The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe is the first book C.S. Lewis wrote in his Chronicles of Narnia series, and it is arguably the best-known book in the series. Although it is often published as the second book in the series, most Narnia fans will agree that this is the book that ought to be read first.
The story takes place during World War II as the four Pevensie children, Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy, are sent to stay in the mansion of Professor Digory Kirke. They spend many of their days playing together throughout the grounds. It is during a game of hide-and-seek that Lucy stumbles upon a very special wardrobe: the wardrobe that transports her to Narnia. There, she meets a faun named Mr. Tumnus who tells her of Narnia and the White Witch. Though the White Witch has declared herself Queen of Narnia, she is nothing but a tyrant who makes it always winter, but never Christmas. Tumnus then reveals that the Queen has ordered that any Sons of Adam or Daughters of Eve discovered in Narnia were to be brought straight to her, but he finds that he cannot bring himself to kidnap Lucy.
Lucy returns to her siblings to tell them of her adventures, but apparently no time passed while she was in the wardrobe, so her siblings don’t believe a word of her story. Edmund eventually finds his way into Narnia, but it is the White Witch whom he meets, and he becomes ensnared by her charms and gifts. When he returns, he lies about his brief adventure in Narnia and continues to torment Lucy. His lies, however, are eventually discovered as all four children one day venture into the wardrobe and stumble into Narnia. Lucy takes them to meet Mr. Tumnus, but discovers his house in complete disarray, and Tumnus is nowhere to be found. And so the adventures of the Pevensie children begin…
One of the main complaints I often hear voiced about the Chronicles of Narnia is that the Christian allegory throughout the series is too strong and it distracts from the story. I, honestly, have never felt this is the case. I am not religious at all, and while I feel that yes, there are certain lines of dialogue that can get a bit heavy-handed with the religious references, overall, Narnia is simply a beautiful story, The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe being no exception. It is so much more than a religious allegory; it is a story about being a good person, about persevering through adversity, about standing by the ones you love, and about believing in the magic of the world around us.
How does the movie compare?
I thought the movie adaptation of this book was beautiful. I’ve been a Narnia fan since I was a child, doing my best to re-read the series every year, and this movie perfectly captured the magic of Narnia for me. The snowy forests were exactly how I envisioned them, Mr. Tumnus was as sweet and adorable as I always pictured, the White Witch was as terrifying as the figure who used to haunt my childhood nightmares, Aslan was as majestic and inspiring as he should have been, and the world itself was as bright and beautiful as I had always dreamed it would be. Even the music had a magical sound to it. With a few small exceptions here and there, I found this movie to be a wonderful representation of the book.
Why should you read this book?
The Chronicles of Narnia are classics. They are, however, geared more toward children, so if you’re reading it as an adult, don’t expect anything hugely detailed or complicated. The Narnia books are generally rather simple, but that is part of their appeal. They are quite beautiful in their simplicity, and they are very fun reads.