Sunday, March 21, 2010

The deeper meaning of Narnia

Will Vaus, who will soon publish a new book about the Chronicles of Narnia, The Hidden Story of Narnia, tells us that the outline of his book was provided by C.S. Lewis in a letter he wrote to a eleven year old girl in 1961. From the letter:
The whole Narnian story is about Christ. That is to say, I asked myself 'Supposing there really were a world like Narnia and supposing it had (like our world) gone wrong and supposing Christ wanted to go into that world and save it (as He did ours) what might have happened?' The stories are my answer. Since Narnia is a world of Talking Beasts I thought he would become a Talking Beast there, as he became a Man here. I pictured Him becoming a lion there because (a.) the lion is supposed to be the King of beasts: (b.) Christ is called 'The Lion of Judah' in the Bible: (c.) I'd been having strange dreams about lions when I began writing the books. The whole series works out like this:

The Magician's Nephew tells the creation and how evil entered Narnia.
The Lion etc ________________ the crucifixion and Resurrection
Prince Caspian__________ restoration of the true religion after a corruption
The Horse and his Boy ________ the calling and conversion of a heathen.
The Voyage of the Dawn Treader__the spiritual life (especially in Reepicheep)
The Silver Chair__the continued war against the powers of darkness
The Last Battle__the coming of Antichrist (the Ape), the end of the world and the Last Judgment.
As the Narnia books became popular, Lewis received many letters from young people who had questions. Some of these are included in C.S. Lewis' Letters to Children, including this one:
8 June 1960

Dear [Patricia]
All your points are in a sense right. But I'm not exactly "representing" the real (Christian) story in symbols. I'm more saying "Suppose there were a world like Narnia and it needed rescuing and the Son of God (or the 'Great Emperor oversea') went to redeem it, as He came to redeem ours, what might it, in that world, all have been like?" Perhaps it comes to much the same thing as you thought, but not quite.
  1. The creation of Narnia is the Son of God creating a world (not specially our world).
  2. Jadis plucking the apple is, like Adam's sin, an act of disobedience, but it doesn't fill the same place in her life as his plucking did in his. She was already fallen (very much so) before she ate it.
  3. The stone table is meant to remind one of Moses' table.
  4. The Passion and Resurrection of Aslan are the Passion and Resurrection Christ might be supposed to have had in that world—like those in our world but not exactly like.
  5. Edmund is like Judas a sneak and traitor. But unlike Judas he repents and is forgiven (as Judas no doubt w[oul]d. have been if he'd repented).
  6. Yes. At the v. [ery] edge of the Narnian world Aslan begins to appear more like Christ as He is known in this world. Hence, the Lamb. Hence, the breakfast—like at the end of St. John's Gospel. Does not He say You have been allowed to know me in this world (Narnia) so that you may know me better when you get back to your own"?
  7. And of course the Ape and Puzzle, just before the last Judgement (in the Last Battle) are like the coming of Antichrist before the end of our world.
All clear?
I'm so glad you like the books.
Yours sincerely
C. S. Lewis
C. S. Lewis & Narnia etc.: Outline of "The Hidden Story of Narnia"