The Chronicles of Narnia #1: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

by C. S. Lewis

Paperback, 2007



Call number




HarperCollins (1994), Edition: 1, 208 pages


Four English schoolchildren find their way through the back of a wardrobe into the magic land of Narnia and assist Aslan, the golden lion, to triumph over the White Witch, who has cursed the land with eternal winter.

User reviews

LibraryThing member ncgraham
What is there left to say about The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe? It is a book so long- and well-loved by the public that there is no point attempting any kind of plot summary or general introduction to Lewis' world. Moreover, because it is a personal favorite I cannot bring myself to criticize
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it, and because it has been part of my life for longer than I can remember, I cannot approach it with any sense of novelty. I cannot even recall whether I was read this or saw the BBC miniseries first, but in any case it was the book that stuck with me, and became the first piece of literature I truly loved. (And yes, I'm quite aware that I'm describing Lewis' creation in near-romantic terms!) Other childhood favorites have been dethroned, other obsessions have faded away, but I have always remained a loyal Narnian.

In light of the recent films' attempts to turn both this and Prince Caspian into Tolkienesque epics, as well as the completely misguided labeling of the books as "allegory" by fans and critics alike, I find myself returning to Lewis' own description of Narnia as a "fairy-story." As with the folktales of the Brothers Grimm or Hans Christian Anderson, I mainly think of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe in terms of images: a parcel-laden faun and a young girl walking underneath an umbrella in a winter landscape, an imperious white-skinned queen in her reindeer-drawn sledge, a noble Lion lying shorn and dead on a cold stone table. It has a simplicity, clarity, and charm rare in twentieth-century literature.

But unlike many children's stories with imagery that lingers, nostalgically, in one's mind, I find that Lewis' work is just as impressive now as it was ten years ago, and that I notice new things about it every time I pick it up. The writing is excellent; as I read it aloud to my younger sister over the past few weeks, I found the words tripped effortlessly out my mouth, despite the lengthy nature of certain sentences. Because he is here concerned with introducing a new world and a large cast of characters, there is not quite as much character development as some of the other entries in the series, but the characters are always real and (where applicable) human, fairly leaping off the page in their vitality. In today's books one rarely discovers such unapologetically good or evil characters as Aslan or the Witch, and yet there has never been a moment when I did not believe in them.

I highly recommend this as well as all of Lewis' Narnia books. Indeed, I would class them in that very small but important category of books everybody should read. If you have not yet, well, shame on you! Get working.
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LibraryThing member Terpsichoreus
My greatest disappointment in 'The Screwtape Letters' was that Lewis was not able to demonstrate what made his good people good or his bad people bad. The most he said was that believers were suffused with a vague light that even shone in the cat. This book has the same flaw, though the cat is much
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Aslan had no character, he was just a big, dull stand-in. Lewis often tells us how great he is, but never demonstrates what it is that makes him great or impressive. Sure, he helps the kids, but all that makes him is a plot facilitator. He also has his big Jesus moment, but that has the same problem as the original: if you already know that there will be no lasting negative outcome, how much of a sacrifice is it, really?

But then, Aslan isn't based on the original fig-cursing, church-rejecting, rebel Jesus, but the later whitewashed version. Like Mickey Mouse, Jesus started out as an oddball troublemaker with his fair share of personality, but becoming the smiling face of a multinational organization bent on world domination takes a lot out of a mascot, whether your magic castle is in California or Rome.

Such a visible figure must become universally appealing, universally friendly and loving, lest some subset of followers feel left out. And it's this 'Buddy Christ' tradition from which Aslan seems to spring. Devoid of insight, wisdom, or charm, Aslan seems mostly to be present to do things that our protagonists can't do.

This also beggars the question: why didn't Aslan just take care of all this stuff long before the kids arrived? Why did all the animals and fairies and giants have to suffer the pain and difficulty of an endless winter? Except for a vague mention of prophecy, there isn't any reason for Aslan to wait for the kids, since he does it all on his own, anyways.

The only thing they do end up helping with is the running of the battle, but this is only necessary because Aslan is absent, and he's only absent because the kids screwed up, indicating that the entire thing would have gone much more smoothly without them.

The villain is just as poorly-constructed, and seems less concerned with defeating her enemies than with being pointlessly capricious. She manages to trick one of the children, but instead of taking advantage of this fact, she immediately makes it clear that she tricked him.

Selectively stupid characters are silly and convenient, especially as villains, because this completely undermines their role as foil. It is impressive when characters overcome challenges, not when challenges simply crumble before them. The children are lucky the Queen was more of a fart-stealing Old Nick than a Miltonian Satan, otherwise they never would have stood a chance.

It is interesting to look at how many Christian authors have tried to reconcile their faith with complex fairy mythologies; not that Christianity doesn't have its own magical fairy tales, but because these other traditions are not exactly compatible. Dante has Virgil lead him through hell, Pagan gods were turned into saints, holidays were given new meanings (even if they often kept old symbols and names), and magical creatures were also given a place in the new tradition.

In the Middle Ages, monks compiled 'Bestiaries', which described the roles of dragons, unicorns, and real animals in Christian synbolism; there were even century-spanning debates about whether dog-headed men were descended from Adam. These books were rarely accurate, but allowed Christian theology to adopt many stories and superstitions from earlier periods; for instance, the connection between unicorns and virginity or the belief that pelicans fed their own blood to their young, in imitation of communion.

So Lewis' attempt to take such creatures and adapt them to a Christian cosmology is hardly new, it is a long and storied tradition explored throughout the Chivalric period and recognizable today in books like The Once and Future King. But I did not feel that Lewis did a very good job of reconciling the differences in his mythologies.

Like most Protestants, Lewis' religion was a modern one, not magical and mystical, but reasonable and utilitarian. He did not draw on the elaborate, convoluted apocrypha of hallucinatory monsters and miracles that has obsessed Christian mystics, instead, he made a small, sane, reasonable magical world, which rather defeats the point. It is unfortunate that many of today's readers think of Lewis' writings as defining modern interpretations of fairy tales, since his late additions to the genre are not original, nor are they particularly well-executed examples.

Many authors have come to the genre with much more imagination, a deeper sense of wonder, and a more far-reaching definition of magic. We have examples from Kipling, Lewis Carroll, Dunsany, Eddison, Morris, and even modern updates by Gaiman and Clarke. Lewis, like Tolkien, may be a well-known example, but both are rather short-sighted, and neither one achieves as much as the many talented authors who came before.

I'm not saying Lewis is bad, merely that he is unremarkable, and is hardly preeminent in fantasy, or even in children's fantasy.
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LibraryThing member aethercowboy
The four Pevensie children are sent to stay with a relation in the country while London, their home, is bombarded by Nazi planes during the Blitz.

While passing time to ease off the boredom, Lucy, the youngest, discovers a wardrobe, and through this wardrobe, a portal to a magical world called
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Narnia. Narnia, caught in eternal winter, has a wide array of fantastic creatures, including talking animals, and a Faun named Mr. Tumnus.

There had been a prophecy in Narnia, since the cold took over: When two sons of Adam, and two daughters of Eve come to Narnia, it will mark the end of Jadis', the White Witch, reign.

So, you can pretty much expect she going to try to stop it. She takes under her wing the third oldest, Edmund, and works to corrupt him.

The remaining Pevensie children all work together, alongside the rebel alliance of talking beavers, fauns, and other nice mythical creatures. All the while, whispers of Aslan's return are heard.

Aslan, as you're probably well aware, is a lion, and is also very blatant allegory for Aragorn err Jesus.

Lewis' fiction is usually very heavily inspired by the Christian beliefs, and this book is no exception. Less heavy-handed than a lot of what you'd find on the shelves of the Speculative Fiction section of a Christian bookstore, but moreso than the more subtle allegory found in Tolkien's work.

If you've read The Magician's Nephew and enjoyed it, or if you saw the Walden Media-produced film (or the BBC film, or even the cartoon) and enjoyed it, then you'll probably like this book. If you're a Tolkien fan, you have a higher chance of liking it than one who instead favors more grim and grisly fantasy.
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LibraryThing member antiquary
As a child, I was uncomfortable with Edmund's treachery, but I admired the clarity of Professor Kirk's reasoning on Lucy's sanity and honesty.
LibraryThing member LisaMaria_C
This begins the seven book Narnia series. This is a well-written, quick read and imaginative. However, C.S. Lewis is an unabashed Christian apologist, and I'm afraid I found the Christian allegory aspect of the book off-putting. (Just as I found Pullman's atheistic themes in his anti-Narnia His
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Dark Materials--I'm not a fan by and large of polemic works.) I also think I just read this too late--that this is one children's series best read by children given the style and themes.

As a child a lot of those Christian themes would have probably gone over my head, but reading as an adult I found them just too, too blatant: girls are "daughters of Eve" and boys are "sons of Adam;" Emperor = God the Father; Aslan the Lion = Christ; White Witch, child of Lilith = Satan; Edmund = Judas; Turkish Delight = Apple; Father Christmas coming at the entrance of Aslan represents the birth of Christ; the "ransacking of the witch's fortress" is the harrowing of Hell. (Stone Table maybe the stone tablets of Moses?) I felt preached at.

I also have to admit I'm no fan of Alsan the Lion. When Aslan asked Lucy "Must more people die for Edmund?" I would have happily helped shear his mane. Does he have to rebuke her that way? Lucy is a child. Edmund is a child and her brother on the verge of death, wounded because he was trying to make up for his mistake. And people didn't die because of or for him but because of the Witch. *catches breath after rant*

I gave this three stars because I did think so many scenes were striking and creative--like Aslan breathing on the statues to bring them back to life. I also think Susan and Lucy are strong female characters--every bit as brave, smart and capable as the boys. I did enjoy the film based on this novel--seeing the film versions might be the better way to Narnia as an adult. I do love Lewis' take on the myth of Pandora and Cupid--Till We Have Faces. I haven't read his Perelandra Trilogy: science fiction with an Arthurian aspect I've read. I'm more likely to try those than more of Narnia.
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LibraryThing member vwhitt
The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe is another one of the more favored children's novels of today's day. And let me just tell you, it's fabulous! This was one of those stories that I saw the movie before I even considered reading the book. None the less, I read it and thouroughly enjoyed it, even
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as an adult. For those who don't know the story of the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe I'll give you the jist. Four children, Lucy, Edmond, Susan, and Peter, are sent to the Professor's house to avoid war. While there, they stumble into another world which is completely real to them. They are are dubed Kings and Queens and join forces with the "people" of that country to help them overcome the rule of the Wicked Queen. As is the nature of most children's novels, the ending is a happy one. They defeat the queen and purge the land of any evil all while making it back home before anyone notices they're missing.

Details: This book was written for students in grades 4-6 and is on the reading level 6.1
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LibraryThing member steadfastreader
Okay. My first time reading this as an adult. I picked it up because I read a short story by Neil Gaiman "The Problem of Susan" that referenced The Last Battle which of course is the last book in this series. As a kid I could never finish Prince Caspian so I never read any further. Well I've
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finished Prince Caspian but first I want to express my views on how very distressing I find this book.

First, what we already knew. The extremely heavy Christian undertones. Get 'em while they're young. Yes, yes I DO know C.S. Lewis was also a Christian apologist, but is it fair to sneak it into the kid's food without them knowing? I, for one, obviously do not think so. I mean the death (and resurrection) of Aslan at the stone table? All we're missing is a cross and three days. It definitely warms kids up to the religion if you can point to a much beloved fairy tale character and bring parallels, don't you think? Or am I raving like Richard Dawkins?

ANYWAY. What I find MORE disturbing, partially because it seems to fit in so well with the Christian undertones are the OVERTONES of misogyny. The most powerful evil character is both a woman and a fool. There is no redemption for her. Even looking at the sisters, Lucy and Susan, they are far weaker than the brothers and irritating to boot. I know this was published in the 1950's... but seriously?
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LibraryThing member pwaites
Like The Golden Compass, I read The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe as part of my job as a course tutor for a college first year seminar on gender and leadership in young adult fantasy. This context obviously effected my experience of the book and this resulting review.

I should also probably
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mention that while I’d never read The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe before, I knew quite a bit about it going in. For most of my childhood my family went to an Episcopalian church (think the American version of Church of England), and they loved this book. I remember being shown the old animated movie and attending a two person play (the actors represented different characters with different hats) put on in the church’s cafeteria. I remember it being stressed that not only was C.S. Lewis Christian, he was specifically Anglican, and it was something the church was really proud of. So while I may not have read the book, I came in knowing the rough shape of the story.

But since everyone kept telling me to read The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, I naturally refused. What can I say? I’ve always been stubborn. Therefore, I don’t think I have the childhood nostalgia that a lot of people have for The Chronicles of Narnia. And since I haven’t read the rest of the books in this series, my comments on The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe‘s presentation of gender and leadership will be focused solely on this book.

But before I get into anything else, I can see how children could love The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Even reading this as a twenty year old college student, I could feel the magic and appeal of Narnia from Lewis’s descriptions of a snow crusted world. And The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is very much a kid’s book. It’s fairly thin, and there’s not a whole lot of complexity to it (which made it much less fun to analyze than some of the other books the class read). So yes, it’s probably unfair of me to judge it as an adult reader, but just remember that experiences are subjective and star ratings are ultimately meaningless.

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe was published in 1950, and it falls in line with the gender norms of that era – i.e. it’s pretty straightforwardly sexist. The most notable example is Father Christmas telling Lucy and Susan that battles are ugly when women fight (and not just ugly in general?), and there’s other, more subtle instances as well. Like how the beavers follow 1950’s/40’s gender norms to an almost comical degree. Mr. Beaver goes out fishing to provide for the family. Mrs. Beaver cooks and cleans, and she gets a sewing machine from Father Christmas.

The class spent a fair bit of time discussing Lucy and Susan. Lucy is the more active character; she discovers Narnia, she’s depicted as brave and strong willed. Susan’s a wet blanket without much characterization and whom the other children accuse of trying to mother them. What does the contrast between the two say about gender in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe? Lucy falls into less gendered patterns than Susan, but is it because she’s younger? Is the implication that when girls grow up, they become like Susan? And is that supposed to be a good thing or a bad thing? I don’t have any answers, but they’re questions I find interesting.

Jadis is another character who falls into some old gendered tropes. She’s beautiful, alluring, and evil. There’s an element of the Temptress archetype to her, but she’s also sort of a perverted mother figure – she beguiles Edmund by wrapping him in furs, feeding him sweets, and promising to adopt him. The dissonance between these two roles was strange, and it goes to show how much of her character relates to her gender. I think if she were an evil king instead of an evil queen, we’d get a very different book.

The class also spent some time discussing leadership, the difference between a good leader and an effective leader (Jadis certainly wasn’t good, but she was possibly effective), and whether or not Aslan was really a good leader. As one of the other students pointed out, he doesn’t really do anything. He sacrifices himself for Edmund and he’s got some magic breath, but does that make him a good leader? And why was he waiting around for these four random children? Why not just save Narnia himself? “Because prophecy” is not a good answer.

I struggled with what I was going to say about The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. I mentioned earlier that it feels thin, and I stand by that. It wasn’t much fun to read as an adult, and I didn’t enjoy the analysis as much as I have with some of the other YA fantasy books the course is doing.

Review from The Illustrated Page.
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LibraryThing member Cynara
This review contains spoilers.

A book that makes me both glad and uncomfortable. As a child I was innocent of the Christian allegory, and had a mixed response to it that was renewed in later books in the series.

First, there's what a reviewer of Susan Cooper's Over Sea, Under Stone called an
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"English twee-ness". There's a public-school Enid-Blyton middle-Kipling feel to some of the prose and the way the children interact with each other ("wars are ugly when women fight", humans are more special than animals, ooh, isn't Edmund being a rotter, etc.).

Beyond that, there's a rich fantasy world where the preoccupations and moral issues are familiarly human; Lewis is excellent at describing the small ways we betray each other and flatter ourselves. He is, in fact, a wonderful writer. He writes believable characters and interesting situations, and Narnia's a marvellous world and very well described; in later books, when something's described as having a "Narnian feel" it's instantly evocative. I've laughed and cried over this book throughout the years, and wished I could visit.

Coming to it as an adult with an interest in Christian allegory, I have a new perspective. Now it seems to me that the strengths and weaknesses are both the product of his desire to explain Christianity as best he can to an audience of children (and those who are "old enough to start reading fairy tales again").

His great lion Aslan, I find, is Christ in disguise, which at least tells me why the "Emperor Over the Sea" is such an arbitrary jerk. Aslan is immensely appealing, full of strength, love, beauty, and awful insight into your frailties. But, as it's been pointed out by smarter scholars than me, the lamb is the traditional Christian symbol for Christ; the meek, gentle, sacrificed one. Lewis' "muscular Christianity" requires a burlier animal, one who could, and does, lead an army to holy war. I suppose Lewis would say that it is a battle within the soul.

Lewis was passionate about his Christianity, and as readers of the Screwtape Letters know, it's a reasonably appealing variety. His long soul-seeking and analysis of sin is possibly the reason why his characterisations ring so true. He has thought about betrayal and flattery, and he has decided that they are bad for us because in betraying others we betray Christ, and in flattering ourselves, we blind ourselves to evil.

I imagine that, were I Christian, I might find this less discomfiting. I felt betrayed when I realised, long ago, that Lewis had been giving me an allegory. It seemed to me that he was not acting in good faith. Lewis wasn't happy with having made me love Aslan (despite my irritation with some of his behavior). Lewis wanted me to believe that it was the same as loving Jesus and becoming a Christian, which is a trail of reasoning I don't quite follow.

I still love this book, and it deserves the five stars I've given it, but it hasn't been quite the same since I realised the Lion should have been the Lamb.
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LibraryThing member sapsygo
A perfect, concise, and enjoyable little tale. I really enjoyed reading it outloud to my daughter.
LibraryThing member TheTreeReader
After re-reading The Magician’s Nephew and enjoying it more than the first time I read it, I finally continued on with the series. I didn’t know what to expect going into this one. After being so disappointed in The Magician’s Nephew the first time, I didn’t know if I would enjoy this one.
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I am so happy that I’ve finally read it because I really liked it.

Reading The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe just made me so happy. I wish that I had been a reader when I was a kid and got to experience it then. I know I would have loved it.

I did have a problem with the fact that the boys could fight but the girls couldn’t. However I did expect that with it being and older book. It wasn’t surprising, but it was still frustrating.

I can definitely see myself re-reading this one at some point. Maybe I will do that sometime soon and continue on with the series. I will be skipping The Horse and His Boy because I have read it and I gave it one star. I hated it. So far The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe is my favorite.
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LibraryThing member Hamburgerclan
I suppose I could copy my review of The Magician's Nephew, change a few words and be done with it. This volume, the progenitor of the Narnia series is as much a delight as its prequel. How could you not love the discovery of a magical land, the mighty lion king Aslan and his overthrow of a cruel
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tyrant? If you haven't already, buy it, read it and put it on your shelf so you can read it again. (Or lend it to a friend. Such treasures should be shared.)
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LibraryThing member DinadansFriend
This is the first book that gave me the idea that stories could be filled with wonders and need not be connected to the real world. So, it's my first fantasy book. Others have come and gone (write George, Write like the Wind!) but I've looked at the back walls of practically every closet I've been
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left alone with....just in case...
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LibraryThing member Mykake
My childhood favorite.
LibraryThing member jayne_charles
I read this as a child and it scared and confused me in equal measure. I have tried again as an adult, just to see what all the fuss is about, and its star rating hasn't increased as far as I'm concerned. It's preachy and filled with priggish children. Won't be reading the other 'chronicles'.
LibraryThing member Liamsiamese
An elegant tale full of symbolism.
LibraryThing member MrsLee
The first time I read this, it didn't move me. The second time, my viewpoint on life had changed and I was able to discern the many messages in it. As a Christian, this book took on a whole other meaning. You don't have to be a Christian to enjoy this story, the ideals of sacrifice, love and
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courage are very plain, no matter what you believe about God.
This is a fantasy world of the first order. One you will not be able to leave behind. Every wardrobe you see will make you want to open it...just in case. Four children who find comfort and entertainment in the oh so very unsettling world of WWII England. Safe in the countryside, so their parents believe, they find their understanding of the world and each other permanently changed.
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LibraryThing member t1bclasslibrary
I wasn't sure how well a picture book could retell the story of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe in such a short space, but this does a wonderful job. The story is shortened, but major details are not neglected. This is beautifully illustrated and nicely retold- perfect for sharing the story
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with younger children.
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LibraryThing member greeniezona
The latest Jeffersonian bedtime story. I didn't think I remembered very much from this, but it all became very familiar again as I was reading it with Jefferson. (Compared to The Magician's Nephew, or The Horse and His Boy, which we are reading now.) It did seem much more allegorical than it did
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the last time I read it. A very satisfying fable for children, with happy endings for all the Queen had turns to stone. All the darkness is erased by Aslan.

Very enjoyable to read aloud.
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LibraryThing member jessotto
This is a book I had not read in too long. It wasn't until a classmate mentioned it that I was interested in reading it again. I always knew that C.S. Lewis was a religious author just by seeing his books at the Christian bookstore from time to time but I think over time I just forgot that. I feel
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like this is a book that has the ability to change as the reader changes. As a child I never knew the Lion was exemplifying God and now as an adult going back and reading this, it sheds a new light on an old story. A true classic about the importance of doing what is right, and how by doing so the good in that will always overpower wrong. It is an easy book to read and I think it holds a very deep and meaningful message. I am really happy I was reintroduced to this book.
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LibraryThing member bexaplex
One of the classics of children's literature: the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe has the nosy E. Nesbit narrator, the middle-aged Kenneth Grahame animals, and the WWII-era life-and-death morality of Tolkien. The redemption of Edmund is well-handled; Lewis manages to suggest that his nastiness,
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which seems so essential at the beginning of the book, is a product of his environment at school. He is tricked into evil, owns up and does the right thing, never dwells on it and his family forgives him instantly. Long live the Kings and Queens of Narnia!
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LibraryThing member Schmerguls
I read this only because it appears on various lists of "best books" such as Time's "best 100 novels from 1923 to 2005" and Brothers Judd's "Top 100 Novels of the 20th Century.' It is a kid's book, and while it suggests it might have something to do with Christ's Redemption, it is so fantastic that
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any allusion thereto I found not worth thinking about. It is only 110 pages but I was glad when I go t to the last page. Fanstasy seldom does anything for me, and this fantasy was a bore. I will NOT read the other six volumes of the Chronicles of Narnia.
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LibraryThing member Faith_Murri
I really liked this.

The Writing and Worldbuilding

I absolutely loved the writing style! It was very similar to J.M. Barrie, with fun asides and little comments throughout. Though definitely targeted at children, it is readable and enjoyable by all.

I loved the themes, the pacing, the world, and the
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characters. It was phenomenal.

The Characters

Peter, Susan, and Lucy: They were all so fun and I enjoyed following them and experiencing Narnia through them.

Edmund: Freaking Edmund. He was such a good character. His arc was awesome and quite deep, actually. Definitely my favorite character.

the White Witch: I was surprised at just how scary she actually was. Really, she was legitimately frightening!

Aslan: I was worried that he would be preachy, but honestly he was sincerely powerful and strong and just pretty darn great.


I am so happy that I read this. It was really great. Such a funny, emotional, and powerful story. Freaking fantastic!
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LibraryThing member MinDea
I have seen this movie but never read the book. It is awfully close to the movie. I quite enjoyed the book, probably more than the movie.
LibraryThing member saltmanz
I'm reading this one to the kids right now and...I'm surprised to find myself seriously underwhelmed. It's been probably 15 years since I read it last, and while Lewis' work here is fine for a YA novel, I'm finding I demand a bit more from my prose nowadays. (And don't get me started on his bizarre
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use of parentheticals--rendered especially awkward whilst reading aloud.) Still a great kids' story and allegory, though.
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