Although C.S. Lewis’s works are fantastical, rather than autobiographical, he manages to slip a little bit of his personality, belief and experience into each of his characters. In The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, these bits of Lewis’s life are particularly evident. Perhaps the first glimpse we see of Lewis in The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe is in the beginning, where the four children protagonists are sent away to a professor’s house while their father is at war. Here, we see Lewis’s experiences at three different stages of his life.
When Lewis was young, he and his brother were sent away to and old houses, with twists and turns and tunnels. Meanwhile, when he was a little older, Lewis served in the military. Therefore, he knew what war was about. Indeed, Lewis fought on the front lines when he was only nineteen. While the real war does not come into the story much in The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe, Lewis does reference it. Later on, Lewis shows knowledge of warfare and heroism during the battle between Aslan’s people and the White Witch. Finally, Lewis himself was a professor, and it is easy to see how the funny looking professor might well be him. The professor does not seem to have any children of his own. He is, in that regard, very much like Lewis (Ford).
Lewis remained a bachelor until he was past 50 and was criticized for being a children’s author without any children. Both he and his professor, however, seem to have a great affection for children, in spite of this fact. Professor Kirke, for instance, believes Lucy even when her own Siblings do not. He instructs Peter and Susan to believe her, even though her story of entering a new world through a wardrobe is hard for them to trust in. His patience and kindness toward Lucy is unmistakable. Lewis had a similar approach to dealing with children.
Rather than pushing his own ideas onto them, he made concepts interesting, but encouraged them to think for themselves. For instance, one little girl wrote to Lewis, asking him what Aslan’s other name in our world was. Instead of simply saying what the name was, Lewis told the girl, “Well, I’d like you to guess.” He then listed the traits the other Aslan had and asked if she didn’t already know Aslan’s other name. Professor Kirke’s kindness is really much like Lewis’s own. Indeed, according to one of his students, John Lawlor, “the kindest of men.” (Watson)
Lewis manages to slip himself into each of his characters individually, as well. Lucy, for instance, is imaginative and adventurous. Like Lewis, she loves animals. This similarity is evinced by Lucy’s excitement over the idea of seeing badgers and Lewis’s donning of the name “Jacksie” after his Dog, who first bore it, was run over. Lucy is also very concerned about the well-being of others, just as Lewis is.
Lewis devoted much of his life to trying to help win over the hearts of those he saw as slaves to sin. Lucy, similarly, devotes her time to caring for others. She stays with Aslan when he dies, cares for her brothers, even when they’ve wronged her. Is kind and forgiving, even when she does not have to be, and is always courageous and kind to all. Indeed, Aslan, fittingly, gives her a healing cordial to help the wounded in the battle with the White Witch.
While we see much of Lewis’s good side in Lucy, we see some of Lewis’s flaws in the character of Edmund. Though, to be sure, we see some of Lewis’s most favorable traits in Edmund’s character as well. For instance, in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Edmund turns his back on his sibling. He is motivated in part, by the love of Turkish delight and in part by the desire to be in a higher position than his brothers and sisters. He believes some of the lies of the White Witch – but not entirely. Edmund is motivated more by anger, bitterness, vanity and guilt than he is by true belief. Lewis was also motivated by bitterness and perhaps vanity when he became an atheist. His mother died of cancer when he was only ten. It took less than five years for Lewis to lose faith in Christianity (Kooistra).
We can also see a little bit of Lewis in Edmund’s conversion. When the Beavers first begin to talk about Aslan, Edmund’s heart is full of dread, because he is on the wrong side. While he is on the side of the White Witch, Edmund draws a mustache on a stone lion and cruelly pokes fun at him. When he changes, he is ashamed of his actions. Lewis, himself, experimented with the sort of things that Christians find sinful. He admitted to having experimented with sex at an early age, out of bitterness and defiance. Edmund’s shame, then, is a little like Lewis’s own (Kooistra).
Yet the conversion of both is genuine. C.S. Lewis went on to become one of the staunchest Christian apologists in his day. Indeed, many Christians still quote Lewis today. Edmund, meanwhile, comes to regret his actions as he begins to understand the nature of the White Witch.
He eventually comes to Aslan to repent, and helps the lion battle the enemy, when he can. Aslan dies in place of Edmund, when the White Witch claims him, just as Lewis must have seen that Christ died for him. On a lighter note, Edmund is also like Lewis, in that he has an older brother who he explores with. Edmund and Peter (along with the girls), enthusiastically explore Professor Kirke’s house together and their shared love of adventure was the same sort of love Lewis and his brother warren shared.
Lewis can be seen in his non-human characters as well. Mr. Tumnus, in particular, is much like Lewis. Tumnus, like Lewis, is interested, very much, in mythology. While Tumnus’s myths detail theories about man, and Lewis’s meanwhile, speak of creatures of fantasy, they have in common the love of folklore. Tumnus also enjoys a pipe, much like Lewis himself.
And, just as Edmund converted, so did Mr. Tumnus, though Tumnus’s change is much quicker than either Edmund’s or Lewis’s own. Tumnus and Lewis also share a love of the past. Tumnus speaks fondly of his father and his father’s books; meanwhile, Lewis himself wrote an essay entitled, “On the Reading of Old Books.” History, then, clearly, is a shared love between the two (Goode). Those who did not have a chance to meet Lewis, therefore, while he lived, may meet him a little bit, through his novels.
Ford, Paul F. Companion to Narnia. New York : Harper Collins Publishers, 1994`.
Goode, Stephen. “Down to Earth C.S. Lewis.” Insight on the News 29 May 2000: 4.
Kooistra, Jeffery D. “For C.S. Lewis on his 101st birthday.” Analog Science Fiction & Fact 1999: 78-80.
Watson, Thomas R. “Lewis Memories and Reflections / Branches to Heaven: The Geniuses of C. S. Lewis.” The Review of Politics Winter 2000: 179-184.