The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe


C. S. Lewis

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The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe Summary

Siblings Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy have been sent away from London during the air-raids at the height of World War II. They arrive at the countryside house of a kind but eccentric Professor, and as the children explore the house, Lucy winds up in a room which is empty except for a large wardrobe. She opens it to see what’s inside, and, after finding a row of fur coats, climbs up into it to rub her face into the furs. The wardrobe goes back farther than she thought, and as she climbs deeper and deeper into it, she soon finds herself walking on freshly fallen snow; when she looks up, she is deep in a snowy wood, and in front of her there is an old lamp-post.

She soon comes upon a Faun wearing a scarf, carrying an umbrella, and holding packages in his arms. The Faun, whose name is Mr. Tumnus, is so excited to see Lucy that he drops all of his parcels. As he picks them up, he asks her if she is a “Daughter of Eve,” or a human. Lucy says that she is, and Mr. Tumnus tells her that she is in a land called Narnia where humans have rarely been seen. Mr. Tumnus invites Lucy to come back to his cave to get warm and have some tea; Lucy accepts. After a luxurious meal, Mr. Tumnus entertains Lucy with tales of Narnia’s history, but, realizing that it must be growing late, Lucy decides to head home. Mr. Tumnus attempts to stop her from leaving, and when Lucy asks why he doesn’t want her to go, Mr. Tumnus breaks down in tears. He confesses that he is in the unwitting service of the despotic White Witch, the pretender to the throne of Narnia—she has charged him to bring to her any human he encounters. Mr. Tumnus reveals that the White Witch has installed herself as Queen of the realm and made it so that it is “always winter and never Christmas” in Narnia. Lucy begs Mr. Tumnus not to turn her over to the Witch. Mr. Tumnus, who is kind and good, says he could never turn Lucy in, though he is afraid of what the Witch will do to him if she finds out he has gone against her—she has a habit of turning dissenters to stone. Mr. Tumnus brings Lucy back to the lamp-post and bids her goodbye. She walks back through the wood until she finds herself in the wardrobe again.

Lucy finds her siblings in the hall—she assures them she is all right though she has been gone for some time. Her siblings are confused, though, and insist that Lucy just went into the wardrobe room a moment ago. Lucy tells them about the enchanted world she found inside the wardrobe and beckons her siblings to come with her and see it for themselves. When she opens the wardrobe again, though, it is just an ordinary wardrobe, and her siblings tease her terribly.

On the next rainy afternoon, during a game of hide-and-seek, Lucy and Edmund both hide in the wardrobe. Edmund follows Lucy through the back of the wardrobe to Narnia, where he is amazed but disoriented. Soon, a large sleigh bearing an elegant woman in a crown stops in front of him. The woman asks Edmund “what” he is; as he stammers, she chastises him for not speaking more eloquently to the Queen of Narnia. Realizing that Edmund is human, the Queen plies him with enchanted Turkish Delight while she gets him to reveal information about himself and his siblings. The Queen is very interested in the fact that Edmund has three siblings, and urges him to bring them to her castle. If he does, she says, she will give him more candy—and make him Prince. The Queen departs, and Edmund hears Lucy calling for him. She has been at tea with Mr. Tumnus, and expresses her relief that Tumnus has remained unbothered by the White Witch. Lucy explains who the White Witch is, and Edmund realizes that he has just been conversing with her—though he does not reveal this to Lucy.

Back in the “real” world, Lucy is excited to have Edmund to back up her story of visiting Narnia, but Edmund lies to their older siblings and says that Lucy is making everything up. Lucy is upset for several days, and Peter and Susan grow concerned. They approach the Professor with their worries that Lucy has gone mad, but the Professor concedes that his house is a very old, large, and strange one, which no doubt hosts many mysteries beyond explanation. He encourages them to believe Lucy, who is, by Peter and Susan’s own admission, far more truthful than Edmund. Peter and Susan try to make things easier for Lucy, and urge Edmund to stop teasing her.

One afternoon, hoping to hide from the Professor’s grating and imposing housekeeper Mrs. Macready, all four children run through the house and hide in the wardrobe. After several minutes of hiding inside, the children feel a cold wind. They all stand up and head to the back of the wardrobe, where they finally all glimpse Narnia together.

Lucy brings the group to Mr. Tumnus’s house to pay him a visit, but when they arrive they find that his cave has been ransacked; a note on the door signed by Maugrim, Captain of the Queen’s Secret Police, states that he has been placed under arrest for high treason. Susan and Peter suggest they return home to safety, but Lucy says she can’t possibly leave her friend in the Witch’s clutches. Lucy spots a robin on a tree branch, and as it begins to hop from tree to tree, Lucy realizes that it is leading them somewhere.

Before long, they spot a Beaver, who urges them to follow him to a place where they can talk freely. In a clearing, the Beaver tells the children that Aslan is on the move, and help is on the way. Though the children do not know who Aslan is, they all feel deeply moved at the sound of his name. The children ask the Beaver for more details, but he insists that even the trees could be in the Witch’s service and invites them to follow him home for dinner where they can all talk safely. Once there, all four children eat a hearty meal. After dinner, the conversation turns to what can be done to help Mr. Tumnus, but Mr. Beaver insists that the best thing to do is to wait for Aslan to arrive and fix things. He explains that Aslan is the true King of Narnia; He is very powerful, but often absent from the realm, off taking care of other business. Mr. Beaver promises to take the children to meet with Aslan at the Stone Table the following morning. Mr. Beaver cites a prophecy which foretells four individuals of “Adam’s flesh and Adam’s bone” arriving in Narnia to end the Queen’s reign and sit on the four thrones in the castle of Cair Paravel. The children have been so enraptured in their conversation that they haven’t noticed that Edmund has gone. They search frantically, but soon realize that he has left the Beavers’ dam entirely. Mr. Beaver says he could see from one look at Edmund that he had been touched by the Queen’s magic and was not to be trusted; he predicts that Edmund has gone to the house of the Queen to warn her of Aslan’s return.

Edmund, meanwhile, treks through the brutal cold to the Witch’s house. There, he finds a veritable menagerie of stone animals scattered throughout the courtyard and the castle itself. Maugrim, the Queen’s Secret Chief of Police—who is a talking wolf—brings Edmund to the Queen, who is incensed that he has come alone without siblings. Edmund warns the Queen that Aslan is coming, and she calls for her driver to ready her sleigh. Edmund, the Witch, and her driver the dwarf set out for the Stone Table. As they travel there, the air warms, and the snow turns to slush. The Witch realizes that her power is waning, and that it is due to Aslan’s approach. The three continue to the Table on foot.

Meanwhile, the Beavers, Peter, Lucy, and Susan arrive at the Stone Table to find that a battle encampment has already been set up. Aslan is there, and though the children are intimidated by his imposing presence, Mr. Beaver urges the children forward. The children introduce themselves to Aslan, and he asks where their fourth sibling is; when they reveal that Edmund has turned traitor and ask whether there’s any way of saving him, Aslan admits that rescuing Edmund may be harder than they think. Suddenly, the Queen’s Police swarms the camp; Peter attacks and kills Maugrim, saving Susan from his clutches, and Aslan then knights Peter, commending him for his bravery. A rescue party manages to free Edmund from the Witch’s clutches, but the Witch transfigures herself and her driver into boulders, evading capture. The next day, the Queen comes into camp and demands an audience with Aslan. Narnia’s old laws and Deep Magic state that she is the executioner of traitors, so Edmund’s blood is hers. Aslan talks with the Witch alone, and after their conversation, the Witch renounces her claim on Edmund and leaves camp—but it seems that Aslan has made some kind of dark promise to the Witch.

That night, after moving camp further east, there is a banquet, but Aslan is withdrawn and forlorn. Later, unable to sleep, Susan and Lucy get out of bed to check on Aslan. They find him wandering through the wood back to the Stone Table. Aslan notices the girls following him, and allows them to accompany him, but tells them that when he orders them to stop and turn back, they must do so. At the Stone Table, Aslan thanks the girls for their company, and then tells them he must go forward alone. Lucy and Susan hide and watch as the mighty lion approaches the Stone Table, where the Witch and her minions are waiting. They beat Aslan, shave his mane, spit upon him, taunt him, and tie him with ropes. The Witch gloats about beating Aslan, and then uses a knife to kill him.

After the execution, the Witch and her triumphant followers leave to track down the “human vermin.” Susan and Lucy approach the Stone Table and weep over Aslan’s corpse; they release him from his binds and then decide to take a walk to clear their heads. As they wander around the clearing, they hear a giant crack; the Stone Table has split, and Aslan has been resurrected. Aslan invites the girls to jump on his back and carries them all the way to the Witch’s castle, where he begins to revive her stone statues and restore them to life. After gathering up an army of animals, nymphs, dryads, fauns, and giants, Aslan leads the group back to camp. There, they clash with the Witch and her army, and soon defeat her. After the battle, Aslan magically procures food for all loyal to him, and the following day, everyone marches to Cair Paravel, where Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy are crowned Kings and Queens of Narnia.

The siblings govern Narnia for many years. They forget their lives back in the “real” world, and spend their new lives ridding Narnia of evil and building bridges with neighboring lands. One afternoon, the four rulers arrive at the lamp-post; it looks familiar to them, but they do not remember why. They press on through the wood, and soon find themselves tumbling out of the wardrobe—not a moment has passed since they left. The children find the Professor and begin to tell the tale of Narnia. They are surprised to find that not only does the Professor believe their every word, but seems to know certain things about Narnia himself. He warns them to keep the secret of Narnia—unless they encounter someone else who mentions having visited there first.