Thursday, 2 December 2010

A Book Review - The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe

In this book we are taken back to the 1940s and introduced to four children, two girls and two boys, brothers and sisters who are ‘Evacuated’ to the countryside during WWII. This was common practice during that conflict, when children were taken out of the towns and sent to the country in order to make them relatively safe from the regular bombing raids that were causing huge destruction to all the major cities.
These particular evacuees are taken in by a rather eccentric professor who largely ignores them, leaving their care to his housekeeper. They are free to explore his house and soon discover what appears to be a perfectly ordinary, but fairly old model MK XXII Quantum Interdimensional Portal (QIP ) of the kind that transports you to another parallel world but which has been mistaken by the housekeeper and the children for a wardrobe.

It looks just like a wardrobe

Lucy, the youngest child, accidentally passes through the QIP and encounters a lampost in the middle of some trees although we are never told how it is powered so far from any road or urban area. I can only assume it is a quantum flux source indicator and signals when the QIP is operational.
The Quantum Flux Source Indicator

In this particular adjacent world, known by its inhabitants as Narnia, Lucy meets a fawn carrying a number of parcels. This should have forewarned her that he was not all that he seemed since there is no shopping district or post office within walking distance of the lampost. On meeting this creature Lucy, despite all warnings about small girls going off with strangers, is tempted by the offer of a tea of toast, sardines and cake. In war time the offer of sardines would have tempted most people, since they were stringently rationed and saved for very special occasions. She accompanies this half man, half goat, half dressed - (he has no trousers, just a scarf and an umbrella!) - creature, back to his home.

Lucy goes off with a complete stranger

After a while the confused creature confesses that he has been acting on behalf of the Secret Police and through genuine remorse and tears, explains why.
It turns out that there has been a recent change of government and the country is now under strict economic freeze with very tight restrictions. The new leader of the country is known as the White Queen, someone who is rather on the harsh side of severe in her policies and who emerged onto the political scene after a power vacuum was created by the unexplained loss of the monarchy.
This new ruler seems to come from a land that must be much like Alaska, because a part of her policies also imposes a literal freeze on all her dominion creating a permanent winter. Possibly because she uses a sleigh for transport and they do not run well in warm weather. She also has the wildest collection of garden ornaments you have ever seen in her castle yard and in accordance with the rules of being an evil ruler, is served by only the ugliest of hench-creatures. No doubt the castle, in compliance with the standard evil rulers' charter, has a self-destruct button somewhere too, but this is unconfirmed and not used.

Cool garden ornaments

The token ugly hench-creatures

After discovering the fawn’s deviousness, Lucy hastily returns home and finds she has been away with no objective time lapse on the part of her original universe, but when she attempts to show the other children the portal, the QIP is on the blink and will not work for her, so they think she is mistaken and still believe it is just an ordinary wardrobe. I expect being one of the older models it required about twenty four hours to recharge after each use. Edmund, the younger of the two boys, later manages to blunder through it and meets the White Queen herself, who happens to be out for a sleigh ride with her vertically challenged companion, usually rudely referred to as the dwarf.

Edmund encounters the White Queen's sleigh driven by 'The Dwarf'

By means of bribery, involving a hot drink and Turkish Delight, another rationed item, she manages to convince Edmund that she is a soft touch and good for much more Turkish Delight if he gets the others to come and see her. Completely taken in by her good looks and smooth talk he returns home in order to hoodwink the others into returning with him. Unknown to Edmund, for some reason the White Queen believes the presence of children is a threat to her position and plans to kill them all.

Eventually, the QIP operates long enough for all the children to enter the portal and they soon find out that they are expected to take charge and wrest the land of Narnia from the grasp of the White Queen and allow the weather to improve. This comes as something of a surprise to them and they are rather hesitant but when introduced to a huge talking lion, they realise, quite sensibly, that they would rather attempt to overthrow an evil and extremely powerful ruler, rather than get on the bad side of this enormous carnivore.

A large talking lion

Meanwhile Edmund has inadvisedly gone off to look for the White Queen hoping for more Turkish Delight, but things do not work out for him since he is alone and she is not too pleased with his lack of success in getting the rest of his family to visit.
Meanwhile the other three are still with the lion who, although obviously capable and feared by the White Queen, puzzlingly is not actually in charge. He does however, seem to have some sort of executive power and negotiates a deal to save Edmund, who has by a very obscure piece of ancient Narnian legislation, become the property of the White Queen, and this has happened to him even though he has never actually signed any contract.
This must work something like changing your energy supplier or phone service provider when they do cold-calling and let you agree to a change of supplier without you realising that is what the conversation was leading to.

Such is the nature of the Narnian universe, that if this contract is not fulfilled, the whole place will suffer a major tectonic collapse and immense earthquakes and the subsequent tsunamis would eradicate all life. Not a very sensible structure for a world, when by hiring a bad lawyer you could cause the world to end.

The talking lion, unlike his counterpart in the parallel dimension of Oz, is no coward and to prevent this disaster agrees to be ritually killed by the White Queen, who is less well briefed by her barrister on Narnian law and believes that this course of action will get shot of the Lion and she will regain control.
Boy is she wrong!
After the seeming demise of the lion and all the evil crew have run off exulting over their easy victory, a rather smaller earthquake occurs and the lion is restored to health with a new hairdo too.
Only a small earthquake

Before the lion can get back to stop it, a big fight starts up between the evil minions of the White Queen and his friends but on his way back from the dead, he manages to steal all the White Queens’s garden gnomes and such and returns with them and so wins the day.

A huge fight

Shortly after this all the bad ones run off and the children are crowned to become a quadumviate and rule Narnia as King and King and Queen and Queen. A very unusual governmental structure.
The lion meanwhile, job done, wanders off and the two kings and two queens start to live the life of riley in Narnia with everyone left fawning over them as the right and proper rulers of Narnia. This carries on long enough for them to grow into adults and eventually forget who they really are.
The story ends with them rediscovering the lampost whilst on a hunting trip, returning home and reverting to their original children’s forms, again with no objective time passing in their original universe.
Home again with no elapsed time

I find this bit hard to swallow and believe it is a fabrication because the amount of energy released by the transmutation of their adult Narnian forms into children would have caused enough of an energy surge in the local quantum flux to totally destabilise the already fragile structure of Narnia. So that part is probably an exaggeration of the time difference between the two universes, because the sequels find Narnia still unscathed by tectonic events.

A fascinating story and I give it a 9.8 out of ten and read it and re read it as a child. This book was followed by several sequels and one prequel but I did not find any of the later stories about Narnia anything like as magical as this first book and would probably give them between five and six out of ten should I review any of them.

A Disney movie was made of this book a few years ago, which is probably a lot closer to the original story than many other movie versions of books I have seen and very nicely done, but they did not do all their research properly. The movie adds a bit by unnecessarily starting with an air raid over London during the blitz. The book starts with the four children on the train leaving London, but in the movie the whole family are still in London and for some incredible reason are taken completely by surprise by an air raid! Bombers did not sneak up on you, they were slow and noisy and you heard them coming and anyway Britain had long range radar. So it is not very likely that a mother would risk her own children’s lives by ignoring all the warnings. Before a raid arrived deafeningly loud Air Raid Sirens were started several minutes before any bombers could get to you and besides the local sirens, you could hear the sirens starting up in the far distance and closer sirens joining in as the raiders approached long before this. In those days you listened out all the time so I am sure that they would have been inside their bomb shelter well before any bombs started falling. Apart from that the movie is quite well done.

Finally a Health and Safety warning!

It is important to stress that should young children be attacked by a lion or other large predator, a garland of flowers is no real defense. Please do not attempt to control any wild animal in this way.


  1. Snafu, I am so grateful for your scientific explanations for many of the happenings in The LW&W - inconsistencies that had troubled me for decades are now resolved. I am deeply indebted to you.

    Only problem is, I doubt I will ever be able to read any of the Narnia Chronicles again - the mysteries have been revealed...and I feel tremendously bereft.

  2. Absolutely brilliant, Snafu!
    I totally agree that this was the most magical of the chronicles,although I did read all of them and have done so again several times since with different groupings of the children. I think anybody who has only seen the various plays and films has seriously missed out here.The books have a magic that cannot be conveyed any other way than by reading or being read to. x

  3. I was always completely in love with Reepicheep the Mouse when I was younger (even though he's a bit of a braggart!) So Voyage of the Dawntreader was my favourite.

    BTW. Thanks for the visit to my blog. Trust me - I appreciate anyone who braves the weather to help me. My wonderful builder turned out last week to clear my gutters so I'm not up to my neck in water every time any of the snow melts... He was well rewarded and got a big tip for his trouble. (Apparently I make the best "workman's" tea in the village too!)

    All praise to anyone who doesn't have a choice about geting to work. But I'm a wimp and that's why I have an office job!

  4. MorningMJ, I liked Dawntreader better than any of the others after TL,TW&TW. I was not trying to put you down regards travel, just remind people some have no choice. If you dnon't need to travel best to keep away from those that do. The roads tend to get clogged by people uprepared for the weather, so quite sensible to work from home if you can and bosses who insist on turning up are part of the problem.

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  6. Oops! Morning AJ, not MJ - slip of the fingers there. Brain not fully in gear this morning, hence the deleted comment. Not censorship just the darned annoying feature of this particular blog site that you cannot edit a post once it is posted. Must remember to preview them first.

  7. I'm looking forward to the Dawntreader movie, I guess not quite out yet - in time for Christmas I think.

    It will be interesting to see how closely they adhered to the book. The trailers are fun to watch!