The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe is a children’s story, one in which Lewis creates an environment where children have the most wisdom but the least influence. Not only do the four siblings at the heart of the novel feel underestimated by adults and barred from agency in their own lives, but they seem to have, at the start of the novel, internalized the ways the adult world has discounted them. When Lucy first finds Narnia in the back of the wardrobe, her other siblings don’t believe her; it is only the Professor, their ward, who encourages the others to take Lucy seriously. As the novel unfolds and the siblings learn to stand in solidarity with one another and trust each other, Lewis uses their collective journey towards self-assurance and self-actualization to suggest that children should be taken seriously and believed more often than they are.
The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe is, at its core, a story about the maturation of the four young siblings who are the protagonists of the novel. Though at the start of the book they appear to be four ordinary children with little say in their own lives, as the text unfolds, each child gains compassion, confidence, and wisdom beyond their years. Having been shunted away from London and the violent air-raids occurring there, the children are initially given little agency in their own lives. The adults around them tell them what is best for them at every turn, and they spend much of their time at the Professor’s house trying to stay out of the way of the domineering Mrs. Macready, the housekeeper. Only the Professor is an ally to the children—but he is often shut up in his study or is not to be found in the house at all.
In Narnia, the children are treated with a kind of respect and reverence they rarely encountered in their own world. Upon their arrival in Narnia, the children are hailed as the “Sons of Adam” and “Daughters of Eve” foretold to rule Narnia in an ancient prophecy. As such, they are regarded as wise, capable, and even holy by all they encounter—including the White Witch, who is bent on their destruction and sees them as a powerful threat to her own claim to the throne. After the climactic battle in which Aslan defeats the White Witch, the four children are installed as joint rulers of Narnia. The narrative then speeds up, charting their peaceful and prosperous reign, and follows them as they grow older and become sage, wise rulers. They crusade endlessly against the Witch’s remaining followers, they implement diplomatic foreign policy with “countries beyond the sea,” and they become adults: Peter grows into a “great warrior,” Susan becomes a “gracious woman” known as Susan the gentle, Edmund as an adult is “grave and quiet,” and Lucy becomes “Queen Lucy the Valiant.” Indeed, the four siblings, over time, remember their lives in the “real” world “only as one remembers a dream.” In a scene towards the end of the novel, the four ride together on a stag hunt, and eventually come to the lamppost that serves as the marker of the boundary between Narnia and the world they left behind. In lofty, nearly Shakespearean speech (no doubt meant to communicate how wise and refined the siblings have become), the siblings consider how familiar the lamppost looks, and yet resolve to continue their hunt. As they pass through a thicket of trees, they soon find themselves “making their way not through branches but through coats,” and soon are tumbling together out of the wardrobe, finding that they have not, in fact, aged even a minute since the last time they entered the wardrobe. The narrative does not linger on the moment the children emerge for the wardrobe, but the disorientation and confusion the “Kings and Queens” of Narnia—having, from their point of view, lived out years and years of adult life full of tremendous responsibility and pressure—feel upon returning to the “real world” is palpable. The children have all their experiences of ruling Narnia still fresh in their minds, along with all the attendant wisdom their tenure as rulers provided, and yet they are right back where they started, still firmly in their youths and fearful of being underestimated because of it. When the children run to the Professor with their fantastical tale, he believes them at their word. He tells them not to fret about returning—“Once a King in Narnia, always a king in Narnia,” he says—and urges them to keep quiet about their adventure, but to keep an eye out for others who have “had adventures of the same sort.” The children will know these individuals, he foretells, by the “odd things they say,” and “even their looks.” Here, Lewis uses the Professor to demonstrate the value of believing in children, validating their thoughts, and assuring their worth. Through the Professor’s speech to the children, he also implies that those who have been through a similar journey to the children’s—whether literal or metaphorical—are wiser than the rest of the world, and that this wisdom can be easily detected.
In sending the four siblings at the heart of The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe on a great and terrible journey through a war-torn world that mirrors their own, Lewis argues that children can accrue wisdom in unexpected places. In the ending of the book, Lewis suggests that children’s opinions, feelings, and beliefs are often discounted just because of their youth, even though they may have had profound or incommunicable life experiences that have made them wise beyond their years.
The Wisdom of Children ThemeTracker
The Wisdom of Children Quotes in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
While he was eating the Queen kept asking him questions. At first Edmund tried to remember that it is rude to speak with one's mouth full, but soon he forgot about this and thought only of trying to shovel down as much Turkish Delight as he could, and the more he ate the more he wanted to eat, and he never asked himself why the Queen should be so inquisitive. She got him to tell her that he had one brother and two sisters, and that one of his sisters had already been in Narnia and had met a Faun there, and that no one except himself and his brother and his sisters knew anything about Narnia. She seemed especially interested in the fact that there were four of them, and kept on coming back to it. “You are sure there are just four of you?” she asked. “Two Sons of Adam and two Daughters of Eve, neither more nor less?” and Edmund, with his mouth full of Turkish Delight, kept on saying, “Yes, I told you that before,” and forgetting to call her “Your Majesty,” but she didn't seem to mind now. At last the Turkish Delight was all finished and Edmund was looking very hard at the empty box and wishing that she would ask him whether he would like some more. Probably the Queen knew quite well what he was thinking; for she knew, though Edmund did not, that this was enchanted Turkish Delight and that anyone who had once tasted it would want more and more of it, and would even, if they were allowed, go on eating it till they killed themselves.
“Peter! Susan! It’s all true. Edmund has seen it too. There is a country you can get to through the wardrobe. Edmund and I both got in. We met one another in there, in the wood. Go on, Edmund; tell them all about it.”
“What's all this about, Ed?” said Peter.
And now we come to one of the nastiest things in this story. Up to that moment Edmund had been feeling sick, and sulky, and annoyed with Lucy for being right, but he hadn't made up his mind what to do. When Peter suddenly asked him the question he decided all at once to do the meanest and most spiteful thing he could think of. He decided to let Lucy down.
“Tell us, Ed,” said Susan.
And Edmund gave a very superior look as if he were far older than Lucy (there was really only a year's difference) and then a little snigger and said, “Oh, yes, Lucy and I have been playing—pretending that all her story about a country in the wardrobe is true. Just for fun, of course. There's nothing there really.”
“So you really were here,” [Peter] said, “that time Lu said she'd met you in here—and you made out she was telling lies.”
There was a dead silence. “Well, of all the poisonous little beasts—” said Peter, and shrugged his shoulders and said no more. There seemed, indeed, no more to say, and presently the four resumed their journey; but Edmund was saying to himself. “I'll pay you all out for this, you pack of stuck-up, self-satisfied prigs.”
“I-I wonder if there's any point in going on,” said Susan. “I mean, it doesn't seem particularly safe here and it looks as if it won't be much fun either. And it's getting colder every minute, and we've brought nothing to eat. What about just going home?”
“Oh, but we can't, we can't,” said Lucy suddenly; “don't you see? We can't just go home, not after this. It is all on my account that the poor Faun has got into this trouble. He hid me from the Witch and showed me the way back. That's what it means by comforting the Queen's enemies and fraternizing with Humans. We simply must try to rescue him.”
“I've a horrid feeling that Lu is right,” said Susan. “I don't want to go a step further and I wish we'd never come. But I think we must try to do something for Mr. Whatever-his-name-is—I mean the Faun.”
“They say Aslan is on the move—perhaps has already landed.”
And now a very curious thing happened. None of the children knew who Aslan was any more than you do; but the moment the Beaver had spoken these words everyone felt quite different. Perhaps it has sometimes happened to you in a dream that someone says something which you don't understand but in the dream it feels as if it had some enormous meaning—either a terrifying one which turns the whole dream into a nightmare or else a lovely meaning too lovely to put into words, which makes the dream so beautiful that you remember it all your life and are always wishing you could get into that dream again. It was like that now. At the name of Aslan each one of the children felt something jump in its inside. Edmund felt a sensation of mysterious horror. Peter felt suddenly brave and adventurous. Susan felt as if some delicious smell or some delightful strain of music had just floated by her. And Lucy got the feeling you have when you wake up in the morning and realize that it is the beginning of the holidays or the beginning of summer.
“Is he—quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion.”
“That you will, dearie, and no mistake,” said Mrs. Beaver; “if there's anyone who can appear before Aslan without their knees knocking, they're either braver than most or else just silly.”
“Then he isn't safe?” said Lucy.
"Safe?” said Mr. Beaver; “don't you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? 'Course he isn't safe. But he's good. He's the King, I tell you.”
“I'm longing to see him,” said Peter, “even if I do feel frightened when it comes to the point.”
“The quickest way you can help [Mr. Tumnus] is by going to meet Aslan,” said Mr. Beaver, “once he's with us, then we can begin doing things. Not that we don't need you too. For that's another of the old rhymes:
When Adam's flesh and Adam's bone Sits at Cair Paravel in throne,
The evil time will be over and done.
So things must be drawing near their end now he's come and you've come.”
You mustn't think that even now Edmund was quite so bad that he actually wanted his brother and sisters to be turned into stone. He did want Turkish Delight and to be a Prince (and later a King) and to pay Peter out for calling him a beast. As for what the Witch would do with the others, he didn't want her to be particularly nice to them—certainly not to put them on the same level as himself; but he managed to believe, or to pretend he believed, that she wouldn't do anything very bad to them, “Because,” he said to himself, “all these people who say nasty things about her are her enemies and probably half of it isn't true. She was jolly nice to me, anyway, much nicer than they are. I expect she is the rightful Queen really. Anyway, she'll be better than that awful Aslan!” At least, that was the excuse he made in his own mind for what he was doing. It wasn't a very good excuse, however, for deep down inside him he really knew that the White Witch was bad and cruel.
As soon as the wood was silent again Susan and Lucy crept out onto the open hilltop. The moon was getting low and thin clouds were passing across her, but still they could see the shape of the Lion lying dead in his bonds. And down they both knelt in the wet grass and kissed his cold face and stroked his beautiful fur—what was left of it—and cried till they could cry no more. And then they looked at each other and held each other’s hands for mere loneliness and cried again; and then again were silent.
“It was all Edmund's doing, Aslan,” Peter was saying. “We'd have been beaten if it hadn't been for him. The Witch was turning our troops into stone right and left. But nothing would stop him. He fought his way through three ogres to where she was just turning one of your leopards into a statue. And when he reached her he had sense to bring his sword smashing down on her wand in- stead of trying to go for her directly and simply getting made a statue himself for his pains. That was the mistake all the rest were making. Once her wand was broken we began to have some chance—if we hadn't lost so many already. He was terribly wounded. We must go and see him.”
“I know not how it is, but this lamp on the post worketh upon me strangely. It runs in my mind that I have seen the like before; as it were in a dream, or in the dream of a dream.”
“Sir,” answered they all, “it is even so with us also.”
“And more,” said Queen Lucy, “for it will not go out of my mind that if we pass this post and lantern either we shall find strange adventures or else some great change of our fortunes.”
“Madam,” said King Edmund, “the like foreboding stirreth in my heart also.”
“And in mine, fair brother,” said King Peter.
“And in mine too,” said Queen Susan. “Wherefore by my counsel we shall lightly return to our horses and follow this White Stag no further.”
“Madam,” said King Peter, “therein I pray thee to have me excused. For never since we four were Kings and Queens in Narnia have we set our hands to any high matter, as battles, quests, feats of arms, acts of justice, and the like, and then given over; but always what we have taken in hand, the same we have achieved.”
“Sister,” said Queen Lucy, “my royal brother speaks rightly. And it seems to me we should be shamed if for any fearing or foreboding we turned back from following so noble a beast as now we have in chase.”
The Professor, who was a very remarkable man, didn't tell them not to be silly or not to tell lies, but believed the whole story. “No,” he said, “I don't think it will be any good trying to go back through the wardrobe door to get the coats. You won't get into Narnia again by that route. Nor would the coats be much use by now if you did! Eh? What's that? Yes, of course you'll get back to Narnia again someday. Once a King in Narnia, always a King in Narnia. But don't go trying to use the same route twice. Indeed, don't try to get there at all. It'll happen when you're not looking for it. And don't talk too much about it even among yourselves. And don't mention it to anyone else unless you find that they've had adventures of the same sort themselves. What's that? How will you know? Oh, you'll know all right. Odd things they say—even their looks—will let the secret out. Keep your eyes open.”