The original and best-known volume of C.S. Lewis’s The Chronicles of Narnia, Lion was published in 1950 and features elements of Norse and Greek mythology and allusions to Christianity and Nazi Germany.
In the story, four young siblings are evacuated from wartime London to live with an eccentric professor in the country. Playing hide and seek one day, they discover a large Victorian wardrobe which serves as a portal into a fantasy land called Narnia, held in the icy grip of a perpetual winter by the evil White Witch. The Witch captures one of the children, whose life is ultimately spared when Aslan the Lion – Narnia’s true ruler – sacrifices his own. In a clear Biblical allegory, Aslan rises from the dead to defeat the Witch and free all her prisoners. The children ascend to the throne in her place and grow to be adults. One day, they accidentally tumble back into the real world and emerge through the wardrobe as children once again.
Initially, the book met with neither popular nor critical success. Amid the stoicism and austerity of post-war Britain, fantastical or ‘fairy’ stories were considered indulgent, Victorian, unrealistic and even damaging to children. This state of affairs did not last and the book is now an undisputed classic, appearing in TIME’s 100 Best English Language Novels 1923-2005.