Posted in Literature

Aslan and God


Once more he felt the warm breath of the Thing on his hand and face. “There,” it said, “that is not the breath of a ghost. Tell me your sorrows.”

Shasta was a little reassured by the breath: so he told how he had never known his real father or mother and had been brought up sternly by the fisherman. And then he told the story of his escape and how they were chased by lions and forced to swim for their lives; and of all their dangers in Tashbaan and about his night among the tombs and how the beasts howled at him out of the desert. And he told about the heat and thirst of their desert journey and how they were almost at their goal when another lion chased them and wounded Aravis. And also, how very long it was since he had had anything to eat.

“I do not call you unfortunate,” said the Large Voice.

“Don’t you think it was bad luck to meet so many lions?” said Shasta.

“There was only one lion,” said the Voice.

“What on earth do you mean? I’ve just told you there were at least two the first night, and-“

“There was only one: but he was swift of foot.”

“How do you know?”

“I was the lion.” And as Shasta gaped with open mouth and said nothing, the Voice continued. “I was the lion who forced you to join with Aravis. I was the cat who comforted you among the houses of the dead. I was the lion who drove the jackals from you while you slept. I was the lion who gave the Horses the new strength of fear for the last mile so that you should reach King Lune in time. And I was the lion you do not remember who pushed the boat in which you lay, a child near death, so that it came to shore where a man sat, wakeful at midnight, to receive you.”

“Then it was you who wounded Aravis?”

“It was I”

“But what for?”

“Child,” said the Voice, “I am telling you your story, not hers. I tell no one any story but his own.”

“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 round you as if the leaves rustled with it.

Shasta was no longer afraid that the Voice belonged to something that would eat him, nor that it was the voice of a ghost. But a new and different sort of trembling came over him. Yet he felt glad too.

 

This passage comes from the eleventh chapter of The Horse and His Boy by C.S. Lewis. I found this book slightly boring the first time I read it because I enjoyed the books where the Pevensies appeared as children and had adventures. They play only a minor role in this novel. On a second read-through I find it much more pleasant to read. This passage especially captured me.

I have yet to decide if Aslan is more representative of the God the Father figure or the God the Jesus figure or in this instance he seems very much like a God the Holy Spirit figure. Maybe Aslan is all three wrapped into one character; that makes sense. I understand Shasta’s frustration that Aravis had to be injured by Aslan; I often find myself wondering why God allows people to be hurt and if God is actually causing the pain at times. The thing is though that God doesn’t have to explain that to me or anyone. He has his reasons and in this story we can see that the traveling party was protected in many cases by Aslan and part of that protection caused some physical pain. In true Aslan/God sense, he also provided a remedy to the pain. I believe that if God does allow pain into our lives, he provides a source of comfort as well, in his time of course.

My second favorite part of this passage is the repetition of the word “myself” three times. The word itself reminds me of the part of the Bible where God says that his name is “I Am.” Here Aslan does not identify himself as Aslan; in fact that is a name that others have given to him. He calls himself “myself.” What a nifty and direct parallel that Lewis makes to God. The name is repeated three times to represent that tri-nature of Aslan that I referred to previously. Aslan represents God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This is probably a literary choice in order to lessen the number of characters and to reinforce the idea of the trinity being three in one.

Finally, Shasta’s response to Aslan relates closely to how I feel sometimes. He doesn’t understand Aslan and knows very little about him. In reality he should be afraid of this lion, but something about Aslan makes him feel safe and glad. It says that a different kind of trembling came over him. This describes the awe-like fear that God inspires in us. I do not understand God. He is very big and powerful and that should make me fear him and cower. Yet, God also invites me with a warmth that changes that fear from scared to awe. 

C.S. Lewis draws a powerful parallel between Aslan and God in this passage. It sends chills down my body when I read it, as do other select passages of these novels. 

Somehow without meaning to, I believe I have written a close reading analysis of this text. Oh the English major in me. I hope this did not reveal any major plot points if you have not read this novel. Instead I hope it whet your appetite enough to want to start at the beginning of the series where Narnia is first created. Enjoy!

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