Synopsis: During the children’s evacuation of London during WWII, the Pevensie children (Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy) are sent to a very historical house owned by a Professor. While exploring, Lucy can’t resist looking into a wardrobe. It turns out she finds another world, Narnia.
The first creature she meets is a faun, Mr. Tumnus, who promptly invites her to tea at his house. He tells her that he was going to kidnap her for the White Witch, but realizes that she’s so sweet how can she possibly do that? So, she goes back through the wardrobe safely. She’s been gone hours, but the others didn’t even notice her absence because it was only minutes in their time. Edmund makes fun of her relentlessly. He follows her during hide and seek into the wardrobe, where he goes to Narnia and meets the White Witch (but she calls herself Queen). He spills that he has a brother and two sisters, that Lucy had been there before and talked to a faun, and he eats tons of her enchanted Turkish Delight. She tells Edmund to bring his family to Narnia and she’ll make him King. Lucy finds him there, and is excited he knows about Narnia. But when she tells the others about Narnia, Edmund plays it off. Lucy gets really upset, and Peter and Susan try to make Ed be kinder to her.
The housekeeper gives historical tours of the house to visitors, and the kids have to keep out of the way. One fateful day, as she’s giving a tour that they weren’t expecting, they are pretty much chased into the wardrobe.
The older ones apologize to Lucy and basically think Edmund’s a prat for lying to them about being here before. Soon, they discover Mr. Tumnus has been taken away for fraternizing with enemies– Lucy. They decide to try and help Tumnus. They meet Beaver, who explains why the White Witch was after two Daughters of Eve and two Sons of Adam. A prophecy tells of four humans taking thrones in Narnia and overthrowing the Witch. They are told of Aslan, the King of the Wood, and they all get warm, fuzzy feelings– except for Edmund, who feels kind of sick. Aslan has returned, and the Pevensies’ arrival, means that the 100-year winter will finally be over. At some point, Edmund sneaks out to go to the Witch. Once Mr. and Mrs. Beaver discover this, they (and the rest of the kids) high-tail it to the Stone Table, where they are to meet Aslan. In the meantime, Edmund tells the Queen all that he’s heard, and she takes him as prisoner.
“It’s always winter, never Christmas” with the White Witch. But on their journey, they meet none other than Father Christmas, who tells the children the White Witch’s power is breaking, and he gives them tools for the upcoming battle. Spring is here. They make it to Aslan, who is disappointed that they don’t have Edmund. They manage to get an apologetic Edmund back, but the Witch calls for his blood, because all traitors belong to her. Unknown to his followers, Aslan makes a deal with the Witch and takes Edmund’s place.
Susan and Lucy can’t sleep and they join Aslan, who tells them they can walk a ways but must go back when he says so. Instead, they watch as the Witch ties Aslan up, shaves him, and kills him. After she’s gone, they mourn beside him. They cry until they can’t cry any more. Field mice chew his ropes loose. As dawn occurs, the stone table is broken, and Aslan has reversed death. When someone who has done no wrong dies instead of a traitor, the Deep Magic that the Witch thought would defeat Aslan worked against her.
So, Aslan frees stone creatures the Witch had turned, and they join the battle that Peter and Edmund had been fighting. With the Witch defeated, they are crowned Kings and Queens of Narnia. They grow up, and Narnia is in their Golden Age under their rule. They chase a stag into the wood, and they go back through the wardrobe and become young again.
- Fun Fact: C.S. Lewis wrote with the group “the Inklings,” which included Tolkien as a buddy to bounce ideas off of. Tolkien complained that he mixed too much mythology together. Lots of Greek and Roman creatures, Father Christmas, and also, Tolkien wasn’t too fond of allegories. And, there are plenty of Christian allegories to go around.
- One of my friends recently said that if Aslan was what Jesus is supposed to be like, there was no need to be scared of him. Because even though “He’s not a tame lion,” he is very good.
- This really is a good book to read for fun around Christmas time, especially during a winter like this, where it’s already been so miserable.
Book vs. Film (2005 version)
This may be the best film adaptation ever. And I realize this high praise five years later is a bit ridiculous, but I didn’t have a book blog then. I’ve also been picking apart Harry Potter for the past month, so it’s extra impressive to me that EVERYTHING was true to the book.
The movie, of course, expanded on the book. They upped the scary factor, to be sure. But movies have a beautiful ability to go back and forth between storylines without it being confusing: for example, the movie shows that the wolves almost catch them at Beaver’s house. They aren’t that close in the book, but Mrs. Beaver does slow them down a bit, and they may have a fifteen minute head-start. The scenes with Edmund in the palace were not in the book with such detail, especially the conversation with Tumnus, but it adds to the sense that Edmund deeply regrets his decision to go to the Witch. But even little throw-away details in the book, like Tumnus having a picture of his father, become significant in the movie.
Lewis originally didn’t want his works adapted to film because of the strong likelihood they’d look stupid. Fortunately, technology has evolved since the 1960’s and the CGI is very well done in the film. Lewis’ stepson, Doug Gresham, was co-producer of this movie. I’m sure this had something to do with the amount of loyalty they had to the book. The movie came out while I was taking a C.S. Lewis fiction course, and I won’t swear to this, but my professor’s main complaint was Lucy was too friggin’ adorable. (In the book, she isn’t noted for being cute. We’ll see this come up later.)
Grades: 3-6 While it’s ageless and timeless, third would be where I’d start putting it on the shelf. It’s short, and simply written.
Grade: A It’s beautifully written, it’s a book that even the most conservative parent wouldn’t blink at, but it speaks to the goodness of life. He has inspired countless writers. Even though it is a Christian message, I remember reading it and being clueless about its meaning for a long time. Those who know it’s a Christian message will recognize it immediately, even if it takes the others a little while to understand.