The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis (1950)
The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe directed by Andrew Adamson (2005)
Merry Christmas! Last year’s Christmas episode I covered A Christmas Carol, and this year I decided The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe would be a good fit since it has Santa in it (or should I say Father Christmas). It also of course has strong religious symbolism, and since some celebrate Christmas with the birth of Christ in mind, that also seemed fitting. I know not everyone is interested in the religious aspect though, so I will save my thoughts on that for the end.
This is a book I have read before. I don’t know how often I have read it, maybe just once before. It isn’t my favorite Narnia book and so it isn’t one I recall re-reading. However, I did really enjoy it. Things move along quickly, it’s an easy read, and I like the story as a whole. Reading this book made me want to go through the whole series again, so I will most likely do follow up book vs movie episodes for the next two they adapted. They stopped at three adaptations though, but I suppose I could always watch the old BBC versions which I have fond memories of.
Speaking of the adaptations, as said I grew up watching the BBC version, however we did go see this 2005 movie when it came out. Going to the theater was a big deal when I was a kid, so the fact that the whole family went to see this one tells you it was special! I hadn’t seen it since then, and so I really didn’t remember too much aside from James McAvoy. I think this was the first movie I ever saw with him, and even though he is in his faun get up, I still thought he was so dreamy lol.
I think the cast is decent, out of the kids I thought Lucy and Edmund were the best. Tilda Swinton’s performance as the White Witch was good, but I didn’t love the look they gave her.
Introducing the kids
In the book we just get to them staying at their uncle’s home (I think the professor is their uncle, right…?) and we learn it is because of the air raids but that is that. In the movie we see them at home when bombs are going off and we also learn that their dad isn’t around and appears to be dead or fighting in the war (we later find out he is alive but fighting). We also see that there is friction between Peter and Edmund right from the start. It seems like Peter’s anger is a bit too much; Edmund may not have been thinking straight when he ran back inside to get his dad’s photo, but Peter should have been more understanding.
The first three trips into Narnia are basically the same (some minor differences as to why they go into the wardrobe to begin with, but that doesn’t really matter). Lucy goes first and meets the faun Mr. Tumnus but when she returns and tells her siblings none of them believe her.
She later goes back is followed by Edmund and when he enters Narnia, he meets the White Witch (who calls herself the Queen). She lures him with Turkish Delight and promises of being King and gets him to agree to bring his siblings with him to her castle.
When Edmund and Lucy return again to the real world, Lucy knows Edmund was there, but not who he met, however Edmund lies and says he and Lucy were pretending and Narnia isn’t real.
Something that is explained in the book but not really shown in the movie is that the Turkish Delight she gives him has a spell on it. Her food is addicting in a way and anyone who eats it can’t stop eating till there is nothing left. The person will also go to any lengths in order to get more of whatever magical food they were given.
This gives Edmund more of an excuse in the book. He wants to return to the Queen because he is mad at Peter and all that, but also because he can’t get her food out of his head and feels he must get back to her to get even more of that food.
The White Witch and the prophecy
Mr. Tumnus informs Lucy that the woman who claims to be the Queen of Narnia is actually the White Witch and she has cursed Narnia to always be winter but never Christmas. She has also instructed people that if they ever come across a human, to bring them to her. Mr. Tumnus doesn’t turn Lucy in, and so his life is a stake because she has spies everywhere.
The reason she is interested in humans is because there is a prophecy that Aslan (the king of Narnia) will return and four humans will be made Kings and Queens and overthrow the White Witch. Lucy, Edmund, Peter, and Susan are the four humans from the prophecy.
When all four finally get to Narnia, they check on Mr. Tumnus and see his place has been ransacked and he is gone. They are then brought to Mr. and Mrs. Beaver who inform them of the prophecy and tell them that Aslan is here and they are to take the humans to him.
Around this time, Edmund sneaks out.
In the book, all three are down for meeting Aslan, but then they see Edmund is gone. The deduce that he met the White Witch when he was in Narnia before and he is headed to her place. They then pack up because they know she will send her wolves after them. They start on their trek and find a place to spend the night. In the morning Father Christmas arrives, which shows that the Witch’s spell is fading. He gives Peter a sword, Susan a bow and arrows, and Lucy some potion which can heal someone who is injured.
In the movie, after the Beavers tell them everything, Peter and Susan are like, we are supposed to be getting away from war and say they want no part in this. However, they realize Edmund is gone and to get him back the only option is to meet Aslan and so Peter and Susan reluctantly agree.
Father Christmas visits them as well as they are on their journey and gives the same gifts.
Before his visit though, the wolves show up while they are still inside the beaver home and a lengthy chase ensues. I know this is to build tension, but these extended scenes with the wolves and Peter with his sword being unsure of himself kind of dragged on a bit too much.
Peter and Susan’s dilemma
We all know the drama that happens with Edmund, but something the movie added that wasn’t in the book was Peter not wanting to be king of Narnia and wanting to get back home. When he is “fighting” the wolves, he has Susan telling him to stop trying to be something he’s not and to put the sword down. Susan seems to take longer to come around on the idea of living up to their destiny, but Peter also took some time. I was fine with this added storyline because it gives Peter and Susan a bit more complexity. I just wish they cut down the scenes with the wolves, but while still showing their fear and hesitancy towards ruling Narnia.
In the movie, while Edmund is being held prisoner with the White Witch, he meets Mr. Tumnus. However, Mr. Tumnus is soon turned to stone (the White Witch has a wand that turns people to stone, so there are statues all over her castle).
Edmund tells them some of what he heard, and they start heading out. Winter is coming to an end though, so their sleigh stops working and they have to walk.
In the book, once the others meet up with Aslan, he sends a group to rescue Edmund and while they rescue him, the Witch and her helper are changed into a stump and a boulder in order to avoid being killed. In the movie, Edmund is rescued quickly while the Witch is doing something else so she never turns them into a rock or anything. In both, it seems like Edmund is rescued pretty easily.
Also, once Edmund arrives at the Witches castle, he sees her true self. As the day goes on, before being rescued, he starts to feel remorse for what he has done and changes his ways.
In both, the Witch approaches Aslan and his group and says that Edmund is hers. Deep magic says that anyone who turns to her side is hers to keep and his life belongs to her. Aslan talks with her in private, and unbeknownst to everyone, he made a trade for her to kill him instead of Edmund.
That night Lucy and Susan see him walking off and follow him and see the Witch kill him. The next morning however, they hear a huge crack and see that Aslan is alive again. He tells them, “If the Witch knew the true meaning of sacrifice, she might have interpreted the deep magic differently. That when a willing victim who has committed no treachery, is killed in a traitor’s stead, the stone table will crack, and even death itself would turn backwards.”
From here, Aslan, Lucy, and Susan go to the Witches castle and he revives everyone that is turned to stone. When they arrive at the battle, they see Peter fighting the Witch, and Aslan steps in to finish the job. Edmund is hurt though and they are told that the Witch was turning people into stone left and right, but Edmund ran up and rather than attack her, he went for her wand and broke it but was injured in the process. However, Lucy gives him some healing potion and he is all better.
In the movie, we see the battle as it is happening, whereas in the book we are kind of told about it after the fact. I’m not big on battle scenes, so I was fine not being in the moment for it with the book. However, with the movie I get that they kind of had to show the battle scenes.
Also, in the book Lucy gives him the potion and stays with Edmund. Aslan tells her there are others who are injured and needs her help, to which she is annoyed like, just give me a minute with Edmund. Aslan then chastises her and says, must more people die for Edmund and she sees his point and leaves to help others. This exchange is not in the movie at all.
After the Witch is defeated, the four kids are made kings and queens. Aslan leaves, but they say how he will return again someday.
We flashforward like ten years and they are adults and are hunting a white stag. In the book we learn this stag is magical, and once caught will grant you a wish.
While chasing it though, they come across the lamppost, and from there find their way back to the wardrobe. They had remembered their previous life as if it were a dream. But when they come back out of the wardrobe, they are young again because time in Narnia is not the same as time in the real world.
When Edmund claimed he hadn’t been to Narnia, but Lucy was adamant they had-Peter and Susan turn to the Professor expecting him to think Narnia is rubbish. However, he suggests they listen to Lucy and believe her. When they come back in the end, in the book, they talk to the Professor and he tells them that they will go back to Narnia someday, but only when they are meant to and Narnia makes itself known to them.
In a later Narnia book, we learn that the professor is Digory from The Magician’s Nephew and in that book we also learn about the White Witch’s origins, why the lamppost is in Narnia, and that the Wardrobe is made from a magical tree, hence why it leads to Narnia.
C.S. Lewis was an atheist when he was a teenager in part due to his mother’s death. He also fought in World War 1 and that also furthered his atheism. However, in his early 30’s he felt that there was a God and ended up becoming a Christian. In his book Surprised by Joy he wrote of his conversation, “…night after night, feeling, whenever my mind lifted even for a second from my work, the steady, unrelenting approach of Him whom I so earnestly desired not to meet. That which I greatly feared had at last come upon me. In the Trinity Term of 1929 I gave in, and admitted that God was God, and knelt and prayed: perhaps, that night, the most dejected and reluctant convert in all England.”
(By the way, he married Joy Davidman, who had previously been married to William Lindsay Gresham, author of Nightmare Alley.)
Aslan is obviously symbolic of Christ. Aslan dies to pay Edmund’s debt, even though Aslan was innocent. Christ gave His life for ours-because living on earth each and every one of us sins in some way but are unable to pay the debt required to make it back to our eternal lives. So, Christ, an innocent man, died in our place. He and Aslan are resurrected though, due to a “deeper Magic” so to speak.
Having Lucy and Susan walk with him to his death but not interfere, reminded of me when Christ went to Gethsemane, where he felt the suffering of our pains and hurts. His disciples were there with him (even though they fell asleep).
In the movie (I don’t remember this in the book) after everything is over and the Witch is dead, Aslan says “it is finished”. This is also what Christ said when he was on the cross right before he died.
The humans are also referred to as Sons and Daughters of Adam and Eve which of course is reference to the Bible.
Book vs Movie
I liked this adaptation better than I expected, but I don’t see it being one I will rewatch unless I am with someone who has never seen it. This book though isn’t a favorite of mine from the series, but I do still really like it and love the message and symbolism within the story. I will say the book wins, but I would still recommend the movie!