The Lion and the Witch
By Robert Velarde
Author, The Heart of Narnia
In Aslan and the White Witch, we see the personification of the struggle between right and wrong, good and evil. This is not an interplay of two abstract concepts but the interaction of two individual characters in Narnian history. Reflected in their relationship is the drama that God is writing in terrestrial history as He prepares for the final defeat of evil.
In each of the Chronicles, Aslan the lion is the centerpiece of all that is good, holy, and just. Other characters may embody these traits, but not nearly to the same extent and not consistently. Aslan stands for virtue, condemns vice, and is clearly a Christ figure, though not in a strictly allegorical sense. In The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, he willingly sacrifices his life to save the human child Edmund from death. In Prince Caspian, Aslan participates in the overthrow of the evil usurping King Miraz, while in The Voyage of the “Dawn Treader,” he is present in many instances of good, for example, in a powerful encounter with Eustace and as the source of Reepicheep’s longing. In a scene in The Silver Chair reminiscent of Jesus’ discussion with the Samaritan woman at the well described in John 4, Aslan speaks with Jill Pole on issues related to salvation and once again seeks, through those who serve him, to overcome evil with good, restoring Prince Rilian and, in the
process, destroying the evil witch of the Underworld. In The Horse and His Boy, the four principal characters — Shasta, Bree, Aravis, and Hwin — each learn ethical lessons from Aslan regarding humility and pride. When Shasta is alone with Aslan, the great lion explains the role he has played in the boy’s life, always watching over him.
The White Witch (Jadis in The Magician’s Nephew) is not an opposite of Aslan in a dualistic sense. She is a created being from another world who enters Narnia at the time of its creation.
There are some parallels to the Christian account of Satan, such as the witch tempting Digory in the garden, but they should not be pressed to the point of actually equating the witch with Satan, as there are simply too many differences. That the witch is evil is clear. Aslan himself refers to her as evil in The Magician’s Nephew,19 and she exhibits a number of vices indicating her evil nature: unfairness, dishonesty, pride, cruelty, a warlike nature, and impenitence.
Those characters in the Chronicles who are allied with Aslan act more like him, while those who are the witch’s helpers reflect her own evil propensities. So it is for us. There are good behaviors (virtues) and bad behaviors (vices). We can choose whom we follow and how we will act.
Vices and Virtues in Narnia
Lewis believed that everyday ethical decisions move one closer in character to good or evil. As a result, even the small ethical decisions made daily are, in the long run, incredibly important. These decisions for good or evil accrue in our character like a savings account earning compound interest, said Lewis, indicating that a series of decisions for the good, however small, may accumulate over time and result in a good ethical decision in the future.20 Or, conversely, a series of small evil decisions will build up, tarnishing one’s character and allowing entry for further (and likely increased) evil. Lewis elaborated on this matter in Mere Christianity, in which he wrote, “Every time you make a choice. you are turning the central part of you . . . into something a little different from what it was before.” Over the course of a lifetime, we are turning this central part of ourselves into either a “heavenly
creature” or a “hellish creature.”21
In that same work, Lewis gave an illustration involving tennis. He noted that even a person who does not play tennis well may make a lucky shot now and then, but a good player has the training and experience that allows him or her to make numerous good shots and become someone whose tennis skill can be relied upon. Similarly, a person who regularly practices virtuous behavior will attain a godly quality of character.22 This quality and not specific actions, argued Lewis, is virtue.
In The Magician’s Nephew, because of the actions of a boy named Digory Kirke, evil has entered the new world of Narnia in the form of Jadis (the White Witch). Aslan the lion asks Digory if he is prepared to undo the wrong he has caused.23 Digory tells Aslan that he is ready to do what he can. Then his thoughts turn to his mother, who lies dying a world away. With eyes full of tears, the twelve-year-old Digory asks Aslan to help his mother. Tears
fill Aslan’s eyes, too, for he is acquainted with grief. But the lion informs Digory that Narnia must be protected from evil, at least for a time, and that Digory must retrieve an apple from a tree in a distant garden so that a tree may be planted on earth for the protection of Narnia.
Riding upon the flying horse, Fledge, Digory and his friend Polly begin an adventure that leads them to a beautiful valley. At the top of a hill, they come to a wall with golden gates. They realize that this is a private, perhaps even sacred, place. A message written on the gates warns that entrance to the garden is permitted only by the gates and that the fruit within must be taken only to help others.24
Digory approaches the gates, which open as he places a hand on them, and enters the garden alone. He plucks a silver apple from a tree and is tempted by the fruit’s appearance and smell. Why not take another one? Maybe the words on the gate were meant more as advice and not as rules, he thinks. As he glances around, he sees a strange bird in a tree watching him lazily with one eye barely open. For some reason, that sight helps him decide
to obey Aslan, despite his longing for the silver apple.
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Excerpted from The Heart of Narnia: Wisdom, Virtue, and Life Lessons from the Classic Chronicles by Robert Velarde, NavPress Publishing Group, 2008. Used with Permission.
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