I read The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe recently (I’d seen the movie but somehow never read the book!) There are a number of scenes that are laced with Christian theology. The following passage is a great example.
At this point in the story Edmund has abandoned his own brother and sisters. He has exhibited selfish ambition, malice, and greed (for a royal title and a life time supply of Turkish Delight) and has unwittingly assisted the White Witch in her quest to find and kill the human heirs of Narnia — those heirs being Edmund himself and his siblings.
As a result of Edmund’s folly, his brother and sisters are in grave danger. They and all of Narnia are on the cusp of a decisive battle against their great foe. Edmund, guilty as he is, has now seen the Witch’s false promises for what they are. She never intended to make him a prince, or to do him any good whatsoever. The Witch had turned on Edmund suddenly and was about to slit his throat when Aslan’s forces rescued him dramatically from her hands.
Edmund has now been welcomed back into the fold after a long time of rebellion. The first thing that happens on his return is that he has a long walk and talk with Aslan himself (we don’t know what was said but it has changed Edmund drastically). But Edmund’s treachery will still have grave consequences.
In this scene the Witch shows up for an audience with Aslan and, though she is clearly terrified by the great lion, she demands that he hands Edmund over to her. Edmund is standing nearby and hears everything as the Witch speaks with Aslan, demanding that she be allowed to take Edmund’s life.
Here’s the scene:
“You have a Traitor there, Aslan,” said the Witch. Of course everyone present knew that she meant Edmund. But Edmund had got past thinking about himself after all he’d been through and after the talk he’d had that morning. He just went on looking at Aslan. It didn’t seem to matter what the Witch said.
“Well,” said Aslan. “His offense was not against you.”
“Have you forgotten the Deep Magic?” asked the Witch.
“Let us say I have forgotten it,” answered Aslan gravely. “Tell us of this Deep Magic.”
“Tell you?” said the Witch, her voice growing suddenly shriller. “Tell you what is written on that very Table of Stone which stands beside us? Tell you what is written in letters deep as a spear is long on the fire-stones on the Secret Hill? Tell you what is engraved on the scepter of the Emporor-beyond-the-Sea? You at least know the Magic which the Emperor put into Narnia at the very beginning. You know that every traitor belongs to me as my lawful prey and that for every treachery I have a right to kill.” …
“And so,” continued the Witch, “that human creature is mine. His life is forfeit to me. His blood is my property.”
“Come and take it then,” said the Bull with the man’s head in a great bellowing voice.
“Fool,” said the Witch with a savage smile that was almost a snarl, “do you really think your master can rob me of my rights by mere force? He knows the Deep Magic better than that. He knows that unless I have blood as the Law says all Narnia will be overturned and perish in fire and water.”
“It is very true,” said Aslan, “I do not deny it.”
“Oh, Aslan!” whispered Susan in the Lion’s ear, “can’t we– I mean, you won’t, will you? Can’t we do something about the Deep Magic? Isn’t there something you can work against it?
“Work against the Emperor’s magic?” said Aslan, turning to her with something like a frown on his face. And nobody ever made that suggestion to him again.
Edmund was on the other side of Aslan, looking all the time at Aslan’s face. He felt a choking feeling and wondered if he ought to say something; but a moment later he felt that he was not expected to do anything except to wait, and do what he was told.
There’s a lot going on here. We have a sinner and we have the problem of his genuine guilt and the fact that a law — a right and just law — condemns him. We know the law, or the deep magic, is just, because it was put in place by the Emperor-beyond-the-Sea, who is Aslan’s own father.
The Witch appeals to the great magic — to the law which states that every traitor belongs to her as her lawful prey. Edmund is a traitor and the law says she has a right to kill Edmund as a traitor.
We’re presented immediately with two obvious solutions to Edmund’s dire situation.
We see them in the comments of the bull and Lucy. One solution, proposed indirectly by the bull, is to defeat the Witch — the accuser — and keep Edmund from death that way. Kill the Witch and walk off into the sunset. It solves the problem on one level.
But this solution wouldn’t address the much deeper problem of the law.
Lucy suggests another solution which does address the problem of the law. She asks Aslan if there isn’t something he can do against it. Surely he has the power to overcome the law — to work against it in some way. But it’s clear from Aslan’s reaction that this is not a legitimate option. It would mean Aslan setting himself up in opposition to the law, a law that is good. It would mean injustice.
So we’re left with nowhere to go. The law stands. And the accuser stands, arrogant, indignant, showing that the law requires bloodshed.
What is needed is a third solution. We don’t catch a glimpse of this third solution until a bit later in the book but we can be sure that Aslan has it in mind now as he stands listening to the Witch’s demands and accusations. He will offer himself as a sacrifice of atonement that Edmund might live. The law will be satisfied. The accuser will be silenced. Aslan will then rise and all that will be left is for the final battle to take place, and for the Witch to be torn to shreds by the mighty lion she fears so much.
There are some other details I want to draw out. They are to do with Edmund himself. As he stands listening to the perfectly legal accusations of the Witch what must he be thinking? Surely as this bad news sinks in he is beginning to panic inwardly, to turn in on himself in desperation. Surely he is filled with shame, remorse and self-loathing. Surely he is frantic, lost, afraid, as he stares himself, and death, in the face.
You would think so wouldn’t you?
But Edmund has Aslan’s words — spoken to him that morning — ringing in his ears.
Edmund had got past thinking about himself after all he’d been through and after the talk he’d had that morning. He just went on looking at Aslan. It didn’t seem to matter what the Witch said.
Do you see? Edmund sees Aslan now. Finally, after all the tales and rumours and stories, he knows Aslan personally. He’d only had himself to think about before. Now he is focused on another. The problem had always been that Edmund had turned in on himself. That is what led to his treachery, his greed, his blindness. Would it make sense then to adopt that same inward-focused attitude now that he has seen and knows King Aslan? No. Edmund, with Aslan standing between him and his accuser, looks “all the time at Aslan’s face”. He forgets himself and presses on, his eyes fixed on the one who will be his salvation.
Edmund fights the urge to say something — to add somehow to the dialogue between Aslan and the Witch.
He felt a choking feeling and wondered if he ought to say something; but a moment later he felt that he was not expected to do anything except to wait, and do what he was told.
But he senses, rightly, that Aslan does not expect him to say anything. This work is Aslan’s and Edmund will wait and do what he is told.
At this point I could take us down a million different roads. There are endless possibilities when we consider what it means that Edmund must do what he is told. Must he be repentant? Will he be expected to fight bravely in Aslan’s army? Yes on both counts, I’m sure. But could the chief thing he is told to do be to trust in Aslan, whom he now loves? It seems that is what he is doing as he looks at Aslan constantly; as he stays silent when he feels for a moment that he might be need to add to the conversation between his King and his accuser. We are told that “It didn’t seem to matter what the Witch said.” I think what we are to understand is that Edmund has Aslan’s words in his head and his heart. These external words bear more weight with him now than the words of the Witch, or his own feelings.
We never find out exactly what was said during that conversation between Edmund and Aslan. But I think we have all heard similar words from the True Aslan. As the accuser berates us we are just called to look to Him — to trust in Him. That is all.
The True Aslan blocks the accuser’s approach. We are to look on Him in all his beauty and majesty — the one who justifies sinners while himself remaining just by upholding and fulfilling the law.