THE LION, THE WITCH AND THE WARDROBE: A Theological Interpretation
A great deal of what can be known of Lewis’s views of Hell from Narnia will be glimpsed in its evil characters. The most famous and instructive of these is Jadis, the White Witch, the antagonist to Aslan. Let’s look at a few points of contrast. Aslan serves all; Jadis uses all. Aslan lays down his life for the sinful; Jadis preys on the lives of others. Aslan brings worlds into being; Jadis destroys them. Aslan makes heavenly and life-giving music; like Screwtape and Milton’s Satan, Jadis hates music and loves noise. Aslan judges, but he rules by love; Jadis is judgmental and rules by fear. Aslan (and representations of the Trinity) is the only original thing that exists and is the originator of all things. Jadis as a derivative being herself can only counterfeit what Aslan has made good. Evil is a false good, a parasite that could not survive if the good were removed. Jadis makes her appearance larger than life, arrayed in mocking white that parodies purity and at the same time shows her bloodlessness, the whiteness symbolizing death and her lack of humanity. She is powerful, but she uses it for domination, as in turning all who oppose her into stone. She relishes evil and the destruction or embarrassment of the good, as when she destroys Charn—people, plants, and planet—rather than let her sister have it. Though vain to try, she attempts to injure Aslan, first crudely with the rod of iron, later by manipulation of his sinful but beloved creatures. Jadis dupes Edmund, kills Aslan, and plans by deceit to conquer all Narnia. We meet her first as a usurping ruler of Narnia, making it always winter but never Christmas, which is the chief consolation of winter and celebration of the life-giving Christ (Aslan). Jadis’s followers are cruel and grotesque, delighting in evil, laughing at and spitting on the bound and condemned Aslan, as Jesus’ murderous mockers did when he walked the Via Dolorosa and hung on the cross. Jadis is even the incarnation herself (or perhaps the sister) of the evil queen in The Silver Chair, which makes her the presiding evil presence in Narnia until the coming of the Antichrist in Shift the Ape. Clearly, she is the Satan-figure in Narnia as Aslan is the Christ-figure. If we want a clue to the nature of Hell, we can do no better than to remember that it was created for Satan and the rebellious angels who followed him. Those who follow Satan (Jadis)—that is, choose something other than Christ (Aslan)—will be consigned to this unnatural place, never designed for humanity. In Lewis’s view, it is not humans who go to Hell but grotesque beings, formerly human, who have lost the capacity to respond to God and be transformed by him, and who have become the sin they chose. With his array of evil characters in the Narnian Chronicles, Lewis helps us to imaginatively break free of the myth, usually offered up with salty humor, that all the interesting people will be in Hell. After reading about the deceptive, self-centered, cruel Jadis and her crowd, no one thinks that any place with them would offer hearty fellowship. Jadis’s favorite trick is turning Aslan’s followers into stone. Not only does this oppose Aslan’s action of breathing into them the breath of life, but it also symbolizes the condition of those ultimately in Hell: frozen in the confines of their self-chosen sin. The secondary evil figures who follow her are an equally gruesome lot that include the wolves who act as her secret police and are as vicious as the hit men in a Hitleresque police state. Then there are those she calls “our people” in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe:“Call out the giants and the werewolves and the spirits of those trees who are on our side. Call the Ghouls, and the Boggles, the Ogres and the Minotaurs. Call the Cruels, the Hags, the Spectres, and the people of the Toadstools.”All things fearful, savage, bloodthirsty, and grotesque. They, too, lack humanity and goodness. They love evil and encourage those who do it. And when they are not hating goodness, they hate each other.