Saturday, May 21, 2011

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

            “It means,” said Aslan, “that though the Witch knew the Deep Magic, there is a magic deeper still which she did not know.  Her knowledge goes back only to the dawn of time.  But if she could have looked a little further back, into the stillness and darkness before Time dawned, she would have read there a different incantation.  She would have known that when a willing victim who had committed no treachery was killed in a traitor’s stead, the Table would crack and Death itself would start working backward” (178-9).

            This quote sums up the overarching theme of this book.  Since fantasy is an illumination of reality, the quote also sums up the theme of life itself.  In this book, Lewis has created a world that is a mirror to our own, even though there are obvious differences between the two.  He has craftily spun out the tale of salvation as it would happen in a world of talking animals, dryads and nyads, river god, mermen and maids, and magical stags that give you wishes.  
            Lewis was a master at creating worlds of fantasy.  His story contains all of the elements that make fantasy believable.  The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe is firmly grounded in reality.  Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy begin their holidays in an ancient house in the English countryside to get away from the air raids.  Life is portrayed as very real and normal.
            When Lucy first experiences Narnia, all of her siblings are skeptical of her story.  When Edmund enters Narnia, he lies about his experience, and the reader finds himself or herself siding with Lucy and thus, believing in Narnia’s existence.  This belief is strengthened further when the other children go to the Professor and he points out that for the time being, they must believe Lucy’s story. 
            The world of fantasy is strengthened by the descriptions of setting that Lewis provides.  He paints Mr. Tumnus’ cave, the Witch’s castle, the Beavers’ lodge and all of Narnia with such vivid pictures that the reader feels as though he or she has been there.  The language and habits of the characters are appropriate as is the framework for a land where beasts are the inhabitants. 
            The conflict, as is usual in fantasy, is between good and evil.  Peter, Susan, and Lucy stand on the side of good, while Edmund joins the side of evil.  When Edmund is rescued from the Witch, we think that all is resolved until Aslan agrees with Her that She has the right to blood.  When the Witch kills Aslan, the reader feels as though the world has come to an end, even if Peter does manage to defeat the Witch’s armies.  It seems as though evil has triumphed, and it was justice itself that allowed it to triumph. 
            It is the Magic from before time that allows good to win.  A willing sacrifice for sin works against death and begins a whole new order of things.  The Witch is defeated, Narnia is saved, and the children will never be the same again.  Lewis paints a beautiful picture of Christ’s love and sacrifice, and the triumph that it gains for mankind over sin.  
            The only weakness I see is an underdevelopment of characters.  The reader does not get to know any one of the characters very well.  We have a general idea about each, but we do not have the personal view that a first person point of view would offer.  Perhaps this helps the story by making the characters more general, and so applicable to every person. 
            Edmund is the only real dynamic character.  He begins as a beastly, annoying boy who likes to pick on others, is proud, and does not have the best set of morals.  He is swayed to evil by his desire for power over his siblings.  He continues on his path to destruction, even when he knows in his heart that he is wrong.  When he finally realizes that he will be killed, it is too late for Edmund to save himself.  Aslan must both rescue, and redeem him.  After this salvation, Edmund is a new person as he becomes good, thoughtful, and just.   

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