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Four Kids and a War(drobe)
Into The Twilight Zone
In 1959-64 (aaaaaaaaages ago), a weekly half-hour TV show called The Twilight Zone, created by an innovative (an adjective meaning "capable of making something new") man named Rod Serling, was in production. (Reruns are shown on the SciFi channel and are on DVD.) Wondering what that's got to do with LWW? Plenty. Sit tight and you'll find out.
In each Twilight Zone episode, various characters would find themselves in strange worlds or in situations extremely different from the reality they were used to (unless they were used to being chased by maniacal talking dolls or zombielike neighbors). Whenever they discovered something out of the ordinary, the narrator of the show, Rod Serling, would suddenly pop up and announce that the character had "crossed over into the twilight zone." (This was another strange occurrence. After all, when was the last time a narrator popped up in your living room and began discussing your life?) Then the eerie theme music would play (Doo doo doo doo, doo doo doo doo).
If you've read LWW, you know that a girl named Lucy Pevensie was the first person in her family to cross over into a "twilight zone" known as Narnia. (Check out "All About Lucy" at the end of the chapter.) How did she get there? Through a wardrobe.(Give yourself minus 50 points if you said an airplane or any other form of transportation.)
Imagine opening your closet door and discovering a completely different world beyond your clothes. (Have you checked what's beyond your closet lately? Go on. Give it a try. We dare you.)
Lucy and C. S. Lewis
If you read the letter on the dedication page of LWW, you already know that there was a girl named Lucy in C. S. Lewis's life. But did you know that she was the daughter of Owen Barfield, a friend from his days as a student at Oxford University? Barfield was an author, philosopher, and a member of the "Inklings" writers' group to which C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien (author of The Lord of the Rings) belonged. And no, the real Lucy didn't discover Narnia, except through the pages of C. S. Lewis's book.
If you're back from checking out your closet, let's get back to the fictional Lucy. We first meet Lucy and her siblings Peter, Susan, and Edmund as they arrive at the country home of Professor Kirke (a man curiously like C. S. Lewis) during World War II, having traveled all the way from London.
Lucy, Peter, Susan, and Edmund didn't have much choice about living with the Professor. They had to live there. Imagine having to live with total strangers--strangers who were told they had to take you in. How would you feel? This is the situation Lucy and her siblings found themselves in. Little did they know that the Professor's home would be the key to some of the greatestadventures of their lives! It all began when they decided to explore the many rooms of the Professor's country house. (For exploration ideas or tips on what to do for a rainy day, see the games at the end of the chapter.) That's when Lucy discovered the wardrobe in a spare room. (Wondering what a wardrobe is? Look for "And Now, a Word About Wardrobes" later in the chapter. No need to thank us.)
Another girl went through a wardrobe in a spare room and found herself in a strange place. Her name was Amabel (that's right--Amabel, not Anabel or Annabelle) and she's the main character in "The Aunt and Amabel," one of the short stories in The Magic World by E. Nesbit (published in 1912). (For more on E. Nesbit, see chapter 5c.)
If you haven't read "The Aunt and Amabel," maybe you won't mind us telling you some of the plot. Eight-year-old Amabel performs an act she believes is thoughtful, but her aunt thinks otherwise. Result: punishment for Amabel. She winds up spending the day in a room with a large wardrobe. But that room is the site of a huge adventure, which begins with the discovery of a train timetable. On it she sees a curious station name: Bigwardrobeinspareroom. After climbing into the wardrobe, she winds up at a curious place called Whereyouwantogoto.
Although C. S. Lewis read this story years before writing LWW, it's doubtful that he had it in mind while writing his book.
Like the Pevensies, many kids in real life (about 2 million) were sent out of London before and after German forces bombed the city during World War II. This attack was known as the Blitz and was part of a planned invasion of Britain by Nazi forces ("Operation Sea Lion"). Pretty soon, there was a full-scale air battle called the Battle of Britain.
Check out this handy time line of some of the events of WWII:
WORLD WAR II TIME LINE
September 1, 1939
Invasion of Poland by the Nazis
September 3, 1939
Britain joins France, New Zealand, and Australia in declaring war on Germany. Parents begin sending their children out of London.
January 8, 1940
The British begin rationing.
July 10, 1940
The beginning of the Battle of Britain
August 15, 1940
Air raids over Britain begin.
The bombing of London began in 1940 and continued through 1941. Imagine how scared the people of London were during that time. (If you happened to live in New York during the attacks on the World Trade Center in 2001, you have some idea of how scary and horrible a time it was.)
With the constant threat of air raids (attacks by enemy aircrafts), many parents knew that their kids wouldn't be safe inthe city. So, they sent them away by train to live with families in the country. If you lived in London during this time, your mom or dad might have done the same thing.
The evacuations began in September 1939, just as the German forces invaded Poland. Signs were posted all over London, alerting people as to when and where the evacuations would take place.
Many kids were evacuated through their schools. Most traveled light, bringing only a gas mask, a toothbrush, an ID card, and a change of underwear. (Since the gas masks were red and blue, they were called "Mickey Mouse" masks. Wanna guess why?)
After arriving at a town or village station, the kids would be divided among the families in the area, who were under orders to provide homes for them. (When a person is under orders to report to a place, you would say that he or she is billeted to that location. Amaze your friends with your keen vocabulary.)
His Home Was Their Home
Even C. S. Lewis had wartime guests, probably starting in September 1939.4 His home had enough room for four kids. A group of girls from London stayed at his country home on the outskirts of Oxford. They didn't all arrive at once. They were sent to his home in stages. Some of the girls stayed for more than a year.
While two of the girls (Patricia Boshell and Marie Bosc) arrived, Lewis was busy in the garden. Since he wore dirty gardening clothes, one of them assumed he was the gardener! At least he could laugh about it.
At this point, Lewis taught at Oxford University and shared a home ("the Kilns") with his brother, Warren, and Janie andMaureen Moore--the mother and sister of his friend Paddy, who had been killed during World War I (more on that in chapter 16). Mrs. Moore (whose nickname was Minto, but not like Mentos the mints) lived there until she was placed in a nursing home in 1950.
Because of the air raids (or threat of them), blackouts took place, even in the country. Everyone was told to hang black fabric against the windows each night. With everything dark, Nazi bombers would have a harder time finding targets.
Keep in mind that food, gas, clothes, and coal were rationed then. Officials feared that food supplies would run out, so everyone was allotted a certain amount of food (a ration). Ration books were handed out so that everyone could keep track of food items like eggs, butter, and sugar. Even kids had ration books. Perhaps the Pevensies brought theirs to the Professor's house. C. S. Lewis's boarders would have each had one. (Try to imagine what rationing would be like now. How would you feel if a limit was placed on the amount of food you could eat each week?)
At this point in his life, Lewis had little experience with kids. Although he thought his guests were nice and all (as he told his brother in a letter), their presence was a challenge for a busy professor, especially since they kept asking for advice on what to do.5 (Maybe that's why he made the Pevensies able to entertain themselves at the Professor's house. They're like you in that regard, right?) Still, he liked having them around.
His wartime boarders gave him good material for a story. At first, he thought about writing a story about four kids (Rose, Peter, Martin, and Ann) who were sent to the home of an old professor. (Sounds familiar.) But the land of Narnia you know and love was still to be developed. (More on that in chapter 5b. Youcan wait that long, right? Unless you want to skip ahead and read it right now. We won't tell.)
But it all started with a wardrobe.
And Now, a Word About Wardrobes
Some rooms in old houses like Professor Kirke's didn't have closets. Wardrobes--big, wooden cabinets really--were used for storing clothes.
C. S. Lewis may have been inspired to write about a wardrobe by one that his grandfather made (pictured below), which occupied a space in his childhood home, Little Lea, back in Belfast. The wardrobe (Lucy Pevensie not included) currently resides at Marion E. Wade Center in Wheaton, Illinois.
Another source of inspiration for LWW came from one of the girls evacuated from London who asked Lewis what was in an old wardrobe. Could she explore it? Her question undoubtedly stayed in Lewis's mind (kind of like a song that just won't leave your head).
In chapter 1 of LWW, Lucy did just what Lewis's wartime boarder did--she explored a wardrobe. There she discovered more than just a bunch of old fur coats and other clothes. Like Dorothy in The Wonderful Wizard ofOz, she found a new world to explore--a world quite different from the one she just left. This was Narnia.
The first creature she met in Narnia was a faun: Mr. Tumnus. (You don't see fauns every day ... or ever!) Meeting Mr. Tumnus sets up the conflict (the central problem) of the story. In chapter 2 of this book, you'll read more about fauns and handkerchiefs than you probably ever thought you would.
Being stuck inside on a rainy day during summer vacation can be quite a bummer if you haven't a clue what to do. It's especially hard to stay indoors when you have your heart set on such splendid activities as riding bikes or playing with friends.
Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy found themselves in a similar situation. The children had their hearts set on exploring the grounds and neighboring woods and mountains, but instead found themselves indoors.
Rain can sometimes be quite a bothersome thing, but as in almost all situations that seem disappointing, there is the opportunity for something good to happen--even adventure. It took time for the Pevensie children to warm up to the idea of having fun indoors, but of course having a good time is a choice. Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy were ready to make something good happen even during a dreary day.
Sometimes adventure finds us in the most unlikely places. Adventure found Lucy through what looked like a plain old wardrobe. She became the first in her family to enter Narnia.
Even if you have lived in the same place for years, you may want to take a closer look at your surroundings. Have you noticed everything? There probably is something new andexciting to discover. Are you stuck indoors today? If so, try exploring or do one of the other rainy-day activities listed below.
IDEAS FROM THE PEVENSIES
• Read a book. Susan suggests reading books for entertainment while it is raining outside. Why not read one of the Narnia books or another favorite book of your choice?
• Exploring. Lucy discovers Narnia during an exploration of the Professor's house. What will you find in your house?
• Story writing. Write a story and draw your own illustrations about what you would hope to find if you entered a wardrobe.
• Scavenger hunt. Create a list of items using LWW as a guide. Split up into teams and see how many items you can find on the list. For instance, try to find an umbrella, a Bible, and a wireless (a radio).
• House building. Create a model of the Professor's house using household items such as cereal boxes and cans, don't forget about having many doors. When you're finished, try to imagine what would be behind each door.
All About Lucy
AGE: Eight or nine
BIRTH ORDER: She's the youngest Pevensie.
QUALITIES: She's honest, loyal, helpful, perceptive, and fearful. Yet she's also adventurous. After all, she didn't back out of the wardrobe after finding out that it led to a different world. She also didn't say no to visiting a strange faun at his house (chapter 2). And she later insisted that her brothers and sister help the faun after learning of his arrest. Also, she was the only one besides Susan to follow Aslan when he surrendered himself to the witch (see chapters 14 and 15).
CLAIM TO FAME: She was the first to enter Narnia and the one who encouraged her siblings to help Mr. Tumnus.
LIKES/LOVES: Exploring old houses; the smell and feel of fur; the faun Mr. Tumnus; being truthful
DISLIKES: Being called a liar
GIFT FROM FATHER CHRISTMAS: A vial with a cordial; a dagger
NARNIA TITLE(S): Queen Lucy; Lucy the Valiant; Daughter of Eve
INSIDE "THE LION, THE WITCH AND THE WARDROBE." Copyright © 2005 by James Stuart Bell, Carrie Pyykkonen, and Linda Washington. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews. For information, address St. Martin's Press, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, N.Y. 10010.
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