The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis
I’m still enjoying my first time reading The Chronicles of Narnia. With each one I’m simply amazed by how much solid theology Lewis packed into a children’s novel. There’s no doubt in my mind that I am going to use these books to help teach my kids about God.
Of course, I knew that The Chronicles are an elaborate allegory. And I’d been told that Aslan represented God. But more specifically, he represents Christ. I’m always skeptical about attempts to see “Christ figures” in many savior-characters. (Let’s get this straight: Yes, Christ was/is a Savior, but not every savior is Christ. Ok? Great. Moving on.) It’s good to be suspicious. No one and nothing could ever accurately portray the glory of Christ, but Jesus often used analogy to help readers get a better grasp of who he is. Pastors do it all the time. I think The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe was written in the same spirit.
I’m just going to assume that most people know the basic storyline, because I really want to write about the ways Aslan reflects the character of Christ.
1. He’s the obedient Son.
When the four human children are brought to meet Aslan, Lucy asks, “Is—is he a man?”
“Certainly not,” the Beaver says. “I tell you he is the King of the wood and the son of the great Emperor-Beyond-the-Sea.”
Aslan is not in Narnia by his own authority. He has been sent by the great Emperor and obeys him completely. When Susan suggests that maybe they can counteract the Emperor’s Deep Magic, Aslan frowns and says “Work against the Emperor’s magic?” Aslan will not compromise. The laws that the Emperor put in place in the creation of Narnia must be obeyed, even if it means Aslan must die.
2. He’s omnipotent and omnibenevolent.
The Beaver continues, “If there’s anyone who can appear before Aslan without their knees knocking, they’re either braver than most or else just silly.”
Dear Lucy asks, “Then he isn’t safe?”
“Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”
Aslan inspires fear and awe in everyone, even the White Witch, who scorns him behind his back. Lucy and Susan are afraid to touch him at first, but he invites them to grab his mane and comfort him as he walks to the Stone Table.
3. He was there in the beginning.
Going back to The Magician’s Nephew, we see that Aslan was there at the creation of Narnia and that through him Narnia was created. Just read Hebrews 1. In The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Aslan also tells Lucy and Susan that he knows of a Magic before Time even began, a Magic that the White Witch doesn’t even know about.
4. He came to begin the process of the Earth’s and His people’s redemption.
As the Witch, the dwarf and Edmund are making their way to the Stone Table, they notice something strange. The everlasting winter that the Witch had placed upon Narnia is fading. Spring is occurring. The snow melts away, revealing the trees and leaves and bushes and rocks and dusty ground that had always been there, but had been covered. This is part of Aslan healing Narnia, returning it to the way it was created to be.
Aslan also heals the Narnians that the Witch had turned into stone. He breathes life on the statues and they suddenly are freed from her spell.
5. He took the sinner’s place.
Edmund betrays his brothers and sisters and Aslan by going to the White Witch and telling her about Aslan’s return to Narnia. He is a traitor. The Witch comes to Aslan to demand Edmund’s life, which is her due.
She tells Aslan: “You know that every traitor belongs to me as my lawful prey and that for every treachery I have a right to a kill. …That human creature is mine. His life is forfeit to me. His blood is my property.”
Aslan admits that is true, but he works out a deal with the Witch. We don’t find out until later that the deal is he allows the Witch to kill him in Edmund’s place.
6. He’s the Lion and the Lamb.
Aslan is, as Mr. Beaver says, The Lion. He has ultimate power in Narnia. When he goes to the Stone Table where the Witch and her minions have gathered to kill him, they are at first terrified. They know that he is more powerful than all of them. But he submits quietly and meekly. In one of the saddest scenes in the book, they tie him up and cut off his mane, then taunt him: “Why he’s only a great cat after all!” …”Is that what we were afraid of?” …”Puss, Puss! Poor Pussy. How many mice have you caught today, Cat?” …”Would you like a saucer of milk, Pussums?” The ropes make his paws bleed and they savagely kick, hit and spit on him. Finally the Witch kills him, and he never tries to stop it.
7. He delights in His people.
Like I mentioned above, Aslan is comforted by Lucy’s and Susan’s presence as he walks to the Stone Table. After he is resurrected, he simply wants to have fun with Lucy and Susan.
“‘Oh, children,’ said the Lion, ‘I feel my strength coming back to me. Oh, children, catch me if you can!’ He stood for a second, his eyes very bright, his limbs quivering, lashing himself with his tail. Then he made a leap high over their heads and landed on the other side of the Table. Laughing, though she didn’t know why, Lucy scrambled over it to reach him. Aslan leaped again. A mad chase began. Round and round the hill-top he led them, now hopelessly out of their reach, now letting them almost catch his tail, now diving between them, now tossing them in the air with his huge and beautifully velveted paws and catching them again, and now stopping unexpectedly so that all three of them rolled over together in a happy laughing heap of fur and arms and legs. It was such a romp as no one had ever had except in Narnia; and whether it was more like playing with a thunderstorm or playing with a kitten Lucy could never make up her mind.”
I love that imagery of playing with a thunderstorm. This is a great picture of Aslan’s fatherly enjoyment of Lucy and Susan. As we see throughout the book, all of the Narnians give Aslan joy.
I’m sure there are many other ways that Aslan embodies many characteristics of Christ besides the ones I noticed. And beyond even these, there is so much allusion and symbolism throughout. Talk about wonderful fodder for conversation with kids. As my friend and I were saying when we talked about this book, we’ve now seen the Creation, the Death, and the Resurrection. I’m excited to see what else Lewis covers in his next books, starting with The Horse and His Boy.