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Week 4: Why a Lamb?

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In the final pages of The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, Edmund, Lucy, and Eustace splash out of the warm sea and step onto a vast plain of fine short grass, a plain that is completely level and spreading in every direction, a place where “at last the sky did really come down and join the earth.” Waiting there is a dazzling white lamb who invites them to a breakfast of roast fish. As they speak, suddenly the lamb’s snowy white turns into tawny gold and he becomes “Aslan himself towering above them.”

In his observations about The Wind in the Willows found in the essay “On Stories,” Lewis asks, “Does anyone believe that Kenneth Grahame made an arbitrary choice when he gave his principal character the form of a toad, or that a stag, a pigeon, a lion, would have done as well?” Readers might pose the same question about Aslan’s appearance here as a lamb. And if Lewis’s choice of this animal was not arbitrary, what might he be hoping to convey to the reader?

Back in chapter twelve Aslan appeared as an albatross. In The Horse and His Boy, he will appear as a cat. Some readers may take Aslan’s appearance here as a lamb simply as yet another example of the diverse forms the great lion temporarily chooses to appear in. Perhaps just as a lion is an appropriate form for the countryside of Narnia, an albatross appropriate for the Narnia seas, and a cat fitting for the outskirts of Tashbaan, so a lamb is an particularly apt form for the grassy plain here at World’s End.

Perhaps Lewis has something more in mind than this. In the final paragraph of The Last Battle, the narrator will tell how as Aslan speaks at the great reunion, suddenly he “no longer looked to them like a lion.” What is this form that Aslan assumes in the very end? The narrator will only say, “The things that began to happen after that were so great and beautiful that I cannot write them.” Perhaps the great being who has taken on the form of a lion, an albatross, a lamb, and a cat is in reality none of these creatures but something indescribably different.
Peter Schakel has observed that “part of the imaginative appeal of the Chronicles is Aslan in his rich complexity of forms and moods.” He maintains that the fact that Aslan appears primarily as a lion is “no coincidence,” for through this form Lewis coveys the “greatness and grandeur of the divine.” Professor Schakel suggests that the form of a lamb conveys the qualities of “meekness and vulnerability.” So is Aslan intended to be great and grand or meek and vulnerable? Having described this set of opposite qualities, Schakel concludes “Lewis, in fact, wants both.”

Marvin Hinten has pointed out that in appearing here as a lamb, Aslan echoes numerous biblical descriptions of Christ as the Lamb of God and points to John 21 where Christ prepares a fish breakfast for the apostles. In Lucy’s question about Eustace’s return, Hinten sees a parallel to the question Peter asks about what will happen to John. Aslan asks Lucy “Do you really need to know that?” Jesus asks Peter, “What is that to thee?”

Paul Ford follows a similar line of thinking, suggesting that the scene is “too reminiscent” of the breakfast the risen Christ prepares for his apostles “for Lewis not to have intended the association.”

But why would Lewis make such a deliberate association between Aslan and Christ now when previously Aslan has been more of a Christ figure with more indirect associations? Lewis stated that when he penned The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, he thought it might be his final Narnia story. Perhaps in writing what he thought might be his last words about Narnia, he wanted to make the parallels harder for readers to miss. Additionally, since Aslan will tell the children that they must come to know him in their world as well where he goes by another name, his appearance as a lamb here may be intended as a clue for Lucy and Edmund as well.

Questions for Discussion:

1. Why do you think Lewis chose to make Aslan appear as a lamb in this chapter?

2. How effective is this choice for you as a reader?

3. What do you think Lewis may be suggesting by the statement in The Last Battle that Aslan “no longer looked like a lion”?

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Topic starter Posted : November 12, 2010 6:12 pm
NarniaWeb Zealot

1. Why do you think Lewis chose to make Aslan appear as a lamb in this chapter?

To make a reference to Aslan being Jesus Christ. I have often heard Jesus be referred to as "The Lion and the Lamb". I don't think it was to make Him seem meek or vulnerable, since Jesus was neither of these -- but rather kind and gentle.

2. How effective is this choice for you as a reader?

It gets the point across and makes for an interesting part in the book.

3. What do you think Lewis may be suggesting by the statement in The Last Battle that Aslan “no longer looked like a lion”?

I think it means the children finally saw Him in His true form -- as Jesus Christ, as we will see Him when we get to Heaven.



Posted : November 12, 2010 6:32 pm
NarniaWeb Newbie

I think Lewis wanted to make the Aslan/Jesus association more clear to the reader. And I really love that scene with the fish! It gives the story a really nice addition. I think he wants to show the reader that Aslan is so much more than a lion. The image with the lion is only a comparison. And like Eustace+Jill already said, there we can see his true face. His whole "Aslan" as Lewis imagined Christ to be.

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Posted : November 12, 2010 11:07 pm
NarniaWeb Newbie

1. Why do you think Lewis chose to make Aslan appear as a lamb in this chapter?

I think Lewis chose the lamb not only because Jesus was called the "Lamb of God," but I think he chose it for the same reason that Jesus was given this title. Sacrifice. Aslan, like Jesus, sacrificed His life to save Edmund, and I think Lewis may have been trying to remind us of that.

2. How effective is this choice for you as a reader?

I nearly cried reading that part. For me, these paragraphs tied all of Lewis's references to Christ together, and it all made sense. Because I read the books in chronological order, I had already read HHB, so I knew about the analogy of the cat as well. All of the symbolism just clicked for me, and I realized what a powerful witness Lewis had become through these Chronicles.

3. What do you think Lewis may be suggesting by the statement in The Last Battle that Aslan “no longer looked like a lion”?

I think the ultimate message Lewis was broadcasting was that Aslan is Narnia's version of Jesus (and by version, I mean physical appearance). I think he was trying to show us that no matter how we may think we see God, it does not compare to God's true beauty, which we will only know once we enter the gate to His Country, and have the pleasure of seeing Him face-to-face.

Posted : November 13, 2010 4:15 am
NarniaWeb Junkie

1. Why do you think Lewis chose to make Aslan appear as a lamb in this chapter? Because Jesus is referred to as both a Lion and as a Lamb. He could be making the parallel in this scene because he wanted to tell the reader that Aslan can not be thought as only a lion.

2. How effective is this choice for you as a reader?I think this is very effective, the reader gains this understanding that Aslan is more than a lion. It the long run it helps the reader believe that Aslan could really be in our world, but in a different form than a lion.

3. What do you think Lewis may be suggesting by the statement in The Last Battle that Aslan “no longer looked like a lion”?
Because they could see Him in all his splendor no and were not limited to see Him an animal form like he took when he was in Narnia.

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Posted : November 15, 2010 3:59 am
Pepper Darcy
NarniaWeb Nut

1. Why do you think Lewis chose to make Aslan appear as a lamb in this chapter?

I guess that question was always so obvious to me: Christ. Readers no matter what their doctrine (such as Catholic, Reformed, Presbetyrian etc.) would get it. Not that I'm saying there are mulitple ways to heaven because 'everyone' gets the Lamb thing in Narnia. I'm not advocating a Tashlan thing. But everyone gets the 'idea'. Aslan was a sacrifice: a lamb. He gave himself for Edmund.

2. How effective is this choice for you as a reader?

It's so *very* effective! Words can't describe it. It brings back all the pictures, memories, and all that from the cross and Christ. It's so black and white it couldn't be any bolder.

3. What do you think Lewis may be suggesting by the statement in The Last Battle that Aslan “no longer looked like a lion”?

I have *no* idea. I was always really disapointed by that part in The Last Battle... I loved him as a Lion. You could run up and tackle him. I've always wanted to do that to a Lion, and with Aslan no longer looking like a lion, it sorta took the enchantment away :( *sniffles* I mean... I'm so attatched to Lions I *have* a Lion figure in the story I'm writng for my kids (yes, I know. I'm 'sinning' in the world of writing). But to me, Aslan was such a strong, powerful, mighty symbol of Christ's glory-- I had to have something *that* powerful in my book. And after all, since it's not being published, it's my way of giving a heartfelt tribute to Lewis: one that (I am quite sure) if I told him about, he would be most honoured-- it's just Lewis made Aslan so wonderful and perfect and beautiful, you want that for your own story and it isn't complete until Aslan is there in your own world either...

Maybe that seems like a bunny trail, but in a way it's answering that question, just from my point of view. That's how powerful of a literary figure that Aslan was (to me). Something so perfect and beyond description that even thinking about taking out the Lion in my story would cause my book to literarly self anialate.

That's how much I love Narnia. I have a lion with all due respect and honour and reverance for all the work Lewis put into Narnia. It's my way to show how much those stories mean to me. That's how effective Aslan as a lamb (sacrifice) was in my life. It was crystal clear. I respect Lewis' work completely. And all the Narnia fans in the world are going to shoot my dead body now... :'( *wait for it*

I think the idea of Aslan being a lamb is also a little clearer than even the message of Aslan being a lion. The Bible itself is full of pictures of Christ as The Lamb of God. People who might not even *claim* to be Christians might still get the idea as it is. The idea is so powerful it's breathtaking.

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Posted : November 15, 2010 2:48 pm
NarniaWeb Newbie

1. Why do you think Lewis chose to make Aslan appear as a lamb in this chapter?

I think Lewis makes a three-way transition between our world, Aslan’s Country, and the Narnia world by using a lamb. He has already established Aslan as a shape-shifter when Aslan takes the form of the Albatross who helps Lucy away from the Dark Island and wishes courage to her.

In Lewis’ and my denomination (Anglican/Episcopal), during every service, we tell Jesus “Oh Lamb of God who takest away the sins of the world, have mercy upon us!” I feel that Aslan is on a strip of land on the outskirts of His country, although everywhere is truly His country anyway, just as I consider the post on which my mailbox sits both on my property and just outside of it, as it is outside of my fence.

Aslan calls Lucy “Dearest” and “Dear Heart,” implying He has a very important task for her in our world: to become His Princess Consort forever. Jesus has plenty of these! He has for two milennia, beginning with Mary Magdalene! They’re called nuns. I hope that when the movie The Last Battle is filmed, the costumers put Lucy in a habit in the Friends of Narnia scene in England in which she sits at the table with Diggory, Peter, Edmund, Eustace, and two ladies, one whom we meet in Silver Chair, and the other whom we meet in Magician’s Nephew. I’m sorry to admit that I personally have never had the calling to become a nun. However, I have a very strong respect for these valiant princesses.

I also believe that Aslan, off-screen, so to speak, has taken His human form because a human form is needed to catch (or in Aslan’s case, create) the fish, build the fire, prepare the fish, and cook the fish. There is nobody to tend the fire except the Lamb, who has hoofs, not hands like humans and beavers have.

The whole issue with the fire calls to my mind not only Jesus, but also the Greek god Prometheus who brought fire to humans.

2. How effective is this choice for you as a reader?

I find the lamb of God imagery very effective for me. I believe Lucy, like her brothers and sister and friend Diggory, but unlike Eustace, is a Christian. I am under the impression that Dr. and Mrs. Pevensie and Diggory took the children to church until they were old enough to choose, for themselves, whether or not to go on their own. Just as people under 10 in my church hear about the Lamb of God all the time, so have the Pevensies. Furthermore, Lucy at least, and possibly Edmund, may pester Harold and Alberta to take them to church. When they return to our world, I’m under the impression that the first thing Eustace does is convert to Christianity and, when Sunday rolls around, demand that Harold and Alberta leave him at church with Edmund and Lucy. Alberta remarks how tiresome and commonplace Eustace has become due to the influence of “those Pevensie children.” Nothing can be farther from the truth unless one has the audacity to call a devout Christian like Lewis’ close friend Tolkien “tiresome and commonplace!”

3. What do you think Lewis may be suggesting by the statement in The Last Battle that Aslan “no longer looked like a lion”?

I find this scene in The Last Battle to be similar to Beauty and the Beast, in which the Beast finally takes his true human form, right before the eyes of his beloved. When I read this statement, I imagine Aslan turning into a human king – the Ultimate Human King, and I can imagine a merry twinkle in Liam’s eyes when he finally plays this important scene with Georgie, resplendent in Lucy’s resurrection body, and, instead of a habit, a gown fit for a Coronation Ball. Just as I imagine Sister Lucy turning into Queen Lucy, I imagine the Lion turning into the King as He and Lucy truly live happily ever after.

Posted : November 19, 2010 7:31 am
daughter of the King
Princess Dot Moderator

1. It always seemed perfectly natural to me that Aslan would appear in the form of a lamb. He already appeared as an albatross in this story and as a cat in HHB (which I read before VDT the first time around). I have thought about it off and on since then, and I think the reason Aslan appears as a lamb is because at the end of the world He is closer to our world. The Lion of Judah is an iconic image, but the lamb even more so.

2. I think if I had read just VDT it would have seemed rather random. However, since I have read all of the Chronicles and before I read VDT the first time I had already read LWW, HHB, and PC, it feels natural to me. It makes sense in the story when the reader has a knowledge of who Aslan is. Even in LWW who He is is hinted at by Mr. Beaver when he says that Aslan has other countries to attend to. So yes, I think it is effective.

3. That He no longer looked like a lion? Of course he wouldn't attempt to describe what Aslan did look like. Who can even begin to imagine what Jesus looks like in heaven in His full glory?

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Posted : November 19, 2010 10:39 am
NarniaWeb Junkie

When C.S. Lewis wrote The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, he honestly thought it would be the last book in the series. Perhaps Lewis felt that the end was a good time to show Aslan in a different way. It might have been because Edmund and Lucy needed to learn Aslan in a new way, and this was a way to introduce them to his new ways.

Posted : December 20, 2010 1:35 pm
NarniaWeb Nut

1. Because Jesus is the Lamb of God, it has biblical foundlings.

2. Effective? Well, I think it was certainly and interesting twist, and kind of shows the gentle innocent nature of Aslan.

3. Oooh, it means that they have matured, and Aslan no longer looks like a scary lion, but a helpful friend. Er, something like that.

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Posted : December 30, 2010 2:03 am