Wednesday, September 17, 2008

War in Narnia

Excerpted from Chapter 6: Peace and War of my book The Heart of Narnia. If you haven't read the Narnia books this excerpt contains some spoilers ...

Aslan and War

The Christ figure, Aslan, actively supports and participates in war. In The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, for instance, Aslan gives Peter advice on how best to prepare for the coming battle with the White Witch.

Aslan also approves of Peter's use of violence against the wolf who attacks Susan, and he knights Peter after the boy kills the wolf. After Aslan is resurrected, he breathes upon the statues in the Witch's home, thus reviving them with the purpose of not only rescuing them but also recruiting them as an army to battle the Witch. Finally, Aslan actively participates in the battle, pouncing upon the Witch and killing her.

But the war against the Witch is not the only time when Aslan engages in battle. In Prince Caspian, Aslan once again shows support for just warfare during the War of Deliverance.

A scene in The Silver Chair offers further evidence of Aslan's support of warfare. After the Queen of Underland is slain by Prince Rilian, Puddleglum, and Eustace, Rilian refuses to wear the enchanted armor even though he may face battle. He does, however, consider it wise to take his sword and shield. Upon retrieving his shield, he notices that it has been transformed from black to silver and that a symbol has appeared on the shield: the red lion, representative of Aslan.

In The Last Battle, Aslan is not actively on the scene in Narnia as he is in the other books. Nevertheless, his support of just warfare is clear from the previous examples as well as throughout the Chronicles.

The war against the White Witch

At the time of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, the White Witch - a merciless tyrant who regularly turns Talking Beasts and other Narnians into stone - has reigned over Narnia for a hundred years. Servants of the Witch make an unprovoked attack against Aslan's forces, and after the Witch has killed Aslan, she does not hesitate to attack Peter's army with the intent of eradicating all opposition.

The war against the White Witch is just. The cause and intention are just: the removal of a tyrant, and freedom for the oppressed. The war is a last resort, because for a hundred years the Witch has oppressed the Narnians and they now find themselves in a situation in which she will lead her armies against them with the intent of destroying them. The war is approved by Aslan, who represents divine authority, as well as by Peter, who represents governmental authority. And the war is limited in scope, intended to stop the forces of evil from ruling Narnia and oppressing the citizens.

The War of Deliverance

The central plot of Prince Caspian involves what is referred to in The Last Battle as the War of Deliverance. King Miraz, uncle to Caspian, rules Narnia as a result of treachery and the murder of Caspian's father. When Prunaprismia, wife of Miraz, gives birth to a son, we learn that Miraz plans to murder Caspian, who is the rightful heir to the throne. Caspian flees to the woods, where he encounters for the first time talking beasts and other creatures he has only heard of in stories.

The War of Deliverance is a civil war, described as a rebellion by Trumpkin the dwarf. Upon learning that Caspian, true heir to the throne, has come to the woods as an enemy of Miraz, the talking beasts and other creatures rally to his side but are hopelessly outnumbered by King Miraz and his Telmarine army. Caspian uses the magic horn of Susan to summon help. Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy return to Narnia.

In an effort to minimize bloodshed and defeat Miraz and his army despite Caspian's being outnumbered, Peter develops a plan to challenge Miraz to single combat in order to decide the victor of the war. Lewis mentions similar combat situations in at least two of his other fictional works: Perelandra, where Ransom must fight the Unman, and Till We Have Face, where Orual fights Argan. Biblically, this type of combat is found in the account of David and Goliath (1 Samuel 17:8-9, 32-51).

Because of his pride, Miraz accepts the challenge of Peter and is defeated, though in the end he is killed by one of his own men.

Aslan does not participate directly in the final battle of the War of Deliverance (known as the second Battle of Beruna) by way of combat as he did in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, but he clearly supports Caspian's side.

For instance, he guides Lucy and the others in the right direction so they may meet up with Caspian. Also, by bringing Bacchus and asking him to destroy a bridge that is imprisoning a river god, he effectively cuts off an attempted escape of the remaining Telmarine army. Aslan's mere appearance on the battlefield frightens the Telmarines terribly. The Lion indicates his support of Caspian and, with the Telmarines defeated, officially appoints him as king of Narnia.

Copyright © 2008 by Robert Velarde. All Rights Reserved.


Martin LaBar said...

I guess we shouldn't be surprised that Aslan actively participates in a war. I don't know all that Revelation means, but it tells us, among many other things, about the wrath of the Lamb.

Robert Velarde said...

Thanks for the comment. Lewis included war in Narnia for a number of reasons. For instance, the Chronicles are heavily influenced by the fairy tale genre and, as such, include battles between good and evil. Also, Lewis fought in WWI and lived through WWII, giving him some unique insights into war.

In the Old Testament we read, "The LORD is a warrior" (Exodus 15:3), while in the New Testament, as you point out, there are images of war associated with Christ (see Revelation 19:15, for example).

This does not make God a warmonger, but He is holy and just. For more on this see chapters in my book The Heart of Narnia on "Fairness and Unfairness" (justice and injustice) and "Peace and War."