Read an Excerpt
A Guide to Exploring The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
By Devin Brown
Abingdon PressCopyright © 2013 Devin Brown
All rights reserved.
Lucy Looks into a Wardrobe
Depending on the edition they have, as readers first open the book, they may find a map of Narnia included before chapter one. Because the events in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (which I will typically refer to from here on as TLWW) occur within a relatively small section of Narnia, the map will have more relevance for later books in the series. Before jumping into the story itself, it may be helpful to say a few words about Lewis's dedication here and about the illustrations which will appear throughout the work.
Lewis's dedication of TLWW appears just before the contents page. Lucy Barfield, addressed as "My dear Lucy," was Lewis's goddaughter and the adopted daughter of Owen Barfield, one of Lewis's best friends and an occasional member of Lewis and Tolkien's writing group, the Inklings. Barfield met Lewis when they were students together at Oxford and later served as the solicitor for the charitable trust into which Lewis put most of the royalties from his books. In Surprised by Joy Lewis described Barfield as the kind of friend who "disagrees with you about everything" (199) and dedicated The Allegory of Love to him, referring to Barfield as "the wisest and best of my unofficial teachers."
In the dedication Lewis tells Lucy, "I wrote this story for you." Lewis did not intend these words to mean he wrote in the same way that, for example, Lewis Carroll wrote Alice in Wonderland particularly for Alice Liddell. In his essay "On Three Ways of Writing for Children," Lewis described one kind of writing which seeks to give "what the modern child wants" (31). A second kind, he noted, "grows out of a story told to a particular child" and was the source for stories written by "Lewis Carroll, Kenneth Grahame, and Tolkien" (32). Lewis continued, "The third way, which is the only one I could ever use myself, consists in writing a children's story because a children's story is the best art-form for something you have to say: just as a composer might write a Dead March not because there was a public funeral in view but because certain musical ideas that had occurred to him went best into that form."
Lewis's practice was to dedicate nearly all of his books to someone close to him, and the Narnia dedications were always to children. Later Narnia books were dedicated as follows: Prince Caspian (1951), to Mary Clare Harvard, daughter of fellow Inkling Dr. R. E. "Humphrey" Harvard; The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (1952), to Lucy's foster brother Geoffrey Barfield; The Silver Chair (1953), to Nicholas Hardie, son of Inkling Colin Hardie; The Horse and His Boy (1954), to Lewis's future stepsons David and Douglas Gresham; and The Magician's Nephew (1955), to the Kilmer family, an American family whose children Lewis corresponded with in his Letters to Children. The Last Battle (1956) is the only Narnia book which has no dedication.
In his dedication to TLWW, Lewis goes on to write that he fears in the time it has taken to complete the book Lucy has already become "too old for fairy tales." Lucy Barfield was born in November 1935 and so would have been twelve when Lewis began writing the story and nearly fifteen when it was finally released. Whether she indeed felt herself too old for the book when it appeared in 1950 has not been recorded. Lucy Barfield died on May 3, 2003.
The suggestion that young people may at some point think they have outgrown Narnia reappears again at the end of the Chronicles in The Last Battle. There Susan is reported as telling her siblings that their adventures in Narnia were just "funny games we used to play when we were children" (154). In the dedication to TLWW, Lewis concludes with the hope that someday Lucy "will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again," and in this statement readers may find a parallel, and thus hope, for Susan also.
Despite the disclaimer in his dedication, Lewis was in fact adamant that good fairy stories would be enjoyed by all ages. In fact, he insisted "a book worth reading only in childhood is not worth reading even then" ("Sometimes Fairy Stories" 48), an assertion which children's literary scholar Peter Hunt has called "one of the worst critical dicta" (200). Though all the Chronicles' dedications are to young people, Lewis stated that in his stories about Narnia he was not intending to write something below adult attention, and in fact the stories have very loyal fans among both younger and older readers.
In the final chapter of That Hideous Strength, the third volume of his space trilogy which had been published five years earlier, Lewis included a passage which his dedication to Lucy here reprises. At that point in the story, Mark Studdock has recently come to his senses and has stopped at a little country hotel on his way to rejoin his wife and the forces of good. After tea and a hard-boiled egg, he picks up an old volume of The Strand. There Mark finds a serial children's story "which he had begun to read as a child but abandoned because his tenth birthday came when he was half way through it and he was ashamed to read it after that" (358). We are told, "Now, he chased it from volume to volume till he had finished it. It was good." In both this passage and in the dedication to TLWW, Lewis was actually echoing his own experience, which he described this way: "When I was ten, I read fairy tales in secret and would have been ashamed if I had been found doing so. Now that I am fifty I read them openly" ("On Three Ways" 34).
This idea of never being too grown-up for fairy tales is so important that Lewis will focus on it again in the second Narnia book. When Caspian expresses delight in the tales of naiads, dryads, dwarfs, and "lovely little fauns," his Uncle Miraz reprimands him, saying, "That's all nonsense, for babies.... Only fit for babies, do you hear? You're getting too old for that sort of stuff. At your age you ought to be thinking of battles and adventures, not fairy tales" (42). Miraz banishes the nurse who has been telling Caspian these stories, but Lewis's point is made clear when Miraz is defeated in the end and Caspian and his old nurse are reunited.
Most readers see the illustrations as an integral part of TLWW and can hardly imagine the book without them. Because Lewis approved of each of the drawings and since from the start they have been included in every edition, we should explore both what they contribute and how they contribute to our experience of the book. While not every illustration warrants comment, as we go through the text many will be discussed because of something special they add to our understanding of the story or because of a particular issue they raise.
Pauline Baynes, who did the illustrations for all seven Narnia books, was born in England in 1922. In advance of the Lewis Centenary and the fiftieth anniversary of TLWW, she was asked by HarperCollins to go back and add color to her original black-and-white drawings. As with many issues related to Narnia, readers have strong feelings about both versions—some insist the original black-and-white drawings are superior; others accept or even prefer the colored ones since they were done by the original artist herself.
Lewis became associated with Baynes as a result of the pictures she had drawn for J. R. R. Tolkien's Farmer Giles of Ham, published in 1949. Besides the illustrations which appear in the seven Chronicles, Baynes also created two maps of Narnia. One was part of the original hardback edition, and one was made into a poster which on some editions can be found printed inside the book's back cover.
Lewis personally met with Baynes several times to discuss her drawings. In a letter written in 1967, she described in part what it was like to work with him:
When he did criticize, it was put over so charmingly, that it wasn't a criticism, i.e., I did the drawings as best as I could—(I can't have been much more than 21 and quite untrained) and didn't realize how hideous I had made the children—they were as nice as I could get them—and Dr. Lewis said, when we were starting on the second book, "I know you made the children rather plain—in the interests of realism—but do you think you could possibly pretty them up a little now?"—was that not charmingly put? (Hooper, Companion 406–7)
George Sayer, Lewis's student and later his good friend, has recorded that Lewis considered illustrating the stories himself but decided that "even if he had the skill, he would not have the time" (314). Readers who would like to see what these pictures might have looked like can see examples of Lewis's early attempts at drawing in Boxen, a book named after the world Lewis created when he was a boy and published in 1985, many years after his death. Sayer notes that Lewis once said about Baynes, "She can't draw lions, but she is so good and beautiful and sensitive that I can't tell her this" (315).
Except for the one rather anthropomorphic drawing of Aslan talking with the White Witch which appears in chapter thirteen, Lewis's opinion of Baynes's lions does not seem to be one generally shared by readers. Colin Duriez has written that in joining up with Baynes, Lewis was paired with an illustrator "whose imagination complemented his own" (30).
Baynes went on to illustrate works by many other authors—books by Alison Uttley, Rumer Godden, and Mary Norton as well as editions of the stories by Hans Christian Andersen and Beatrix Potter—but when she began the Narnia project, she was young and inexperienced. Because of this, the drawings were "modestly paid work for hire," and years later Baynes would note that "even minimal royalties would have 'supported' her for life" (Lindskoog, "Pauline Baynes" 93).
After Baynes had drawn the illustrations for the fifth book, The Horse and His Boy, Lewis sent her a letter expressing his pleasure with her work, although in a somewhat backhanded way. Lewis wrote:
I lunched with Bles [the publisher] yesterday to see the drawings for The Horse and His Boy and feel I must write to tell you how very much we both enjoyed them. It is delightful to find (and not only for selfish reasons) that you do each book a little bit better than the last—it is nice to see an artist growing. (If only you could take six months off and devote them to anatomy, there's no limit to your possibilities.) ... The result is exactly right. Thanks enormously for all the intense work you have put into them all. (Letters 436)
When the final book in the Narnia series, The Last Battle, was awarded the Carnegie Medal, a prize similar to America's Newbery Medal, Baynes wrote Lewis to congratulate him. He graciously responded, "Is it not rather 'our' Medal? I'm sure the illustrations were taken into consideration as well as the text" (Hooper, Companion 408). After finishing the drawings for the Narnia books, Baynes went on to illustrate Tolkien's The Adventures of Tom Bombadil (1962) and Smith of Wootton Major (1967). She won Britain's Kate Greenaway Medal in 1968 for her illustrations in Grant Uden's Dictionary of Chivalry.
Once There Were Four Children
The first sentence of TLWW introduces four children who have come to stay at the house of an old professor because London, where their home is located, is under attack during the air raids of World War II. Not until two books later, in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, do we find out that their last name is Pevensie (3). In an interview which appeared in the June 28, 2004, New Zealand Herald, film director Andrew Adamson said this about his forthcoming adaptation of Lewis's book: "I've really tried to make the story about a family which is disenfranchised and disempowered in World War II." Lewis will say almost nothing about the rest of the family in TLWW. After this brief mention of the air raids on the opening page, no concern or anxiety is ever expressed about the mother and father who, presumably, have remained in London. In fact, the only mention of Mr. and Mrs. Pevensie in TLWW comes about because Peter and Susan are worried about Lucy's safety, not their parents'.
A girl named Lucy (perhaps a nod to Lucy Barfield from the dedication) appears as the last named, the youngest, and the most sympathetically portrayed of the four children. Paul Ford, a leading Narnia scholar, has suggested that Lucy is the character "through whom the reader sees and experiences most of Narnia" and that through her Lewis expresses his own "religious and personal sensibilities" (275). Colin Manlove notes that Lucy is the most spiritually perceptive and suggests that "not for nothing is her name Lucy," a name which comes from lucidity or lux, meaning light (135). Don King argues that Lucy is one of Lewis's most endearing characters. King observes, "We follow her from her initial entry into Narnia and share her wonder and excitement as she encounters the Narnian world. Later, when she meets abuse from Edmund and skepticism from Peter and Susan, we sympathize with her" ("Childlike" 20).
When Owen Barfield was asked about the connection between his own daughter and the character Lucy in the novel, he responded, "The question whether Lucy Pevensie was 'named after' Lucy Barfield is one I never put to Lewis. I should have thought the opening words of the dedication were a sufficiently appropriate answer" (Hooper, Companion 758). As to whether Lewis had Lucy Barfield directly in mind in portraying Lucy Pevensie, Barfield replied, "I think the answer must be no; because, although he had very willingly consented to be her Godfather, they saw very little of each other in the latter years of his life."
During the war, a group of children—all girls—did in fact come to stay at Lewis's home, the Kilns. On September 5, 1939, Lewis wrote to his older brother Warren, or Warnie, who had been recalled up for active service: "Our schoolgirls have arrived and all seem to me ... to be very nice, unaffected creatures and all most flatteringly delighted with their new surroundings" (Letters 323; emphasis added). In this last detail, the real children particularly matched their fictional TLWW counterparts. As soon as the Pevensie children are alone, Peter exclaims, "We've fallen on our feet and no mistake.... This is going to be perfectly splendid" (4).
Two weeks after his first letter about his houseguests, Lewis wrote to Warnie about them again, stating, "I have said that the children are 'nice,' and so they are. But modern children are poor creatures. They keep on coming to Maureen and asking 'What shall we do now?'" (Letters 326). Years later as he was creating the fictionalized account of four children staying with an old professor in TLWW, Lewis would depict them quite differently—as wonderfully, perhaps miraculously, self-reliant.
Lewis biographers Roger Lancelyn Green and Walter Hooper note that Lewis's "knowledge of actual children was slight, and his own two stepsons did not arrive on the scene until after the Narnian stories were completed" (241). What would the effect have been on TLWW if Lewis had not been host to these schoolgirls during the Second World War? Would the novel have even been written? While no one will ever be able to answer these questions with certainty, John Bremer claims that the presence of these young people in his home "taught Jack something" (47). As Bremer explains, Lewis, who used Jack as a first name rather than Clive, "had always been shy around children and did not understand them. He now learned how to relate to them and to have affection for them. Without this experience, the Chronicles of Narnia might never have been written or not written so well."
One of the schoolgirls who stayed at the Kilns was Jill Flewett, and so it is perhaps no accident that a girl named Jill appears as a main character in The Silver Chair and The Last Battle. Jill Flewett was sixteen when she arrived at the Lewis household in 1943, and she lived there until 1945 when she entered the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts. Like the children in TLWW, Flewett remained close with the real-life professor with whom she had become friends, and in later years she returned to visit several times. In an interesting turn of events, Jill Flewett later married Clement Freud, the grandson of Sigmund Freud, the Austrian father of psychoanalysis and the figure who is often named as Lewis's intellectual opposite.
Excerpted from Inside Narnia by Devin Brown. Copyright © 2013 Devin Brown. Excerpted by permission of Abingdon Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.