Christian Allegory in ‘The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe’

C. S. Lewis’ 1950 children’s classic has been adapted multiple times for stage and screen. While the novel is consistently cited as a fan favourite, what is less obviously cited is the Christian allusions within it. Some adaptations play this up more than others, and after re-reading the book, I would say that they do have an ambiguous quality. Such allusions would probably only be recognised by those who understand and have knowledge of Christianity. Lewis himself stated that such allusions were not intentional, but modern critics have nonetheless identified that they are there.

An obvious reference to Genesis is the Pevensie children’s statuses as Daughters of Eve, and Sons of Adam. I was never entirely sure what this meant, but perhaps the use of Adam and Eve was meant to emphasise the humanity, and therefore purity, of the four children when in comparison to figures such as the White Witch. The children’s status as descendants of the first men and women seem fitting, as it is they who take seat at Cair Paravel and restore harmony to the kingdom of Narnia.

However, it is also Adam and Eve that bring sin into the world. Perhaps Lucy brings sin to Mr Tumnus, by placing herself in his way and tempting him to betray her to the White Witch. Susan and Lucy fit the image of the subservient Eve, as majority of the arduous physical activities are left to the men. What they lack in physical action they do make up for in kindness and compassion and serve as council to their brothers.

When looking at Milton’s depiction of Eve in ‘Paradise Lost,’ one may draw some similarities between her and Susan. Jumping forward to ‘The Last Battle,’ the last book in the series, Susan comes under fire for her growing obsession with ‘nylons and lipstick and invitations.’[1] She is no longer deemed a friend of Narnia. It appears that Susan has grown up, and has essentially become a stereotypical, teenage girl. It is implied that she is particularly materialistic and selfish. Perhaps her obsession with looking pretty and attracting invitations, maybe a reference to the attention of boys, might imply her growing promiscuity? This may be a bit of a jump, but in the way that Milton sees Eve as a sinner, Lewis appears to imply that Susan has become a sinner. She has fallen from grace much like Eve. It is unclear whether she makes it to Aslan’s country in the end, and her barring from heaven may be a result of a combination of materialism, hedonism, immaturity, and promiscuity.

Both Susan and Lucy are side-lined slightly by Peter and Edmund. Peter fills the role of the apostle, much like his biblical namesake. St. Peter is given his name by Christ, as Peter is given the name Sir Peter Wolfsbane by Aslan.

When talking about sinners, Edmund is the obvious contender. While he does not commit any form of fratricide, his feud with brother Peter, and betrayal of all the Pevensies can be likened to the conflict between Cain and Abel. A more obvious allusion is to that of Judas, who betrays Christ with a kiss. Edmund’s betrayal is more unceremonious, as he just sneaks out of the Beavers dam. Allusions between Edmund and Eve can also be drawn, as he is tempted by a food product, Turkish Delight. It is his indulgence in this food that acts as a metaphor for the betrayal of his siblings.

Speaking of Judas, the main contender for the role of Christ is Aslan. This allusion is brought to the fore when he sacrifices himself for the sins of mankind, as represented by Edmund, and is promptly resurrected. It is he who is supposed to save Narnia, and does so by guiding the children in the right direction to do so. It also makes sense for Aslan’s country to be heaven, the children’s final destination. Lucy and Susan’s witnessing of Aslan’s death places them in the role of the Virgin Mary and Mary Magdalen, who watched Jesus die on the Cross.

It also Aslan who also defeats the Witch, who is evil personified. While the novel notes that the two of them ‘rolled around’ on the battlefield, it does not explicitly say how the Witch dies.[2] In the 2005 film adaptation, Aslan explicitly bites her head off. While not very Christ-like, it is finite and it does hammer the point home that good has triumphed over evil. The Witch’s status as ice, and Aslan’s orange mane as fire also adds to the image of evil being extinguished.

The White Witch’s origins are touched on briefly in the text, and she is described to be a daughter of Lillith, Adam’s first wife, and descended from giants. Lilith is traditionally portrayed as some sort of she-demon, so it is obvious that Lewis is trying to explain where the Witch gets her nefariousness from. The Beavers recount that there is no ‘Human blood in the Witch.’[3] This again asserts the superiority and purity of the Pevensie children.

Her backstory of further elaborated upon in ‘The Magicians Nephew.’ While her family ruled as the kings and queens of Charn, the Witch’s uttering of the ‘Deplorable World’ wiped out all life in Charn except her own. After being resurrected by Polly and Digory, she attempt to conquer the human world, and then is transported to Narnia at the moment of its creation by Aslan. Here she tries to battle Aslan with a fragment of a London lamp post… yes this is true. After the lam post is fairly ineffective, no surprises there, she flees to a garden on a mountain west of Narnia and eats an apple that she believes will grant her immortality. It does, but as a result, her skin is bleached white and the evil in her heart causes her eternal misery. One thousand Narnian years later, Lucy stumbles upon the same fragment of the lamppost, which has grown into a fully working one. The garden conjures up thoughts about the Garden of Eden, and Adam and Eve’s fall from grace. It could also allude to the Jesus’ time in the Garden of Gethsemane, where Jesus suffered emotional turmoil before his arrest. I could not tell you if the Witch goes through some existential crisis in the garden, as I have not read ‘The Magicians Nephew’ in a while, but surely some thought must have led to her decision to eat the fruit?

Thanks for reading!

[1] C. S. Lewis The Last Battle (London: HarperCollins, 2009).

[2] C. S. Lewis The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (London: HarperCollins, 1998) p. 185.

[3] Ibid., p. 88.

Published by harpalkhambay

I am an English Literature and History graduate, and wanted a space to explore topics within those fields that interest me.

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