by C.S. Lewis
Aslan is the god of Narnia and the son of the Emperor-Over-the-Sea. He's a mysterious deity who is wise, just, strong, fierce, and benevolent all at the same time. Although powerful enough to solve the problems facing Narnia with a snap of his fingers (whish of his paw?), he chooses to let his followers act on their own accord and only directly involves himself on rare occasions. He'd give Mary Poppins a run for her money in the practically perfect in every way measurement, yet he loves and cares for all the lowly beings despite their imperfections.
He is, in a word, Jesus.
Aslan the Lion: Superstar!
Okay, so Aslan can definitely be read as his own character. In fact, he probably should be. Because if you're convinced that Aslan is a perfect mirror image of Jesus—read: allegory—then you're going to drive yourself mad looking for all the ways to compare and contrast the two.
Having said that, Aslan is meant to be Narnia's representation of Jesus. C.S. Lewis himself has confirmed it, saying that Aslan is a "supposal" of Jesus—that is, Lewis supposed what it would be like if the Son of the Trinity were to live in a land like Narnia (source). Add that to the fact that, in Revelation 5:5, Jesus is referred to as the "Lion of the tribe of Judah" and the leap is not a difficult one to make. It's more of a hop really.
But once we make that hop, what then? And what does this mean specifically for Prince Caspian versus the rest of the Narnia series?
Good questions. We're glad we asked. After all, Aslan kind of did the whole good news thing in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. He came, died for the sins of Edmund, and was resurrected to redeem the land from the evil of the White Witch. With the Messiah part of Jesus's story told in the previous book, we need something new in here.
And we get it.
More to Jesus Than Meets the Eye
In Prince Caspian, Aslan serves as more of a spiritual guide or companion. He first appears to show the Pevensies the proper way to travel, but he only appears to those who have faith in him. Lucy sees him all the time, but it takes the rest a while before he comes into view.
As Edmund says when he first catches a glimpse of the lion god, "'Well, I almost thought I did—for a moment. It's such a rum light'" (11.23). Kind of reminds us of the biblical story of Paul, formerly Saul, on the Road to Damascus (Acts 9).
Quick recap: In that tale, Saul is on his way to Damascus to persecute the Christians when Jesus appears to him as a blinding light. Saul is told to go to Damascus, where he will be instructed on what to do. Blinded, Saul does as he's instructed. Eventually, Saul is healed of his blindness, takes the name Paul to signify his change of character, and is guided on a new path as an apostle. The end.
Aslan seems to be acting as a guide in a similar fashion for the Pevensies (minus the blinding part). He appears as a light on a road, and when the Pevensies finally see him, he instructs them on what to do (11.51). Also, Susan lacks in faith, but she finds it again on her personal Road to Damascus experience (11.44). Granted, the stories don't match up perfectly, but they share similar elements and themes—enough to make us go "hmmm."
Later, Aslan leads a procession through Telmarine territory. In the same way, Aslan doesn't really do anything except act as the guide:
Wherever they went in the little town of Beruna it was the same. Most of the people fled, a few joined them. When they left the town they were a larger and a merrier company. (14.62).
Aslan's job here is not to conquer by force but by converts—sounds New Testament-y to us, that's for sure.
Aslan the Great and Terrible
While we wouldn't call Aslan a complete slacker, he doesn't really do much in Prince Caspian. Instead, he tends to have others act for him and under his orders. Example? Sure. How about the time he resurrects the trees to fight with Caspian's army but doesn't do the fighting himself? Consider yourself examples.
But you might have noticed an incident or two when someone acts for Aslan in a way that might seem at odds for such a loving and benevolent God—ahem, lion. During the procession into the Telmarine territory, Aslan's peeps act through magic or miracle a few times. One time, a man is beating a boy with a stick, and:
The stick burst into flower in the man's hand. He tried to drop it, but it stuck to his hand. His arm became a branch, his body the trunk of a tree, his feet took root. (14.64)
In another, odder instance of punishment, a teacher is trying to teach some boys who look like pigs. When they see Aslan's procession:
Bacchus gave a great cry of Euan, euoi-oi-oi-oi and the boys all began howling with fright and trampling one another down to get out of the door and jumping out of the windows. And it was said afterward (whether truly or not) that those particular little boys were never seen again, but that there were a lot of very fine little pigs in that part of the country which had never been there before. (14.68)
The guy was a jerk-and-a-half, sure, but the others were just boys who looked like pigs and whose teacher didn't want to teach. So while the man deserved to be punished, does the punishment really fit the crime? And why does the novel include such a childish act of vengeance against those boys if it's trying to portray Aslan as a just and benevolent presence?
Eh, we can't really say.
But we'll bring it back to Jesus anyway. In the story of Jesus at the temple, Jesus overturned the tables of the merchants and money changers for making the temple a "den of robbers" (Matthew 21:12-13). It's possible the novel is trying to show some of that fier, punishment-dealing spirit in Aslan, too.
But even if that's the case, it's still an odd scene. And so, we leave it to for you to decide. What does turning boys into pigs signify about Aslan's character and the novel's message?
Oh, and good luck with this one. It's a doozy of a question.