Today in the ongoing Narnia reread project, we cover the big one: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. This was the first Narnia novel written and published by C. S. Lewis. I think it’s fair to say this is the most well-known entry in the series.
Before we begin I want to take a second to praise Michael York. I knew pretty much nothing about him, but he was an amazing narrator. His inflection, especially for the white queen Jadis, was excellent. It was a pleasure to hear him narrate. It felt just like a bedtime story.
Impression Before I’ve Reread It
I’ve always had a thing against the book because it was popular. My first introduction to the series was the movie, and it seemed as though everyone liked the The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. When I finally got this collection of books, I was already dead set on liking it less than the others. I hadn’t been particularly compelled by the plot anyway, and on top of that, was bored of it because I basically already knew everything that happened. However now that I’m older and don’t have these biases, I thought I would like it more. So…
Impression After I’ve Reread It
My feelings towards this book are…a bit confused. I think I get what Lewis was going for, but there are a few choices he made that I find odd. First there’s the narrative itself. Initially this is Lucy’s story. She’s the first to discover Narnia and it’s interesting to see her take on what’s happening. But then Edmund gets involved and the story starts to shift focus on him. Then everything gets muddled when all of the Pevensie siblings go through the wardrobe, which leaves Edmund as the most distinct person in the book.
I realize how spoiled I’ve been by Magician’s Nephew. I liked that book more because of how it handled its protagonist, Diggory. From the start to finish, we had a look into his motivations, temptations, and growth. The story felt focused enough to examine his character. In this book Lewis is juggling around four different characters, Edmund, Lucy, Peter, and Susan.
Edmund is to me like a knockoff Diggory, even though this book was written first. His struggles mainly deal with betrayal and temptation. While these are interesting things to examine, Edmund’s motivations are so shallow it’s hard for me to care. Diggory had to deal with the death of his mom, Edmund had to deal with being emasculated by Peter and being addicted by the Queen’s drugs Turkish Delight. And then we have Lucy, who was actually interesting. She was so in-tune with her emotions and the world around her that it felt weird for the narrative focused on Edmund, whose thoughts simply weren’t as engaging. Peter was pretty bland too. His growth is pretty much just this: fight well. Its very bare bones. And poor Susan, she’s even worse off. She barely had any characterization. She was never without her siblings. I forgot she was there for most of the book because of how little she does.
I think what Lewis was going for here was something nontraditional. A story with four protagonists. Which would be great, but this novel spends too much time shifting the protagonists around. It feels unfocused.
Even odder is the book’s weirdly subtle sexism. It all starts with the beavers. There is Mr. Beaver, who builds the house and gets fish to eat, and Mrs. Beaver, who cooks and cleans. Who, meh, fulfills old gender roles, but isn’t inherently sexist. But then it gets weird when the girls Lucy and Susan cook with Mrs. Beaver while the boys Peter and Edmund get the food. Um…okay. It gets even weirder with the prophecy, like how there has to be two daughters of Eve and two sons of Adam. But then it gets even worse when Santa Claus shows up. (Yeah, he’s kind of the Tom Bombadil of the series. Just roll with it.)
Santa gives Peter a sword and shield for battle. Then he gives Susan a bow. (Sidenote: This series would’ve been greatly improved if Katniss replaces Susan. Her tracking skills, practical wild life experience. That would’ve been interesting.) However, he instructs her that it must only be used for defense. He also gives her a horn to call for help. She then uses this horn a few chapters later so Peter can save her from some wolf dude. He gives Susan a medicinal cordial and a dagger, while this items actually fit her character, it’s her talk about the dagger with Santa that really gives me pause.
“Why, sir?” said Lucy. “I think – I don’t know but I think I could be brave enough.”
“That is not the point,” he said. “But battles are ugly when women fight.
What? So battles aren’t ugly until women get involved? What are you saying Santa? Why would gender affect how ugly a battle is? There are still people dying.
All of these in combination make a really weird pattern of sexism I frankly wasn’t expecting. Especially after reading the last book.
This book was also very confusing with its internal logic. Like how Jadis’ magic makes it so Christmas hasn’t occurred in Narnia for ages. Which is confusing, since Christmas is dependent on the calendar. And how can Narnia how Christmas without Christ? And why is Santa real? Why does he even exist?
Another confusing are the laws concerning being a traitor. So Edmund betrayed his siblings to the white witch, and becomes her captive. And apparently when Aslan made the world in The Magician’s Nephew he also made so every person who performed treachery is the now in effect owned by Jadis and she has the right to kill them. What? Who make a rule like that? Seriously, what were you thinking when you made this world Aslan? Why?
All and all, I didn’t enjoy this nearly as much as I did The Magician’s Nephew. So this review will come off as negative, but really I only feel bit off with this book. But considering that this was the first book published, and the The Magician’s Nephew is the 6th published, I understand why. C S Lewis evidently his writing over the years, and I’m a bit spoiled by his better work.
Now, I get to reread my favorite book from my childhood, A Horse and His Boy.
Bonus: Update on my Legos. Now it some satellite station on a cliff with for transporting up to it.