Edmund is forgiven when he realizes – and suffers for – the
error of his decision. I do not take issue with his
forgiveness itself – since reality punished him enough for
his transgression, and the punishment convinced him to
change his ways. I do object to the "moral" of
self-sacrifice closely linked to the circumstances of his
forgiveness. The sacrifice is offered by Aslan the Lion in
order to appease the Witch and the "law" of Narnia – which
prescribes death to all traitors by the Witch's hand. The
only way Aslan can circumvent the law is offer himself
to the Witch instead, which – under the dynamics of the
world of Narnia – would free Edmund from bondage. Aslan does
this and is murdered by the Witch and her horde of deformed
followers in a vicious Dionysian orgy.
Aslan comes back to life
after his sacrifice and leads the four Pevensie siblings to
victory over the Witch – guiding the plot of the story
toward a happy resolution, an element that always greatly
enhances the quality of any story. Yet the moral of this
story should not be extrapolated to the real world –
for reality is no Narnia, and no innocent sacrifice can
ever compensate for anybody else's guilt.
Unessential sacrifice story
In our human world, self-sacrifice serves no constructive
purpose whatsoever; it is causally unlinked to either the punishment
of evil or the reform and redemption of the guilty. The natural law
guiding reality is quite different – it is a law dictating each
individual's own responsibility for his actions, with no
possibility of legitimate bail-out by means of another's suffering.
One person's loss can never be another's redemption; it only magnifies
the material and moral loss that the other person's original
transgression brought about.
In reality, the only way
for one to be "forgiven" for one's transgressions is to face their
objective consequences and correct the damage resulting from them.
Edmund does this, and – in reality – he would need no lion-sacrifice
in addition to his personal compensation for his misdeeds.
While it is not a strict
Christian allegory, the story of Aslan certainly parallels the
crucifixion of Jesus sufficiently to lead children who were
entertained and interested by the film to another place where
they could find didactic stories of self-sacrifice: The Christian
Bible. Since C.S. Lewis was an admitted Christian and active promoter
of Christianity, I do not fault him for seeking to promote his
sincerely-held convictions. I simply disagree with the content of
As an element of the
overall plot, the sacrifice story was not essential. Instead of dying
and being resurrected, Aslan could have lived all along and served as
a mentor and guide for the four children in acquainting them with
Narnia and training them to face the Witch. The story would then have
focused on other genuine values: loyalty to principles and to
virtuous people, fortitude in resisting evil, liberty from tyranny,
self-responsibility, determination, and justice – which, to its
credit, the film addresses on no uncertain terms. The law of Narnia
could have been made more compatible with the law of reality,
requiring that the innocent be spared and the guilty be punished – by
reality more so than by other men.
In its structure and
content, the Chronicles of Narnia is an entertaining and
thought-provoking movie – and is thus highly recommended as an alternative
to the "mainstream's" cultural vacuum. Its implications in the realm
of justice, government, and natural law are promising – though they
could have been more so without the presence of the Christian
element of sacrificing the innocent for the guilty's sake.