuss the return of Aslan. When the children ask if Aslan is powerful enough to defeat the White Witch, the Beavers simply laugh. Of course Aslan is more powerful than the Queen. It is foolish to suggest that the Witch is more powerful than Aslan. It is foolish to think that Jesus cannot defeat the devil. God is undeniably greater than Satan. The Beavers also tell us that Aslan is not a “safe” creature, but he is good. Aslan is not safe, because he has tremendous power, but because he only uses that power for right purposes, he is good. He should be feared for his power, but also trusted for his goodness. Meekness is having great power, but not abusing or gloating about it. Aslan, like God the Father, has tremendous power and wisdom, and because of his power and wisdom, he is not “safe.” Who are the Beavers? They are similar to the Biblical prophets, providing godly guidance, wisdom, and instruction.
After learning about Aslan’s return, Edmund sneaks away from the Beavers in search of the Queen. He is lured by the promises of Turkish Delight and becoming a King. His siblings do not immediately notice his absence. But when they do, and they realize that he is going to see the Queen, they hurriedly leave the Beavers’ home. Lucy, Susan, and Peter are betrayed by Edmund. I also found it interesting to learn that the Queen is not a human; she is half Jinn and half Giant.
While hiding from the Queen, the three children (minus Edmund) meet Father Christmas. Up to this point in Narnia, the entire world has been consumed by the Witch’s magic and stuck in an eternal winter without Christmas. The return of Father Christmas is the first indication that the world is changing, the White Witch is losing her magic, and Aslan’s return is nearing. Father Christmas gives gifts to each of the children: a sword for Edmund, a bow and quiver for Susan, a dagger and healing potion for Lucy. Aslan is coming! Christmas celebrates the birth of Christ. The re-introduction of Father Christmas in the story can be seen as the re-introduction of Aslan (that is, Jesus Christ) into Narnia.
On his journey with the Witch, Edmund begins to realize that trusting the Queen was a mistake. She treats him harshly and cruelly. However, he also notices that the snow is melting, greenery is showing, and flowers are blooming. In fact, the snow melts so quickly that the Queen is forced to abandon her sleigh. The Beavers and children also noticed the changing landscape. They knew that the Witch’s spells were fading and spring was coming.
When the children reach their final destination, the Stone Table, they see the great Lion, Aslan. Peter approaches Aslan to announce their presence. It is not long before Aslan and his followers are attacked by a company of the Queen’s wolves. In an attempt to prevent the prophecy from being fulfilled, and the return of the Four Kings to Cair Paravel, the Queen prepares to murder Edmund. In perfect timing, a rescue party from Aslan rescues Edmund from certain death. To avoid capture, the Queen and her Dwarf assume the images of a boulder and stump. This is interesting. The Queen and Dwarf can use their magic to make themselves appear like things that they are not. Just like the devil appears in many forms, and is not always recognizable. The devil and his demons are deceitful and wise creatures. Since the devil and demons are masters of disguise, we must be wary of outward appearances. Something can appear benign, like a stump or a boulder, but in fact it can be filled with great evil. A rock can be nothing more than an inanimate object, or it can be filled with the devil. To distinguish between the two, we must practice prayer, and continually ask God for wisdom and clarity.
Nearing the end of the book, and nearing the climax, the Witch and Aslan have a private conversation. We do not know what they spoke to one another, but the conclusion is clear. Aslan offers his life in exchange for Edmund’s. This is the major theme of the novel. Aslan offers his life in exchange for the broken boy, Edmund, just like Jesus sacrificed his life for ours. Compared to Aslan, Edmund is weak and broken and unworthy. Similarly, we are weak, broken, and unworthy. Yet, Christ died for us.
On the night of Aslan’s death, the Lion goes for a walk in the forest alone. But he is soon joined by the two sisters, Susan and Lucy. They walk with him, and place their hands on his great mane. It is obvious that they love Aslan. At the edge of the forest, Aslan instructs them to stop, because he must proceed alone. The girls watch as Aslan approaches the Stone Table, is bound by the Witch, and is taunted by the Witch’s coterie of evil creatures. After much humiliation, the Witch kills Aslan.
After the killing ceremony, Susan and Lucy weep over Aslan’s limp body. They weep and mourn, but then eventually return to the woods. Then, they heard a loud crack and saw that the Stone Table was split in half and Aslan’s body was gone. Aslan appears to them! He explains that he has risen. To celebrate his resurrection, he wrestles with and plays with the girls. Then, he gives a majestic and awesome roar. The return of Aslan and the picture of this powerful creature playing nicely with the girls, is a beautiful image. I really enjoyed this section of the novel. It is clear that Aslan’s death and resurrection is analogous to Jesus’s death and resurrection. Jesus’s ultimate sacrifice, and conquest of the grave, in response to our sins, is the major theme of this story. It’s a beautifully crafted tale that illustrates God’s love and sacrifice for us. In particular, I like how Susan and Lucy are the first characters to witness Aslan’s resurrected body, just like Mary Magdalene is the first person to see Jesus after his death. I also like the Lewis’s depiction of the solemn moment that Aslan spends walking with the girls on the night before his death. It highlights the significance of the proceeding events. There is also a final meal before Aslan’s death, just like the Last Supper.
Aslan awakens all the stone figures that the Witch cursed during her reign. Then, Aslan and his army proceed to fight the Witch and her coterie. It is not long after Aslan’s arrival that the Queen is defeated. Just like the Beavers proclaimed, the Queen is no match for the Lion. It would be foolish to think otherwise. In the end, Aslan is victorious. In the end, Jesus Christ will be victorious.
In the final scene of the story, the Kings and Queens of Narnia (that is, Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy) pursue a white stag. They pursue the stag up to the lamppost and the edge of a forest. From this point, they recognize that entering the forest in pursuit of the stag will change their lives forever. I think this is interesting, because the white stag is often used to guide characters, and following the white stag is always the right decision. Most notably to me, in one version Arthurian lure, King Arthur follows a white stag which leads him to discover Excalibur. White stags are God’s directions and calls to action. When God places a white stag in our life, we should follow it, even into the unknown.