There is a renewed attention these days to CS Lewis’ fascinating Aslan character. What is it about Aslan the Lion that even outdrew the mighty King Kong at the box office? Why is Aslan so effective in breaking through our adult pessimism and negativity?
One of the most interesting Narnia creatures is the Marshwiggle, a symbol of negativity, pessimism, and reliable gloom. In the Narnia Chronicles’ ‘Silver Chair’, the Green Witch says to the Narnians: “Put away these childish tricks. I have work for you in the real world. There is no Narnia, no overworld, no sky, no sun, no Aslan.” The Marshwiggle remarkably responds by affirming: “I ‘m on Aslan’s side even if there isn’t any Aslan to lead it. I’m going to live as like a Narnian as I can, even if there isn’t any Narnia.”
It is easy to be cynical and bitter. It took courage for the Marshwiggle to look past his natural negativity and cling to the promises of Aslan. The Narnia Chronicles have been teaching me once again that only the childlike can enter the Kingdom of Narnia. Even the Lion of Judah once said: “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the Kingdom of Heaven.” (Matthew 18:3)
There is a major difference between being childish and childlike. The Narnia Chronicles comments that “even in this world, of course, it is the stupidest children who are the most childish and the stupidest grownups who are the most grown-up.” The famous ‘love chapter’ of 1 Corinthians 13 encourages us ‘to put away childish things’ As the Pevensie children journeyed throughout their Narnia adventures, they became less childish and more mature both in outward appearance and inner character. Yet simultaneously they became more childlike in their willingness to trust and admit their need for others, especially their need for Aslan. In the Narnia blockbuster ‘The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe’, the children cry out ‘Aslan, I need your help’, to which Aslan responds “I know, but the future of Narnia depends on your courage.” Only the truly childlike can be truly courageous. If we depend on our own strength alone, life tends to sap us of our inner fortitude.
It takes real courage to admit how tough and sad life can sometimes be. Only the truly childlike know how important it is to weep and grieve from time to time. At the death of the Narnian King Caspian, “all three stood and wept. Even (Aslan) the Lion wept: great lion tears, each tear more precious than the earth would be if it was a single diamond.” Childlike tears can be deeply healing. That is why Jesus said: “Blessed are those who mourn for they shall be comforted.” That is why the shortest sentence in the entire bible is ‘Jesus wept’. The Good Book poignantly says that Aslan puts every one of our tears in a bottle.
Perhaps most importantly, only the childlike can truly hear Aslan’s voice. Aslan said to Polly regarding Uncle Andrew in ‘The Magician and His Nephew’: “He has made himself unable to hear my voice. If I spoke to him, he would only hear growlings and roarings. Oh Adam’s sons, how cleverly you defend yourselves against all that might do you good.” Aslan says to each of us: “Come farther in. Come farther up. Come to the real land of Narnia, the land you have been looking for all your life.” Let Aslan give you ‘the wild kisses of a Lion’. Let Aslan bring you to life as you walk with childlike faith through the Wardrobe.
The Rev. Dr. Ed Hird, Rector
BSW, MDiv, DMin
-previously published in the North Shore News
-award-winning author of the book Battle for the Soul of Canada
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