Text: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis, Illustrated by Pauline Baynes, HarperCollins, 1950; 1978.
Summary of Chapter One: Lucy Looks Into a Wardrobe
Once there were four children (Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy Pevensie) who were sent into the country during the war when there were air-raids on London. They were sent to the house of a nice old Professor with a housekeeper called Mrs. Macready. The children congratulated themselves on their good fortune as they got ready for bed. The house was enormous and good for exploration, and as for the shaggy white-haired Professor, “That old chap will let us do anything we like” (p. 4). There were mountains and woods around them. They could find eagles, hawks, badgers, or foxes.
The next day, however, it is raining, and they cannot go out. They are in the room set aside for them, a long room with windows on both ends. Susan points out they have a radio (“wireless”) and lots of books. Peter votes for exploring the house. They find one room full of pictures and a suit of armor. Many rooms lead into each other with bookcases, but finally there is a room with nothing in it but an old wardrobe.
When the others leave, Lucy stays behind. She wants to see what is in the wardrobe—it is full of long fur coats. She keeps feeling for the back of the wardrobe, but soon she feels the branches of trees and cold powdery snow. She is in the middle of a wood at night with snow falling. Looking back she sees the open door of the wardrobe and the room where it is daylight.
Feeling safe with the open door in sight, she begins to walk through the forest. Soon she finds a lamp-post alight in the middle of the wood. Someone joins her—a Faun carrying an umbrella and packages. He has a pleasant face.
Commentary on Chapter One: Lucy Looks Into a Wardrobe
The “once upon a time” formula lets us know this is a fairytale, yet it is set in modern times during World War II when the Germans bombed London for months during what became known as the Blitz. Children were sent into the country for safety. The Professor is a fictional version of Lewis himself who had welcomed such children in his home at Oxford. We hear nothing more of the terror of war. The four Pevensie children are immediately at home and looking forward to playing and doing anything they please. They like the strange old Professor with shaggy white hair, who will not interfere with their exploration of the house or the wild environs.
Even in the first chapter we are introduced to Edmund as the difficult child. He is bad-tempered and sarcastic, criticizing his older sister Susan as trying to sound like their mother. He constantly complains and tries to cast doubt on the plans and ideas of others.
Lucy is the youngest child and in some ways the heroine since she first discovers and believes in Narnia with complete innocence. She is drawn to the wardrobe, and without any hesitation walks into a magic land where it is snowing, where there is a Faun, a mythical creature with the head and torso of a man and legs like a goat. In Roman mythology, Fauns were spirits of untamed woodland. Yet in this wood, we see a lamp-post, a contradiction. The Faun is also humanized, with his umbrella and packages.