illustration of an open wardrobe door with a castle and lion visible in through the door and an outline of a young girl standing on the opposite side of the door

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

by C. S. Lewis

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The Triumph of Good over Evil

Lewis's view of good and evil is predicated on the biblical doctrine of the Fall (the corruption of man's perfect state as a result of Adam and Eve's disobedience to God), to which the only remedy is God's redemption through Jesus Christ. According to Genesis, when Satan entered God's unfallen creation in the form of a serpent, he tempted Adam and Eve by saying that if they were to eat from the forbidden tree, they would become like God and have knowledge of all things. Adam and Eve succumb, or fall, and thereby introduce sin/evil into the world. Lewis shows the nature of sin and evil through the character of the White Witch in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. (In The Magician's Nephew, evil is introduced into the delightful and uncorrupted world of Narnia through the actions of characters who, like Adam and Eve, cannot resist temptation.) The nature of goodness is embodied in the character of Aslan, and its characteristics are manifested through the actions of many other characters in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe as well.

In the chapter "The Invasion" in Mere Christianity, Lewis explains that he does not see good and evil as opposites; rather, he sees evil as a perversion of good. Money, sex, and power, for example, are good things unless they are pursued for the wrong reasons. One good thing that cannot be perverted, however, is love, because as John reveals in his gospel, God is love (and God cannot be perverted). Love, therefore, is the ultimate good. If a man pursues wealth and power for selfish purposes, he is not acting out of love and, therefore, his actions are evil. Such are the actions of the White Witch. She does all she can to ensure her control over Narnia, even to the point of hurting and killing. Aslan, on the other hand, performs selfless acts for the benefit of others, sacrificing his life so that Edmund may live and breathing on the stone statues so that they may return to life. Characters such as the Beavers and the Pevensie children act out of love by showing hospitality: the Beavers serve a good meal to the children, and the children later have a feast served to their coronation guests.

Because evil is a perversion of good, Lewis reasons, it is subordinate to it. In his essay, "Evil and God," published in God in the Dock: Essays on Theology and Ethics, Lewis likens evil to a parasite living off a tree, explaining that good "exists[s] on its own while evil requires the good on which it is parasitic in order to continue its parasitic existence." The idea that evil is subordinate to good accords with Christian theology, according to which Christ defeated Satan/death by dying on the cross and rising from the dead, and one day Christ will return and put an end to evil once and for all. Although Christians differ in their eschatology (beliefs about the end times), many agree that the end will be accompanied by the destruction of evil and the triumph of good. This doctrine fuels the climax and resolution of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, as Leland Ryken and Marjorie Lamp Mead point out in A Reader's Guide through the Wardrobe : "The turning of the statues back into people, a gigantic and decisive last battle, coronations at a great hall, living 'in great joy' and remembering 'life in this world … only as one remembers a dream'—all of these have...

(This entire section contains 1538 words.)

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an eschatological feel to them."

Awakening to New Life

The theme of awakening to new life functions in both physical and spiritual ways. On a physical level, the children's entry through the wardrobe into Narnia is an awakening to a new life: a new world is revealed to them that they never knew existed. Their ensuing adventures leading to the overthrow of the White Witch are just the beginning of a new life for them. They become kings and queens in Narnia and reign for many happy years, and the narrator says, "if ever they remembered their life in this world it was only as one remembers a dream." Springtime in Narnia, a result of Aslan's return, is nature's awakening to new life from one hundred years of winter. After the White Witch kills Aslan, he awakens to new life because of the Deeper Magic; he rushes to the witch's castle and awakens the stone statues to new life by breathing on them. The subsequent defeat of the White Witch and the crowning of the Pevensie children as kings and queens awakens Narnia to a new life free from tyranny.

The Giving of Great Gifts

Unlike honors or rewards, gifts are given out of love and not because the recipients have done anything to deserve them. Aslan, the embodiment of love, is the great gift giver in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, and the gifts he bestows all aid in the overthrow of evil in Narnia. Through the character of Father Christmas, Aslan gives tools for battle to Peter, Susan, and Lucy; to the Beavers, he gives gifts to help improve their everyday lives; and to them all, he gives a pot of hot tea along with cups and saucers to drink it with. To Edmund and the stone statues, Aslan gives the gift of life.

All the gifts, beginning with those given through Father Christmas, aid in the overthrow of evil in Narnia. Susan's horn summons help from Aslan's subjects when Maugrim and his pack of wolves first attack. Peter kills Maugrim, a key member of the White Witch's evil forces, with his sword. This sword, along with Susan's bow and arrow, are used in the final battle against the witch's army and figure prominently in their destruction. Susan uses her cordial containing supernatural restorative powers to heal Edmund of a fatal wound, thus allowing for the fulfillment of the prophecy that evil in Narnia will end when four children sit on Cair Paravel's thrones. Susan also uses her vial to restore many other wounded to health, bringing to an end the physical suffering that results from evil. The tea service allows the children and the Beavers needed refreshment and relaxation so they can continue their journey, which ultimately ends with the witch's downfall. Mrs. Beaver's new sewing machine and Mr. Beaver's repaired dam help make their lives easier and serve as encouragements to carry on in a discouraging time. Only by carrying on without being discouraged can they defeat evil.

Next are the gifts of life given by Aslan himself. First, Aslan sacrifices his own life for Edmund's so that Edmund may live. This allows for the fulfillment of the prophecy mentioned in the previous paragraph and also directly results in evil's destruction because it is Edmund who, while fighting on the battlefield, comes up with the brilliant idea of breaking the witch's wand with his sword. The witch is unable to turn her opponents into stone with a broken wand, and Edmund's action buys his army more time before Aslan's reinforcements arrive. Had it not been for Aslan's self-sacrifice, Edmund would not have been alive to stop the witch. Furthermore, Aslan's gift of life to the stone statues enables him to form the reinforcement army that helps destroy the forces of evil in Narnia.


This theme extends the good versus evil and gift giving themes. Hospitality is, in essence, gift giving. When people express hospitality, they give the gifts of their food and the shelter of their home; quite simply, they give their guest the best of all they have to offer. Hospitality makes room for the stranger at one's own hearth, creating relationship by lovingly welcoming the outsider to one's own home. Prime examples of hospitality in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe occur when Mr. and Mrs. Beaver welcome the Pevensie children and serve them in a meal; when Aslan has a feast prepared for Peter, Susan, and Lucy upon their arrival at the Stone Table. Finally, the newly crowned kings and queens show hospitality to their guests at Cair Paravel: "And that night there was a great feast in Cair Paravel, and revelry and dancing, and gold flashed and wine flowed."

Yet the story also shows how good things can be perverted for evil purposes. Mr. Tumnus uses hospitality in order to trick Lucy: he pretends to be her friend, lures her back to his cave, serves her tea and tries to lull her to sleep with his flute, so he can kidnap her and take her to the White Witch. But because Mr. Tumnus is really a good Faun, he is unable to commit such an evil deed, so he confesses everything to Lucy and helps her escape. In similar fashion, the White Witch feigns hospitality to Edmund: she invites him into her sledge, wraps her warm mantle around him, and serves him a hot drink and the best Turkish Delight he has ever tasted. She hopes he will one day return to her with his brother and sisters, so she can kill them, thus protecting her reign in Narnia.

Social Concerns / Themes

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In Of Other Worlds, Lewis says that "All my seven Narnian books, and my three science fiction books, began with seeing pictures in my head. At first they were not a story, just pictures. The Lion all began with a picture of a Faun carrying an umbrella and parcels in a snowy wood." This first picture of the Narnia found by Lucy after passing through the wardrobe prefigures the intensity of image which marks the entire book. These images are important not only in terms of their vividness and contribution to plot and characterization: they also are significant because of their communication of themes.

In this novel Lewis is exploring ideas about human responsibility, freedom, choice, duty, truth, and love. In his creation of a Narnia which is always filled with winter without the light of Christmas, he has, without heaviness, exposed the horror of the totalitarian world, a world deprived of joy and laughter.

As each of the four children becomes involved with Narnia and its inhabitants, concrete instances of loyalty and betrayal, courage and selfishness occur. In these occurrences all rationalizations are stripped away, and the moral implications of human action are clear.

Unavoidable in reading the novel is the awareness, by the end of the book, that the theme is basically Christian: The novel's climax is another telling of the Passion story in the New Testament.

Additional Commentary

Two aspects of the novel that may be of concern to some readers—religion and violence—are treated by Lewis with sensitivity. Although God and Christ are never explicitly mentioned, most people will recognize the parallels between Aslan and Christ, and between the Emperor-Beyond-the-Sea and God. References to Adam and Eve and Christmas are also suggestive of religion. Although it is steeped in Christian allegory, Lewis attempts to make his story universally applicable to the human condition. He uses Christianity not as propaganda but as a springboard for his ideas. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is filled with characters and images from Greek and Roman myths, Arab folktales, and European medieval romances. The magic is truly magical, rather than miraculous in a religious sense. Few young readers are likely to regard the allegory as more than an account of the nobility of giving of oneself. Older readers, regardless of faith, are likely to find Lewis's commentary on Christianity and the human condition interesting.

Much of the suspense in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe depends on the White Witch and her followers being a genuine danger to Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy. In the climactic battle, many on both sides are slain, and Edmund, while heroically disarming the White Witch, is "terribly wounded." This violence is never graphic or gratuitous. Lewis defends these aspects of his work, arguing that children want to be "a little frightened" and are not intimidated by the violence of fairy tales. In the age of world wars and atomic bombs, Lewis contends, it is foolish to shield children from the reality of fear, as well as "violence, wounds, adventure, heroism and cowardice, good and evil."