The First Child to Read “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe”

Lucy Barfield, goddaughter of C.S. Lewis, was born on this day in 1935. Readers of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe will recognize her name from the book’s opening dedication:

My Dear Lucy,

I wrote this story for you, but when I began it I had not realized that girls grow quicker than books. As a result, you are already too old for fairy tales, and by the time it is printed and bound you will be older still. But some day you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again. You can then take it down from some upper shelf, dust it, and tell me what you think of it. I shall probably be too deaf to hear, and too old to understand a word you say but I shall still be,

your affectionate Godfather,
C. S. Lewis

Lewis sent the above letter to Lucy–along with a completed manuscript of the book–over a year before publication. She was 13 at the time. Years later, while battling multiple sclerosis, Lucy said:

What I could not do for myself the dedication did for me. My Godfather gave me a greater gift than I had imagined.

Lucy Barfield (OwenBarfield.com)

Walter Hooper reported that Lucy told him, “What a wonderful oasis of pleasure I have in this pretty terrible world, being recognised as Lucy.”

Lucy was the daughter of Owen Barfield, a member of The Inklings who played a significant role in Lewis’s conversion to Christianity.

During her final years, when she was unable to move or speak, Lucy liked to listen to her younger brother Geoffrey read the Narnia books (The Voyage of the Dawn Treader is dedicated to Geoffrey). She passed away in 2003 at the age of 67.

7 Responses

  1. Courtenay says:

    I remember right from when I first encountered The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe at the age of 5, being intrigued by the fact that it was dedicated to a real girl called Lucy. That’s wonderful to hear how much the book and her godfather’s dedication meant to her! I’ve always taken Lewis’s words very much to heart and I’m glad to know they were true for the real Lucy too: “Some day you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again.”

    • Cleander says:

      Happy Birthday Lucy!
      I never realized that she was the first person to read the book. I guess I’d always thought that the dedication’s whole statement about her “being to old to read fairy tales” precluded that.

    • Geekicheep says:

      Yes, it truly is cool to hear it was as special to her as Lewis probably hoped it would be. I’ve read that dedication a few times, and wondered about this Lucy Barfield. This is the first I’ve ever heard of a response from her about the book. Thanks for sharing. 🙂

  2. Thanks for remembering Lucy on her birthday. She would have been 84, so it is particularly meaningful that you have reminded us of her today. Thank you.

    Owen A. Barfield

    • Coracle says:

      Owen, it’s an honour to have you join us on Narniaweb.
      I join many others in being grateful to Lucy’s father for his influence on Jack Lewis in his coming to Christian faith, and then helping so many others to do the same.
      Blessings on the Barfield family!

      I was a 13 year old who read a few chapters and knew she was too old. I returned to try again at 18.

  3. The Rose-Tree Dryad says:

    It’s wonderful to be able to learn more about Lucy on her birthday! I am so glad that Lewis’s dedication brought her comfort and joy during her life. 🙂

  4. Larry W. says:

    It was wonderful that Lucy Barfield could preview the story before it was published and have someone read it again to her many years later. Thanks for remembering Lucy on her birthday! 🙂

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