THE LION, THE WITCH AND THE WARDROBE

THE PLAY

Who is C.S. Lewis?

Clive Staples Lewis (1898 to 1963) was a British novelist, poet, academic and critic - and arguable one of the most influential writers of his day. He taught at Magdalen College, Oxford University (1925 to 1954) and Magdalene College, Cambridge University (1954 to 1963) where he was elected Chair of Medieval and Renaissance Literature. At Oxford, he was close friends with J.R.R. Tolkien and they were part of a literary group known as the Inklings. Although he fell away from the Church as a young man, he returned to the Anglican Church in his early 30s and his faith was a great influence of many of his subsequent writings including Mere Christianity, Miracles and The Problem of Pain. He wrote more than 30 books including Mere Christianity, The Great Divorce, The Screwtape Letters, and the acknowledged classics in The Chronicles of Narnia. To date, the Narnia books have sold over 100 million copies and been transformed into three major motion pictures. In 2013, on the 50th anniversary of his death, Lewis was commemorated with a memorial in Poets' Corner in Westminster Abbey.

The Story at Warp Speed

On a September night in 1939, the Pevensie children - Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy - board a train from London to the English countryside to escape the air raids. They arrive at the country house of Professor Kirk. One day while exploring their new home, the children come across a bare room containing only a wardrobe. Beyond the racks of fur coats Lucy discovers Narnia, a magical land that has been overtaken by a White Witch and cast into a permanent state of winter.

Lucy tries to tell her siblings what she's found, but they don't believe her - until Edmund follows her into the wardrobe during a game of hide and seek. He has only just arrived in Narnia when he encounters the White Witch. Knowing that the reign of humans has been foretold in a prophesy, the Witch uses candy - Turkish delight - to entice Edmund to lead his brother and sisters to her.

Back at the house, Edmund pretends that Lucy has imagined Narnia. But when the children duck into the wardrobe to evade a group of adults, Peter and Susan learn the truth. The siblings are soon befriended by two Beavers who tell them that they are to meet Aslan, the great Lion and King of the wood. It is only after they reveal their destination - the Stone Table - that they realize Edmund has slipped away to find the White Witch. The group quickly prepare for their journey and meet Aslan as planned. Knowing that Edmund is in danger, they tell the Lion of his betrayal. Aslan must negotiate with the Witch before she will spare Edmund's life. When she does, there is no time to celebrate: Aslan's followers must prepare to go to war with the Witch and her ghastly crew.

That night, Susan and Lucy find Aslan walking alone outside the camp. He has traded his life for Edmund's, and on the Stone Table he perishes by the Witch's blade. At sunrise, the Stone Table breaks in half with a loud noise and Aslan is miraculously resurrected. He explains that there is another magic, deeper than the one the Witch knows, a magic from before the dawn of time. It allows the one who dies in the place of a traitor to come back to life. Aslan is able to reverse the effects of the Witch's magic and the tide of battle turns for the Good. Aslan kills the Witch.

Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy are crowned as kings and queens of Narnia. They rule Narnia fairly for many years, until one day, as they hunt for the White Stag in the Western Wood, they come upon a lamp-post. As they go further into the woods, they find themselves back in the wardrobe, and then back in the spare room in the country house. No time has passed in England since they first entered Narnia together, and they are children again.

Sources and Origins

The first of seven novels published (1950) in The Chronicles of Narnia, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe was written by C.S. Lewis.

In an essay in Of Other Worlds, Lewis said that he had a picture in his head from his teenaged years that led to the development of the novel. "The Lion all began with a picture of a Faun carrying an umbrella and parcels in a snowy wood. This picture had been in my mind since I was about sixteen. Then one day, when I was about forty, I said to myself: 'Let's try to make a story about it.'"

Three school girls were evacuated from London during the early years of the Second World War and stayed at Lewis's home in Risinghurst outside of Oxford. At that time, he began a book featuring children, but did not complete it. By the late 1940s, he started again, and later said in Of Other Worlds: "At first I had very little idea how the story would go. But then suddenly Aslan came bounding into it. I think I had been having a good many dreams of lions about that time. Apart from that, I don't know where the Lion came from or why he came. But once he was there, he pulled the whole story together, and soon he pulled the six other Narnian stories in after him."  

Stage History

This version of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe was written by Adrian Mitchell and premièred by the Royal Shakespeare Company in 1998. This is the première of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe at the Stratford Festival.

Themes and Motifs

  • Tolerance
  • Growing up (maturation, adulthood)
  • Moral choices
  • Identity/self
  • Facing your fears
  • WWII-era England
  • Magic
  • Heroes and villains
  • Loyalty
  • The nature of good and evil
  • The nature of sacrifice
  • Courage
  • Forgiveness
  • Temptation
  • Christianity

THE PRODUCTION

LESSON PLANS

THE PLACE

The Stratford Adventure

This 1954 Oscar-nominated film follows the founding of the Festival: how the idea grew, how a famous British director, international stars and Canadian talent were recruited, and how the Festival finally became a triumphant reality.