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In search of Aslan

By the Rev. Dr.  Ed Hird

With CS Lewis’ Voyage of the Dawntreader having come out, Aslan Fever again swept the globe.

Who is Aslan anyways, and why are so many children of all ages so fascinated with him?  Having thoroughly enjoyed watching Disney’s ‘The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe’, I was motivated to go back and re-read the Narnia Chronicles series. My family, when they were younger, eagerly watched the cartoon version of ‘The Narnia Chronicles’, and gained much from it.  But with the breakthrough in CGI technology, Aslan has taken on a new visual depth.

When the four Pevensie children in Narnia first hear Aslan’s name, they immediately feel powerful sensations that they cannot comprehend.  Peter, Susan, and Lucy experience an unfathomable joy. Edmund the double-crosser was strangely dismayed.  Either way Aslan evoked a strong response.

In the Narnia Chronicles “The Horse and His Boy”, Aslan reveals himself as the one who keeps us from going over the edge, the one who stays with us day and night.  The young prince Shasta looked back after entering Narnia: “I must have gone through the pass in the night.  What luck that I hit it!  At least it wasn’t luck at all really, it was Him (Aslan). And Now I’m in Narnia.”  “Who are you?” asked Shasta.  “Myself”, said the voice, very deep and low so that the earth shook; and again “Myself”, loud and clear and gay; and then the third time “Myself”, whispered so softly you could hardly hear it, and yet it seemed to come from all around you as if the leaves rustled with it.”  Aslan was Himself, no more, no less.

In Narnia Chronicle’s “The Magician’s Nephew”, we learn that Aslan sang creation into existence at the beginning of time: “The Voice rose and rose, till the air was shaking with it. And just as it swelled into the mightiest and most glorious sound it had yet produced, the sun arose…The Lion was pacing to and fro about that empty land and singing his new song…And as he walked and sang the valley grew green with grass. It spread out from the Lion like a pool…Soon there were other things besides grass…’Trees,’ Digory exclaimed.”

CS Lewis ‘created’ a world of endless snow in the Narnia Chronicles.  Only when Aslan was slain for others by the White Witch did the snow start melting.  CS Lewis described his own spiritual breakthrough the same way: “I felt as if I were a man of snow at long last beginning to melt. The melting was starting in my back – drip-drip and presently trickle-trickle.  I rather disliked the feeling.”

Many people don’t realize that CS Lewis, a confirmed old bachelor, ended up becoming married because of Aslan.  Joy Davidman, a self-declared atheistic communist of Jewish heritage, loved to read the Narnia Chronicles to her sons.   In the process, she came to faith in Aslan, the Lion of the Tribe of Judah (Revelation 5:5).  Looking back, Joy Davidman commented: “My first published poem was called “Resurrection” — a sort of private argument with Jesus, attempting to convince him (and myself) that he had never risen. I wrote it at Easter, of all possible seasons, and never guessed why.”

As Joy Davidman wrote in ‘The Longest Way Round’, God “had been stalking me for a very long time, waiting for his moment; he crept nearer so silently that I never knew he was there. Then, all at once, he sprang.  For the first time in my life I felt helpless; for the first time my pride was forced to admit that I was not, after all, ‘the master of my fate’. All my defenses — the walls of arrogance and cocksureness and self-love behind which I  had hid from God — went down momentarily. And God came in.  Since childhood, I had been pouring half my energy into the task of keeping him out.  When it was over I found myself on my knees, praying. I think I must have been the world’s most astonished atheist.”

 

After coming to faith in Aslan the Lion of Judah, Joy escaped to England from her alcoholic, adulterous, wife-beating husband.  As told in the ‘Shadowlands’ movie, it was there that Joy met her Narnia hero, CS Lewis.  As a favour to a good friend, CS Lewis married Joy Davidman to keep her from being thrown out of the country because of her former communist background. As Joy began to battle terminal cancer, CS Lewis then fell in love with Joy for real and married her a second time in a Church wedding,.  Romantically CS Lewis adopted Joy Davidman’s children, one of whom, Douglas Gresham, is co-producer of the Narnia Chronicles movie blockbuster.

 

So who is this Aslan who transformed Joy Davidman’s life?  CS Lewis wrote to some Maryland fifth

graders in 1954: “I did not say to myself ‘Let us represent Jesus as He really is in our world by a Lion in Narnia’; I said, ‘Let us suppose that there were a land like Narnia and that the Son of God, as he became a Man in our world, became a Lion there, and then imagine what would happen.'”.  In the letter, sent to a child fan in 1961, Lewis writes: “The whole Narnian story is about Christ.” CS Lewis commented: “Since Narnia is a world of talking beasts, I thought he would become a talking beast there as he became a man here. I pictured him becoming a lion there because a) the lion is supposed to be the king of beasts; b) Christ is called ‘the lion of Judah’ in the Bible.”

My prayer for those reading this article  is that each of us, like CS Lewis and Joy Davidman, may open our hearts to the mysterious Aslan.

 

 

The Rev. Dr. Ed Hird, BSW, MDiv, DMin

-previously published in the Deep Cove Crier/North Shore News

-award-winning author of the book Battle for the Soul of Canada

for better for worse-Click to check out our newest marriage book For Better For Worse: discovering the keys to a lasting relationship on Amazon. You can even read the first two chapters for free to see if the book speaks to you.

 

-The sequel book Restoring Health: body, mind and spirit is available online with Amazon.com in both paperback and ebook form. In Canada, Amazon.ca has the book available in paperback and ebook.

It is also posted on Amazon UK (paperback and ebook ), Amazon France (paperback and ebook), and Amazon Germany (paperback and ebook).

Restoring Health is also available online on Barnes and Noble in both paperback and Nook/ebook form.  Nook gives a sample of the book to read online.

Indigo also offers the paperback and the Kobo ebook version.  You can also obtain it through ITunes as an IBook.

To receive a signed copy within North America, just send a $20 cheque (USD/CAN) to ED HIRD, #102-15168 19th Ave, Surrey, BC V4A 0A5.

– In order to obtain a signed copy of the prequel book Battle for the Soul of Canada, please send a $18.50 cheque to ‘Ed Hird’, #102-15168 19th Ave, Surrey, BC V4A 0A5.

For mailing the book to the USA, please send $20.00 USD.  This can also be done by PAYPAL using the e-mail ed_hird@telus.net . Be sure to list your mailing address. The Battle for the Soul of Canada e-book can be obtained for $4.99 CDN/USD.

-Click to purchase the Companion Bible Study by Jan Cox (for the Battle of the Soul of Canada) in both paperback and Kindle on Amazon.com and Amazon.ca 


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CS Lewis and JRR Tolkien: Friends on a Quest

By the Rev.  Dr. Ed Hird

C.S. Lewis

JRR Tolkien

 

Anthony Hopkins portrayed CS (Jack) Lewis, the author of the hugely  popular Narnia Tales, in the thoughtful movie ‘Shadowlands’. Since  Lewis’ death in 1963, sales of his books have risen to over 2 million a  year. For much of his life, Lewis, the son of a solicitor and of an  Anglican clergyman’s daughter, was a convinced atheist. While teaching  at Oxford College, Lewis formed a lasting friendship with JRR Tolkien.  Both Lewis and Tolkien had much in common, as both had been traumatized  by the premature death of their mothers and by the horrors of trench  warfare in World War I.

At age 10, Lewis saw his mother dying of cancer.  “With my mother’s death”, said Lewis, “all that was tranquil and  reliable, disappeared from my life.” Tolkien experienced the double loss  of both his father at age 3 and his mother at age 12. Tolkien’s strong  desire for friendship/fellowship, as with Frodo, Sam, Merry & Pippin,  came from Tolkien’s loss of his three best friends in the trenches.  Referring to trench warfare, CS Lewis commented: “Through the winter,  weariness and water were our chief enemies. I have gone to sleep  marching and woken again and found myself marching still.” Lewis vividly  remembered “the frights, the cold,…the horribly smashed men still  moving like half-crushed beetles, the sitting or standing corpses, the  landscape of sheer earth without a blade of grass, the boots worn day  and night until they seemed to grow to your feet…”

Both CS Lewis and Tolkien loved the history of the English language,  especially as expressed in the ancient tales like Beowulf. CS Lewis  commented: “When I began teaching for the English Faculty, I made two  other friends, both Christians (those queer people seemed to pop up on  every side) who were later to give me much help in getting over the last  stile/steps. They were HVD Dyson and JRR Tolkien. Friendship with the  latter marked the breakdown of two old prejudices…” Lewis said to  Tolkien that tales or myths are ‘lies and therefore worthless, even  though breathed through silver’. ‘No’, said Tolkien, ‘they are not  lies’. Tolkien went on to explain to Lewis that in Jesus Christ, the  ancient stories or myths of a dying and rising God entered history and  became fact. Twelve days later, Lewis wrote to another friend Arthur  Greeves: “I have just passed on from believing in God to definitely  believing in Christ – in Christianity. I will try to explain this  another time. My long night talk with Dyson and Tolkien had a good deal  to do with it”.

CS Lewis recalls going by motorcycle with his brother  Warren to Whipsnade Zoo, about thirty miles east of Oxford. “When we set  out, I did not believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and when we  reached the zoo, I did”. In his autobiography Surprised by Joy, Lewis  commented: “In the Trinity term of 1929 I gave in, and admitted that God  was God…perhaps the most dejected and reluctant convert in all England”.

When CS Lewis turned to Christ, he was surprised to find the skies bluer  and the grass greener.* “Today”, Lewis wrote, “I got such a sudden  intense feeling of delight that it sort of stopped me in my walk and  spun me round. Indeed the sweetness was so great, and seemed so to  affect the whole body as well as the mind, that it gave me pause.” Lewis  commented: “I really seem to have had youth given back to me lately.”

Lewis and Tolkien formed an ‘Inklings’ group at Oxford in which they  read out and critiqued each other’s manuscripts like ‘Narnia Tales’ and  ‘Lord of the Rings’. Lewis’ brother Warren said that at the Inklings,  “the fun would be riotous with Jack at the top of his form and enjoying  every minute…an outpouring of wit, nonsense, whimsy, dialectical  swordplay, and pungent judgement such as I have rarely heard equaled…”  The Inklings group was a clear example of that ancient Proverb “As iron  sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another”.

 Charles Williams, another  author and member of the Inklings group, commented that “much was  possible to a man in solitude, but some things were possible only to a  man in companionship, and of these, the most important was balance. No  mind was so good that it did not need another mind to counter it and  equal it and to save it from conceit and bigotry and folly.” In October  1933, Tolkien wrote in his diary that friendship with Lewis ‘besides  giving constant pleasure and comfort, has done me much good from the  contact with a man at once honest, brave, intellectual – a scholar, a  poet, and a philosopher – and a lover, at least after a long pilgrimage,  of our Lord’.

The internationally respected Vancouver author, Dr. JI Packer, says that  ‘the combination within CS Lewis of insight with vitality, wisdom with  wit, and imaginative power with analytical precision made him a  sparkling communicator of the everlasting gospel.’ At bottom, says Dr.  Packer, Lewis was a mythmaker. As Austin Farrer commented of Lewis’  writings, “we think we are listening to an argument; in fact, we are  presented with a vision; and it is the vision that carries conviction.”  Myth, says Dr. Packer, is perhaps best defined as a story that projects a vision of life of actual or potential communal significance by reason of the identity  and attitudes that it invites us to adopt.  

When Tolkien first shared his ‘Lord of the Rings’ manuscript at the  Inklings group, CS Lewis said: ‘This book is a lightning from a clear  sky. Not content to create his own story, he creates with an almost  insolent prodigality the whole world in which it is to move; with its  own theology, myths, geography, history, paleography, languages and  order of beings.’ Recent polls have consistently declared that Tolkien  is the most influential author of the last 100 years and that the Lord  of the Rings is the book of this recent century. Without the Inklings fellowship  of Tolkien and Lewis, neither the Narnia Tales nor the Lord of the Rings  might have ever seen the light of day. I thank God for the faithful  Christian friendship of two pilgrims on a Quest.

*For more information on C.S. Lewis’ Joy, just click.

 

 

The Rev. Dr.  Ed Hird, BSW, MDiv, DMin

-previously published in the North Shore News

-award-winning author of the book Battle for the Soul of Canada

for better for worse-Click to check out our newest marriage book For Better For Worse: discovering the keys to a lasting relationship on Amazon. You can even read the first two chapters for free to see if the book speaks to you.

 

-The sequel book Restoring Health: body, mind and spirit is available online with Amazon.com in both paperback and ebook form. In Canada, Amazon.ca has the book available in paperback and ebook.

It is also posted on Amazon UK (paperback and ebook ), Amazon France (paperback and ebook), and Amazon Germany (paperback and ebook).

Restoring Health is also available online on Barnes and Noble in both paperback and Nook/ebook form.  Nook gives a sample of the book to read online.

Indigo also offers the paperback and the Kobo ebook version.  You can also obtain it through ITunes as an IBook.

To receive a signed copy within North America, just send a $20 cheque (USD/CAN) to ED HIRD, 102-15168 19th Avenue, Surrey, BC, Canada V4A 0A5.

– In order to obtain a signed copy of the prequel book Battle for the Soul of Canada, please send a $18.50 cheque to ‘Ed Hird’, #102-15168 19th Avenue, Surrey, BC, Canada V4A 0A5. For mailing the book to the USA, please send $20.00 USD.  This can also be done by PAYPAL using the e-mail ed_hird@telus.net . Be sure to list your mailing address. The Battle for the Soul of Canada e-book can be obtained for $4.99 CDN/USD.

-Click to purchase the Companion Bible Study by Jan Cox (for the Battle of the Soul of Canada) in both paperback and Kindle on Amazon.com and Amazon.ca