The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is a fantasy novel for children by C. S. Lewis, published by Geoffrey Bles in 1950. It is the first published and best known of seven novels in The Chronicles of Narnia (1950–1956). Among all the author’s books it is also the most widely held in libraries. Although it was written as well as published first in the series, it is volume two in recent editions, which are sequenced by the stories’ chronology (the first being The Magician’s Nephew). Like the others, it was illustrated by Pauline Baynes, and her work has been retained in many later editions.
Most of the novel is set in Narnia, a land of talking animals and mythical creatures that one White Witch has ruled for 100 years of deep winter. In the frame story, four English children are relocated to a large, old country house following a wartime evacuation. The youngest visits Narnia three times via the magic of a wardrobe in a spare room. All four children are together on her third visit, which verifies her fantastic claims and comprises the subsequent 12 of 17 chapters except for a brief conclusion. In Narnia, the siblings seem fit to fulfill an old prophecy and so are soon adventuring both to save Narnia and their lives. Lewis wrote the book for, and dedicated it to, his goddaughter Lucy Barfield. She was the daughter of Owen Barfield, Lewis’s friend, teacher, adviser, and trustee.
LIST OF CONTENT
In 1940, four siblings – Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy – are among many children evacuated from London during World War II to escape the Blitz. They are sent to the countryside to live with an old professor, later to be named Digory Kirke. Exploring the professor’s house, Lucy finds a magic wardrobe providing a portal to a forest in a land called Narnia. At a lamppost oddly located in the forest, she meets Tumnus, a faun, who invites her to tea in his home. There he confesses that he invited her not out of hospitality, but with the intention of betraying her to the White Witch. The witch has ruled Narnia for years, using magic to keep it frozen in a perpetual winter. She has ordered all Narnians to turn in any humans (“Sons of Adam” or “Daughters of Eve”) they come across; but now that Tumnus has come to know and like a human, he repents his original intention and escorts Lucy back to the lamppost.
Lucy returns through the wardrobe and finds that only a few seconds have passed in normal time during her absence. Her siblings do not believe her story about another world inside the wardrobe, as it is now found to have a solid back panel.
During a game of hide-and-seek some days later, Lucy again passes into Narnia. This time her brother Edmund follows her. He meets a woman calling herself the Queen of Narnia. When she learns that he is human and has two sisters and a brother, she places an enchantment on him and urges him to bring his siblings to her castle, promising in return to make him her heir. When Lucy and Edmund return together through the wardrobe, Edmund realizes that the queen he met and the witch Lucy describes are one and the same. He denies to the others that he has been in Narnia at all. Peter and Susan are puzzled by Lucy’s insistence, and consult the Professor, who surprises them by taking Lucy’s side.
Soon afterward, all four children enter Narnia together after hiding in the wardrobe. Lucy guides them to Tumnus’s cave, but they find it ransacked, with a notice from Jadis (the White Witch) proclaiming his arrest for harbouring humans. Mr. Beaver, a talking animal, finds and befriends the children, and takes them to his den. There, he and Mrs. Beaver tell them of a prophecy that the Witch’s power will fail when two Sons of Adam and two Daughters of Eve sit in the four thrones at Cair Paravel. Aslan, the great lion and the rightful King, has been absent for many years but is now “on the move again” in Narnia.
Edmund steals away to the White Witch’s castle, which is filled with statues of Narnian victims she has turned to stone. The Witch is furious when Edmund appears alone and angrier still to learn that Aslan may have returned. She takes him on her sledge to intercept the others. Meanwhile, Mr. Beaver realizes that Edmund has betrayed them, and they set off at once to seek Aslan at the Stone Table. As they travel, the Witch’s spell over Narnia begins to break: Father Christmas (who has not been seen in Narnia for a hundred years) arrives with magical presents: a sword for Peter, a help-summoning horn and a bow with arrows for Susan, a knife and a bottle of healing cordial for Lucy. The snow melts, and winter ends. Aslan welcomes the children and the Beavers to his camp near the Stone Table, and orders a party to rescue Edmund from the White Witch. The witch approaches in truce to parley with Aslan. She insists that, according to “deep magic from the dawn of time”, she has the right to kill Edmund following his treason. Aslan bargains with her privately and she renounces her claim.
That evening, Aslan secretly returns to the Stone Table, shadowed by Susan and Lucy. Aslan welcomes their company but warns them not to interfere with what is about to happen. He has traded his own life to the Witch for Edmund’s, and the girls watch from the bushes as the Witch orders Aslan tied to the Stone Table, shaved, and muzzled. She administers the killing blow herself.
Confident now of victory, the Witch leads her army away to battle. Susan and Lucy remain and keep vigil all night, weeping over Aslan’s abandoned body. They un-muzzle him, and mice gnaw away his bonds. As the sun rises, the Stone Table breaks and Aslan is restored to life. He tells Lucy and Susan that Jadis was unaware of the “deeper magic from before the dawn of time” that will resurrect an innocent killed in place of a traitor. With Lucy and Susan on his back, he hurries to the Witch’s castle to restore the stone statues to life.
Meanwhile, Peter and Edmund lead the Narnians against the Witch. Edmund breaks her wand, preventing her from turning more Narnians into stone, but he is seriously wounded. Aslan arrives with the former statues as reinforcements. The Narnians rout the Witch’s supporters, and Aslan kills the Witch himself. Aslan breathes life into those she has turned to stone on the battlefield, and Lucy uses her magic cordial to revive the wounded, starting with Edmund. The Pevensie children are crowned kings and queens of Narnia at Cair Paravel, and soon afterward, Aslan slips away and disappears. The land enjoys a Golden Age under the four siblings’ rule.
Fifteen years later, the four rulers chase a wish-granting white stag through the forest. There they rediscover the lamppost, and feel that they have seen it before. They soon find their way through branches and coats back into the wardrobe in the Professor’s house and suddenly become children again, dressed in their old clothes. Almost no time has passed in the real world, despite their many years in Narnia.
The four children consult the Professor, who immediately believes them, and hints that theirs would prove not to be the first adventure in Narnia, nor by any means the last.