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

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

In middle school, I had a friend who had a wardrobe. When she got fed up with everything, she’d say, “Screw it. I’m going to Narnia,” and climb into said wardrobe. Except that she dropped the F-bomb instead of the nicey-nice version I’ve written out for you…

I’m not sure exactly how old I was when I first read The Chronicles of Narnia. It might have been fourth or fifth grade—definitely before this incident and before the film came out in 2005. Today I reveal my thoughts on The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe after my third or fourth read-through, now as a twenty-four-year-old.

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis Paperback | Lydia Sanders #TwistyMustacheReviews


During WWII, the four Pevensie children are evacuated from London to the country to avoid the German air raids.  They move in with an elderly professor who has an enormous house. In one of the spare rooms, Lucy Pevensie discovers a magical wardrobe that leads to another world where adventure, danger, and a struggle between good and evil await.

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis was first published in 1950. It was the first of The Chronicles of Narnia books to be written, but in modern editions, it is usually book two. I listened to the HarperCollins 2005 unabridged audiobook version read by Michael York. I also have a 2002 paperback copy from HarperTrophy (pictured above).

Review of The Lion,  the Witch, and the Wardrobe

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe is probably the most iconic of the Narnia books. It was written first and some people read it in that order. For me, it has always been book two, and I’m glad for that, because if this were the first one I’d read, I might not have gone on to read the rest. Unfortunately, that’s what my husband did.

The things I like about this book are basically the same things I love about The Magician’s Nephew, but they’re not as well executed in this book because Lewis didn’t yet have the experience of writing the five previous books in the series. It is still a fun, easy read with plenty of humor and wonder.

Sometimes I think the plot of this book is amazing, and sometimes I think that the plot twist is a cop-out. This depends on how spiritual and nostalgic I  feel during any given read-through.

Depending on how you read and interpret this book, the four Pevensie children become supporting characters/sidekicks or they serve as a group protagonist. I think the supporting character idea is more accurate because the most important role in the climax is served by a different character entirely. Alternatively, one could argue that this character is a cheesy guiding mentor, but then you have to deal with the implications of deus ex machina. Another possible interpretation is that "good" and "evil" are group protagonists and antagonists.

Most of these plot problems stem from Lewis’s attempts to bring in Christian allegory. In the other Narnia books, he tends to use it more interestingly and skillfully, but in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe it shows up in an in-your-face yet inconsistent and illogical way.

To be fair, however, kids don’t necessarily notice the deus ex machina elements or even care. As a child, I certainly didn't. Children's books have a much wider spectrum of what works in this particular area of storytelling, partially because often the best answer in a kid's world to a big scary problem is to let the authority figures in their lives take care of it.

This book also has more directly sexist remarks and attitudes. Like The Magician’s Nephew, the girls tend to be goody-goodies. However, unlike The Magician’s Nephew, there are directly sexist remarks about women in battle.

I am no expert on the evolution of cultural thought, but I think these ideas were probably well-accepted at the time. Yet I would guess that putting any children in battle was probably also frowned upon in the 40s and 50s, and that didn’t prevent Lewis from throwing Peter and Edmund into the fray.

Bottom line

I like this book, but not nearly as much as I like The Magician’s Nephew. For those who have only read The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe and didn’t care for it, I recommend giving The Magician’s Nephew a shot before giving up on the series, and don’t forget that these are children’s books.

I give The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe 5/7 twisty mustaches and look forward to rereading The Horse and His Boy.

Have you read The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe? What did you think of it? Are there any other books you'd like me to read and review? Leave a comment below or my hairless ghost lemur will haunt your dreams.

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