The setting is war-time England (2nd World War). Four children are sent to a remote corner to stay with an odd professor, away from their parents, to escape bomb raids. The children go on to have one of the best adventures of their life. They travel to Narnia a fairy-land where years are mere seconds in earth time. If you haven’t read The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the witch and the wardrobe, you must. One of the most well- written books in simple language, it is a work of sheer genius and light by the wonderful C.S.Lewis.
Characters from Greek, Nordic and English mythology meet effortlessly to thrill and entertain. Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy find themselves in the home of an old professor – rumored to be characterised on C.S.Lewis himself- ten miles from the nearest railway station and two miles from the nearest post office. The children land at the large rambling house with it’s many rooms and corridors and are largely left undisturbed.
Lucy the youngest finds herself in a wardrobe of furs one rainy day. She soon finds herself going further into the wardrobe and into a snow covered forest. She unwittingly has found her way into a gateway to a magical forest. Here she meets and has tea with a faun called Tumnus.
Lucy’s adventure is met with much skepticism by her siblings, particularly Edmund, the second youngest. Soon however Edmund too goes to the fairy forest and encounters the snow queen who has kept all of Narnia under her snowy spell for about a century.
The children all then go to the forest, where Edmund parts ways to meet with the Snow-Queen. The other three go to meet Aslan who alone can lead an army against the Snow Queen and free all the inhabitants of the forest.
Lewis’ amazing characterisation and detailing abound. The children before they set off to search for Aslan stop at Mr. and Mrs.Beavers house.
The first thing Lucy noticed as she went in was a burring sound, and the first thing she saw was a kind-looking old she-beaver sitting in the corner with a thread in her mouth working busily at her sewing machine, and it was from it that the sound came. She stopped her work and got up as soon as the children came in.
Further on he describes the meal they all have together.
Susan drained the potatoes and then put them all back in the empty pot to dry on the side of the range while Lucy was helping Mrs. Beaver to dish up the trout, so that in a very few minutes everyone was drawing up their stools (it was all three-legged stools in the beaver’s house except for Mrs. Beaver’s own special rocking-chair beside the fire) and preparing to enjoy themselves. There was a jug of creamy milk for the children (Mr.Beaver stuck to beer) and a great big lump of deep yellow butter in the middle of the table from which veryone took as much as he wanted to go with his potatoes, and all the children thought- and I agree with them – that there’s nothing to beat good freshwater fish if you want to eat it when it has been alive half an hour ago and has come out of the pan half a minute ago. And when they had finished the fish Mrs.Beaver brought unexpectedly out of the oven a great and gloriously sticky marmalade roll, steaming hot, and at the same time moved the kettle onto the fire, so that when they finished themarmalade roll the tea was made and ready to be poured out. And when each person had got his(or her) cup of tea, each person shoved back (his or her) stool so as to be able to lean against the wall, and give a long sigh of contentment.
Lewis has the uncanny ability to make us laugh as he does just after the rescue of Edmund from the Snow-Queen’s clutches by the centaurs, unicorns, deer and birds.
Then he heard the voices of the people who were not talking to him but to one another. And they were saying things like, ” Who’s got the Witch?”- “I thought you had her.” “I didn’t see her after I knocked the knife out of her hand – I was after the dwarf – do you mean to say she’s escaped?” “A chap can’t mind everything at once- what’s that? Oh, sorry, it’s only an old stump!” But just at this point Edmund went off in a dead faint.
In another instance, a giant asks Lucy for a ‘hankeercheef’ and mistakenly picks her up thinking she is the handkerchief.
Tiny birds, large dim-witted but sweet giants, fauns, wicked wolves, the very controlling and silly snow-queen, majestic Aslan, dwarves, squirrels, busy Mrs.Beaver each so different from the other but never spoken of mean-spiritedly or with leading adjectives. The characters act in the parameters of their nature.
Our heroes and heroines are crowned at the Great Hall of Cair Paravel of ivory roof and peacock feathers and go on to have many an adventure. Many years later they tumble out of the wardrobe into the old Professors house, yet again, as the little children they were when they went into the next installment of the Chronicles of Narnia.
Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the witch and the wardrobe is listed among most top 20 best children’s books of all times. Now having read it there remains no doubt in my mind why.