Reading with Little Bit: A Critical Look at The Chronicles of Narnia
The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe
“That’s so cool that Aslan was willing to get really hurt for Edmund, but he didn’t die for Edmund. It doesn’t count if he came back to life the next day totally fine like he knew he would.”
“What if he came back in three days?”
Now for the scene that most likely inspired the entire story: the Jesus-esque death of Aslan. Little Bit had been told the Jesus story many times in detail when she was younger, but she had forgotten a lot of it. I tried to point out the many similarities between the two tales: It happened on behalf of someone else, it was inspired by the blood laws of the Emperor (God), and after the killing the “Deep Magic” (God’s blood lust) was appeased, before it happened evil creatures jeered, tortured, and humiliated Aslan/Jesus while he remained silent, the Stone Table/Temple Veil is struck in two, and the resurrection was witnessed by grieving women who wondered what had happened to the body and who had taken it.
Aslan even claims to have been around before time began, following a Johannine theology. In fact, Aslan’s supernatural abilities will expand as the books continue.
The way Aslan is portrayed as dragging his mane almost to the ground and being very tired and sad as he approached his very temporary death was compelling. He need for comfort from the girls was understandable, but his desire for comfort was the reason he allowed them to witness his murder. He even positioned them in a place of “very great danger” to view it. And to test them, he refuses to tell them that he’s popping back to life the next morning, leaving them grieving all night long. All his actions seem selfish, and particularly cruel to the girls.
The Witch and her minions torture Aslan, and then she kills him with her bone dagger, all in front of two small children hiding nearby. Then the Witch and company go off to do battle against Peter’s army. After Aslan disappears and then comes back to life, the girls are overjoyed. He acts both playful and terrifying at the same time towards the girls who have been crying over him all freaking night long. Lucy did not know if she was “playing with a thunderstorm or playing with a kitten.” When Aslan roars, his face is described as so terrible the girls are too frightened to look at it.
Aslan is not kind, and often his terrifying moments negate his loving ones. Though, I will admit this mirrors a Jesus who heals the sick or comforts the grieving in one passage, then drives merchants out of the Temple with a whip or says to take a sword to one’s family if they do not follow him in another passage. Jesus is even depicted as releasing the four horsemen of the apocalypse—a very dangerous kind of person. When thinking of Jesus, most people I know imagine some good or gracious individual, but the Bible describes him as having a sharp sword out of his mouth in which to kill millions of people of every nation (Revelation 19:15).
Those who emphasize this version of the Bible’s Jesus are people I don’t let babysit my kids.
Next Aslan takes the girls to the White Witch’s castle and breathes on all the stone statues, making them animals again. In Luke, Jesus says, “[God] has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released, that the blind will see, that the oppressed will be set free.” And of course breath of life is a reference to the life force that once animated the first human golem, Adam. So we find ourselves again deep in allusions to Lewis’ religious traditions.
After the creatures were turned back to normal, the giant among them is asked to smash the gates. It’s quickly pointed out that giants are not smart, which Little Bit cannot help but see as a mean thing to think or say of an entire group of sentient creatures.
Then Aslan and all the others rush to join the huge battle that has been taking place between the White Witch’s army of evil creatures and Peter’s army of good creatures. First thing Aslan does is pounce the Witch to death. Couldn’t he have done that earlier? A hundred years earlier? No?
In the end lots of creatures were violently slaughtered. Edmund got a bit heroic and was looking better than anyone remembers seeing him. The book makes an attempt to explain how Edmund had “begun to go wrong” during his “first term at that horrid school” but after glorious killing times was a good guy again.
Education and religion are not often harmonious, and this is not the first time this book has vilified school–the old Professor often remarked to Susan and Peter, “What are they teaching you in that school?” Later books will show Lewis’ view of education, especially a yucky progressive one.
Aslan magically provides food for the huge company (another allusion to Jesus), and a couple days later the children are crowned Kings and Queens (an allusion to the crowns Jesus’ faithful think are coming to them in the end). Peter, named after the apostle I’ve no doubt, becomes the High King and leader over all the Church, er, I mean Narnia.
After the coronation Aslan sneaks off. That’s Aslan for you.
The four children, now Kings and Queens, spend the next several years hunting down their enemies and killing them. “But in the end all that foul brood was stamped out,” says the book that obviously doesn’t know those same creatures are back in the very next book.
When entire species are being killed off by the “good guys” it’s not a good thing. Sure, we can say those species were “evil” and justify it that way, but that’s the kind of thinking that led to human genocides. When I was studying the Bible in a Christian college setting, I remember hearing about how God ordered the murder of children of other cultures knowing they would grow up to be evil (meaning they would worship other gods) later. It doesn’t seem to have worked as there are many different religions in the world today. Maybe God should have foreseen that or something.
The Kings and Queens are considered good rulers who, I’m not joking, “liberated young dwarfs and young satyrs from being sent to school.” School must be stopped! They also took on Libertarian policies by stopping “busybodies and interferers” and letting people “live and let live.” No social programs in their kingdom I imagine, just how God wants it.
The children then grew up in Narnia, and the book summarizes how they all turned out. Peter and Edmund are given quality characteristics such as bravery, warrior abilities, and wisdom. Susan and Lucy are simply praised for their looks and marriage prospects. (Peter was courageous and noble. Susan? She had long hair.) Seriously, the men are described as actual people, but both women are only known for having lots of men interested in them. That’s literally it.
Eventually the four protagonists find the original wardrobe and fall back into the real world where they are still children and no time has passed since they left.
They go tell the old Professor to explain where they were and why four coats were missing. They don’t seem overly interested in the lives they abandoned or the friends and suitors they left behind. The Professor warns them not to talk about Narnia except to others who have been there. (Don’t tell your parents, Kids.) They ask how they would know who else had been there and the Professor tells them “their looks,” because of course. The last sentence spoken in the book is the professor saying, “Bless me, what do they teach them at these schools?”
(That concludes the first book. Next we start on Prince Caspian.)
June 24, 2017