The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe: Metaphor Analysis
Symbols of Evil: Winter, Stone, Ice, Bad dreams
The Witch Jadis, the White Witch, daughter of Lilith, is cruel and brings death, symbolized by her turning Narnia, a garden land, into a perpetual frozen winter. Everything associated with her is cold and icy, or hard as stone. She has terrorized the animals into being spies for her. All life is held captive and cannot move. Mr. Tumnus describes to Lucy how it used to be in Narnia with the Nymphs and Dryads and Fauns dancing. Now they are undercover like he is or turned into stone statues in the Queen’s palace. The Witch turns everything to stone with her magic wand. When the Witch wants to hide from Aslan’s army she turns herself into a stone so they can’t find her. When she kills Aslan on the Stone Table, she uses a stone knife. The Stone Table with its ancient inscriptions, reminding one of Stonehenge, a pagan temple, records the “old law” of Deep Magic from the Dawn of Time, stating that a traitor must die. The Witch enjoys being the high priestess of this law. When the innocent Aslan dies on the Stone Table to save Edmund, it breaks, signifying the old law of Deep Magic (an eye for an eye), is being replaced by Aslan’s new law of forgiveness, the Deeper Magic from Before the Dawn of Time.
Stone, winter, and ice thus represent the absence of life. The Witch Queen of Narnia “has made a magic so that it is always winter in Narnia—always winter, but it never gets to Christmas” (Chpt. 4, p. 42). The sad scene in the Witch’s castle shows the stone forms of tree spirits, animals, and all the creatures of nature enslaved. She controls everything. Just the sight of her causes someone to shudder and feel cold. When Edmund is forced into her sledge on an endless night journey, he feels it is a bad dream and hopes he wakes up.
Symbols of Good: Spring, Star, Fire, Good dreams
One of the memorable scenes in the book is the melting of winter in Narnia (Chapters 11 and 12). As the Witch is driving in her sledge with the captive Edmund, it goes slower and slower as there is suddenly a thaw. “Every moment the patches of green grew bigger and the patches of snow grew smaller” (Chpt. 11, p. 120). Sunlight pours down and flowers appear. Birds begin: “the whole wood was ringing with birds’ music . . . The trees began to come fully alive” (Chpt. 11, p. 122). The Witch has to abandon the sledge as it is stuck in mud. Meanwhile, the children and beavers begin a long walk in winter trying to get to Aslan before the Witch stops them. They finally walk “into what seemed a delicious dream” (Chpt. 12, p. 123). They drop their fur coats as “the whole wood pass[ed] in a few hours or so from January to May” (Chpt. 12, p. 123).
Aslan the Lion who is the true King and creator of Narnia, is associated with the sun and fire. His warmth brings life. He melts the winter with his presence as he brings the stone statues to life with his breath. Another memorable scene is when he brings a stone lion to life and the author likens the process to setting fire to a newspaper: “a tiny streak of gold began to run along his white marble back—then it spread—then the color seemed to lick all over him as the flame licks all over a bit of paper” (Chpt. 16, p. 168). When Aslan liberates the statues, there is all sorts of dancing, a blaze of colors, as unicorns, birch-girls, beech-girls, and animals break into joyous song and shout. Aslan shows Peter the castle of Cair Paravel where he will be High King. To Peter it looks like a “great star resting on the seashore” (Chpt. 12, p. 130). This directly contrasts with how the castle looks to Edmund at night when it is the Witch’s house. The spires look “sharp as needles” and like “sorcerer’s caps” (Chpt. 9, p. 92). Aslan comes from the stars and is the son of “the great Emperor-beyond-the-Sea” (God).
The Witch has her evil weapons , such as the magic wand that turns all to stone and the vial that can create things at her command. Edmund eventually wins back his honor by breaking her wand with his sword (given by Aslan) before she can turn the whole army into stone. When Father Christmas arrives as the first indication that the spell is breaking in Narnia, he brings presents. For the children, he gives weapons for the coming battle. Peter is given a shield with Aslan’s device of a red lion rampant. His sword has a hilt of gold. Susan is given a silver bow and quiver of arrows and a little ivory horn. She is told not to use the weapons except in great need, but the horn calls help to her and is used when the wolf Maugrim is pursuing her.
Lucy is given a diamond bottle of a cordial that can revive the wounded, which she uses after the battle to save Edmund and the other dying on the field. The cordial is made of “fire-flowers that grow in the mountains of the sun,” (Chpt. 10, p. 109) bringing Aslan’s warmth to revive and heal. The weapons are magic and more powerful than the black magic of the Witch because they contain the nature of Aslan—righteousness, justice, and the warmth of life. Aslan and Father Christmas give precise descriptions to the children how to use the weapons for good to free Narnia. Even though Peter and Edmund have never fought before, they become great warriors in the battle with the Witch because the weapons come with a certain authority. The Witch, on the other hand, does not have the authority to usurp Narnia and therefore, her weapons ultimately fail.
Lucy’s cordial of healing contrasts with the Witch’s vial that creates the Turkish Delight to poison Edmund. The Witch promises Edmund all manner of treats and gets him hooked on the Turkish Delight. He keeps eating though it makes him sick. If he continued doing this, it would kill him. When he goes to the Witch’s castle wanting more Turkish Delight, she gives him stale bread and water instead. The Witch does not want to foster life or nourishment. She is the archetypal Stone Mother who kills her children.
In contrast to the starving and repression the Witch forces on Narnia, the good characters find ways to have feasts and communal meals to create happiness and solidarity. The tea Lucy has with Mr. Tumnus, the dinner the children have at the Beavers, the Christmas feasts, and the food shared with Aslan in his pavilion are some of the most endearing scenes in the book. Once the Faun has had tea with a “Daughter of Eve,” sharing food, music, and stories, he cannot betray her to the Witch. The meal at the Beavers in their house on the frozen dam is a rescue mission, for the children are lost in a dark wood in the snow. Mr. Beaver is one of the helpful animals, who takes in humans and looks after them. He and Mrs. Beaver serve an elaborate meal of fried fish, potatoes, milk, marmalade roll and tea, which the children help prepare. Afterwards they tell stories of Aslan. Mrs. Beaver packs food for their long ordeal in the winter trek to find Aslan. Food is a symbol of fellowship and abundance of spirit. It is the impulse to share with others.
When the Witch finds the animals celebrating Christmas with a feast given to them by Father Christmas, she is infuriated to think of their joy. It was “a merry party, a squirrel and his wife with their children and two satyrs and a dwarf and an old dog-fox, all on stools round a table” (Chpt. 11, p. 115). The moment Edmund sees this innocent party turned to stone by the Witch he repents.
Make it a good day!