Where Have We Seen This Lion Before?
C. S. Lewis and the Chronicles of Narnia, etc.
A Special Comment from William D. Brehm,
who is a long term C. S . Lewis fan.
In 2001 the New York Public Library published a brochure listing what the Library directors considered to be the 150 most influential books of the 20th Century. One of them is "The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe". The author, C. S. Lewis, is widely considered to be one of the greatest, and is definitely one of the most read, Christian writers and thinkers of the past century. Educated at England's prestigious Oxford University, Lewis was later a professor of Medieval and Renaissance Literature at Cambridge University. While there he became a close friend of "Lord of the Rings" author J.R.R. Tolkien. It was Tolkien's influence that led Lewis to become a Christian. Later, they shared ideas for their stories. Lewis went on to write and publish over twenty books that have to do with Christianity, both fiction and non-fiction.
Other than the ‘Chronicles of Narnia’, his most famous work of fiction is ‘The Screwtape Letters’. This book was so successful that a Broadway play was based on it. The book is written in the form of a series of humorous letters from a ‘senior tempter’ demon, named ‘Screwtape’, to a beginner, called ‘Wormwood’. Though written as fiction, and in a somewhat humorous tone, the book is actually an in-depth treatise on the nature of temptation. Yet presented the humorous way it is, it is enjoyable reading without being boring or repugnant as the subject might seem.
Lewis is also famous for his ‘Perelandra’ science fiction trilogy, an unusual work combining elements of fantasy and allegory with straight science fiction. In those books, Lewis explored the moral and theological implications of our progress in science, technology, medicine, and especially space travel through the medium of fiction. The "Perelandra" trilogy was the original inspiration for the "BABEL RISING!" pages in this site.
Lewis’ most famous non-fiction book is ‘Mere Christianity’. It is written in layman’s language, and its purpose is to explain the basic beliefs of the Christian Faith to readers who are unfamiliar with them. In that respect, it is worth reading both for those interested in learning about what Christians believe and why, and for new converts who need to gain a broad understanding of the Faith. A provocative book, it is also easy and enjoyable reading. Lewis is also the author of a number of other books related to Christianity, both fiction and non-fiction. Among the titles are "The Problem of Pain", "Surprised By Joy", "Pilgrim's Regress", "The Great Divorce", and "Until We Have Faces". There are others.
However, the most beloved of Lewis’ works are the seven novels of ‘The Chronicles of Narnia’ series. A fantasy in the genre of ‘The Lord of the Rings’ it is addressed to young readers, especially those in the pre-teen to early teenage bracket. However it is quite possible for adults to read and enjoy the novels. Many have, and they still do. The books each contain a Christian message, but the messages are delivered in such way as not be offensive to people of other religious persuasions.
The books use a literary device often found in science fiction and fantasy: the concept of alternate worlds. Lewis Carroll’s classic, “Alice in Wonderland’, is an alternate world story. In most such novels, a character from earth suddenly finds himself or herself in a different world, without space flight being involved. However, C. S. Lewis excels the other writers of such stories in this: While in most such novels there is only one way from earth to and from the alternate world, in ‘The Chronicles of Narnia’ each novel features a different way by which the main characters – mainly English children – get from earth to Narnia. How they do it is always a pleasant surprise to both the characters in the story and the readers.
As usually happens in fantasy novels, ‘The Chronicles of Narnia’ features magic as a major factor in each story. Some Christians may have a problem with this. However, as is also true in "The Lord of the Rings", the magic practiced in Narnia is not the real magic practiced in occult circles today. Rather, it is an imaginary magic designed to fit the stories. Furthermore, Lewis himself noted elsewhere in his writings, the Bible is not as unilaterally against magic as most Christians think. The Wise Men who came from the east to see the Baby Jesus are also called ‘The Magi’. The word ‘magi’ is derived from a Greek word meaning ‘sorcerer’. The Bible actually only condemns magic when it is linked to idolatry. Unfortunately, in the real world it usually is.
The seven novels of The Chronicles of Narnia span the entire history of the fantasy world called Narnia, from its creation in the novel “The Magician’s Nephew” to its destruction in “The Last Battle”. However, instead of starting his writing at either end, Lewis chose to start with ‘The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe’. The book tells the story of a major turning point in the history of Narnia: the defeat of the evil White Witch, Jadis, who was holding Narnia in a state of perpetual winter without Christmas.
Aside from the English children, the one main character who is found throughout the series is Aslan, the noble lion. Aslan is no ordinary lion. Aslan can talk. Far from being a savage predator, Aslan is civilized and seems cultured. He is the true king of Narnia and he lives eternally. Not only is he all that, he is also an authority on magic.
When the White Witch demands the life of the traitor Edmund on the basis of the laws of the deep magic, Aslan offers his own life as a substitute for Edmund’s. After being killed, Aslan rises from the dead. Then he explains to Lucy and Susan that there was deeper magic from before time that the White Witch did not know about: When a willing victim who had done no treachery was killed in a traitor’s place, Death itself would start working backwards. The victim’s death would be reversed.
You know, it’s said that something like that happened in the real world onc. An innocent victim died, not just for one person’s treachery, but for everyone’s sins. Then his death was reversed; he arose from the dead. Death itself was defeated. Funny thing, but in one place the person who did it is referred to as a lion, the Lion of the tribe of Judah. Do you know who he is? Do you know him? So I ask you, where have we seen this lion that C.S. Lewis called Aslan before?
Contact author, William D. Brehm