God, C. S. Lewis, and J. K. Rowling?: Christ Figures, Chapter II, Part II

Good morning, Nerdy Bloggers!

I’m back with another portion of my thesis, the second part of my chapter on Christ Figures.  I hope you enjoy it!  Also, for those wondering about the TV Top 30 series I’ve started, I plan to return to it very soon, probably after I’m finished posting my thesis.  Enjoy!

Blessings,

Nerdy Blogger

CHAPTER II, PART II

These examples of Christ figures in Harry Potter are quite explicit; however, they are symbolic.  In comparison to Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia, there are not many Christ figures, but in comparison, only one.  This one Christ figure found in Narnia is Aslan the Lion, Son of the Emperor over the Sea.  In Aslan’s character, Lewis embodies the many aspects of Christ into one being.  This character is the dominant figure throughout the entire series, and perhaps one of the clearest allegorical Christ figures found in literature.

When placed in chronological order, the first book in The Chronicles of Narnia is The Magician’s Nephew.  In this story, the reader follows the adventures of Digory Kirke and Polly Plummer who stumble into the yet to be created Narnia through the devious trick of Digory’s Uncle Andrew.  While the two are in this strange land, they witness a marvelous thing: the creation of Narnia.

The Lion was pacing to and fro about that empty land and singing his new song.  It was softer and more lilting than the song by which he had called up the stars and the sun; a gentle, rippling music.  And as he walked and sang, the valley grew green with grass.  It spread out from the Lion like a pool.  It ran up the sides of the little hills like a wave.  In a few minutes it was creeping up the lower slopes of the distant mountains, making the young world every moment softer.  The light wind could now be heard ruffling the grass.  Soon there were other things besides grass…. (Lewis Magician’s Nephew 64)

This Lion speaking Narnia into existence is none other than Aslan.  The reader may recall the creation story of the Bible in which God speaks the world into being.  Indeed the Scriptures say throughout Genesis 1, “And God said…” (Bible Gateway).  What may be interesting to note is the nature of Aslan’s character as played out through the other Chronicles of Narnia: Aslan is portrayed as a Christ figure.  For this allusion to be congruent to the Bible, how may this seeming inconsistency between the two be used to form an allegory from this particular passage?  This answer is found in Genesis 1:26, which states, “Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground’” (Bible Gateway, emphasis added).  The “us” found in this verse refers to the Trinity—God the Father, God the Son (Jesus), and God the Holy Spirit.  Thus, the symbol of Aslan the Creator fits with the aspect of Jesus in God the Creator.

Another aspect of Aslan’s Christ-likeness is found in his very being a Lion.  In the Bible, Jesus is often described as a lion.  A simple word search on “lion” in the Bible recovers many verses that refer to Jesus Christ.  The most explicit of these verses is Revelation 5:5 which states, “Then one of the elders said to me, ‘Do not weep! See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed. He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals’” (Bible Gateway).  This parallel is quite clear and further establishes Aslan as a Christ figure.

Indeed, another point of interest concerning Aslan is his “parentage.”  Aslan claims himself to be the “Son of the Emperor Over the Sea.”  Though this Emperor is never seen face-to-face in the novels, he is given a very God-like aura.  Aslan being his son, by nature draws Aslan to parallel to Jesus Christ himself, Jesus calling himself the Son of God.  Extrapolating on the point of Aslan as a Christ figure, Joy Alexander says in her article, “The Whole Art and Joy of Words,”

…Aslan is clearly a character redolent of divinity and with godlike connotations.  This is explicitly reinforced by Lewis when, less that a month after writing to fifth-graders, on June 19, he replied, when the idea of a cartoon version of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe was suggested to him: “I am sure you understand that Aslan is a divine figure, and anything remotely approaching the comic (above all anything in the Disney line) would be to me simple blasphemy.” (Alexander)

From the mouth of the author himself, we see Aslan’s character established as a one of divine nature, and from the literature it is quite simple to see Aslan as a Christ figure.

One of the most transparent symbolic elements found in the Chronicles of Narnia is found in the first novel published, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.  In this novel, the capital image of a Christ figure is found in Aslan’s sacrifice for Edmund Pevensie.  Edmund, having become a traitor and eaten of the White Witch’s food, has committed an offense worthy of death according to the Deep Magic.  Aslan meets with the Witch to talk over her claim.  She renounces her claim on Edmund’s life, however, only in exchange for Aslan’s.  The exchange takes place that evening.  No one is aware of the exact terms of the agreement Aslan and the Witch have made, save for those two themselves.  As Aslan begins to walk to his appointed time, Lucy and Susan spy him, and follow after him.  Aslan appreciates their company saying, “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” (Lewis Lion… 179).  This is much like Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane when he calls Peter, James, and John to come with him to watch and pray in Matthew 26:36-38, which states,

Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.”  He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”  (Bible Gateway)

In the same manner, Aslan calls upon Lucy and Susan to comfort him before his death.  Like Aslan, Jesus too was “sad and lonely.”

Aslan goes to his appointment with the White Witch, allowing himself to submit to the humiliating, degrading, and painful death of a traitor he has chosen to take upon himself.  The text lists Aslan as being bound, shorn of his mane, muzzled, and finally murdered by the White Witch herself (Lewis Lion… 180-81).  This description also matches the account of Jesus’ scourging and crucifixion found in the Bible.  Jesus was “bound” by the mob of the chief priests and soldiers in the garden after being betrayed by Judas as recorded in Matthew 27:2.  Jesus too was “shorn of his mane,” as his beard was plucked out, prophetically spoken of in Isaiah 50:6, “I offered my back to those who beat me, my cheeks to those who pulled out my beard; I did not hide my face from mocking and spitting” (Bible Gateway).  He was “muzzled” in the sense that he did not speak up on behalf of himself.  Indeed, Mark 15:3-5 states, “The chief priests accused him of many things.  So again Pilate asked him, ‘Aren’t you going to answer?  See how many things they are accusing you of.’  But Jesus still made no reply, and Pilate was amazed” (Bible Gateway).  Finally, Aslan was murdered, and thus, Jesus was crucified, the debt now paid for traitors (in both accounts).  It is notable that the manner of Dumbledore and Aslan’s deaths is very similar (both die willingly, die for traitors, only one or two friends present at their death) and their deaths resonate with Jesus’ death.

Perhaps the most crucial moment in this story is found in the resurrections of both Aslan and Jesus.  In the morning after his death, Susan and Lucy are sad and crying on the body of the fallen Aslan.  They turn away to go inform the rest of the company of Aslan’s death, but hear a great and thunderous crack.  The Stone Table where Aslan was killed has broken in two.  Upon find this, they are greeted with another sight: a resurrected and fully restored Aslan.  He explains the circumstances as thus:

…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 the 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 backwards.  (Lewis Lion… 185)

Aslan, being sinless and taking Edmund’s place allowed him to live again.  Similarly, Jesus, having committed no wrongdoing, taking the place of sinners, is allowed to resurrect, to live again.  Luke 24:46-47 states, “He [Jesus] told them, ‘This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem’” (Bible Gateway).  These comparisons undoubtedly place Aslan in the role of the Christ figure—which is widely accepted by many.

Another post-resurrection example of Aslan as a Christ figure can be found in The Horse and His Boy.  During this story, Bree the Horse echoes the disciple Thomas in his disbelief (Bree boasting about his doubts that Aslan is actually a Lion, and Thomas not believing in the resurrection of Jesus).  Aslan puts all his doubts aside when he suddenly appears to Bree and his company: “Now Bree,” he said, “you poor, proud frightened Horse, draw near.  Nearer still, my son.  Do not dare not to dare.  Touch me.  Smell me.  Here are my paws, here is my tail, these are my whiskers.  I am a true beast” (Lewis Horse… 299).  These words to Bree are comparable to Jesus’ words to Thomas in John 20:26-29:

A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!”  Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”  Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!”  Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (Bible Gateway)

Thomas has seen and believed, just as Bree has done.  This offers yet another similar point between Aslan and Jesus.

In The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, another example of Aslan and his Christ-likeness presents itself.  In this adventure, Lucy and Edmund Pevensie and their unbearable cousin Eustace Scrubb are on an adventure with King Caspian to find the seven lost lords of Narnia.  During their adventures, Eustace is transformed into a dragon with the aid of a magic bracelet, but in greatest part, due to the greed he harbors in his heart when discovering some treasure.  Aslan is the only one who can offer Eustace the cure he needs for his ailments: Aslan must shed Eustace’s dragon skin and bathe him.  Eustace describes the situation to his cousins saying,

And there was I as smooth and soft as a peeled switch and smaller than I had been.  The he caught hold of me—I didn’t like that much for I was very tender underneath now that I’d no skin on—and threw me into the water.  It smarted like anything but only for a moment.  After that it became perfectly delicious and as soon as I started swimming and splashing I found that all the pain had gone from my arm.  And then I saw why.  I’d turned into a boy again.  (Lewis Dawn Treader 475).

Aslan was the only who could cure Eustace of his predicament.  Likewise, as stated in Acts 4:12, “Salvation is found in no one else [Jesus], for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved” (Bible Gateway).  Indeed, Jesus himself declares in John 14:6, “Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me’” (Bible Gateway).  As Aslan is the only cure for Eustace’s condition, Jesus is the only cure for man’s sinful condition.

Also in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, the reader finds Aslan another time, but in the form of a Lamb.  Interestingly enough, this lamb offers the children a breakfast of fish, roasting over a fire, much like the breakfast Jesus offered his disciples in John 21:9 (Bible Gateway).  An interesting parallel here is also Aslan taking the form of a Lamb.  John the Baptist calls Jesus in John 1:29, “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (Bible Gateway).  Discovering the Lamb is none other than Aslan himself, the children are met with shock, “…but as he spoke, his snowy white flushed into tawny gold and his size changed and he was Aslan himself, towering above them and scattering light from his mane” (Lewis Dawn Treader 540).  As Jesus is described as both the Lion and the Lamb, Aslan too is the Lion and the Lamb.

In the final volume of The Chronicles of Narnia, The Last Battle, the apocalypse has come to Narnia.  Aslan has gathered his children and they are entering through The Door to his country.   When entering this marvelous land, Lucy laments about the inevitable possibility of returning to her own world.  Aslan calms her fears saying, “The term is over: the holidays have begun.  The dream is ended: this is the morning” (Lewis Last Battle 767).  Aslan has passed judgment on the world, and gathered all his to himself.  Likewise, in Revelation 11:18, Jesus will judge the world and reward his saints, “The nations were angry; and your wrath has come. The time has come for judging the dead, and for rewarding your servants the prophets and your saints and those who reverence your name, both small and great— and for destroying those who destroy the earth” (Bible Gateway).  Aslan has judged his world and rewarded his saints, as Christ will in his second coming.

The symbols for Christ found in both Harry Potter and The Chronicles of Narnia are very similar, but portrayed in different styles.  J. K. Rowling is subtler with her symbolism in Harry Potter than C. S. Lewis is in Narnia. In Rowling’s works, more than one character or object may represent something, in this case, Christ; thus there are multiple Christ figures in Harry Potter.  Conversely, in Lewis’ Narnia, the reader finds only one Christ figure—Aslan.  John Granger describes this difference in this manner: “Allegories are stand-ins or story translations of a worldly character, quality, or event into an imaginative figure or story…. Symbols, in contrast, can be stacked up” (Granger 99-100).  This main difference allows both series to be studied for Christian symbolism, but under different lenses.  Each series offers its own rich symbols, but merely in a different manner.

The actions of these Christ figures are driven by agapē love, particularly in the examples where sacrifice is involved.  Likewise, the Christ figures, in their Christ-like actions and attitudes bring about some form of redemption.  It does not take a careful reading to see that the two symbols of agapē love and Christ figures are often present because someone is in need of redemption.  These three symbols form a trinity that is difficult to separate.  It is the final theme of redemption that ties the other two together.
Works Cited in Chapter II, Part II

Alexander, Joy.  “‘The Whole Art and Joy of Words’: Aslan’s Speech in the Chronicles of Narnia.”  Mythlore Summer 2003.  Infotrac.  Lamar Memorial Lib., Maryville TN.  7 Mar. 2006 <htttp://infotrac.galegroup.com>.

Bible Gateway.  King James Version.  New International Version.  2006. 27 Apr. 2006 <http://biblegateway.com/&gt;.  1 Corinthians 4:17; 1 John 4:8; 2 Chronicles 7:14; 2 Samuel 22:2-3; Acts 4:12; Colossians 1:13-14; Ephesians 1:7, 2:1-5, 2:20; Genesis 1:1-31, 3:15; Hebrews 9:12, 12:1; Isaiah 1:18, 50:6, 53:1-12, 61:10; Job 2:11-13; John 1:29, 3:16, 4:10, 4:13-14, 8:36, 14:6-7, 14:26, 15:13, 15:15, 19:17, 20:26-29, 21:9; Luke 10:18, 22:42, 24:46-47; Mark 7:37, 15:3-5; Matthew 1:21; 24:31, 26:36-39, 26:42; Philippians 2:1-2; Revelation 5:5, 11:18, 12:10; Romans 6:11; Titus 3:5.

Granger, John.  Looking for God in Harry Potter.  USA: SaltRiver, 2004.  67-68, 99-100, 133, 135-36, 182.

Lewis, C. S.  The Horse and His Boy.  The Chronicles of Narnia.  New York: HarperEntertainment, 2005.  205-310.

—.  The Last BattleThe Chronicles of Narnia.  New York: HarperEntertainment, 2005.  669-767.

—.  The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.  The Chronicles of Narnia.  New York: HarperEntertainment, 2005.  107-97.

—.  The Magician’s Nephew.  The Chronicles of Narnia. New York: HarperEntertainment, 2005.  11-106.

—.  The Voyage of the Dawn Treader.  The Chronicles of Narnia.  New York: HarperEntertainment, 2005.  419-541.

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About The Nerdy Blogger

Ashley Whitehead Thomas is The Nerdy Blogger. She holds a B. A. in English Literature from Maryville College in Maryville, Tennessee and began her M. A. at Signum University in Spring 2013. Ashley blogs, reads, writes (for fun and for hire), and spends time with her husband, Ryan, and their two cat-monsters, Luna and Oliver.
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