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CS Lewis and the Chronicles of Narnia
C.S. Lewis wrote seven connecting stories for children titled the “Chronicles of Narnia.” These stories are extremely similar to those found in the bible. Lewis used his religious background and beliefs to create Narnia and its characters, along with the conflicts and experiences that they go through. The stories teach children biblical tales in a fun and exciting new way and they do not even realize it is happening.
The first story written in “The Chronicles of Narnia” is “The Lion, The Witch, and Wardrobe.” This story introduces us to the world of Narnia. During World War II four siblings: Peter, Susan, Edmond, and Lucy are sent to live with the interestingly odd Professor Kirke. The youngest child Lucy, when exploring the house, comes across a wardrobe in one of the rooms. She steps into the wardrobe and arrives in a snowy wooded area. This is Narnia. Narnia becomes a parallel universe for all that enter it. The world is filled with characters and situations that parallel the bible stories. This first story connects to the gospel stories in the bible from Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.
None of the children believe Lucy when she tells them about Narnia until one day when Edmond follows her into the wardrobe and encounters the White Witch. She feeds Edmond an enchanted Turkish Delight, which makes him crave chocolate. The Witch uses Edmonds greed to trick him into bringing his other siblings into Narnia. The witch can be compared to the devil throughout the series. She tempts Edmond to manipulate him into doing things that are wrong.
Edmond still says that Lucy is silly for believing in Narnia and one day the children hide in the wardrobe from a housekeeper and end up in Narnia. Lucy takes them to Tumnus’ house where they find that he has been arrested for treason. Tumnus was the first character Lucy met when she went to Narnia. The children set out on a mission to rescue Tumnus from the Witch and meet a doubtful Mr. Beaver who leads them to Aslan the lion. Edmond runs away to warn the Witch of his siblings plan and she is nervous because of an ancient prophecy that says four humans will overthrow the Witch and reign over Narnia.
Edmond betrays his siblings much in the same way that Judas betrayed Jesus. “Then one of the Twelve, who was called Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said, ‘What are you willing to give me if I hand him over to you?’ They paid him thirty pieces of silver, and from that time on he looked for an opportunity to hand him over.” (Matthew 26:14) Judas was driven by his greed for money when he betrayed Jesus, and Edmond is driven by his greed for Turkish Delite when he betrays his family, and more importantly Aslan, who’s character as we will see parallels Jesus.
The children race to beat the Witch to Stone Table and meet Aslan to end the spell. The Witch is desperate to reach the Stone Table and treats Edmond poorly on the way. Aslan promises to help get Edmond back and Peter saves Susan from a wolf. Aslan sees another wolf and they follow it hoping it will lead them to Edmond and the Witch.
Peter can be compared to the disciple Peter because both seemed to take on the leadership role of their groups. Peter, alongside Aslan, helped his sisters out of trouble and led them to the Stone Table much as Peter, alongside Jesus, helped the other disciples and led them.
The group saves Edmond just before the Witch kills him, and she vanishes into the landscape. The witch and Aslan make a deal that makes him very sad and depressed. The girls walk with him to the Stone Table where he tells them they must turn around and go back. The girls do not leave, but instead watch as the Witch tortures and kills Aslan, who has sacrificed his life for Edmond. The girls stay with Aslan all night and awake to the Stone Table being broken open and find that Aslan has risen from the dead. Aslan takes the girls to the castle where the prisoners in stone are freed. Aslan proceeds to kill the Witch and Peter’s troops finish off her followers.
Anyone who has ever read the bible or heard the story of Jesus can easily pick up on the parallel between Aslan sacrificing his life to save Edmond and Jesus sacrificing his life to save mankind. Aslan died and expunged Edmunds sin, allowing him to live. Christ died on the cross for the sins of humanity, allowing mankind to live. “The hour is at hand when the Son of Man is to be handed over to sinners.” (Matthew 26:45) Aslan handed himself to the Witch as Jesus handed himself to the sinners.
The Stone Table played an important part in the story and references another important person in biblical history. “Moses … wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant, the ten commandments.” (Exodus 35:29) Moses brought the stone tablets containing the Ten Commandments the people to live by. When Aslan rises from the dead, in front of Susan and Lucy, and breaks the Stone Table it is a symbol of the old, cruel ways of our past being shattered and birth of the new, lighter times that lie ahead.
Susan and Lucy stay with Aslan all night after he dies and are there when he resurrects the next morning. For this they can be compared to Mary Magdeline and “the other Mary.” (Matthew 28:1) In both cases the two women were the first to find out about the resurrection and see the spirit of the saviors. “There was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven, approached, rolled back the stone, and sat upon it.” (Matthew 28:2) Though it is not exactly alike, the similarities are strikingly close. “At that moment they heard from behind them a loud noise – a great cracking, deafening noise as if a giant had broken a giant’s plate.” (The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe, pg158)
The story ends as the children grow up and reign over Narnia, until one day they return to the lamp post and fall back into the real world where they find that they have not aged at all. They tell Professor Kirke and he assures them that they will visit Narnia again.
The second of Lewis’ works that was analyzed was “The Magicians Nephew.” This story tells the tale of Polly and Digory, two neighbors who become friends. They follow secret caves and lead themselves to a house that they believe to be empty, but find that it is fully furnished and a man called Uncle Andrew lives there. Curiosity and temptation drive this story along and create an alliance between today’s world and the biblical times.
Uncle Andrew tells them of an experiment he is running, and gives Polly a yellow ring before he sends her home for dinner. She disappears to another world. Digory is determined to find her and takes the two green rings, that will get them out of the alternate world, and a yellow ring to get him into it. He found himself in a wooded area, similar to what the children in the first Narnia book entered into. Digory sees a girl under a tree, who says she has always been in this world, he also claims to be from the world. They see a guinea pig with a yellow ring and remember Uncle Andrew and the experiment.
This is the set up for the religious symbolism that is to show up for the remainder of the story. This book is compared to the book of Genesis from the bible. Uncle Andrew put a male and a female into a wooded area and had them thinking that they had always been there and that they were created to live there. They are mystified by the new worlds they have been put into and choose to venture around and figure out where everything goes before they go home. Adam and Eve also ventured around and figured out their surroundings when their adventure led them to the Garden of Eden.
As the children look around they find themselves in a hall with wax statues of people. They turn from kind and gentle to cruel and evil. The final figure is the most ferocious of all, beautiful but cruel. I believe Lewis is showing how at first Eden was perfect for Adam and Eve, but slowly and surely as Satan continued to pursue them it turned. The final figure is the forbidden fruit that eventually led them to perform the first sin and change life on earth forever.
Digory suggests that the pair check out a pillar in the center of the room. The pillar contains a small golden bell with a hammer to strike it. There is writing on the pillar suggesting that if they strike the bell there could be danger, and if they do not then they would go mad wondering what happens if they do ring the bell. Digory wants to do it, and though Polly objects, he does it anyway. Immediately there is an unbearably loud sound echoing throughout the hall and parts of the ceiling collapsed until the awful sound ended. Adam and Eve had a similar experience. “The serpent asked the woman, ‘Did God really tell you not to eat from any of the trees in the garden?’ The woman answered the serpent: ‘We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden; it is only about the fruit in the tree in the middle of the garden that God said, ‘You shall not eat it or even touch it, lest you die.'” (Genesis 3:1) The serpent proceeded to tell them that, “No, God knows well that the moment you eat of it your eyes will be opened and you will be like gods who know what is good and what is bad.” (Genesis 3:5) Eve ate the apple as Digory did and though the ceiling did not collapse, the world as they knew it certainly did.
When the pair thinks the incident is over, the fiercely beautiful creature rises from her chair and questions the children of her awakening. God found Adam and Eve after their incident and questions them of their awakening as well. “The Lord God said to the woman, why did you do such a thing?” (Genesis 3:13) The beautiful creature informs Digory that he is not of royal blood and wonders how he arrived there. Polly says it was by magic, and when Digory agrees she figures that he is not a magician, but has traveled on another’s magic. Uncle Andrew.
The Lion character of Aslan returns in this story, again as the Jesus or God figure. He sings a beautiful song that makes vegetation and animals begin to fill the wooded area and color the land. Everything that comes out of the ground hails the Lion, Aslan, knowing that he is in command. This is an obvious reference to God creating the world. “God said, ‘Let the earth bring forth all kinds of living creatures: cattle, creeping things, and wild animals of all kinds.” (Genesis 1:24) “God also said: ‘See, I give you every seed bearing plant all over the earth and every tree that has seed-bearing fruit on it to be your food; and to all the animals of the land, all the birds of the air, and all the living creatures that crawl on the ground, I give all the green plants for food.” (Genesis 1:29) God created the earth and its vegetation, and Aslan brought vegetation to the land of Narnia.
Digory approaches Aslan in an attempt to learn a secret, perhaps a miracle that could save his sick mother. Aslan says that Digory must undo what he has done (letting the Witch out) and Digory again says he needs help for his mother, but sees that Aslan has tears in his eyes and shares his pain. This is a typical scene in the bible describing Jesus when asked for help. He always showed that he could feel the pain and that as those around him hurt, he also hurt.
For Digory to fix his mistake he is told to travel to west of Narnia and pick an apple from a tree that grows in a garden there and return it to Aslan. Polly goes along with Digory on this mission and when they arrive at the garden there is a message saying that they should only take fruit for others, and not for themselves. Digory picks a silver apple from the tree and encounters the witch who tries to manipulate him into picking another apple for his dying mother. She claims that Aslan does not care about his mother and wants the apple for Himself. This is a clear depiction of when Satan tempted Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.
The interesting twist, however, is that Digory did not pick the extra apple but instead retreated and returned to Aslan to show that their task has been completed. Because Digory followed his directions he was able to take an apple for his dying mother. When he returned home, he fed her the apple, and buried some of it in the back yard where another beautiful apple tree grew. I believe Lewis did this because he wanted to update the story a little bit. It is possible to learn from the mistakes of the past and do the right thing in the future. Digory was tempted, but did not bite.
The story ends with a surprising connection to “The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe.” The tree that Digory planted in his yard was knocked down by a storm, and he could not bear to see it cut up and burned as fire wood. He decided to have it turned into a wardrobe to be placed in his old house in the country. Though he never knew that the tree truly did hold some magical properties a young girl in another story was sure to find it and travel between London and Narnia and have adventures of her own.
The final work from C.S. Lewis to be discussed is “The Last Battle.” This is the final story in the series and brings the progression to a full circle. “The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe” was based on gospel stories, “The Magician’s Nephew” was inspired by Genesis, and “The Last Battle” follows suit as it parallels the book of Revelation. This final chapter in the “Chronicles” is darker than the other stories, but because of the biblical references it only makes sense that this is how the series would end.
The story begins with Puzzle the donkey and Shift the ape sitting around a pool. A lion skin flies into the pool and Shift tells Puzzle to wear it and pretend that he is Aslan so Narnian’s would listen to his every command. Shift manipulates Puzzle into wearing the suit and pretending to be Aslan. Puzzle is a prime example of the type of idol that the bible warns us against. “You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath” (Exodus 20:4)
The story continues, but the really interesting connections do not come until the end. Characters from the previous books begin returning to Narnia. The final chapters of this book are almost identical to the final chapters in Revelations in the bible. In the story, Peter is told to lock the door to the old Narnia behind the group as they venture forward with a key that he was given. The bible has a similar idea. “Then I saw an angel come down from heaven, holding in his hand the key to the abyss … he seized the dragon, the ancient serphant, which is the Devil or Satan, and tied it up for a thousand years and threw it into the abyss, which he locked over it and sealed, so that it could no longer lead the nations astray,” (Revelation 20:1) Peter plays the part of the angel and they both lock up the evils of the past as they move forward to a better future.
Narnia collapsed and was destroyed as it became nothing more than deserted land. Water crashed over the land and covered the area that was once the beloved Narnia in front of Aslan, just as “the earth and sky fled from his presence” in the bible. (Revelation 20:11) Aslan sat at the edge of this deserted area and all of the characters and creatures from Narnia, living and dead, ran to him to be judged and see if they would be sent to his left to disappear in his shadow forever or separated to his right to continue further up and further in. The bible reads, “I saw the dead, the great and the lowly, standing before the throne, and scrolls were opened. Then another scroll was opened, the book of life.” (Revelation 20:12) The book of life is how their fate was decided just as looking into Aslan’s face was how Narnian’s fates were decided.
The characters followed through until they found themselves in a new Narnia. All realized that everything was more beautiful there. They saw England within England and could see Professor Kirke’s old house and even their parents. Again, the similarity is astounding. “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth. The former heaven and the former earth had passed away, and the sea was no more.” (Revelation 21:1)
They felt young again, as if they were children and could run around and do anything. They attempted to run to their parents, when Aslan appeared in front of them. Lucy voices concern about returning to their real worlds, and Aslan tells them that they are dead and can stay forever. He then turns from a Lion into a greater and more beautiful form. The children move westward and come to a new Narnia where they climb a high mountain and find a golden bridge. They continue through and many familiar faces from Narnia watch them as they travel further up and further in.
In a section titled, The New Jerusalem, another comparison is formed. “He took me in spirit to a great, high mountain and showed me the holy city of Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God.” (Revelation 21:9) In both cases they are traveling to the gates of heaven where they will enter and spend eternity.
The religious symbolism throughout the chronicles is astounding. Lewis found a way to teach children tales from the Bible through fantasy and epic storytelling. The books have held through time and were found to be classics in children’s literature. The idea that the children passed from today’s world into a world when these issues were happening is both creative and impressive. Lewis created a way for children today to relate to the biblical stories and learn them without even realizing that they are doing it.
Lewis, C.S. The Last Battle. Macmillan Publishing. New York. 1956.
Lewis, C.S. The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe. Macmillan Publishing. New York. 1950.
Lewis, C.S. The Magician’s Nephew. Macmillan Publishing. New York. 1955.
The New American Bible Saint Joseph, ed. Catholic Book Publishing, New York, 1970.
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