The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe - page 2


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From the Winter 2005 issue of Knowing & Doing:  

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Lewis's best-loved classic

by Arthur W. Lindsley, Ph.D.
Senior Fellow, C.S. Lewis Institute

 

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The Plot

  The first thing that needs to be said about LWW is that it is meant to be enjoyed. Before you analyze or pick apart the story, realize that Lewis wrote it so that children (and others) could delight in the story itself. Next, we might ask why the story has had such appeal to so many. Perhaps some of the elements would include a magical entry to Narnia through a wardrobe, an invented world populated with strange creatures, talking animals, sibling rivalry (Lucy vs. Edmund), an aloof professor, a vivid portrayal of evil in the White Witch, a cosmic problem (always winter and never Christmas), its British-ness, temptation (Turkish Delight), places of rest and refreshment (the Beavers’ house), adventure, and above all, the lion, Aslan.
  The actual wardrobe that prompted the stories was one made by Lewis’s grandfather and was in the family home in Belfast. Later, it was moved to Lewis’s home at Oxford and now resides at the Wade Center, at Wheaton College. One of C.S. Lewis’s cousins, Claire, remembered occasions when various cousins along with “Jack” (C.S. Lewis) and his brother Warren, would climb into the wardrobe while young Jack would tell them stories he had invented. It is interesting to note that Lewis mentions a few times that “it is foolish to shut oneself into any wardrobe” perhaps because he always kept a crack of light when he told his stories and also because he was warned. When Lewis sent a draft of LWW to friend Owen Barfield, Barfield’s wife Maud was concerned lest children read the story and accidentally lock themselves in a wardrobe. So Lewis added five warnings to LWW. The wardrobe is such a vivid image that one Oxford boy, after reading the book, chopped a hole in the back of the family wardrobe trying to get to Narnia.

Aslan

  There are many dimensions of the book we could examine, and there are plenty of new books on LWW or The Chronicles of Narnia to help you do so; but the central character is the lion, Aslan. Although the children hear about Aslan at the Beavers’ house in chapter seven, they don’t actually meet him till chapter twelve.

Not Safe but Good

  Soon after the children arrive in Narnia, their new friend Mr. Beaver tells them: “They say Aslan is on the move— perhaps has already landed.” When the children first hear the name Aslan, it stirs each of them in a different way:

Edmund felt a sensation of mysterious horror. Peter felt suddenly brave and adventurous. Susan felt as if some delicious smell or some delicious strain of music had just floated by her. And Lucy got the feeling you have when you wake up in the morning and realize that it is the beginning of summer.

  They find out Aslan is a king and hear about an old rhyme, a kind of prophecy:

Wrong will be right, when Aslan comes in sight,
At the sound of his roar, sorrows will be no more,
When he bares his teeth, winter meets its death,
And when he shakes his mane, we will have spring again.

  Susan asks, “Is he quite safe?” “Safe?” said Mr. Beaver, “....Course he isn’t safe, but he’s good.” Eventually, Aslan appears and the battle between good and evil begins in earnest. As the story unfolds, Aslan shows up when and where he will. He does not appear often, almost never on demand, and always at his own discretion. And, he does not have to be visible in order for his power to be felt.
  Throughout the Narnia stories we see in Aslan the attributes of Jesus. He is always present, whether or not we are aware of him. He is always working for our good, whether or not we understand (or even like what he does). He transforms us in ways we could never do for ourselves. Greatest of all, he sacrificed his life for us and has risen again to free us from the bondage of sin.

The Lion Who Sacrifices Himself

  In LWW there is a confrontation between the White Witch and Aslan. She comes to claim the life of Edmund because he has turned traitor. She appeals to a deep magic from the beginning of time saying that “Every traitor belongs to me as my lawful prey” and that “for every treachery I have a right to kill.”

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