The Plot

(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

The seven books constituting the Chronicles of Narnia tell how Aslan the Lion, son of the Emperor-beyond-the-Sea, sings Narnia into being from nothing and later saves it from evil by sacrificing himself and rising again. He spares nothing to make others good if they are open to change. The fictional history of the adventures does not correspond to the order of either composition or publication, but author C. S. Lewis provided a suggested order for reading the stories that is adhered to in the following plot summaries.

In The Magician’s Nephew, the adult Andrew Ketterley, who dabbles in magic, discovers rings that can transport their wearers into other worlds and back (he thinks). He tricks his nephew Digory Kirke and Digory’s friend, Polly Plummer, into trying the rings. The two children discover that yellow rings transport them to the Wood between the Worlds. Once there, green rings can plunge them into pools magically leading to other worlds.

In the dead world of Charn, Digory’s unbridled curiosity leads him to release an evil witch, Jadis, from a deathlike enchantment. Jadis forces her way back to Earth, where she works her destructive evil. The children use the rings to get her out of Earth, but instead of getting her back to Charn, they go to Narnia, a new world the lion Aslan is singing into existence. Because Digory and Polly brought evil into Narnia, Aslan gives them a role in containing it. They ride a winged horse to a far garden, bringing back an apple to plant in Narnia as temporary protection against Jadis. Aslan gives Digory an apple to take back to Earth and use to cure his dying mother. Digory plants the apple’s core, and from the tree that grows he has a wardrobe made.

In The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Digory is the mature Professor Kirke. Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy Pevensie come to his home to escape the London air raids of World War II. While playing hide and seek, they enter the enchanted wardrobe and pass into Narnia. Edmund betrays his siblings and all of Narnia for the White Witch Jadis’ offer of Turkish Delight candy and power.

The Witch has created a never-ending winter with no Christmas, but she fears an ancient prophecy that when two boys and two girls take the thrones at Cair Paravel, her reign will end, and Aslan will return and claim his rightful rule. According to the magic built into Narnia at its creation, Jadis has rights to all traitors, but by a deeper magic, an innocent person may die in place of the guilty, which Aslan does. The Witch thinks Aslan a fool and herself the conqueror when she kills Aslan on the Stone Table. By a deeper magic that she does not know, Aslan rises from the dead, frees Edmund and all the Witch’s captives, and leads a victorious...

(The entire section is 1136 words.)


(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

Sources for Further Study

Barratt, David. Narnia: C. S. Lewis and His World. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Kregel, 2005. A useful introduction to Lewis for the general reader. The first two chapters deal with the Narnia stories.

Duriez, Colin. The C. S. Lewis Encyclopedia. Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway, 2000. Every name in the Narnia chronicles is listed here; longer entries on genres and themes explain Lewis’s ideas.

Ford, Paul F. Companion to Narnia. Rev. ed. Foreword by Madeleine L’Engle. San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 2005. An updated edition of this popular guide to the places, characters, and themes of Narnia.

Hooper, Walter. Past Watchful Dragons: The Narnian Chronicles of C. S. Lewis. New York: Macmillan, 1974. Hooper was Lewis’s main editor and guardian of his works. Here he examines the Narnia chronicles as children’s literature, showing how Lewis’s Christian message is conveyed.

Manlove, Colin. C. S. Lewis: His Literary Achievement. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1987. A leading scholar of fantasy literature assesses the quality of Lewis’s fantasy writing.

Sayer, George. Jack: A Life of C. S. Lewis. Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway, 1994. The fullest and most sympathetic account of Lewis’s life.