Skip to main content

About this book

Beginning with the publication of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe in 1950 and concluding with the appearance of The Last Battle in 1956, C. S. Lewis's seven-book series chronicling the adventures of a group of young people in the fictional land of Narnia has become a worldwide classic of children's literature.

This stimulating collection of original essays by critics in a wide range of disciplines explores the past place, present status, and future importance of The Chronicles of Narnia. With essays ranging in focus from textual analysis to film and new media adaptations, to implications of war/trauma and race and gender, this cutting-edge New Casebook encourages readers to think about this much-loved series in fresh and exciting ways.

Table of Contents



It all started with an image of a faun; at least, this is the famous statement from C. S. Lewis that has been reprinted in countless essays and scholarship about The Chronicles of Narnia. Specifically, Lewis said: “All of my seven Narnia books, and my three science fiction books, began with seeing pictures in my head. At first they were not a story, just pictures. The Lion all began with a picture of a Faun carrying an umbrella and parcels in a snowy wood.”1 This image of the faun remains one of the most iconic images of the Narnia series and serves as a good starting point for this introduction to The Chronicles of Narnia New Casebook. On one level, I hope that with the mention of the faun, I have already conjured for the reader a positive, almost oneiric mental picture, perhaps one of fanciful nostalgia for feelings of that first encounter with Narnia, be it through the story of Tumnus or Lucy or otherwise.
Lance Weldy

Text and Contexts


1. “Turkish Delights and Sardines with Tea”: Food as a Framework for Exploring Nationalism, Gender, and Religion in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

Food grabs our attention, right from the beginning of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. The very first meals in the new land of Narnia provide a contrast through which characters’ identities are constructed. Their meal choices both reveal their personalities and position them as positive or negative. Food transforms from a mere necessity of life to an integral part of the narrative, as characters’ choices about food and involvement with meals shape how they are perceived. Food is presented in such a way as to be connotative of meanings and understandings beyond its own literal reality.
Rachel Towns

2. Scapegoating and Collective Violence in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

In the 1970s, the anthropological philosopher René Girard presented his theory of the scapegoat mechanism, a theory that explained how social groups control violence with an internal system of ritual and social behavior. At the time, he saw this model repeated throughout history, mythology, and literature, but the ability of Girard’s theories to explain recognizable patterns of human violence have led to their increasing popularity since the attacks of September 11, 2001. Intriguingly, the scapegoat mechanism that Girard recognized is not only at work in C. S. Lewis’s The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, but it shapes the structure and outline of the story. While this book was first written shortly after World War II, over the years it has been adapted into film and radio plays, most of which have repeated the scapegoating model. In 2005, however, Disney released The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, which appears, in places, to be less comfortable with this model than the earlier adaptations. An understanding of the implications of the most recent adaptation and its relationship to the scapegoating model must begin in an understanding of what the scapegoating model is and how it works in Lewis’s text.
Melody Green

Applications and Implications


3. Moving Beyond “All That Rot”: Redeeming Education in The Chronicles of Narnia

Throughout The Chronicles of Narnia series,2 learning in classrooms in Narnia and on Earth is often disparaged in ways that range from the comedic to the horrific. In spite of C. S. Lewis’s lifelong career as a teacher and scholar, the traditional pedagogical enterprise is usually, if not always, pictured as oppressive and stultifying. Indeed, references to formal classroom instruction found in the pages of the Chronicles are so negative that a reader begins to wonder how anyone learned anything at all in school, whether here on Earth or in Narnia.3 However, in certain cases, education can be used to bring the children of Narnia that much closer to Christ, both in his form of Aslan in Narnia’s world and as Christ in ours. My title, then, is a pun: I mean that education must be redeemed in order to be instructive, and that some forms of education are redemptive.
Keith Dorwick

4. War and the Liminal Space: Situating The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe in the Twentieth-Century Narrative of Trauma and Survival

In 1920, Eglantyne Jebb, founder of the Save the Children Fund, said, “It is the children who pay the highest price for our short sighted economic policy, our political blunders, our wars.” In reference to the latter of the three negative phenomena, the twentieth century was possibly the most belligerent in history, with three world-changing wars:1 the impact of these and other traumas upon the survivors is still a young field of study. For World War II alone, deaths are estimated at between 50 and 70 million.2 In England, where C. S. Lewis spent World War II and where The Chronicles of Narnia begin their adventures, over 60,000 civilians are thought to have died in air raids.What place can a children’s story possibly have in the narrative of trauma and survival? This essay argues that The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe3 responds to trauma and dislocation in England during World War II with the provision of an imaginative, liminal space in which problems can be safely confronted through those which are analogous to the real world, thereby providing a measure of articulation and subsequent healing for the victim of trauma and betrayal. Further, because this literature is unattached to a particular time and place, it remains available for all children who suffer possible trauma.
Nanette Norris

5. C. S. Lewis’s Manifold Mythopoeics: Toward a Reconsideration of Eschatological Time in the Construction of The Chronicles of Narnia

In his essay, “On Three Ways Of Writing for Children,” C. S. Lewis defines his children’s writings as “fantasy,” a “sub-species” of children’s literature distinguishable from the fairy tale in ways that he does not go on to define.1 He does provide us with some hints, however, to distinguish the fairy story as something far different from what he constructs as fantasy. For Lewis, not all children’s literature is (nor should be) fantasy, but for “modern children,” fantasy suits their needs better than the fairy story.2 For me, Lewis’s contention brings about an obvious question of why “modern children” in his post-World War II period necessitated fantasy. What, from Lewis’s construction of the fantastic (and its difference from the fairy tale), provides his audience with something “modern children need”?
Joseph Michael Sommers

Adaptations and Mediations


6. The Author, the Movie, and the Marketing: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and Early Reader Adaptations

C. S. Lewis’s The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe was adapted into film three times prior to a major motion picture release. This blockbuster film by Disney and Walden Media attracted families with young children and thus opened the story to audiences younger than those capable of reading the original text. With the release of the movie, publishers took advantage of this new market and released a number of textual adaptations for young readers. However, these are not adaptations of C. S. Lewis’s The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe; rather they are adaptations of the Walden Media/Disney film The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe released in December 2005. Linda Hutcheon reminds us in A Theory of Adaptation that for an adaptation to be successful, it must reach “both knowing and unknowing audiences” of the source material.1 As the source material is the 2005 film, rather than Lewis’s 1950 novel, early readers meet the standard of contemporary family entertainment and marketing. Further, Hutcheon reminds us that “multiple versions of a story in fact exist laterally, not vertically.”2 As such, they are perfectly in keeping with contemporary expectations of their genre—the movie tie-in.
Rhonda Brock-Servais, Matthew B. Prickett

7. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wii: Lewis’s Theology in the Narnia Video Game

Concerns about whether or not The Chronicles of Narnia are truly an allegory remain contested, but even C. S. Lewis acknowledged that there is religious symbolism implicit within the series.1 Although Lewis insisted that the Christian discourse embedded in the narrative was consequential on the storytelling and not deliberate, several theological concepts emerge: God’s sovereignty, determinism, glory, and moral objectivity. While The Chronicles of Narnia are only one permutation of Lewis’s mind (and as a creative source may not implicate his own theological disposition), the fact remains that theology is present within these texts. This chapter will examine how Lewis’s theology as represented in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe2 translates into the video game of the same name,3 which is directly based, not on the book, but on the 2005 Disney film.4 The examination will reveal that because of the game’s faithfulness to certain elements of the storyline in Lewis’s book and the limits of its design, the game undercuts the theology embedded within Lewis’s imagined world.
Aaron Clayton

Conflicts and Controversy


8. Lewis and Anti-Lewis: On the Influence of The Chronicles of Narnia on His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman

In October of 1998, as Britain prepared to celebrate the centenary of C. S. Lewis’s birth, author Philip Pullman published an editorial in the Guardian denouncing the “tweedy medievalist” and The Chronicles of Narnia. “So Narnia sells by the lorry-load,” wrote Pullman, but he claimed to be puzzled by the popularity of the series, “because there is no doubt in my mind that it is one of the most ugly and poisonous things I’ve ever read.” Pullman then went on to condemn the Narnia books for exhibiting misogyny, racism, a “sado-masochistic relish for violence,” and “the colossal impertinence, to put it mildly, of hijacking the emotions that are evoked by the story of the Crucifixion and Resurrection in order to boost the reader’s concern about Aslan.”1
Gili Bar-Hillel

9. “Beautiful Barbarians”: Anti-Racism in The Horse and His Boy and Other Chronicles of Narnia

In a chapter called “Garlic and Onions,” Laura Miller observes that in Britain, garlic is often perceived as “the symbol of the dirty foreigner.” She asserts, “Lewis expected his description of the Calormenes and their reek of onions and garlic to provoke an unthinking disgust in his readers.”1 Miller’s remarks typify current discourse on The Chronicles of Narnia. Since at least the late 1990s, scholars, critics, and the general public have steadily discussed the apparent racism in the stories. Critics have focused largely on The Horse and His Boy and The Last Battle because these books carry detailed descriptions of the Calormenes, a desert-dwelling people who “are the archenemies of the free Narnians.”2
Jennifer Taylor

10. Boy-Girls and Girl-Beasts: The Gender Paradox in C. S. Lewis’s The Chronicles of Narnia

I first came to the world of Narnia well past my childhood, as an early 20-something poking about stacks at a book fair. I saw the cover of the edition I call my own now, a lion’s head burning out of a dark background, and remember thinking, “It’s about time.” I had grown up with the Children’s Television Workshop cartoon adaptation of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, never wanting a copy of the book until about seventh grade. That year, I was one of very few of my friends who didn’t get a chance to read about the Pevensies in school for class. Girls and boys talked at lunch about what Turkish Delight must taste like and how they wanted to be their favorite Pevensie, while I slogged through a book about a 13-year-old girl who kept making up excuses about how she lost her gym clothes because she was uncomfortable in her body. I didn’t want to read about my life—I wanted to escape it. Ten years after middle school, I found myself stretched out on my couch devouring the Narnia stories and not at all understanding why they felt so wonderful but so odd at the same time: why were there just as many girls as boys and yet the boys had all the fun, fighting battles and leading revolutions?
Susana Rodriguez
Additional information