The Spiritual Themes of the Narnian Tales

By Always Narnian

This season, as Christmas comes and the year draws to an end, it is appropriate to direct our focus to the core of this holiday and the reason for it: Jesus Christ. The way I am choosing to do so in this article is by bringing to mind that “The whole Narnian story is about Christ”, as Lewis said in a letter to an individual named Anne. In this letter Lewis also laid out the foremost spiritual themes of each Narnian story. C.S. Lewis’ own description of these themes will precede my thoughts on each book. [1]

The Magician’s Nephew tells the creation and how evil entered Narnia.”
As God spoke everything into existence, so Aslan creates Narnia with his song in The Magician’s Nephew. Aslan sets a King and Queen to rule over the talking beasts, just as God placed man in authority over the earth: “Then God said, ‘Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth’” (Genesis 1:26). Though man was created perfect and without sin, they were tempted by the serpent to disobey God, thus causing a rift between themselves and the holy Creator. In a similar manner Digory played a part in bringing evil to the world of Narnia, in the fact that with him came the Witch Jadis.

The Lion etc — the Crucifixion and Resurrection”
Just as our sin needs an atonement, so Edmund’s treacherous deeds in the story of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe could only be wiped away by Aslan’s sacrifice. Edmund was worthy of death, yet Aslan took his place, just as Christ did ours: “and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed” (1 Peter 2:24). Death was not the end of Christ, for he rose again out of the tomb. Lewis painted a beautiful picture of this Resurrection in Aslan’s return from the dead.

Prince Caspian — restoration of the true religion after a corruption”
Just as the Telmarines tried to extinguish the true Narnians, so often the world seeks to overtake the people who believe in God and His word. Persecutions have been started by evil and depraved people who try and get rid of God and His people. The Lord knew this tribulation would come to His followers, yet He has kept His word alive and His children remain. “These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

The Horse and his Boy — the calling and conversion of a heathen.”
One of the most touching moments in The Horse and His Boy is the scene where Aslan reveals himself to Shasta — how he had directed Shasta’s course so many times and how Shasta had not known it then. As Aslan chose to reveal himself to the “unconverted” Shasta through different events in his life, so God chooses to reveal himself to all through his creation: “For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse” (Romans 1:20). He also makes his character known to us through his revealed Word and through his Son Jesus — that Word made flesh: “God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world” (Hebrews 1:1-2).

The Voyage of the Dawn Treader — the spiritual life (specially in Reepicheep)”
The Christian’s spiritual life is marked with a great longing to be with Jesus Christ, as Reepicheep longed to sail to Aslan’s country: “Therefore, being always of good courage, and knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord — for we walk by faith, not by sight — we are of good courage, I say, and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:6-8).

The Silver Chair — continued war against the powers of darkness”
Spiritual warfare in the Christian’s life is perhaps, though in a different way, very relatable to the difficulties that Jill, Eustace, and Puddleglum face. From the seemingly simple struggle Jill has remembering and keeping the signs, to the Lady of the Green Kirtle’s attempts to make them forget everything they had once known in Narnia, these things reflect the Christian’s everyday life: “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12).

The Last Battle — the coming of Antichrist (the Ape). The end of the world, and the Last Judgement”
Knowing that the world will one day end is a sobering thought, and The Last Battle is indeed a story with more gravity, yet with a great and triumphant closing. Near Revelation’s end, there is a verse that describes the new Jerusalem and those in it: “And there will no longer be any night; and they will not have need of the light of a lamp nor the light of the sun, because the Lord God will illumine them; and they will reign forever and ever.” (Revelation 22:5) Those who enter Aslan’s country have this type of glorious homecoming as well: “But for them it was only the beginning of the real story. All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read: which goes on forever: in which every chapter is better than the one before.”

Creation, Jesus’ death and resurrection, His involvement in His children’s lives, and His second coming are all key events that Narnia brings to the reader through the medium of fiction. Even near the close of the Narnia series, Lucy draws attention to Christ’s advent: “In our world too, a stable once had something inside it that was bigger than our whole world.” As you celebrate Christmas this year, remember that Christ is the center of all things and that this holiday is about something greater than what the world has made it, just as Narnia is more than a good story.

[1] All quoted Spiritual Themes from The Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis: Volume III: Narnia, Cambridge and Joy 1950-1963

One thought on “The Spiritual Themes of the Narnian Tales

  1. Tenethia BrandybuckTenethia

    Lovely article, Ann 🙂 Well-written, and an especially good job bringing the Christmas focus into the article 🙂 Maybe that’s one reason I like HHB so much… hm, something for me to consider 🙂

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