Narnia: A Christian allegory?
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When he was born, 119 years ago today, Clive Staples Lewis couldn't have known that he'd be responsible for one of the most popular Christian books of all time. Even as he was writing the Chronicles of Narnia, Lewis claimed that the series was not intended to be a simple Biblical allegory. Despite his assertion, this is the vision of Narnia that has been passed down to us since its first publication in 1950, and which has led to contention in recent years, when the series has been accused of being both sexist and racist. It is easy to see the overt Christian message in the series. Lewis stated that Aslan was an embodiment of Jesus, and the series takes us from the creation in The Magician's Nephew, through the death and resurrection of Christ in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, to the apocalypse in The Last Battle, where all are judged and sent to Lewis' vision of Heaven or Hell. The capitalisation of "He" when talking about Aslan, the sometimes too-didactic instructions to the children and the highly troubling depiction of "heathens" in that final book all suggest that Lewis was rather more successful in his allegory than he claimed to be. Yet there are also aspects of the text which draw upon other sources, often pre-Christian in nature. Lewis was incredibly well-read, particularly in Celtic medieval literature, and it comes across in the structure, plot and language of the texts. The Voyage of the Dawntreader is in the tradition of an immrana, an Old Irish tale which follows a hero's journey into the Underworld. Characters from Greek and German mythology, such as centaurs and dwarfs populate the series, whilst Lucy's description of "Heaven" in The Last Battle, draws heavily upon Plato's theory of Forms, where the world is merely an imperfect copy of a better place:
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