Updated: Feb 21, 2020
Hello Readers! Since the week of love is upon us, I thought we would kick off the week with a little homage to the source of inspiration that kicked off our labor of love, Lost in the Wardrobe.
The term “wardrobe” has several important meanings to us. First and foremost, our name was inspired by one of our all-time favorite books, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. Written by British author and theologian, C.S. Lewis, Wardrobe is the first fantasy book in a series of seven titled The Chronicles of Narnia.
Wardrobe is considered to be one of the most influential books in all of children’s literature, yet somehow manages to remain a beloved piece of work amongst all ages. C.S. Lewis, along with another legendary writer and close friend, J.R.R. Tolkien, served as professors at Oxford University, the same place where my fellow editor, business partner, and hero aficionado, Maite, attended as well.
Narnia has been a great source of inspiration throughout both of our lives, and the idea of entering a wardrobe and getting lost in another world is one that has captivated us since we were children. As we have come to learn here in the Wardrobe, it’s important to understand the inspiration behind an artist’s work. Whether it’s subtle or overt, the sources that move an artist to create must be understood in order to truly appreciate the contribution they have given to society.
Many of you have expressed thorough enjoyment as it regards to our Robinson Crusoe series, so today we are bringing you Installment One of our Narnia series. As the weather is cold and dreary outside, remember that it was a day just like today when Lucy Pevensie found herself bored and riddled with cabin fever. It was a day just like today when she discovered the wardrobe. For us readers, this wardrobe serves as an electrifying glimpse into the mind of one of the world’s most brilliant writers.
The New Testament is often referred to as “the greatest story ever told”, primarily because the story of Jesus has been reiterated and reconstructed to fit the tastes of varying generations. This story has resonated throughout time, making its way into poetry, novels, children’s stories, and even modern film. While some works of art make its religious connotations rather obvious, there are other works whose religious implications are subtle and layered, forcing audiences to dig a little deeper in order to tie it all together.
On the surface of The Chronicles of Narnia, the stories follow four English children and their journey into a fantasy land where a lion and a witch are at war for the right to the kingdom. Underneath that; however, lies the tale of Christ and his second coming, as interpreted by Lewis.
Beginning with The Book of Revelation, the simplest parallel, besides the fantastic beasts and terrifying creatures, is the number seven, which plays a big role in both books. There are seven books in The Chronicles, and in Revelation we see the seven churches of Asia, seven stars and seven lampstands, a scroll with seven seals, a lamb with seven eyes and seven horns, seven trumpets, seven spiritual figures, and seven bowls which are poured onto the Earth. Throughout Revelation alone, the number seven is used 54 times, and it is used 735 times throughout The Bible.
In Genesis, creation took seven days, and in the New Testament, Paul refers to Jesus Christ using seven different titles. In Christianity, seven is a number of completeness, a number that makes us whole, and that tradition is carried on in C.S. Lewis’ beloved seven-book series.
The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe is the first novel of The Chronicles of Narnia series, and it follows the four Pevensie siblings, Lucy, Edmund, Susan, and Peter as they make their way through a wardrobe which takes them to a fantasy land that is in a permanent state of snow, where fauns warn them that the trees have ears and are in service to the White Witch, and where they find shelter in the home of two beavers who are in loyal service to King Aslan, the lion.
The seven lampstands in Revelation make an appearance in Narnia, as the lampposts continuously serve as a guide for Lucy and her siblings to help them find their way back home. In the book, Mr. and Mrs. Beaver, as well as Mr. Tumnus, frequently refer to a prophecy that states that two sons of Adam and two daughters of Eve are destined for the throne. This prophecy is what many citizens of Narnia believe to be the spell that will break the curse that has taken over the land, the curse of the White Witch who has ruled with an iron fist, creating an era of pure darkness and pure winter. Throughout the story, there are murmurings of Aslan being on the move, but no one has seen him in years.
In this case, the two sons of Adam are Peter and Edmund, and the two daughters of Eve are Susan and Lucy. Edmund meets the White Witch during his first trip to Narnia and grows susceptible to her manipulation. She wishes to maintain her reign over the land, so she asks Edmund to bring his siblings to her. She plans on turning them all into stone, but he disregards the warnings given to him by the beavers and lets the witch know where his brother and sisters are hiding, betraying them in the process.
Edmund is subsequently held in captivity by the witch, and when the children finally meet Aslan, they tell him of their brother’s plight. Aslan meets with the witch and makes a deal with her in exchange for the release of Edmund. At this moment, we are reminded of two biblical betrayals; that of Peter’s and that of Judas’. At the last supper, Peter swore to Jesus that he would never deny him, and that he would give his life for him. To that, Jesus responded,
“Will you lay down your life for me?
Very truly, I tell you, before the cock crows,
you will have denied me three times” (John 14:38).
This prediction comes true, as Peter grows afraid when people begin accusing him of being a Christ follower.
While Peter did deny Jesus, it is looked at as less of a betrayal and more of a moment of pure human weakness, a moment where he was paralyzed by fear. Peter is inconsolable after his denial, and during the years following Jesus’ death, he becomes a pillar of Christianity and the rock upon which the church was built.
Edmund’s story is reminiscent of Peter for several reasons. One, he was merely a child and was lured in by the Queen through the promise of endless amounts of Turkish delight. Two, Edmund succumbed to jealousy towards his older brother Peter, whom he believed always overshadowed him. The Queen made Edmund feel like following her would give him a chance to make his own way, meaning Edmund gave into his own human weakness of jealousy, much the same way Peter gave into his human weakness of fear.
Ultimately, Edmund is one of the kings who sits at the throne of Narnia, being a fair ruler over the land and a key role in helping its people attain freedom and break the curse of an everlasting winter. Although Edmund’s betrayal can be justified, we are also reminded of Judas, who betrayed his teacher, Jesus, with a kiss. Judas’ prime motivation was greed, as he was promised money in exchange for leading the Pharisees to Jesus. His betrayal, unlike Peter’s, led to Jesus’ death, much the same way that Edmund’s betrayal led to Aslan’s. Edmund did not directly betray Aslan, but by betraying his siblings led Aslan to make an exchange with the witch, the exchange of Edmund’s life for his own.
Aslan sneaks away in the middle of the night to the Stone Table where the witch and her henchmen await him. They tie him down and cut his lioness tresses, mocking him mercilessly, calling him a pathetic pussy cat, and teasingly asking him why he is so weak if he is such a powerful lion.
We see a similar scene when Jesus is being nailed to the cross. The soldiers strip him naked, humiliating him and betting over who gets to keep his clothes. The soldiers placed a sign over his head with the inscription “King of the Jews”, and they began teasingly asking him why he isn't able to cast himself off of the cross if he was supposedly a king and the son of God. Aslan lays down his life for a son of Adam, just as Jesus laid down his life for all mankind (sons of Adam and daughters of Eve).
Aslan is murdered at the Stone Table at the hands of the White Witch, but he resurrects and is subsequently discovered by the two girls, Susan and Lucy. The stone also plays a pivotal role in the story of Jesus’ resurrection, as we see when Mary Magdalene goes to visit the tomb, she discovers that the stone has been moved and the body of Jesus is no longer there. It was the women who found Aslan resurrected, it was also the woman who found Jesus resurrected, although she did not recognize him at first.
Aslan’s resurrection destroys the dark magic that cursed Narnia, partially fulfilling the prophecy of how the sons of Adam and daughters of Eve will help save the land from the Queen’s evil. In this moment, we are reminded of the snake’s punishment in Genesis:
“Because you have done this,
Cursed are you among all the animals
And among all wild creatures;
Upon your belly you shall go,
And dust you shall eat
All the days of your life.
I will put enmity between you and the woman,
And between your offspring and hers;
He will strike your head,
And you will strike his heel” (Genesis 3:14-15)
The offspring in this case has often been interpreted to be Jesus Christ, who symbolically stomps on the snake’s head and crushes its power when he is nailed to the cross, saving mankind and putting an end to the reign of darkness, in fulfillment of this early Old Testament prophecy.
When the girls see Aslan come back to life, they are shocked that he was able to defy the odds of the queen’s dark magic. Aslan explains to them,
“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 a different incantation there.
She would have known that when a willing victim
who had committed no treachery was killed in a traitor’s stead,
the Stone Table could crack and Death itself would start working backward.” (185)
This explanation is pursuant to the death of Jesus, who was innocent and was killed anyways, and as a result, death itself began working backwards, and Jesus came back to life.
When Aslan reappears and his followers see him for the first time since his death, they react similarly to the disciples, who rejoiced at the sight of their master. Aslan’s disciples are preparing for battle against the White Witch, which seems like an insurmountable task since the queen seems to not only have the numbers, but also the dark magic on her side. Aslan goes to the Queen’s castle where her victims are all stuck in stone, and he proceeds to breathe on them, bringing them back to life and bringing them strength for the battle to come.
We see the Holy Spirit several times throughout both the Old and New Testaments. When God makes Adam, He
“formed man from the dust of the ground,
and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life;
and the man became a living being” (Genesis 2:7).
In the same way that Aslan’s breath gave life to the human statues, God’s breath gave life to the first man, Adam. In the Acts of the Apostles, Paul explains,
“The God who made the world and everything in it,
he who is Lord of heaven and earth,
does not live in shrines made by my human hands,
nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything,
since he himself gives to all mortals life and breath and all things” (Acts 17:24-25).
In the very first chapter of The Bible, we read that God breathed life into all the animals and creatures who roamed the earth (Genesis 1:30), and in the Book of Job, he writes
“The spirit of God has made me,
and the breath of the Almighty gives me life” (Job 33:4).
The breath of life is a recurring theme throughout The Bible, but it is never more powerful than in the moment when Jesus resurrects and reappears to his disciples who are in hiding because all followers of Christ were being persecuted after his death. Jesus appears to them and says,
“…Peace be with you.
As the Father has sent me, so I send you.
When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them,
‘Receive the Holy Spirit.
If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them;
if you retain the sins of any, they are retained’” (John 20:21-23).
We are subsequently told that all of the disciples
“…were filled with the Holy Spirit
and began to speak in other languages,
as the Spirit gave them ability” (Acts 2:4),
showing that the breath of Jesus gave his followers the power to spread his message throughout the world, much in the same way Aslan’s breath of life empowered his people to battle the White Witch.
Our next installment in this series will focus on The Last Battle and its parallels with The Book of Revelation. If you choose to revisit The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe pay close attention to parallels with other works. Since C.S. Lewis was a theologian, we know that his faith played a huge role in his writing, but he was also greatly influenced by other writers, such as J.R.R. Tolkien, Edith Nesbit, and George MacDonald.
Picking up copies of books like The Railway Children (reminding us of another book we've covered here in the Wardrobe, The Boxcar Children), At the Back of the North Wind, Unspoken Sermons, or even revisiting the Lord of the Rings series provides a fantastic opportunity to dive deeper into the mind and creativity of the legendary C.S. Lewis; the man who gave us Narnia, the writer who inspired our beloved Wardrobe.