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Cannonball Read V: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis

By Captain Tuttle | Book Reviews | March 14, 2013 | Comments ()


coverLionWardrobe13.jpg

I bought this series in paperback as an adult, because for some reason I had not read the books as a child. It's a nice little boxed set, and I'm getting ready to pass it on to my niece, who has just started reading what the kids call "chapter books." We just used to call them books, but I'm old. Anyway, the first book in the boxed set was The Magician's Nephew, but The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe was actually the first book written and published (although it is second chronologically in Narnia time).

Between the books and the movies, you all know the story: the kids are evacuated to the countryside during the Blitz, and end up staying with old, odd Professor Kirke. That's Digory Kirke, for those of you who have already read the prequel. Little Lucy Pevensie finds a wardrobe in a disused room, and finds a whole other world inside (outside?) it. She meets a lovely faun, Tumnus, who tries to betray her, but then can't. Her brother Edmund makes his way to Narnia as well, and meets the queen (so she says), who tantalizes him with sweets, and promises of glory. Then all four kids end up there, they discover that Mr. Tumnus has been taken, they meet beavers, Edmund betrays them to the White Witch, they go on the lam, meet Santa Claus, and the long winter begins to end. Oh, and there's a very big lion who might be Jesus.

Here's what I love about this story. I adore the Pevensies, they're just so very British. Peter is all stiff-upper-lip-man-of-the-house, Susan is such a mother hen, Lucy is adorable, and Edmund is a total prick until he finds out that prickiness isn't all that great, no matter how much Turkish Delight there is (I've never had it, but I looked it up and it sounds kind of icky). I love all the talking animals, especially the saucy Mrs. Beaver. I love how she packs food for everyone and tries to bring her sewing machine before the wolves descend (she just couldn't bear their nasty paws all over her stuff - and I also love that Santa got her a new one after the wolves trashed their place).

Ok, so I'm not all that enamored of the Christian mythology aspect, but Lewis doesn't totally beat us to death with it (although he does get in a few good smacks). I do enjoy these books, they're yet another way to turn off the churning brain at the end of the day (which is all too necessary). I'll be reading these books for the rest of my life. I'm excited to introduce my niece to them, and can't wait until my boy is old enough to read them.

This review is part of the volunteer Cannonball Read V. Read all about it , and find more of Captain Tuttle's reviews on the group blog.

(Note: Any revenue generated from purchases made through the amazon.com affiliate links in this review will be donated in entirety to the American Cancer Society.)


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Comments Are Welcome, Bigots and Trolls Are Not


  • Anebo

    Ugh, Lewis. He is good at creating worlds, I'll grant him that, and his descriptions are marvelous (I felt a strange, sublime sadness after Voyage of the Dawn Treader) but in the end, his worldview is such a turn off. Don't get me started on The Last Battle; it's just the worst book ever. So heartless and idiotic. When the professor started talking about how their afterlife was like Plato's philosophy, I lost it, and tore the flimsy paperback book in half. And I'm someone who is firmly against the destruction and suppression of books. I just couldn't have that book intact in my house. I feel bad about it now, though. I donated the other books in the series, so I'm sure someone is annoyed the last one wasn't available in the set...

  • tangocharlie

    My dad read this book to me when I was a little girl. It remains, to this day, one of my fondest memories. I also did not pick up on the religious tone until much later in life, and once I did, it didn't taint my enjoyment. The British movies from the 80's are also a delight!

    The rest of the series is also wonderful for a young, enthusiastic reader, and from this I went on to Madeleine L'Engle, and have enjoyed book series ever since.

  • Jensicola

    As a girl who grew up as the youngest daughter of a priest, I had a complicated relationship with religion and Jesus. It all seemed so contradictory to me, even as a young child (Jesus loves you! The message is love! Oh but FYI you can go to hell if you're bad. Toodles!). To me, Aslan in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe was the best, most honest and open version of the Christ figure, no contradictions, no judgement. And when the fear built into religion got to be too much for my little brain, the vision of him romping with the girls after his resurrection brought me peace, joy, and a sense of a loving friend that I genuinely desired to be around.

    I think when many folks have a knee-jerk reaction to this book specifically (not talking about The Last Battle here) they may not realize that many of us read this when we were very young and it provided us with a different view on the things we had no choice in being exposed to. Even non-religious children will probably respond to the Aslan figure as something mysterious yet warm and comforting, and it need not be put in the context of Jesus for them to love him and want it be safe and happy around him.

    As an interesting aside, I wasn't afraid of the boogyman when I was little, I was afraid of the devil. When I got to be eight or so, I stopped telling people I was a Christian, I started saying I believed in the Aslan version of Jesus, and my father fully supported that. And to this day I still don't include The Last Battle in my warm thoughts on Aslan.

  • BlackRabbit

    I remember two of the freaky parts in the book: Mr. Beaver advises the Pevensie children that if something claims to be,
    used to be, or may become human, "keep an eye on it and feel for your
    hatchet." And when he tells them that "some of the trees are on Her side." I don't know why that stuck with me. Oh, and the other lion.

  • ShagEaredVillain

    DO NOT allow anyone to read these books in chronological order. They are meant to be read by publishing date, and these boxed sets that start with Magician's Nephew make me all stabby.

    Prequels rely on the context of the original material. They are written to further illuminate an adventure you've already had, not to spoil it completely.

  • wonkeythemonkey

    I agree completely. Reading The Magician's Nephew first is like reading The Silmarillion before the Lord of the Rings. It's an origin story, and origin stories are best learned after you have a reason to care.

  • BiblioGlow

    I have to disagree. I loved this series as a kid, read and reread it countless times, and I loved starting with The Magician's Nephew. It brought such a sense of ancientness to the story for me. I loved the fact that even though the stories for the most part focused on the Pevensies, that's not where Narnia's story started. I loved that the kids who began Narnia grew up and became, not just adults, but old, intelligent, wise, and humorous. I loved seeing Digory in Wardrobe and having a jolt of recognition, and I loved that Lewis trusted me to be able to fill in his story between poor lost Digory in the garden, tempted by the golden apple, and Professor Kirke, giving four lost children good advice that any other adult wouldn't have given them.

    To me it's less important what order Lewis wrote them in and more important to simply absorb his story. For me the best and most enjoyable way to do that is chronologically. The idea of reading the beginning of Narnia's story after everything that comes after it just makes no sense to me, and I can't think of any way it would improve the experience. They are not 'meant' to be read any way except what the reader chooses. Honestly, I've never understood why Lewis fans get so upset about the order - you get to read them however you want, you don't need to go bossing other people around and telling them they're wrong.

  • Sara_Tonin00

    I know - the reordering in modern sets is so annoying! You really need to be ending with Magician's Nephew and Last Battle.

  • BlackRabbit

    Also, I'm a bloody idiot. I MEANT to say that LEWIS didn't care, not Tolkien. Bah.

  • Sara_Tonin00

    It wouldn't be the first time an author was wrong about his own work. :)

  • BlackRabbit

    Tolkien didn't care, why should we?

  • lonolove

    I was obsessed with these and read them over and over again. It wasn't until 7th grade when my teacher TOLD me about the Christian themes that it even occured to me. Yeah. Pretty dense kid. Anyway, I already had such a relationship with them that it didn't deter me, but the 7th and final book is where it gets outrageously obvious and isn't even subtext anymore. Also, The Magician's Nephew rules...highly recommend!

  • manting

    Tolkien is the far superior writer - Lewis just wrote Jesus propaganda for kids (don't read the screwtape letters)

  • Sara_Tonin00

    Screwtape isn't for kids. Neither is the Perelandra series.

    I don't think it's an either/or for the writers.

    I think most of them can be read ignoring religious symbolism - they work as stories. Horse & His Boy, which I otherwise love, is a little difficult to avoid the Christian/Muslim divide.

  • Slim

    Tolkien and Lewis were friends, yes, but very different writers. Agree with Sara that it isn't an either/or. I love The Horse and His Boy, would name a kid after that talking horse if the hubs would allow it. Aslan says something to Shasta in the book that I like to ponder as Lewis' theological argument for life beyond our planet. Comforting for a girl who loved both Star Trek and faith. (yes, in the Pajiban minority)

  • psemophile

    The summer I spent devouring all 7 Narnia books (in chronological order!) will forever remain the best summer of my life.
    And I don't want to ruin that by revisiting this book. I was a kid when I read it, oblivious to the christian imagery, and Aslan was simply a hero. I'm afraid that if I read it again, these things will be much too obvious.

  • Nyltiak

    Oh try them anyway! I loved them as a kid, and as an atheist adult, I still love them. The religious imagery isn't overwhelming, except in the Last Battle.

  • SJ

    You're not the first person I've heard of who read the books and not picked up on the religious elements; I think the fact that people can read the books without being aware of the christian imagery shows that the books aren't such blatant propaganda as some claim. Still, some of the books do drop heavier anvils than others *cough*LastBattle*cough*.

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