Tuesday, May 27, 2008

The Lion, the Witch, and the Borrowed Wardrobe

Where did C.S. Lewis get his idea to use a wardrobe as a portal to the world of Narnia? It's likely that Lewis read the story "The Aunt and Amabel" by Edith Nesbit late in 1908, when he was 10.

Some 40 years later, Lewis must have subconsciously remembered Nesbit's story, which features an 8-year-old girl, Amabel, who magically travels through a wardrobe to an enchanted railway station. The station is named, "Bigwardrobeinspareroom." In Lewis's 1950 book The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, Lucy, who also happens to be 8 in that book, also travels through a magical wardrobe, later confusing the faun Tumnus with the words "spare room," which he interprets as a location known as Spare Oom.

According to Journey Into Narnia by the late Lewis-scholar Kathryn Lindskoog, Lewis's friend Roger Lancelyn Green noticed the connection between Lewis's story and Nesbit's. Lewis probably decided to leave it in as an homage to a writer he enjoyed in childhood.

Incidentally, Lewis and his brother Warren owned a wardrobe, hand-carved by their grandfather (see accompanying photograph). This wardrobe is now on display at the Wade Center at Wheaton College. All attempts to travel to Narnia via this wardrobe have failed, thus adding credibility to Professor Kirke's words near the end of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe: "You won't get into Narnia again by that route."

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