Ossus Library Index
Fantasy Index


A novel by C.S. Lewis
(2005, Harper Collins [first published in 1950])

The Chronicles of Narnia, book 2

Four children find their way into the magical land of Narnia, where they try to save it from an evil witch.


-- First reading (paperback)
March 15th to 31st, 2020


An intriguing story about good and evil, with interesting main characters and the idea of sacrifice for a greater cause. However, the kids don’t actually do anything. They follow the instructions of the Beavers, of the Witch, of Aslan, but they never make any decisions. The girls are observers to the sacrifice, Edmund is the only one who takes matters into his own hands (for what it’s worth), while Peter is given a sword and told to be a knight. The kids are pawns. The witch is the best-developed character, taking action and having some sort of desires. The magic of the stone table comes out of the blue -why would such a device exist, anyway -and who made the initial agreement? Still, there was enough of a backstory, and the reactions of the kids was enough to keep the story moving forward.

Spoiler review:

From the very first page, this book was so much better than The Magician’s Nephew. The writing style through the book broke the fourth wall, as they say in theatre, which I am not a fan of in novels, even those written for kids. For the most part, it wasn’t too distracting.

This is a very good introduction to Narnia, as it introduces the witch and her desire for global dominion, at first through the fear of collaboration, as with Mr Tumnus the satyr, and later in direct confrontation.

The wardrobe shows up first, in a game of hide-and-seek, where Lucy finds that the back of the wardrobe leads to a magical place, and has tea with Mr Tumnus. Later, Edmund, who is depicted as having become a mean-spirited kid since starting at a new school, ends up in the wardrobe, and therefore Narnia, where he meets the witch, who offers him sweets in exchange for loyalty. He’s miffed about an argument he had with his brother and sisters, and likes the idea of becoming a prince, as offered by the witch. He’s mean enough that when he returns, he still denies that Lucy’s magical land exists.

Eventually, when the kids are trying to avoid tours of the Professor’s grand house by a grumpy housekeeper, they all end up in the wardrobe, and Lucy’s claim is shown to be true. This causes Edmund to be even more distanced from the others, as he’s revealed to be a liar. The kids find that Mr Tumnus has disappeared, and his house ransacked, showing that the Witch came to get him for letting Lucy go. They end up at a Beaver’s dam, where Mr. and Mrs. Beaver offer them a meal and a history of the Witch’s rise to power. They also reveal that the third part of the book’s title, the Lion Aslan, will be meeting with them soon at the Stone Table.

As they discover Edmund has disappeared, and they correctly conclude it is to meet with the Witch, they leave immediately for the Stone Table. Although a bit of evidence exists, their conclusions are based more on Mrs. Beaver’s feelings than anything real. But the story shows that they’re correct. And in a very strange twist, Father Christmas meets them on their journey. It’s a very strange distraction, but it’s the equivalent of the typical magical journey’s pause where the heroes get gifts, which is what happens here. It’s as if the author couldn’t think of anything better. Peter gets a sword, Susan gets a horn, and Lucy gets a potion. Then they continue on their way.

They meet Aslan, whose mere presence is causing winter to dissipate and spring to return.

Meanwhile, Edmund meets with the witch/queen, her castle full of stone statues, presumably of those who crossed her. She treats Edmund very mean, and he begins to realize his mistake. They go off in an attempt to reach the stone table before his siblings, to cut them off from Aslan, but don’t make it in time. At one point, Edmund is forced to pull her sledge. Peter, meanwhile, saves his sisters from her wolf.

Aslan requests a meeting with the witch, and they come to an agreement that trades Edmund for Aslan’s life, though nobody knows it at the time. It’s a very strange agreement they have, as apparently the witch can do whatever she wants with traitors -but traitors to who? Obviously to Aslan, but I’m sure she turns traitors to her own cause to stone, as well. Or is it traitors to themselves, which might be more in-line with the religious overtones in the book.

And so while everybody is partying over the prodigal son, Aslan sneaks out to meet with the witch. Lucy and Susan follow him, catching up and escorting him to the Stone Table. It’s there that he is humiliated and killed, apparently due to an agreement made -by whom? When? And more importantly, why? How did such an agreement come into being, as it doesn’t make sense for Aslan to do this. But then it’s revealed that -WOW! -there is deeper magic, a longer-standing agreement, where if the victim goes to the sacrifice willingly, he will be reborn. From The Magician’s Nephew, I understood Aslan to represent God, but apparently it’s more Jesus. The Agreement sounds more like the arbitrary way evil people go to Hell, which is reigned by the devil, who is essentially given equal status with God.

This brings up a continuity problem between these two books, especially since The Magician’s Nephew was written later. The origin of Narnia is different than described there, as is the origin of the witch, though for the latter, I suppose it was so long ago that her story could have easily been twisted. Where are the king and queen who were given the position by Aslan, or at least their descendants? The witch implies that there are no other humans in Narnia. However, the lamppost is a nice touch, and I don’t think we heard enough of the talking animals.

Aslan’s reappearance allows them to break the Stone Table, and turn the statues back into people and animals. That turns the tide of the battle, which Peter is waging against the witch’s forces, and it ends suddenly. Edmund breaks her wand.

The biggest problem with this book is how the four kids are simply along for the ride. Peter is given a sword, and suddenly he can defeat a wolf, and a day later, he’s fighting a war, becoming a leader and fighting fierce animals. Susan gets to blow her horn once, but only gets to bear witness to Aslan’s sacrifice. Lucy has more development as she brings attention to Mr Tumnus. It’s Edmund who gets the most character moments, though, as he starts off with a mean streak, continues by betraying Peter and the girls, and finds out that the witch isn’t who he thought, wondering how he can get out of the situation. But still, all the children are very minor players. They are told by the Beavers to meet Aslan, trusting them right away because of the glowing feeling they have when they hear his name. Isn’t that the same feeling that Edmund felt when he heard of the Turkish delight? They trust Father Christmas immediately, and they become pawns in Aslan’s restoration of the world, fighting his battle (I guess none of the animals was capable) and following along while he restores the statues. They actually have very little to do, and are mostly observers, even when they are in the thick of the action. Peter gets to fight, and presumably makes strategy after Aslan leaves, but we don’t spend any time with him.

Having started the next book, I suspect that the last chapter, which describes how good the four kids were at being kings and queens, goes to the very end of the Narnia chronicles, and the rest of the books take place within the timeframe of that chapter. They forget about our world, but eventually they are drawn back to the lamppost, and exit into the world at the same moment they’d left. According to the Professor, they won’t be able to use the wardrobe again as an entrance. Why could Lucy and Edmund travel multiple times, and now the gang can’t go back? There are so many writers cheats, unexplained decisions that arbitrarily make the story go in the direction the author wants it, rather than being a logical outcome of the choices made by the characters.


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