A final point that interested me from Adam Gopnik’s article on CS Lewis, “Prisoner of Narnia” (see previous post), is his criticism of Aslan as a depiction of Christ. Aslan is, suggests Gopnik, “a very weird symbol for that famous carpenter’s son — not just an un-Christian but in many ways an anti-Christian figure”:
Beautiful and brave and instantly attractive, he has a deep voice and a commanding presence, obviously kingly. The White Witch conspires to have him killed, and succeeds, in part because of the children’s errors. Miraculously, he returns to life, liberates Narnia, and returns the land to spring.
But as Gopnik points out (with what is actually quite a Lutheran, theology-of-the-cross vs theology-of-glory argument):
[A] central point of the Gospel story is that Jesus is not the lion of the faith but the lamb of God, while his other symbolic animal is, specifically, the lowly and bedraggled donkey.
The moral force of the Christian story is that the lions are all on the other side. If we had, say, a donkey, a seemingly uninspiring animal from an obscure corner of Narnia, raised as an uncouth and low-caste beast of burden, rallying the mice and rats and weasels and vultures and all the other unclean animals, and then being killed by the lions in as humiliating a manner as possible — a donkey who re-emerges, to the shock even of his disciples and devotees, as the king of all creation — now, that would be a Christian allegory.
A powerful lion, starting life at the top of the food chain, adored by all his subjects and filled with temporal power, killed by a despised evil witch for his power and then reborn to rule, is a Mithraic, not a Christian, myth.
This calls to mind Revelation 5:5,6: when we turn to look at the conquering Lion of Judah, what we see is in fact “a Lamb standing as if it had been slaughtered”.
Personally, I have some sympathy with what Gopnik is saying here – not least because I’ve always found the death and resurrection of Aslan (i.e. the “deep magic” and “deeper magic” chapters of TLTWATW) one of the most allegorically clunky parts of the whole Narnia series, and much prefer the more oblique stuff in The Horse and His Boy or, especially, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. Anyone else have any thoughts on this?