Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy Pevensie are four siblings who have been sent to the country to escape the air raids of World War II. They stay with Professor Kirke, an eccentric but kind old man, who resides in a house filled with twists, turns, and surprises. On their first day in the country it rains, so the Pevensies decide to explore the house. As they explore, they discover a spare room that is completely empty except for a large wardrobe. Peter, Susan, and Edmund leave the room, but Lucy stays behind to look inside the wardrobe. Surprised when the wardrobe door opens, Lucy steps inside the enormous closet to find a snowy wood at the back of it. Intrigued, she explores the wood, knowing that the safe wardrobe is still behind her. Eventually she meets a faun, a creature that is half goat and half man. The faun is carrying an umbrella and several parcels. When it sees Lucy, it is so startled that it drops all of its packages.
After the faun recovers from the scare, it asks Lucy if she is a Daughter of Eve. Lucy does not understand this question, but she later realizes that the faun is asking whether Lucy is a human girl. Lucy replies that she is a girl, of course. The faun introduces himself as Tumnus, and asks Lucy how she has arrived in Narnia. Narnia, it turns out, is the name of this strange land that Lucy has entered. Lucy is confused and replies that she has come in through the wardrobe in the spare room. Tumnus misunderstands this, and thinks that Lucy comes from a city called War Drobe and a country called Spare Oom. Tumnus invites Lucy to his home for tea. Lucy agrees, on the condition that she does not stay for a long time, and they travel the path to Tumnus's house.
Lucy has a delightful tea with Tumnus. Tumnus serves wonderful food and then plays beautiful music for her on a little flute. Finally Lucy shakes herself out of her reverie, or dream, and announces that she must go home. The faun sorrowfully tells her that she cannot go home. When Lucy asks why, the faun bursts into tears. Lucy comforts him as best she can, and Tumnus tells her that he is crying from guilt. He is a servant of the White Witch, the horrible ruler of Narnia, who has cast a spell over the land so that it is always winter and never Christmas. He has been enlisted to catch any humans he can find and bring them to her. Tumnus does not say what the witch will do with the humans, but we can assume that they will be killed. Lucy begs Tumnus to release her, and he agrees, saying that he had never met a human before and did not know what they were like. Tumnus walks Lucy back to the lamppost at the border between Narnia and the wardrobe door, and they say farewell.
The first chapter of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe focuses on the character development of the four children. Lewis uses carefully selected words to illustrate the children's personalities, rather than giving the reader long, tedious descriptions of each child. In one exchange between the children, Lewis establishes the character of each child. For example, when Peter is discussing the wonders of nature that he expects to encounter in the mountains surrounding Professor Kirke's house, he says, "'Did you see those mountains as we came along? And the woods? There might be eagles. There might be stags. There'll be hawks.' 'Badgers!' said Lucy. 'Foxes!' said Edmund. 'Rabbits!' said Susan." At first glance, this is a rather unremarkable exchange. In the context of the entire novel, however, this exchange is a powerful prediction of each child's personalities. The children are each excited about a different animal near the house and the animal they choose is indicative of his or her personality. Peter thinks of hawks, which are noble, strong birds. Lucy thinks of badgers, generally perceived as faithful, friendly hardworkers. Edmund thinks of foxes, which are sly and not wholly trustworthy. Susan thinks of rabbits, which are shy, sweet animals. These descriptions could apply equally well to each child, respectively. Lewis spends little time on the setting, background and character development. Instead, he chooses to concisely describe the children, and then illustrate their personalities through their actions in the book. Thus, Lewis begins to write the main adventure of the book in the first ten pages.
Chapter 2 introduces us to the faun Tumnus. Historically, the scene between Tumnus and Lucy in a snowy wood under an umbrella is the essence of the whole book. In writing this book, Lewis said that he had certain images in his head whose origin he could not explain. The picture of a faun and a young girl under a snow-covered umbrella had been with him since he was roughly sixteen. Lewis created stories or books based on these pictures. Although Tumnus will not develop to be a main character of the book, he is not exactly a minor character either. Tumnus, however, is important as he is at the core of Lewis's creativity.
The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, as we will discover as the book progresses, is a Christian allegory. It is therefore somewhat surprising that the book starts with a figure from Roman mythology—a faun. In fact, the whole land of Narnia is entirely populated with figures from ancient, pagan religions and legends, as well as talking animals. If Lewis had wanted to make a break with the traditions of our world, he could have easily invented his own creatures. Lewis is capable of doing this, as he does it in other works like Out of the Silent Planet, a science fiction novel in which he creates an ingenious series of species, based on Lewis's vision of Mars' inhabitants. That Lewis chooses to include characters and symbols based on pagan religions in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe is noteworthy, since the novel has a Christian basis. Lewis suggests that the pagan religions are not, as many devout Christians of his time would have believed, wholly evil or entirely reprehensible. The faun Tumnus is good and kind. He may begin in the service of the White Witch, but as soon as he understands the true nature of his duty, his inherent goodness and decency surface. In short, he should not be condemned automatically because his origins are a religion that is deemed as wrong. Rather, we can view other religions in harmony with Christianity, so long as those religions work toward the ultimate goals of kindness, friendship, and love. Using characters like Tumnus at once helps Lewis establish the novel's genre of traditional fantasy, while presenting the view that all religions strive for the basic ideals of charity and compassion.