The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe: Episode Four

The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe on screen title episode fourBack in the first episode, Mr Tumnus complained that it is “always winter, and never Christmas; think of that!” This week, Christmas finally arrives in Narnia, quite literally, because Peter, Lucy and Susan get to meet Father Christmas, who has been kept away by the magic of the White Witch. With the arrival of Aslan, the witch’s magic is fading and Christmas can return. He brings some gifts we would not normally associate with Christmas: weapons. He also brings the gift of sexism, telling the girls they aren’t supposed to fight (but it’s fine for Peter), although oddly they are given weapons, so it will be interesting to see how that plays out. Note that each child gets one means of attack and one means of defence: Peter gets a sword and a shield; Susan gets a bow and arrow, and a horn to summon help; Lucy gets a dagger and a healing potion.

I think providing the children with the means to attack and defend plays into a theme of balance, which is emerging as something very important in the world of Narnia. The natural balance has been interrupted by the White Witch, and Aslan is restoring things to the way they should be. There is a balance to a traditional Christmas, after all, a trade-off between the coldness and darkness of the winter, and the joy of the season. Another balance, perhaps more difficult to come to terms with, is the uneasy coexistence of religious celebration and the gluttony that the celebrations bring, and note how the witch specifically punishes the feasting animals for being gluttonous. Father Christmas brings them happiness, and also unintentionally places them in the line of fire. It’s an odd, slightly awkward, development, but I think it does play quite cleverly into feelings of guilt a Christian might have about feasting to celebrate a moment that a baby was himself born into poverty, while maybe illustrating that those feelings of guilt are false foes, embodied here by the villain of the story.

Having brought Christmas back to Narnia, Aslan brings back the summer, something of a mercy for this production, which was starting to struggle to make the snowy scenes realistic. The Cairngorms of course provide a wonderful snowbound location, but the location filming in Wales is not helped by the use of foam to represent snow. The darkness of the night time scenes conceal the problem effectively, but once the sun rises it looks like a washing machine has spilled out its contents for the actors to wade through. Similarly, the costumes for the Beavers look much better in darkness, and are a bit silly in the daylight.

But what of Edmund, who has in many ways been the most interesting character in this whole series? Well, he’s suffering from a bad case of buyer’s remorse at his decision to trade his family’s safety for some Turkish Delight. Last week we saw his conscience literally leave his body to speak to him, but this time nothing so confrontational is required to get the point across, because Edmund is no longer fighting that inner voice, and instead he simply hears himself saying the words he now knows to be true:

“Admit it, you’d give anything to be with the others now, even Peter.”

The things Edmund wants have always been selfish, and getting them have never made him happy, which is an important theme. Even back in Episode Two, after his first encounter with the “Queen”, Edmund was feeling sick after eating too many Turkish Delights. What we want is not necessarily what is good for us. Now that the Witch’s veil of maternal friendship (never a very convincing ruse) has been dropped, and she is trying to kill his family, Edmund is a miserable, trapped figure, but is that quite repentance?

At the end of the episode, we finally get to see Aslan, and this is a moment that I found mesmerising when I first saw this series as a child, but more of that next week…  RP

Read next in the Junkyard… The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe: Episode Five

About Roger Pocock

Co-writer on Author of Editor of
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