Reflecting on the Chronicles of Narnia
When I was still in elementary school, I read The Chronicles of Narnia for the first time. Being only 9 years old, I was completely enthralled with the fictional world that C.S. Lewis had created. Even at such a young age, the biblical parallels throughout the series did not escape my attention. Now, at 22 years old, I have read the whole series through at least 7 times, and it has not gotten old. It seems that each time I read the books, I discover a new puzzle piece of the theology packed into The Chronicles of Narnia.
One exchange of dialogue in particular has been on my mind lately. In The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, Aslan and the White Witch discuss the fate of Edmund Pevensie, one of the four children who stumbled into the land of Narnia through a magical wardrobe. The exchange goes as follows:
White Witch: You have a traitor in your midst, Aslan.
Aslan: His offense was not against you.
White Witch: Have you forgotten the sacred laws upon which Narnia was built?
Aslan: [snarling] Do not cite the Deep Magic to me, Witch! I was there when it was written.
White Witch: Then you'll remember well that every traitor belongs to me. His blood is my property.
Edmund had betrayed his siblings, and now the White Witch is arguing that his betrayal gives her the right to kill him, declaring; “His blood is my property.” But the third and fourth lines actually captured my attention the most. When Aslan says, “Do not cite the deep magic to me, Witch. I was there when it was written,” my first thought was that C.S. Lewis was probably paralleling when Satan tempted Jesus and they quoted Old Testament Scripture to each other. This occurs in Matthew 4:1-11, which tells us that Jesus fasted in the desert for 40 days and nights and was then tempted by Satan three times in a row. Each time, Satan quotes a piece of Scripture to make it seem like his offers are in line with God’s will. And each time, Jesus counters his tempations with a piece of Scripture, saying; “It is written…” before finally exclaiming, “Go, Satan!” His attempts at destruction rejected, Satan leaves and angels come and minister to the tired, hungry Jesus.
I saw an obvious connection in the fact that even though the “sacred law” is only referenced here, this exchange implies that both Aslan and the White Witch know it very well. And while Aslan knows the true meaning of what was written, the White Witch twists it to fit her own agendas and bring about destruction, which in this case is the death of Edmund Pevensie. Similarly, in Matthew’s passage, both Jesus and Satan know the Law very well. In the course of their dialogue, it becomes clear that Jesus knows the true meaning of it. Satan, like the White Witch, however, tries to twist the Law by quoting it out of context to fit his own plan of destruction, namely, the betrayal of the Father by the Son. If Satan had succeeded, that destruction would result in our own eternal deaths. Drawing Jesus out of communion with His Father’s will would mean no savior and no salvation.
While this passage from Matthew may have had some influence on C.S. Lewis’s scene, I think it is more explicitly a reference to John 1:1-5, which says; “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.”
John makes it clear that even before Jesus (referred to as, “the Word”) was born, He existed with the Father as a separate entity though still one with God the Father. And thus comes the parallel; Aslan, the Christ-figure of Narnia, claims to be there when the sacred laws, also known as “the Deep Magic,” were written. Because he knows the full truth of them, he also knows how to outsmart the White Witch, who takes portions of the sacred law out of context. This allows Aslan to make his case to save the life of Edmund Pevensie, even at the expense of losing his own. He knows that by sacrificing himself, Edmund will live, because while the White Witch intends to deceive Aslan, Aslan knows that she is only deceiving herself. Aslan will come back to life in accordance with the Deep Magic and the sacred laws that follow. From his actions come life; but when this is all revealed to the White Witch, she does not comprehend it. (Not that Aslan gave her much time to ponder the mystery…immediately after the ensuing battle, he swallows her whole, and she ceases to exist.)
It's easy to see that C.S. Lewis wrote The Chronicles of Narnia prayerfully, intentionally, and with much attention to detail. But once you begin to piece these details together, i's difficult to dismiss this seven-part body of work as simply a children’s series. I know I, for one, am excited to keep discovering how these books reflect C.S. Lewis’ profound love for his Creator.