Last Updated on August 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 368
The Chronicles of Narnia is an allegorical tale that is based heavily on Christian stores of morality, creation, and history. Lewis took a lot of ideas from other historical tales, such as the stories of King Arthur and mythology, to create characters and themes—but the overarching concept is overwhelmingly Christian...
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- Critical Essays
The Chronicles of Narnia is an allegorical tale that is based heavily on Christian stores of morality, creation, and history. Lewis took a lot of ideas from other historical tales, such as the stories of King Arthur and mythology, to create characters and themes—but the overarching concept is overwhelmingly Christian in nature.
The idea of salvation is most notable in the story of Edmund Pevensie. Acting as an enemy to Aslan, he sells out his family to the White Witch for a chance at being greater than his brother and sisters and to eat some Turkish Delight. To secure his safe return, Aslan willingly sacrifices his own life in exchange, which leads the White Witch to think she has successfully killed the God of Narnia.
Digory Kirk and Eustace Scrubb are other characters with notable salvation experiences over the course of the narrative. Digory must make the right decision to not partake in the fruit but instead take it to heal his mother, and he is commended by Aslan. Eustace's heart changes after he spends several weeks in the form of a dragon and Aslan heals him, leading him to be much kinder and gentler.
Aslan constantly encourages the children to tackle the tasks ahead of them, as when Eustace and Jill are in Aslan's land. Aslan ensures that they listen to his advice and the steps they need to complete, and then he breathes on the two of them to give them the courage they need. Later, after returning, they have failed in their courage but succeeded in the journey, for which Aslan commends them. But he also reprimands them, saying they need to be more bold and courageous, particularly in light of the fact that, since Aslan is with them, they cannot fail.
The children and characters are asked to have faith in Aslan many times throughout the story. Digory is told to have faith that Aslan will heal his mother, Lucy and Susan are told to have faith that Aslan will take care of them in spite of his death, and Eustace and Jill are told to have faith that Aslan will rescue Rilian and get them safely out of the Underground World.
Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 570
Although not allegory, the Chronicles of Narnia do convey Christian themes systematically. The most dramatic of these is the death of Aslan as a substitute for Edmund, and Aslan’s resurrection. While not a “one for all” death (as was Jesus’ crucifixion in the Bible), it does show the substitutionary aspect of Christian atonement and the inability of evil to overcome a sinless individual by death. Aslan is a type of Christ, who is seen as “the Lion of the Tribe of Judah” in biblical symbolism (Revelation 5:5).
Aslan reveals himself from time to time. He is not a hidden god, and his self-disclosures are real and life-changing. Eustace Scrubb, although turned into a dragon in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, has a revelation of Aslan that transforms him, as happened to Edmund in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. Although Aslan is divine, the “Emperor over Sea” is clearly the ruling divinity. Hence, there is a partial depiction of the Christian doctrine of the Trinity.
Lewis presents a possible mode of Creation and “Last Day” Judgment, as well as a glimpse into what “a new heaven and a new earth” (Revelation 21:1) could be like. While Lewis states at the end of The Voyage of the Dawn Treader that Narnian theology is different from earth theology, at an imaginative level Lewis is showing how such divine acts are conceivable.
In Lewis’s use of parallel time, there is a biblical sense of “one day as a thousand years and a thousand years as one day” (2 Peter 3:8) in God’s sight. Events that transpire over weeks, months, and years in Narnia have consumed, in the “real” world of England, little or no time at all. Lewis also demonstrates a doctrine of election: Some animals are chosen by Aslan to be talking animals. However, it is possible for the talking animals to lose their gift of speech, as happens in The Last Battle, just as it is possible for Susan to lose her faith. Elsewhere, as in The Silver Chair, the children are “chosen” and empowered for various quests and tasks (as in Ephesians 2:10), being given suitable helpers. Lewis marries fairy-tale motifs with biblical truth. There is also a Christian sense of temptation as testing, especially strong in the Edenic parallels at the end of The Magician’s Nephew.
While some commentators have denied any overt Christian meaning or message in the Chronicles, others have claimed the novels present a fully fledged Christianity. It is important, therefore, to recognize what Christian truths Lewis does not address. There is no reference to the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity, nor is there any real sense of the fatherhood of God. There is no incarnation: Aslan remains always a lion; there is no suggestion that he has taken on the form of a lion in order to enter Narnia (as there is in Christian teaching the notion that God takes the form of a human being, Jesus Christ, his manifestation on earth). Last, no religious practice of any sort is presented in the chronicles: no church, no spiritual leaders, no holy book. Nevertheless, the spirituality of Narnia cannot be denied as expressed in the numinous feeling at times, such as in Lucy’s encounters with Aslan and at the end of The Voyage of the Dawn Treader and in the sense of design, purpose, and destiny that runs throughout the plotting.