(No surprises…) Christian Allegory in The Chronicles of Narnia

The latest in my Learn Something New Every Day blog series. Something(s) new about CS Lewis and The Chronicles of Narnia (from The Great Courses’ “Life and Times of CS Lewis”)

I guess this isn’t really a ‘new’ thing to learn but there were aspects of it that were new to me. CS Lewis made a very conscious decision to use the images and story of Narnia to communicate Christian doctrine (to which he’d come late in life). He viewed it as ‘smuggling in’ Christian ethics and values into popular culture but Lewis insisted until his death that the characters themselves were not allegories because each “possessed its own life and complexity”.

In fact, the first in the seven books, The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe contains imagery from a range of mythological traditions—Judeo-Christian, Greek, Arthurian, Norse. Critics didn’t like that but readers did.

  • Lewis objected to what he considered ‘the domestication of Christ’ and purposefully made Aslan a lion because he’s good and loving but not safe. He may be embraced but not trifled with.
  • Aslan very obviously represents Christ – he offers himself for sacrifice in exchange for the traitor child, Edmund. He is humiliated, brutalised, killed and ultimately resurrected.
  • Edmund represents Adam (and human frailty) so when Aslan gives himself in exchange he is effectively wiping the sins of mankind.
  • The White Queen represents Satan. Lewis suggested it was Satan (and not Christ) who was tight, joyless and who scorned human appetite. So he created a witch who hates excess in others, is miserly and kills joy.
  • The stone table (created by Aslan’s father before the beginning of the world) cracks when Aslan is killed just as the veil in the temple of Jerusalem split asunder in the earthquake just after Christ died.
  • Alsan breathing on the statues to bring them to life – represents being born again, filled with the breath of God (faith). Brought to life.