Tag Archives: Narnia

Not Safe But Good: Ancient Edition

Ooh!” said Susan, “I’d thought he was a man. Is he — quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion.”

“That you will, dearie, and no mistake,” said Mrs. Beaver; “if there’s anyone who can appear before Aslan without their knees knocking, they’re either braver than most or else just silly.”

“Then he isn’t safe?” said Lucy.

“Safe?” said Mr. Beaver; “don’t you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”

Who hasn’t heard this quote from The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe in a sermon or chapel talk? It’s a good-to illustration for the scary side of God’s omnipotence. God can do things we don’t understand, but remember, like Aslan, he is good.

Did you know God gave us illustrations for this very thing in the book of Job? The picture gets a bit lost on us, because we don’t recognize how wild the world is or has been, but in Job 38-39 God not only says he can handle the wild things, but he owns them also.

Can you hunt the prey for the lion,
    or satisfy the appetite of the young lions,
 when they crouch in their dens
    or lie in wait in their thicket?
Who provides for the raven its prey,
    when its young ones cry to God for help,
    and wander about for lack of food? (Job 38:38-40)

Lions watch for the slow, young, or straggling members of a herd to attack. They lie in wait for the opportunity to kill; I’m told they usually watch their prey in the evening and strike after dark. They aren’t trying to face-off with a worthy opponent. They want to eat. Ravens come along after the kill to pick off what they can.

In this passage and also in Ps. 147:9 God describes ravens and young lions as asking for a kill from the herd from their master, their daily bread. This is the raw horror of nature, not a pastoral you want to hang in your nursery.

The Lord offers several illustrations like this, drawing our attention to wild, troublesome animals that are nonetheless under his care. Wild mountain goats are untamable, potentially dangerous, and can cause a good bit of trouble. Triple that for wild donkeys: “to whom I have given the arid plain for his home and the salt land for his dwelling place?” (39:6). You couldn’t stumble upon a wild donkey and have it carry your luggage to the next town. And if you were able to lead a wild ox to your stable, you would not have that stable the next day. He would take what he wanted from you and no one could stop him.

Read Job 39 for more, but you get the point. God doesn’t simply keep an eye on these wildly unsafe things; he shepherds and cares for them. That can make him look as wild as they are. But if we can know anything, we can know God is good. Not safe by our definition. Not anywhere near domesticated as we might wish. He can be rather scary.

But he’s good. He’s the King.

Photo by Keyur Nandaniya on Unsplash

Did Susan Pevensie Fall Away?

Doug Wilson talks about Susan’s character arc in the Chronicles of Narnia. He walks through almost every scene she is in, noting the details show of her character. So what should we make of Susan becoming no “friend of Narnia”?

Why does the apparent apostasy of Susan seem like a gaping narratival hole that doesn’t fit with any part of the larger story? I want to argue that it does not seem to fit because it really doesn’t fit. My intention is to show that a final apostasy on the part of Susan is really a literary impossibility.

You may be thinking of Wilson’s end game already. We’ve seen it on this blog before. There are four thrones at Cair Paravel. All four will be filled, because (odd how this mists my eyes almost every time) “once a king or queen in Narnia, always a king or queen.”

Lucy of Narnia, the Valiant

Yesterday, November 16, was, as Stephen Bullivant puts it, “the actual feast day of the actual Blessed Lucy of Narnia.” He notes that Lucy was the one who observed in The Last Battle, “In our world too, a stable once had something inside it that was bigger than our whole world.”

So, if you want to visit the ancient, hillside city that gave Lewis’s magical country its name, you’ll have to go to Italy’s Umbria region and find the place presently called Narni.

Hope for Susan Pevensie

Joshua Rogers describes how his view of Susan in The Chronicles of Narnia changed when we realized the impact of something Aslan says.

For the first time, it dawned on me that Susan’s story wasn’t over—not at all. It couldn’t be. One day, Susan was obsessing over “lipstick and nylons and invitations,” and the next, someone would telephone her to tell her that her mother, father, sister, two brothers, a cousin, and three old friends were dead.

Also, photos of the rare white stag, which is the animal the Narnian royalty sought when they returned to our world at the end of the first book.

‘One Bright Star to Guide Them,’ by John C. Wright

“Innocence and faith are the weapons children bring to bear against open evils; wisdom is required to deal with evils better disguised.”

You might be tempted, on the basis of its description, to think John C. Wright’s novella, One Bright Star to Guide Them, is simple Narnia fanfic. A story of four adults, who were once children who entered a magical land peopled by magicians and talking animals.

But it’s more than that. This story is a transposition of Narnia. Author Wright moves the whole concept onto a different level. It’s a meditation on the most terrible line in all the Narnia books – “Susan is no longer a friend of Narnia.” Thomas, the protagonist, is summoned to take up a new fight against a revived evil. But when he contacts his childhood companions, he finds that – for one reason or another – they are not willing to join him. So he has to test his faith alone, except for the help of their old guide, a mystical kitten called Tybalt.

One Bright Star to Guide Them is a quick read, but entirely worthy of the material that inspired it. Beautiful in places. Highly recommended.

Good Friday in Narnia

Photo credit: Nevit Dilmen

“Please, may we come with you—wherever you are going?” said Susan.

“Well—ʺ said Aslan and seemed to be thinking. Then he said, “I should be glad of your company to-night. Yes, you may come, if you will promise to stop when I tell you, and after that leave me to go on alone.”

“Oh, thank you, thank you. And we will,” said the two girls.

Forward they went again and one of the girls walked on each side of the Lion. But how slowly he walked! And his great, royal head drooped so that his nose nearly touched the grass. Presently he stumbled and gave a low moan.

“Aslan! Dear Aslan!” said Lucy, “what is wrong? Can’t you tell us?”

“Are you ill, dear Aslan?” asked Susan.

“No,” said Aslan. “I am sad and lonely. Lay your hands on my mane so that I can feel you are there and let us walk like that.”

And so the girls did what they would never have dared to do without his permission but what they had longed to do ever since they first saw him—buried their cold hands in the beautiful sea of fur and stroked it and, so doing, walked with him. And presently they saw that they were going with him up the slope of the hill on which the Stone table stood. They went up at the side where the trees came furthest up, and when they got to the last tree (it was one that had some bushes about it) Aslan stopped and said,

“Oh, children, children. Here you must stop. And whatever happens, do not let yourselves be seen. Farewell.”

–C. S. Lewis, Chapter XIV, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

Allegory and Why Narnia Is Not One

Jared has the goods on how allegory is defined and why Narnia really isn’t one despite what you may have heard.

How then does he define Allegory? Perhaps the clearest definition in the most common language comes via a letter to Mrs. Hook (found in Letters of C.S. Lewis, 12/29/58):

By an allegory I mean a composition (whether pictorial or literary) in which immaterial realities are represented by feigned physical objects, e.g. a pictured Cupid allegorically represents erotic love (which in reality is an experience, not an object occupying a given area of space) or, Bunyan, a giant represents Despair.