by Erin Gaines
Dec. 10, 1901: the first Nobel Prizes were awarded in Stockholm, Sweden. 1915: Ford Motor Company built their one millionth car. 1967: soul singer Otis Redding and members of his band were killed in a Wisconsin plane crash. 2005: “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” was the No. 1 movie in the box office.
Andrew Adamson directed the Disney adaptation of the first novel in C.S. Lewis’s series, which has millions of copies in 47 languages.
“The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” begins during World War II in England. The story follows the four Pevensie children – Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy – who move into a big, country house owned by Professor Digory Kirk during an evacuation out of London.
Mrs. Macready, housekeeper at the country home, picks up the children from the train station, proceeding to give them a long set of strict rules. At the top of the list: do not disturb Professor Kirke.
It is at Kirke’s home that Lucy, the youngest sibling, discovers a wardrobe in a spare room – the perfect hiding spot for the children’s game of hide and seek.
Venturing further in to the wardrobe to hide fully, Lucy pushes past what seems like an endless stash of old fur coats until she feels the prickling of pine needles and cold snow on her skin. The youngest Pevensie had stumbled into the mystical land of Narnia.
For those who read the book and watched the movie, it can be argued that Disney’s film remained faithful to the novel in more ways than one. In addition to the remarkably beautiful scenes portrayed on screen, “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” is in keeping with Lewis’s emotional writing. On top of that, the movie was initially, and still is, surrounded with talk of its undertones of Christianity.
It’s no surprise that religion made an appearance in the film. When first published in 1950, Lewis had recently converted to Christianity because of a conversation with Lord of the Rings author J. R. R. Tolkien. The “Chronicles of Narnia” series is an interweaving of magic, fantastic creatures and Christianity.
The most obvious of the Christian motifs is Aslan, the great lion. He is the only character to appear in all seven of the novels. In “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe,” Aslan represents Jesus Christ. There isn’t any room for arguing that fact – in the novel, C. S. Lewis refers to Aslan as the Lion and the Lamb, the same allegory used to refer to God in the Bible.
It is the age-old battle of good versus evil, but with strong Christian themes. Where Aslan is representative of the good in the movie, there needed to be an evil. The White Witch reigns over Narnia, allowing a white winter to take control.
The witch demands Edmund, the younger brother of the Pevensie children, be handed over in order to be executed for his betrayal. Aslan, fulfilling the role of the savior he is meant to be, offers himself as a sacrifice. The White Witch accepts his offer, subsequently tying him to the Stone Table, cutting off his hair, and killing him. Sacrificing his life to save another mirrors how Jesus Christ gave his life for the sins of mankind.
Over a broken stone table, the slain Aslan rises, shaking out his glorious regrown mane and letting out a victorious roar. It practically screams hallelujah, Christ is risen.
Edmund’s betrayal – the one the White Witch demands his life for – is referred to as “the sins of the ‘son of Adam.’” In the creation story, God first made Adam and Eve. All subsequent generations of humans came from these first two, making any modern humans sons of Adam.
Even with the strong Christian motifs, not all agreed upon the way Lewis chose to create a likeness to Christ. Tolkien, who helped Lewis into Christianity, did not approve of Narnia. The Messiah figure in the film and in the books is a lion. Despite biblical reference to Jesus as the Lion and the Lamb, Narnia’s savior is a distortion into the purely muscular Aslan.
Aslan is no domestic kitten. He appears to have a gentle disposition, the children are warned that he is powerful and dangerous. The Jesus Christ that saves mankind is the Lamb, friend to the weak, the poor and the outcasts on earth. Not quite the parallel Tolkien and other Christians wanted to see.
As children watching the film, we probably didn’t catch much of the Christian imagery. As children, it was more about seeing the fantastic world of glistening white snow turn into spring.
As an adult, knowing the Christianity behind the film doesn’t necessarily take away from it, but “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” is just as enjoyable through the eyes of a child.
Categories: Volume 97 Issue 5 A&E