No that’s not a typo. As I mentioned earlier, I’ve felt moved to re-read my childhood favourites, the Chronicles of Narnia, as Christian allegories. As a child I had no knowledge of Christianity and so took the Chronicles simply as entertaining stories. Now, as a Christian, I can see where Lewis has taken elements from Christianity and weaved them into his story. But I think that is as far as I’d go, stopping short of calling the stories allegorical, any more than The Lord of the Rings is an allegory of World War II.
I just finished The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and saw the many parallels with the Gospels, especially in the last few chapters. Every detail of the sacrifice of Aslan has its Gospel equivalent: his sad night walk with Lucy and Susan (the agony), his beating by the horde of evil creatures (the scourging), the shearing of his mane and subsequent ridicule (the crowning with thorns), and of course the “deeper magic” whereby if an innocent gives himself up to be sacrificed in a traitor’s stead then Death will be vanquished. Also, the breaking of the stone table echoes the tearing of the temple veil, and Aslan’s brief absence recalls the empty tomb.
However, there are some departures from the Gospels, mostly to do with violence, which prevent me from calling the story a Christian allegory. First of all, when the White Witch’s police arrive, Aslan does not stay his Peter’s sword, but in fact encourages him to draw and use it, afterward giving him solemn instructions to clean the blood off his sword after battle. While Jesus instructed his followers to baptize, heal, exorcise demons, and preach the good news, Aslan instructs Peter in how to wage war against the White Witch’s army. Far from praying for forgiveness for his killers, the first thing Aslan does upon seeing the White Witch is kill her. Lewis assures us that even those “bad” creatures who were not killed in battle were eventually hunted down and “destroyed.”
I know C.S. Lewis was not a pacifist; indeed, how difficult it would have been to espouse nonviolence at the time he wrote these books. But a story ending with the complete annihilation of the “enemy” can never be called Christian. It is in the tradition of the Crusades, not the Gospels. I wonder if this is not why, as a child, and even as a baptized adult, I never associated the Chronicles of Narnia with Christianity.
Of course Lewis’ glorification of war doesn’t make the Chronicles any less enjoyable as stories. I appreciate a well-crafted “good versus evil” violent catharsis as much as the next person. But I think Tolkein took the safer route by creating a purely pagan world where violence can indeed end violence. By trying to shoehorn the Prince of Peace into a war story Lewis lends false legitimacy to violence and waters down the power of the Christian message of nonviolent love, thus defeating his own (albeit secondary) purpose of introducing children to the fundamentals of Christianity.
The Companion to Narnia by Paul Ford offers this “Christian Creed in Narnian terms”:
I believe in the Emperor-beyond-the-Sea who has put within time the Deep Magic, and, before all time, the Deeper Magic.
I believe in his Son Aslan who sang into being all the worlds and all that they contain: Talking Beasts and humans, dumb animals and shining spirits. And I believe that Aslan was a true beast, the king of beasts, a Lion; that for Edmund, a traitor because of his desire for Turkish Delight, he gave himself into the power of the White Witch, who satisfied the requirements of the Deep Magic by killing him most horribly. At the dawn following that darkest, coldest night, he was restored to full life by the Deeper Magic, cracking the Stone Table and, from that moment, setting death to work backwards. He exulted in his new life and went off to rescue all those who had been turned into stone by the Witch’s wand and to deliver the whole land from everlasting winter. He will be behind all the stories of our lives; and, when it is time, he will appear again in our world to wind it up, calling all of his creatures whose hearts’ desire is to live “farther in and farther up” in his country which contains all real countries.
I believe that upon us all falls the breath of Aslan and that ours are the sweet waters of the Last Sea which enable us to look steadily at the sun. I believe that all who have thrilled or will thrill at the sound of Aslan’s name are now our fellow voyagers and our fellow kings and queens; that all of us can be for ever free of our dragonish thoughts and actions; and that one day we will pass through the door of death into “Chapter One of the Great Story, which no one on earth has read; which goes on for ever; in which every chapter is better than the one before.”