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Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis. Specifically it will discuss the novel as a book rooted in the New Testament as well as being a product of Lewis' personal interpretation of spiritual truth. Even author C.S. Lewis acknowledged he wrote his "Narnia" series as a way to teach children quite painlessly about Christianity and the scriptures. One critic notes that the first three books in the chronicles, deal with a certain aspect of Christianity and spirituality. He writes, The first three-- The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, Prince Caspian, and The Voyage of the Dawn Trader -deal with the role of Joy in sanctification and the achievement of a balanced way of life" (Myers xiii). Thus, the teachings of the New Testament are rooted in this work, as is Lewis' own personal interpretation of spiritualism and the spiritual truth of the Gospel. Some critics might call the book a simple tale of good vs. evil, but it is much more than that, and that is just what author C.S. Lewis wanted. He wanted to create a whimsical land for children to explore their own ideas about faith and spirituality, gently guiding them along the way.
The story revolves around the four Pevensie children, Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy. Their parents send them to live in the relatively safer English countryside during World War II. They live with a quaint old Professor Kirke who has a large and highly exciting house that the children explore on a rainy day. Lucy is the youngest, and she explores an enormous wardrobe they discover in an otherwise empty room. Inside the huge wardrobe, Lucy is transported to the magical world of Narnia, where it is always winter in a wooded forest. On her first visit, she meets a Faun named Tumnus, and the tone of the book is immediately set. The Faun hesitantly asks Lucy, "Excuse me -- I don't want to be inquisitive -- but should I be right in thinking that you are a daughter of Eve?'" (Lewis 11). Immediately, this charming story becomes more than simply a children's tale. It becomes a much deeper look into spirituality and the Bible, and mirrors Lewis' own beliefs on those subjects. Critic Myers continues, "He sees the seven Chronicles as constituting a new literary genre, which he calls 'scripture,' 'a sort of Bible for a Bibleless age'" (Myers 166). While the book certainly has an important message, Lewis manages to do an exceptional job with the writing. The book is not too "preachy" or overdone; it simply carries an important message threaded throughout that some children might not even understand the first time they read this story. However, this is a classic children's book, and if the children read all seven volumes, by the end they will certainly understand at least some of the underlying themes and ideas as they relate to the New Testament and spirituality.
There are several allegories that relate to the Bible, and the New Testament in particular sprinkled throughout the novel. Aslan, the lion, is the leader of Narnia, and a good, righteous character. Many critics have called him a symbol of Christ in the novel, but critic Myers disagrees. He notes, "Aslan is not a hieroglyph; he is not a symbol of Christ, not 'a Christ-figure,' as the misshapen critical jargon has it. He is Christ, incarnate in the body that Christ might have in a parallel universe. Lewis called him 'a supposal'-that is, an extrapolation" (Myers 126). Another critic confirms that Lewis himself saw the story as a question posed to make people think about the Messiah returning to Earth. He writes, "He [Lewis] preferred to describe The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe as a story that runs parallel to the gospel, as if in the story it were being asked, 'What if the Messiah were to come in another world?'" (Guroian 137). Just as Aslan is Christ in the novel, there are other parallels to Biblical stories.
The White Witch represents evil, or Satan, and her command over Edward shows the great pull Satan has for the weak and the sinner, just like Edward. Edward is not a bad child, but he is sometimes naughty and disagreeable, and he is the one the White Witch can dominate and control, at least for a time. It is interesting to note that as the snow melts in the book, so does Edmund turn from evil to goodness, redeeming himself in Aslan's eyes so that eventually Aslan will sacrifice himself to save Edward. This too parallels the New Testament, for Jesus sacrificed himself for his followers, and then was resurrected to someday return again. Aslan is murdered by the White Witch but is also resurrected and returns to lead Peter's army to victory over the wicked witch.
There are also parallels to the Bible itself, and Lewis' convictions regarding the word of God. Peter questions the Professor early in the novel. "Well, Sir, if things are real, they're there all the time.' 'Are they?' said the Professor; and Peter did not know quite what to say" (Lewis 52). Thus, the author refers to the literal translation of the Bible, and the very word and existence of God. If we cannot see God, how do we know he is really there? Just as the professor says, are the things we can see the only things that are real? These are simple words, and some children might not understand them, but it is clear that Lewis is writing this story from the conviction of one who believes, and wants to share that belief with others. Another author quotes his as quite certain of what he hoped to accomplish with his book. John Goldthwaite states, "Supposing,' wrote Lewis when explaining how he meant to story matters of faith, 'supposing that by casting all these things into an imaginary world, stripping them of their stained-glass and Sunday School associations, one could make them for the first time [sic] appear in their real potency?'" (Goldthwaite 220). Lewis managed to convey these matters of faith quite distinctly, but still created a book that did not preach or talk down to children, but treated them as sensible beings who were capable of understanding and acting on very adult ideals and models.
While the main themes of the book include good and evil, Edward's sin and then repentance is also a key theme in the book. Critic Guroian continues, "His [Lewis] story The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, the first of the Narnia series, embraces the great themes of sin, repentance, and forgiveness in the Christian story of salvation" (Guroian 127). Edward is not inherently evil, as the White Witch is, but he is weak and he sins, so she can mold him to her wishes. He also suffers from greed and gluttony, lusting over the Turkish Delight and giving it power over his actions and his thoughts. However, he also has a conscience, and he knows the difference between good and bad, and so, he is capable of recognizing his sins and repenting his deeds. Lewis handles his repentance quite gently. He writes, "Here is your brother,' he said, 'and -- there is no need to talk to him about what is past.' Edmund shook hands with each of the others and said to each of them in turn, 'I'm sorry,' and everyone said 'That's all right'" (Lewis 153). He shows that acknowledging your sin does not have to be a major issue with tears, recriminations, and reprimands. He shows it gentle and forgiving. However, he also shows it is an important and memorable occasion for Edmund. He writes, "There is no need to tell you (and no one ever heard) what Aslan was saying, but it was…[continue]
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