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

I tried reading this book several times as a kid, but it always ended up on my DNF pile.  Not sure why as I remember being fond of the idea of a wardrobe transporting me to a secret land.  There were cubby holes in my house that I pretended did this very same thing and I was convinced the small woods behind my house (really some trees and a few shrubs) were a magically enchanted forest.

Everyone knows the story – four siblings (Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy) stumble across the magical wardrobe during a game of hide and seek.  The wardrobe transports them to the land of Narnia where the evil White Witch rules and has thrown the world into perpetual winter, without Christmas.  With the help of the children, Aslan (Lion and King of Beasts) has returned to set things straight in a battle of good vs. evil.

I’m not reading this novel as a Christian allegory – yes, I know that it’s meant to be one.  You can’t hide from it as there is absolutely no subtlety AT ALL to the story’s religious overtones.  Instead, I really wanted to see how the story held up separate from that fact as most children aren’t reading it in that light anyway.  And this is most definitely a children’s story.

The very idea of a magic wardrobe leading to a wonderful new world is brilliant – what kid won’t find this enjoyable?  Imagination and creativity are nurtured in such fairy tales and I adore any book that steps outside the bounds of reality. Narnia is masterfully and whimsically drawn as a winter wonderland hiding a frozen hell.  I also love how the color white that’s so often used to symbolize purity and good covers this evil world ruled by a snow ‘queen’.

The children themselves are hit and miss with me.  Peter and Susan as the eldest siblings are flat characters who receive almost no attention.  Edmund and Lucy are much more well-rounded.  Poor Edmund as mislead traitor and Lucy as brave explorer and independent thinker.  As for the White Witch and Aslan, I wanted to know them better – to understand their motives.  I hated feeling like one is just bad and the other just good – what makes them this way?  Is this all they are?  So frustrating and I don’t really see how they can teach us anything.

I wanted to like it – I really tried to, but everything just fell limp and lifeless at the end.  Lewis built a gorgeous world with non-dimensional, cardboard characters.  Are the rest of the stories any better?  I’m not inclined to keep reading.  To be honest, I had more fun reading about the controversy of which novel to read first, The Magician’s Nephew or The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (you can see which side of the argument I fall).  Very young children will still probably find this tale enchanting – obviously, they do since this novel has remained so topical and present 62 years after its first publication.  So, in general, no one agrees with me and that’s perfectly okay!

I hope everyone has a wonderful Friday and super weekend.  The Litwits meet this Sunday at my house – 4 pm – to discuss The Night Circus!  Looking forward to seeing everyone!

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12 thoughts on “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis

  1. If you’re curious about the White Witch, then read The Magician’s Nephew. It deals with the origins of Narnia, and was pretty interesting. There still isn’t as much character development as there could be, but you do see some of her backstory. I think part of the lack of development might be because it’s written as an allegory, and so good and evil archetypes are pretty standard.

    • I might pick up The Magician’s Nephew one day – or just finish the entire series since they aren’t hard to read. I do think the development stagnates due to the allegory which just makes me sad because an allegory can exist while also having more fully drawn characters.

  2. Yay for reading LWW! Sad you didn’t like it though… however, I did reread all the Narnia books a couple years ago and I think the magic was lost on me because I found them sort of flat too. Without getting to English nerd on you, the main characters – Pevensie siblings, Aslan, White Witch – get much more developed further into the series, especially Susan and Edmund (who are my two favorites). But, as a child, I never got anything out of these books except the magic that C.S. Lewis spun. Glad you gave it a chance!

    • I might read further one day! I’m glad that all the characters do get further developed along the way. Obviously, a children’s novel isn’t going to be as detailed as a more mature work since kids lose their interest rather quickly. Thanks for stopping by!

  3. I never read this as a child, but gave it to my children, who read the whole series. Shame on me, because I still haven’t read it! I can’t put my finger on the why, but for some reason, this one just doesn’t entice me. Very honest review today. It was much appreciated.

    • It never enticed me either. I originally purchased this book for a Religion class in college, but I dropped the class and thus, didn’t read the book. Been on my shelf ever since. I’d also give this collection of stories to my children (if they ever exist!).

  4. Chalk me up as one who doesn’t agree with your dislike of the book. I first read it as a college student (not for a class), but as a Christian I found the faith elements intriguingly woven into the Chronicles. From a secular perspective, I would probably concur that character development could be better, but the books are really about the story, more than they are about individual characters. And the stories have proven to be captivating to people from a variety of world views.

  5. We shall agree to disagree! I really wanted to see how the book held up outside of a Christian reading – just as a story with characters instead of an allegory. It’s interesting how our opinions change about things when our reading is colored by different beliefs, perspectives, and personalities. Thanks so much for stopping by and sharing your thoughts – always much appreciated.

  6. I never read the books as a child, but I did see the BBC movie, and I liked it. I finally got a all-in-one edition a few years ago, and have read them. Honestly, the books with Lucy, Peter, Edmund, and Susan are the best ones in my opinion. The others were not as captivating to me.

  7. I would recommend reading the whole series it is really intriguing once you start getting into the story. I agree that there is very obvious religious ties to the film and all of them are quite noticeably. I agree with the statement that the children are hit or miss because in my eye they are. The part that made me really intrigued in this series is the research I put into the novels. For example each novel could easily be tied to the planets with The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe being tied to Jupiter because it was CS Lewis’s favorite planet and it is related to kingship. This is related to the story because the novel is about kingship and the rise children to be kings and queens. This also goes with the rest of the novels in the series for example The Magicians Nephew is related to Venus because is it related to motherhood and the novel is related about the birth of Narnia. There is many cool ideas that could be applied to the novels they just have to be found.

  8. I am responding to,

    “I’m not reading this novel as a Christian allegory – yes, I know that it’s meant to be one. You can’t hide from it as there is absolutely no subtlety AT ALL to the story’s religious overtones. Instead, I really wanted to see how the story held up separate from that fact as most children aren’t reading it in that light anyway. And this is most definitely a children’s story.”

    I recently read The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe for the first time. Depicted as a children’s book, as the religious themes contained in the text stood out to me. As I am a little older than the average first time reader, I understand that through the nature of the text most children would not pick up on the same religious undertones that I did. As a child reading the text, did you pick up on the same religious themes reading the text as you did as an adult?

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