The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe is the ultimate modern fairy tale. The title alone is recognisable to almost everyone whether they have read the book or not and it is the sort of story you already know even before you read it.
“‘There are only three possibilities. Either your sister is telling the lies, or she is mad, or she is telling the truth. You know she doesn’t tell lies and it is obvious that she is not mad. For the moment then and unless any further evidence turns up, we must assume that she is telling the truth.”
The story starts quick. The Pevensie children are evacuated from London and sent to the Professor’s house within the first three sentences. Lucy first encounters Narnia by the end of the first chapter. This puts the focus firmly on Narnia rather than on Earth.
At first, no-one believes Lucy, but when her brother Edmund finds Narnia and immediately is spotted by the white witch instead of a kind faun like Lucy was that the plot really starts to get going.
I’ve been told that the first time I was read this, I was terrified of Edmund being given turkish delight by the white witch, and my mother had to stop reading. I can only assume I thought it was poisoned, which it is of course, but not in a particularly scary way.
“That is how beavers talk when they are excited; I mean, in Narnia – in our world they usually don’t talk at all.”
The religious symbolism throughout the book is clear. Aslan is always portrayed as their god, albeit a god with a physical form and presence, however the religious aspects are not the main focus of the book, as C.S Lewis has said himself, that that all came later after his initial idea of a magic world covered in snow.
Instead the main focus is more on Edmund and journey from accidental traitor to purposeful traitor to him redeeming himself by killing the white witch and becoming badly injured in the process.
The writing style of the book is the third person, but the narrator is given a definite personality saying things such as:
“This lasted longer than I could describe even if I wrote pages and pages about it.”
This fits with the story being a children’s story, as you can almost imagine someone reading it to you even if you are reading alone.
The visual descriptions of Narnia also help bring the world to life,as it is easy to imagine the world covered with snow, the lamp-post in the middle of the forest, and the many magical creatures that live in Narnia.
The way the children speak may be deemed slightly old fashioned these days, but as the book is clearly set during the second world war, then that does not matter. There is a reason the book is a modern classic – everything in it is so memorable, so easily pictured right down to the title.