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Faith in Narnia

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April 26, 2011

TY 320 – Narnia as Theology

Faith, one of the theological virtues, is prevalent in C.S. Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia. Two synonyms – belief and loyalty – summarize what faith is. Lewis describes concepts similar to these two aspects of faith in Mere Christianity. The first involves belief, as in accepting something as true (Lewis 138). The second part includes keeping that belief despite inevitable changes (Lewis 140). One can accept a belief based on reason, but he must also be able to keep such beliefs in the midst of his changing emotions (Lewis 140-1). The ideal faith described by Lewis is that of “a child’s heart [and] a grown-up’s head” (Lewis 77). One’s faith should include both a child-like faith, recommended in Mark’s gospel – “whoever does not accept the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it” (NAB 10:15) – and a mature faith, advised in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians – “so that we may no longer be infants, tossed by waves and swept along by every wind of teaching” (NAB 4:13-15). The characters in the Narnia series show various qualities of faith.

Lucy and Peter exemplify child-like faith and maturity of faith respectively. They both work towards a balance between the two qualities. Lucy matures in her faith specifically when she is confronted with situations in which mere belief is not sufficient. Peter grows in belief when he realizes that reason alone will not suffice. One of the major points of influence in both of their faith journeys occurs in Prince Caspian when Lucy sees Aslan in the distance (PC 9). Earlier in The Chronicles of Narnia, Professor Kirke explains to the children the logic behind believing Lucy (LWW 5). In doing so, he suggests that “logic need not deny the world of faith represented by Narnia” (“Overview…”).

Peter is the eldest of the Pevensie children. He shows a general maturity beyond the others. He is responsible, logical and courageous (“Overview…”). His reason, however, does not always lead the children down the right path. In Prince Caspian, Peter decides to go on the more logical path, down the gorge, rather than the way Lucy said Aslan wanted them to go (PC 9). According to Devin Brown, Peter has a tendency to makes decisions and assumptions based on his previous experiences (Brown 144). That is what Peter does in this situation; he is not used to Aslan only being visible to one person in the group (Brown 143). With this tendency, he confines his idea of who Aslan is and expects him to act in ways he has previously acted. However, Aslan says, “things never happen the same way twice” (PC 10). It is also dangerous for an idea of something holy to become holiness itself (Brown 147-148). Aslan cannot be confined to Peter’s thoughts and assumptions. He’s “not like a tame lion” (LWW 17).

Previously, in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Peter learns from Professor Kirke that things that appear logical are not always so; it was not logical for there to be a world inside the wardrobe, but neither was it logical that Lucy was lying to them (LWW 5). He then begins to realize that reality can disobey its own rules (Brown 142). Peter expresses to the Professor, “if things are real, they’re there all the time” (LWW 5). However, this is not the case, as he slowly begins to discover. This is where Peter’s logical and expectation-confined tendencies begin to become apparent.

Later in Prince Caspian, more of a balance is seen in Peter’s faith. When he is confronted with the battle, he has begun to understand the lack of predictability of Aslan as well as his own necessity to act; he trusts that Aslan will come “in his time, no doubt, not ours” (PC 13). Peter leads the others into action, while remaining open to Aslan’s intercession. He trusts, without expectations, Aslan will act in his own way. At the same time, he maintains his reason, and takes action. He matures in the title given to him: “King Peter the Magnificent” (LWW 17).

Lucy, the youngest of the Pevensie children, shows the heart of a child more so than the other children. She is innocent, compassionate, and forgiving (“Overview…”). However, her child-like faith will not suffice at times. When she sees Aslan across the gorge, the other children do not believe her (PC 9). She chooses to follow them, though, instead of going where Aslan had nonverbally told her to go.  She maintains a firm belief despite the others’ unbelief. “‘Don’t talk like a grown-up,’ said Lucy, stamping her foot. ‘I didn’t think I saw him.  I saw him’” (PC 9). Even when she’s unable to adequately describe how she knew what Aslan had wanted, she doesn’t give up hope. Nevertheless, she’s yet to have the maturity of faith necessary to put that belief into action and convince her siblings to go the way Aslan has mysteriously instructed her to go. She has the strength to stick to what she said about seeing Aslan; but she doesn’t have the courage to physically stray from the group (“Overview…”). She is faced with the dilemma of following her siblings or following Aslan, whom only she saw.

In The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Lucy is asked to lead the children through Narnia (Brown 161). In Prince Caspian, she is not invited to be the leader; instead, she is faced with her three siblings disagreeing with her and deciding to go the other way. Lucy is outnumbered, yet called to act contrary to the crowd. She is confronted with a challenge that will ultimately strengthen her faith. When Aslan calls Lucy out of her sleep, he tells her she must let the others know to follow him; and if they don’t, she must follow him anyway (PC 10). She obeys Aslan and wakes them; after much explanation from Lucy and hesitancy from the others, Lucy says she’s going with or without them (PC 10). Her confidence in this decision causes the others to follow her (“Overview…”). She realizes Aslan is not going to do everything for her; and she accepts her responsibility to take action (Brown 161). She matures in her faith, while maintaining her simplicity. She grows toward the title given to her: “Queen Lucy the Valiant” (LWW 17).

Puddleglum, I believe, shows a more perfected maturity than that of Peter from the start. He is realistic like Peter; however, Puddleglum displays a more discerning heart rather than being confined by his previous experiences. His realism, which appears pessimistic at times, looks like optimism at others. He asks Jill, to the point of annoyance, about Aslan’s signs (SC 7). When they stray from Aslan’s will, Puddleglum becomes more pessimistic and grumpy. When they’re back on the right path he is optimistic and comforting (Brown 153). When the group is in Underland, Puddleglum snaps out of his pessimism and helps the others to get out of the reality they’re all in. He stands up to the Queen of Underland by letting her know that he is going to follow Aslan even if there is no Aslan like she says (SC 12).

Reepicheep, in my opinion, displays a child-like faith matured beyond that of Lucy from the beginning. He is described as being “the most valiant of all the Talking Beasts of Narnia” (VDT 1). This same word is used to describe Lucy when she is given her title (LWW 17). Reepicheep has had a childhood longing to go to Aslan’s country. He never backs down from an adventure out of fear. Reepicheep has a deep child-like faith like Lucy; but he also lacks the fear Lucy sometime shows. His struggles are elsewhere. Reepicheep learns upon the restoration of his tail, and is reminded by Aslan’s gift, that his dignity is not to be his highest honor (PC 15). Through the verse spoken to him as a baby, as well as his experience of Aslan as he’s grown up, Reepicheep is confident that he will find what he is looking for in the Utter East (VDT 2). It is his deepest desire to go there. In The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, his “faith and persistence in seeking his destiny are rewarded” (“Overview…”). His longing and adventures have only been glimpses of what he would see in Aslan’s country. There he discovers the highest honor.

Lewis includes the virtue of faith in The Chronicles of Narnia, exemplifying its different aspects in the characters. He wrote in such a way as to “[transfer] spiritual facts to a setting in which the characters were real” (“Overview…”). In doing so, Lewis takes the characteristics of faith and portrays them in a realistic and relatable way. He shows a child-like faith through Lucy and a maturity of faith through Peter. Through Puddleglum, the necessity of discernment is made apparent. Through Reepicheep, Lewis shows the benefit of bravery in doing the will of God.

Works Cited

Brown, Devin. Inside Prince Caspian: A Guide to Exploring the Return to Narnia. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2008. 135-69. Print.

 

Lewis, C.S. Mere Christianity. San Francisco: Harper Collins, 2001. 76-81, 138-50. Print.

 

“Overview: The Chronicles of Narnia.” Characters in Children’s Literature. Raymond E. Jones. Detroit: Gale, 1997. Literature Resource Center. Web. 20 Apr. 2011. Document URL
http://0-go.galegroup.com.woodhous.aquinas.edu/ps/i.do?&id=GALE%7CH1430000363&v=2.1&u=lom_aquinascoll&it=r&p=LitRC&sw=w