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Inside Narnia


Devin Brown, author of Inside Narnia

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Narnia: A Life Changing Journey

 
BOOK EXCERPT

Inside Narnia: A Guide to Exploring the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

By Devin Brown
Baker Publishing Group

Lucy Looks into a Wardrobe

CBN.comDepending 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.

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The Dedication

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. Lewis described Barfield as the kind of friend who “disagrees with you about everything” (1955, 199) and dedicated The Allegory of Love to him, referring to Barfield as “the wisest and best of my unofficial teachers” (1992, v).

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” (1982e, 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” (1994b, 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” (1982f, 48), an assertion which children’s literary scholar Peter Hunt has called “one of the worst critical dicta” (2001, 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” (1982f, 47), 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 Stoddard 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” (2003, 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” (1982e, 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” (1994e, 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 (204).

The Illustrations

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 1996, 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” (1994, 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 1994c, 143; note that future references to the book will indicate page number only unless further clarification is needed), 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” (2000, 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 1998c, 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. (1993, 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 1996, 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.

Chapter One: Lucy Looks into a Wardrobe

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 (Lewis 1994g, 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’ (46–7).

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” (1994, 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 (1987, 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” (1986, 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 1996, 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” (1993, 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?’?” (1993, 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” (1994, 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” (1998, 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 (Lindskoog 1998a, 175). 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.

In 1984, slightly more than a decade after Warnie’s death, the Kilns was purchased by the C. S. Lewis Foundation of Redlands, California, and visitors may by prior arrangement tour the home. How much resemblance is seen between the house Lewis owned and the Professor’s? The Kilns is nearer to five than “ten miles” from the railway station (3) and is located in the city of Headington Quarry, a suburb of Oxford. So, unlike the house described in the novel, it is not in “the heart of the country,” though during Lewis’s time the area was certainly less built up than it now is. The Kilns also lacks the “long passages” and the “rows of doors leading to empty rooms” which the Professor’s house has (5). The Professor’s house and the nearby woods and mountains can be seen in Baynes’s second illustration in chapter five (52).

The Professor’s house, the neighboring mountains, and even the rain which the children encounter on their first morning may have come more from Lewis’s memories of Little Lea—his boyhood home on the outskirts of Belfast, Northern Ireland—than from anything around Oxford. Evidence for this can be seen in the following passage written by Warnie about their childhood: “We would gaze out of our nursery window at the slanting rain and the grey skies, and there, beyond a mile or so of sodden meadow, we would see the dim high line of the Castlereagh Hills—our world’s limit, a distant land, strange and unattainable” (1993, 21).
In TLWW we find this parallel: “But when the next morning came there was a steady rain falling, so thick that when you looked out of the window you could see neither the mountains nor the woods nor even the stream in the garden” (5).

In 1969, the pond and the woods next to the Kilns were made into the Henry Stephen/C. S. Lewis Nature Reserve and opened to the public. Readers might be interested to learn that the house used for filming Shadowlands, the 1993 movie about Lewis’s marriage to Joy Gresham, was not the real property. In The Magician’s Nephew we find out that the Professor’s house had originally belonged to his old great-uncle Kirke, and there we find the following description which makes it seem even more grand: “the great big house in the country, which Digory had heard of all his life and never seen, would now be their home: the big house with the suits of armor, the stables, the kennels, the river, the park, the hot-houses, the vineries, the woods, and the mountains behind it” (Lewis 1994d, 200).

After first seeing the Kilns and the large parcel of land surrounding it, Warnie recorded the following depiction in his diary and expressed the same excitement used to describe the setting of the Professor’s house:

We did not go inside the house, but the eight-acre garden is such stuff as dreams are made of. I never imagined that for us any such garden would ever come within the sphere of discussion. . . . To the left of the house are the two brick kilns from which it takes its name—in front, a lawn and a hard tennis court—then a large bathing pool, beautifully wooded, and with a delightful circular brick seat overlooking it: after that a steep wilderness broken with ravines and nooks of all kinds runs up to a little cliff topped by a thistly meadow; and then the property ends in a thick belt of fir trees, almost a wood: the view from the cliff over the dim blue distance of the plain is simply glorious. (W. Lewis 1988, 68)

Lewis lived at the Kilns from October 1931 until his death in November 1963. During this time, like many of his colleagues, he also would often spend the night in his rooms at Oxford and then later at Cambridge where he taught. After his brother’s death, Warnie continued to live at the Kilns off and on for ten more years and died there in 1973.

Immediately after meeting the four children, we meet the old Professor himself. As Walter Hooper has observed, the Narnian character closest to Lewis himself is “the old Professor” (1996, 427). Lewis also was a professor, though he was in his early forties during the war and thus perhaps not quite as old as the “very old” character described in the novel, who seems to be retired (3). In later notes that Lewis made about the events in Narnia, he indicated that the Professor was born in 1888 and that the Pevensie children came to stay with him in 1940, which means he would have been fifty-two (Hooper 1996, 421). Lewis was forty-two in 1940, but it is perhaps not coincidence that he had just turned fifty-two, the exact age of the Professor, when TLWW was published in 1950.

Like the Professor, Lewis was unmarried at the time that the schoolgirls from London stayed at the Kilns. However, the clean-shaven and balding Lewis looked nothing like the bearded and tousled-headed Professor who is described as having “shaggy white hair, which grew over most of his face as well as on his head” (3). In the first illustration in chapter five (50), readers can see Pauline Baynes’s rendering of Lewis’s description.

As a teenager Lewis hated Malvern College, the boarding school he attended. Because of this, in 1914 when he was sixteen, he convinced his father Albert to allow him to be privately tutored by William Kirkpatrick, or Kirk, who had been the headmaster at Albert’s alma mater, Lurgen College in Northern Ireland. In The Magician’s Nephew, we go back to a time before TLWW to meet the Professor when he was a young boy, and we learn there that his name is Digory Kirke—and similar names will not be the only aspect the two share.

Lewis’s tutor, who did have white hair and shaggy white mutton chops, was noted for his rigorous logic, a trait which Lewis came to love. The Professor’s famous appeal to logic will appear in chapter five of TLWW (48). Later, in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, Peter does not appear in the story because he is away at the Professor’s being coached for his exams (Lewis 1994g, 4), just as Lewis himself went to William Kirkpatrick’s to be prepared. Given all these details, one could argue that a great deal of the old Professor was drawn from Lewis’s memories of his former tutor.

In his autobiography, Surprised by Joy, Lewis records his first impressions after meeting Kirkpatrick, writing, “His wrinkled face seemed to consist entirely of muscles, so far as it was visible; for he wore mustache and side whiskers with a clean-shaven chin like the Emperor Franz Joseph” (1955, 133). Readers who are interested can find a photograph of Lewis’s tutor in Green and Hooper’s biography, which is listed in the Reference List section of this book.

Two of the servants named on the first page of TLWW, Ivy and Margaret, may be echoes of a single character, Ivy Mags, from That Hideous Strength, published in 1938. Mrs. Macready, the Professor’s housekeeper, may be a variation of Mrs. McCreedy, the housekeeper Lewis and his brother knew in their Belfast childhood (Lindskoog 1998b, 110). Her name might also be a pun on the words “make ready” (Ford 1994, 285). Edmund’s rudeness on meeting the old Professor—he wants to laugh at the Professor’s odd looks—is not only characteristic of his youth, as the narrator suggests here (4), but also part of Lewis’s characterization of Edmund, a portrayal which will be seen to be consistent from the start.

Walter Hooper, who was Lewis’s personal secretary near the end of his life and later his biographer, has put forth what he believes may have been Lewis’s first words about Narnia. According to Hooper, Lewis wrote the following paragraph, partly in response to his young houseguests, in 1939 on the backside of a manuscript he was working on:

This book is about four children whose names were Ann, Martin, Rose and Peter. But it is mostly about Peter who was the youngest. They all had to go away from London suddenly because of the Air Raids, and because Father, who was in the army, had gone off to the war and Mother was doing some kind of war work. They were sent to stay with a relation of Mother’s who was a very old Professor who lived by himself in the country (Hooper 1996, 402).

Peter is the only character from this earliest start of the novel to make it into the later version of the story, where his age is reversed from youngest to oldest. Lewis kept the original number and gender for his protagonists—two girls and two boys. Unlike the passage above, in TLWW there is no indication that the Professor and the children are relatives, although Colin Manlove has suggested that the Professor is their uncle (1993, 32). Finally, one might note that if Lewis’s original intention was to make the story “mostly about Peter who was the youngest” (Hooper 1996, 402), to some extent he kept this focus in the book’s final form, where more attention is placed on the youngest of the four children, although this character is now Lucy.

After the children say goodnight to the Professor and go up to their rooms, they have their first real conversation, one which raises several issues.

First, in this short exchange we see Lewis early on establishing each of the four children’s basic personality traits: Peter as the upbeat leader; Susan as sympathetic but also motherly and pretentious; Edmund as negative, rebellious, and argumentative; and Lucy as good-natured and seeking to please. Second, we also begin to see some of the motivation that will be a part of Edmund’s character. He is described as “tired and pretending not to be tired” (4), and the narrator tells us that this always “made him bad-tempered.” The characters which are brought to life throughout the Narnia books, both the human and the imaginary, will be quite believable. One of the ways Lewis achieves this is by always giving his readers reasons for the ways the characters behave, and thus we can say they are motivated and not simply one-dimensional like characters in some children’s stories are.

While most readers will probably just skim over Peter’s use of “old chap” in his opening words (4), some may find it a bit archaic or even artificial. In chapter six, one of the first things Peter will say upon arriving in Narnia is “by jove” (55), and a few pages later he will exclaim, “Great Scott!” (62). Peter is not the only character to sometimes speak in ways that may seem stiff to modern readers. When Edmund gets into Narnia he will try to apologize to Lucy by stating, “Make it Pax” (30).

Contemporary readers may wonder if any young boys in Lewis’s time really talked the way Peter does here. And readers may further wonder whether some of their expressions sounded as affected then as they do now. A. N. Wilson has complained that the children “jaw” rather than talk (1991, 221) and “seem no more to belong to the mid or late twentieth century than Lewis did himself.” According to Green and Hooper, before the book was published Lewis was aware that some of his dialogue was outdated and was persuaded to delete all the instances of the word crikey used by the children (1994, 242).

Having briefly commented on Peter’s occasionally stilted language, it should be noted that young people typically have no trouble identifying with the Pevensie children. As Wilson has observed, “generations of children can now testify to the irresistible readability of the Narnia stories” (1991, 221). However, one may be interested to see how Lewis’s schoolboys—with their shorts, knee socks, caps, and school blazers and their use of phrases like “old chap” and “by jove”—will resonate with readers in the coming decades, readers from times and places which will grow more and more removed from the quaint Oxford countryside of the early 1940s. This is not to suggest that the Narnia stories are likely to become less popular or that readers will not enjoy these aspects but simply to point out that Lewis’s ratio of familiar and marvelous elements will continue to change over time as many of what he viewed as ordinary elements become part of an increasingly distant past. To future generations the boys’ exclamations, the wardrobe, and even World War II may to some extent seem as alien as Narnia’s fauns, centaurs, and unicorns.

We are given our first really good view of both the boys in their school outfits in the illustration showing them in the Beavers’ house in chapter seven (75). Although throughout TLWW Pauline Baynes will always depict the boys in shirts, ties and sweaters, with Edmund in shorts and knee socks and Peter in long pants, Lewis gives virtually no indication in the text what any of the four children look like or what they wear. Perhaps because Lewis gets to the action so quickly in TLWW and uses the children’s own words and actions rather than descriptive passages to reveal what kind of young people they are—strategies which are typically thought of positively—he misses the chance here at the beginning to tell us anything about how the children look. Once the opportunity is missed, for Lewis to stop halfway through the novel and tell us about their appearances seems impossible; so, for example, not until the final chapter will we discover that Susan has black hair while Lucy’s is golden (183–84).

Up in their rooms, the four children are immediately excited by the possibility of seeing animals in the woods near the Professor’s house. Some scholars have seen significance in the animal that each child names in the passage about exploring (Lindskoog 1998b, 111; Ford 1994, 309). For example, Peter’s animals—eagles, stags, and hawks—could be said to be associated with chivalry; and one could claim that the girls soon find themselves hunted and having to hide like the badgers and rabbits they name.
Exactly what, if anything, is indicated by matching each child with an animal here is a question open to speculation. However, some evidence hints that Lewis may have been more intentional than may first appear: he went to the trouble of changing the animals for an early American edition of the novel (Ford 1994, 164). In that version Lewis has Edmund keyed up about the possibility of seeing snakes, and Susan is the one overjoyed about foxes. In any case, as Colin Manlove has pointed out, from the very beginning the children are “quite strongly individuated” (1987, 135). All editions published after 1994 use Lewis’s original animals in this passage.

The next morning the children have plans to explore outside, but they wake to find a rain “so thick that when you looked out of the window you could see neither the mountains nor the woods nor even the stream in the garden” (5). The rain by preventing outdoor activities leads to Lucy entering the wardrobe and then Narnia itself, and in this sense it may be seen to be providential.
A number of interesting parallels exist between Lewis’s fiction and that of his friend J. R. R. Tolkien. The seemingly insignificant fact of weather leading to the start of a great adventure was an aspect also used by Tolkien in The Fellowship of the Ring, the first book in his epic The Lord of the Rings. In that work we read that Sam “had a good deal to think about. For one thing, there was a lot to do up in the Bag End garden, and he would have a busy day tomorrow, if the weather cleared” (Tolkien 1994a, 44). As David Mills has noted, “Because the weather is good, Sam can work in the garden, and because he can work in the garden, he can sneak under the window and listen to Gandalf and Frodo’s discussion of the Ring. Because he listens to it, he gets caught doing so, and because he gets caught doing so, he is ordered to go with Frodo” (Mills 2002, 24). According to Mills, because of the providential weather that morning, Sam goes on the quest and helps Frodo “in ways that no one else could have,” and the Ring “is destroyed against all odds.”

In the same way, Edmund’s statement, “Of course it would be raining!” will resonate a page later when readers realize that precisely because of this rain the children explore the house (5). Because they are exploring, Lucy enters the wardrobe, and because she enters the wardrobe, she is able to enter Narnia. This same hand of providence will be seen again in chapter five when a group touring the house seems to follow the children everywhere, making them run from room to room. There we are told that it was as though “some magic in the house had come to life and was chasing them,” so that they are almost forced into the wardrobe (53).

Later, in writing The Magician’s Nephew, Lewis will again turn to this device of providential rain showers leading to the start of an adventure. There readers learn that Polly and Digory’s adventures “began chiefly because it was one of the wettest and coldest summers there had been for years. That drove them to do indoor things: you might say, indoor exploration” (1994d, 7).

In Susan’s very first words, she called the Professor “an old dear” (4). Here in her comments about the weather, she again takes a somewhat affected, motherly tone, again one not quite in harmony with her age. “Do stop grumbling, Ed,” she says. “Ten to one it’ll clear up in an hour or so” (5). And then, like any mother would, she offers suggestions of things to do, adding, “And in the meantime we’re pretty well off. There’s a wireless and lots of books.”

Peter, assuming the role that he will hold throughout the series, takes the lead, saying, “Not for me. I’m going to explore in the house” (6). Everyone agrees, and the adventure begins.

Lewis’s description of the Professor’s house comes next, and we find that it has several rooms that might be expected as well as a couple which may leave readers, along with the children, somewhat mystified. It has lots of spare bedrooms, a long room full of pictures, and a suit of armor—all familiar staples of the British country manor. It has a library full of old books, some of them, because of their large size, likely to have been old handwritten or hand-printed manuscripts. Readers learn later that visitors come to see the “rare books in the library” (51). Exactly what the room “all hung with green, with a harp in one corner” is used for (6), we are never told. Perhaps it is simply a harp room for music, and to complement the harp comes the green of Celtic Ireland.

Finally the children come to a room that is “quite empty except for one big wardrobe” and “a dead blue-bottle on the window-sill” (6). Modern readers who have closets in their bedrooms and are curious what the wardrobe might look like can see Pauline Baynes’s first rendition of it here in chapter one (7). In this illustration we can also see the shadows of the four children extending, almost pointing, toward the wardrobe doors, Baynes’s literal way of foreshadowing their later entrance. Some readers may not know that a blue-bottle is a type of fly. The dead fly here suggests the room is seldom used and seldom cleaned. It also may give readers a feeling of stagnation, a feeling that nothing happens in the room and that the wardrobe has not been used for a long period of time. The two mothballs which drop out when Lucy opens the door further reinforce these impressions. Perhaps, as we find later, it has been waiting to come alive.

On the last two pages of The Magician’s Nephew, readers will find Lewis’s explanation of the wardrobe’s origins and the source of its magic (1994d, 201–2). But at this point anyone who is reading the novels in their original order will find the wardrobe as mysterious as the children do and will uncover its secrets along with them. As mentioned earlier, this sharing of the children’s curiosity and wonder, here and throughout the story, is the strongest argument for retaining the original reading order.

The Professor’s wardrobe is described as “the sort that has a looking-glass in the door” (6), which may suggest that it has one door, not the two that Pauline Baynes includes in her drawings of the wardrobe here in chapter one (7) and again in chapter seventeen (188). Later, when Lucy enters it, Lewis will take note about her not shutting “the door,” again in the singular (7). When the four children enter, we are told that Peter “held the door closed but did not shut it” (53), further evidence that Lewis may have had in mind a wardrobe with a single door, making this one of the few times when Lewis’s text and Baynes’s drawings perhaps do not match up.

As the other three children troop out, Lucy lags behind to try the door of the wardrobe and ends up going inside it because, as we are told, she liked nothing so much “as the smell and feel of fur” (7). Imagining scores of his young readers becoming locked inside wardrobes all over Britain and America, Lewis immediately adds that Lucy kept the door open “of course” and notes that “it is very foolish to shut oneself into any wardrobe.” Lewis was so concerned about this problem of children playing Narnia and getting trapped inside wardrobes that he repeats this warning two pages later and then again in chapter five (53). A reverse warning appears when Edmund enters the wardrobe, as we are told that he “jumped in and shut the door, forgetting what a very foolish thing this is to do” (28).

In his second caution about the wardrobe, Lewis puts his warning in parentheses: “(She had, of course, left the door open, for she knew that it is a very silly thing to shut oneself into a wardrobe.)” (8–9). By using this parenthetical structure, Lewis inserts his narrator more directly into the story. Here the punctuation of the narrator’s comments gives the feeling of an aside, further emphasizing the relationship with the reader. Technically, one might say that the narrator is always the one telling the story. However, sometimes the narration is interrupted in a special way—with the use of the pronouns I or you, or with parenthetical comments like the one here. While other ways to describe these two different styles of narration could be proposed, a useful distinction may be referring to the speaker who intrudes in this special way as the narrator and to the person who tells us things in the ordinary way as Lewis.

Much has been written about the various narrators who break into Lewis’s fiction (Schakel 2002, 74; Gibson 1980, 134), which except for these interruptions is typically told from the third person point of view. In TLWW readers will encounter this narrator again from time to time. When Lucy meets Mr. Tumnus, Lewis writes, “One of his hands, as I have said, held the umbrella: in the other arm he carried several brown-paper parcels” (10; emphasis added). The narrator intrudes again in his description of the Professor’s house: “All manner of stories were told about it, some of them even stranger than the one I am telling you now” (51). The narrator will also interrupt the description of the meal with the Beavers, pointing out: “And all the children thought—and I agree with them—that there’s nothing to beat good freshwater fish if you eat it when it has been alive half an hour ago and has come out of the pan half a minute ago” (74).

A different kind of intrusion occurs near the start of chapter five—this time using the first person plural, rather than first person singular: “And now we come to one of the nastiest things in this story” (44). The narrator will open chapter six, “And now of course you want to know what had happened to Edmund” (88). Readers find a similar comment at the start of the following chapter, serving as a transition to the next episode: “Now we must go back to Mr. and Mrs. Beaver and the three other children” (100).
Evan Gibson argues that Lewis’s narrator has a special position in the Chronicles, one “different from that in any of his other stories,” and that this difference can be found in the narrator’s “relationship with the reader” (1980, 134). Gibson continues:

Perhaps the word raconteur, a skilled spinner of tales, describes Lewis’s relationship to the story. He is not so much a narrator as a storyteller, if I can make that distinction. It is as if he is here in the room with us, his feet spread out to the fire, his hands gesturing. . . . Notice how often in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe he reminds us of his presence. . . . The I’s and you’s scattered throughout the book referring to the storyteller and his friend, the reader, establish a common ground which is almost a one-to-one relationship. (134)

Peter Schakel also describes how Lewis’s use of this occasionally intrusive narrator adds to our experience as readers. As Schakel explains, “The use of ‘we’ gives substance and identity to the storyteller. The narrative is no longer impersonal and objective: a person is telling this story and commenting on the events. The statement, with its evaluative comment, is the kind an adult is more likely to make than a young person. The ‘we,’ at the same time, draws the reader into the tale at a new level” (2002, 75).

In his use of occasional interruptions from this unnamed narrator, Lewis was following a pattern also used by Tolkien in his novel for young people The Hobbit, published in 1937. By placing one of the passages from TLWW mentioned earlier alongside a parallel passage from Tolkien, their similar tone is revealed. First Lewis:

It was the sort of house that is mentioned in guide books and even in histories; and well it might be, for all manner of stories were told about it, some of them even stranger than the one I am telling you now. (51)

By some curious chance one morning long ago in the quiet of the world. . . . Gandalf came by. Gandalf! If you had heard only a quarter of what I have heard about him, and I have only heard very little of all there is to hear, you would be prepared for any sort of remarkable tale. (Tolkien 1994b, 13)

Perhaps the greatest effect of this unnamed narrator found in TLWW and throughout the rest of the Chronicles is to give a distinctly personal impression to the narration. As we read, the narrator jumps in just often enough and just long enough to give readers the feeling that they are being told a story rather than just reading it on their own.

Lucy finds a second row of coats behind the first and the wintry land of Narnia behind that. In making a wardrobe the entranceway to another world, Lewis unconsciously used a device from “The Aunt and Amabel,” a story by Edith Nesbit published in 1908 that he would certainly have come across as a child. In the summer of 1948, Lewis is recorded as making a remark to Chad Walsh about completing a children’s book which he had begun writing “in the tradition of E. Nesbit” (Walsh 1979, 129). Green and Hooper argue that it is likely that Lewis had come across “The Aunt and Amabel” when it appeared in Blackie’s Christmas Annual for 1909, when Lewis was ten, but they also point out that he “had forgotten the Nesbit story entirely until reminded of it” (1994, 250–1).

Amabel, like the Pevensie children, has been sent away from home. In Amabel’s case, she has been sent to stay with a great aunt, not because of air raids but because of “measles or a new baby or the painter in the house” (Nesbit 1994, 192), and in her room she finds a “large wardrobe with a looking glass in it that you could see yourself in” (194).

On the dressing table in the spare room where she is staying, Amabel finds a strange timetable for trains, and in it she sees a station named “Bigwardrobeinspareroom” (Nesbit 1994, 196), a name which will perhaps be echoed in Mr. Tumnus’s references to the land of “Spare Oom” and the city of “War Drobe” (TLWW, 13, 21). We are told that Amabel, thinking that she will find only hats inside, “went straight to the Big Wardrobe and turned its glass handle” (Nesbit 1994, 197). Nesbit then writes: “Of course it wasn’t hats. It was, most amazingly, a crystal-cave, very oddly shaped like a railway station. It seemed to be lighted by stars, which is, of course, unusual in a booking office, and over the station clock was a full moon.”

While Lewis may have had a faint recollection of Nesbit’s story in the back of his mind as he began TLWW, travel through Lewis’s wardrobe is much more like a birth than Nesbit’s train ride. Lucy begins in the dark, cozy womblike enclosure and moves through the fur coats and a narrow tangle of branches to emerge into a whole new world. While a Freudian reading of this passage is possible—and in fact, is even joked about by the fictional Inkling named John in the pub scene in the film Shadowlands—it is not required. The birth that Lucy and that later her brothers and sisters will undergo is more of a rebirth, a passage from one condition in England to a more vital one in Narnia or, as Colin Manlove describes it, the development “out of an old awareness into a new” (1993, 35).

At this point in the story, the question might be raised, how is Lewis going to make the imaginary world of Narnia seem real? One of the primary techniques he will use, both now in Lucy’s first passage to the make-believe country and also later throughout the story, is to provide readers with vivid, concrete descriptions of specific, familiar objects which they can see, hear, touch, and smell. Here Lucy pushes aside “soft folds of coats” and hears a crunching under her feet (8). She stoops down to feel what is making the sound, and instead of feeling “the hard, smooth wood of the floor,” she feels something “soft and powdery and extremely cold.” Next she comes up against something “hard and rough and even prickly” which rubs against her face and hands. Finally, with the help of a dim light off in the distance, she recognizes “snowflakes falling through the air.” As Walter Hooper has pointed out, “Lewis’s close observations of nature and his ability to describe what he saw, heard, and smelled, are nowhere so evident as in the Narnian stories” (1980, 80).

The late Joseph Campbell was one of the world’s foremost scholars of mythology. While his assumptions about the origins of myth were fundamentally different from those Lewis held, his observations about the aspects which all myths share have proven to be insightful and can shed light upon ways that the Narnia stories may serve as myths for our time. Campbell presents several stages which each mythic hero will go through. The first is what he labels the call to adventure. Campbell points out that this call often comes unexpectedly and may sometimes seem to invade the hero’s safe, secure world by “merest chance” (1968, 51). However, according to Campbell it is not chance which has produced the call but rather the hero’s own subconscious readiness, his or her need to progress to the next psychological level. Campbell explains: “A blunder—apparently the merest chance—reveals an unsuspected world, and the individual is drawn into a relationship with forces that are not rightly understood.” Certainly Lucy’s entrance into Narnia has almost seemed to come about by chance, by the simple fact of her lagging behind to try the wardrobe door.

The exploration of the Professor’s house and Lucy’s subsequent entrance into the wardrobe occurred after “they had just finished their breakfast” (5). Now the fact that Lucy finds herself standing in the middle of a wood “at night-time” (8) is the first hint to readers that time in Narnia is different than time in England.

The first image that Lucy sees, and Pauline Baynes’s first illustration of Narnia, captures the essence of the imaginary world. After walking “about ten minutes” toward the light she has noticed, Lucy comes upon “a lamp-post in the middle of a wood” (9). Narnia is characterized as being a mystical blend of worlds, a place where the very real and the very imaginary come together. In creating this mingling of robins and fauns, of hot tea and miraculous cordials, of enchanted woods and London lamp-posts, Lewis delighted his readers but put off his friend J. R. R. Tolkien, who insisted on a more rigid separation between what he called the primary world and the secondary or fictional—a separation that appears more completely in Tolkien’s imaginary realm of Middle-earth. Later in TLWW, Father Christmas will be introduced (107), and Lewis defended this inclusion alongside figures with very different origins such as Aslan or Mr. Tumnus by saying that they all exist happily together in our minds in real life. To this Tolkien responded, “Not in mine, or at least not at the same time” (Sayer 1994, 313).

Colin Manlove has described this magical blending of different ingredients which occurs in Narnia. He observes:

The very title of the book, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, suggests that it is a kind of amalgam of different things: and that is indeed the case. . . . It is as if Lewis delights in the juxtaposition of as many different things as he can, and in refusing us any settled view or position. The book is almost a cornucopia, or in other terms, rather like a Christmas stocking, full of various and mysterious objects all held together in one container. (1987, 126–7)

Peter Schakel sums up the point saying, “The distinctive atmosphere of Narnia is shaped by the blending of familiar things with unfamiliar, and by placing of familiar things in an unfamiliar context” and also on its blending of “the ordinary and the impossible” (2002, 59–60).

Paul Kocher makes a similar point about Tolkien’s Middle-earth, which combines “the ordinary with the extraordinary,” making the fantasy world “familiar but not too familiar, strange but not too strange” (1972, 2). Kocher argues, “No audience can long feel sympathy or interest for persons or things in which they cannot recognize a good deal of themselves and the world of their everyday experience” (1). In this respect, both Lewis and Tolkien are following Tolkien’s dictum from his essay “On Fairy-Stories.” In that essay Tolkien maintained, “Faerie contains many things besides elves and fays, and besides dwarfs, witches, trolls, giants, or dragons: it holds the seas, the sun, the moon, the sky; and the earth and all things that are in it: tree and bird, water and stone, wine and bread” (1966, 38). Walter Hooper has claimed that in the Chronicles of Narnia Lewis provides readers with “descriptions which somehow familiarize, without making dull, the strangeness of another world, and which quietly convince us that we are in a real world that we should enjoy living in if we could get there” (1980, 82).

Narnia is intentionally a hodgepodge collection of widely diverging elements, often with no relation to each other, giving it a dreamlike quality. At the same time Narnia is also a blend of more specific, intentionally chosen pairs of opposites: “the ordinary and the fabulous, the contemporary and the medieval, the childlike and the ‘adult,’ and the secular and the religious” (Manlove 1993, 10).

In The Magician’s Nephew we will learn the origin of the mysterious lamp-post out in the middle of the deepest woods (Lewis 1994d, 119), but as with the wardrobe, at this point in the story readers are as amazed by it as Lucy is.
The second image we have of Narnia is as famous and as distinctive as the lamp-post. Lucy hears a pitter-patter of feet, and then out steps a faun carrying an umbrella and “several brown-paper parcels” (10). Lewis claimed that this picture, which first came to him when he was a teenager, was the beginning of Narnia.

In a short essay titled “It All Began with a Picture,” Lewis wrote:

All my seven Narnian books, and my three science-fiction books, began with seeing pictures in my head. At first they were not a story, just pictures. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe all began with a picture of a Faun carrying an umbrella and parcels in a snowy wood. This picture had been in my mind since I was about sixteen. Then one day, when I was about forty, I said to myself: “Let’s try to make a story about it.” (1982a, 53)

In this first image of Mr. Tumnus walking in Narnia, often the picture used for the book’s cover, we have the same blending of worlds first seen with the lamp-post in the middle of the woods. In the homey extras which Lewis adds—Mr. Tumnus’s umbrella, his red woolen muffler, and the brown wrapped packages—familiar, domestic England is united with the mythology of ancient Greece. In the faun itself we have, of course, a further blending: the mixture of human and animal.

The very first words in the novel uttered by a Narnian are “Goodness gracious me!” (10). Some readers may see this utterance as merely an expression someone might make after being startled. At the least, Lewis’s choice of this particular expression adds to the characterization of Mr. Tumnus. As readers get to know the creature with “a strange, but pleasant little face,” they will see that this is exactly the kind of thing he would say. But since these are the first words spoken by a Narnian, perhaps they hold more significance than just developing Mr. Tumnus’s character. Perhaps in these opening words readers are meant to hear intimations of the goodness and the grace which will play fundamental roles all throughout the story.

These first words are also remarkable in that they happen to be in English. Certainly Lewis could have used a different language in Narnia as he did in his earlier space trilogy. In The Magician’s Nephew, Lewis will explain how the animals in Narnia came to speak (1994d, 125–7), and from this account one may argue that Mr. Tumnus and the rest of the talking animals in Narnia speak English because Frank and Helen, the first king and queen of Narnia, came from England. However, unless readers have read The Magician’s Nephew, when they encounter Mr. Tumnus’s exclamation here, they have no explanation for the English, and neither did Lewis at this point. Like the wide variety of foods that Mr. Tumnus will serve for tea (in spite of the fact that the Narnian winter has lasted for years and years), his use of English here in the final sentence of chapter one is something that is simply accepted.

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This excerpt is from the Introduction of Devin Brown's "Inside Narnia," and is reprinted with permission.

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