The Chronicles of Narnia

by C. S. Lewis

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Last Updated on September 5, 2023, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 645

In The Magician's Nephew, the prequel to the series, Polly and Digory have been sent to the desolate world of Charn with the help of Uncle Andrew's rings. After exploring and finding nothing alive, only ancient people frozen in place, they come upon a pillar with a golden bell and a hammer. The inscription on the pillar, which morphs magically before their eyes so they can read it, says:

Make your choice, adventurous Stranger;
Strike the bell and bide the danger,
Or wonder, till it drives you mad,
What would have followed if you had.

Digory, already curious about what happened in this eerie place, wants to ring the bell. He's sure it will "send him dotty" if he doesn't. Polly tells him how silly that would be. To her, it's obvious: they don't want any danger. An argument ensues, and Digory foolishly picks up the hammer and rings the bell, waking up the evil Jadis. This temptation that Digory succumbs to parallels the myth of Pandora's box as well as Eve's temptation in the Garden of Eden. Giving in unleashes a torrent of destruction and pain.

In The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, Aslan's sacrifice for Edmund is symbolic of the passion, death, and resurrection of Jesus. Edmund, after eating the White Witch's food, falls under her spell and betrays his brother and sisters. The Witch reminds Aslan that, according to the "deep magic" that rules Narnia, all traitors belong to her. Aslan offers himself in Edmund's stead, and the Witch and her minions torture and kill him. But he rises again, and the table where he lay cracks in two. He explains to Susan and Lucy,

Though the Witch knew the Deep Magic, there is a magic deeper still which she did not know. Her knowledge goes back only to the dawn of Time. But if she could have looked a little further back, into the stillness and the darkness before Time dawned, she would have read there a different incantation. She would have known that when a willing victim who had committed no treachery was killed in a traitor's stead, the Table would crack and Death itself would start working backwards.

This symbolizes Christ's substitutionary atonement, by which he bore the sins of humankind and granted eternal life to those who believe.

In The Silver Chair, Puddleglum is an endearing yet pessimistic character with many humorous lines, including "Life isn't all fricasseed frogs and eel pie.” It's ironic, then, when he is the one to withstand the Queen of Underland's enchantment. With her magic spell, she tries to lull them into believing that Underland is all there is; Narnia doesn't really exist. Puddleglum breaks through the fog and declares,

Suppose we have only dreamed, or made up, all those things—trees and grass and sun and moon and stars and Aslan himself. Suppose we have. Then all I can say is that, in that case, the made-up things seem a good deal more important than the real ones. Suppose this black pit of a kingdom of yours is the only world. Well, it strikes me as a pretty poor one. And that's a funny thing, when you come to think of it. We're just babies making up a game, if you're right. But four babies playing a game can make a play-world which licks your real world hollow. That's why I'm going to stand by the play world. I'm on Aslan's side even if there isn't any Aslan to lead it. I'm going to live as like a Narnian as I can even if there isn't any Narnia.

Besides writing great fiction, C. S. Lewis was a Christian apologist, and Puddleglum's speech echoes an argument for faith in the God of the Bible. One could easily substitute God for Aslan, Heaven for Narnia, and Christian for Narnian to unearth the allegory.

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