Updated: Nov 16
“I am [in your world].’ said Aslan. ‘But there I have another name. You must learn to know me by that name. This was the very reason why you were brought to Narnia, that by knowing me here for a little, you may know me better there.”
― C.S. Lewis, The Chronicles of Narnia
As I completed the end of my marathon binging session of the Chronicles of Narnia movies, I knew that I was going to write this article. The living room where I had been watching the movie suddenly felt like it was being flooded with something holy and powerful, driving shivers down my spine in humble reverence of the One of Whom these movies spoke of. Filled with a sense of joyful exuberance, I ran to my computer and uttered a quick prayer for wisdom and coherence as I share what was revealed to me to the best of my ability. Before getting into the review of the movies themselves, I'd like to establish some context that would give you a ringside view of my process of receiving spiritual revelation on the topic.
One of the hardest things to do as a genuine follower of Jesus is to describe the character and presence of Christ to non-believers. How can we possibly do Him justice in our limited and mortal attempts to cover all of His attributes, when there is so much of Him that has not been fully revealed to us yet? Perhaps, one could argue that since we have the completed Bible with us today (whose preservation over the centuries has been nothing short of supernatural), we can therefore know Christ fully by reading all of its 66 books. On the contrary, I have met several mature believers who have read the Bible over 10 times, across a variety of translations, who say with conviction that they can never truly fathom and understand the full depth of God's character because of the limitations of mortal knowledge and boundaries of existential discovery. However, each of us who have encountered Him has been able to comprehend a part of His being which He has revealed to us, rather than the full picture. Therefore, it is very much possible to share our understanding of the parts of Him that we have understood and experienced, for we trust that, in time, He will reveal the rest.
For instance, when I am asked to describe who I believe God is, I say that He is the only epitome of Love and Forgiveness that I have ever known. I say this because I have personally witnessed my entire worldview turn upside down when He finally made Himself known to me after years of questioning Him and defying Him on every immoral path that I had traversed. Upon reaching a point of no return, I laid my heart on the line and begged Him to make Himself known to me, as I implicitly knew that I had eternity engraved on my heart, which hinted of the existence of a benevolent and intelligent Designer by Whom I was created. Deep down, I did not expect Him to show. I wouldn't if I were Him. I did not deserve His affection after 21 years of reckless and selfish living. But He showed up on that fateful night, convicted me of the weight of my sins and just as quickly as the guilt arose, Grace abounded and broke those chains of my past, rendering me a free man. So I resolved to spend the rest of my life seeking to know Him more and continue to ask Him every single day to reveal more of His attributes to me in His appointed time.
After 2 years of in-depth study of the Biblical scriptures, their historical evidence and reliability, as well as the popular Apologetics arguments for the authenticity of the Biblical worldview, I can say with confidence that I have found no reason to doubt the existence of God till today. In fact, as I sit down at my desk and research ideas for new articles, I eagerly scour the web for new ways to convey the truth and message of the Gospel through the works of gifted men and women who have been able to encapsulate one or more aspects of Christ through their life's work. Whether it is the heartfelt compilations of the sermons of Charles H Spurgeon, Viktor Frankl's deep dive into human suffering and his search for existential hope and meaning as a Jewish prisoner of Nazi concentration camps, Lewis Zamperini's miraculous testimony as an American survivor of three prisoner of war camps in Japan during World War 2, or even the incredible story of Don and Carol Richardson who risked their lives in 1962 to share the gospel with the Sawi headhunting cannibals of New Guinea; each tale serves the purpose of examining human nature, intentions and morality, leading to the inextricable conclusion that we are severely flawed and since we are also made in God's image, we, therefore, possess the existential thirst and capability of searching for our Maker, who is willing to reveal Himself and provide for those who need Him.
C.S Lewis was one such man who possessed the incredible ability to convey complex concepts of Biblical theology through creative analogies and stories that drove home the message of the Gospel into the hearts of children and men alike. The first piece of his work that I had come across was The Screwtape Letters, which was a satirical piece of fiction that aims to address Christian theological issues while also painting an honest picture about the key role that temptation and one's resilience, or lack thereof to it plays in each of our daily lives. Although I do plan to tackle that book in a separate article, I would like to address my thoughts on the Chronicles of Narnia, which, in my opinion, is the finest allegorical depiction of the message of the Gospel that exists today.
Core Message of The Chronicles of Narnia
When I first heard about this series, it was in 2012 after the release of all three movies (adapted from the 7 books of the series) garnered massive popularity worldwide. At the time, I had no interest in the Bible, God or C.S.Lewis for that matter, and although I had watched the movie adaptations once, it was as interesting to me as a fly stuck onto the windshield of a car is to the amused driver who is about to turn on the windscreen wipers. Although there were 7 books published within the series, only 'The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe' (2005), 'Prince Caspian' (2008), and 'The Voyage of the Dawn Treader' (2010) were adapted into movies which grossed over 1.5 billion dollars worldwide, with an additional statement made in 2018 that further adaptations in the form of series and movies would be made on Netflix. For those of you who have not read the 7 volumes of the series or watched the Hollywood adaptations, here is a short summary on the same.
The Chronicles of Narnia are a series of seven fantasy novels by British author C. S. Lewis, illustrated by Pauline Baynes and originally published between 1950 and 1956, The Chronicles of Narnia have been adapted for radio, television, the stage, film and computer games. The series is set in the fictional realm of Narnia, a fantasy world of magic, mythical beasts and talking animals. It narrates the adventures of various children who play central roles in the unfolding history of the Narnian world. Except in The Horse and His Boy, the protagonists are all children from the real world who are magically transported to Narnia, where they are sometimes called upon by the mystical lion Aslan to protect Narnia from evil. The books span the entire history of Narnia, from its creation in The Magician's Nephew to its eventual destruction in The Last Battle. The Chronicles of Narnia are considered a classic of children's literature and is Lewis's best-selling work, having sold over 100 million copies in 47 languages.
Lewis wrote these books in order to target a VERY specific audience - children. It is very clear after reading the books or watching the movies that there is a clear-cut Christian message framed with the intention of simplifying and relaying the Gospel through the story of the children who join forces with Aslan, a magical lion, to defeat the evil White Witch and save Narnia. Lewis intended the story to be a thinly veiled retelling of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, complete with references to God the Father, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, Judas and Peter. Lewis thought that if he could take Christian stories and strip them of their stained-glass and Sunday school associations, he could get children to understand the emotions they were supposed to take from the Christ story.
There are countless allegorical or direct references to several Biblical events, such as the temptation and lure of sin, the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ, the betrayal of His trusted followers, the persecution and suffering of the early church during the time of Roman persecution after Jesus's Ascension and multiple more hints at a noticeable Gospel flavour.
The Key Takeaways
As a born-again Christan Believer, when I finished watching 'The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe', I was stunned at how naïve I had been when I had first watched the movie. Lewis has embodied the personhood and sacrifice of Christ in the form of the mystical lion, Aslan. It first struck me that this was an excellent move, as the lion represents the alpha King of the Jungle, which is feared and respected by all, which is especially apt in light of the fact that one of Christ's titles in the Bible was the Lion of Judah. Secondly, the decision to use a Lion to depict the character of Aslan was a brilliant way to illustrate Aslan as a creature that children would initially fear, but once they come to see his gentle behaviour with the children and the love in his eyes as he chose to give himself up to the White Witch to protect Edmund, it would elicit a sense of their loyalty, respect and love for Aslan which would later develop into awe as the series uses Aslan as the allegorical depiction of Christ's love and sacrifice on the Cross.
There were so many incredible moments in the movie that excited the Bible buff inside me, like the part where Mr Tumnus, the faun, refers to Lucy as the daughter of Eve, the temptation of Edmund by the White Witch (Referencing the temptations of Satan or one of the other fallen angels), the White Witch's statement that all traitors belong to her (Edmund) referencing the role of sin and its eternal consequences, Aslan's forgiveness of Edmund and decision to take Edmund's place of punishment on the Stone Table (point to Christ taking our place on the cross), Aslan's resurrection resulting in the dramatic split of the Stone Table (The stone table signifies the ten commandments engraved on stone tablets and how a just judge would state that those who breach them are worthy of death, however, the death of the innocent Christ on the cross signified the end of the moral law that would have resulted in our judgement but for the sacrifice of Jesus) and Aslan's eventual defeat of the White Witch ending with the famous last words of Christ on the cross - 'It is finished'.
In order to concisely breakdown the last two movies into digestible conclusions, here are some points that are taken from the detailed review and summary of the two movies on gotquestions.org -
Lucy's innocent trust and wholehearted dependence on Aslan, despite the doubts and mockery of the others who assumed that Aslan was a myth, was a beautiful juxtaposition of how we Christians learn how to follow Christ irrespective of persecution for our faith and ridicule from insincere and intellectually dishonest sceptics.
Perhaps the most obvious theme is represented by Lucy’s journey through the story. Her struggle portrays the struggle of all Christians who must follow the path of faith and obedience, even in the face of opposition. Lucy has to go against her friends and family in order to follow Aslan (Jesus), who appears to her one night and beckons her to follow Him on the path to Aslan’s How, a path the others cannot, or will not, see. When they refuse to follow her, her heart is broken, but she abandons Aslan in order to stay with the group. When Aslan comes to her a second time, He is compassionate and loving towards her, but He makes it clear to her through her own conscience that she should have followed Him, no matter what the cost. She realizes her mistake and gains from Him the strength she needs: “Lucy buried her head in his mane to hide from his face. But there must have been magic in his mane. She could feel lion-strength going into her. Quite suddenly, she sat up, saying ‘I’m sorry, Aslan,’ she said. ‘I’m ready now.’” Lucy now had the courage to follow Aslan, even if she will be the only one who does. “‘I do hope,’ said Lucy in a tremulous voice, ‘that you will all come with me. Because—because I’ll have to go with him whether anyone else does or not.’” This is a poignant lesson for Christians of all ages, but especially for children. Lucy’s heroism as she determines to follow Aslan through all the dire circumstances in the first three books teaches children three invaluable lessons: counting the cost of following Christ (Luke 14:26-33); the dangers and trials inherent in the Christian life (James 1:12; Revelation 2:10); and the faithfulness of our Savior, who will lead us home and from Whom nothing can separate us (2 Thessalonians 3:3; Hebrews 10:23; Romans 8:38-39).
Another theme is the stark difference between believers and unbelievers, as symbolized by the Old Narnians—those who remained true to Aslan—and the Telmarines and some of the dwarves, especially Nikabrik. The Old Narnians are characterized as those who “believe in fairy tales.” King Miraz, who has usurped young Caspian’s throne, berates him: “That’s all nonsense, for babies…Only fit for babies, do you hear? You’re getting too old for that sort of stuff.” Even Trumpkin, the dwarf who is eventually convinced of the reality of Aslan, says early on, “But who believes in Aslan nowadays?” Trumpkin changes his mind, or rather has it changed for him, when he meets the great Aslan face to face. After that momentous meeting, Trumpkin becomes a true son of Narnia and will continue to be so through the next book, The Silver Chair. Lewis is drawing a parallel to the Christian life in that our faith will always be ridiculed and sneered at by those who will see it as foolishness. Paul reminds us that “the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Corinthians 1:18).
Another theme in Prince Caspian is the universality of questioning God’s timing and purposes. Several times the main characters wonder why Aslan doesn’t come and intervene in their struggles, why they can’t see Him, and why He has been absent from Narnia for so long. But their faith, and ours, is built up by just such circumstances until we learn, as the psalmist tells us, “As for God, His way is perfect” (Psalm 18:30). If God’s ways are “perfect,” then we can trust that whatever He does and whatever timing He chooses, is also perfect. In the end, it is the High King Peter who proclaims, “We don’t know when He will act. In His time, no doubt, not ours. In the meantime, He would like us to do what we can on our own.” As Christians, what we “do” is to live by faith in the Son of God, who loved us and gave Himself for us (Galatians 2:20).
Aslan, the embodiment of the Spirit of God, appears to Lucy again later, not to convict of sin, but to encourage and sustain her faith. The ship is engulfed in a terrifying darkness from which there seems to be no escape. In her despair, Lucy whispers, “Aslan, if you ever loved us at all, send help now.” Suddenly, in the distance, a light appears in the shape of a cross. Then it takes the shape of a bird that circles the mast and leads the ship out of the darkness. Lucy hears the “small, still voice” (1 Kings 19:12) of Aslan whispering to her, “Courage, dear heart,” and she feels his warm breath on her face. Here is a picture of Christ (the bird) who leads His people (the ship) from the darkness of the evil one into the light of His gospel (John 8:12; 12:46; Acts 26:18).
The Lion appears for the final time in the last chapter of the book, where he emerges as a Lamb who feeds them the most delicious meal they have ever had, a foreshadowing of the marriage supper of the Lamb in Revelation 19:19. Here we see the depiction of Jesus, the Lion of the tribe of Judah (Revelation 5:5) as well as the Lamb of God (John 1:29,36; 1 Peter 1:19).
For those of you who are interested in watching the three movies or in reading all 7 of the books of this series, considering the information cited above, please do take some time out of your busy schedules to do the same. I usually try really hard to share Christ's influence on my life through each article that I write because I am eager to share my reason for hope with those who are desperately searching for it. Therefore, in the weeks to come, I would be reviewing several books, movies and tv series that would be far more effective in opening the door in your own lives to experiencing the tangible and real presence of God, who wants to have a consensual relationship with you and equip you with the tools and resources you need to unravel His identity for yourself.
I'd like to conclude this article with the last lines of Aslan that resonated with me as his most touching and comforting dialogues in the entire series, concluding the masterpiece of a story that C. S. Lewis wrote to bring the story of Jesus into perspective for those who are yet to know Him or wish to know Him more intimately.
“It isn't Narnia, you know," sobbed Lucy. "It's you. We shan't meet you there. And how can we live, never meeting you?" "But you shall meet me, dear one," said Aslan. Are -are you there too, Sir?" said Edmund. "I am," said Aslan. "But there I have another name. You must learn to know me by that name. This was the very reason why you were brought to Narnia, that by knowing me here for a little, you may know me better there.”
~ C. S. Lewis, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader