Author C.S. Lewis didn’t originally intend for the first installment in the beloved children’s series The Chronicles of Narnia to be theologically based, but for a man whose faith was so integral to his life, he soon found these themes weaving their way into his children’s tale.
The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe became an allegory, or a story that represents a hidden or deeper meaning, of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ through a magical land called Narnia, four siblings Peter, Edmund, Susan, and Lucy, and a very special lion named Aslan.
Aslan the Lion represents Christ. Aslan is the Savior of Narnia and the ultimate good in this world. He is powerful, majestic, fierce, but full of grace, gentleness, and forgiveness.
The character of Edmund Pevensie represents sinful humanity. He has many of the same sinful tendencies that we as fallen humans have such as pride, gluttony, jealousy, and more.
Edmund is alone on his first trip to Narnia when he meets Jadis, the White Witch, reigning “Queen” of Narnia, who represents Satan in this story.
Jadis tempts Edmund just as Satan tempts us, first with a sweet candy made from rosewater and nuts and covered in powdered sugar called Turkish Delight that is common in Middle Eastern cultures and was considered a delicacy in England at the time Lewis wrote the book.
But this Turkish Delight is enchanted by the White Witch to be particularly addictive so that the more you eat the more you want. The candy in this story represents the addictive nature of sin and how the more we indulge in it the more we crave it.
After finishing “several pounds” of the candy, Edmund is still not satisfied and asks Jadis for more. This mirrors how the pleasures that Satan tempts us with never truly satisfy.
While distracted by the candy, Jadis asks Edmund all sorts of questions about who he is, where he came from, etc. and Edmund spills the beans:
“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 his 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?’ and Edmund, with his mouth full of Turkish Delight, kept on saying, ‘Yes, I told you that before.’”
An important development happens at this point in the story. You see, Jadis had heard of the prophecy that said that “when two Sons of Adam and two Daughters of Eve sit on those four thrones [of Cair Paravel], then it will be the end only of Jadis’s reign.”
Jadis exploits Edmunds new addiction promising him “whole rooms full of Turkish Delight” if he would bring his brother and sisters here saying she would very much like to meet them.
In truth, she plans to kill them before they can ascend to the throne and fulfill the prophecy of her doom.
But Jadis doesn’t just play on Edmunds addiction, she plays on his pride by promising to make him a prince and maybe even a king one day. “I think I would like to make you the Prince – someday, when you bring the others to visit me.”
The entire time she is trying to corrupt Edmund and bring him under her control she is very friendly, flattering, and kind to him. As you’ll see later, once he is under her control, her attitude changes.
Jadis tells Edmund how to find her palace and then leaves him. He eventually runs into his sister Lucy and they return through the wardrobe back home.
Not long after, all the Pevensie children return to Narnia together and their adventure truly begins. Various friendly animals lead the Pevensies through the woods, first a robin and then Mr. and Mrs. Beaver. Edmund is skeptical every step of the way getting into an argument with Peter over whether or not the animals should be trusted.
Along the route, Edmund sees off in the distance the two hills Jadis mentioned as being the location of her palace. “He thought about Turkish Delight and about being a King (‘And I wonder how Peter will like that?’ he asked himself) and horrible ideas came into his head.”
The children finally arrive at Mr. and Mrs. Beaver’s home and are served dinner while Mr. Beaver tells the children all about the terrible reign of the White Witch, as well as the prophecy. And here we see Lewis describe another aspect of our sin.
Edmund “had eaten his share of the dinner, but he hadn’t really enjoyed it because he was thinking all the time about Turkish Delight — and there’s nothing that spoils the taste of good ordinary food half so much as the memory of bad magic food.”
Unsatisfied with the perfectly good food offered by Mr. and Mrs. Beaver and too distracted by the allure of sin to truly accept the good news of Aslan and the prophecy, Edmund slips away unnoticed determined to join with the White Witch.
When Edmund shows up at the White Witch’s palace without his brother and sisters, Jadis erupts with rage and Edmund becomes truly frightened. In a panic, he not only betrays the location of Mr. and Mrs. Beaver’s home where the children are staying but tells her all about how Aslan has returned.
Instead of fulfilling the promises the White Witch made to Edmund, he becomes her prisoner and is given nothing but a bit of water and bread to eat. He is then forced to ride with the White Witch on her slay into the cold winter without a coat.
So often Satan tempts us with a fantasy of what our sin will look like if we give in. But then, once he has us under his control, the cruel reality of a life in sin becomes clear.
What we thought would be a life as a prince with unlimited Turkish Delights becomes slavish existence in a cold harsh world. Now that Edmund sees the truth, he is desperate to be saved from his sin.
After ordering her servant to call together her army, Jadis eventually catches up with the children who have met up with Aslan and his army of animals who seek to be free from her tyrannical rule.
In the first skirmish between the two armies, Edmund is freed from his captivity, but not from his betrayal. Afterward, Jadis calls for a meeting to discuss terms between the armies.
At the meeting, Jadis announces her intent to kill Edmund, stating that his life is by right hers as a traitor according to the rules of the “deep magic.”
But after Aslan and the Witch meet in private she renounces the claim and Edmund is reunited with the others and is forgiven by Aslan and his family. Unbeknownst to the rest of the characters, Aslan has agreed to sacrifice his own life in Edmund’s place to fulfill the obligations of the deep magic.
We see the parallel between Aslan and Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane and His Passion when Aslan trades his life for another.
Late in the night, Aslan begins what he knows is his walk to his death and we see him sorrowful as we saw Christ. This chapter very heavily reflects Matthew 26: 36-46.’
Still, we must remember that Aslan was freely giving his life to save Edmund, Jesus freely and willingly gave His life to save all of us.
As Aslan arrives at the place of his death, the Stone Table, he is met by a crowd that jeers, and beats him, and shaves his mane, much like the crowd jeered at our Savior and stripped Him of His robe at the cross. He is chained to the stone table. Finally, the White Witch kills him, fulfilling the ancient magic.
The mourning crowd leaves feeling defeated and Edmund’s two sisters, Susan and Lucy, emerge from where they had been hiding with broken hearts.
But as the girls turn to leave, they hear a loud crack from behind them as the stone table splits in two. Aslan appears, alive and explains to the girls that there was a deeper magic that the White Witch did not understand.
According to this deeper magic, when an innocent, willing victim sacrifices himself in the place of a traitor, the Stone Table would crack and Death would be defeated.
There are multiple points of symbolism in this chapter. The stone table breaking represents the curtain in the Temple tearing in two so we would no longer be separated from God (Matthew 27:51), or simply Christ’s triumph over death (Luke 20) and His appearance to Mary afterward.
At first the girls are happy, then startled thinking they’ve seen a ghost, then overjoyed at his return, much like the disciples. (Luke:24)
Aslan, Susan, and Lucy then ride to meet the rest of the characters where they are battling Jadis’ army. There Aslan destroys the White Witch, having truly defeated her by rising from the dead.
We can see a lot of parallels between Edmund’s journey and our journey as believers. At first we don’t always believe, or we doubt what’s right in front of us. Sometimes we believe the lies and tricks of the enemy and fall into the temptation of sin, and Edmund did with the sweet Turkish Delight. This led to worse and worse circumstances for Edmund, until only Aslan could save him, much like only Christ can rescue us from our sin.
Jesus died for us the same, and God never has and never will stop loving us. He is always here to offer us forgiveness again and welcome us back, just like Aslan did for Edmund.
There are many other Christian themes and parallels to the Gospel in The Lion The Witch And The Wardrobe, as well as the other installments in the Chronicles of Narnia series. These stories help children and adults alike better understand themes such as sin and forgiveness, good and evil.