Monday, December 08, 2008

A Fresh Look at Aslan

The Narnia films have prompted me to look at Aslan with a fresh pair of eyes. For a serious review of the three films to date, see here (I did actually enjoy them). But for the not easily offended, here's an irreverent take on the Chronicles, with seven brand new titles.

(1) The Passion of Aslan (The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe). One critic claims that Mel Gibson's passion film is "the most a-religious Christ movie ever. There's one line snipped from the Sermon on the Mount, two sentences from the last supper, and that's about it for the preaching of Jesus. There's no character development, no background, just lots and lots of beatings. The movie provides little reason to sympathize with the main character, other than the fact that he's getting his ass kicked for about an hour." Adamson's film about Aslan isn't nearly as graphic and hard-hitting, but it's Gibson-for-kiddies nonetheless. Narnia is less a place for gospel wisdom and more for crusading warfare, and as in Mel's blockbuster, viewers have little reason to sympathize with the lion-king as he's getting ass-kicked, mocked, and shorn, other than because he saved an undeserving snot from the White Witch (Edmund) -- and, of course, because he's a cute giant kitty.

(2) Kicking Almighty Aslan (Prince Caspian). The Narnians kick some serious almighty ass in this film -- and get their asses kicked in turn -- and, well, that's pretty much all there is to the story. To be fair, they don't have much choice since Aslan refuses to help them in any way, let alone confirm his existence. Truth be told, he doesn't seem to care a whit about what happens to his poor subjects -- justifying his indifference on the lame ground that "nothing happens the same way twice" -- appearing only at the tail end to help mop up the defeated Telmarines and congratulate the Narnians. Mountains of bloodshed could have been avoided if his majesty had deigned to show up and unleash a flood before swords were drawn, but I suppose that would defeat the purpose of so much fun, righteous, and holy ass-kicking.

(3) No One Likes a Smart-Aslan (The Voyage of the Dawn Treader). Eustace Scrubb may be the most irritating smart-ass in western literature, but I don't think the kid deserved to get raped for it. Being molested by Aslan on the dragon's island is portrayed as his salvation, but any dimwit can tell what's really going on. The lion tells Eustace to undress and then manipulates him into agreeing to be horribly violated: repeatedly clawed and torn so deeply that he thinks his heart is going to burst. Sure, he's cured of being an insufferable snot -- he's too damn terrified to be bratty anymore -- but what kind of baggage will he carry around now? Curiously, for the briefest of moments at the end of story, Aslan appears as a lamb instead of a lion, for once accurately representing the gospel image of a non-violent savior -- and ironically, a more fitting image for a pedophile who comes on to kids as a benign sweetie-pie.

(4) Sitting on His Aslan (The Silver Chair). The title works on two levels -- the literal, with Prince Rilian strapped on his ass in the silver chair, and the more important metaphorical: Aslan sitting on his royal feline ass, doing absolutely nothing useful or proactive to help the kids rescue the prince (other than through cryptic riddles) or aid the Narnians against the army of the Emerald Witch. It may be objected that Aslan isn't terribly proactive in any of the books after the first (and that's indeed true), but in this story his Olympian laziness hits an all-time high. Even in Prince Caspian -- when everyone was about to give up on him -- he at least showed up at the end to help mop up the Telmarines. By now his sense of seniority is so inflated that he can't be bothered to lift a paw or claw to help anyone (other than to revive an aged Caspian who should be left to dying). Hail his majesty's ass indeed.

(5) A Horse's Aslan (The Horse and His Boy). This is about a boy who escapes to Narnia on the ass of a horse, but Aslan is the real horse's ass of the story -- even an asshole. I remember being stunned as a kid when he mauled Aravis, raking his claws down her poor back, for her past treatment of a slave. Matching cruelty, "an eye for an eye", wasn't exactly my idea of enlightened thinking even when I was young and ignorant.

(6) Going Aslan-Backwards in Time (The Magician's Nephew). The beauty to fantasy chronicles is they can be written ass-backwards, lending themselves wonderfully to prequels, and in this one Aslan is self-adulating as he always will be, setting himself up to be glorified at the dawn of time, orchestrating the creation of Narnia with completely ass-backwards scheming. He allows Jadis (the future White Witch) to escape after assaulting him -- and thus to achieve immortality by eating the forbidden fruit, whilst at the same time tempting Digory to do the same -- instead of just killing the bitch as she richly deserves and sparing future Narnians a lot of misery.

(7) An Aslan of Himself (The Last Battle). If Aslan is always in control of things as we're led to believe, then he makes a complete and utter ass of himself in the final story. An ape (Narnia's anti-Christ) dresses up a donkey as the lion-savior, and almost everyone is fooled by the disguise. The ape-ass duo set in motion enough evil and deception to give (the real) Aslan his long-awaited excuse to rain down judgment and throw unfaithful Narnians into the apocalyptic incinerator. After all, everyone now -- including the lion-king himself -- has fulfilled Paul's vision of becoming asses and fools for sake of the kingdom (II Cor 11-12).

10 Comments:

Anonymous Jeff Mosley said...

That's fresh all right, and even granting the spoof character I'm offended by it. Please consider that you have faithful readers as well as secular ones, and you crossed a line here. You don't believe it, but Aslan is very real and watching everything you say and do.

12/10/2008  
Blogger Scott Ferguson said...

Oh please, Jeff. Tell me you are not one of those Asladolaters! C.S. Lewis deserves such treatment for his confused series of tales. I give him no better on my blog. Narnia doesn't even rise to the level of pablum. Lewis may have written some good works (I don't consider "Mere Christianity" as being among them) but "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe" has somehow slipped into the Untouchable category. Enough. Let it be cast down below "David Starr, Space Ranger"

To think, the so-called advanced kids in my elementary school read TLTWATW as an assignment.

12/10/2008  
Blogger Loren Rosson III said...

Scott wrote:

Lewis may have written some good works (I don't consider "Mere Christianity" as being among them) but "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe" has somehow slipped into the Untouchable category.

The only work of his I really like is Perelandra (the middle book of his space trilogy). The Narnian books are horrible, but oddly enough the two film adaptations by Adamson have been pretty enjoyable.

And Jeff, I'll be sure to watch out for that lion-king, since (you assure me) he's keeping a stern eye on me.

12/10/2008  
Blogger Andrew Criddle said...

Aravis is not being punished by Aslan for deliberate cruelty to a slave. Aravis' escape resulted in the slave getting blamed and whipped. Aravis knew this or worse might happen but was not bothered, regarding it as just one of the eggs that needed to be broken to make her omelette. Aslan is taking drastic steps to make her more conscious of the costs to minor characters of her schemes.

I don't myself find this particularly problematic. What I do find really objectionable is the way in which our heroes beat up the other kids at the dodgy school at the end of The Silver Chair

12/13/2008  
Blogger Loren Rosson III said...

That's interesting, Andrew. Of course, I'm not bothered by Aslan's behavior nearly as much I pretend in this spoof. (The callous side of me thinks Aravis got what she deserved.)

But reflecting more seriously -- your ease with Aslan's wrath, but not the kids', puts me in mind of the way most interpreters (including Matthew) have rationalized the parable of the The Unmerciful Servant. Putting the question another way, if it had been Shasta raking a blade down Aravis' back instead of Aslan (but for the same reason), would you still find it unproblematic?

12/13/2008  
Blogger Andrew Criddle said...

I think one has more confidence in Aslan's wisdom and benevolence than in that of other agents. (This is not only on general principles. There is evidence in the text that Aslan is harsh with Jarvis out of a real concern to make her more aware of the consequences of her actions. There is no indication that the bullies beaten up at the end of The Silver Chair are reformed by this or of any concern whether they are reformed or not.)

12/14/2008  
Blogger Ben C. Smith said...

Hi, Loren. You wrote:

1. I remember being stunned as a kid when he mauled Aravis, raking his claws down her poor back, for her past treatment of a slave. Matching cruelty, "an eye for an eye", wasn't exactly my idea of enlightened thinking even when I was young and ignorant.

2. He allows Jadis (the future White Witch) to escape after assaulting him -- and thus to achieve immortality by eating the forbidden fruit, whilst at the same time tempting Digory to do the same -- instead of just killing the bitch as she richly deserves and sparing future Narnians a lot of misery.

Why does Jadis deserve to be killed (not incapacitated, not reformed, not kept out of the way, but killed), while Aravis does not deserve to be clawed?

Ben.

12/18/2008  
Blogger Loren Rosson III said...

Ben asked:

Why does Jadis deserve to be killed (not incapacitated, not reformed, not kept out of the way, but killed), while Aravis does not deserve to be clawed?

Because we/the reader/Aslan know that she's unreformable and otherwise unstoppable -- "evil" with a capital E, the serpent/devil analogue. She's not remotely comparable to Aravis.

12/18/2008  
Blogger Kingsdawter said...

Loren, do you profess to be a Christian? I mean as in the genuine sense of the word.

12/28/2008  
Blogger Loren Rosson III said...

I'm not Christian, but despite the snarky spoof I'm Christian-friendly. I just can't resist poking fun at C.S. Lewis.

I do admire Lewis' Perelandra book, however, and blogged a series on it starting here. You may find that more palatable.

12/28/2008  

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