The first time I read this book was in the third grade. My teacher, Mrs. Johnson, read this story during our rest period after recess. I came down with a stomach virus the week she started so I missed the first few chapters. However, one of my classmates read the first chapters to me.
The story starts out with four children- Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy- being sent away from London during the air raids during WWII. They are taken in by Professor Kirke. The savvy reader will no doubt recognize this character as the adult Diggory from The Magician’s Nephew.
The Professor, although kind, does not spend much time with the children. So they are left to amuse themselves. On the eventful rainy day they play hide and seek inside the house. Lucy hides inside an old wardrobe only to discover she has entered a magic world full of snow. She meets and has tea with the faun Mr. Tumnus. While at tea she is told about the state of affairs of Narnia- namely the White Witch has made it so that it is always winter but never Christmas. After narrowly escaping Tumnus’ treachery, Lucy returns home eager to share her experience with her siblings. However no one realized that she was gone!!! Peter and Susan are convinced that Lucy is either lying or going mad.
Some time goes by and Lucy returns to the wardrobe and re-enters Narnia. Unbeknownst to herself, Edmund follows her inside. He meets the White Witch and is put under and enchantment. She tells him she will make him prince of Narnia if he returns with the rest of his siblings. On his way back to the wardrove he runs into Lucy. Lucy is thrilled at first because she thinks Edmund will back her story. However he betrays her.
Days pass. Eventually the four end up hiding in the wardrobe to escape a group of people touring the house. They all realize that Lucy was right. She decides to take them to visit Tumnus; however, he is gone- he was captured by the White Witch’s secret police. The four are found by Mr. Beaver and taken to his house.
They discover that the White Witch is not the rightful Queen of Narnia. The ruler of Narnia is always human. The Witch rather than being a Daughter of Eve is a Daughter of Lilith Adam’s first wife.
According to Jewish mysticism, Adam had a first wife named Lilith who was made as he was from dirt (rather than the rib like Eve). The legend says that during their intimacy Lilith refused to “lie below.” Lilith fled into the dessert and was responsible for birthing many demons.
Ok, so now you get it- the White Witch is totally evil. The Beavers also tell the children about the prophecy at Cair Paravel. They also tell them that Aslan, the true King of Narnia, is on the move and that they must go to him. During these revelations, Edmund slips away to join the White Witch. Once he is discovered missing, the Beavers and children flee to the Stone Table. When Edmund arrives at the castle, the White Witch gives chase.
In the end they all meet at the Stone Table (Aslan’s army rescues Edmund before the Witch executes him). But the Witch makes a claim on Edmund’s life. See in the magic that was put in Narnia “at the dawn of time” all traitors belonged to the Witch as her lawful prey to be killed on the Stone Table. If she was not given the traitor, then Narnia would perish. Aslan agrees to take Edmund’s place. What the Witch does not realizes is that before the “dawn of time” there was a different incantation. If an innocent victim took a traitor’s place, death would be denied to that victim and the Stone Table would crack.
So anyway, there is an epic battle and the Witch is eventually overthrown. The four become kings and queens and bring a Golden Age to Narnia. One day the chase a stag into the forest and stumble back into the house in the country. No time has passed. They tell the Professor, who doesn’t seem the least bit surprised by their adventure. He does assure them that they won’t get back into Narnia through the Wardrobe again.
I loved this book as a child. I still do. This was the first time that I found myself actually getting lost in the plot. When I would finish the book I would almost stagger to find myself back in the real world. For those not over familiar with Christianity there are a lot of allegorical elements in the book. The biggest is that Aslan dies for Edmund and is resurrected. Make no mistake, this book is NOT an allegory!!!!! (Pilgrim’s Progress and Hind’s Feet on High Places are actual allegories). As you will see from the other books in this series, Aslan is a “type.” But this is Narnia’s version of Christianity; the king of kings in this world is a lion.