The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (1950) is a children’s fantasy novel, the first and best-known in C. S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia. During World War II, four siblings are sent from London to a house in the country, where they are drawn into a magical world ruled by an evil witch.
Here, Lewis introduces the reader to a charming fantasy world populated with creatures drawn from Norse and Greek mythology. This kind of world will be instantly familiar to fantasy readers of all ages, as Lewis, one of the cornerstones of the modern high fantasy genre, has inspired a great deal of imitation (and, let’s be honest, some outright cribbing).
Lewis’s narration is perfect for the children’s genre: it is full of quaint homey details and little assurances to the reader (he also speeds through what would otherwise be graphic or horrific scenes). Additionally, Lewis does a nice job giving all four siblings the broad strokes of distinct personalities in such a short book.
While The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is not an allegory in the strict sense of the word, it does contain a great deal of strong and rather unmistakable Christian imagery. The most apparent such imagery centers around Aslan, who is an obvious Christ figure, and whose fate parallels Christ’s Passion. Indeed, while Aslan debuts rather late in the book, he dominates the story, which is, at its core, all about what Aslan is doing rather than what the children are doing.
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is a delightful read and a wonderful initiation to the world of Narnia. Yes, The Magician’s Nephew comes first chronologically, but it is here that Lewis makes his introductions.