Book Review: The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe

This is my 3rd book for the Back to the Classics Challenge 2016. Unlike most of the rest of my book list, this was a read aloud shared with our whole family. My husband was completely unfamiliar with the story! Not any more!

If you are also unfamiliar, The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe is the story of four British children who are staying in the countryside with a professor to escape war-torn London. While there, Lucy (the youngest) stumbles into a magic land called Narnia through a door in a wardrobe. At first her siblings don’t believe her and even think her crazy. Eventually however, all four children end up inside Narnia on a grand adventure to end the curse of eternal winter with the help of the powerful lion Aslan.

Past this line, there are spoilers. Consider yourself warned! If you haven’t read the book, go do it, then come back for my thoughts šŸ™‚

The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe draws heavily on Christian symbolism and narrative, an allegory to the sacrifice of Christ for sinners. C. S. Lewis wrote several books on Christian theology and at 8 leastĀ combining theology with fiction – the 7 books of Narnia plus Screwtape Letters. Having read several of both his fiction and non-fiction, I feel that this first bookĀ of theĀ Narnia seriesĀ is by far the best. First? Yes first – although it takes place second chronologically, it was first written. I feel like it lays the foundation for the rest of the series, whichever order you read the rest in. This is why I chose to read it first as my daughter’s first experience in Narnia. (She isn’t sure how she feels about it yet; she is addicted to the Little House series and this was a bit dark and complicated for her. We will try again in a year or so – she isn’t yet 5)

One thing that I find fascinating is how the Witch ensnared Edmund. On his first visit to Narnia, she gives him sweets and kindness, then tells him this:

I want a nice boy whom I could bring up as Prince and who would be Kind of Narnia when I am gone…

But it isn’t much later that Mr. Beaver is explaining the prophesy of Narnia to the other three children:

Down at Cair Paravel there are four thrones and it’s a saying in Narnia time out of mind that when two Sons of Adam and two Daughters of Eve sit on the four thrones…

The Witch offers Edmund what he in truth already has. He is already destined to be a King of Narnia. In fact, her plot of offering him what he already has will take that very thing away from him. That’s a mouthful, but I think it’s a profound spiritual truth. How often are we tempted to take for ourselves what we would have if we just waited for the right time? This passageĀ reminds me ofĀ Satan’s temptation of Christ in the desert:

Again, the devil took Him to a very high mountain and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory;Ā and he said to Him, ā€œAll these things I will give You, if You fall down and worship me.ā€ Matthew 4:8

When I first read the Narnia series years ago, I didn’t pick up on more than the most basic theology – Aslan exchanges his life for that of a traitor, but because of “deeper magic from before the dawn of time” he resurrects and is victorious over evil. Coming back through it now as an adult more grown in my own faith, I’m struck by some of the deep thoughts hidden in the book. Consider these passages:

“Oh!” said Susan. “I thought he was a man. Is he – quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion.”

“That you will, dearie, and make no mistake,” said Mrs. Beaver; “if there’s anyone who can appear before Aslan without their knees knocking, they’re either braver than most or else just silly.”

“Then he isn’t safe?” said Lucy.

“Safe?” said Mr. Beaver. “Don’t you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”

People who have not been to Narnia sometimes think that a thing cannot be good and terrible at the same time. If the children had ever thought so, they were cured of it now.

Lately my husband and I have been studying Revelation. Of course Narnia is fiction, but some of the imagesĀ  and allegories are helpful in understanding Scripture. These passages help me put words to some of my learning from Revelation about the balance between God’s justice and His mercy. He is both just and merciful. God isn’t safe – but He is good. So how do we respond? Narnia offers suggestions for that as well:

“You have a traitor there,” said the Witch. Of course everyone present knew that she meant Edmund. But Edmund had got past thinking about himself after all he’d been through and after the talk he’d had that morning [with Aslan]. He just went on looking at Aslan. It didn’t seem to matter what the Witch said.

Peter did not feel very brave; indeed, he felt he was going to be sick. But that made no difference to what he had to do.

In short, we obey. We trust. We keep our eyes on Christ. No matter what.

I really didn’t expect this book to be so profound to me. I’ve read it before; I’ve even seen the movies. But right now our family is in a huge transition as we move cross country to become missionaries. I suppose I needed the instruction buried in a beautiful story to comfort my heart when all things seem to be fluctuating. And so I resolve, like Edmund, to keep on looking at my Savior, no matter what the “witch” has to say.

This book review is my 3rd for the Back to the Classics Challenge hosted at Books and Chocolate; it is my entry for 20th Century Classic. You can check out the rest of the link up here. I’m moving this to Fantasy to make room for a change in my reading plans. The Fantasy category can be found HERE.

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