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The Chronicles of Narnia/Christian parallels

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Part of the series on
The Chronicles of Narnia
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Christian parallels
Criticism
Reception: influence of religious viewpoints
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The Chronicles of Narnia (film series)
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
Prince Caspian
The Voyage of the Dawn Treader
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
Discussion Page

Christian parallels

C.S. Lewis was an adult convert to Christianity and had previously authored some works on Christian apologetics and fiction with Christian themes. However, he did not originally intend to incorporate Christian theological concepts into his Narnia stories. As he wrote in Of Other Worlds:

Some people seem to think that I began by asking myself how I could say something about Christianity to children; then fixed on the fairy tale as an instrument, then collected information about child psychology and decided what age group I’d write for; then drew up a list of basic Christian truths and hammered out 'allegories' to embody them. This is all pure moonshine. I couldn’t write in that way. It all began with images; a faun carrying an umbrella, a queen on a sledge, a magnificent lion. At first there wasn't anything Christian about them; that element pushed itself in of its own accord.

Lewis, an expert on the subject of allegory[1] and the author of The Allegory of Love, maintained that the books were not allegory, and preferred to call the Christian aspects of them "suppositional". This indicates Lewis' view of Narnia as a fictional parallel universe. As Lewis wrote in a letter to a Mrs Hook in December 1958:

If Aslan represented the immaterial Deity in the same way in which Giant Despair [a character in The Pilgrim's Progress] represents despair, he would be an allegorical figure. In reality, however, he is an invention giving an imaginary answer to the question, 'What might Christ become like if there really were a world like Narnia, and He chose to be incarnate and die and rise again in that world as He actually has done in ours?' This is not allegory at all.[2]

Although Lewis did not consider them allegorical, and did not set out to incorporate Christian themes in Wardrobe, he was not hesitant to point them out after the fact. In one of his last letters, written in March of 1961, Lewis writes:

Since Narnia is a world of Talking Beasts, I thought He [Christ] 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 work. 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 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 continuing war with the powers of darkness
The Last Battle the coming of the Antichrist (the Ape). the end of the world and the Last Judgement.[3]

With the release of the 2005 Disney film there was renewed interest in the Christian parallels found in the books. Some find them distasteful, while noting that they are easy to miss if you are not familiar with Christianity.[4] Alan Jacobs, author of The Narnian: The Life and Imagination of C. S. Lewis, implies that through these Christian aspects, Lewis becomes "a pawn in America's culture wars".[5] Some Christians see the Chronicles as excellent tools for Christian evangelism.[6] The subject of Christianity in the novels has become the focal point of many books. (See Further Reading below.)


references

  1. Collins, Marjorie (1980). Academic American Encyclopedia. Aretê Pub. Co.. pp. 305. ISBN 0933880006. 
  2. Martindale, Wayne; Root, Jerry. The Quotable Lewis.
  3. Ford, Paul (2005). Companion to Narnia: Revised Edition. San Francisco: HarperCollins. p. 6. ISBN 0-06-079127-6. 
  4. Toynbee, Polly (2005-12-05). "Narnia represents everything that is most hateful about religion". The Guardian. http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2005/dec/05/cslewis.booksforchildrenandteenagers. Retrieved 2008-10-28. 
  5. Jacobs, Alan (2005-12-04). "The professor, the Christian, and the storyteller". The Boston Globe. http://www.boston.com/news/globe/ideas/articles/2005/12/04/the_professor_the_christian_and_the_storyteller/. Retrieved 2008-10-28. 
  6. Kent, Keri Wyatt (November 2005). "Talking Narnia to Your Neighbors". Today's Christian Woman 27 (6): 42. http://www.christianitytoday.com/tcw/2005/novdec/11.42.html. Retrieved 2008-10-28. 

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