Through the Portal

Portal Fantasy: A subgenre of fantasy literature where inhabitants from our world enter a secondary one through a magical portal door or gate, or in some cases a magical object like a tree or mirror. Usually used in children’s fantasy but not always.

The portal trope is a particularly robust one in speculative literature. Its progenitors are the rabbit hole and mirror of Alice in Wonderland and Alice Through the Looking Glass, but it also includes horror (Weaveworld and Imagica, by Clive Barker) science fiction (the TV series Land of the Lost, where a family enters an interdimensional pocket during an earthquake) historical romance (Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series) epic fantasy (The Fionavar Tapestry)  and, of course, Narnia, where initial access comes through a wardrobe, the kind used for the storage of clothing in houses that didn’t have closets.

I myself always picture the wardrobe as being very plain, like this.

Narnia wardrobe

It’s in a plain room, and six feet from it, to the right (out of the range of the photo) is the doorway which the tour guide and party comes through, causing the Pevensie kids to take refuge. It’s an iconic image, that of discovering another land in so workaday an object.

Other artists have their interpretations.

A Brief Guide to C. S. Lewis and Narnia

This book cover fancies up the wardrobe with a carved top — including a lion’s head — and the fur coats and winter snow that play a role in the first part of the story.

In this one, most likely made after the 2005 movie by its depiction of Mr. Tumnus, Lucy opens the heavy oak doors to see only coats, but Narnia is blooming all around it, out of her sight, with elements of the story.

This piece of concept art from the movie sets down the elements for its depiction: small child Lucy and a massive, ornately carved Victorian wardrobe, from which she first removes the sheet draping it. It’s a double unveiling. Its location in a small, plain, dead-end room literally screams “Open me! I am magical!” But I always thought the wardrobe’s appeal came from it looking so ordinary, in an ordinary location, yet containing a universe.

This depiction by ArdenRey depicts the despair of a child trying to enter, or re-enter, Narnia, but being stymied by the back wall. The wardrobe cooperates only when Aslan wants it to.

In this depiction by Sarara182  Lucy is now a young teen wearing a filmy dress. She seems about to explore her budding sexuality. The doors of this wardrobe are carved with a tree, bringing to mind the door to the Mines of Moria in The Fellowship of the Ring.

Of course, it’s very possible to make your own magic portal. All you need is an old wardrobe with the back cut out and an already-existing opening., purveyer of secret and hidden doors, presents all the possibilities. This builder added a Christmas tree and lampost to the white-carpeted space beyond.

Also within the realm of possibilities is this Lego wardrobe with Mr. Tumnus, Lucy, and a snowy landscape beyond.

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