The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is a fantasy novel for children by C. S. Lewis, published by Geoffrey Bles in 1950. It is the first published and best known of seven novels in The Chronicles of Narnia (1950–1956). Among all the author’s books, it is also the most widely held in libraries.
Lewis wrote the book for (and dedicated it to) his goddaughter, Lucy Barfield. She was the daughter of Owen Barfield, Lewis’s friend, teacher, adviser and trustee. In 2003, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe was ranked ninth on the BBC’s The Big Read poll. Time magazine included the novel in its list of the 100 Best Young-Adult Books of All Time.
The novel opens with Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy Pevensie, who are being evacuated from London in 1940 to escape the Blitz, and are being sent to live with an old professor (named in a later book as Digory Kirke) at a large house in the English countryside.
Soon after arriving, the children are exploring the house when Lucy enters a wardrobe that leads her into snowy woodland with a lamp-post. Lucy meets Tumnus, a faun who befriends her and informs her that she is in the land of Narnia. He invites her to have tea with him at his cave. Eventually, he reveals that he is in the pay of the White Witch, a ruler who has kept Narnia frozen in a perpetual winter and who has given out orders that any human found in Narnia is to be captured and handed over to her.
Lucy enters the wardrobe again, and it again leads her into Narnia. This time, Edmund follows Lucy and also enters Narnia, but is unable to find his sister. Upon arriving in Narnia, Edmund encounters a great lady on a reindeer-drawn sleigh. She introduces herself as the Queen of Narnia, and plies him with sweet Turkish Delight. She is keen to find out as much as possible about Edmund, and is particularly interested in the fact that he has a brother and two sisters. She promises to reward Edmund with more Turkish Delight if he brings his brother and sisters to her house, and also promises to make him a prince and eventually King of Narnia. She then departs and when Edmund reaches the lamp-post, Lucy catches up with him. During their conversation about Narnia, Lucy tells Edmund that she has been to visit Tumnus the faun, and that the White Witch has done nothing to him for letting her go on her first visit. When Lucy describes the White Witch, Edmund realises that the Witch is no other than the lady he has just made friends with, but he remains quiet about his meeting with her. When they return to their own world, however, Edmund decides to make out that Lucy has been telling lies about the country in the wardrobe, much to her dismay.
Soon afterwards, all four children enter Narnia together while hiding in the wardrobe from the housekeeper, Mrs. Macready, who was giving a tour of the house to some visitors. Lucy leads the group to Tumnus’s cave, only to find that it has been ransacked and that the faun is under arrest on a charge of treason against the Queen of Narnia (the White Witch), as mentioned in a notice signed by Maugrim, chief of the White Witch’s secret police.
Edmund slips away to the Witch’s castle. In the courtyard, he is surprised by the many statues of Narnians the Witch has turned to stone.
Meanwhile, the children and the beavers notice Edmund’s absence, and Mr Beaver is quick to reach the conclusion that Edmund had gone to the White Witch. They prepare for a long journey with the other children to meet Aslan.