An appreciation of Andrew Adamson’s "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe"

Diploma Thesis, 2007

35 Pages, Grade: 3,5




1. C. S. Lewis phenomenon
1.1. Recent fashion for the literary adaptations
1.2. C. S. Lewis’ life, thought and his growing popularity

2. The Chronicles of Narnia, Christian perspective and The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
2.1. The Chronicles of Narnia, origins and creation
2.2. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and Christian symbolism

3. Andrew Adamson's The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
3.1. Production of the movie in the eyes of the director, the cast and the crew
3.2. Adaptation of the movie in the eyes of critics and scholars


Works cited


The purpose of this paper is to analyse and to assess the movie adaptation of C. S. Lewis’s The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe directed by Andrew Adamson and produced by Walt Disney in collaboration with Walden Media.

In the following pages, a perspective of division into three parts will be proposed. The aim of such approach is to have a more accurate understanding of Lewis’s life, his literary legacy, with special attention to the Chronicles of Narnia series, and, finally, the production of the movie based on the Lewis’s children’s fantasy.

The first chapter, with subdivision into two separate sections, focuses on the recent popularity of motion picture particularly in the field of books’ adaptations. The subsequent section makes an attempt to study the life of Clive Staples Lewis and his literary heritage. With no doubt he was a prolific writer, and, what is more crucial to this paper, a convert to Christianity. Lewis’s own detailed descriptions in his biography and other scholars will give an opportunity to have his children’s series a proper light.

The second chapter, with two subsections, scrutinizes the immense legacy of Lewis’s literary achievements in the field of children’s literature. The attention is drawn to his fantasy narratives The Chronicles of Narnia, and mainly the initial volume The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. With the use of Lewis’s own essays and other scholarly studies by Lewis’s critics one can understand the series in a way that the author seems to have intended it to be seen.

The last chapter of this paper emphasizes, in the first section, the production of the movie from the perspective of the people directly and indirectly involved in the creation process. The second part examines various investigations and observation on the Andrew Adamson’s movie from the point of view of scholars, reviewers, and critics. For the sake of objectivity an attempt has been made to provide positive as well as negative reviews and comments about the film. In addition, one Polish essay on movie adaptation in general by a renowned Polish critic Stefan Chwin has been used with my own translation.

The main assumption in this paper is that only after analyzing the life of the author, then his works, finally, the movie based on his book, one can try to answer the question whether the film adaptation is appealing and also appreciate it to the fullest. Having paid attention to those three elements, one can avoid prejudiced judging of the film in, and recognize its potential as an interesting adaptation of a fantasy classic.

1. C. S. Lewis phenomenon

1.1. Recent fashion for the literary adaptations

When in the middle of the 15th century the fist book was printed by Johannes Guttenberg with the use of his printing press, the spread of the literary works on an unprecedented scale began. On both sides of the Atlantic Ocean, books began to gain more popularity and interest of people. Till the end of the 19th century books were unchallenged as a medium, widely accessible, rather cheap and increasingly covering new areas of entertainment and literary genres. Yet the end of the century brought a totally new device into existence, motion-picture. As described in the Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia under the reference “motion picture,” this new phenomenon quested an industry initially mostly focused on short films and presentations. As decades rolled by, the new medium become more popular and more versatile, though without impairing the strong position of the book. By the second half of the 20th century movie industry may be said to assist the books’ popularity by some on-screen adaptations of the written works. However, to some extent movies pushed books aside and encouraged people to seek the visual rather than imaginative pleasure.

The young generations of the 21st century no longer crave for new books, rush to the bookshops or even stand in lines for the new releases. They are more likely to sit in front of the TV, home computer or go to the nearest cinema to enjoy films. With the advent of visual culture no longer have the young people this mysterious longing for a wonderful journey they can get by reading a book. They would rather see the movie than read a book. One of the fears of our civilization has thus become a regressive illiteracy; a concern that visual media such as movies and computer games will develop so enormously that they will push books into near nonexistence. So far, though, both book and film were coexisted.

One result of these changes in the symbiosis of books and movies is a specific correlation between the book market and the movie industry. More and more emerging new films are based on well-known literary works. In children and young adult fiction, the best example is the Harry Potter series by J. R. Rowling with books and movies produced almost simultaneously. Rowling's cooperation with the movie industry is not always paradigmatic. First, the author released a book; when it became popular, she decided to write more, in the meantime filmmakers and producers decided to take advantage of the situation and make a movie based on the book. Thus, in a short time a potential reader could first read a book and then watch a movie. This procedure is now common, and Harry Potter, extremely successful as it is, is just one in the long line of books adopted for a silver screen since the first decades of the last century. In its modern mass rendering popularity of the motion picture may even cause the reverse result: either a renewed interest in the book or even a creation of a book based on the blockbuster theatrical hit. The latter was the case with series of books and comics written on the basis of the science-fiction-of-the-ages saga Star Wars directed by George Lucas. The other example is a novel written by N. H. Kleinbaum and based on gripping drama Dead Poet Society directed by Peter Weir.

A very recent trend in movie productions is adaptations of science fiction and fantasy classics. With powerful computers capable of recreating every possible situation movie producers turned to adaptations of such classics as J. R. R. Tolkien's fantasy trilogy The Lord of the Rings. The movie was not only a blockbuster on the silver screen, earning millions of dollars world-wide; it also contributed to the new reading wave of the original novels. This by-product was unexpected, but now, it seems, is well recognized and incorporated. The scenario reoccurred at Christmas 2005 with the release of C. S. Lewis's movie version of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. A great success world-wide, the movie based on the first part of The Chronicles of Narnia ensured that sequels will also be adopted. Now the second book Prince Caspian is in the process of production. According to Walt Disney Pictures and DreamWorks Animation, quoted by the web site, the initial release date for the sequel is May 16, 2008.

1.2. C. S. Lewis’ life, thought and his growing popularity

The life of a person considered the most prolific Christian writer and apologist of the last century starts in an ordinary way. Clave Staples Lewis was born on November 29, 1898 in Belfast, Ireland. He was the second son of Albert and Florence Lewis. His mother was a very intelligent woman, and the family tree was made up from a string of clergymen. Albert’s father was a self-made man, who had skills enough to write theological essays. After Lewis’s parents got married, they settled in a house outside Belfast where his father spent most of his career as a prosecuting solicitor in the police courts. Lewis was not an only child; he had an older brother Warren, with whom he shared the passion for books, hobbies and games. The difference between the boys was three years but that by no means was an issue for them. Interestingly, in his early years Lewis one day decided that he did not like his birth name, and wanted to be called “Jacksie,” which later was shortened to “Jack.” From now on, this was the name by which he was referred to by his family and friends.

Roughly around 1907 the Lewis family moved to an old house called “Little Lea.” This place, in the boys memory, was later associated with a number of good experiences. Since their father was very much immersed in his job and was paying little attention to the boys, they were left to themselves. The house was a huge edifice, and the corridors were running almost the full length of it. In the immense attic, the secret place, the boys could draw, play and read adventure book stories. These experiences came up in Lewis’s autobiographical book Surprised by Joy in which he describes himself as being the product of such places: “I am the product of long corridors, empty sunlit rooms, upstairs indoor silences, attics in solitude, distant noises of gurgling cisterns and pipes, and the noise of wind under the tiles” (10).

Arguably, some of that influence may be traceable in one of the books from the Narnia series, The Magician’s Nephew. Young Lewis's idyllic and tranquil life was, however, soon to be transformed by the upcoming changes. His brother Warren left to school. From now on Lewis was alone in the secret place and spent countless hours with the adventure stories such as Gulliver’s Travels, the Nesbit stories, and such masterpieces as John Milton’s Paradise Lost. The most shocking event was yet to happen. In the early 1908 his mother Flora was diagnosed by doctors with abdominal cancer. Soon after the operation she died on August 23, 1908. For Jack’s father Albert whose own father had died earlier that year, this was too much to bear, especially that ten days after his wife's death his brother Joseph passed away. All these events had an enormous influence on Albert and led him into a severe depression. Unable to cope with reality and filled with fear to raise his boy, Albert sent 10-year old Jack to join his brother in Wynyard School.

“It is clear that with my mother’s death,” Lewis admits in his autobiography, “all settled happiness, all that was tranquil and reliable, disappeared from [my] life” (Surprised by Joy 21). A totally new chapter in his life began, devoid of any joy and happiness, yet filled with harsh and challenging experience.

Terry Glaspey in his 2005 book C. S. Lewis His Life & Thought describes how dreadful for Lewis was the time in the new boarding school. The facility was yet not fully equipped and it was definitely unsanitary. The faculties, the headmaster in particular, were cruel and tyrannous. The educational methods were based mostly on memorizing materials with frequent punishments such as canning and other ways of humiliating the boys. As with the secret attic, Lewis’s experiences of early schooling can also be traced in the Chronicles. In The Silver Chair the protagonists are bullied and chased by their classmates, which for Lewis was not an uncommon experience. After many requests from young Jack, his father transferred him to Campbell College in Belfast and then, finally, to Cherbourg in Malvern. The situation improved and Jack found out that in the new school he could somehow survive. From that period comes one of the great friendships he established with a neighbor boy Arthur Greeves. Lewis was not a first-class student, but he was passionate about literature and poetry. At the same time, growing disappointment with his studies led him to plead his father to set up his education with William Kirkpatrick, Albert’s old tutor (Glaspey 11-13).

The new tutor that Jack was to study with had a greater impact on young Lewis and his future life of a Christian convert. William Kirkpatrick was an old man by that time, but still with a logical sense of thinking which, for the young student, was the most challenging from the first days of tutoring. Undoubtedly, as Glaspey claims, Kirkpatrick was the one who “taught Lewis the love for argument, intellectual disputation, the search for facts, and logical thinking” (14). On the other hand, the influence was visible in other areas as well. Since Kirkpatrick was an atheist, Lewis soon became one too. He believed in no religion whatsoever, considering it a misleading and false thing. As he wrote one day to his friend Arthur Greeves:

You ask me my religious view: you know, I think, that I believe in no religion. There is absolutely no proof for any of them, and from a philosophical standpoint Christianity is not even the best. All religions, that is all mythologies to give them their proper name, are merely man’s won invention. (qtd. in Glaspey 16)

Paradoxically and at the same time, the same harsh and disciplined old man equipped Lewis, then an atheist, with an ability to use logic in the defense of Christianity later. That happened many years later when Jack finally was converted. Very often on the weekly meetings he was the only one capable of using logic and argument to explain, defend and ultimately defeat the opponents of Christianity in the oral disputes.

In addition, Lewis’s literary works were strongly dependant on his intellectual mind, what can later be seen in his great cycle of books as Mere Christianity (1952),

The Screwtape Letters (1942), The Problem of Pain (1940), and many others.

Soon young Lewis was finally able to fulfill his longing and went to Oxford to broaden and pursue his studies. Unfortunately, barely had he had a chance to settle down when the World War I broke out. Feeling the sense of duty, accompanied by his friends, he went to war. His military service was not a long one however. Soon he was wounded and sent back to England. “If I had not been wounded when I was,” he wrote to his father from hospital, “I should have gone through a terrible time. Nearly all my friends in the Battalion are gone” (qtd. in Glaspey 20). Probably he was right; otherwise, no one would have had a chance to experience this wonderful Christian piece of writing that Lewis was meant to produce in the next 30 years.

While recovering in 1919 Lewis published an almost unnoticed set of his own religious poems under the title Spirits in Bondage. During that time he was more the supporter of the pantheism, rather than Christianity, yet not an atheist overall. Somehow, he still perceived God as a distant and an unreachable deity. “The trouble about God,” as he wrote to his friend Greeves in one letter, “is that He is like a person who never acknowledges one’s letter and so, in time, you come to the conclusion either He does not exist or that you have got the address wrong” (qtd. in Glaspey 21). Yet his whole point of view was soon to be changed and reshaped by a group of close friends.

Early 1930s brought Lewis the realization that Kirkpatrick’s philosophical realism was false, a point suggested to Lewis by Owen Barfield. So far in life Jack had been sure of the existence of the reality beyond the purely physical experience. Thus, when confronted with the doctrine of Barfield, he knew he had been in a terrible error. During that time, Lewis was also under the influence of another Christian, G. K. Chesterton, and his literary works. Those two factors rather added to Lewis’s confusion concerning God. Finally, there came a day he realized he must make a decision about God. It was one summer day in 1929 in his room in Magdalene College. “[I] gave in,” as Lewis describes it in his own diary, “and admitted that God was God, and knelt and prayed; perhaps that night, the most dejected and reluctant convert in all England” (qtd. in Glaspey).

Indeed, for many people it was a shocking and an unexpected event. However, Lewis was still left with one dilemma: the person of Jesus Christ and his sacrifice on the Cross. Ironically the aid came, as it happened before with Kirkpatrick, from a man who was rather a skeptic than a believer. T. D. Weldon, a doubter, according to Glaspey, concerning faith and religion issues, was able to believe only on the basis of some concrete evidence. Yet he was the one who one day puzzled Lewis with a statement, that the whole myth about death of Christ might actually happened and might be true (Glaspey 29). The final steps towards acceptance of Jesus’ sacrifice and death on the Cross Lewis took with the assistance of two other life-long friends, J. R. R. Tolkien and Hugo Dyson. The two devoted Christians ultimately confronted Lewis and helped him to realize that the story of Christ’s life and death must have been fact.

Late summer day September 28, 1931 was in mind of Warren Lewis and his friends a normal day. For Jack, the trip to the Zoo with them was remarkable. When he left home that morning, he was a skeptical but already a believer, when he returned in the evening he was a converted Christian who accepted the Gospel wholeheartedly. He describes this experience in his autobiography in the following way: “When we set out I did not believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and when we reached the zoo I did […] It was more like when a man, after long sleep, still lying motionless in bed, becomes aware that he is now awake” (Surprised by Joy 237).

Undeniably, that transformation was very powerful. Lewis concluded his former atheist state as being in a deep sleep and hibernation. His new life, in contrast, was to become extensively fruitful and abundant in the literary and educational field. Ex- accuser of the Christianity and religion now his focus shifted to the defense of it. From that point on, Lewis’s life was filled with the abundance of his literary apologetics and theology, fiction and poetry, literary criticism, autobiography, and later epistolary. His creative life became a stream of amazing books appearances, all enforced by his Christian convictions.

Lewis his Christian writing career begins with a book called The Pilgrim’s Regress: An Allegorical Apology for Christianity, Reason and Romanticism. The title bears resemblance to the great 17th book The Pilgrims Progress by John Bunyan. Indeed the book was Lewis’s attempt to produce a similar creation, yet it was not as widely read as Bunyan’s work to which it alluded. Jack’s unquestionable wit, logic and reason flourished later in the great apologetic trilogy The Problem of Pain (1940), Mere Christianity (1952) and Miracles (1947). It was in those books that he was able to make use his past experience form the studies with Kirkpatrick and much more. They were all very enthusiastically accepted by the public and all have continually to be popular and widely read ever since.

A glance at the creation story at any of those titles reveals that no all were written as a ready-to-read books about specific themes or topics. Mere Christianity, for example, was at first a set of radio talks and lectures given by Lewis for the BBC. It was due to these lectures that Lewis first became popular and widely acclaimed by the public as a Christian apologetic. His audience, it seems, appreciated that at last there was a man who not only could talk about Christianity and moral issues but was also able to do it is such a compelling way. George Sayer, in his book Jack, gives an account of an evening in a pub, when Lewis was about to give a radio lecture and everybody was eager to listen:

At a quarter to eight, the bartender turned the radio up for Lewis. ‘You listen to this bloke,’ he shouted. ‘He’s really worth listening to.’ And those soldiers did listen attentively for the entire fifteen minutes. (qtd. in Glaspey) During the Second World War Lewis enjoyed another literary success with his incredible short book The Screwtape Letters. Initially serialized in The Guardian in regular installments, his book was immediately notorious and soon the set of thirty-one letters was compiled into a volume. Ultimately, more than two million copies were sold, and it was translated into sixteen languages. The popularity of the creation lies, in part, in Lewis’s use of an ingenious concept, hardly exploited before: the Letters are meant to represent epistolary correspondence between an old master devil Screwtape and his apprentice Wormwood. The former, experienced in the art of temptation, is training and teaching the latter how to efficiently work with his human clients. With his humor, wit and fresh point of view Lewis is able to transmit in the letters a general Christian truth about God, devil, the nature of temptation, and the act of deception. Although its entertainment, the novel contains a number of serious observation on Christian truths. For example, in the preface Lewis puts a warning about two extremes humans can take in to the devil:

Here are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them. They themselves are equally pleased by both errors and hail a materialist or a magician with the same delight. (The Screwtape Letters 9)

When describing Lewis’s life and writings it is impossible to underestimate the Inklings. It was the group of men that met every week to read aloud their literary works, talk and discuss various issues. For them, however, the group was more than just a circle of friends meeting together for a tea and merely talking. It was more like a comradeship or a companionship with the aim to support and encourage one another. Among those men for the majority of time, there was Lewis, obviously, his brother Warren, J. R. R. Tolkien, Hugo Dyson, Owen Barfield, Charles Williams and few others.


Excerpt out of 35 pages


An appreciation of Andrew Adamson’s "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe"
The Karkonosze State Higher School in Jelenia Góra  (Kolegium Karkonoskie)
Foreign Languages - Fantasy Literature
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This paper is an attempt to discuss and analyse the movie adaptation of C. S. Lewis’s The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe directed by Andrew Adamson and produced by Walt Disney in collaboration with Walden Media. In the following pages, a perspective of division into three parts will be proposed. The aim of such approach is to have a more accurate understanding of Lewis’s life, his literary legacy, with special attention to the Chronicles of Narnia series, and, finally, the production of the movie based on the Lewis’s children’s fantasy.
Lewis, C.S.Lewis, Andrew Adamson, The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe
Quote paper
Kamil Borysiuk (Author), 2007, An appreciation of Andrew Adamson’s "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe", Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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