The first book in C. S. Lewis’s The Chronicles of Narnia series, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe endures more than half a century after its publication. The novel has been adapted for television multiple times, as well as for the stage and film. It has been reflected in popular culture, from politics to Saturday Night Live. On one level, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is an adventure tale; its four protagonists—siblings Lucy, Edmund, Peter, and Susan—step inside a magical wardrobe and discover a child’s ideal fantasy world, complete with talking animals, beautiful landscapes, virtuous souls, terrible villains, a heroic lion, and four thrones waiting for the children to occupy them in fulfillment of a prophecy. If the book held no deeper meaning, it very well might have endured simply because it is a wonderful adventure story. However, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is also a heroic journey through which courage, loyalty, and sacrifice bring about the transformation of the children and of Narnia itself. Read in yet another way, Lewis’s story reimagines the crucifixion of Christ and his resurrection, reaffirming the transformative power of love and faith.
At the time he wrote the book, C. S. Lewis was already a notable British author and Christian apologetic, striving to present a rational basis for Christianity and defend it against attacks. He had left Christianity as an adolescent but returned to his faith in his early thirties and, years later, wrote his first book for children about Narnia. Though Lewis said that as an artist he let the story unfold creatively, he also saw the virtue in teaching children through storytelling.1 It is important to understand the role of the Christian faith in Lewis’s life story, as it informs the spiritual themes in the book.
Obsessed with power and domination, an evil White Witch rules in Narnia, but a prophecy states that her rule will end when four humans (the siblings) arrive in Narnia. When the youngest boy, Edmund, betrays his siblings to the White Witch, he commits a traitorous act. Selfishness and a desire for power have poisoned his soul, and by the rules of Deep Magic, his life belongs to the White Witch. The great Lion Aslan—who represents truth, justice, and love—offers himself in Edmund’s place, and the animal’s death is a dark and violent affair that conjures the crucifixion of Christ. Through the lion’s sacrifice, Edmund’s soul is wiped clean, just as Christian belief holds that Jesus died for the sins of mankind. Edmund becomes a just and compassionate king of Narnia.
Though The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe was published in 1950, Lewis had conceived the novel a decade prior, when many children living in London were evacuated to keep them safe from relentless bombings by the German air force during the London Blitz. Those are the circumstances when Peter, Susan, Lucy, and Edmund are transported to a large house in the country where they find little to do but play hide-and-seek and explore the house’s crevices—ultimately leading them to the wardrobe. Viewed in this context, Narnia and its adventures offer an escape from a dark world where children have little control. Though Narnia itself includes elements of darkness and danger, the children are empowered participants in its drama, and it is in Narnia that the children grow up—physically, emotionally, and perhaps most importantly to Lewis, spiritually.
By the end of the unit the student will be able to:
1. Explain the main characteristics each of the children represents and how they came to embody those traits.
2. Chart Edmund’s character development from petulant schoolboy, to traitor, to hero.
3. Identify the novel’s main arguments about faith, loyalty, sacrifice, and power.
4. Understand how Lewis uses imagery and vivid sensory descriptions to create a fanciful universe and to enhance the novel’s themes.
5. Identify the main allegories in the text.
This eNotes lesson plan is designed so that it may be used in numerous ways to accommodate ESL students and to differentiate instruction in the classroom.
Student Study Guide
• The Study Guide is organized for a chapter-by-chapter study of the novel. Study Guide pages may be assigned individually and completed at a student’s own pace.
• Study Guide pages may be used as pre-reading activities to preview for students the vocabulary words they will encounter in reading each chapter and to acquaint them generally with the chapter’s content.
• Before chapter Study Guide pages are assigned, questions may be selected from them to use as short quizzes to assess reading comprehension.
• Study Guide vocabulary lists include words from the novel that vary in difficulty.
1. The vocabulary lists for each chapter are sufficiently comprehensive so that shorter lists of vocabulary words can be constructed from them.
2. Working from the lesson plan’s chapter vocabulary lists, the teacher also may construct vocabulary studies for individual students, choosing specific words from each chapter that are most appropriate for them.
The discussion questions vary in degree of difficulty.
1. Some questions require higher levels of critical thinking; others engage students with less challenging inquiry.
2. Individual discussion questions may be assigned to students working in pairs or in small study groups; their contributions may then be added to a whole-class discussion.
Test questions also vary in degree of difficulty.
1. Some multiple-choice questions address the factual content of the novel; others require students to employ critical thinking skills, such as analyzing; comparing and contrasting; and drawing inferences.
2. The teacher may select specific multiple-choice questions and one or more essay questions to assess an individual student’s understanding of the novel.
3. The essay portion of the test appears on a separate page so that it may be omitted altogether in testing.
Before students read through the book, point out to them the following themes, or universal ideas, that will be addressed in the novel:
- Good v. Evil
Talk with your students about how a motif is a recurring pattern or repeated action, element, or idea in a book. As they read, have them pay attention to the following motifs:
A symbol is a concrete object or place that has significance in a literary work because it communicates an idea. Have your students talk about how the author uses the following symbols and look for other symbols on their own as they read:
- Turkish Delight
- The Stone Table
- Lucy’s white handkerchief
- Father Christmas
- Peter’s sword and shield
- Susan’s horn, bow, and arrows
- Lucy’s dagger and bottle of cordial
1. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe can be read as an allegory, or extended narrative metaphor, for the story of Christ’s death and resurrection. How might children benefit from the story’s being retold in this way?
2. The narrator uses authorial intrusion, frequently inserting himself into the story in dialogue with the reader. He writes, for example, “And now we come to one of the nastiest things in this story,” and “Perhaps it has sometimes happened to you in a dream that someone says something which you don’t understand but in the dream it feels as if it had some enormous meaning. . . .” Why do you think he does this, and what effect does it have on the story or on the reader’s experience?
3. Before he has entered Narnia, Peter says to the Professor: “Well, sir, if things are real, they’re there all the time.” The Professor replies: “Are they?” Peter isn’t certain how to respond. How would you respond? Do you agree with Peter’s statement, or can you think of exceptions? What point do you think the author is making in this scene?
4. A foil is a character used to provide a contrast to a major character and highlight that character’s main attributes. Explain how the White Witch acts as a foil for Aslan, using several examples from the book. Are there other examples of character foils in the book?
5. When Edmund dines with his siblings and the Beavers, thinking all the while of the Witch’s Turkish Delight, the narrator comments, “[T]here’s nothing that spoils the taste of good ordinary food half so much as the memory of bad magic food.” How does food act as a metaphor in this instance? What does the author mean by this? Can you think of an example of Edmund’s form of discontent that plays out in our world today?
6. When the...
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air raids: bombings of London by the German Reich during WWII
blue-bottle: a type of insect
chap: slang fellow
mothballs: balls made of pesticide used to kill moths in clothing that has been stored
1. Why were the children sent away from London?
They were sent to the country to keep them safe from air raids in the city.
2. What in Susan’s tone as she’s describing the Professor annoys Edmund? What does their exchange suggest about his character?
Edmund accuses Susan of talking like their mother. His annoyance suggests he has a resistance to authority, or at least to his sister’s taking an authoritative role.
3. Why does Peter think no one will hear the children if they are loud?
The house is huge, so the adults are far away and out of earshot.
4. What do the children like or look forward to about their stay at the Professor’s house?
It’s in a rural setting, and it is enormous and full of surprises. Staircases go down, and then up, rooms lead into each other instead of having hallways in between, and some of the rooms themselves are interesting, filled with objects such as books and armor.
5. What source of light does Lucy find when she first enters Narnia, and why is it odd?
Lucy walks towards a lamppost; it’s strange because it’s in the middle of the woods.
6. How would you describe Lucy in Chapter 1? What is she like?
She is clearly the youngest of the children and very much a good girl. (She worries about what will happen if the children’s voices get too loud.) However, she is also curious and adventurous.
inquisitive: inclined to ask questions
jollification: joyful or festive activity
taken service: accepted employment
1. What does the Faun refer to Lucy as being, and why does this confuse her?
He calls her a Daughter of Eve, and she’s never heard that expression used before to describe a girl.
2. To what do Spare Oom and War Drobe refer?
Mr. Tumnus is confused when Lucy explains that she came from the wardrobe in the spare room. He assumes she is talking about a country and...
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batty: slang crazy, mentally ill
champing: chewing noisily or vigorously
gilded: covered with gold
heather: shrub with pinkish purple flowers
make it Pax: slang make friends with, make peace
sneered: made a facial expression of contempt
spiteful: mean, vindictive
1. Peter first thinks Lucy is making up a story about Narnia and adds, “And why shouldn’t she?” Then, after they’ve explored the wardrobe and found it normal, he says, “A jolly good hoax, Lu.” What do these two...
(The entire section is 304 words.)
dominions: territories of control
Dryads: Greek mythology wood nymphs
Naiads: Greek mythology aquatic nymphs
Turkish Delight: a sweet made of flavored sugar, often combined with fruit or nuts
1. Why does the Queen decide to give Edmund food and drink? What effect does the food have on Edmund?
The food and drink make Edmund very compliant. He answers the Queen’s questions openly, without suspicion about why she is so curious.
2. What about Edmund’s family is of particular interest to the Queen?
The Queen is...
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sharp’s the word: slang a call to brisk movement
snigger: scornful laugh
trippers: those on a short pleasure trip
1. How does Edmund feel when Lucy runs out of the room, presumably in tears? What does his response reveal about his character?
He feels he has won something, although what he’s won is not clear. He enjoys feeling superior, and besting Lucy makes him feel this way.
2. What does Peter reveal about Edmund’s time at school? What does this information emphasize about Edmund’s character?...
(The entire section is 341 words.)
By jove: slang an expression of surprise
camphor: crystalline compound once used in mothballs
fraternizing: being friendly with
larder: pantry or cellar containing food
prigs: people who are self-righteous
1. Why is Peter angry with Edmund? What effect does this anger have on Edmund?
Peter is angry because it’s clear Edmund has been in Narnia before; thus he had lied in order to make Lucy look foolish. Peter’s anger does not chasten Edmund. Instead it pushes Edmund further away from his...
(The entire section is 287 words.)
dripping: fat and juices from roasting meat
gum boots: high rubber boots
hatchets: small axes
Jack Robinson: slang very quickly, suddenly
marmalade: preserve made of citrus and sugar
mortar: vessel for crushing substances
oilskins: cloths treated with oil to make them waterproof
trifle: of little importance
1. How does the Beaver show the children that he can be trusted?
The Beaver possesses Lucy’s white handkerchief, which she had given to Mr. Tumnus.
2. What reaction do the...
(The entire section is 204 words.)
decoy: anything used as a lure
Jinn: Arab mythology class of spirits lower than angels, capable of influencing humankind for good or evil
Lilith: Jewish mythology first wife of Adam
prophecy: divinely inspired prediction
stratagem: trick for deceiving an enemy
treacherous: unfaithful, deceitful
1. Why does Peter feel they must try to save Mr. Tumnus? What character trait does this reveal about Peter?
Peter feels this way because the Faun saved Lucy. It suggests that Peter has a strong sense of justice.
2. What happens to those who cross the...
(The entire section is 271 words.)
cat-a-mountains: wild cats
centaur: Greek mythology creature that is half-human and half-horse
cinema: movie theater
dunce’s hat: conical paper hat used for humiliating its wearer
lithe: easily bent
satyrs: Greek mythology deities with horse or goat characteristics
turret: small tower
1. Why didn’t Edmund enjoy the food at the Beavers’ home?
He was imagining the taste of Turkish Delight the whole time, which spoiled the taste of the food he was eating.
2. Edmund thinks to himself...
(The entire section is 227 words.)
plaguey: excessive, troublesome
sluice gate: gate that regulates the flow of water through an artificial channel
1. What does Mrs. Beaver do that makes everyone else anxious?
She takes time before they leave to pack things she feels they will need.
2. What surprising reaction do the children have when they meet Father Christmas?
Though the children are glad to see Father Christmas, they are also still and solemn.
3. Why hasn’t Father Christmas visited Narnia in a long...
(The entire section is 321 words.)
councillor: advisor, member of a council
glade: clearing surrounded by woods
gluttony: excessive eating and drinking
vermin: objectionable, obnoxious people
1. Aslan is not in Chapter 11 at all, yet it is titled “Aslan is Nearer.” Why?
Throughout the course of Chapter 11, the season changes from winter to spring, indicating that Aslan has broken the Witch’s power to make it always winter.
2. What sustenance does Edmund receive when he asks for Turkish Delight?...
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by gum: slang exclamation of excitement
forelegs: front legs
kingfisher: type of bird that is often brilliantly colored
pavilion: large, elaborate tent
spurs: anything that urges achievement
standard: a flag
Wolf’s-Bane: poisoner/destroyer of wolves
1. Describe the thaw as the children experience it.
The thaw is almost magical to the children, a very sensory experience. They hear birds, smell flowers, feel the temperature changing, and see nature coming back to life around them. The experience is like...
(The entire section is 373 words.)
firestones: fire-resisting stones
ranks: lines of soldiers
renounced: given up
scepter: rod or wand of an imperial power
1. How would you characterize the Witch’s conversation with the dwarf about their next steps? What is the dwarf’s role in the conversation?
They are weighing their options together. The dwarf is playing the role of advisor, or counselor.
2. Edmund is pushed up against a tree. Why? What is not available?
The dwarf pushes Edmund against a tree...
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appeased: brought to a state of peace
Efreets: Islamic mythology a class of infernal Jinn
Ettins: Norse mythology giants
Hags: mythological ugly old women
Incubuses: mythological lusty male demons
quivering: shaking, trembling
Sprites: mythological elves, fairies, or goblins
Wraiths: ghosts, spirits
1. List several moments or clues that foreshadow Aslan’s fate.
1) Aslan gives Peter instructions for the battle, as if he will not be there....
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battlements: defensive walls
incantation: magic, words to cast a magic spell
mount: animal used for riding
rabble: disorderly crowd
romp: boisterous frolic
stead: in place of another
1. What do Lucy and Susan do when they reach Aslan?
They kiss him, stroke his fur, and remove his muzzle.
2. How does Aslan become free of the ropes that tie him?
Mice appear and nibble through the ropes, which Lucy and Susan then clear...
(The entire section is 173 words.)
din: loud noise
plumage: feathers of a bird
ransacking: turning inside out
rubble: remains, scrap
1. How does Aslan restore the stone creatures?
He breathes on them.
2. How does the scene in the Witch’s courtyard transform?
It changes from gray and silent to noisy and colorful.
3. What physical changes do the former stone creatures make to the castle? What symbolic...
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Fair Consorts: associates, partners
thicket: dense growth of trees or bushes
1. What is the first thing Peter says to Aslan following the battle?
He tells him all about Edmund’s courage.
2. How has Peter changed, in Lucy’s view?
Peter is older and graver, more mature in Lucy’s eyes.
3. How did Edmund use his intelligence in the battle?
Instead of going after the Witch, Edmund went after her wand.
4. What do Lucy’s...
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1. The children are sent to live in the country because
A. their parents are divorcing.
B. they need to attend boarding school.
C. London is experiencing air raids.
D. their home has been destroyed.
E. the Professor needs companionship.
2. What piece of advice does the narrator repeat throughout the book?
A. that it is dangerous to play hide-and-seek.
B. that it is foolish to shut oneself into a wardrobe.
C. that you must always say “please” and “thank...
(The entire section is 1160 words.)
1. Describe three different meals in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. How do they differ from one another? What deeper messages is food meant to convey about the characters and the plot?
Meals in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe are about much more than just food. Rather, they are used to bring out the motivations of characters, to explore the characters’ relationships with one another, and even to express the tone of the book at critical junctures. When Edmund eats the Queen’s Turkish Delight and drinks her warm, foamy, sweet drink, he has been effectively seduced. He is guilty of gluttony. He cannot stop eating, and even though the food and his overeating give him a stomach ache,...
(The entire section is 1745 words.)