The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe
The Beavers finally start answering the children’s questions. One of their first questions is about Aslan himself.
The theology of Aslan has many parallels with the myths about Jesus by design: he was the King of Beasts, the King of this whole wood who was never bothered to actually be around and who hadn’t been seen in generations, the son of the Emperor over the Sea, and he’s coming back finally. They’ve been in winter for a hundred years and he hadn’t been bothered about it until now. His people were hurting, being turned to snow, freezing to death, controlled by a dictator, and it went on for generations, but Aslan was busy, okay! He’s still super powerful and great, just… busy.
Upon learning that Aslan is a lion, the children ask if he is safe. The answer is a clear no. Little Bit piped up at this point and clarified, “No? So he is dangerous and might eat the children?” I continued reading to where Mr. Beaver assured the kids that even though Aslan was not safe, and was very much dangerous, he was also good because he was the king. “What?” countered an incredulous Little Bit.
Peter then says he wants to meet Aslan even though he is frightened of him and Mr. Beaver encourages that kind of devotion. At this point Little Bit is not having any of this. “Is Aslan really evil? You cannot be dangerous and unsafe and good at the same time.”
I am relieved to know that Little Bit has this bit of logic working in her favor and I hope it means she’ll avoid an abusive relationship one day. She has the good sense to see that someone who makes you feel scared cannot also be good. I’ve written before about how God’s example of love in the Bible is a bad blueprint for human relationships.
When I was little and first read this description of Aslan, I loved it. I interpreted “dangerous” and “unsafe” as powerful. He would kill other creatures, but not us because we were the good ones, his own followers. The obvious downside to this thinking being that we were also taught we were inherently evil. The Bible verses I was raised on included, “The wages of sin is death,” “All have sinned,” “The Lord chastises every son,” “Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline drives it far from him,” “I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me,” “The human heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked,” etc. Obviously this doesn’t leave a child “in the hands of an angry God” feeling very safe. That right there is why Aslan is scary to the children. Lewis considers this a good thing.
We also get the prophecy from the Beavers about how Narnia needs to be ruled by humans and not by any of its actual inhabitants. This is again because of the hierarchy we’ve seen previously. C. S. Lewis once said, “I do not believe that God created an egalitarian world. I believe the authority of parent over child, husband over wife, learned over simple to have been as much a part of the original plan as the authority of man over beast.”
It must be nice for Lewis that his place is at the top of a hierarchy in the “original plan.”
The Narnian prophecy also says that once humans sit on the throne that the evil time will be over and done. Spoiler: the next book takes place after they have sat on the throne when Caspian’s ancestors come into Narnia to kill everyone and force the talking animals to become dumb or go into hiding underground. This evil even requires a third second coming of Aslan.
The Beavers then talk about the White Witch. Her height is explained to be the product of the union between angels and humans that produced the giants, a story that’s actually in the Bible. (No really.)
The Witch is said to be a descendent of Lilith, the character believed to be the first wife of Adam until she rebelled against his authority, was replaced by Eve, and became a demon—in that order. (Female agency: causing either demonic changes or the downfall of the entire world since men took over religion.) In Genesis there are two creation accounts which conflict. This happens in multiple places in the Bible when the competing oral stories were written down side by side. In Genesis 1, man and woman are created simultaneously and equally. In Genesis 2 man is created, then plants, then animals, and finally Eve, but only after God sees how lonely Adam is. (That’s right, she’s created AFTER beasts.) Although some see these verses as the summary of creation, and then the details, the conflicts are only completely smoothed if we consider the two accounts as pertaining to two separate women. The first woman was simultaneously created as a golem with Adam as an equal to Adam. Her name was Lilith. The second, created from Adam as a submissive replacement once Lilith left, was Eve.
The White Witch’s claim to the throne is dependent on her humanity (the idea from Genesis that only humans rule over beasts), and her connection to Lilith undermines that claim.
The creation story and flood story of the Bible closely resemble (read: are heavily plagiarized from) the Epic of Gilgamesh which preceded it by many years. The Sumerian epic poem mentioned Lilith by name as the demon who took over and lived in the tree belonging to the goddess Inanna. Gilgamesh had to chase her out into the desert. Consider Isaiah 34:14: “Dessert animals [wildcats] will meet hyenas, the goat demon will call to his friends, and there Lilith will lurk and find her resting place.” (Also consider Lilith’s later apocryphal story line of being the actual snake in the Garden of Eden.)
So we have Eve, the subordinate, as the good woman, and all future humans from her are good. Then we have Lilith as the equal of Adam, and all humans (if you can even call them that) from her are evil and bad.
After explaining the history of the White Witch, the Beavers go deep into xenophobic racism. It’s explained that the character of a person is evident by how they look. Anything that looks human but isn’t is obviously evil. Mrs. Beaver counters with, “I’ve known good Dwarfs,” which prompts Mr. Beaver’s retort, “But precious few, and they were the ones least like men.”
His advice when seeing someone who isn’t quite human? “Keep your eyes on it and feel for your hatchet.”
Little Bit’s reaction all this blatant ignorance can be summarized thusly: “Nope.”
(To be continued…)