When Lucy stumbles into the world of Narnia, she finds a mystical realm that at first seems full of only delights—mythical creatures, delicious food, and a wintry calm—but is soon revealed to be a world at war, just like the “real” world she comes from. As the four siblings explore Narnia more deeply, they come to understand that Narnia’s problems mirror the problems of their own world. In creating a fantasy world whose wartime sense of fear and oppression mirrors the atmosphere of World War II England—and by unflinchingly demonstrating the horrors of war—Lewis suggests that war is an inescapable, unavoidable aspect of existence of any kind, and argues that ignoring or attempting to avoid battles for important causes will ultimately allow evil to prevail.
Lucy is only in Narnia a short while before the first Narnian she meets, the Faun Mr. Tumnus, reveals that his seemingly idyllic land is actually under siege, having fallen to the clutches of the evil White Witch. Lucy realizes she has left one war-torn world for another, and though she returns to the “real” world for a time, the dark truth of what is really happening in Narnia will propel her to return again—and to bring her siblings into the fold as well. The violence of World War II was unlike anything the world had yet seen. Not even a full generation removed from the horrors of World War I, World War II was less about trench warfare and hand-to-hand combat than it was about tactical deployment of advanced weaponry, mass destruction, and the extermination of Jews, Roma, homosexuals, and other religious and cultural minorities. This great physical and personal violence is reflected in the war taking place in Narnia, where a despotic ruler seeks to maintain power through unfair or “dirty” tactics (the use of magic, spells, enchantments, and the bewitched Turkish Delights that turn Edmund traitor to his own siblings) and the oppression of certain groups combined with the elevation of others (the Fauns, Nymphs, Dryads, and talking animals such as Mr. Beaver and Mrs. Beaver all seem to be under constant threat of being turned to stone by the Witch herself). As the four siblings explore more of Narnia and come to understand that the White Witch is only a pretender to the throne—the throne that is rightfully theirs—they find themselves deeply and intimately involved in the war in Narnia. Whereas in the “real” world, they were purposefully kept sheltered from the war and were removed from London, an epicenter of violence and danger, in the “fantasy” realm of Narnia the children are at the very center of the action. Lewis uses this coincidence and contradiction to reveal, perhaps, the siblings’ underlying anxiety in their “real” lives about being unable to be part of the effort against World War II, as well as their fear of being casualties of its violence. In Narnia, not only are the children pulled into the fray, but they find themselves at the very heart of the battle—and able to, through their participation in it, turn the tides of the war between Aslan and the Witch. In the climactic battle scenes toward the end of the novel, Lewis does not shy away from depicting violence. Talking animals are turned to stone; Aslan is humiliated by the Witch and her evil coterie of monsters and then brutally murdered; Peter plunges his sword into the heart of the Witch’s head guard, a wolf named Maugrim; Aslan mauls the Witch while dwarves raise their battleaxes, dogs gnash their teeth, Giants crush the enemy beneath their feet, and centaurs and unicorns trample the Witch’s minions with their hooves. The violence, chaos, and bloodshed of the final battle is all there on the page—though there is terrible carnage and many casualties, Peter, Susan, and Edmund, and Lucy, in facing down their enemies, are ultimately able to turn the tides of war in Narnia and help good to prevail.
Set against the backdrop of one of the most terrible conflicts in human history, The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe examines the duality of the fight-or-flight impulse when it comes to war. The four siblings at the center of the story are drawn into the conflict in Narnia and forced to confront the horrors of war despite all of the adults in the “real” world’s best efforts to shield them from it, and yet Lewis does not frame the children as victims or horrified onlookers. Rather, the siblings are eager to contribute to the war effort and conquer the forces of evil which threaten purity, goodness, and righteousness; in this way, Lewis warns that sticking one’s head in the sand and avoiding pain, struggle, violence, or conflict will only result in the triumph of evil. necessary.
War Quotes in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
“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.”
“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.
“Come on!” cried Mr. Beaver, who was almost dancing with delight. “Come and see! This is a nasty knock for the Witch! It looks as if her power is already crumbling.”
It was a sledge, and it was reindeer with bells on their harness. […] And on the sledge sat a person whom everyone knew the moment they set eyes on him. He was a huge man in a bright red robe (bright as hollyberries) with a hood that had fur inside it and a great white beard that fell like a foamy waterfall over his chest. Everyone knew him because, though you see people of his sort only in Narnia, you see pictures of them and hear them talked about even in our world—the world on this side of the wardrobe door. But when you really see them in Narnia it is rather different. Some of the pictures of Father Christmas in our world make him look only funny and jolly. But now that the children actually stood looking at him they didn't find it quite like that. He was so big, and so glad, and so real, that they all became quite still. They felt very glad, but also solemn.
“I've come at last,” said he. “She has kept me out for a long time, but I have got in at last. Aslan is on the move. The Witch's magic is weakening.”
Now they were steadily racing on again. And soon Edmund noticed that the snow which splashed against them as they rushed through it was much wetter than it had been all last night. At the same time he noticed that he was feeling much less cold. It was also becoming foggy. In fact every minute it grew foggier and warmer. And the sledge was not running nearly as well as it had been running up till now. […] The sledge jerked, and skidded and kept on jolting as if it had struck against stones. And however the dwarf whipped the poor reindeer the sledge went slower and slower. There also seemed to be a curious noise all round them, but the noise of their driving and jolting and the dwarf's shouting at the reindeer prevented Edmund from hearing what it was, until suddenly the sledge stuck so fast that it wouldn't go on at all. When that happened there was a moment's silence. And in that silence Edmund could at last listen to the other noise properly. […] All round them though out of sight there were streams, chattering, murmuring, bubbling, splashing and even (in the distance) roaring. And his heart gave a great leap (though he hardly knew why) when he realized that the frost was over.
At last the rabble had had enough of this. They began to drag the bound and muzzled Lion to the Stone Table, some pulling and some pushing. He was so huge that even when they got him there it took all their efforts to hoist him onto the surface of it. Then there was more tying and tightening of cords.
“The cowards! The cowards!” sobbed Susan. “Are they still afraid of him, even now?”
“And now! Those who can't keep up—that is, children, dwarfs, and small animals—must ride on the backs of those who can—that is, lions, centaurs, unicorns, horses, giants and eagles. Those who are good with their noses must come in the front with us lions to smell out where the battle is. Look lively and sort yourselves.”
And with a great deal of bustle and cheering they did. The most pleased of the lot was the other lion who kept running about everywhere pretending to be very busy but really in order to say to everyone he met, “Did you hear what he said? Us Lions—That means him and me. Us Lions. That's what I like about Aslan. No side, no stand-off-ishness. Us Lions. That meant him and me.”
“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.”