Spangler’s From Sentence to Screen: The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is a 2005 fantasy film co-written and directed by Andrew Adamson. The film is based off of the 1950’s novel, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, by C.S. Lewis. This story centers around four siblings named Peter (William Moseley), Susan (Anna Popplewell), Edmund (Skandar Keynes), and Lucy Pevensie (Georgie Henley) who have been sent away to life in the countryside of England because of WWII. They are living with the strange Professor Kirke (Jim Broadbent), who’s large home is filled with many interesting things. One day when the children are playing hide and seek the youngest, Lucy, finds herself in an empty room with nothing but a wardrobe to hide in. The wardrobe is a doorway into the fantasy world of Narnia, where Lucy meets a faun named Mr. Tumnus (James McAvoy) who tells her all about Narnia and the Witch Witch who tyrannically rules over the Narnians.

When she returns to “our” world, Lucy tries to tell her siblings what happened but none of them believe her. Later that night Lucy sneaks out of her room and goes back to Narnia through the wardrobe. Edmund follows her into the strange land realizing she has been telling the truth, but when they get back he tells their siblings that Lucy was just making it all up. A few days later, when they are trying to hide from the strict housekeeper, the children wind up in the empty room and have no choice but to go in the wardrobe. The four siblings escape and find themselves in Narnia. Soon the Pevensies find themselves playing a large part in stopping the White Witch in the coming war. In this blog post I will be looking at how the film changed the beginning of the story, and how it sheds light on different facets of the Pevensie children. 

The film version of the story starts out rather intensely, with the town where the Pevensie family lives being bombed in an air raid in 1940. Their mother attempts to round up all the children to get to the bomb shelter, but just as they are about to get in, the youngest brother Edmund, runs back into the house to get a photo of their father who is in the war. This causes Peter, the oldest sibling, to run after him, getting to Edmund in just enough time to push him to the ground as a bomb goes off near the house. The two soon make it back to the bomb shelter, with the picture, though Peter is quite angry with Edmund for never listening when he is given instructions. The scene showcases the hardship the children have been going through; also how Peter believes he needs to be the one to protect his sibling while Edmund tends to make emotional and illogical choices. The film then jumps to Mrs. Pevensie and the children at the train station, where they are about to be sent to the countryside and away from the war. Though in the book we are briefly told why the children or sent away, the reader never gets much detail about their lives before coming to live with Professor Kirke. These two scenes were most likely added specifically to help set the film audience in the time period that the children are from. In additional, action sequences are something that the film industry is known for and is something that the audience expects, even from a children’s movie; which is another reason why the filmmakers might have decided to add the bombing as the movie’s first scene.      

While those first two scenes were added for the movie, the filmmakers also decided to change how the children find Narnia in the wardrobe. In the film, Lucy is the first of the siblings to find the wardrobe, this happens when she is trying to find a place to hide from Peter who is the current seeker in their game. In the book, all four of the Pevensie children are exploring the large house when they find the empty room. Since there is only a wardrobe filled with fur coats in the room, the three other children decide to leave, but Lucy stays behind because she wants to feel the fur. To some people this may seem silly, which is why they may have changed this part in the film; but it is important to note that Lucy is only 8 years old and young children often do things just because they are nice. Lucy in both mediums is a rather innocent and sensitive child, so it makes sense for her character that she would do something like go into a wardrobe just to feel the fur on her skin. Her innocence is also why she doesn’t turn back when she realizes she is no longer in the wardrobe and goes to a strange creature’s home when he invites her for tea. Something that is also a bit different about this scene is that in the film Lucy seems to be frightened by the appearance of Mr. Tumnus the faun, and screams in fright when she first sees him. In the books, Lucy appears to be more taken aback than anything and quickly wants to become friends with the faun; an example where the book chooses to showcase her innocence where the movie decides to make her a more cautious child. 

The second time that Lucy goes to Narnia, in both mediums, Edmund follows her but as with the previous example the filmmakers choose to change how and why it happened. In the film’s telling of events, Lucy wakes up in the middle of the night and sneaks to the empty room to check if the wardrobe truly leads to another land like she believes. When she discovers the doorway to Narnia has reappeared she decides to go visit Mr. Tumnus again. Edmund sees Lucy come out of her room and follows her into the wardrobe, the audience perceives Edmund as just being confused and curious about where his sister is going. In the novel’s version of events, this second time is when the children play hide and seek which causes Lucy to go hide in the wardrobe. Again Edmund goes and follows Lucy, but in the novel it is made clear he knows she is going to the wardrobe and expects to find her hiding in there playing make believe. His intention is to make fun of Lucy, as he is described as a very cruel boy, but once he finds out the wardrobe does lead to a new land Edmund feels bitter that he was wrong about Narnia existing. In both mediums, Edmund is shown to be a very petulant and immature boy, though in different ways as shown with this scene. In the book, Edmund is shown to be a rude and cruel child and his thoughts often drift to unkind thoughts about his siblings. In the film, Edmund more so just wants to be treated as an equal to his older brother, which causes him to act badly towards his sister believing it will make him seem like less of a child. The film’s representation of Edmund I think has its own merit, and gives a different perspective and understanding for the character. 

The Chronicles of Narnia, was the book series I grew up on, with my father playing the audiobooks in the car whenever we had a long drive. When the movie originally came out in 2005 I was the perfect age to see it and understand that it was based on the story I loved. It gave me a new outlet to enjoy the story, so it is no surprise that I have seen the movie and read the book countless times growing up. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe always brings me back to my childhood and even as I have gotten older I find the story immensely interesting even though it was written as a fairytale for children. There are very few movies or books that I directly relate to my childhood, but both the series by C.S. Lewis and film The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe fall into that category. In my next blog post I will be looking at the 1998 movie Practical Magic, based on the novel of the same name by Alice Hoffman. 

— Jo Spangler, Film blogger.

Jo’s bio:

Jo Spangler

Jo Spangler is a junior at Lewis University, majoring in English Literature and Language with a minor in Creative Writing. She is a writing tutor in the Lewis Writing Center and a Youth Enrichment Aide for the YMCA. In her free time, Jo enjoys reading, writing, listening to music, and watching movies. She has been to 10 countries outside the United States, including England, Italy, Turkey, and Austria. One of Jo’s favorite book series is The All Souls Trilogy, by Deborah Harkness, because of how she mixes the supernatural with history and the focus on character development. In the future, she hopes to go into the publishing industry to help find new and exciting books for people to read.

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