Summary: Exploring both the debate within the Christian community about the value of The Chronicles of Narnia and the debate within the secular community about its allegorical meaning.
CS Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia are now acclaimed by many as the standard for what is considered ’classic’ in Children’s fantasy literature, yet they have provoked heated responses from Christians who reject their use of mythology, and even derision from some aspects of the secular media for its blatant use of religious allegory.
The Chronicles of Narnia were first published in the 1950s. CS Lewis wanted to write a "good" story rather than a "Christian" story. Yet the allegorical message in the Chronicles of Narnia is hard to miss. In fact, to loosely quote from the Magician’s Nephew (Book 1 in the series), "Even though you know that the lion was singing, if you pretend really hard - you make yourself believe that it is just a lion roaring!" And in the same way, if you pretend really hard you could make yourself believe that CS Lewis was writing about something other than eternal truths...
WHAT DID LEWIS WANT HIS READERS TO KNOW FROM NARNIA?
The Chronicles of Narnia take vital elements of the Gospel and communicate them in fantastic (literally- "of fantasy") images. The eternal truths of a Supreme Emperor, an incarnated Son of the Emperor, the problem of evil and sin as a universal condition of all people, the ultimate redeeming sacrifice of the Creator Himself, the empowering of all those who chose to follow the Creator, and the promise of a final solution to evil are key ingredients to the Narnia stories.
WHAT DID LEWIS MEAN BY "MAGIC"?
CS Lewis used the term "magic" in a different way from the way it is generally used. By "magic" he meant something closer to science. To him, magic has an author, rules, an initiation, and practitioners. Magic is what he called the realm of knowledge beyond what science had unravelled. It was therefore, the science of the mysterious. Before the reader imagines that Lewis was restricting knowledge to rationalism it must be understood that to Lewis the unseen spiritual real was something that natural science had little or no way of classifying. To Lewis, this realm was probably more real than the "physical" realm in which we live. In the Magician’s Nephew he describes those first humans in Narnia as feeling like they had awoken from a long dream. This is an insight into how Lewis contrasted this physical real with the spiritual realm where we will spend eternity either with God or exiled from His presence depending on our response to his offer of forgiveness in this life.
BUT WHAT ABOUT ’WITCHES’ AND MYTHICAL CREATURES?
The use of such mythical creatures as -
Centaurs (half man half animal) - Minotaurs (half animal half man) - Minoboars - Fauns -Evil creatures - a Witch -
-have prompted some concerned people to declare that these stories are of no use to Christians at all. Some parents have forbidden their children reading the Narnia Chronicles because it uses such mythical creatures as an integral component to the stories. But Christians need to consider several factors regarding this type of fantasy-
* The Bible also contains references to witches, witchcraft, and sorcery. (eg. 1Sam. 28)
* The world of Narnia is not our world. It is a make-believe world.
* The Bible also describes fantastic creatures (eg. Ezek. 1-2; Book of Revelation) these include flying dragons, half scorpion-half humans, beasts with multiple faces including that of a man, seraphim, cherabim, and "beasts" that arise from the sea (Dan. 8; Rev. 13).
Perhaps this is to be distinguished from "bad" fantasy stories where evil creatures interact in our world and their evil actions are justified as reasonable. CS Lewis does not do this.
NARNIA’S STONE TABLE & THE CROSS
The climax of The Lion, The Witch, and Wardrobe is the Stone Table scene. This is one of the most profound allegories of Calvary ever written. Many believers have testified how this Narnia scene has enhaced their appreciation of the Cross. It graphically depicts the saviour’s ridicule, scorn, and ordeal of his sacrifice even before his physical suffering.
BUT WHO IS ASLAN?
But one of the elders said to me, “Do not weep. Behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has prevailed to open the scroll and to loose its seven seals.”
The parallels between Aslan and Christ are obvious: Son of the Emperor, Creator, Incarnate One, Redeeming Sacrifice, Empowering Lord. CS Lewis wrote to an 11 year girl, Hilla, answering her question about Alsan by asking her who it was who (i) arrived at the same time as Father Christmas, (ii) said He was the Son of the Great Emperor, (iii) gave Himself up for someone else’s fault to be jeered at and killed by wicked people, and (iv) came to life again. The obvious answer is Jesus Christ of Nazareth.