Skip to main content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe: Home

Analysis and Criticism

Did you know?

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is the second book in The Chronicles of Narnia. If you enjoyed this book, why not read the whole series?

For Teachers

Ms Keen

Nell Keen's picture
Nell Keen
Contact:
5436 7347

Visit the official web site

Hire the movie from the library

What is Allegory?

An allegory is a story with two layers of meaning. The characters and events represent other things and symbolise a deeper level of meaning, often moral, religious or political.

Examples of allegories include Animal Farm, The Chronicles of Narnia, Aesop's Fables, Pilgrim's Progress, Gulliver's Travels and Lord of the Flies.

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is an allegory for the New Testament in the Bible.

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

The Bible

Aslan

Jesus

The White Witch

Satan

The Emperor-over-the-sea

God

Aslan’s Country

Heaven

Edmund

Judas

Peter, Susan and Lucy

disciples

 

The character of Edmund struggles with temptation throughout his time in Narnia. Edmund's first significant sin is to succumb to the temptation of gluttony. The White Witch offers him enchanted Turkish Delights. The description of his gluttonous and decadent behaviour is very clear: "At first Edmund tried to remember that it was 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..." (Lewis, 1986, p.37) 

Edmund continues to fill his mind with earthly desires by also succumbing to the temptation of improving his humble position when the White Witch entices him with the prospect of princehood: "I think I would like to make you the Prince -- some day when you bring the others to visit me." (Lewis, 1986, p.39). This temptation of power is very like the story of Jesus being tempted by Satan in the desert. Satan, like the Witch, tempts Jesus with power in exchange for service: "The devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendour. "All this I will give you," he said, "if you bow down and worship me." (Matt 4:8-9). 

Edmund's character is, in fact, most closely allegorized to the Biblical character of Judas; the betrayer. Edmund betrays his siblings and the Beavers by going to seek the White Witch in Chapter 8. And in the end, of course, Edmund is forgiven for his betrayal; an event which involves the most important allegorical theme in the Narnia Chronicles: Aslan's synonymy with Jesus Christ.

In 1954, Lewis was asked to explain the Aslan-Christ parallel to some fifth graders in Maryland. He replied: "I did not say to myself 'Let us represent Jesus as He really is in our world by a Lion in Narnia'; I said 'Let us suppose that there were land like Narnia and that the Son of God, as he became a Man in our world, became a Lion there, and then imagine what would happen". (Lewis, 1954, 1998) 

Edmund embodies many characteristics of Judas, including the characteristic of betrayal, and Aslan's similarity to Jesus is noticeable in the way he forgives Edmund. Aslan's forgiveness of Edmund is expressed by his rescue of Edmund from the White Witch. The Witch, however, claims Edmund's life as hers to take: "You at least know the Magic which the Emperor put into Narnia at the very beginning. You know that every traitor belongs to me as my lawful prey and that for every treachery I have a right to kill." (Lewis, 1986, p.128). Aslan then offers his own life in exchange for Edmund's; this action is cataclysmic in its Biblical meaning, because not only is Aslan merely forgiving and dying for Edmund's sin, but the act is also symbolic of Christ dying for the sins of humanity. Edmund's sin of treachery becomes symbolic for all human sins, and Aslan pays for it with his life, as did Christ: "While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." (Rom 5:8).

These events set up the narrative of the execution of Aslan. The former account is incredibly similar in imagery to that of the death of Jesus in the Bible. Lucy and Susan, two of the four child protagonists in the novel, follow Aslan to his execution: "And both the girls cried bitterly (though they hardly knew why) and clung to the Lion..." (Lewis, 1986, p.136). Jesus too had followers not unlike the children: "A large number of people followed him, including women who mourned and wailed for him." (Luke 23:27) Once he is in the hands of the Witch, Aslan is subjected to humiliation and ridicule: "'Stop!' said the Witch. 'Let him first be shaved.'...they worked about his face putting on the muzzle...he [was] surrounded by the whole crowd of creatures kicking him, hitting him, spitting on him, jeering at him." (Lewis, 1986, p.139-140) This imagery is, once again, remarkably similar to that of the Gospels: "The men who were guarding Jesus began mocking and beating him. They blindfolded him and demanded, 'Prophesy! Who hit you?' And they said many other insulting things to him." (Luke 22:63-65)

Aslan's resurrection involves the same kind of Biblical allusion. In the Gospel of Luke, the women who had followed Jesus went to his tomb: "Very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus." (Luke 24:1-3) in the same way, after Lucy and Susan take off Aslan's muzzle, they leave the Stone Table where he was executed. In the early morning they return to find the Stone Table broken in two and the resurrected Aslan standing before them (Lewis, 1986, p.142-147). "They looked round. There, shining in the sunrise, larger than they had seen him before, shaking his mane (for it had apparently grown again), stood Aslan himself." (Lewis, 1986, p.147) 

adapted from The Lion, the Witch and the Allegory: An Analysis of Selected Narnia Chronicles by Matt Brennan

 http://cslewis.drzeus.net/papers/lion-witch-allegory/ 

What is fantasy?

The Fantasy Genre

  • Events occur outside the ordinary laws that operate within the universe.
  • Magic is central to the fantasy genre.
  • Fantasy stories often involve journeys and quests.

Types of fantasy

  • There are 3 different ways that fantasy writers set up their worlds.
    • Some novels begin and end in a fantasy world (for example The Hobbit or A Wizard of Earthsea).
    • Others start in the real world and move into a fantasy world (for example Alice in Wonderland orPeter Pan).
    • A third type of fantasy is set in the real world but elements of magic intrude upon it (for exampleMary Poppins or David Almond’s Skellig).

Portals between worlds

  • Protagonists usually cross some kind of opening or “portal” between the two worlds
  • Examples of portals:
    • The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe: a wardrobe
    • The Voyage of the Dawn Treader: a painting
    • Harry Potter books: platform 9 and ¾
    • Coraline: a door in a flat
    • Peter Pan: magical flight
    • The Golden Compass: windows cut between worlds
    • Inkheart: a gifted storyteller reads aloud 

Why do writers use the fantasy genre?

  • The major advantage of fantasy is that it can open up possibilities; it is not confined to the boundaries of the real world.
  • Writers are able to convey complex ideas on a symbolic level that would be difficult to convey otherwise.
  • Fantasy works can provide a fresh perspective on the real world.
  • Fantasy stories can suggest universal truths through the use of magic and the supernatural.

from Children's Literature Net

from Weedon, R. and E. (2006) Simply Genres: Elements, Text Types and Frameworks E&R Publications