Modern Fantasy – The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe
Modern fantasy is a genre that originated from traditional fantasy. As with traditional fantasy, modern fantasy novels are distinguished by story elements that contradict the natural physical laws of our known world. However, modern fantasy does have elements that differentiate it from traditional fantasy. Modern fantasy novels are always associated with an author; settings are detailed and important to the plot and characters grow and change throughout the story. There are also many commonly used themes, motifs and story occurrences in modern fantasy compositions. The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis uses many of these. It is an example of a modern fantasy novel, as the characters, setting and storyline match the criteria for the modern fantasy genre perfectly.
There are many motifs and common storyline occurrences associated with the modern fantasy genre. Magic, other worlds, good versus evil, heroism, fantastic creatures and fantastic objects are the basic modern fantasy motifs, and are all used in The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe. Narnia is the magical other world, home to the fantastic creatures and objects, in which the Pevensies and the White Witch take the form of good versus evil. All modern fantasy compositions are through the eyes of the hero/s, and the generic storyline goes as follows.
Firstly, the hero/s are called to adventure by some sort of herald. In The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, this herald is Mr. Tumnus the faun, whose arrest by the White Witch leads the four children into their adventure. Another common event which occurs in modern fantasy books involves the hero/s crossing into another world or place that is no longer safe or secure. In The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe the wardrobe is the gateway to Narnia, through which the Pevensies make the crossover to an unknown, unsafe world. The hero/s must then survive physical and emotional trials in this unknown world, and a main quest becomes evident leading to ultimate character development and physical survival.
In The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, the main quest is to save Narnia from the White Witch’s ruling. When quests are accomplished in modern fantasy, the hero matures and becomes a whole person. This is evident in The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe especially in the case of Edmund, who at the beginning of the novel is quite insecure and lacks common sense.
By the end of the novel he is a more rounded character; he has learned a great deal and has formed a better relationship with his siblings. All four of the children in The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe are typical hero characters. They doubt themselves at the start but grow and develop throughout the story. This development shapes the plot because the White Witch would not have been defeated if not for the strong, whole characters that the Pevensies had become by the end of the novel.
This is true for not only The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, but other modern fantasy novels too. Aslan the lion fits the role of another typical modern fantasy character: the guide, leader and protective figure. Older, wiser and more powerful than the children, Aslan protects them in addition to acting as a mentor. He teaches and trains them, helping them to develop and gain strength emotionally and physically. The talking animals in general – the beavers and the wolves – are another very significant feature of the modern fantasy genre. Narnia’s main population in The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe is talking animals, in addition to mythical creatures such as Mr. Tumnus the faun and the centaurs which are also commonly seen in modern fantasies.
The fantastical setting of Narnia, a magical world, demonstrates again that the The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe is a modern fantasy novel. Very detailed, almost believable settings are regularly used in modern fantasies, as they are often a very important element of the story. Narnia is key to the plot of The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, as it is the setting for the majority of the novel, and nearly all important events and character developments occur there.
Similarly, the crossover between Narnia and the real world is a very common trait of this genre. Crossovers between two separate worlds are also seen in other popular modern fantasy compositions such as Harry Potter and The Wizard of Oz. Often these new worlds are less safe or secure as the previous one. This is quite clear in The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe – on arrival to Narnia the children are almost immediately under threat from the White Witch and the wolves. At the end of adventures in modern fantasies characters return home – just as the Pevensies tumble back out of the wardrobe and into the real world.
The modern fantasy novel The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe utilises elements which make this genre unique. Essentially, the modern fantasy genre borrows from the tales of traditional fantasy ancient mythologies and folktales to create new and original stories. Primarily this genre is concerned with connecting readers through the use of detailed, relevant settings and strong character developments.
These elements are shown all throughout The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe. It also uses the fantasy elements of magic and myths and loosely follows a storyline involving the hero’s journey. The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe is a classic book within the modern fantasy genre.