“The witch knows the deep magic but there is a magic deeper still, which she has never known, for her knowledge goes back only to the dawn of time. In the stillness, in the dark before time ever began, there was a different incantation. When a willing victim who has committed no treachery offers his life in a traitor’s stead, the stone table will crack and death itself will be denied.”
The Christian allegory is clear here, with the resurrection of Aslan in the final episode of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. He gave his life to save a sinner, and came back from the dead, thanks to a power that existed before the creation of the universe. The parallel is not exact, because Aslan does not ascend to heaven after that, instead heading off to help “other countries”. He is a wild animal at heart, who “needs to be free”, so the inspiration is there, but C.S. Lewis was not simply retelling the Bible story. He weaves his own tale around the idea of resurrection. It is also interesting that Aslan shows a brief flash of anger for the first time here, when Lucy seems to be uninterested in helping anyone other than Edmund, while “others are at the point of death.” Last week we saw Aslan feeling sad and wanting company when he walked to his death. This week the idea of somebody not giving help when it is needed makes him momentarily angry, so he is far from being immune to mortal emotions. That is important, because if he were a perfect super-being then we would have no way to aspire to his goodness. Instead, emotions are channelled usefully rather than denied.
That also plays into Edmund’s story, when he finally achieves his redemption. Thinking back to the third episode, I mentioned how Edmund has useful qualities that could be used for good or evil, as we all do. His intelligence had been focused on deviousness and selfishness, while his courage allowed him to travel through the darkness to see the Witch, easily dismissing a momentary feeling of fear. His redemption here is contingent not on suppressing the aspects of his personality that led him to betray his family, but on channelling them for the greater good. He is the one to break the Witch’s magic sword, and ends up getting stabbed for his trouble. His courage shines through in that moment, and he is also making use of anger just like Aslan does. The sight of the Witch turning people to stone gives him the final push he needs to become a hero. The traitor is redeemed.
The less said about the scenes of Aslan flying the better. Four years after The Box of Delights, flying scenes were still clearly beyond the capabilities of the available 1980s technology, but it would be churlish to complain too much, when this has otherwise been such a high-quality production, particularly the location filming in Scotland and Wales, and the gorgeous Aslan animatronic prop/costume.
We conclude with the mind-blowing idea that the children lived their lives in Narnia into adulthood, only to return through the wardrobe and become children again, with no time passing in their world. They confide in the gentle Professor, who believes everything they tell him, and tells them that they will get back to Narnia one day.
“You don’t think you’re the only ones to have had such an adventure, do you?”
Michael Aldridge’s performance as the Professor has been one of the joys of this series, and his knowing smile tells us everything we need to know. Of course he has been to Narnia too. That’s the smile of a man who has lived an interesting life.
We finish today, on Christmas Day, with an episode that is perhaps not quite so Christmassy as some of the previous instalments, with their deep snow and an appearance from Father Christmas. And yet this episode, showing the healing power that Aslan brings to Narnia and the peace and happiness he inspires in his followers, is arguably the most Christmassy of all, if we think about what Christmas is supposed to be about. The clue is in the name: Christ’s mass. The celebration of Christ. Whatever beliefs you hold, I hope you find your own peace and happiness today. Happy Christmas from the Junkyard. RP
Are you interested in finding out what inspired C.S. Lewis to write one of the greatest ever works of children’s fiction? Ask your local vicar about joining a free Alpha course, to find out more, and ask the questions you need to ask.