As is the case for most authors, CS Lewis dedicated each of his books to those he was closest too. While most skip over the dedication, some readers note that it is the authors way of honoring those who helped inspire or encourage the story. For example The Screwtape Letters had been dedicated to his friend JRR Tolkien. The first book in his space trilogy was dedicated to his brother Warren. His final novel, Till We Have Faces was dedicated to his wife Joy Davidman Gresham, and the Narnia book, The Horse and his Boy was dedicated to his step-sons Douglas and David Gresham.
Perhaps one of his sweetest dedication was in the first book in the Narnian Chronicles, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. In many ways it serves as an invocation not only to his goddaughter, Lucy Barfield, but to every child who would read it after her. He writes,
“My Dear Lucy,
I wrote this story for you, but when I began it I had not realized that girls grow
quicker than books. As a result you are already too old for fairy tales, and by the time it is printed and bound you will be older still. But some day you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again. You can then take it down from some upper shelf, dust it, and tell me what you think of it. I shall probably be too deaf to hear, and too old to understand a word you say but I shall still be
your affectionate Godfather,”
Lewis would even go on to name the main protagonist, Lucy Pevensie after her in her honor. Along with his goddaughter, Lewis also drew inspiration from June Flewett, one of the many young children who boarded with him during the air raids on London during World War II. Beginning on September 1st 1939, some 3.5 million children were to be relocated from London and the surrounding cities in England to more remote locations as part of Operation Pied Piper. As part of the war effort, individuals such as Professor Lewis would take the children in to their homes.
While for a modern reader this is nearly ancient history, for many of Lewis’ earliest readers would have been fresh in their minds. All great fairy tales are rooted in the darkness and danger of the world in which they were first told. For example, while readers today may mock the common trope of the wicked step mother who would serve as a foil for the heroes and heroines the fairy tales of Hans Christian Andersen or the Grimm Brothers, when many of those stories were written it was not uncommon for mothers to die in childbirth or succumb to any sorts of illnesses due to the lack of medical knowledge that they had at the time. A father would then remarry and often times a strong level of competition for the resources of the husband between children and the step relatives, especially if the man in question was wealthy.
At first glance, Lucy is the most unlikely person to discover Narnia. For one thing, and perhaps the most obvious reason, she is a little girl. There was a mentality back in the 1940s that little girls should be seen and not heard and stay out of trouble. The second was the fact that she was the youngest. One would normally expect the task of discovering a country to someone like her older brother or sister, not the “baby of the family”. However, it is both her gender and her age that make her the best choice for finding Narnia.
It seems there are two different ways in fantasy and science fiction literature for the heroes, or heroines to embark on their journey. For a hero, like Luke Skywalker in Star Wars or Bilbo and Frodo Baggins in Tolkien’s The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, they are usually called to embark on the journey. For heroines however, they usually seem to stumble upon the journey by accident. Dorothy Gale is swept off to Oz by a tornado, and Alice tumbles down a rabbit hole into Wonderland. Initially, Lucy Pevensie’s adventures seem to begin in a fashion similar to those of Dorothy and Alice when by accident as she stumbles upon Narnia while exploring the mysterious old house of Professor Kirke.
However, there is a sharp contrast between Lucy’s arrival and that of her literary predecessors. While Dorothy and Alice arrive in their respective fantasy worlds through somewhat violent means, such as falling down a hole for Alice, or being ripped away from Kansas in a tornado like Dorothy, Lucy’s arrival in Narnia is much more subtle. In fact at first she doesn’t think anything magical is happening. As is noted in the book, The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe,
“’This must be a simply enormous wardrobe!’ thought Lucy, going still further in and pushing the soft folds of the coats aside to make room for her. Then she noticed that there was something crunching under her feet. ‘I wonder is that more mothballs?’ she thought, stooping down to feel it with her hand .But instead of feeling the hard, smooth wood of the floor of the wardrobe, she felt something soft and powdery and extremely cold…and went on a step or two further…next moment she found she was rubbing against her face and hands was no longer soft fur but something hard and rough and even prickly. ‘Why, it is just like branches of trees!’ exclaimed Lucy. And then she saw that there was a light ahead of her; not a few inches away where the back of the wardrobe ought to have been, but a long way off. Something cold and soft was falling on her. A moment later she found that she was standing in the middle of a wood at night-time with snow under her feet and snowflakes falling through the air.”
It would be easy to apply a Freudian interpretation to her arrival, likening it to birth. However, writer Lev Grossman notes in the essay “ Confronting Reality by Reading Fantasy,”
“The portal in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe becomes a magnificent metaphor for reading itself. When she opens the doors to the wardrobe, it’s like Lucy’s opening the covers of a book and passing through it to somewhere else—which is just the same experience you’re having at the moment you’re reading the passage. You’re watching Lucy do the same thing you are, just in a way that’s dramatized and transfigured… the wardrobe’s doors open like a book, ushering Lucy—and the reader—into a new imaginative realm of imagination. That’s the kind of writer I aspire to be: one that helps the reader make that seamless passage, from the real world to the land of fantasy, from real life to the realm of reading. ”
Much like the mysterious wardrobe, appearances in Narnia are deceiving. While Lucy may appear to stumble upon Narnia by accident, she, and her older brothers and sisters are actually called into Narnia for a much greater purpose, making their journey something closer to a quest. Joseph Campbell once observed that while the heroes calling may seem like a blunder it is actually a tugging at a much deeper longing within. This is one of the things that in its way made the Narnia books so different from many of the children’s fantasy books that came before.
Further, as author Kelly McClymer notes in “Serious Action Figures: Girl Power in the Chronicles of Narnia” from the book Into The Wardrobe,
“ …Lewis’s girls were cast in the hero role, not a supporting role. These girls didn’t stand to the side and watch while waiting to be rescued as Wendy did in Peter Pan, or as girls did in so many other books…Or worse, dress as and pretend to be men in order to fight the good fight, as Eowyn in Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings had to do. No, Lewis’s girls walked through wardrobes into other worlds, grabbed glowing rings, and jumped into pools or paintings that took them someplace exciting and adventurous and potentially dangerous.”
Not only does Lucy physically travel into another world, she makes first contact with another race. Barely in this fantastic world for five seconds, and Lucy quickly makes contact with one of the residents of this world, the faun Mr. Tumnus. Naturally both of them are startled by the other and she isn’t too sure about traveling with the faun. However, when he mentions tea and sardines she reluctantly accepts his invitation to visit him.
It is during this first meeting we see some of the other hints at Lucy’s character. Devastated by what he is about to do, Tumnus confesses that he is under the employ of the White Witch and tasked by her to capture any young human who enters Narnia. It is a task, that upon meeting Lucy he can no longer perform and of which he begs her forgiveness. Lucy is more than willing to forgive him, and begs the faun to help her escape upon hearing of her tyranny.
Stumbling out of the doorway, she returns home to tell her the news of Narnia. Lucy, like the women at the tomb of Jesus in the gospels, urges her siblings to come and see for themselves. To this end, Lucy is not only the first to cross the threshold of the Wardrobe, but she also functions in many ways as the messenger, bringing news of this strange and snowy world. When she and her siblings finally do enter Narnia, the Witch’s spell begins to break, and soon after Father Christmas finally comes to Narnia for the first time in centuries. The long, cold dark nights are over and the light has finally come.
Whether it was a conscious choice, or a happy coincidence, it was a fitting choice on Lewis’s part to name his principal heroin Lucy. Her name, derived from the Latin word for “Bringer of light”, is shared by St. Lucy, or as she is known in some areas Santa Lucia, who has a winter feast in her honor on December the 13th, twelve days prior to the arrival of Christmas. Moreover St. Lucy is the patron saint of the blind. Throughout her adventures in Narnia, Lucy is the one to bring sight, specifically spiritual sight to her siblings. She is the first to enter Narnia in Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe, she is the first to see Aslan in Prince Caspian, and in Voyage of the “Dawn Treader” she is the one chosen by the dufflepods to go up and break the spell to make invisible things visible, later in that same story, she is the one in the Dark Isle to see the sign of the albatross.
Many have written of Narnia as an allegory, but that is only half of the story. For Narnia to be a true allegory there would have to be a strict one to one correlation with everything in Narnia with everything in the Bible. Rather Lewis described them as let us suppose stories and argued there were more loose parallels to a number of things in Scripture. Of her siblings, Lucy has at least three parallels. Like the women at the tomb of Jesus in the synoptic Gospels she returns with wondrous news that is met with skepticism, and later bares witness to the resurrected Aslan. Like the apostle John, she is immensely close not only to the land of Narnia, but to its ruler Aslan. Like the Apostle Philip in the Gospel of John when Nathanael meets his words with skepticism, she urges them to “come and see” for themselves and investigate her claims.
As Father Dwight Longnecker notes in the article “What Lucy Pevensie Saw in Narnia” from the National Catholic Register, from May 27th, 2008 ,
“Lucy, the youngest child, is also the most spiritual. What she sees is the important heart of the story…Lucy obeys, despite the fact that they do not believe in her visions, and ridicule her childlike trust and belief. Eventually the other four follow her, and come to the point where they too can see and love Aslan. Through her obedience and faith, Lucy leads the others home…As such, Lucy shows us that we all must “walk by faith and not by sight.”
Lewis would explore this theme of characters walking by faith and not by sight, not only in his Narnia series but in the his book Till We Have Faces, which is considered by many to be his greatest work of fiction. A retelling of the classic myth of Cupid and Psyche, the story sees Psyche trying to convince her sister Oreul of the existence of the palace she now shares with her husband, the god of Love. Oreul, like the other Pevensies does not believe her story, and is convinced that Psyche has gone mad.
“If it’s all my fancy, how do you think I have lived these many days? Do I look as if I’d fed on berries and slept under the sky? Are my arms wasted? Or my cheeks fallen in?”
However, while Oreul succeeds in later sowing seeds of doubt in Psyche’s mind that eventually lead to her expulsion and her long journey to return to her husband’s side, Lucy refuses to give up on her beliefs. As such this means she is forced to endure ridicule from her older brother Edmund who wastes no time teasing her and making her life miserable, asking if she found countries in other strange places. While Peter and Susan are nicer about it, they assume she was just imagining things, and try to pay it no mind, chalking it up to childish games. Lucy doesn’t even mention it much afterwards until one rainy day when they decided to play a game of hide and go seek.
Lucy, naturally heads right for the wardrobe and has another pleasant meeting with Tumnus, relieved to see that the Witch has not caught him. Heading back home, she discovers an unexpected surprise, her brother Edmund has made it into Narnia as well. Lucy is ecstatic, certain that they will believe her, only to have her brother break her heart by lying and saying they were only playing.
Under the professor’s advisement, they do not broach the subject and only end up going into the wardrobe on a rainy day when the housekeeper Mrs. MacReedy is conducting a tour of the house. With nowhere left to turn the children go into the spare room and step into the Wardrobe. Before they know it they are in Lucy’s magic world of Narnia. Here again lies another opportunity for Lucy to demonstrate the strength of her character.
As anyone with a sibling is sure to know, when the sibling is proven wrong and they are right the one in the right is sure to start gloating about how right they are. Lucy, however does not say anything to mock them, but forgives them. Later on in Prince Caspian, when the path the others chose to take turns out to be wrong, she suggests again the route Aslan told them to go in a very nonchalant manner, leaving Peter to say,
“Lu, you’re a hero…That’s the nearest you’ve got today to saying I told you so. Lets get on.”
Lucy is a kind hearted, loving, compassionate person, and as such she is then is in many ways an embodiment of what the Apostle Paul wrote in 1st Corinthains about what love was,
“ Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”
It is perhaps for his reason, that among the gifts she is given by Father Christmas, the one she receives is a cordial that has a magic healing elixir, extracted from the juice of the fire fruit. Lucy, and later Aslan, show that love is not some sappy, sentimental emotion that has been reduced to a greeting card sent out on February the 14th, but an action. Love has the ability to heal emotional wounds, and the forgiveness she offers so freely heals relationships.
This is not to say she is some shrinking violet. As Sarah Arthur notes in the book Walking Through The Wardrobe,
“Of course it’s no accident that the youngest child in the Pevensie family- the one who’s most curious and open and willing-is the first to get into the otherworld. And as a result of her simple faith, she’s not only disbelieved by the others, but she’s picked on for insisting it’s not just a game…she’s penalized for having a childlike attitude and loses the trust of those closest to her. Yet eventually, after their adventures have reached a peaceful conclusion, Lucy is called Queen Lucy the Valiant, apparently child like faith and perseverance are attitudes Aslan honors.”
This is something of which she needs to be reminded later during their adventures in Narnia during the events of Prince Caspian when she sees Aslan but no one else does. Outvoted and downhearted she agrees to follow the lead of Peter, Susan and Trumpkin. Later, when she sees him again she gets to spend a few moments resting with him and speaking with the Great Lion.
They cannot tarry long as there is much work to do. Lucy initially wishes to blame the others, but a growl from Aslan silences her. In fact Aslan says nothing through most of their discussion, but coaxes Lucy to realizing the error of her own ways, and that she should have come on her own, even if the others would not listen. As she admits to him.
“But it wasn’t my fault any way, was it?… Oh, Aslan…you don’t mean it was? How could I-I couldn’t have left the others and come up to you alone, how could I? Don’t look at me like that …oh well, I suppose I could. Yes, and it wouldn’t have been all alone, I know, not if I was with you. But what would have been the good?… You mean.. that it would have turned out alright-somehow?”
Aslan tells her nothing of what might have been but instead, gives her a second chance. Lucy tells him she wishes she were brave enough to face the challenge, to which Aslan breaths upon her, and dubs her a lioness and gives her the courage to do the task he gave her. It is her faith in Him that makes her so strong, so much so that in a brilliant scene in the 2008 adaptation of Prince Caspian she steps out on a bridge armed only with a dagger as the Telmarines approach. She doesn’t panic or show them fear, but draws her weapon and shrugs as a smile crosses her face and Aslan walks up. Lucy knows that like David fighting the giant Goliath with only a rock and a sling, she doesn’t need an army to win the war with Aslan by her side.
However, it takes more than faith and perseverance to make someone “valiant”. In fact along with sticking by her convictions in both Lion, and later in Caspian when the others don’t believe her, she is always willing to do the right thing. Even if the “right thing” includes fighting in a great battle or facing unknown dangers in a strange land in hopes of saving a friend from a wicked tyrant. CS Lewis scholar Devin Brown notes further of Lucy’s royal title in the book Inside Narnia.
“For all her sweetness and light, in the face of difficulty and danger Lucy is also very brave. When she is queen of Narnia, the name by which she will be known is not “Lucy the Sweet”, or “Lucy the Compassionate”, but “Lucy the Valiant.””
When Father Christmas gives her a dagger along with the cordial and tells her he doesn’t mean for her to fight, she tells him that she thinks she can be brave enough to face that horror. Later, in the book the Horse and His Boy she not only fights in a major battle, but she is described as being one of the best archers in Narnia.
Perhaps the one moment where she shows the greatest amount of courage, is when she arrives in Narnia with all three of her siblings in tow in The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe. Overjoyed to be back in her beloved country with her family, and glad that they finally believe her, she insists on taking them to meet her good friend Mr. Tumnus.
Hoping her friend evaded capture, they headed to his house only to find it ransacked and her friend arrested . Susan wasn’t sure about staying but Lucy sees otherwise. Without a second thought she tells them,
“Oh, but we can’t, we can’t…don’t you see? We can’t just go home, not after this. It is all on my account that the poor Faun got into this trouble. He hid me from the Witch and showed me the way back. That’s what it means by comforting the Queen’s enemies and fraternizing with Humans. We simply must try to rescue him.”
To this end, because of her willingness to not only fight for her beloved land of Narnia, but to try to save someone she loves, and stand up for her beliefs, Lucy is in many ways a precursor for other young female heroines in fantasy films and fiction who would follow, including Meg Murray in A Wrinkle in Time, Hermione Granger in the Harry Potter series, and Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games. In Alanis Morrisette’s song Wunderkind from the film The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, she even compares Lucy to Joan of Arc.
However, it should be noted, that despite her sterling reputation, Lucy is far from a perfect Pollyanna. She has more than her share of faults, one of the biggest coming into playa as she grows older in Voyage of the ‘Dawn Treader’. While Lucy and Edmund get another trip to Narnia, along with their cousin, Susan gets to visit America, as her parents think she will enjoy it more, and she’s been described as being the “beauty of the family.”
For anyone who has an older sibling, or even a cousin, dangerous games of comparison will inevitably arise. As such Lucy is tempted when looking in the book of the magician Coriakin to use a spell that will make her more beautiful beyond all comparison. She sees images of just what may happen, including all kingdoms of Narnia going to war over her as she becomes their equivalent of Helen of Troy and then returning to her own world and everyone forgetting Susan. Lucy actually succumbs to temptation and is just about to say the spell when all of a sudden something happens. The image of Aslan appears in the center of the book, and startles her so much that she becomes afraid and turns the page.
However, the next page is an even bigger snare for Lucy. She is able to sneak a peek back to England and is able to overhear a girl she thought was her best friend talking to another girl at school. The older girl speaks horribly of Lucy, and to Lucy’s horror her friend says she never liked her at all, and was actually sick of her.
Angered, Lucy resolves to cut ties to that friendship once she returns home and considers seeing what the rest of her friends think. It takes a great deal of effort and self control for her to turn the page but she manages and presses forward, past a beautiful story she wishes she could remember until she at last comes to the spell she came to find, one to make the invisible things visible.
As the spells came from Aslan they happen to not only make the Dufflepods and the wizard Coriakin visible, but Aslan himself. When The Lion rebukes her for eavesdropping, Lucy tries to deny it, claiming it was by magic, only for Aslan to inform her it was spying either way, and tells her that her friend was weak and did not mean the things she said about Lucy.
It may seems strange that Aslan directly intervenes when she is about to say the spell to make herself beautiful, but not the eavesdropping. However, the beauty spell would have had dire consequences for both Narnia and Earth, making her someone almost like Jadis. Eavesdropping only hurt Lucy herself, and as such the consequences only affect her and she must live with them. In this case, she will have to struggle with the doubt and uncertainty in her friendship that she reaped for herself.
As she admits,
“Oh, dear… have I spoiled everything? Do you mean we would have gone on being friends if it hadn’t been for this- and been really great friends-all our lives perhaps-and now we never shall?”
She is reminded again that she can never know what could have been, and the choice for what will be is left up to her. Lucy, repentant for what she had done, asks Aslan if she will ever be able to remember the story she had read. It had been so beautiful and so refreshing and it had helped restore her soul. So much so that later on when she described any other story she encountered as “good” it was always in comparison to that one. As Lucy learns at the end of Voyage, that had been the reason she and her siblings had been brought into Narnia. Not just to free it from the witch, but for spiritual growth and transformation. To learn to cope with their flaws, weaknesses and insecurities overcome temptation and learn about faith, courage, obedience and love.
Aslan told her he would tell it to her many times in her life. This then reveals not only the magic of Narnia to the young heroes and heroines, but to the readers who encounter this land. There is a wondrous world not only of adventure hidden in that wardrobe, but a land of renewal and growth. All we need to do is follow Lucy as she says to her siblings in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe,
“It’s –it’s a magic wardrobe. There’ a wood inside it, and it’s snowing, and there’s a faun and a witch and it’s called Narnia; come and see…Now! Go in and see for yourselves.”
1st Corinthians. NIV Study Bible. 1985. Zondervan .Grand Rapids, MI.
FILM: Adamson, Andrew (Dir.)The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe. Starring Georgie Henley, Skander Keynes, William Mosely, Anna Popplewell, James MacAvoy, Tilda Swinton, Ray Winston, and Liam Neeson. Ann Peacock,
Andrew Adamson, Christopher Markus, and Stephen McFeely ( writers). 2005. Walden Media/Walt Disney.
FILM: ” ” The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian. Starring Georgie Henley, Skander Keynes, William Mosely, Anna Popplewell, Ben Barnes, Eddie Izard, Peter Dinklage, Sergio Castellitto, and Liam Neeson. Andrew Adamson, Christopher Markus, and Stephen McFeely ( writers). 2008. Walden Media/Walt Disney.
FILM: Apted, Michael ( Dir.) The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. Starring Georgie Henley, Skander Keynes, Will Poulter, Simon Pegg, Ben Barnes, William Mosely, Anna Popplewell, and Liam Neeson. Andrew Adamson, Christopher Markus, and Stephen McFeely ( writers). 2010. Walden Media/Walt Disney.
Arthur, Sarah. Walking Through The Wardrobe.pgs. 5-6. 2005. Thirsty? A Division of Tyndale House Publishers .Wheaton, Il.
Brown, Devin. Inside Narnia.pg. 98. 2005. Baker Books. Grand Rapids, MI.
Farndale, Nigel. “ I was sure that children didn’t want to be told that this old lady was Lucy.”The Telegraph. Dec. 11, 2005. Last Acessed Dec. 10, 2015.
Grossman, Lev. “ Confronting Reality by Reading Fantasy.”The Atlantic. Aug. 5, 2014. Archvied. Last Accessed Dec. 10, 2015.
Lewis, CS. Till We Have Faces: A Myth Retold. Pg.123. 1984. Harcourt Brace. New York, NY.
Lewis, CS. The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.pgs. iii,6,22,60. 1978.Harper Collins. New York, NY.
Lewis, CS. The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian. Pgs. 152-153. 1978.Harper Collins. New York, NY.
1978.Harper Collins. New York, NY.
Lewis, CS. The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Trader. Pg. 173. 1978.Harper Collins. New York, NY.
Longnecker, Fr. Dwight. “What Lucy Pevensie Saw in Narnia” National Catholic Register. May 27th, 2008. Last Accessed Dec. 10, 2015.
McClymer, Kelly “Serious Action Figures: Girl Power in the Chronicles of Narnia” Through The Wardrobe. pg. 97. 2008.Teen Libris. Dallas, TX.
Prest, David. “Evacuees in World War Two- The True Story” The BBC. Dec. 17, 2011. Archived. Last Accessed Dec. 10, 2015.
2005 Walden Media/Walden Media.
This Blog is not authorized, endorsed, or approved by any entities involved the creation, development, distribution or ownership of the Chronicles of Narnia franchise. The views and opinions contained in this blog reflect those of the author and do not represent the views or ownership of in the the CS Lewis Estate, Harper Collins, Walden Media, Walt Disney Studios, 20th Century Fox and any other parties involved in the creation or ownership of the books and films.