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Trying to compile EVERY Christian symbol in Narnia - please check my work 🙂  

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HailAslan81
(@hailaslan81)
NarniaWeb Newbie

Hey, everybody! I'm new to NarniaWeb (though my wife spent her childhood enjoying it). I was wondering if you all could help me with this article that I've written: The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe: The Complete Guide to Christian Symbolism and Bible References in C. S. Lewis' The Chronicles of Narnia. What am I missing? I know my treatment of the sequels is thin compared to LW&W, and TLB is especially rich. Thanks!

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Posted : November 10, 2020 11:47 am
Col Klink
(@col-klink)
NarniaWeb Nut

I wish I could enthusiastically contribute to your project, you being new here and the forum being kind of slow these days. But while these things can be interesting, they tend to irritate me a bit.

You see I think it's better if readers don't know that Narnia has Christian meaning before they read it. I know that's going to make Christians mad because they'll think I'm downplaying the significance of Christianity to Narnia, and non-Christians mad because they'll be worried that readers will be influenced by the Christianity in the books if they aren't psychologically forearmed against it. But if both parties will hear me out, I think they'll understand my point of view.

You see the most obviously Christian plot point of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is Aslan's sacrificial death and resurrection, which forms the climax. Explaining the climax of a story to people as an introduction to it is completely ridiculous and ruins any potential suspense. Plus in my experience, it puts them in the wrong frame of mind when they sit down to read. When they read about the characters exploring the professor's house, they not thinking, "wow, what a cool house! I wish I could explore it myself." They're thinking, "I wonder what this symbolizes." When they read about Lucy finding a different world inside a seemingly ordinary wardrobe, one where it's a totally different season and time of day, they're not thinking, "wow, what a cool story! I wonder what's going to happen next." They're thinking, "I wonder what this represents."

Also I feel like lists like these tend to attribute meanings which may not have been intended by the author. For example, you describe the talking donkeys in Narnia as an allusion to Balaam's donkey from Numbers 22. This strikes me as highly unlikely. There are lots of talking animals besides donkeys in Narnia and the most developed one, Puzzle, by your own description, is almost of the opposite of Balaam's donkey in temperament and dramatic role. Also you describe the character of Rilian as being like the prodigal son in Jesus's parable. Saying that Rilian's enchantment is similar to the sins and vices of the prodigal is a huge stretch. The prodigal was by no means brainwashed. His vices were part of his real personality. And he was definitely not bound to a chair to prevent him from returning to his father. He did so when his situation became too bad to bear, not because someone finally listened to his pleas for release. Most significantly, Caspian wasn't able to run to greet Rilian or throw him a feast. I really don't think anyone would connect that story with the parable of the prodigal son unless they were convinced everything in Narnia had to correspond to something from the Bible.

That being said, I do enjoy analyzing the books I like and searching for symbolism and allusion. It can definitely be fun. And you may intend your article to be for people already familiar with Narnia. In any case, it's great that you want to look at examples of Christian symbolism in the books besides LWW, like the blood from Aslan's pierced paw resurrecting Caspian.

This post was modified 4 months ago by Col Klink

For better or worse-for who knows what may unfold from a chrysalis?-hope was left behind.
-The God Beneath the Sea by Leon Garfield & Edward Blishen

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Posted : November 10, 2020 5:43 pm
Courtenay
(@courtenay)
NarniaWeb Guru Friend of NarniaWeb

Hi @hailaslan81,

I appreciate your enthusiasm too, but I totally agree with what @col-klink says — and I would add, looking too hard for the Christian symbolism in Narnia is essentially going against what C.S. Lewis was trying to achieve with the books. The ONLY character in the series who is intended to represent a specific person from the Bible is Aslan himself, and even then, in Lewis's own words:

If Aslan represented the immaterial Deity in the same way in which Giant Despair represents Despair [in The Pilgrim's Progress], 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. (Letters of C.S. Lewis)

I've taken that quote from this recent article on NarniaWeb, which is well worth a read: Why C.S. Lewis Said Narnia is "Not Allegory at All"

I certainly didn't know Narnia had "Christian meaning" before I started reading the books as a child — I grew up in a totally non-religious family in a very secular society and I probably would have been totally put off if someone had tried to explain to me "what these books mean", or had given me an article listing all the supposed Christian symbols in them. As it was, I gradually started to realise there was something much more special about Aslan than about any other storybook character I'd ever encountered, and at the end of Dawn Treader, where he tells the children he is in their world too, "But there I have another name..." — then I realised who he symbolised and I was absolutely delighted, even though I didn't know anyone else who took Jesus and Christianity seriously. But I came to that on my own, naturally, through the books themselves, not through being told These Are Christian Stories and Here's What You're Meant to Get Out of Them. That would never have drawn me to them — probably the opposite, as I said — and I suspect a lot of other readers would feel the same way.

Apart from that, as Col Klink has indicated too, a lot of these supposed "meanings" probably weren't intended at all by Lewis. Or at most, they might remind readers of certain characters and events in the Bible, but that doesn't mean they are meant to BE those things. The White Witch isn't Satan (or Eve for that matter), Edmund isn't Judas, Puzzle isn't Balaam's donkey. There are echoes of those and other Biblical figures in them and throughout the Chronicles, but that's not what they actually are. Again, Lewis was quite clear about that in many comments he made about his books, in letters to readers and in articles he wrote.

There's a whole chapter on this topic in Past Watchful Dragons by Walter Hooper, one of the earliest extended commentaries on the Chronicles and Lewis's intentions in writing them — I don't have time to look it up right now, but will see if I can post a few relevant quotes from it later.

"Now you are a lioness," said Aslan. "And now all Narnia will be renewed."
(Prince Caspian)

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Posted : November 11, 2020 7:03 am
SnowAngel liked
Col Klink
(@col-klink)
NarniaWeb Nut

On the off chance that you're still checking this thread, HailAslan, I'd say that the central Christian symbol in The Silver Chair is the Signs that the protagonists must follow, however inconvenient doing so seems.

Spoiler
In the scene where Rilian asks them to free him the chair, they have to risk their own lives to do so. In the same way, people are called to obey God, however crazy it seems and whatever the cost to themselves. (There's a similar moment in The Magician's Nephew where obeying Aslan means Digory has to give up the chance to save his mother.)
That doesn't seem to be the kind of symbol or allusion you're looking for, judging by your blogpost, but I think it could be made to fit. You can probably think of lots of biblical figures who were in similar situations. 

For better or worse-for who knows what may unfold from a chrysalis?-hope was left behind.
-The God Beneath the Sea by Leon Garfield & Edward Blishen

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Posted : December 8, 2020 4:35 pm
HailAslan81
(@hailaslan81)
NarniaWeb Newbie

@col-klink Good point! The Gospel of John refers several times to Jesus' "signs", all of which point to sacraments. 

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Posted : December 10, 2020 5:23 pm
HailAslan81
(@hailaslan81)
NarniaWeb Newbie

@courtenay @col-klink I would caution against what seems to be the prevailing premise for interpreting both Lewis and Tolkien: their rejection of Christian allegory equates to a nullification of their pervasive use of Christian symbolism. This is why I wrote Lord of the Rings & the Eucharist. Due to this unfortunate anti-Christian premise, every interpreter had somehow missed an amazing constellation of Biblical imagery centered on the Lembas-Eucharist. This, despite the fact that Tolkien wrote about it explicitly in his letters. 

Again, the rejection of the label "Christian allegory" does NOT mean a story cannot be packed with "Christian symbolism".  

Narnia is packed with Christian symbols - far, FAR more than just Aslan, himself - and this is absolutely what Lewis intended. I don't understand why anybody would want to hide this light under a bushel. Well, I shouldn't say that, I do understand. 

I understand what @col-klink -- wait, speaking of symbolism, isn't Colonel Klink the one who said "I hear nothing, I see nothing, I know nothing" on Hogan's Heroes? -- is saying about spoilers or keeping the rampant Christianity of Narnia a (Messianic) secret, lest the censors come, but I think the reverse is also true, and more so. After reading Narnia, we should help people connect the dots between the symbols and the reality. It's inherently evangelistic. If we don't, we're falling into an anti-Christian trap.

Regardless of my tone, I do say all the above in charity - Thanks for your feedback!   

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Posted : December 10, 2020 5:42 pm
Col Klink
(@col-klink)
NarniaWeb Nut

(I'm not sure if my thoughts below are appropriate for a secular forum, but this thread is sort of about Christianity anyway, hopefully people won't mind.) 

In Church today, my pastor mentioned that he feels that sometimes people overanalyze Jesus's parables, wanting to find significance to every detail (for example, in the parable of the wise and foolish virgins, they focus on the number five) and overlooking their actual, explicit spiritual message. (For the wise and foolish virgins, that message is the importance of being ready for Christ.)

If he feels people can overanalyze parables, which were written solely for the purpose of conveying spiritual meaning, that way, I think it's reasonable for me to feel people can do the same with the Narnia books, which were written for both entertainment purposes and conveying spiritual meaning. 😉 

For better or worse-for who knows what may unfold from a chrysalis?-hope was left behind.
-The God Beneath the Sea by Leon Garfield & Edward Blishen

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Posted : December 13, 2020 6:18 pm
Courtenay liked
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