Free «The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe - Religious Story or Not?» Essay
It is believed that didactic function is an important one for a fairy tale. While being an entertaining reading that is able to grab a child’s attention, it should teach what is right from what is wrong without being dull. The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis are an illustrative example of this type of writing, which appeals both to imagination and to moral values. Being a truly Christian story in terms of culture, it nevertheless can be interesting to non-Christian readers as well because it has enough other layers and because it generally refers to universal values.
The novel The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, which belongs to The Chronicles of Narnia obviously reflects the Christian beliefs of the author. However, the question is whether the book is Christian in terms of religion or in terms of culture. Despite direct references to the Bible, the second option looks more true to life for a number of reasons. To have a better understanding why the story of four children and their adventures can appeal to a wider circle of readers, it is worth having a closer look at its plot and the references that it has.
The “real” time of the story is London that is bombed during World War II, so the four siblings – Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy – are sheltered by a family friend, an old professor. Through a magical wardrobe they get to a wonderful land of Narnia, where they meet a Faun. The White Witch charmed the land into the winter that has to last forever but there is a prediction about Alan who will come and uncharm the land. The four people who are going to rule the land are part of the legend, that is why the White Witch puts a spell on Edmund who lets out information to her. It is Edmund who betrays Aslan and becomes the reason of his suffering. Despite this fact, Aslan saves him from being a hostage and gives in to his enemies. Just like Christ, he is killed and then resurrects, and forgives Edmund for being unfaithful.
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So, on the one hand, it is true that reference to New Testament is a key one for the novel. In order to understand the motivation of Aslan, one has to be familiar with Christianity. Unlike other religions, it focuses on the principle of self-sacrifice for the sake of those people who might not deserve this. This is probably the only important aspect that makes the fairy tale more understandable to the Christian audience. However, this does not mean that the book is not suitable to non-Christian readers. First of all, it is worth having a look at why the author prefers allusion to directly appealing to the Bible. It is clear that this allusion is meant mostly for people who are already familiar with the sacred texts. For all other readers, it is not so much an allusion as the author’s message that reflects his moral values. So, when creating a plot similar to the Biblical one, he aims at teaching these principles to all the readers rather than at making them recognizable to everyone. Secondly, it would be not quite correct to claim that the book is a purely Christian one. In fact, it is fantasy blend of Christianity and mythology, including the Celtic, Scandinavian, Anglo-Saxon, and even the Greek one. This proves that the author did not mean to make the book purely Christian but of course he planned to make it appealing to children. So, he focused on making it entertaining while keeping the core message that he intended to convey.
Researchers believe that one of the main concerns that Lewis raises is the nature of evil, which is also treated by him from the Christian perspective. Characters like Edmund are not incurably evil; the evil is described as something that can penetrate each person’s heart and hurts the one who commits evil deeds even more than his surroundings. They feel lonely and alienated because of their deeds and in fact dream of becoming good and harmonious again. “We sense the longing for wholeness and for release from the burden of having acted shamefully. We feel their sense of personal disaster as they are confronted by one who is wholly good, and wholly for the good—the very being to whom all is owed, and against whom is their real offense. We feel their flood of relief and joy when they realize that the burden of their wrongdoing is not just lifted, but eliminate”. (Bassham and Walls 133). Thus, the story is deeply rooted in Christian morality but it is also based on universally human values. Alluding to Christ’s way, the author makes his argument in favor of the good weighty, but this argument does not disappear if the Christian allusion is overlooked. The author constructs his story in the way that his message is comprehensive to children who think mostly in images rather than in abstract terms. This is probably the reason why he does not include straight-forward biblical teachings into his book.
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In conclusion, it is worth saying that Christian tradition is an important layer of the novel which appeals to those who are able to understand it. However, spirituality is more important for the author than religion, which is obvious from the fact that he has a whole range of traditions and mythologies included. His main aim is to convey a universal human message that the evil could be fought only by the good.