Revisiting Childhood in The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe

Revisiting Childhood in The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe

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Revisiting Childhood in The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe

 

When I was young, it was hard to understand the bigger picture. I knew not what I did; I only acted. Aggressive action came spontaneously, and in rapid response to whatever situation befell me. I frequently fought and argued with my brothers. While we were good around other people, at home, my brothers and I were not pleasant to deal with. At the time, it was impossible for me to foretell the ramifications of my mother. It was not until much later before I realized the gift that my mom had managed to give my brothers and me in her remarkable grace under the pressures. She was taking on four pre-teenaged boys on a hectic schedule, while juggling a part-time job and continuing college level education.

 

      I was no more than ten years old when my mother began reading to us. It was a difficult enough undertaking, shuffling us between our father's house and hers and the many extracurricular activities involved with bringing up four young men. Somehow, three or four days a week, she enticed us all to sit down before bedtime for the retelling of a classic story. We started out with the first book in the Chronicles of Narnia series by author C. S. Lewis, titled The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe.

 

      In this fairy tale, a magical lion returns to the mysterious land of Narnia in a quest to put an end to the evil reign of the wicked White Witch. The story simply captivated my younger brothers and me. The strange part was that it was never about the animals that talked, the fauns, unicorns, giants, dwarfs, wolves, centaurs, beavers, and birds. Truthfully, I did not remember much about a witch in the story, much less the existence of a lion. I did not recall any morals, messages, or even a plotline. What struck me most was part of the tale that engulfed the four siblings in the adventure of their lifetime. A few times a week, my brothers and I followed Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy into the enchanted wardrobe and through to the other side. As we circled around my mother in our living room, we were careful, just as Peter was, in closing the door.

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We did not shut it, because we knew "of course...as every sensible person does, that you should never never shut yourself up in a wardrobe"  (Lewis, 42).

 

      The four brothers and sisters were sent off to a strange old house of an unnamed Professor during World War II to escape the Axis' regular aerial bombardment over England. Their refuge proved to be even more mysterious than they first suspected when they stumble into the wardrobe and into the land of Narnia. The story sees the children soon take up cause against the White Witch (the self proclaimed Queen of Narnia) who by means of deep magic has instilled a spell so that it is forever winter (and never Christmas), for a kid truly the most horrible of afflictions. The noble, wise, and sagely golden lion Aslan returns and spearheads the insurrection calling upon all of the gentle and loving creatures of the forest. The adventure makes the kids all but forget ever returning home, a prospect that between the bickering of a divorced set of parents and unforgiving younger brothers was an all-too welcomed prospect to a younger persona of myself.

 

      Underlying the story is the clear representation of the close-knit family unit. The siblings engage in this wondrous journey together, something I believe my mother was trying to convey in her selection of the book. There is a distinct parallel in number of characters, my three brothers Nicholas, Douglas, and David; there are analogies that extend from their counterparts (sex aside) Susan, Edmund, and Lucy from the story. Susan and Nick are so much alike, both steadfast in their decisions and ready with a backup plan. Edmund was the one they were always unsure of. He betrayed them to the White Witch! He could be considered the oddball; he does not fit any real archetype and has a storyline that is completely separate from the others. Doug was always much the same. He did his own thing and we never really knew what was going on in his head. Lucy was the imaginative one, spirited and bold. She was the first to venture into Narnia and was at odds with Edmund over its truth. David has always been the creative one, drawing and the arts came easy to him and he is truly an original thinker. He was often in arguments with Doug too.

 

      Indeed, the characters come full circle with myself taking center stage as oldest the same as Peter was. He was the unchallenged leader of the pack. Peter made all of the important decisions such as where to go once they were in Narnia, and determined the battle plan against the White Witch's ferocious forces. He was the one who got to speak with Aslan first about their situation, figuring out exactly what was going on. The valiant warrior, Peter took on and put an end to the life of vicious wolf leader Fenris Ulf. Yet, despite all of these fantastic achievements, Peter was human just like me.

 

      "Peter did not feel very brave; indeed, he felt he was going to be sick. But that made no difference to what he had to do. He rushed straight up to the monster and aimed a slash of his sword at its side. The stroke never reached the Wolf. Quick as lightning it turned round, its eyes flaming, and its mouth wide open in a howl of anger. If it had not been so angry that it simple had to howl it would have got him by the throat at once. As it was - though all this happened to quickly for Peter to think at all - he had just time to duck down and plunge his sword, as hard as he could, between the brute's forelegs and its heart. Then came a horrible, confused moment like something in a nightmare. He was tugging and pulling and the Wolf seemed neither alive nor dead, and its bared teeth knocked against his forehead, and everything was blood and heat and hair. A moment later he found that the monster lay dead and he had drawn his sword out of it and was straightening his back and rubbing the sweat off his face and out of his eyes. He felt tired all over" (Lewis, 106).

 

      Peter was the older brother that I wanted to be, to protect the younger ones from evil, to single handedly tackle injustice - putting my entire body, heart, and soul into the fight, and be of sound moral and ethical judgment for the good of the family.

 

      My brothers and I were similar in motivation, personality, a desire to help those in need, and their insatiable spirit for adventure. I am not sure if I realized it at the time, but we were all like the four in the book. We wanted to have adventures like they did in Narnia. We wanted to go in their places to hunt the White Stag, battle the evil wolves, sit down for a friendly meal with the Beaver family, share a piece of Edmund's Turkish Delight, and stand beside the awe-inspiring presence of Aslan. We would later take part in our own rendition of their adventures through Lego toys and the never-ending world of make believe. After all was said and done, the book actually brought us all closer together as a family. We lived vicariously through Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy as they traveled Narnia and vanquished evil.

 

      While nothing would ever completely remove from our household the brotherly love that is displayed in scuffles and debates, our mother showed us something that brought us closer to understanding each other. As easy as it was for Edmund to betray them to the White Witch, he made it back to the others and was accepted. He was forgiven for his wrongdoing and Peter, Susan, and Lucy were able to overcome so much more because he was there. With the help of Aslan, the forest creatures went on to live normal lives without having to hide, the White Witch died and winter faded away (to its normal cycle), Christmas returned to Narnia, and the kids ruled the land for many years afterwards. Ever since, no matter what has come between us, divorce, different schools, schedules and now different cities, we have survived it.

 

      To this day, the characters from The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe have served as examples for my brothers and me. They show us who we aspire to be and mirror that which we actually are. As much as we would want to believe it, our mom will not always be around to rule our lives, but her messages will succeed her and so will we. Whenever we come to odds, we have something to draw on, an ideal to live up to. We got a chance to see a world where fighting did not get you anywhere and did not need to be an integral part of life. Most importantly, we got to see that we could become anything just as Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy became mystical rulers of an enchanted world.

 

      My adventurous days in Narnia have vanished with time, but thanks to my mother, I will return again some day... with children of my own. I know that not only myself, but they too will be welcome there with open arms. After all, as the book says, "Once a King in Narnia, always a King in Narnia" (Lewis, 153).

 

 

Works Cited

Lewis, C.S. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. New York: The Macmillan Company, 1950
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