I fully admit I was prepared not to like it.
The thing is, my personal history with The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe goes back all the way to early memories of hearing my mother read the story aloud. Over the years it has taken on even more meaning as I’ve read the book myself, then read all seven of the Chronicles (starting with The Magician’s Nephew, my favorite of them all), then read them again–aloud–to my own kids.
Just thinking of how Hollywood has butchered some of my other favorite books, I went into the movie theater yesterday cringing in preparation for disappointment.
To my shock and amazement, I left the theater happy with the movie and perhaps I might even say . . . moved. Truth be told, I am not one who finds spiritual moments in the movie theater in general. But, upon reflection I’ve determined that I think it might all be related to being right in the middle of Advent. All this talk about incarnation, God come to earth, well, it makes me want to work a little harder to try to imagine what divine intersecting human might really be like. C.S. Lewis was trying to imagine that, of course, when he wrote The Chronicles. Many view them as thinly veiled allegory of the Christian story. You know, Aslan is Christ, Narnia is the world (but why did the bad guy have to be a girl, I want to know?).
If you read The Chronicles through the lens of faith you will note throughout every book pivotal moments, gems of dialog and narrative that describe some of the very essential experiences of Christian life. One of them done very well in the movie was (WARNING! Don’t read any further if you don’t already know the story . . . ) the scene when Aslan comes back to life. The scene was very powerful; I came home and hunted down the exact text in the book:
At that moment they heard from behind them a loud
noise—a great cracking, deafening noise as if a giant had broken a giant’s
plate…. The Stone Table was broken into two pieces by a great crack that ran
down it from end to end; and there was no Aslan.
“Who’s done it?” cried Susan. “What does it mean? Is it more magic?”
“Yes!” said a great voice from behind their backs. “It is more magic.” They looked round. There, shining in the sunrise, larger than they had seen him before, shaking his mane (for it had apparently grown again) stood Aslan himself.
“Oh, Aslan!” cried both the children, staring up at him, almost as much frightened as they were glad…. “But what does it all mean?” asked Susan when they were somewhat calmer. “It means,” said Aslan, “that though the Witch knew the Deep Magic, there is a magic deeper still which she did not know. Her knowledge goes back only to the dawn of time. But if she could have looked a little further back, into the stillness and the darkness before Time dawned, she would have read there a different incantation. She would have known that when a willing victim who had committed no treachery was killed in a traitor’s stead, the Table would crack and Death itself would start working backward.”
It’s all so very dramatic–the stone table cracking and the somber pronouncements about old magic. I can take or leave all of that. What really got to me was the reminder that the love of God is a love that will go to any lengths to welcome me in–even God becoming human to show us what true love is all about.
I was so moved, in fact, that I turned to my friend (who is from a different faith tradition); I was curious about her response to the movie.
Funny, she didn’t seem as choked up as I was. When asked for her thoughts on the movie she said pretty matter-of-factly that after gazing for an hour and forty minutes at the most bizarre creatures Hollywood has ever invented–horrid creatures who populated the evil army of the White Witch–she figured that the moral of this story was most-assuredly: “ugly never wins“.
Oh, well, so much for profundity. Sometimes the greatest truths are so obvious we completely miss them.
If you see the movie I’d love to know what you think. In the meantime, welcome the thought that God’s love for us is what inspired incarnation–God come to earth.
And, of course, remember one of the greatest universal truths ever–that is, of course: ugly never wins.