Tuesday, October 7, 2008

The Figure of Aslan

C.S. Lewis’s The Voyage of the Dawn Treader serves as an allegory of Christianity, most obviously in the figure of Aslan. All the other characters, Narnians and sons of Adam alike, live in awe of this god-like lion. He serves as both protector and advisor. Furthermore, the voyagers’ search for Aslan’s land is reminiscent of Christian believers’ quest to enter heaven.

The characters feel calmer knowing Aslan is observing their travels, even though they cannot understand how. When they need his protection or guidance, they invoke his name. Lucy especially feels a comfortable bond with the lion, although she too is reprimanded by Aslan for spying on her friends while reading the magician’s book (170). When the characters encounter Aslan, their explanations after the fact do not justify the magnitude of the experience. Some explain a sort of silent communication, perhaps within their hearts. Eustace says of his transformation: “Mind you, I don’t know if he said any words out loud or not” (114). This established intimacy between the characters and Aslan is hard to put into human terms. Eustace inquires: “‘But who is Aslan? Do you know him?’ ‘Well—he knows me,’ said Edmund” (117). When she is frightened, Lucy calls upon Aslan: “Lucy leant her head on the Edge of the fighting-top and whispered, ‘Aslan, Aslan, if ever you loved us at all, send us help now.’ The darkness did not grow any less, but she began to feel a little—a very, very little—better” (200). He comes to the Dawn Treader disguised in the form of an albatross: “And all at once everybody realized that there was nothing to be afraid of and never had been” (201). This protective aura provides consolation in the face of evil and disaster. The ultimate consolation exists in reaching Aslan’s land, an ethereal place of light, where Aslan himself can provide reassurance. If one follows his ways, this seems to be a reward. This heavenly place also represents Aslan’s universal and inclusive love, as he says: “There is a way into my country from all the worlds” (269).

Lewis’ theological tones evidently emphasize the leap of faith which is necessary to accept concepts beyond human comprehension, such as the figure of Aslan. Lewis could also be highlighting the character of the Christian God, who must be feared with awe, yet also loved and respected as a protector and guiding friend.

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