March 1, 2003
I can remember well the Christmas morning when I received a box set of The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis. I had read the first, and most well known of these books, The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe a few months earlier. Being a curious girl, I wanted to see what else happened to the characters I had come to know as friends in this book. So, it was only natural that I ask my parents to give me the whole series for Christmas. For those who are not familiar with these books, I should take a moment to explain them. The stories all revolve around English children who are transported into a mythical land called Narnia. Narnia is a world inhabited by humans; but its animals can talk and creatures that we only read about in mythology actually exist. Narnia’s King, a lion named Aslan, brings these children into Narnia. They then have to embark on a journey and fight an enemy, usually a witch, in order to save Narnia from ruin. Once the children’s purpose in Narnia is fulfilled, they return to England.
The Narnia books were some of my favorites throughout childhood. They transported me into a realm where children my age danced with centaurs in the moonlight and spent their days talking with beavers, unicorns, and giants. Trees came to life, horses could fly, and magic was real. There were perils and tragedies; but in the end, good always triumphed over evil. In short, the Narnia books are exactly the type of stories a child would love. Alas, as we get older we seem to think that fairy tales are of no value. We are wrong in this assumption though. There is often more to a fairy tale than what we originally perceive.
When I read these books at age ten, I was not aware that they contained the Bible, morality, or philosophy. They were merely enjoyable stories. However, a few months ago, they came to signify much more. Having recently read some of Lewis’ "adult" works, most of which are on Christian apologetics, I decided to revisit Narnia. I admit I have never lost my love of fairy tales; and I was curious to see if these stories in particular were of any value to a grown-up like myself. So, I set aside Plato and Locke and opened up The Magician’s Nephew.
C.S. Lewis once said, "any amount of theology can now be smuggled into people’s minds under the cover of romance without their knowing it". My recent experiences with the Narnia books show this to be true. Nearly everything in these books can be traced back to something in the Bible. For example, the lion Aslan is a godlike figure. In The Magician’s Nephew, Lewis devotes several chapters to describing how Aslan sings Narnia into existence. Aslan’s voice literally causes things to be. First comes light, then plants, then animals just as they do in the first chapter of Genesis. The story goes on to describe how evil entered Narnia through the free actions of a man and a woman, again as it does in Genesis.
Of course, Aslan cannot allow this evil to exist unfettered and destroy all he has created, so something must be done to defeat it. The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe deals with this issue specifically. Here, Aslan is seen as God the Son, as opposed to God the Creator. The story shadows the Gospels rather closely. Aslan literally has to die and be resurrected to defeat the witch Jadis. Before this can happen though, he has to have followers to carry on his teachings. This is what the children do, acting as disciples of Aslan. These disciple-children provide a wonderful example of what a Christian should be. They are painfully human and make several mistakes throughout their journey. Once the children become aware of their flaws, they are ashamed to go before Aslan. However, they know that they must do this. Aslan is gentle and patient with them, as Christ was with his disciples. The children go away from Aslan changed as a result of this.
If the Narnia books are to truly follow the Bible, they must begin with Genesis and end with Revelation. The final book of the seven, The Last Battle, serves this purpose. There is a false Aslan in Narnia who deceives many Narnians, just as the book of Revelation discusses the coming of a false prophet. The children continue in their role as disciples, trying to help the Narnians see the false Aslan for what he really is. In the end, there is a battle between the followers of Aslan and those of the imposter, which turns out victorious for Aslan. When this occurs, Narnia fades away leaving the children and Narnians quite distraught. This does not last for long because the characters then see a land more beautiful and more wonderful than the former Narnia. What follows is a glorious description of this Real Narnia. Aslan explains to the children that the Narnia that they previously knew and loved was only a pale reflection of what Narnia should be. In essence, the glorious reign of Christ discussed in Revelation has come in Narnian form.
These are only a few examples of the biblical principles embraced in The Chronicles of Narnia. The key is this emphasis on a journey through life toward glory. The children in every book go through a series of trials, aided by Aslan, and come out better for having experienced them. They battle evil at every turn, just as the Christian does in his daily life. It is not always easy or fun, but there are times of joy and celebration. Ultimately, good does prevail as the Bible promises repeatedly. Herein lies the true value of the Narnia books, even if one is not a Christian, namely the affirmation that good can still prevail, in spite of everything fighting against it.
Cassandra Kish is a junior from Vermilion, Ohio, majoring in Political Science.