Reading with Little Bit: A Critical Look at The Chronicles of Narnia
By Alexis Record
“If Aslan is powerful, why didn’t he save Shasta as a baby by sending him back to his family instead of giving him to someone who would abuse him all his life?”
“Good point, I…”
“Why can’t Aslan just blow them to where they need to be like he did in the last book instead of scaring them into running there faster?”
“If Shasta is dying of hunger why can’t Aslan magically feed him like he magically gave him water?”
“If Aslan knows everything, why can’t he just clearly tell them so they don’t make him mad?”
“Why can’t Aslan…”
“ASLAN SHALL NOT BE QUESTIONED!!!”
I think Lewis might just be a sadist. Maybe possibly. Shasta is running so hard he’s shaking, his side aches, and the sweat is stinging his eyes and blinding him as he stumbles forward. He’s also starving. Oh, and his face is covered in flies, too, randomly. What else? Um, he hasn’t slept or showered in a freaking long time either. He’s sore, thoroughly exhausted, sunburnt… Aren’t his feet still burnt from the sand earlier? That would not feel good considering he’s running barefoot. Did I miss something? Let’s just say he’s in a lot of pain right now.
How many main characters will we see frozen or tortured or hurting or bloody or near death in this series? I’m not necessarily opposed to characters experiencing the harsher side of life in children’s adventure stories, but my problem is that these books are presenting such torture as rightful service to God/Aslan. These books are pretty obvious attempts at teaching children about God, but this version of God is one who plans, causes, and voyeuristically oversees human tragedy and suffering. And if that weren’t bad enough, these stories give the additional message that a child who does not respond the proper way to brutal testing by their deity is deserving of additional pain or punishments. This may not be the lesson all Christian parents want to teach their children. (A bunch of parents I know are just the garden-variety “God is love” kind of Christians.)
Of course these lessons are pretty dang close to the fundamentalism I grew up with. We drank our doctrines of violence and holy tyranny straight from the source.
Talk about sadists, have you met the biblical God character? By way of introduction, let me quote myself from a review I did a couple years ago for Dan Barker’s book titled God: The Most Unpleasant Character In All Fiction. It was filled with chapter and verse proof from the Bible that God was the very worst of the worst. I mean, the guy drowns babies. What did we expect?
By the end of the chapter aptly titled Bloodthirsty, I had forgotten I was reading about God, and thought for sure the Scriptures were describing Joffrey Baratheon.
God’s depravity is so well documented that Barker’s lengthy lists of godly deeds left me numb. After a while, nothing could faze me.
One story Barker mentions is repeated twice in Scripture: once in 2 Samuel and again in 1 Chronicles. But in 1 Chronicles, the identical story has Satan in the place of God.
I know I’m harping on a book (technically a collection of books by different authors bound together) that was written in the Iron Age, but people to this day are telling their kids to worship this character out of this book! And what you value and worship is what you start to emulate! Imagine telling someone to worship a God who is pro-slavery and anti-women; who performs genocides and infanticides and slaughters animals for pleasure; who hates certain people for no given reason; who is xenophobic, misogynistic, homophobic; or who commands unbelievers who won’t worship him to be killed in the Old Testament and tortured eternally in the New Testament! Even Lewis himself once called God the “Cosmic Sadist.”
But to quote Lasaraleen, “must be right if he’s going to do it!”
Shasta finally runs into King Lune on a hunting party and explains that Baddy is coming! The king initially mistakes him for Prince Corin, and looks pretty shocked to discover it’s not him. Oh, and for a titch of racism, King Lune is fat just like the Tisroc is fat, but Lune is described as jolly and the Tisroc was described as disgusting. (I wonder what the difference is!)
The king immediately trusts Shasta and gives him a horse to follow them to the castle. Then they all race back to defend their kingdom and leave him (with his dud horse that won’t gallop) behind. Why wouldn’t they check on him? Why wouldn’t the horse keep up? Oh, it’s so we can do more eavesdropping! (For the fourth major and convenient time this book!)
Prince Baddy stops at a fork in the road while Shasta pulls around the other side. No one (of the 201 men) happens to notice him (or his giant horse) just standing there within listening distance. Baddy explains that once inside King Lune’s palace at Anvard they are to kill everyone who is male, including babies, and keep everyone who is female to be divided up among themselves. (It’s because, young reader, the womenfolk are good for the sexing and the raping.) Hmm, where have I heard this exact thing said before? To the Bible!
“Now kill all the boys. And kill every woman who has slept with a man, but save for yourselves every girl who has never slept with a man.” Numbers 31:17-18
Who is our biblical twin of Prince Rabadash? Oh, only mother effing MOSES following God’s commands. And while at least Rabadash let all the women live to be sex slaves, Moses only wanted the little girls for sex slaves. So Moses is more evil than Baddy by comparison.
(Remember kids, it’s only bad when the bad guys do it, but kidnapping prepubescent girls for sex is fine when God or Mr. Ten Commandments orders it!)
Shasta decides to keep following the road Baddy didn’t take. His horse straight up refuses to do more than walk so that’s the speed they are going. He is feeling really sorry for himself when a “sudden fright” gets him back into the panicked state Aslan so loves in his followers. There was a large creature he couldn’t see walking besides the horse. “It was a horrible shock.”
He finally decides to try talking to it, but his fear makes his voice very faint. Aslan is being invisible, as he sometimes does, but at least he does speak back this time. Of course that’s no good because Shasta thinks he’s a ghoul and freaks. But Aslan actually reassures him that he’s not a ghoul. (I’ve come to expect next to nothing from Aslan, so I am surprised any time he’s halfway decent.)
Aslan confirms that all the nasty lions terrifying them (by roaring and swiping at them with that express purpose) throughout this adventure have all been Aslan. He also tells Shasta that he’s the one who gave him to the fisherman (who beat him and enslaved him for years) when he was a baby. But he says it like he did this great thing by saving Shasta’s life, which sounds good until you remember that Aslan is goddamn powerful and has warping/blowing powers! (Also the man who was with baby Shasta in the boat died saving him and Aslan didn’t really save that guy.) Aslan has got to be evil or grossly egotistical to take credit for such a lazy intervention. So let’s worship him!
When Shasta asks who he is, the lion just answers “Myself” and the earth shakes and all that. This is a reference to Scripture when Moses asks God who he is and he gets the answer “I AM WHO I AM” which is the same as saying “Myself.” I’m me! ME! Enough said! Go get you some sex slaves!
This show of power fills Shasta with a “new and different sort of trembling.” Oh here we go. Aslan shone with a bright “whiteness” (heh, a bit on the nose) and (*sigh*) “no one ever saw anything more terrible or beautiful.” Oh goody. Fear is good. Terror is good. Gods who are terrible are good. Nothing matters but power. Fear the Lord!
(Ouch, my eye roll was so exaggerated it hurt!)
The Bible repeatedly says to fear God. Enter the millions of Christian apologetics trying to make you think fear is somehow reverential and not just plain cowering. (I was one.) While the Bible does have some nice verses in it that may refer to respect (and those are the only ones I memorized growing up), fear means fear. Take verses like Amos 3:6. Oh, you didn’t memorize that in church or AWANA? It says, “Shall there be evil in a city, and the Lord hath not done it?” Or Jeremiah 45:5 when God warns his prophet, “Behold, I am bringing evil upon all flesh.” Many times the biblical God is just actively threatening death and disease (and rape) so that people will fear him, but we’re still supposed to think this is God lovingly asking for respect? Please. Even the characters in the Bible don’t present fear of God as anything more than fear of his cruelty.
“Sanctify the Lord of hosts himself; and let him be your fear, and let him be your dread.” Isaiah 8:13
“Therefore I am terrified at his presence; when I consider, I am in dread of him. God has made my heart faint, the Almighty has terrified me.” Job 23:15-16
God threatens his own people with pestilence (2 Chronicles 7:13), death (1 Samuel 2:6), suffering (Isaiah 53:10), and destruction (multiple verses) and then demands they fear and love him. Barker compares this to a fire fighter deliberately starting a blaze in order to get adoration for putting it out. Or a husband who beats his wife then bandages her up lovingly.
Even Jesus knew God was scary:
“But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear him who, after your body has been killed, has authority to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him.” Love, Jesus (Luke 12:5)
Am I respecting a Hell-thrower guy? No, I’m damn well fearing one! This is why Aslan is always so terrifying. Terror is built into the love/worship/fear relationship biblical followers like Lewis have with God. Shasta falls (literally off his horse and everything) before the lion’s feet in worship. I assume Lewis meant to write paws instead of feet here, but he probably just mixed up his Jesus with his lion. Aslan is then transfigured and lifted up to Heaven (both of which happen to the Jesus character in the Bible). (Aslan was Jesus the whole time!!!)
Shasta then finds he is on the path to Narnia. “What luck that I hit it! – at least it wasn’t luck at all really, it was Him.” Again, luck is bad theology so none of that now. All praise to Aslan for getting us to the place safely! Never mind when he didn’t do it safely! And never blame him for all the times we were in the worst pain imaginable! He’s only responsible when we like what’s happening! Yay!
Here’s where the chapter ends, with Shasta in awe of Aslan, even though Aslan just admitted to attacking them multiple times, terrifying them, clawing up his close friend, and giving him to an abuser as a helpless baby. Shasta is on the ground in worship, even drinking water from the lion’s footprint! Little Bit and I are just sitting here baffled and unimpressed.
March 3, 2018