Themes and Characters

Download PDF Print Page Citation Share Link

Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 910

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe features a wide variety of characters, including kindly beavers, who talk and fish with fishing poles; good and evil trees; a sensitive giant; a half-goat and half-human Faun, who reads books such as Is Man a Myth?; a wicked witch; a noble lion;...

(The entire section contains 4807 words.)

Unlock This Study Guide Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe study guide. You'll get access to all of the The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe content, as well as access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

  • Summary
  • Themes
  • Characters
  • Analysis
  • Critical Essays
  • Teaching Guide
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe features a wide variety of characters, including kindly beavers, who talk and fish with fishing poles; good and evil trees; a sensitive giant; a half-goat and half-human Faun, who reads books such as Is Man a Myth?; a wicked witch; a noble lion; and four human children. The children are the major characters in the book, but the noble lion Aslan and the White Witch have important roles.

Lucy and Edmund are the most developed characters. Lucy, bright, resourceful, and adventurous, has a loving nature and remarkable honesty. On the other hand, her brother Edmund is a bully. A "spiteful" boy, he has learned to pick on younger children at school and enjoys humiliating Lucy. Even though he, like Lucy, visits Naria before the other children do, he lies about it to make Lucy appear crazy. He often feels, with no good reason, that others are neglecting him. Because he is selfish and longs for attention and power, he is easily made a servant of the White Witch, who bribes him with "enchanted Turkish Delight" and a promise that she will make him king of Naria.

However, Edmund is not totally evil; he justifies betraying his brother and sisters by convincing himself that, as newcomers to Narnia, they cannot be certain that the witch's reputation for evil is well earned. Once he witnesses the witch performing cruel deeds, he is horrified—and not for purely selfish reasons. Caught between good and evil, Edmund is the most interesting character because of his weaknesses and because he changes more than anyone else in the course of the novel. In many ways, Edmund is the most "human" of the characters because he is susceptible to temptation, deception, and power.

"This must be a simply enormous wardrobe!" thought Lucy, going still further in. . .
Peter, the eldest, is a sensible and athletic youngster who becomes a courageous warrior in defense of goodness and justice. Susan, like Lucy, is sensitive to the needs of others, but because she is aware of the possible dangers to the children, she is less adventurous than her younger sister. Although Susan hesitates to face great danger, all four children become involved in a war between the White Witch and Aslan.

Jadis, the wicked White Witch, pretends to be human, but she is actually descended from giants and the Jinn. Although she is not the rightful heir to the throne, she has proclaimed herself queen and rules Narnia with a golden wand that turns to stone those who anger her. The wolves that act as her "Secret Police" terrify the Narnians, and she has even recruited some of the trees to act as spies. The White Witch has no redeeming qualities whatsoever.

At first Alsan seems awesome and terrible. He is the son of the great Emperor- Beyond-the-Sea. The children are unable to look directly at him and catch only "a glimpse of the golden mane and the great, royal, solemn, overwhelming eyes." But Aslan has come to help the working-class beavers, the intellectual fauns, and all the good-hearted folk who have resisted the terrible White Witch. Prophecies have foretold that the mighty Aslan will bring springtime to Narnia and that two Sons of Adam and two Daughters of Eve—meaning humans rather than animals or witches—will thereafter rule the land.

The frightful conflict between good (Aslan) and evil (Jadis) develops Lewis's theme of redemption, a major theme of Western literature in general. Aslan comes to save the land of Narnia and the individual creatures who live there. The evil Jadis is there to stop him. As mighty as Aslan is, his struggle to overcome evil is difficult. He must give up his life to defeat Jadis and save Narnia. The redeeming of the land is joyous. Father Christmas comes with gifts and kindness; Narnians enjoy parties and picnics; birds sing springtime songs. But individual redemption is awesome and awful, involving the Deep Magic of the Emperor-Beyond-the-Sea. When the White Witch declares that the Deep Magic gives her the right to execute traitors, such as Edmund who has betrayed the other children, Aslan knows that she speaks truthfully. There is only one way that Edmund can be saved. With Lucy and Susan looking on from hiding, and without his other friends or even Edmund knowing of his sacrifice, the lion submits himself to taunting and torture by the White Witch and her accomplices. Still worse, the White Witch announces that in spite of Aslan's sacrifice, she will kill Edmund, too. The scene is deeply moving, particularly the sight of the battered and dead Aslan. When Aslan dies for Edmund, Lewis touches on some of the deepest emotions: sorrow, anger, fear, and despair. There is apparently no reason for his awful suffering.

But, had the White Witch known of the "deeper magic from before the dawn of Time," then she would have known that if an innocent being allows himself to be killed for a traitor, then "Death itself would start working backwards." Aslan is reborn as a playful and happy lion who delights in the company of Lucy and Susan. Later, in battle, the good creatures, with Aslan's help, redeem their country. Edmund is forgiven and redeems himself by fighting courageously and outwitting the White Witch. The themes of forgiveness and redemption make The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe a tale of hope, because it shows that evil deeds can be undone.

Characters

Download PDF Print Page Citation Share Link

Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 3456

Aslan

Aslan is the Great Lion, King of Beasts, King of the land of Narnia, Lord of the wood, and son of the great Emperor-beyond-the-Sea. His purpose is clear the moment he returns to Narnia: to overthrow evil by serving others. The thawing of the witch's winter and renewing of spring comprise the first phase of Aslan's service, followed by the giving of gifts to the Pevensie children and the creatures of the wood through Father Christmas. After the children arrive at the Stone Table, Aslan serves them all with his hospitality, but Peter he serves more specifically by teaching him how to think and act like a military leader. Aslan's service to Edmund is threefold: he sends his forces to rescue Edmund from the White Witch, has a talk with Edmund that changes Edmund's life for the better, and, in the ultimate selfless act, sacrifices his life so that Edmund may live. At the same time, Aslan is saving all of Narnia from destruction in accordance with the Deep Magic, which states that unless life is forfeit in payment for the crime of treachery, Narnia will be destroyed by fire and water. While the witch thinks she has won the final victory and taken control of Narnia forever, Aslan knows that victory will be his because of the Deeper Magic, which states that death will work backward when a willing victim who committed no crime is sacrificed in a traitor's stead. In performing the ultimate service for Edmund and for Narnia, Aslan is able to return to life and complete his purpose. His next two acts of service bring a speedy end to evil's reign: He breathes life back into the stone statues and kills the White Witch in his jaws. The final phase of Aslan's service is to crown the Pevensie children kings and queens of Narnia, after which he leaves to tend to his other countries.

Mr. Beaver

Mr. Beaver is a wise, hardworking, and practical creature dedicated to the cause of good in the battle against evil in Narnia, and due to his unwavering faith in Aslan and belief in the fulfillment of the ancient prophecies, he takes it upon himself to lead the Sons of Adam and Daughters of Eve to Aslan. When he hears they have entered Narnia, he springs into action. At great risk to his life, Mr. Beaver befriends the Pevensie children in the wood, warns them that the witch's spies are everywhere, and invites them into his home. From there, he leads his wife and three of the children on a dangerous journey to meet Aslan, the one who will save Edmund and all of Narnia from the White Witch. At the children's coronation, Mr. Beaver is rewarded and honored for his faith and service.

Mrs. Beaver

Mrs. Beaver, the kind wife of Mr. Beaver, is dedicated to helping, comforting, and providing for others. The fact that her sewing machine is her most valuable possession reveals the extent of her dedication. With the help of her husband, she cooks a sumptuous meal for the Pevensie children, then, with little help from her husband, packs food for their journey to the Stone Table. Mr. Beaver and the children are in a great hurry to leave and feel that Mrs. Beaver is wasting valuable time by packing a dinner. During the arduous journey, however, they are grateful for her foresight. She comforts and nurses the wounded Edmund, and she sweetly takes her husband's hand while awaiting the outcome of the private talk between Aslan and the White Witch. Mrs. Beaver is dearly loved by the children, and they bestow gifts and honors upon her at their coronation.

Emperor-beyond-the-Sea

The Emperor-beyond-the-Sea is Aslan's father and author of Narnia's laws. He is never seen, but his presence is felt in the discussions about the Deep and Deeper Magic. His "hangman," as Mr. Beaver calls her, is the White Witch, who delights in being able to bring about death, but as it was written in the Deeper Magic, death is not final, and the Emperor sends Aslan to Narnia to reveal this truth.

Father Christmas

Unlike the jolly Santa Claus depicted on the other side of the wardrobe, Father Christmas is big, glad, and most significantly, real. (They do, however, have the white beard and bright red robe in common.) To see him makes the children both glad and solemn at the same time. His arrival is a sign that the Witch's spell is weakening and that Aslan has returned. He is Aslan's helper and gives the Pevensie children—as well as all the creatures of the wood—gifts to help them continue in their fight against evil.

The Lion

The lion was turned to stone by White Witch in her courtyard, and his statue terrifies Edmund at first glance. When Edmund realizes that the lion is made of stone, he mocks this king of beasts by drawing a moustache and a pair of glasses on his face. Aslan, however, shows that he holds lions in highest regard among creatures by breathing on the stone lion first. A bit later, Aslan astounds this relatively simple-minded lion when he refers to the two of them together as "Us Lions: "Those who are good with their noses must come in the front with us lions to smell out where the battle is." In using this pronoun, Aslan treats the lion as his equal, thereby bestowing dignity and honor upon him and bringing him great joy. The children further honor and reward the lion at their coronation.

Mrs. Macready

Mrs. Macready, the Professor's housekeeper, is not particularly fond of children. It is her job to take visitors on guided tours of the house, and she gives the children strict instructions to stay out of her way when she is bringing visitors through the house. The children's adventure in Narnia begins and ends on a day when Macready is leading a tour; in order to stay out her way, the children hide in the wardrobe and make their way into Narnia. When they return, Mrs. Macready is still with the visitors.

Maugrim

Maugrim, or Fenris Ulf as he is known in British editions, is an evil grey wolf and Captain of the White Witch's Secret Police. He is quite crafty, as is evident when he pretends to be one of the Witch's statues in order to take Edmund by surprise, but his inability to manage his anger proves to be his downfall. After Maugrim chases Susan up a tree, Peter lashes out at him with his sword. Peter misses, but the audacity of the action enrages Maugrim so much that he has to howl, giving Peter just enough time to plunge his sword into Maugrim's heart.

Edmund Pevensie

Edmund, the second youngest of the Pevensie children and the bad one of the bunch, despises the high-minded superiority of his older brother, Peter, and the maternal control of his sister Susan. The only sibling he is older than is Lucy, and he takes his discontent out on her with a vengeance. He mocks and teases endlessly after she tells of her experience through the wardrobe and maliciously betrays her by denying her story about Narnia to Peter and Susan even after having been there himself. The moment they all get through to Narnia, Edmund slips up and says something to reveal that he has been there before, which results in Peter calling him a "poisonous little beast." Edmund resolves that he will get revenge on his brother and sisters.

The primary inducement for Edmund's revenge, however, is neither his unfortunate position in the sibling rivalry nor simply an innate badness. Rather, he is driven by his excessive appetite for food and power as brought on by the Witch's evil magic. The enchantment resulting from eating the Witch's Turkish Delight does not suppress Edmund's ability to distinguish right from wrong; it makes right and wrong appear inconsequential in contrast to his craving. As Edmund walks to the Witch's castle, the narrator says that deep down Edmund knew the Witch was evil and Aslan was good, but thoughts of power kept him from turning around and making peace with his brothers and sisters. Not until he makes the journey with the Witch does he realize the extent to which he has misjudged her and begins to have a change of heart. This change is revealed when he begs the Witch not to turn the merry little party of woodland creatures into stone. Edmund's compassion is genuine, and as the narrator states, it was "the first time in this story [Edmund] felt sorry for someone besides himself."

After Edmund is rescued by Aslan's forces and has a private conversation with Aslan, he is a new person. He apologizes to his brother and sisters, then distinguishes himself in battle by destroying the Witch's wand. Aslan knights him for his valor and later crowns him a king of Narnia. The difficult lessons Edmund learns in his early life lead him to become "a graver and quieter man than Peter, and great in council and judgment." He is lauded as "King Edmund the Just."

Lucy Pevensie

Although Lucy is the youngest of the Pevensie children, she is the most observant and perceptive, and it is through her eyes that Lewis tells the story. The moment the children first see the Robin, Lucy senses that the bird wants them to follow it, and on the night Lucy and Susan cannot get to sleep, Lucy tells Susan she feels something is wrong with Aslan and suggests they go looking for him. (In both of these instances, her intuition proves to be correct.) But it is Lucy's smaller observations that give her character depth: When Aslan claps his paws together, Lucy observes, "Terrible paws … if he didn't know how to velvet them!"; and in the moment before Aslan's death, Lucy thinks he looks "braver, and more beautiful, and more patient than ever."

Lucy also serves as a foil to Edmund: while Edmund is dishonest and selfish, Lucy is truthful and generous. She wants to help those in need and puts the best interests of others ahead of her own. Her first thought upon discovering Mr. Tumnus has been captured is that she and sister and brothers must try to rescue him, and up to the moment Mr. Beaver says Aslan is the only one who can save him, all Lucy can do is think about his safety. Similarly, the first thing Lucy wants to know from Aslan is if anything can be done to save Edmund. In accordance with her selfless and compassionate nature, Father Christmas gives Lucy a cordial made of healing juice from fire-flowers that grow on the sun, a gift she can use in service to others. Interestingly, Lucy's only mistake comes in using this gift. She administers the juice to a wounded Edmund, then waits for it to have an effect while other wounded are suffering around her. When Aslan lets Lucy know that what she is doing is wrong, she snaps at him, and he responds with a subtle yet stern reminder: "Must more people die for Edmund?" Lucy is instantly repentant and immediately goes about the task of healing the others.

Lucy is known as "Queen Lucy the Valiant" after she assumes the throne. She continues to be happy and golden-haired throughout her reign, and many local princes want her to be their queen.

Peter Pevensie

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe traces how Peter Pevensie, the oldest of the children, develops from a thirteen-year-old boy into the High King of Narnia. From early on, Peter seems to have the makings of a king: his choice of animals (eagles, stags, and hawks) he hopes to see on the grounds of the estate reveals a regal temperament; his willingness to suspend judgment on the veracity of Lucy's story until all the evidence is in reveals the kind of wisdom necessary for good leadership; and his decision to make Lucy the leader after they arrive in Narnia shows sound judgment. Peter shows more leadership ability as the story progresses. When the beavers and the children arrive at the Stone Table, Susan and Lucy are too nervous to step forward and meet Aslan, so Peter goes first. He then has the courage and honor to assume part of the responsibility for his brother's actions, telling Aslan that by getting mad at Edmund he "helped him to go wrong."

There is one leadership characteristic, however, that Peter must develop before earning the title of High King: courage in the face of battle. Aslan knows this, so at the sound of Susan's horn, he sends Edmund out to fight Maugrim alone. Peter is terrified, but realizing that both his and his sister's life are in jeopardy if he does not act, he swallows his fear and slays Maugrim. As result of this display of courage, Aslan gives Peter command of his army. Peter is, understandably, uncomfortable at the thought of having to fight a battle without Aslan by his side, but he does not back down. Instead, he rises to the challenge, and the next day he courageously leads the charge against the White Witch's evil forces. The battle itself is Peter's final preparation for high kingship because it is the ultimate test of his leadership, and in the end he prevails. Afterwards, in the ultimate noble gesture, Peter credits Edmund for the victory, and it is then that Lucy comments on Peter's changed appearance: "His face was so pale and stern and he seemed so much older." Lucy's observation reveals just how far Peter has come since the beginning of the story and indicates that he is now ready to be High King.

The courage Peter once lacked is, by the end of the story, his greatest strength. He becomes "a great warrior" with a deep chest and is known as "Peter the Magnificent."

Susan Pevensie

Susan Pevensie, the second oldest of the children and elder sister, exerts a motherly control over her siblings. Unlike Peter and Lucy, she possesses neither leadership qualities nor intuitive ability; rather, she is practical, extremely cautious, and a bit self-centered. Their discovery of Mr. Tumnus's arrest leads Susan to the conclusion that Narnia "doesn't seem particularly safe," and along with concerns over the dropping temperature and not having any food, she recommends they go home. Only after Lucy makes her arguments for rescuing Mr. Tumnus does Susan get the sense that this is the right thing to do, although she does not "want to go a step further" and "wishes [they]'d never come." After the children follow the robin, Susan's first inclination, again, is to do the most cautious and practical thing: go home where it is safe.

Susan's cautious nature stems from her propensity to see the bad in difficult situations and to expect the worst possible outcomes. Her myopia contrasts with Lucy's acuity and results in judgment errors that Lucy is always on hand to counter. For example, on the night she and Lucy discuss Aslan's strange behavior, Susan says she suspects Aslan of "stealing away and leaving" before the battle, but Lucy, who has faith in Aslan and is concerned about him personally, correctly asserts that "some dreadful thing is going to happen to him." Furthermore, when the two of them see the mice crawling over Aslan's body, Susan is instantly repulsed and tries to shoo them away. Lucy, however, notices that the mice are really nibbling at the ropes in order to free Aslan, and she points this out to Susan. Lastly, Susan takes issue with Lucy's suggestion that Edmund be told what Aslan did for him: "It would be much too awful for him." Lucy, on the other hand, thinks "he ought to know."

As Susan watches in horror as Aslan suffers cruel torture and death, she undergoes a transformation: she changes from being self-centered to having compassion for others. She cries all night with Lucy, holding Aslan in her arms, and even suggests trying to untie him. During her reign as Queen she is called "Susan the Gentle," known for her graciousness and long black hair.

The Professor

The wise and generous Professor opens his large country home to the Pevensie children during the London air raids. The children take an instant liking to him, due in part to his funny appearance. Peter and Susan turn to him for advice on what to do about Lucy, and he surprises them by saying that, if they use logic, they will conclude that Lucy's story is true. Of course, Peter and Susan soon discover the Professor is right, and when all the children run to him at the end to tell of their adventures in Narnia, he is not in the least bit surprised. In fact, he believes every word and responds by saying that they will surely return to Narnia someday.

Giant Rumblebuffin

Giant Rumblebuffin is a good giant who was turned to stone by the White Witch and is restored to life by Aslan's breath. Because of Rumblebuffin's great size and strength, Aslan enlists his help in letting everyone out of the Witch's castle. Happy to be able to serve his King and little comrades, he bashes in the gate with his huge club and wrestles down the towers. He works up such a sweat that he asks if either Susan or Lucy has a handkerchief he can use to wipe his brow. When Lucy gladly offers hers up, Rumblebuffin reaches down and mistakenly picks her up instead, thinking she is the handkerchief. This action prompts Mr. Tumnus's comment to Lucy that although the Rumblebuffins are "one of the most respected of all the giant families in Narnia" they are "not very clever." Giant Rumblebuffin receives rewards and honors at the children's coronation.

Mr. Tumnus

Mr. Tumnus is the first creature Lucy meets in Narnia. He invites Lucy to his cave under the pretense of hospitality, while his true intention is to kidnap her and take her to the White Witch. He is, however, a good Faun at heart, and he cannot bring himself to turn her over to the Witch. The Witch arrests him for High Treason and turns him to stone, but he is eventually restored to life by Aslan's breath. At the children's coronation, he is the first friend to receive honors and rewards. Many years later, he informs the Pevensies of the White Stag's return.

The White Stag

The White Stag is an enchanted creature who grants wishes to those who can catch him. Mr. Tumnus tells the four rulers that the White Stag had been seen in the Western Woods, and a royal hunt ensues. The Pevensies chase the animal through the woods and into a thicket, where they decide to dismount their horses and follow it. Their search leads them past the lamppost and back through the wardrobe.

The White Witch

The White Witch is the evil, self-proclaimed Queen of Narnia. The narrator does not say how she assumed power, but the reader knows her claim to the throne is illegitimate by way of Mr. Tumnus through Lucy: "She calls herself the Queen of Narnia though she has no right to be queen at all, and all the Fauns and Dryads and Naiads and Dwarfs and Animals—at least all the good ones—simply hate her." The good creatures hate her because of her ruthlessness and cruelty: she has cast a spell over the land so that it is always winter but never Christmas, and she indiscriminately uses her magic wand to turn her enemies to stone. The White Witch bases her claim to be Queen on the assertion that she is human, but Mr. Beaver says that although she looks human, "there isn't a drop of real human blood in [her]."

The White Witch lives in fear of the prophecy that both her life and her reign will end when two Sons of Adam and two Daughters of Eve sit on the thrones at Cair Paravel, and she does whatever she can to stay in power. When her plans to capture and kill the Pevensie children fail, she confronts Aslan and accuses Edmund of treachery, audaciously invoking the Deep Magic, which gives her the right to kill traitors. Aslan, however, offers his own life as a substitute for Edmund's, and the Witch gladly accepts, thinking that her victory is assured with Aslan out of the way. She tortures, mocks, and kills the rightful King of Narnia. Her immorality and incapacity to love prevent her from knowing the Deeper Magic—which has the power to overcome death—and secure her destruction in the end.

Characters

Download PDF Print Page Citation Share Link

Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 441

The four major characters in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe are Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy Pevensie, sent away by their parents from the London of World War II air raids. Lucy, the youngest, is the most virtuous; appropriately enough, she is the first to enter Narnia, Lewis's alternate world. She suffers for being the first when her older siblings choose not to believe her, and her brother Edmund lies to the other two after he has entered Narnia. In fact, Edmund's villainy is a major strain in the plot and sets up the terrible climax in which Aslan, the great — but not tame — lion must endure a mocking death on the stone table.

Peter, the oldest, is basically decent; his character development follows logically in the story. His behavior with his brother and sisters is consistent with his behavior with the Narnians whom he meets, particularly in conference and in battle. Susan, the oldest sister, is also basically decent. She, with Lucy, is a witness to Aslan's sufferings; her compassion and grief add to her stature as a sympathetic character.

The Narnians are particularly sharply delineated. Mr. Tumnus, the Faun, is a charmingly unwilling hero who does the right thing even when he knows he will suffer grievously for not having carried out the evil White Witch's commands. Mr. and Mrs. Beaver combine a homely hospitality and a clear vision in their treatment of the children. Aslan's beauty and power, alluded to by the Narnians with hope before readers meet him, set him off from all of the other characters. His wisdom is both of the heart and of the mind: All he must do to make Edmund aware of the evil he has done is look at him; and his love makes it possible for Edmund to repent.

The evil in Narnia is personified in the beautiful Queen, the White Witch, whose beauty is a snare and a delusion. Lewis has employed allusive echoes of earlier fairy tales, with their wickedly beautiful witches, in his depiction of the Queen. Her use of the Turkish Delight to ensnare Edmund works on both a literal and an allegorical level: He literally lusts for the candy; only his spite and self-centeredness make him susceptible to it.

After the major adventures are over — Aslan's death and resurrection, the war against the White Witch, the freeing of the enchanted animals — the children are crowned the High Kings and High Queens of Narnia where they reign long and well. But at the very end, these reigning adults find their way back to the wardrobe and emerge the children they were Narnian years before.

Illustration of PDF document

Download The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe Study Guide

Subscribe Now
Previous

Themes

Next

Analysis