#progGOD: Incarnation and the problem with Aslan

In C.S. Lewis’ Narnia stories, Aslan often refers to the Pevensie children — humans from England transported to a magical other world — as “sons of Adam and daughters of Eve.”

Aslan, a mighty and noble lion, is intended as the Christ figure of Lewis’ Christian allegories. Lewis makes this anviliciously obvious. Aslan sacrifices himself to save the sinner Edmund, and then rises again. Aslan’s faithful people — the talking beasts and magical creatures of Narnia — revere him as the Son of God.

But Aslan doesn’t really work as a Jesus figure. The Pevensies may be the children of Adam and Eve, but Aslan is not.

Narnia, in other words, is an allegory that lacks incarnation. And you can’t have a Christ figure without incarnation. That’s why the Gospels of Matthew and Luke begin with those genealogies and with the Christmas narratives we recall this time of year. The Gospels cannot be good news unless God becomes a child of Adam — and a child of Abraham, and of David.

That is why the Gospel of John begins with his own more cosmic version of the Christmas story — “He was in the world … the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us.”

Aslan is fleshy, but his flesh is not our flesh, and he does not dwell among us. He may sort of work as a Christ figure for the other talking lions of Narnia, but not for the sons of Adam and daughters of Eve who visit that world. Nor for the humans of Archenland and Calormene (wherever they come from in that story), or for the dwarves of Narnia, or the fauns, dryads, beavers, mice, badgers, centaurs or other good folk of that world. (Lewis’ choice of a lion for Aslan also seems fraught with some Great Chain of Being baggage, which further undercuts the meaning of incarnation in his allegory.)

This is helpful, in a way. Lewis has inadvertently provided us with a kind of negative illustration of the importance of incarnation. By giving us an allegory centered on a pseudo-Jesus who is not a child of Adam, Lewis shows us how essentially important and pervasive the meaning of incarnation really is.

One place we see this in the Narnia stories is in the Stone Table sequence in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Lewis attempts to illustrate his belief in a theory of penal substitutionary atonement, but winds up flailing a bit — deeper magic? — because all such theories of atonement only work if the person on the Stone Table or on the cross is one of us.

Or consider Aslan’s statement to the Pevensies in Prince Caspian:

“You come from the Lord Adam and the Lady Eve”, said Aslan. “And that is both honour enough to erect the head of the poorest beggar, and shame enough to bow the shoulders of the greatest emperor on earth; be content.”

Here Lewis references the theology of creation and the fall, but the theology of redemption seems absent. It has to be, because redemption is bound up with incarnation.

Humans are good, Aslan says, because God created us as good. But that creation story is not the only story or the only way in which God affirms our goodness. We have other sources of “honour” that Aslan does not acknowledge.

God has shown that humans are worthy not just through creation, but through adoption, redemption and incarnation. God made us, God chose us, God redeems us, God became one of us.

This matters.

I need to re-read the Narnia series with this in mind, to further trace how Lewis’ non-incarnate Christ figure alters the theology of the allegory. I suspect much of this also traces back to C.S. Lewis’ fascination with Plato. When “the word became flesh” gets translated into “the ideal became shadows,” then things are bound to get a bit wobbly with regard to the meaning of incarnation.

And that’s a problem in the Narnia series. An allegory of Christ without an incarnation is like … well, it’s like a world in which it is always winter, but never Christmas.

 

Stay in touch with the Slacktivist on Facebook:

White evangelicalism is white nationalism.
White evangelicals cannot allow themselves to understand miscarriage
Kotsko on the consequences of a 'moral trump card'
Christian colleges and 'Christian' nationalism
  • Diggory Kirke

    But Aslan isn’t an allegory of Jesus. There is no Fall in Narnia (though humans coming into Narnia from elsewhither bring their Fall with them). Aslan’s sacrifice saves Edmund and Edmund only; he is not the Redeemer of the Narnians because the Narnians remain as they were created; he is not a Saviour; because there is no Original Sin.

    Further, Lewis explicitly denied that Aslan was an allegory of Jesus; he said he /was/ Jesus, or rather how Jesus might be supposed to be in another world, with another setup. He is still the Son of God, but his job in Narnia is different from his job in our universe; he is the Steward of Narnia, not its Saviour.

    Really, what do they teach them in these schools these days.

  • Diggory Kirke

    TL:DR, Aslan *is* Jesus but *not* Christ.

  • Makabit

    Wait, isn’t it the other way around? He is Christ, but not Jesus?

    TOO COMPLICATED! No wonder Maimonides thought all of y’all were idolaters.

    ;)

  • http://www.jasonknox.weebly.com jasonknox

     Here’s one of the Lewis quotes where he denies writing Narnia as an allegory:

    “If Aslan represented the immaterial Deity, he would be an allegorical figure. In reality however he is an invention giving an imaginary answer to the question, “What might Christ become like if there really were a world like Narnia and He chose to be incarnate and die and rise again in that world as He actually has done in ours?” This is not allegory at all. So in Perelandra. This also works out a supposition . . . Allegory and such supposals differ because they mix the real and the unreal in different ways.”

    We might say that the Narnia stories are parables, but you’re right they are not allegory. “Parable merely says to the reader, “this is like this” while allegory says to the reader “this is this.”

  • Jim Roberts

    It doesn’t really matter what Lewis intended it to be, it matters what he wrote and how it’s interpreted – and if you interpret the story as an allegory, it fails. That really should make you happy since that mean’s you’re most probably right.

  • http://www.seven-sigma.com/ Jeff Dickey

    Money quote being the last paragraph. It’s really hard to be precise in our theology, especially when we’re wobbly with our concepts or the words which we use to express them. I can go along with the idea that Lewis was writing Christian parables; he did not write Christian allegory.

  • Demonhype

     Thank you, I thought maybe I was going mad!  I recall Aslan telling the Pevensies at one point that he (Aslan) exists in their world and that they must go back there and learn about him by that name–suggesting that he’s just an alternate dimensional version of the same being that was Jesus here.

    Wow.  I haven’t read those things in about twenty years, yet I remember so many little details like that!

  • Scottj82

     ^^^ This.  The whole story of Narnia is different from the story of “our world,” so to speak, and thus bringing in all these problems is nitpicking at the wrong stuff.  Not only was there no Fall in Narnia, but the only humans ever to come there came from our world.  Thus, Diggory is right; Narnia isn’t an allegory, strictly speaking.  Aslan is Jesus, but he’s not an allegory for Jesus as he exists in our world.  In a proper allegory, like say Pilgrim’s Progress, every character represents something real in the real world.  What Lewis did is often mistaken for allegory, but it isn’t.

  • Joshua

     And I forgot to mention: How is it problematic that Lewis makes Aslan a lion?  For goodness sake, the Bible refers to Jesus as the Lion of Judah!  And of course at the end of The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, Aslan appears as a lamb, too.

  • Andrew

    Yes. One way to understand what Lewis was up to is this: Narnia isn’t allegory, or Biblical fanfict – it’s real person fiction http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Real_person_fiction

  • Sagrav

    I still think that Aslan works as a substitute Jesus because all of the talking animals, dwarves, faeries, dryads, etc. have human minds and personalities, so they are essentially people.  If a mad scientist could somehow pull your brain out and put it into the body of a lion, you’d still be you.  You’d just be living a furry’s dream come true.  I guess in that way, Aslan is Jesus for furries.  He died for their yiffs.

    This stuff is all magic, and as such there are no real rules governing it.  If a god wants to be an animal instead of a human as part of its scheme to remove a magical sin-stain from our magical souls, then it can.  If you are a being that can rewrite the rules of reality for your own amusement, you can turn yourself into a meth addicted bonobo poet for all the difference it makes.  It might even make for an amusing religious text.  “The Gospel According to Koko”.

  • Kaleberg

    I was going to say something along these lines, but Sagrav has said it better than I. If you read the Chronicles, you’ll see that Lewis has created his magical beasts as creatures with souls and religious concerns. Given my non-Christian background, this was one of the weak points of the books. Christianity has always seemed a much more mystical religion than Judaism or Islam. Still, within the framework of the books, Aslan was a Jesus figure or a Green Man or Horus or whoever. If I remember correctly, he didn’t just save Edmund, but all of Narnia, if only indirectly.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Michael-Cule/100001621659800 Michael Cule

    There are theological difficulties with Aslan but not the fact that he’s not human. (Really, Fred how speciesist of you!)

    As noted there is no specific ‘fall’ for the talking animals of Narnia for whom, as Aslan makes clear, the world was made (“It is not a kingdom for men,” as I seem to recall him saying, “though it is a kingdom for a man to be ruler of.”) And yet they do have sin and some of them are found wanting at the last judgement and pass from Aslan’s sight and into the eternal darkness. Which makes one wonder what the sacrifice at the Stone Table was in aid of….

    Still, I cannot agree that a Talking Lion is not ‘one of us’ nor part of our moral brotherhood and may be in need of saving as much as the next sapient.

    Or not which is the argument Lewis presented in OUT OF THE SILENT PLANET.

  • Liralen

    This reminds me, you might enjoy the movie Ink. The Christian allegories are stunningly beautiful.

  • AnonymousSam

    The film by Jamin Winans? Very fond of it. Pity it’s no longer available on Hulu (or at least for free accounts) or I’d link it. Yes, though, definitely worth seeking out. Also SPIN, another of their short productions: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oP59tQf_njc

  • Liralen

    Yep.  Ink is on Netflix
    http://movies.netflix.com/WiMovie/Ink/70125584?locale=en-US

    Ironically, I got the tip for this movie at a gaming forum in a thread about movies that most resemble the game world (The Secret World) http://forums.thesecretworld.com/showthread.php?t=62131 .  No one mentioned (or seemed to care about) the Christian aspects of it.

    Also ironic is the fact that I never picked up on the Christian allegories in Narnia either, simply because I wasn’t raised Christian, whereas my fundamentalist-raised husband missed one of the best Christian allegories in Ink.  He did recognize it after I mentioned it, just as I did when a Christian friend claimed that C.S. Lewis was an author of Christian books.

  • http://www.nicolejleboeuf.com/index.php Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little

     

    This reminds me, you might enjoy the movie Ink. The Christian allegories are stunningly beautiful.

    YES. This. (Although, like the above posters, I’d say “parable” or “allusion,” not “allegory.”) Also, bring a box of tissues or several hankies. I waterfalled pretty much from the 3/4 mark onward.

    ROT13 for spoilers, but for those of y’all who have seen it: Qhevat gur ovg jurer Vax fryyf Yvri’f unve, vg uvg zr irel fgebatyl gung Yvri vf abg n Puevfg nyyhfvba, be abg jubyyl bar, ohg engure na Nfyna nyyhfvba.

  • Becca Stareyes

    If I recall my childhood Narnia obsession, it’s implied that all humans in Narnia come from Earth folks who wandered into Narnia.  The first king and queen were from England (when the Professor was a boy, and near Narnia’s creation).  Caspian’s people were also from Earth originally.  I’d assume that other humans were various sorts of people from Earth who wandered in and settled.

    As folks mention upthread, I’d say there’s a larger problem than that Aslan is a lion.  Well, a bunch, actually, some Fred mentions.

    Talking animals and various fantasy creatures seem morally equivalent to humans — so a lion could easily be ‘one of us’ as much as a human could.  However, Aslan affirms that it’s better for an outsider (a human) to run the country as a matter of faith — which seems to suggest that humans are above intelligent animals/centaurs/fauns/etc. without any reason besides ‘God says so’.  You could argue easily that Caspian X was a good compromise king in that he was human, but respected the non-humans of Narnia, so could bring together the country after generations of humans oppressing non-humans.  Peter et al. were considered the heros of the kingdom after defeating the White Witch, but a lot of that was Aslan’s (and Santa’s) intervention that gave them the tools and the ability to rally the Narnians.  

    As others noted, while Aslan seems to be physically a lion, he doesn’t seem to have lived a Talking Lion’s life. At best, you could say he was post-crucifixion/risen Jesus, who took on leonine form to help create and steer Narnia.  Which raises the question of whether Narnia as its own world, rather than some kind of reflection on ours, exists.  (Seems a bit of a cheat to my fantasy writer’s heart to make Narnia so bound to ours and not vice versa.  Like Narnia is but a shadow of our world.) 

    Also, if I recall, the idea was that the Stone Table was to break some old Narnian rule of ‘an eye for an eye’ — if Peter didn’t turn over Edmund to the Witch, some kind of karmic backlash would hit him for harboring a criminal.  If an innocent — Aslan — volunteered instead, that was apparently enough to rewrite the universe and also restore the sacrifice to life.  

    Which doesn’t really work with Aslan as creator figure in later books*, and seems like a pale sacrifice when Aslan knows what he’s doing and the results.  I’ve seen some argue that Jesus was human enough that he could still fear death and pain and feel uncertain about ‘is this really going to work’, but Lewis doesn’t seem to portray Aslan as that at all.  

    * I guess it gets back to the question is ‘why does God need the crucifixion of Jesus to rewrite the rules so folks who follow him can go to heaven when he’s God the Creator’.  

  • Tofu_Killer

    If there was no Fall in Narnia, why is there suffering? 

     I always thought Lewis was a little sloppy in not answering that more explicitly. The importation of evil works for the Sons of Adam/Daughters of Eve crowd, but the animals are supposed to be free of sin, yet they suffer horribly under the Witch and in the later books.

    This has been one of those questions that sticks with me, and every time I think I have an answer it falls through on some point of Augustinian theodicy or other.

  • TheRealAaron

    The importation of evil works for the Sons of Adam/Daughters of Eve crowd, but the animals are supposed to be free of sin, yet they suffer horribly under the Witch and in the later books.
    I don’t think personal sin is necessary to experience suffering. Clearly, Jesus suffered even though He didn’t sin. But we might argue that was because He was human and willingly took suffering upon Himself.

    A more interesting case is animals on earth. Did Michael Vick’s dogs sin? I’d say no, because they’re just dogs. They don’t have the moral capacity to sin or not sin. Rather, they suffered because a sinful* human inflicted suffering upon them.

    * Not to jump on Vick in particular. All have sinned and fallen short, ya know.

  • Tofu_Killer

    Point taken and appreciated.
    I suppose that the distinction must be that terrestrial animals, by tradition, are soulless and have no agency*.
    Lewis though brings his animals into heaven (REEPACHEEP!), even going so far as to make a distinction between the dumb and talking animals in who can be saved.

    * Exception: All dogs go to heaven, so the hit on Vicks is valid.

  • Ross Thompson

    A more interesting case is animals on earth. Did Michael Vick’s dogs sin? I’d say no, because they’re just dogs. They don’t have the moral capacity to sin or not sin. Rather, they suffered because a sinful* human inflicted suffering upon them.

    What about animals that slowly burn in a forest fire, started by lightning? Did they suffer because they sinned? Or because the forest or the lightning was sinful? Or because there’s no link between sin and suffering?

  • http://mordicai.livejournal.com Mordicai

    Interestingly enough, the question of Incarnation & Pre-Adamic (& post-Christ) civilizations are dealt with by Lewis much more interestingly in the first two books of his Space Trilogy.

  • Michael Pullmann

    There’s also the problem with how Aslan *doesn’t* save Susan because she stops kissing his ass.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Or it might simply be that Susan’s siblings misunderstand: Susan is not in heaven because Susan, unlike her family, is NOT DEAD. The bit about the nylons and lipstick is an unrelated complaint about Susan, and it remains unrelated no matter how much the others want to blame Susan’s discovery that fashion and parties exist in England as well as Narnia for Susan’s absence from heaven.

    Go on, tell me Susan wasn’t the diplomat of the four. Or tell me the job requirements of a diplomat don’t include hosting or attending fancy parties while dressed up to show off. She is doing the same damn thing in England that she was in Narnia, it’s just lower stakes in England, and while her siblings could see its value in Narnia, in England it gets them nothing so they can’t see why she wastes her time.

    Even though I bet what she’s doing is what today would be called networking, which she will eventually leverage into an excellent career in which she does things she learned in Narnia in service of Britain–and no way would she get this career if she let on that she’s got mental health issues, which is the obvious conclusion for an uninformed onlooker to draw on the discovery that she believes she actually spent fifteen years in a magical land and came back the same time and age as when she left, and she finds it easier to maintain the pretense in public if she never lets it drop in private.

  • Darkrose

    “Or it might simply be that Susan’s siblings misunderstand: Susan is not in heaven because Susan, unlike her family, is NOT DEAD.”

    You know…I never thought of it that way. I like that interpretation a lot.

  • Tofu_Killer

    Just to make things clear, Lewis explicitly stated that Susan survived the train wreck, and could eventually find her way to narnia-heaven.
    Quote: “The books don’t tell us what happened to Susan. She is left alive in
    this world at the end, having by then turned into a rather silly, conceited young woman. But there’s plenty of time for her to mend and perhaps she will get to Aslan’s country in the end… in her own way”
    –From Lewis’ Letters to Children, 22 January 1957, to Martin

  • EllieMurasaki

    I think I knew that, but the way Lewis says it reinforces the idea that Susan is doomed because of the nylons and lipstick unless she rejects the nylons and lipstick. These are stereotypical feminine things; she has to reject the feminine, like Lucy did, in order to be saved.

    And Queen Susan still held big parties at Cair Paravel at which she was dressed to impress, and she enjoyed it, and she did nothing wrong at any point in this process, and it is true but irrelevant that these were necessary diplomatic events, and Susan Pevensie still should not be condemned for going to parties in England while dressed to impress and enjoying every part of this.
    So I am going to pretend Lewis never said anything.

  • The_L1985

     I felt it was more a shallow version of “femininity” that was being represented.  In other words, a feeling that appearances were more important than actually being a good man or woman or whatever.

  • EllieMurasaki

    There’s a line somewhere–Prince Caspian?–in which somebody says Lucy’s as good as a man, or at least as good as a boy. I think Lewis is just straight up sexist.

  • Makabit

    The Horse and His Boy. I could argue that it’s said by Prince Corin, who is a bit of an idiot, or that he means her skills in battle rather than her actual worth, but there’s a lot of sexism in Lewis, no mistake.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Even if we assume it means her skills in battle, Corin’s assuming that boys are good at it and girls are not. Which he really should not assume. Is this before or after he nearly gets Shasta killed by talking Shasta into joining the battle with him?

  • The_L1985

    To be fair, Corin’s prone to making very bad judgement calls to begin with. Arguably, a lot of that is childhood lack of experience, but you really shouldn’t have to have that many lessons literally beaten into you. (Thinking back to Tashbaan.)

  • The_L1985

     He was writing in the 50’s.  Of course he was sexist.

  • EllieMurasaki

    True.

  • Makabit

    I assume that Lewis’s highest goal for Susan is that she become a wife and mother. How is she supposed to achieve this goal without dressing up, and going to some parties, and meeting some boys?

  • EllieMurasaki

    Huh. I hadn’t gotten that impression at all. Lucy and Jill and Polly get treated more favorably than Susan, and none of them have the least interest in weddings or babies. Jill might not be old enough to think about such things when she dies–come to that, Lucy might not be either–but Lucy was older in Narnia and had suitors and never married or reproduced, and neither did Polly, who’s older than the others by far.

  • Andrew_Ryans_Caddy

    When I was a kid, I was steeped enough in a confluence of Christ narratives and fantasy novels that I honest to god loved Narnia for being a cool story about magic stuff, and the religious stuff flew right over my head.  I was a uniquely dense child. 

  • Tricksterson

    Not that unique.  It flew over my head too.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    Don’t feel bad. I didn’t really grasp the parallels myself until I was older. When you’re about 10 years old, Narnia tends to be just great fun because it’s an imaginary land.

    That said, once I saw the parallels they were practically the size of the ACME anvil that Wile E. Coyote always manages to drop on his foot. I mean, Lewis basically ripped off the unjust-death-and-resurrection straight from the Bible story about Jesus’s death and resurrection.

  • fraser

     I didn’t pick it up either.

  • JayemGriffin

    If you were a dense child, you were not uniquely so. I didn’t get the Aslan=Jesus thing for a long time, and I know several other people who didn’t either, but I read those books over and over and over again.

  • The_L1985

    I got it re-re-re-reading the books as a teenager, but certainly not initially. Kids aren’t very good at picking up on symbolism unless its very carefully explained to them how something is symbolic.

  • rm

    It would have been cool if Jesus had been one of the talking mice. That would be closer to the Bible story.

  • french engineer

    I might be an atheist, but let me, for the sake of the argument, take a theist point of view and disagree with you here.

    You are too restrictive in defining “us”.

    It is said god made humanity inHis image, but unless you ascribe to the “beardy man in the sky” god (and I do not think you do), then being built inthe image of God does not refer to our bodies, our flesh, but to our souls and minds. It refers to the difference between us and animals, as seen by the ones who wrote the Bible and did not know how smart some animals could be. It refers to sentience.

    What does it mean in regards to Narnia? In Narnia, te talking animals are sentient. they are, for all intents and purposes, in the image of God, too. So having God incarnated as an animal, a talking animal, is no big deal.

    I kind of suspect this post is bait on your part, though, given the running theme of inclusiveness on this blog.

    Now, on the Narnia series as a whole, I am afraid I came to it as an adult, and I did not care a lot for it. I found the tone of the books condescending (I know the target audience was supposed to be children, but I don’t think I’d have liked the tone even as a kid) and the religious imagery annoying and hamfisted. Of particular infamy is the whole “if Aslan does not exist, then I’d rather pretend he does than live in a world where he does not” passage, and the dragon = sin allegory  which I found both forced and misreperesentative of the whole idea. Moreover, in the last book, I kinda identified more with the dwarves than the heroes – but I suppose that was to be expected.

    On the whole, I found the “dark materials” series, which is kind of the opposite of the narnia books, much better written. While being conscious a lot of that is probably bias.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Michael-Cule/100001621659800 Michael Cule

    IIRC the Catholic Catechism specifically says that the resemblence between God and his Creation, Man, lies chiefly in the soul.

    And for me the ‘Dark Materials’ series got on my tits for the number of theological/philosophical points it fumbled and the forced unhappy ending.

  • french engineer

     I agrtee that the ending could just as well have been happy, but I don’t think it detracted from the rest of the story. It changes a little to not have everything line up perfectly in the end, I found it refreshing.

    As for the philosophical and theological mistakes, they did not shock me. I suppose this is the bias I was talking about in action.

  • The_L1985

     I liked both series a lot.  I didn’t think the ending of HDM was all that sad, but that’s because I saw the hope that Will and Lyra had, despite their sadness.

    (Spoiler alert)  It never says Will can’t travel to Lyra’s world anymore, just that he can’t do it with the knife, because using the knife to open portals will make Specters and destroy a lot of Dust.  The angels clearly and explicitly state that he will learn to do so, but that it will take years.  It doesn’t say how many years, either.

    The subtle knife was clearly meant to represent the Easy But Wrong Way that often seduces us away from doing the right thing.  It’s easier than the Right Way because it causes suffering, and the suffering is also what makes it Wrong.

    I don’t know, maybe I’m too Pagan for my own good–I’m enjoying Narnia and HDM over here. :P

  • Tricksterson

    That and because it couldn’t seem to make up it’s mind what philosophical point it wanted to make.  Is it atheistic?  Pantheistic?  Gnostic?

  • Daughter

     It is said god made humanity in His image, but unless you ascribe to the
    “beardy man in the sky” god (and I do not think you do), then being
    built inthe image of God does not refer to our bodies, our flesh, but to
    our souls and minds. It refers to the difference between us and
    animals, as seen by the ones who wrote the Bible and did not know how
    smart some animals could be. It refers to sentience.

    True, which is why Aslan can represent Christ. But the incarnation is the opposite of this process: a sentient soul takes on a body, takes on flesh and therefore “is tempted in every way just as we are – yet he did not sin.” (Hebrews 4:15). Because that is not true of Aslan, and therefore he can’t represent Jesus.

  • french engineer

     To be fair, at no point does Lewis ever write any part of his books from the PoV of Aslan, so it could be true and not shown. But I rather agree that excusing the author by saying he made storytelling mistakes is a weak argument.

  • redsixwing

    See, I think Aslan doesn’t work as a Christ allegory because he’s not present in times of need, he’s not all-loving by any stretch of the imagination (see above re:Susan) and he comes across as arbitrary and cruel.

    Capering merrily in the forest while a war is going on, his people are dying, and he could end it with a roar is merely the first example that comes to mind. Making jokes about a wounded Mouse’s tail when he bloody well has his own tail, presumably knows how important they are for balance, and could restore Reepicheep’s with a word is another.

    Ana Mardoll has done some excellent teardowns of Why Aslan Is A Big Jerk.

    That is why I can’t accept him as a Christ allegory, though he appears to have been set up as one.

  • Carstonio

    I wouldn’t even describe Aslan as a Christ allegory because I didn’t detect much of a philosophical or theological message. His fate was simply a copy of the Passion, much like Superman Returns. Except I had the nagging suspicion that Lewis intended the Aslan version to be an introduction to Jesus alliegance, which is not the same as Christianity.

  • Lori

    Capering merrily in the forest while a war is going on, his people are dying, and he could end it with a roar is merely the first example that comes to mind.

    Making jokes about a wounded Mouse’s tail when he bloody well has his own tail, presumably knows how important they are for balance, and could restore Reepicheep’s with a word is another.   

    Um, how does this disqualify Aslan as an allegory for Christ?

  • redsixwing

     It depends on how one sees Christ, I suppose.

    That sort of behavior would disqualify Aslan from being a working allegory for the omnipresent/omnipotent/omniscient being of perfect good and love common to pop theology, but not necessarily for the Jesus of a closer reading.

    Thinking about it a bit closer, Reepicheep and his tail -do- make a pretty sharp parallel to this story.

    I was raised with the “omni/omni/omni being of perfect good and love” definition, so I tend to default to it, and I posted without thinking that one all the way through. I shall amend: Aslan makes a rotten allegory for that Jesus, but a pretty good one for the one I can see by paying more attention to the text.

    @facebook-597411714:disqus wrote:
    So this problem isn’t something that distinguishes Aslan from Jesus, it’s a problem they share.

    YES. This.

  • Aiwhelan

    He’s sounding more and more like Dumbledore, though.

  • galactica_actual

    (Full disclosure: I love the Chronicles of Narnia. I have since I was a nine-year-old Southern Baptist, and I still do as a thirty-year-old atheist.)

    I always thought that the Fall of Narnia was implied in the Magician’s Nephew when Digory and Polly bring Jadis (who later becomes the White Witch) to Narnia. Aslan says that he’ll see to it that the worst of the evil that she’ll bring to Narnia falls upon himself. To me, it always seemed pretty clear that since Aslan appeared as a Talking Beast who created Talking Beasts, he was a recognizable as an incarnation of a native Narnian to the native Narnians, and that his death on the Stone Table was a redemption for all of Narnia itself.I don’t think that C.S. Lewis meant for Aslan to be an exact analogue of Jesus Christ, because I don’t think Narnia is supposed to be Animal Farm- not every character represents something or someone in our world. The fact that Narnia is a pantheistic world with river gods, wood nymphs, and the Calormene Tash pretty much rules out Christian monotheism, but I think the fact that we recognize Aslan as a Christ-like figure in the Chronicles shows that Lewis was pretty successful in getting his message through.

  • MikeJ

    I can’t have been the only person who picked the first book up without any knowledge of who C.S. Lewis was, or that Aslan was supposed to be some sort of Christ figure.  I got to the part where he came back and thought, “That was kind of a weak plot twist.  He’s just back, no explanation at all.”

  • Makabit

    One of my college friends was raised Wiccan, read Lewis as a kid, loved Narnia, and didn’t pick up on the allegorical factors at all.

    Until she was about twenty. I had the dubious pleasure of being there when “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” ‘clicked’ on her.

  • flat

    Well Fred just explained what I always found difficult about Aslan: he is not an incarnation Of the people of Narnia.

    He is just a big lion.

  • lowtechcyclist

    Aslan is fleshy, but his flesh is not our flesh, and he does not dwell among us.

    ISTM that the “he does not dwell among us” part is the real reason why Aslan is not a viable Christ allegory.  Aslan doesn’t dwell among the Narnians; he is only an occasional visitor.  He does not participate in the joys and pains of being one of the talking beasts of Narnia, even though he has the body of one.

  • http://www.facebook.com/sara.rosenbaum.35 Sara Rosenbaum

    this is going to be the nerdiest thing I ever posted on the internet, but here goes.

    Fred, no offense, but you’re a white guy. If you think that a Talking Lion can only be Jesus for Talking Lions, you’re noticing the same problem that non-white-guys have with our world’s Jesus. Aslan might experience what it is to suffer as a lion, but does he know what it’s like to suffer as a faun? Jesus may have suffered, but he never knew the pain of childbirth. Or of insititutionalized racism.* So this problem isn’t something that distinguishes Aslan from Jesus, it’s a problem they share.

    *Yes, Jesus was a member of a colonized people, but but that’s not the same thing.

    CS’s thing about Aslan not as an allegory, but as an actual a/u incarnation of the Christian God has always fascinated me. I suppose that you could, in the world of the books, as easily establish a Church of Aslan on earth as you could a Christian Church in Narnia, and they would be equivalent, or in communion with each other, like the Eastern Rite and Rome.

    But CS’s insistance on the “reality” of his invention strikes me as a piece with JRR Tolkien’s conceit that not only were his Middle Earth fictions not invented by him, but that they were *translated from the original languages* into English *and other invented languages bearing the same relation to English* as the original languages of the source text. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Westron#Westron_renderings_in_Tolkien.27s_literature) ie, as kind of a semi-adolescent pose that allows them each to escape any implications of the fiction reflecting on the author.

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

    Jesus may have suffered, but he never knew the pain of […] insititutionalized racism. [..] Yes, Jesus was a member of a colonized people, but but that’s not the same thing.

    Were you motivated to expand on the salient differences, I’d be interested.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Ann-Unemori/100001112760232 Ann Unemori

    True, Aslan may be seen as a Christ figure for Narnia, and yet he can also be seen basically as the spiritual ruler/protector of Narnia, without all the theology. Yes CS Lewis is a Christian, but he didn’t start out to write a Xian allegory, he simply started out writing a story to pull together the images in his head, such as the faun walking in the snow, the Witch with her sleigh, the golden lion. It was and still is a wonderful tale full of fantasy and adventure, the Xian message just came because that’s the way Lewis saw the world. That is, Lewis wrote the story first, not the symbolism.
    For the opposite kind of Xian tale where the story is secondary, check out Hurdard’s “Hind’s Feet On High Places”, you’ll see the difference straight off.
    Pullman’s “Dark Materials” falls perilously close to the same trap; he seems to have written it less as a story in itself than as a rebuttal to the Narnia books, and it shows. Anyone hooked by the images and intrigue in the beginning of “The Golden Compass”, the strange girl, the armored bears, is going to be let down by the end of “The Amber Spyglass”, where the final confrontation between Good and Evil seems to quietly fade out in favor of long thoughts on the nature of God and Science. Whereas Lewis wrote stories, Pullman is anxious to persuade his ideas. It all depends what you’re looking for.

  • Makabit

    I suppose I should try to read “His Dark Materials” again. I picked up the first book, expecting to be wowed, and found it…rather dull. And anyone who speaks that harshly against Lewis’s (admittedly racist as hell) racist portrayals of non-white peoples should be able to avoid the Jolly River Gypsies Taking In The Little Heroic White Settled Girl in his own work.

    Maybe I just didn’t get it. I don’t think I finished the book. Just bored me to tears.

  • http://twitter.com/mcclure111 mcc

    The problem I have with the Aslan allegory, that I noticed when I saw the movie (I don’t remember if it happens quite this way in the book, but it’s certainly less pronounced): Jesus, in his story, speaks the words “It is finished”, just as he is about to die to martyr himself for the good of the whole world. Aslan, in his story, speaks the words “It is finished” just as he has finished murdering a woman with his teeth

    There’s some other problems I have here but I think in some sense they all flow from that one

  • EllieMurasaki

    Could you elaborate on that, please? Because while I can see that they’re different situations that don’t parallel real well…Jadis, or people acting on her orders, killed a whole bunch of people who’d never done any harm to her, ending with the war against the army of Aslan and the Pevensies and beginning with the whole of Charn. I am not seeing killing her as inherently problematic, which your use of the word ‘murder’ implies you do. (Aslan killing her, instead of one of our young heroes, or someone who’d been suffering through always-winter-and-never-growing-season-let-alone-harvest, that’s got problems, but killing her in itself, no.)

  • The_L1985

    IIRC, that was added to the movie.

  • Michele Cox

    (The human-shaped people in Narnia come from our world, by a variety of means.)

    If Aslan’s being flesh-but-not-our-flesh, which I gather means “not shaped like us,” not shaped either like the fauns or dryads or beavers or dwarves or all the various and variously-shaped people in Narnia is an issue — if being subject to death is not itself enough — what does that say about the incarnation of Jesus, made flesh as a man, a Jew, a carpenter — with all the specificity that comes with that?  Are we back to the early heresies that ended up suggesting that human women are saved by Mary’s submission to God’s will, and not by Jesus’ redemption on the cross?  Exactly how “like us” does the incarnation need to be, to be efficacious?

    I can see various arguments for Aslan as being or failing to be an effective allegorical expression of the Incarnate Word; but “he’s not shaped like the people he is redeeming” seems … inadequate.

  • Steve Morrison

    As I see it, the real problem with Aslan is that he wasn’t “despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief”, except briefly when he was sacrificed in Edmund’s place. When in Narnia at all, he was always in control of things wherever he went; he didn’t truly walk the earth with the Narnians.
    BTW, a document was found in Lewis’s papers which gives some answers about how and when the Narnian countries were settled; googling “Narnia timeline” will turn up several copies of it.

  • Tofu_Killer

     But Aslan WAS despised and rejected; during the age of the Witch. The later stories (not the Magician and his Nephew obviously), those post-Stone Table, are roughly the same as the post-Crucifixion events of this world.

    Also, are you arguing that Jesus wasn’t in control of the events surrounding his life?

  • arcseconds

    As I see it, the real problem with Aslan is that he wasn’t “despised and
    rejected of men; a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief”, except
    briefly when he was sacrificed in Edmund’s place. When in Narnia at all,
    he was always in control of things wherever he went; he didn’t truly
    walk the earth with the Narnians.

    Yup, I was going to make the very same point! Also to mention he’s a Lion without a Past.  There’s no suggestion he grew up in a pride at some point.

    Surely, Fred being both an evangelical and a sci-fi geek has thought about the religious aspects of meeting alien life-forms.  If Aslan’s being a lion disqualifies him from being a saviour for hairless bipedal apes, then presumably Jesus can’t serve as a saviour for the spider-people of Betelgeuse=5.  Do they have to get their own saviour? 

  • Tricksterson

    Doesn it matter since we’re going to slaughter them all anyway, except for the few we put to slave away in the iridium mines?

  • arcseconds

     If we can’t convert them, we can’t pretend that not only are we slaughtering and enslaving them for their own good, but also because God wants us to!

  • http://alumnus.caltech.edu/~teneyck/ Ross TenEyck

    I’ll quibble (along with others) about the use of the word allegory for Narnia.  Aslan isn’t meant as a symbolic representation of Jesus (as would be true in an allegory) — Aslan is meant to be Jesus as Jesus might appear in a different world.  The sacrifice on the Stone Table is similar to the Crucifixion not because one is meant as a symbol for the other, but because that (in Lewis’ mind) is what Jesus does.

    I would also argue with you that Lewis is presenting penal substitutionary atonement.  I think instead he’s presenting a variant of Christus Victor that was at one time widely-held — in this case, the belief that Satan owned the souls of sinners by right, but God made a bargain with Satan to trade the soul of Christ for the souls of everyone else.  When Jesus rose from the dead, Satan lost his soul too.  Anselm developed his theory of atonement in part in reaction against this belief; he objected to it partly because it implied that Satan had “rights” that God had to respect, and partly because it makes God out to be a cheater.

  • Ben English

     I think the problem here is trying to fit Aslan as a direct allegory. There are numerous problems with that, but the same is true of any fictional character commonly held up as a Christ archetype.

    Superman? He’s no incarnate god, his birth was not an epiphany for the Creator. Harry Potter? Same thing. He may have given his life out of the love of his friends, but he had no connection to God, and seemed to be an agnostic at most. Doctor Who? A man who has killed millions of beings through his actions or inaction, who is deeply flawed and vengeful when provoked?

    Yet they also have all lain down their lives (and rose again) for people they loved. Superman is the closest thing to omnibenevolent a flawed human can be, Harry Potter had vast riches from his father yet called a poor boy and a mudblood his best friends. The Doctor is constnatly amazed–constnatly having little epiphanies–about human beings who amaze him despite his 1200 years.

    So yeah, Aslan isn’t a complete allegory for Christ, but I don’t think that he needs to be. He’s an image, a type, and the vision of one man who had a relatively narrow focus in his theology. He’s still a much better portrait of Jesus than anything Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins could come up with.

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

    How might I go about distinguishing incomplete allegories for Christ, as you present the concept here, from fictional characters who happen to exemplify certain admirable traits that Christ also exemplified?

  • BaseDeltaZero

    Doctor Who? A man who has killed millions of beings through his actions or inaction, who is deeply flawed and vengeful when provoked?

    Wait, that might actually make him a *better* analogy.
    Okay, I’ll stop snarking.

    How might I go about distinguishing incomplete allegories for Christ, as you present the concept here, from fictional characters who happen to exemplify certain admirable traits that Christ also exemplified?

    Presumably, a complete allegory would exemplify and represent *all* the characteristics of Christ?

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

    Presumably, a complete allegory would exemplify and represent *all* the characteristics of Christ?

    Yes, I agree that that would be a reliable way of distinguishing incomplete allegories for Christ from complete allegories for Christ.

    What I was curious about, though, was how I might go about distinguishing incomplete allegories for Christ from fictional characters who happen to exemplify certain admirable traits that Christ also exemplified.

    Sorry if that wasn’t clear.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

    When we read The Lion The Witch and the Wardrobe back in school, I remember being told how it was a heavy christian allegory. It never seemed like an especially heavy-handed allegory to me. At the time I just assumed that I wasn’t sufficiently schooled in christian iconography to see it.

    But later, I questioned someone on it, and was met with surprise: How could I have missed it? Aslan *dies in place of Edmund* and then *comes back from the dead*.

    This just befuddled me. I mean, sure, yes,  that fits with Jesus, sure. But if that’s all it takes to be a “very obvious allegory for christianity”, then so are Star Trek 2 and Transformers The Movie.

  • EllieMurasaki

    I don’t think I got it till I’d read Voyage, myself. I think it’s Voyage. The one where Aslan appears as a Lamb, capital L and all, anyway.

  • Liralen

    Yeah.  We all love stories about self-sacrificial heroes, regardless of culture.

    My husband and I met while playing online games, so we use a lot of gaming references.  He once referred to my behavior as “paladin”, which took me aback.  I thought that aspect of my values stemmed from my (unknown to him at the time) Japanese mother’s attempt to instill Japanese values, like bushido, while raising us kids in the US.

  • Isabel C.

    And Thor, for that matter–actually a more direct one, in the “god in mortal form” way.

    The Sacrificial Messiah Figure, in one variant or another, is a pretty old and widespread concept. Christianity has some particular angles on it, but yeah, I didn’t get the Aslan=Jesus bit either until I was told.  

  • http://www.nicolejleboeuf.com/index.php Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little

    Jesus incarnated as “the weakest of these”; Aslan incarnates as King of the Forest. It’s a big failing if you want an allegory.

    On the other hand, that’s not what Lewis was about, so dinging him for failing to make a good allegory is like dinging a roller derby skater for not making any touchdowns.

    On the third hand (mutant!), Lewis was about imagining a Christ figure in Narnia, and the answers he came up with absolutely betray certain inadequacies in how he imagined Christ. (I suppose the Being a Jerk to Reepicheep scene could be seen as the Narnian version of the parable where the woman has to beg and beg for a miracle, and Jesus is like, Why should I? and she keeps asking, and finally he says OK, because you have great faith. Jesus comes across as a bit of a jerk there, stringing her along so he can make an example of her persistence.)

  • Makabit

    Jesus incarnated as “the weakest of these”

    Well, an able-bodied man from a craftsman’s family. I’d say he was maybe medium-weak.

  • Worthless Beast

    *Skims first few responses*   – I’m so glad I’m not alone.  I read what Fred said above and blinked.  I have gotten into stupid science fiction arguments about non-human characters / whether robots can have souls / whether a favorite character of mine is “anti-Christian” just because he’s a non-human genetic freak project (Turns out his creator was a Catholic so, upon finding that out I got to laugh at the atheists telling me I wasn’t *allowed* to like the work as a Christian)… anyway… 

    I have a broad definition of “us,” like many here.  I’ve heard televangelists screech that if aliens land, it disprooves God because “Jesus would have to have died as a starfish for them and his sacrifice is a once and for all thing.”  I’ve seen the same argument applied to “why humans will never create a concious AI” — and it’s just ARGH! If you’re a believer who happens to be a fantasy/sci-fi fan (and once found out, people try to throw you out of the fandom)!  My response is “Don’t tell me how to think!”  And I happen to have nothing wrong with a “human” soul being in ANY KIND OF BODY God would allow it to be in. 

    After all, Jesus incarnated as a Middle Eastern man, right?  Where does that leave me as a lilly-white, mostly Scandanavian descent American woman?  I’m pretty sure God’s incarnation had lots of different parts than what I have… does that mean I’m destined for Hell or oblivion because of this body or that my soul doesn’t matter?   I would think not.

    On that note, I don’t really see a problem with the Son of God incarnating as a Narnian for the sake of Narnians.  (It might be where he’s addressing Earthlings is where it gets a little wonky, then again, I remember him telling the children to “find him in another world”).  

  • EllieMurasaki

    Jesus incarnated as a Middle Eastern man, right?

    LIES. Haven’t you seen the artwork? Jesus is a blond!

    (What do you mean there’s African and Asian and Hispanic depictions of Jesus? ALSO LIES.)

  • Makabit

    To quote my mother, “Jesus didn’t really look like an Italian art student.”

    Not to take anything away from the Renaissance artists, mind you.

  • Consumer Unit 5012

     

    To quote my mother, “Jesus didn’t really look like an Italian art student.”

    That’s not an art student. That’s Cardinal Cesare Borgia, as commissioned by his dad Pope Alexander VI.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    The point is, Jesus wouldn’t have looked pale-skinned with light brown hair in a Mediterranean climate. His hair would possibly have bleached from solar exposure and he’d be deeply tanned.

  • EllieMurasaki

    When did the Levant stop being Near East and start being Middle East, anyway? And if the Levant’s Middle East, what’s Near East? North Africa? Eastern Europe?

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

     I think the folks who lock in on this aspect of Fred’s argument have done some misinterpreting of what he was getting at. The point isn’t “One species of animal is not the same as another therefore Aslan incarnating as a lion is not The Incarnation for the beavers.”  It’s that if you’re going to say that Aslan is The Incarnation for Animals, you have to give up the bit about “Humans and only humans specifically are the Special Beings With Souls And Suchlike Who Were Made In The Image of God,” and Lewis *emphatically* doesn’t.  To have an Animal Incarnation, you need an Animal Adam and Eve, of whom Aslan is *also* a descendant. But you don’t — in fact, we specifically have the Pevensies being the sons and daughters of Adam, and by virtue of that being the Special Elect who by divine right should Rule.

  • EllieMurasaki

    an Animal Adam and Eve

    Myllokunmingia? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vertebrate#First_vertebrates Or are we including invertebrates?

  • Jenny Islander

    There’s a bit in the planetary trilogy in which  Ransom has a vision of the whole universe.  Wherever he looks, whatever or whoever he perceives–from himself to a speck of dust in outer space–says, “I am the center,” and they’re all right.

  • Madhabmatics

    everyone always talks about narnia, i wanna see some folks reactions to That Hideous Strength

  • EllieMurasaki

    My initial immediately-post-finishing-the-first-read reaction to the Space Trilogy, quoted in full: “Meh.”

    For some reason I’ve never gone back.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

     I did get a kick out of the part where the guy is trying to translate the villain’s big speech into the native language of the sinless martians, and the speech is all about manifest destiny and greater good and moral rights of pillage, and the best the protagonist can come up with is along the lines of “And therefore I want to kill all of you even though I am not mentally ill”

  • Loquat

    Wikipedia,predictably, has this speech in full, original lines side-by-side with translations.

    There is a thing happens in our world when the body of a living creature feels pains and becomes weak, and we sometimes know how to stop it. […] And he says we can exchange many things among ourselves and can carry heavy weights very quickly a long way. Because of all this, he says it would not be the act of a bent [mentally ill] hnau if our people killed all your people.

  • Liralen

    I’ve read the Perelandra/Out of the Silent Planet series, and it’s so-so.  I really liked how evil was portrayed in one of the books as that very petty, dull, plodding, corpse figure that followed the main character around, whose primary goal seemed to be to annoy and irritate.  Very intelligent evil should be like that to get under our guard, instead of trying to rouse us to action by by presenting a more overt, immediate threat.

  • Liralen

    There was also a scene in one of the books where someone was explaining that while both males and females share household chores equally in their community, they take turns and don’t mix genders. 

    The reason given was because females sometimes use phrases something like “please put this in the other one over there” while handing the woman a bowl and pointing in the general direction of a cupboard, which another woman has no problem understanding, but frustrates men which in turn frustrates the women giving instructions. 

    It made me laugh, because I recognized myself, and told my husband about it.  Now, if I say something like that, my husband will say “um, put this in the other one…” 

  • The_L1985

    “We’ll just go now, and let you men talk about nouns.”

    “Not about nouns, with the use of nouns…”

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Ann-Unemori/100001112760232 Ann Unemori

    First response: I will admit I like it.

  • The_L1985

    Merlin was nice. The bear scenes were a bit odd, but well-written. The scenes with Mark in the NICE were rather tiresome.

  • MaryKaye

    _Out of the Silent Planet_ has fun spots–it gave my household the very useful word _hnau_, too.  It gets preachy later on, though, as if he doesn’t know how to end it properly.

    I have liked _Perelandra_ every time I read it, especially the stuff about the banality of evil: the trail of dying frogs, and the voice that just keeps calling your name.  And it is visually beautiful.  I don’t know if I would like it as well now; I’ve become somewhat down on Lewis due to online discussions of his work.

    I was given _That Hideous Strength_ for Christmas when I was fairly young–probably around 11.  I couldn’t read through it.  I would pick it up and read a random chunk and put it back down.  It was, at the time, the only book I’d had that reaction to, and I was puzzled; also I was still at the point where I tried to like every genre book I could find.  So I kept reading parts of it, but not the whole thing, giving me a completely disjointed idea of the plot.  There were some strong images, but all of them nasty.  I didn’t like it.

    I finally did read it through, probably as an adult.  I don’t like it.  I don’t like how it thinks about women, or scientists, or atheists, or the Pendragon, or much of anything.  The severed head is kind of effective as horror, but that’s about it.

    There was going to be a fourth book; a chunk of it is preserved in a Lewis anthology.  There’s a sideways in time society ruled by sort-of male queen bees which sting their subjects and turn them into mind-controlled slaves, and Ransom finds himself inside the body of the queen-bee.  It’s…nasty, like Hideous Strength.  And from his notes Lewis himself got squicked by it and had to stop.

  • Theo Axner

     There was going to be a fourth book; a chunk of it is preserved in a
    Lewis anthology.  There’s a sideways in time society ruled by sort-of
    male queen bees which sting their subjects and turn them into
    mind-controlled slaves, and Ransom finds himself inside the body of the
    queen-bee.  It’s…nasty, like Hideous Strength.  And from his notes
    Lewis himself got squicked by it and had to stop.

    The Dark Tower was an abortive sequel to Out of the Silent Planet, the first space trilogy book. As you say Lewis abandoned it and then took the series in a wholly different direction with Perelandra.

    I agree that That Hideous Strength is  a very weird and creepy book, but I also think it has some great bits.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Ann-Unemori/100001112760232 Ann Unemori

    I’ve read *The Dark Tower* and it is spooky, and worth pursuing for the persistent Lewis-iphile. Personally I wish someone would finish the story, my suggestion is Stephen King, who almost enjoys the squicky parts and has a *Dark Tower* of his own. 

  • The_L1985

    I’m rather tempted, myself. TO THE INTERNET!!

  • Eldfluga

    The Pevensies aren’t from Narnia; Aslan is incarnated in the form of a Narnian, not a human. Lewis makes it clear in both The Voyage of the Dawn Treader and The Last Battle that his incarnation on Earth is different (and, of course, familiar to the Pevensies once they realize who he is in their world, not in Narnia.)

    You could possibly say that there’s still an issue in that Aslan, in his Narnian incarnation, “dies for Edmund,” but Aslan’s death is part of the process by which the White Witch is vanquished for all of Narnia, not just to save Edmund.

    Most crucially, though, as a Lion, Aslan is still a creature, the way humans are creatures. There is never any indication that the “Emperor Over Sea” is a Lion, or even anything corporeal at all, as he is never seen – if Lewis’s other works (I’m thinking specifically of Out of the Silent Planet here) shed any light on the situation, they remind us that Lewis didn’t think there was anything special about being human, but rather about being the kind of creation one was meant to be.

    Your point is interesting, but honestly I think it suffers from looking at the story too narrowly; it’s not about being a naked pink ape, it’s about being a created thing.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    I always wanted to know the Nine Names of Aslan, especially as I knew there had to be some kind of allegory or comparison to the supposed multiple names for God in our world.

  • Dorium’s Head

    The main reason that

  • Dorium’s Head

    The main reason that Aslan doesn’t work as an Incarnate Savior is that he was never born. He didn’t take on flesh at all, he just popped into existence, apparently. There is never mention of his mother, or his past, or even the notion of his having spent much time among the Narnian creatures at all.

  • BaseDeltaZero

    There’s a line somewhere–Prince Caspian?–in which somebody says Lucy’s as good as a man, or at least as good as a boy. I think Lewis is just straight up sexist.

    Hmm?  How old (physically) was Lucy at this point?  I seem to recall her being fairly young, in which case its a sensible comparison… (although perhaps an underestimation)

    When did the Levant stop being Near East and start being Middle East, anyway? And if the Levant’s Middle East, what’s Near East? North Africa? Eastern Europe?

    Traditionally, Arabia, Turkey/Levant were the Near East, with everything between Arabia and India being the ‘Middle East’.  The term ‘Near East’ stopped being commonly used with the fall of the Ottoman empire, and the ‘Middle East’ terminology sort of expanded to cover the entire area from around the ‘Stan’ region to the edge of Africa/Europe.

    The reason given was because females sometimes use phrases something like “please put this in the other one over there” while handing the woman a bowl and pointing in the general direction of a cupboard, which another woman has no problem understanding, but frustrates men which in turn frustrates the women giving instructions.

    It sounds like what Lewis(?) is thinking of is the scenario of a man who normally doesn’t help with chores deciding to help.  The women do it all the time, and have sort of developed a shorthand understanding of how things work, while the men… haven’t.

  • http://deird1.dreamwidth.org Deird

    How old (physically) was Lucy at this point?  I seem to recall her being
    fairly young, in which case its a sensible comparison… (although
    perhaps an underestimation)

    About 20. This is in Horse & His Boy, when the Pevensies are adults.

  • The_L1985

    Or the women in question are just like my mother, who has a frustrating tendency to forget what every damn thing is called. She’s a monoglot, too, so this isn’t a case of “I only remember what it’s called in my native language.”

    Everything is either a “thing” or it’s “stuff.” With vague accompanying gestures, and occasionally colors of the thing that don’t match with the colors I’m seeing.

  • Rain

    Lewis denied Aslan was the Christ, just as Peter denied the Christ. Lewis will come around eventually when Lewis is incarnated as a rooster. Then he will crow three times: “Lord, Liar, or Lunatic”, in rooster talk.

  • Lliira

    Yes. Aslan is Utterly Perfect in Every Way. That is the rot at the heart of the Narnia books — rot not only in a Christian sense, but, more importantly, in a story sense. It makes the entire work something twisted and ugly.

  • ShelW

    Firstly, I think some here may be over-thinking this a little too much! This was, after all, a series written for kids. 

    Secondly, whenever you are writing in this way (using imagery to infuse basic theological principals into a story) it is virtually impossible to be able to include every aspect of a subject (example, the subject of Christ), simply because these subjects are so vast. There is a lot to them, and to include it all would be to make your work of fiction too complicated and you lose the entertainment value of your story. I’ve struck this problem in some writing I’ve been working on.I think that the theological aspects of Christ that Lewis includes in the Narnia series are there as specific pictures of specific attributes of Christ, not trying to completely take everything that is Christ and put it into a fictional character. That would just be too big! It is simply a parable.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Aw, hell, where’s that article I was reading the other day. Women’s studies class. A bunch of the students weren’t really feeling it. Everybody was the age to have seen Disney’s Beauty and the Beast as a kid, and one day the professor had them all watch it. After, the professor handed out worksheets they’d already seen, hallmarks of a domestic abuser, and the movie met a whole bunch of the criteria.

    At some point in the discussion, somebody said something like “Nobody’s taking this as a model for real relationships. It’s a kids’ movie.”
    Professor pointed at them and said, “EXACTLY.”

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

    it is virtually impossible to be able to include every aspect of a
    subject [..] simply because these subjects
    are so vast

    Yes, that’s true. But as a writer, I don’t pull aspects to include and exclude at random. I bet you don’t, either.

    If I  choose to devote my limited narrative time to one aspect of the subject rather than another, my readers are entitled to conclude that I consider the aspects I included more important than the aspects I excluded, and to draw conclusions from that.

    I think some here may be over-thinking this a little too much! This was, after all, a series written for kids.

    Can you expand on what you’re trying to say, here?

    For my part, I endorse thinking carefully about what we expose our kids to.