Recently, while watching Walden Media’s offering of C.S. Lewis’s The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, I began to consider what appeared to be a very prominent theme. I’m an ardent fan of the The Chronicles of Narnia having feasted on them a multitude of times since I was 9 or 10 years old. In addition to placing myself alongside the Pavensis and their friends in all their adventures, I was at a place in my mental development where I could begin to grasp the spiritual messages and morals presented by Lewis. From the time I enthusiastically realized that Aslan’s sacrifice for Edmund—really for all Narnia—represented Christ’s sacrifice for mankind, I delightedly began looking for other manifestations of Biblical truths. As I uncovered individual themes and motives in each book, I wondered about connections between the books. I haven’t investigated much of the criticism on these books, so what I’m about to propose might already be a well-developed idea or maybe you’ve already thought this through yourself. Even so, I’d like to provoke some of your thoughts on this subject and if you haven’t considered it, this theme might be a great new way for you to look at these stories. The Chronicles of Narnia comprise Lewis’s treatise on faith in God.
Starting with Wardrobe you’ll remember that the first problem in the book is whether the older children will believe Lucy about here new-found “country in the cupboard.” Being the youngest, Lucy is the perfect candidate to first encounter Narnia. She knows what she has experienced and cannot recant her account since she possesses an artless candidness for which children of her age are known. Lewis captures her trusting nature perfectly in her following a devious Mr. Tumnus to his house and in her manner and conversation throughout the story. Her love and trust of Aslan are immediate and complete. She is Lewis’s tribute to Christ’s injunction for faith like a child.
Each sibling takes a different approach to Lucy’s story. Edmund finds himself in a position where he too encounters the magical country. As you know he does something quite different. He knows Narnia is real, but he denies it. He desires to prove himself equal to Peter and to admit to Lucy’s account, he thinks, would look silly to his brother— especially after giving Lucy such a hard time. Edmund is a fool on the scale of belief. He’s the kind of person who knows deep down that a thing is true but doesn’t want to admit it either because he is afraid of his peers, or because he doesn’t want to face the consequences of his wrong beliefs. Edmund continues to exhibit the traits of a fool even after he is forced to admit he was wrong. He suppresses the truth about the witch and betrays his siblings for selfish gain.
Susan’s objections tend to be materialistic. You remember that she is the one with all the practical concerns. She’s the one that suggests putting on coats to keep warm when the children enter Narnia together for the first time. Susan is the first to point out the back of the wardrobe. She can see that it is solid wood. In Peter’s and Susan’s interview with the professor, Lewis narrows in on Susan’s bewildered reaction to the professor’s statements. In fact, you’ll find that the only thoughts he describes in this passage are Susan’s. The professor’s thinking does not align with what she has come to expect from grown-ups, and she “[doesn’t] know what to think.”
Peter cannot accept Lucy’s account from a rational standpoint. Like any rational person, he looks objectively at what he sees to be the facts and then extracts a conclusion—Lucy’s story must be a joke. When she insists, Peter decides that she could be insane. But as the professor points out, Peter excludes some of the facts in order to think that Lucy’s story is irrational. Lucy’s stellar record in honesty and her perfect sanity should tell Peter that Lucy’s insistence contains some credibility.
Much to our delight, all the children soon come to believe when they are unexpectedly thrust into Narnia. Edmund produces a negative form of this belief by trusting the White Witch. You can note the way that the general belief in the world of Narnia refines into a more specific belief, or trust, in Aslan. All of the children (except Lucy) are initially hesitant to trust Mr. Beaver and his talk of Aslan. Aslan proves his worthiness of their trust through his sacrifice for Edmund and his assistance in defeating the White Witch. In the subsequent stories, Aslan manifests himself to be the God of all worlds and it is through Narnia that he gains the faith of the Pavensis, the Professor, Polly, Eustace, and Jill. But I’ll deal more with this in a later post.