Lucy felt very frightened, but she felt inquisitive and excited as well. She looked back over her shoulder and there, between the dark tree-trunks, she could still see the open doorway of the wardrobe and even catch a glimpse of the empty room from which she had set out. (She had, of course, left the door open, for she knew that it is a very silly thing to shut oneself into a wardrobe.) It seemed to be still daylight there. "I can always get back if anything goes wrong," thought Lucy. (1.25)
Lucy balances her desire to see what's out there with her instinct to remain safe by keeping the wardrobe door open – literally maintaining the connection between the unfamiliar and the familiar.
"Not for me," said Peter, "I'm going to explore in the house."
Everyone agreed to this and that was how the adventures began. It was the sort of house that you never seem to come to the end of, and it was full of unexpected places. (1.19-20)
Even though the children become confined to the house, they find out that staying inside can offer just as many opportunities for exploration as going out.
"It's an owl," said Peter. "This is going to be a wonderful place for birds. I shall go to bed now. I say, let's go and explore to-morrow. You might find anything in a place like this. Did you see those mountains as we came along? And the woods? There might be eagles. There might be stags. There'll be hawks."
"Badgers!" said Lucy.
"Snakes!" said Edmund.
"Foxes!" said Susan. (1.12-15)
As soon as the children arrive at the Professor's house in the country, they are excited about the possibility of exploring the wilderness around them. What they don't realize is that they will be exploring a wilderness – but in a completely different world.
This house of the Professor's—which even he knew so little about—was so old and famous that people from all over England used to come and ask permission to see over it. It was the sort of house that is mentioned in guide books and even in histories; and well it might be, for all manner of stories were told about it, some of them even stranger than the one I am telling you now. (5.46)
The tourists who come to see the Professor's famous house function as a subtle foil to the children who explore the same territory. The tourists only see what they expect to find based on their guidebooks, while the children find much more.
The coats were rather too big for them so that they came down to their heels and looked more like royal robes than coats when they had put them on. But they all felt a good deal warmer and each thought the others looked better in their new get-up and more suitable to the landscape.
"We can pretend we are Arctic explorers," said Lucy.
"This is going to be exciting enough without any pretending," said Peter, as he began leading the way forward into the forest. (6.21-23)
Lucy, the youngest, is still ready to treat Narnia as a child's adventure game, but Peter has realized that they are starting off on a much more important quest.
"This must be a simply enormous wardrobe!" thought Lucy, going still further in and pushing the soft folds of the coats aside to make room for her. Then she noticed that there was something crunching under her feet. "I wonder is that more moth balls?" she thought, stooping down to feel it with her hands. But instead of feeling the hard, smooth wood of the floor of the wardrobe, she felt something soft and powdery and extremely cold. "This is very queer," she said, and went on a step or two further. (1.23)
The first great transformation in the book is the slow transition from our world to Narnia as Lucy keeps walking further and further back into what seems to be a never-ending wardrobe!
Wrong will be right, when Aslan comes in sight,
At the sound of his roar, sorrows will be no more,
When he bares his teeth, winter meets its death
And when he shakes his mane, we shall have spring again. (8.18)
Aslan's presence will shake up and transform everything in all of Narnia, from the weather to ethics to feelings.
"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." (10.36)
When Father Christmas appears in Narnia, it is a sign that time has begun to pass in a normal way again. The endless winter is being transformed into normal, human, cyclical time with landmarks like holidays.
Every moment the patches of green grew bigger and the patches of snow grew smaller. Every moment more and more of the trees shook off their robes of snow. Soon, wherever you looked, instead of white shapes you saw the dark green of firs or the black prickly branches of bare oaks and beeches and elms. Then the mist turned from white to gold and presently cleared away altogether. Shafts of delicious sunlight struck down onto the forest floor and overhead you could see a blue sky between the tree-tops. (11.30)
The entire land of Narnia is changing in response to Aslan's presence. Think of it as time-lapse photography in the real world for a whole country.
They had been just as surprised as Edmund when they saw the winter vanishing and the whole wood passing in a few hours or so from January to May. They hadn't even known for certain (as the Witch did) that this was what would happen when Aslan came to Narnia. But they all knew that it was her spells which had produced the endless winter; and therefore they all knew when this magic spring began that something had gone wrong, and badly wrong, with the Witch's schemes. (12.2)
Like Edmund's transformation from traitor to hero, the switch from winter to summer in Narnia is virtually instantaneous, with no real spring or intermediate stage in-between.
"Hand it to me and kneel, Son of Adam," said Aslan. And when Peter had done so he struck him with the flat of the blade and said, "Rise up, Sir Peter Fenris-Bane." (12.27)
Aslan knights Peter in order to recognize his transition from boy to warrior. The actual knighting ceremony doesn't cause the transformation – it just makes it official.
The rising of the sun had made everything look so different – all the colours and shadows were changed – that for a moment they didn't see the important thing. Then they did. The Stone Table was broken in two pieces by a great crack that ran down it from end to end; and there was no Aslan. (15.25)
History, the law, and the Deep Magic from the Dawn of Time all transform in the wake of Aslan's great sacrifice.
There, shining in the sunrise, larger than they had seen him before, shaking his mane (for it had apparently grown again) stood Aslan himself. (15.29)
Aslan isn't quite the same after his resurrection. He seems a little bigger, a little brighter, and little more energetic. He has been renewed and strengthened by his terrible experience.
I expect you've seen someone put a lighted match to a bit of newspaper which is propped up in a grate against an unlit fire. And for a second nothing seems to have happened; and then you notice a tiny streak of flame creeping along the edge of the newspaper. It was like that now. For a second after Aslan had breathed upon him the stone lion looked just the same. Then a tiny streak of gold began to run along his white marble back – then it spread – then the colour seemed to lick all over him as the flame licks all over a bit of paper – then, while his hind-quarters were still obviously stone the lion shook his mane and all the heavy, stony folds rippled into living hair. (16.5)
Breath is often metaphorically associated with the spirit and with holy things, and Aslan's breath has incredible transformative powers.
And they themselves grew and changed as the years passed over them. And Peter became a tall and deep chested man and a great warrior, and he was called King Peter the Magnificent. And Susan grew into a tall and gracious woman with black hair that fell almost to her feet and the Kings of the countries beyond the sea began to send ambassadors asking for her hand in marriage. And she was called Queen Susan the Gentle. Edmund was a graver and quieter man than Peter, and great in council and judgement. He was called King Edmund the Just. But as for Lucy, she was always gay and golden haired, and all Princes in those parts desired her to be their Queen, and her own people called her Queen Lucy the Valiant. (17.21)
Although each of the Pevensie children undergoes a transformation to adulthood at the end of the book, all of these transformations will be reversed when they go back to England.
"Then be off home as quick as you can," said the Faun, "and – c-can you ever forgive me for what I meant to do?"
"Why, of course I can," said Lucy, shaking him heartily by the hand. "And I do hope you won't get into dreadful trouble on my account." (2.57-58)
Lucy is ready and willing to forgive anyone who is genuinely sorry. Mr. Tumnus feels the need to apologize for a transgression he hasn't even committed!
Peter turned at once to Lucy.
"I apologise for not believing you," he said, "I'm sorry. Will you shake hands?"
"Of course," said Lucy, and did. (6.12-14)
Peter may seem high-and-mighty sometimes, but he is always willing to admit when he is wrong. As with Mr. Tumnus, Lucy is ready to forgive him right away. Unlike Edmund, she doesn't hold grudges.
And Edmund for the first time in this story felt sorry for someone besides himself. It seemed so pitiful to think of those little stone figures sitting there all the silent days and all the dark nights, year after year, till the moss grew on them and at last even their faces crumbled away. (11.21)
At the moment when Edmund feels compassion for someone else, we know that he can be redeemed, in spite of everything that he's done.
"Please – Aslan," said Lucy, "can anything be done to save Edmund?"
"All shall be done," said Aslan. "But it may be harder than you think." And then he was silent again for some time. Up to that moment Lucy had been thinking how royal and strong and peaceful his face looked; now it suddenly came into her head that he looked sad as well. (12.21-22)
Aslan is willing to make any sacrifice necessary to show mercy to Edmund, but that doesn't stop him from feeling sorry that such a sacrifice is necessary in the first place.
"Here is your brother," he said, "and – there is no need to talk to him about what is past."
Edmund shook hands with each of the others and said to each of them in turn, "I'm sorry," and everyone said "That's all right." And then everyone wanted very hard to say something which would make it quite clear that they were all friends with him again – something ordinary and natural – and of course no one could think of anything in the world to say. (13.27)
If Edmund were our brother, we're not sure we'd be able to forgive him so quickly and easily. It seems like Peter, Susan, and Lucy are just so glad that the Witch didn't murder him that they've forgotten he put them in mortal danger only yesterday.
"I do believe!" said Susan. "But how queer. They're nibbling away at the cords!"
"That's what I thought," said Lucy. "I think they're friendly mice. Poor little things – they don't realise he's dead. They think it'll do some good untying him." (15.12-13)
This may seem like a small incident, but Aslan won't soon forget the compassion of the little mice in the field. Even though he is magnificent and important, Aslan values the smallest creatures in his kingdom.
"Mr. Tumnus! Whatever is the matter?" for the Faun's brown eyes had filled with tears and then the tears began trickling down his cheeks, and soon they were running off the end of his nose; and at last he covered his face with his hands and began to howl. (2.28)
Mr. Tumnus has what we might call an overdeveloped sense of guilt. He begins to feel bad for betraying Lucy before he's actually done so. In his mind, thinking of betraying her is just as bad as actually doing so; intent is enough to cause guilt.
"I say," began Edmund presently, "oughtn't we to be bearing a bit more to the left, that is, if we are aiming for the lamp-post." He had forgotten for the moment that he must pretend never to have been in the wood before. The moment the words were out of his mouth he realised that he had given himself away. Everyone stopped; everyone stared at him. Peter whistled.
"So you really were here," he said, "that time Lu said she'd met you in here – and you made out she was telling lies."
There was a dead silence. "Well, of all the poisonous little beasts – " said Peter and shrugged his shoulders and said no more. There seemed, indeed, no more to say and presently the four resumed their journey; but Edmund was saying to himself, "I'll pay you all out for this, you pack of stuck-up, self-satisfied prigs." (6.24-26)
Peter blames Edmund immediately and completely for the lies he told to make Lucy look bad. While Peter is sort of in the right, because it was wrong of Edmund to lie, his willingness to place blame on Edmund only increases Edmund's own sense of alienation.
For the mention of Aslan gave him a mysterious and horrible feeling just as it gave the others a mysterious and lovely feeling. (9.1)
Because Edmund feels guilty for making a pact with the Witch, the effect of Aslan's name is to increase his guilt and make him feel worse.
Even as it was, he got wet through for he had to stoop to go under branches and great loads of snow came sliding off on to his back. And every time this happened he thought more and more how he hated Peter – just as if all this had been Peter's fault. (9.6)
By this point in the story, Edmund has had a lot of practice deceiving himself. He's now able to blame things on Peter that have absolutely no connection with his brother's actions.
The only way to comfort himself now was to try to believe that the whole thing was a dream and that he might wake up at any moment. And as they went on, hour after hour, it did come to seem like a dream. (11.10)
At the height of his guilt, Edmund can't see any way of atoning for what he has done or repairing his relationships with his family. All he can do is hope that he's having a terrible nightmare.
"He has tried to betray them and joined the White Witch, O Aslan," said Mr. Beaver. And then something made Peter say:
"That was partly my fault, Aslan. I was angry with him and I think that helped him to go wrong."
And Aslan said nothing either to excuse Peter or to blame him but merely stood looking at him with his great golden eyes. And it seemed to all of them that there was nothing to be said. (12.18-20)
Peter immediately, without any prompting, takes responsibility for his part in Edmund's alienation and betrayal. Perhaps because Peter is so willing to recognize his own faults, Aslan sees no need to punish him.
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. (13.37)
Edmund is freed from guilt when he begins to look at the world less selfishly. Instead of constantly focusing on himself, he begins to focus on Aslan. By directing his focus toward something outside himself, something truly good, he regains his own equilibrium.
As soon as they had breakfasted they all went out, and there they saw Aslan and Edmund walking together in the dewy grass, apart from the rest of the court. There is no need to tell you (and no one ever heard) what Aslan was saying but it was a conversation which Edmund never forgot. (13.25)
We never learn whether Aslan blames Edmund for his part in the White Witch's struggle for power, but we do learn that Edmund changes from this point on. His guilt is alleviated, and he feels responsibility, rather than placing blame.
"Good evening, good evening," said the Faun. "Excuse me – I don't want to be inquisitive – but should I be right in thinking that you are a Daughter of Eve?" (2.2)
Mr. Tumnus understands Lucy's humanity as part of an extended familial relationship stretching back to her Biblical ancestors.
"My old father, now," said Mr. Tumnus, "that's his picture over the mantelpiece. He would never have done a thing like this." (2.35)
We can tell that Mr. Tumnus is trustworthy and good because he has longstanding family values. It's hard to imagine the Witch keeping a portrait of her father above the mantelpiece!
"Oh, but if I took you there now," said she, "I shouldn't see your brother and your sisters. I very much want to know your charming relations. You are to be the Prince and – later on – the King; that is understood. But you must have courtiers and nobles. I will make your brother a Duke and your sisters Duchesses."
"There's nothing special about them," said Edmund. (4.28-29)
The Witch may only be using them as an excuse, but it's interesting that, even in the tale she uses to trick Edmund into working for her, family represents an important point of appeal. In contrast, Edmund is already willing to cast off his siblings in order to ally himself with her.
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 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?" (4.20)
Both the local construction of the Pevensie family – four children, two boys and two girls – and their historical genealogy – descendants of Adam and Eve – makes them the perfect group to fulfill ancient Narnian prophecies about the destruction of the Witch.
"It is a lovely place, my house," said the Queen. "I am sure you would like it. There are whole rooms full of Turkish Delight, and what's more, I have no children of my own. I want a nice boy whom I could bring up as a Prince and who would be King of Narnia when I am gone." (4.26)
The Witch's barrenness – her inability to generate her own offspring and become a mother – is part of her evil. She is not a functioning element in a family group, but a dangerous outlier.
"The potatoes are on boiling and the kettle's singing and I daresay, Mr. Beaver, you'll get us some fish."
"That I will," said Mr. Beaver. (7.46-47)
Mr. and Mrs. Beaver are the ideal Narnian couple. While Mrs. Beaver attends to the sewing and cooking, Mr. Beaver provides the food and keeps the house repaired. They're very much out of the time when C.S. Lewis was writing – the late 1940s, post-World War II.
"I tell you he is the King of the wood and the son of the great Emperor-Beyond-the-Sea." (8.22)
Just as Jesus is the Son of God, Aslan is the son of the mysterious and powerful Emperor-Beyond-the-Sea. It's important that we see Aslan as taking on a familial role; unlike the Witch, he is not a stand-alone creature, but part of a family system.
"Don't go on talking like that."
"Like what?" said Susan; "and anyway, it's time you were in bed."
"Trying to talk like Mother," said Edmund. "And who are you to say when I'm to go to bed? Go to bed yourself." (1.5-7)
When the four Pevensie children are sent to the countryside to get away from the air raids in London, older sister Susan tries to reposition herself as a surrogate mother.
"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!" (2.39)
The Witch's power disrupts the symbiotic relationship between the natural rhythm of the seasons and the man-made rhythm of holidays like Christmas.
What made it worse was that these days ought to have been delightful. The weather was fine and they were out of doors from morning to night, bathing, fishing, climbing trees, birds' nesting, and lying in the heather. (3.21)
All four of the Pevensie children enjoy the outdoors, but their pastimes range from simply enjoying the outdoors – bathing, climbing trees, lying in the heather – to disrupting it – fishing and birds' nesting.
It was pretty bad when he reached the far side. It was growing darker every minute and what with that and the snowflakes swirling all round him he could hardly see three feet ahead. And then too there was no road. […] In fact I really think he might have given up the whole plan and gone back and owned up and made friends with the others, if he hadn't happened to say to himself, "When I'm King of Narnia the first thing I shall do will be to make some decent roads." (9.5)
Edmund nurtures his grievances and his bad mood by indulging in an industrial fantasy of taming the Narnian countryside.
It would have been a pretty enough scene to look at it through a window from a comfortable armchair; and even as things were, Lucy enjoyed it at first. But as they went on walking and walking – and walking – and as the sack she was carrying felt heavier and heavier, she began to wonder how she was going to keep up at all. (10.20)
The long trek that Lucy, along with Peter, Susan, and the Beavers, must endure through the woods reminds us that the natural world is harsh and unforgiving; it might be picturesque for a little while, but it demands rigor and toughness from travelers.
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 both foggier and warmer. And the sledge was not running nearly as well as it had been running up till now. (11.22)
When Aslan begins to break the spell of the Witch's winter, it becomes more difficult for her to move around the land, even from a simple logistical standpoint.
The courtyard looked no longer like a museum; it looked more like a zoo. Creatures were running after Aslan and dancing round him till he was almost hidden in the crowd. Instead of all that deadly white the courtyard was now a blaze of colours; glossy chestnut sides of centaurs, indigo horns of unicorns, dazzling plumage of birds, reddy-brown of foxes, dogs, and satyrs, yellow stockings and crimson hoods of dwarfs; and the birch-girls in silver, and the beech-girls in fresh, transparent green, and the larch-girls in green so bright that it was almost yellow. And instead of the deadly silence the whole place rang with the sound of happy roarings, brayings, yelpings, barkings, squealings, cooings, neighings, stampings, shouts, hurrahs, song and laughter. (16.6)
As Aslan revives the people and creatures who have been turned to stone, the narrator contrasts the unnatural stillness and silence of the man-made (in this case Witch-made!) museum with the jolly movement and laughter of living people in nature.
And through the Eastern door, which was wide open came the voices of the mermen and the mermaids swimming close to the castle steps and singing in honour of their new Kings and Queens. (17.18)
One of the things that makes Cair Paravel so like paradise is the integration of civilization with nature. The mer-people can come right up to the steps of the palace, and there is a sense that inside and outside converge.
The children were walking on hour after hour into what seemed a delicious dream. Long ago they had left the coats behind them. And by now they had even stopped saying to one another, "Look! There's a kingfisher!" or "I say, bluebells!" or "What was that lovely smell?" or "Just listen to that thrush!" They walked on in silence drinking it all in, passing through patches of warm sunlight into cool, green thickets and out again into wide mossy glades where tall elms raised the leafy roof far overhead, and then into dense masses of flowering currant and among hawthorn bushes where the sweet smell was almost overpowering. (12.1)
Peter, Susan, and Lucy have an innate appreciation for the beauties of nature.
The Queen took from somewhere among her wrappings a very small bottle which looked as if it were made of copper. Then, holding out her arm, she let one drop fall from it on to the snow beside the sledge. Edmund saw the drop for a second in mid-air, shining like a diamond. But the moment it touched the snow there was a hissing sound and there stood a jewelled cup full of something that steamed. (4.16)
After watching the Queen produce a cup of hot liquid in this sorcerous way, we're pretty surprised that Edmund dares to drink it! But maybe he hasn't heard the story of Persephone…
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. (4.21)
We can't think of anything more devious for a Witch to think up than magic candy that enchants you to want more and more of it forever. Heck, we already feel that way about candy, even without magic.
"If there really is a door in this house that leads to some other world […] I should not be at all surprised to find that that other world had a separate time of its own; so that however long you stayed there it would never take up any of our time. On the other hand, I don't think many girls of her age would invent that idea for themselves. If she had been pretending, she would have hidden for a reasonable time before coming out and telling her story."
"But do you really mean, Sir," said Peter, "that there could be other worlds – all over the place, just round the corner – like that?"
"Nothing is more probable," said the Professor. (5.38-40)
The Professor surprises Peter and Susan by using logic to argue for the possibility that supernatural occurrences might take place – that parallel worlds could really exist, and that Lucy might have been to one.
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 holly-berries) 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. (10.35)
To us, Father Christmas seems a little out of place in this book, even in the fantasy world of Narnia. Perhaps it's because he really does seem to come out of a fairy tale, and The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe is more of an allegory.
But if you had gone on looking you would gradually have begun to think there was something odd about both the stump and the boulder. And next you would have thought that the stump did look really remarkably like a little fat man crouching on the ground. And if you had watched long enough you would have seen the stump walk across to the boulder and the boulder sit up and begin talking to the stump; for in reality the stump and the boulder were simply the Witch and the Dwarf. (13.24)
We don't really learn how the Witch's magic works – it could be that she actually disguised herself and the Dwarf as a stump and a boulder, but it could also be that she played on the perceptions of those around her.
But Edmund secretly thought that it would not be as good fun for him as for her. He would have to admit that Lucy had been right, before all the others, and he felt sure the others would all be on the side of the Fauns and the animals; but he was already more than half on the side of the Witch. (4.52)
Although Edmund initially chooses the wrong side, he recognizes right away that there are clearly defined sides in the struggle for control of the world of Narnia.
"If it comes to that, which is the right side? How do we know that the fauns are in the right and the Queen (yes, I know we've been told she's a witch) is in the wrong? We don't really know anything about either." (6.60)
Edmund raises an interesting point here – he and his siblings are really just stumbling into the middle of a complicated political situation that they may not understand. Yet we as readers instinctively know that he is wrong. The Queen is obviously evil, and Mr. Tumnus is obviously good; that's how this book works!
"Who said anything about safe? 'Course he isn't safe. But he's good. He's the King, I tell you." (8.26)
Mr. Beaver distinguishes between being fundamentally good and being gentle or "safe" to be around. Aslan is good, but he's also terrible, awesome, and powerful. In this book, good is not going to just lie down and turn the other cheek. Well, OK, it is, but it's going to be pretty awe-inspiring at the same time.
"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. (9.3)
Edmund may try to deceive himself, but, like Lucy and the others, he has an instinctive, fundamental knowledge of good and evil. The White Witch sets off all the alarms marked "evil" in his brain, but he tries to drown them out with foolish arguments and ridiculous reasoning.
All the things he had said to make himself believe that she was good and kind and that her side was really the right side sounded to him silly now. (11.10)
When Edmund is finally confronted with the fact that he has chosen the wrong side, he's not really surprised, but it's a painful recognition.
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. (12.8)
One of the most interesting aspects of Aslan is that he's an embodiment of all that is good, but he is still fearsome. Like a blinding light, Aslan is dazzling to the children and to the inhabitants of Narnia. He's not a comfortable or tame sort of good.
A few minutes later the Witch herself walked out on to the top of the hill and came straight across and stood before Aslan. The three children, who had not seen her before, felt shudders running down their backs at the sight of her face; and there were low growls among all the animals present. Though it was bright sunshine everyone felt suddenly cold. The only two people present who seemed to be quite at their ease were Aslan and the Witch herself. It was the oddest thing to see those two faces – the golden face and the dead-white face – so close together. Not that the Witch looked Aslan exactly in his eyes; Mrs. Beaver particularly noticed this. (13.36)
When the leaders of Good and Evil finally meet face to face, Evil is no match for Good. Aslan is clearly dominant over the Witch, so we have to wonder why he hasn't vanquished her long before.
"Summon all our people to meet me here as speedily as they can. Call out the giants and the werewolves and the spirits of those trees who are on our side. Call the Ghouls, and the Boggles, the Ogres and the Minotaurs. Call the Cruels, the Hags, the Spectres, and the people of the Toadstools. We will fight." (13.16)
As the head of the forces of Evil, the White Witch isn't playing a lone hand. There are many different types of creatures in Narnia that follow her, and she merely acts as their captain. Evil is not an isolated incident in this world – it's a major dimension of things and wields a great deal of power.
"Oh, children," said the Lion, "I feel my strength coming back to me. Oh, children, catch me if you can!" He stood for a second, his eyes very bright, his limbs quivering, lashing himself with his tail. Then he made a leap high over their heads and landed on the other side of the Table. Laughing, though she didn't know why, Lucy scrambled over it to reach him. Aslan leaped again. A mad chase began. (15.40)
Part of Aslan's nature is playfulness. After he is revived by the Emperor's magic, Aslan romps with Susan and Lucy, and all three simply enjoy the feeling of being alive and playing together. There is something simple and beautifully good about their play.
And Aslan stood up and when he opened his mouth to roar his face became so terrible that they did not dare to look at it. And they saw all the trees in front of him bend before the blast of his roaring as grass bends in a meadow before the wind. (15.42)
In a moment, Aslan can transform himself from kittenish romping to a fierce, angry lion. The powers of good have in them to be lighthearted and fun, but also to become terrifying judges with authority and might.
And now we come to one of the nastiest things in this story. Up to that moment Edmund had been feeling sick, and sulky, and annoyed with Lucy for being right, but he hadn't made up his mind what to do. When Peter suddenly asked him the question he decided all at once to do the meanest and most spiteful thing he could think of. He decided to let Lucy down. (5.4)
Edmund's first betrayal is a small but unpleasant one – he lies about his trip to Narnia in order to make himself look superior in the eyes of Peter and Susan. This small cruelty will pave the way for his greater treachery later on.
"I didn't like to mention it before (he being your brother and all) but the moment I set eyes on that brother of yours I said to myself 'Treacherous.' He had the look of one who has been with the Witch and eaten her food. You can always tell them if you've lived long in Narnia, something about their eyes." (8.61)
Like most people in Narnia, Edmund wears his heart on his sleeve. OK, well, nobody falls in love here, but you know what we mean – he wears his thoughts on his face. Appearances are rarely deceptive in this world, and if Peter, Susan, and Lucy had known what to look for, they might also have realized what was happening to Edmund.
"The reason there's no use looking," said Mr. Beaver, "is that we know already where he's gone!" Everyone stared in amazement. "Don't you understand?" said Mr. Beaver. "He's gone to her, to the White Witch. He has betrayed us all." (8.53)
Mr. Beaver isn't prejudiced by a family relationship to Edmund, and he's able to recognize right away that Edmund's sudden disappearance means trouble and danger.
And Edmund stood in the shadow of the arch, afraid to go on and afraid to go back, with his knees knocking together. He stood there so long that his teeth would have been chattering with cold even if they had not been chattering with fear. How long this really lasted I don't know, but it seemed to Edmund to last for hours. (9.9)
It takes a great and awful effort for Edmund to take the last steps through the Witch's courtyard and deliver his siblings into her hands. Unfortunately, he goes through with it.
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 (9.3)
The narrator is careful to explain that Edmund isn't a completely evil being. He's just allowed some of his more negative qualities, like selfishness, greed, and constantly feeling ill-treated by his brother and sisters, to affect his actions disproportionately. He lies to himself about the real consequences of his actions.
Edmund meanwhile had been having a most disappointing time. When the Dwarf had gone to get the sledge ready he expected that the Witch would start being nice to him, as she had been at their last meeting. But she said nothing at all. (11.1)
We really shouldn't be surprised that the Witch betrays her promises to Edmund almost as quickly as he betrays his family.
"But where is the fourth?" asked Aslan.
"He has tried to betray them and joined the White Witch, O Aslan," said Mr. Beaver. (12.17-18)
It's interesting that this conversation takes place. Aslan pretty much knows everything that is going on in Narnia, and he definitely knows what's up with Edmund and the Witch, so we assume that asking about the fourth child is just a formality. It needs to be said outright that Edmund is a traitor.
"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. (13.37)
Edmund's conversation with Aslan dispels all the after-effects of his betrayal. Edmund has begun to change radically and forever, and part of that change is that he's not thinking about himself all the time.
The Witch was just turning away with a look of fierce joy on her face when she stopped and said,
"But how do I know this promise will be kept?"
"Wow!" roared Aslan half rising from his throne; and his great mouth opened wider and wider and the roar grew louder and louder, and the Witch, after staring for a moment with her lips wide apart, picked up her skirts and fairly ran for her life. (13.54-56)
Because the White Witch is herself a treacherous creature, she assumes that Aslan will try to trick her if he can. Of course, we know he would never do anything like that – and he doesn't. It's not in his nature.
"You know that every traitor belongs to me as my lawful prey and that for every treachery I have a right to a kill." (13.41)
The existence of betrayal in Narnia is what gives the Witch a basis for her power.
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 to you 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 his inside. (7.35)
The power of Aslan's name immediately stirs intense and almost indescribable spiritual feelings for the children.
"Down at Cair Paravel – that's the castle on the sea coast down at the mouth of this river which ought to be the capital of the whole country if all was as it should be – down at Cair Paravel there are four thrones and it's a saying in Narnia time out of mind that when two Sons of Adam and two Daughters of Eve sit in those four thrones, then it will be the end not only of the White Witch's reign but of her life. (8.41)
The arrival of Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy in Narnia is not a mere accident or a convenient occurrence. Instead, it is the fulfillment of an ancient prophecy, with deep spiritual overtones for good Narnians like the Beavers.
"Aslan a man!" said Mr. Beaver sternly. "Certainly not. I tell you he is the King of the wood and the son of the great Emperor-Beyond-the-Sea. Don't you know who is the King of Beasts? Aslan is a lion – the Lion, the great Lion." (8.22)
Narnian mythology suggests that the great Lion Aslan has a strange and powerful father, the "Emperor-Beyond-the-Sea," who remains mysterious but sounds totally awesome.
"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. (13.48-49)
Susan still doesn't get it – the real point is not just to win and free Edmund and go home, but to do what's right. Aslan will do anything possible to help Edmund, except for undermining the spiritual foundation of the world. That would be too much to ask. Sorry, Susan.
"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 trunk of the World Ash Tree? Tell you what is engraved on the sceptre of the Emperor-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 a kill." (13.41)
Narnia isn't all beautiful landscapes and feel-good romps with Aslan. There are painful requirements in the spiritual laws of this world, and the country itself could be destroyed if Aslan didn't abide by those rules.
"Oh how can they?" said Lucy, tears streaming down her cheeks. "The brutes, the brutes!" for now that the first shock was over the shorn face of Aslan looked to her braver, and more beautiful, and more patient than ever. (14.48)
Aslan's greatest beauty and power comes through in his moments of suffering and trial. His spirit transcends the humiliations he suffers.
I hope no one who reads this book has been quite as miserable as Susan and Lucy were that night; but if you have been – if you've been up all night and cried till you have no more tears left in you – you will know that there comes in the end a sort of quietness. You feel as if nothing was ever going to happen again. At any rate that was how it felt to these two. Hours and hours seemed to go by in this dead calm, and they hardly noticed that they were getting colder and colder. (15.8)
It's important that Aslan (like Jesus) doesn't get resurrected right away. Instead, there is a long period of sorrow and mourning. It may seem cruel to Lucy and Susan to make them think Aslan has died and then, hey presto, whip him back into life. But there is a spiritual value in sorrow that purifies them both and honors Aslan's sacrifice.
It was such a romp as no one has ever had except in Narnia; and whether it was more like playing with a thunderstorm or playing with a kitten Lucy could never make up her mind. And the funny thing was that when all three finally lay together panting in the sun the girls no longer felt in the least tired or hungry or thirsty. (15.40)
Aslan isn't some joyless, stern ruler – he's playful and loving, too. Narnian spirituality involves enjoying yourself and frolicking in the woods.
"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 backwards." (15.38)
OK, we admit that this sounds like a great big "Ah-HA, gotcha!" to the Witch. Aslan knew a loophole that nobody else did, and it fixed everything! But the spiritual point is that one great sacrifice can atone for someone else's treachery. One victim can stand in for another, and, by doing so, he can free the whole world.
But amidst all these rejoicings Aslan himself quietly slipped away. And when the Kings and Queens noticed that he wasn't there they said nothing about it. For Mr. Beaver had warned them, "He'll be coming and going" he had said. "One day you'll see him and another you won't. He doesn't like being tied down – and of course he has other countries to attend to. It's quite all right. He'll often drop in. Only you mustn't press him. He's wild, you know. Not like a tame lion." (17.23)
Aslan's ways are not the ways of men (or Narnian creatures), and there will always be something inexplicable and mysterious about him. He can't be tied down to a regular schedule and he won't ever do things in quite the way you expected.
At the name of Aslan each one of the children felt something jump in his inside. […] Peter felt suddenly brave and adventurous. (7.35)
Peter's courage is innate and only needs a little bit of prompting from the outside in order to show itself.
"[I]f there's anyone who can appear before Aslan without their knees knocking, they're either braver than most or else just silly." (8.24)
Aslan is so awe-inspiring that most creatures find him intimidating. Being brave enough to face Aslan wouldn't necessarily mean you were awesome – it might just mean that you were too foolish to understand how great he really is!
"And the dagger is to defend yourself at great need. For you also are not to be in the battle."
"Why, Sir," said Lucy. "I think – I don't know – but I think I could be brave enough." (10.46-47)
Lucy will one day be known as "Queen Lucy the Valiant," and we think she probably would be brave enough to fight in the battle. However, according to Father Christmas, she shouldn't fight because she's a woman. Hmm. We're more concerned about the fact that she is a young child...
Peter did not feel very brave; indeed, he felt he was going to be sick. But that made no difference to what he had to do. (12.31)
Bravery isn't really about how you feel – it's about what you do in spite of your feelings.
The hags made a dart at him and shrieked with triumph when they found that he made no resistance at all. Then others – evil dwarfs and apes – rushed in to help them and between them they rolled the huge Lion round on his back and tied all his four paws together, shouting and cheering as if they had done something brave, though, had the Lion chosen, one of those paws could have been the death of them all. (14.42)
One of the characteristics of the evil creatures who follow the Witch is their cowardice. They are only brave enough to approach and harm Aslan because they realize he is not going to put up any resistance.
"Madam," said King Peter, "therein I pray thee to have me excused. For never since we four were Kings and Queens in Narnia have we set our hands to any high matter, as battles, quests, feats of arms, acts of justice, and the like, and then given over; but always what we have taken in hand, the same we have achieved." (17.35)
At the end of the book, Peter, Susan, and Edmund are still willing to take on new adventures, and Susan is still the voice of conservative moderation urging them to avoid the unknown.
"It was all Edmund's doing, Aslan," Peter was saying. "We'd have been beaten if it hadn't been for him. The Witch was turning our troops into stone right and left. But nothing would stop him. He fought his way through three ogres to where she was just turning one of your leopards into a statue. And when he reached her he had the sense to bring his sword smashing down on her wand instead of trying to go for her directly and simply getting made a statue himself for his pains." (17.2)
Once redeemed, Edmund demonstrates great courage and disregard for his personal safety.