C.S. Lewis, a devout Christian, suffused his most famous work, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe with overt Christian symbolism and structured its conclusion around the resurrection of a Christ figure and a climactic battle for the very soul of Narnia. Lewis, however, did not set out to write a biblical allegory; rather, he wanted to imbue a fairy story with elements of the story of the Jesus Christ in order to allow children to see the miraculous elements of Christ’s story in a new light—and perhaps relate to them anew and understand their wonder more deeply. Through the character of Aslan, and his role in Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy’s story, Lewis created an allegory for the triumph of Christian ideology, and used The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe to subtly suggest that a world that rejects Christianity will be a poorer one marked by strife, suffering, and a literal winter of the soul. In contrast, a world that embraces Christlike values—turning the other cheek, honoring promises, and making sacrifices for others—will be full, bountiful, and prosperous.
The religious symbolism Lewis employs throughout the novel is pointed and ubiquitous. From Lucy’s first solo journey through the wardrobe to the world on the other side, there is the sense that Lewis has created a world that is in dire need of deliverance. Lucy finds Narnia covered in snow her first time through the wardrobe. This initially gives the world a quiet, still magic, and Lucy, seeing the Faun Mr. Tumnus carrying packages in his arms, believes Christmas must be near. However, Tumnus reveals to her that the world of Narnia is under siege: the White Witch has made it so that it “always winter and never Christmas” in Narnia. This withholding of Christmas—the holiday commemorating the birth of Christ—is implied to be a purposeful withholding of the celebration of Jesus. Mr. Tumnus also notably refers to Lucy as a “Daughter of Eve”—the way Narnians refer to humans is Daughters of Eve for women, and Sons of Adam for men. This biblical reference points to humans as divine creations in God’s image, and their fated destiny to rule Narnia above all of the other magical creatures who live there is in a way a divine right. Lucy and her siblings will be heralded as saviors or deliverers, destined to, alongside the mighty Aslan, pull Narnia from its eternal winter. Sin and corruption have come to roost in Narnia under the White Witch’s rule, and Lewis uses the White Witch’s forced perpetual winter as a metaphor for the desolation and emptiness of Narnia’s soul in the absence of its ruler—the Christ figure Aslan.
Aslan is the most overt symbol of Christ in the novel; just the sound of the name inspires strong feelings in all who hear it. The first time Aslan is mentioned to the children, Edmund feels a “mysterious horror,” Peter feels “suddenly brave,” Susan feels something “delicious [or] delightful” float by her, and Lucy feels a sense of gleeful anticipation akin to the feeling of waking up on the first day of a holiday. Lewis is clearly using Aslan’s ineffable power to echo the feelings of “horror” that sinners and liars such as Edmund feel at the mention of Christ, and the bravery, glee, and peace Christ’s name inspires in his followers. Aslan’s approach severely weakens the White Witch’s power. After Edmund deserts the group to enter the employ of the White Witch, Mr. Beaver and Mrs. Beaver bring Peter, Susan, and Lucy to the Narnian landmark of the Stone Table to meet Aslan. Changes immediately begin to occur in the landscape. First, Father Christmas arrives at last to deliver presents and encouragement to Peter, Susan, and Lucy. Before he leaves, he shouts, “Merry Christmas! Long live the true King!” Though this is ostensibly a reference to Aslan (or the future High King Peter), it is also clearly a reference to Christ himself, the King of Kings. Meanwhile, as the White Witch travels to the Stone Table, she finds that the snow has begun to melt, severely impeding the movement of her sleigh. Lewis shows Aslan’s power against the Witch—and, symbolically, Christianity’s power against heretics and nonbelievers—to be powerful even from a distance. Lewis’s belief in the almighty nature of Jesus Christ is evident as the novel speeds towards a climactic battle for Narnia’s soul.
In the novel’s climax, Aslan and the White Witch face off at the Stone Table—itself a biblical symbol reminiscent of the stone tablets bearing the commandments brought down from Sinai by Moses. The White Witch, with a coterie of giants, werewolves, and the spirits of trees behind her, confronts Aslan at the Table. Aslan has rescued Edmund from the Witch’s clutches, but she now taunts the lion as she reminds him of the “Deep Magic” that the Emperor of Narnia put into the world “at the very beginning.” Under this Deep Magic, every traitor belongs to the White Witch—Edmund, as a traitor, is hers to kill. In this way, she is an allegory for Satan, to whom sinners “belong” when they are sent to Hell. Aslan cannot deny the power of this Deep Magic, but he makes a deal with the White Witch, allowing her to kill him in Edmund’s place. Thus, the most potent metaphor for the Passion and Crucifixion of Jesus Christ emerges. Aslan is led to the Stone Table by the Witch’s attendants, and is taunted, shamed, and shaved of his mane. The Witch then kills Aslan, as a horrified Lucy and Susan look on. The Witch and her minions abandon Aslan’s corpse, and Lucy and Susan attend to it, freeing him from his bonds. As the sun begins to rise, though, Aslan is resurrected before the girls’ eyes, and the Stone Table cracks in two. As in the New Testament, when Mary and Mary Magdalene attended Jesus’s body ahead of his resurrection—during which Jesus rolled aside a stone boulder and emerged from his tomb— Lewis creates a profound and instantly recognizable image of Aslan as Narnia’s immortal savior.
After Aslan’s resurrection, a climactic battle ensues—Aslan and the four siblings are triumphant, and so Lewis’s narrative confirms the inherent righteousness and ultimate unassailability of Christian values. The novel’s central conflict is the struggle between Christianity’s tenets of sacrifice, empathy, and striving towards goodness and godlessness, sin, and selfishness. In couching this struggle in symbol and metaphor and pitting Aslan and the White Witch against one another, Lewis literally lionizes Christianity and situates the religion’s central story, the story of Jesus Christ, in a fantasy realm where its miraculous happenings and moral core can be viewed in a new light.
Christian Allegory ThemeTracker
Christian Allegory Quotes in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
“But what have you done?” asked Lucy.
“My old father, now,” said Mr. Tumnus; “that's his picture over the mantelpiece. He would never have done a thing like this.”
“A thing like what?” said Lucy.
“Like what I've done,” said the Faun. “Taken service under the White Witch. That's what I am. I'm in the pay of the White Witch.”
“The White Witch? Who is she?”
“Why, it is she that has got all Narnia under her thumb. It's she that makes it always winter. Always winter and never Christmas; think of that!”
“How awful!” said Lucy.
“I had orders from the White Witch that if ever I saw a Son of Adam or a Daughter of Eve in the wood, I was to catch them and hand them over to her. And you are the first I’ve ever met. And I've pretended to be your friend and asked you to tea, and all the time I've been meaning to wait till you were asleep and then go and tell Her.”
“Oh, but you won't, Mr. Tumnus,” said Lucy. “You won't, will you? Indeed, indeed you really mustn't.”
“And if I don't,” said he, beginning to cry again, “she's sure to find out. And she'll have my tail cut off, and my horns sawn off, and my beard plucked out, and she'll wave her wand over my beautiful cloven hoofs and turn them into horrid solid hoofs like a wretched horse's. And if she is extra and specially angry she'll turn me into stone and I shall be only a statue of a Faun in her horrible house until the four thrones at Cair Paravel are filled-and goodness knows when that will happen, or whether it will ever happen at all.”
While he was eating the Queen kept asking him questions. At first Edmund tried to remember that it is rude to speak with one's mouth full, but soon he forgot about this and thought only of trying to shovel down as much Turkish Delight as he could, and the more he ate the more he wanted to eat, and he never asked himself why the Queen should be so inquisitive. She got him to tell her that he had one brother and two sisters, and that one of his sisters had already been in Narnia and had met a Faun there, and that no one except himself and his brother and his sisters knew anything about Narnia. She seemed especially interested in the fact that there were four of them, and kept on coming back to it. “You are sure there are just four of you?” she asked. “Two Sons of Adam and two Daughters of Eve, neither more nor less?” and Edmund, with his mouth full of Turkish Delight, kept on saying, “Yes, I told you that before,” and forgetting to call her “Your Majesty,” but she didn't seem to mind now. At last the Turkish Delight was all finished and Edmund was looking very hard at the empty box and wishing that she would ask him whether he would like some more. Probably the Queen knew quite well what he was thinking; for she knew, though Edmund did not, that this was enchanted Turkish Delight and that anyone who had once tasted it would want more and more of it, and would even, if they were allowed, go on eating it till they killed themselves.
“They say Aslan is on the move—perhaps has already landed.”
And now a very curious thing happened. None of the children knew who Aslan was any more than you do; but the moment the Beaver had spoken these words everyone felt quite different. Perhaps it has sometimes happened to you in a dream that someone says something which you don't understand but in the dream it feels as if it had some enormous meaning—either a terrifying one which turns the whole dream into a nightmare or else a lovely meaning too lovely to put into words, which makes the dream so beautiful that you remember it all your life and are always wishing you could get into that dream again. It was like that now. At the name of Aslan each one of the children felt something jump in its inside. Edmund felt a sensation of mysterious horror. Peter felt suddenly brave and adventurous. Susan felt as if some delicious smell or some delightful strain of music had just floated by her. And Lucy got the feeling you have when you wake up in the morning and realize that it is the beginning of the holidays or the beginning of summer.
“Is he—quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion.”
“That you will, dearie, and no mistake,” said Mrs. Beaver; “if there's anyone who can appear before Aslan without their knees knocking, they're either braver than most or else just silly.”
“Then he isn't safe?” said Lucy.
"Safe?” said Mr. Beaver; “don't you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? 'Course he isn't safe. But he's good. He's the King, I tell you.”
“I'm longing to see him,” said Peter, “even if I do feel frightened when it comes to the point.”
“The quickest way you can help [Mr. Tumnus] is by going to meet Aslan,” said Mr. Beaver, “once he's with us, then we can begin doing things. Not that we don't need you too. For that's another of the old rhymes:
When Adam's flesh and Adam's bone Sits at Cair Paravel in throne,
The evil time will be over and done.
So things must be drawing near their end now he's come and you've come.”
You mustn't think that even now Edmund was quite so bad that he actually wanted his brother and sisters to be turned into stone. He did want Turkish Delight and to be a Prince (and later a King) and to pay Peter out for calling him a beast. As for what the Witch would do with the others, he didn't want her to be particularly nice to them—certainly not to put them on the same level as himself; but he managed to believe, or to pretend he believed, that she wouldn't do anything very bad to them, “Because,” he said to himself, “all these people who say nasty things about her are her enemies and probably half of it isn't true. She was jolly nice to me, anyway, much nicer than they are. I expect she is the rightful Queen really. Anyway, she'll be better than that awful Aslan!” At least, that was the excuse he made in his own mind for what he was doing. It wasn't a very good excuse, however, for deep down inside him he really knew that the White Witch was bad and cruel.
And he stood there gloating over the stone lion, and presently he did something very silly and childish. He took a stump of lead pencil out of his pocket and scribbled a moustache on the lion's upper lip and then a pair of spectacles on its eyes. Then he said, “Yah! Silly old Aslan! How do you like being a stone? You thought yourself mighty fine, didn't you?” But in spite of the scribbles on it the face of the great stone beast still looked so terrible, and sad, and noble, staring up in the moonlight, that Edmund didn't really get any fun out of jeering at it. He turned away and began to cross the courtyard.
“Come on!” cried Mr. Beaver, who was almost dancing with delight. “Come and see! This is a nasty knock for the Witch! It looks as if her power is already crumbling.”
It was a sledge, and it was reindeer with bells on their harness. […] And on the sledge sat a person whom everyone knew the moment they set eyes on him. He was a huge man in a bright red robe (bright as hollyberries) with a hood that had fur inside it and a great white beard that fell like a foamy waterfall over his chest. Everyone knew him because, though you see people of his sort only in Narnia, you see pictures of them and hear them talked about even in our world—the world on this side of the wardrobe door. But when you really see them in Narnia it is rather different. Some of the pictures of Father Christmas in our world make him look only funny and jolly. But now that the children actually stood looking at him they didn't find it quite like that. He was so big, and so glad, and so real, that they all became quite still. They felt very glad, but also solemn.
“I've come at last,” said he. “She has kept me out for a long time, but I have got in at last. Aslan is on the move. The Witch's magic is weakening.”
Now they were steadily racing on again. And soon Edmund noticed that the snow which splashed against them as they rushed through it was much wetter than it had been all last night. At the same time he noticed that he was feeling much less cold. It was also becoming foggy. In fact every minute it grew foggier and warmer. And the sledge was not running nearly as well as it had been running up till now. […] The sledge jerked, and skidded and kept on jolting as if it had struck against stones. And however the dwarf whipped the poor reindeer the sledge went slower and slower. There also seemed to be a curious noise all round them, but the noise of their driving and jolting and the dwarf's shouting at the reindeer prevented Edmund from hearing what it was, until suddenly the sledge stuck so fast that it wouldn't go on at all. When that happened there was a moment's silence. And in that silence Edmund could at last listen to the other noise properly. […] All round them though out of sight there were streams, chattering, murmuring, bubbling, splashing and even (in the distance) roaring. And his heart gave a great leap (though he hardly knew why) when he realized that the frost was over.
But as for Aslan himself, the Beavers and the children didn't know what to do or say when they saw him. People who have not been in Narnia sometimes think that a thing cannot be good and terrible at the same time. If the children had ever thought so, they were cured of it now. For when they tried to look at Aslan's face they just caught a glimpse of the golden mane and the great, royal, solemn, overwhelming eyes; and then they found they couldn't look at him and went all trembly.
At last the rabble had had enough of this. They began to drag the bound and muzzled Lion to the Stone Table, some pulling and some pushing. He was so huge that even when they got him there it took all their efforts to hoist him onto the surface of it. Then there was more tying and tightening of cords.
“The cowards! The cowards!” sobbed Susan. “Are they still afraid of him, even now?”
As soon as the wood was silent again Susan and Lucy crept out onto the open hilltop. The moon was getting low and thin clouds were passing across her, but still they could see the shape of the Lion lying dead in his bonds. And down they both knelt in the wet grass and kissed his cold face and stroked his beautiful fur—what was left of it—and cried till they could cry no more. And then they looked at each other and held each other’s hands for mere loneliness and cried again; and then again were silent.
“Oh, you're real, you're real! Oh, Aslan!” cried Lucy, and both girls flung themselves upon him and covered him with kisses.
“But what does it all mean?” asked Susan when they were somewhat calmer.
“It means,” said Aslan, “that 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 backward. And now—”
“Oh yes. Now?” said Lucy, jumping up and clapping her hands.
“Oh, children,” said the Lion, “I feel my strength coming back to me.”
“And now! Those who can't keep up—that is, children, dwarfs, and small animals—must ride on the backs of those who can—that is, lions, centaurs, unicorns, horses, giants and eagles. Those who are good with their noses must come in the front with us lions to smell out where the battle is. Look lively and sort yourselves.”
And with a great deal of bustle and cheering they did. The most pleased of the lot was the other lion who kept running about everywhere pretending to be very busy but really in order to say to everyone he met, “Did you hear what he said? Us Lions—That means him and me. Us Lions. That's what I like about Aslan. No side, no stand-off-ishness. Us Lions. That meant him and me.”
The Professor, who was a very remarkable man, didn't tell them not to be silly or not to tell lies, but believed the whole story. “No,” he said, “I don't think it will be any good trying to go back through the wardrobe door to get the coats. You won't get into Narnia again by that route. Nor would the coats be much use by now if you did! Eh? What's that? Yes, of course you'll get back to Narnia again someday. Once a King in Narnia, always a King in Narnia. But don't go trying to use the same route twice. Indeed, don't try to get there at all. It'll happen when you're not looking for it. And don't talk too much about it even among yourselves. And don't mention it to anyone else unless you find that they've had adventures of the same sort themselves. What's that? How will you know? Oh, you'll know all right. Odd things they say—even their looks—will let the secret out. Keep your eyes open.”