The Lion in Narnia

Brooke Wolfe '07 English 65, Fantasy, Brown University, 2004

C. S. Lewis created a fantastic world that exists within our real one and contains similar characteristics to it. For example, the idea of likening the king lion to God and the Witch to the devil derives from the Christian religion in our world. Lewis describes many fantastic creatures in ways that appeal to children. His description of Aslan takes two sides: the lion's terrible side and his kind and gentle side. This makes Aslan a character worthy of analyzing and perhaps a more in depth comparison between him and the religious figure he symbolizes.

"Didn't I tell you, answered Mr. Beaver that she'd made it always winter and never Christmas? Didn't I tell you?"

"Aslan stood in the center of a crowd of creatures who had grouped themselves around him in the shape of a half-moon. There were Tree-Women there and Well-Women (Dryads and Naiads as they used to be called in our world) who had stringed instruments; it was they who had made the music. There were four great centaurs. The horse part of them was like stern but beautiful giants. There was also a unicorn, and a bull with the head of a man, and a pelican and an eagle, and a great dog. And next to Aslan stood two leopards of whom one carried his crown and the other his standard.

But as for Aslan himself, the Beavers and the children didn't know what to do or say when they saw him. People who have not been in Narnia sometimes think that a thing cannot be good and terrible at the same time. If the children had ever thought so, they were cured of it now. For when they tried to look at Aslan's face they just caught a glimpse of the golden mane and the great, royal, solemn, overwhelming eyes; and then they found they couldn't look at him and went all trembly."

Questions

1. Religions explain why God allows such terrible things as war, pain, death, and disaster to happen if He is supposed to be a gracious God. Likewise, Aslan is depicted as a brave and noble leader but has allowed the witch to make it winter with no Christmas in Narnia. Do you think C. S. Lewis offers any explanations in the first passage and throughout the novel as to why God allows for terrible things to happen here on earth? Why does Aslan allow it, or does He have a choice?

2. How is Aslan depicted as something so kind and something so terrible all at once? Is it his physical descriptions of "terrible paws . . . if he didn't know how to velvet them" (125) or something more that gives us this sense of his two opposing characteristics?

3. What is the significance in Lewis so often describing Aslan as "sad" (124) and melancholy? Does it have any correlation to the reactions Jesus had to his arrest and crucifixion?

4. What are the elements of this passage and the rest of the story that make it so appealing? Is it too gruesome after Peter's battle, or is Lewis careful in covering up the aspects of war that may frighten children?

References

Lewis, C. S. The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe. New York: HarperCollins, 1950.


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Last modified 16 February 2004