Movie Scenes that Moved Me: The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
This is the first in a series of some of the movies and scenes from them that have impacted my life and which the Holy Spirit has used to show me things I needed to know and to mold me into the image of Christ. These, then, are not movie reviews in the traditional sense but reviews of how they have been used by God for his good purposes in me. It is my prayer that reading them will do the same for others.
Before I begin, may I say that I have only respect for those brothers and sisters of mine in the Lord who choose not to watch movies at all. I ask the same from any such who read this. For time after time, the Holy Spirit has used this avenue to reach me in a way that perhaps no other could. For this I am extremely grateful and I want to share with you some of what he has shown me through this way of teaching me. The movies span many years and are posted in no particular order of importance or significance.
While watching the first Narnia film (Disney version), “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe” (LWW), I strongly sensed the presence of the Lord and his Spirit, as he opened my heart and spirit to take in what he was saying through what I was seeing. I identified very strongly with this movie for a number of reasons. I was born at the end of World War 2, which forms the backdrop for the story. I lived at my grandparents house for the first few years of my life because my father was away overseas, fighting in the war, just as for the Pevensie children. Perhaps that is one reason I so loved the scenes where the children are in the professor’s huge house in the countryside. They are safe there, far away from the war. Or are they?
For there is another war going on of which they are unaware, the spiritual war. At first, at their arrival at the professor’s country estate, they are unacquainted with this war, as everything seems quiet and passive–too much so for the children: They are bored at having to stay inside because of the rain outside. So they play a game of hide and seek–and thus begins the adventure, in a children’s game that introduces them to a wide and hidden world that they did not even know existed. They are seeking adventure and will find hidden within a wardrobe far more than they ever thought possible.
“I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Mt. 18:3 NIV).
“No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Cor. 2:9 NIV).
Lucy Pevensie is the first in her family to see and hear and enter into Narnia. But on her return from there, the others don’t believe her. “Who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?” (Jn. 12:38 NIV).
When the wardrobe is examined carefully, no door into another world is found; it is closed even to Lucy at that moment. This causes even Lucy to doubt if her experience had been real. Later that night in bed, she cannot sleep. She has to know. So she gets out of bed and goes back to the wardrobe. As her hand reaches up for the doorknob, she hesitates. What if it all was a dream? But her desire for truth wins out over her doubts–and she opens the door.
As the door opens, a whisper of wind drifts out from Narnia and blows out the candle she holds, and a smile brightens her face. Though she has not yet seen Narnia again, she knows it awaits her for she has felt the whisper of its breeze upon her face and has seen it blow out the candle’s flame. And so she enters through the doorway into that other world with confidence, not yet seeing Narnia but knowing that it awaits her at the other end of the tunnel.
Our own world is full of people wanting our money and even our souls. They shout at us constantly in the din of this world’s marketplace, whether it be commercial or religious. Like Lucy, we need to learn to pay attention to the whispers of God instead of to the shouting of fools. This principle applies to every area of life. Lucy heard the whisper of the spirit of Narnia; while watching her, I heard the whisper of the Spirit say, “Watch and learn.”
Whatever the faults of this human endeavor, I indeed heard God whisper to me in my spirit throughout this film, just as I have heard him speak to me in other areas where humans try to deal with deep subjects of life and reality and God. Though these efforts may fail in some ways because they involve subjects too deep for any human attempt to fathom, yet they are not a total failure and those who reject such attempts because they may not plunge into the depths of the ocean in a way they deem successful, they are the poorer for not therefore enjoying some wading on the beach.
“And these are but the outer fringe of his works; how faint the whisper we hear of him! Who then can understand the thunder of his power?” (Job 26:14 NIV).
We are told in Scripture to be discerning, to take the good and reject the bad: “Test everything; hold fast what is good, abstain from every form of evil” (1 Ths. 5:21,22).
I have tested this film and, despite the objections or misunderstandings of some Christians about certain aspects of it, I still find much to recommend and cannot let what I consider to be good to be spoken evil of (Rom. 14:16). Therefore, I ask you to allow me to share some more of what the Spirit whispered to me as I watched it, for there were times when I was simply overwhelmed by the Spirit’s presence as he showed me things of the Spirit of God there in the scenes before my eyes. I cried many times as I felt the Lord’s presence and I am the richer for having watched this film and desire that others may also benefit from some of what his Spirit communicated to me.
I recall reading an account of a sister in the Lord who had enjoyed the simple pleasure of watching a beautiful sunset, and who afterwards heard the Lord say to her, “Yes, I enjoyed watching that with you.”
When we belong to the Lord, all that we do is done in his presence, whether it be watching a sunset or a movie, and that makes all the difference as to what we will see in what we see. For while our eyes can see the surface things, only the Lord can reveal to us the deeper things that lie beneath–and whisper their deeper nature to us in our spirit. Here then are some more of what I heard of those whispers from Narnia.
LINKS BETWEEN WORLDS WHISPER
There are two worlds, two universes, that exist: the physical, visible world and the spiritual, invisible world. They exist side by side, and normally those in the material, visible world cannot see or cross over into the immaterial or invisible world. But there are links between the two. Every time a believer prays, for instance, a bridge is established between the two worlds, through which the one living in our physical world can travel in spirit to that unseen world. The opposite can also take place. At any time, whenever he so desires, the Lord of the spiritual kingdom can open up a door to that invisible realm and allow those chosen by him in the physical world to cross over and enter that formerly unseen realm. Many such instances are recorded in the Bible, such as Elijah and the chariots of God (2 Kgs. 2:11,12), Paul’s vision of heaven (2 Cor. 12:2-4), and Stephen’s vision (Acts 7:55). Such links are always at the Lord’s discretion, not ours.
So it is that we see from LWW that the first such link took place in the wardrobe, totally unsought by Lucy. One moment she was simply playing a game of hide and seek, and the next moment something that was hidden and unsought suddenly became visible to her: A link from her world appeared unbidden to escort her into that other world. She had nothing to do with the appearance of that link–or its later disappearance. For she was disappointed to find upon her return from Narnia that the link no longer existed, and her brothers and sisters could not help but think she had imagined the whole thing. Upon examination of the wardrobe, no such opening into another world existed as Lucy had insisted.
Here, then, is a whisper from Narnia. For who of us in this world who believe in Jesus can explain to someone who has not experienced what we have–this transformation from living solely in a material world we can see to living in the broader, deeper unseen world of the invisible God and his angels–that this world really exists and that we have been there and, in fact, it is right here amongst us (Luke 17:21), even in the ordinary things of this world, like human beings and their wardrobes? They do not believe our report (Is. 53:1), just as Lucy’s siblings did not believe hers. Upon examination, it is but an ordinary wardrobe.
But it is ordinary only in appearance, on the outside; inside, something extraordinary takes place: It transports those who pass through its door not only into another world but into a new dimension of existence. Therefore, a new way of seeing is required to see things as they really are.
“So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” (2 Cor. 5:16,17).
The new has come, but not everyone knows this or sees it. It is something a person has to experience for himself or herself in order to appreciate it fully. So it is that Lucy must wait until a further opportunity for the link to re-establish itself so that she can return to Narnia and prove its existence to herself, as well as to her brothers and sisters.
That opportunity came that very night. I love the scene that shows Lucy lying awake in her bed because she cannot get over what she has seen in this other world. Her older sister Susan, however, is sound asleep next to her because she has not witnessed this amazing other world. I also like how, when Susan makes a slight stir, Lucy quickly pretends to be asleep as well. How like us all! Sometimes, especially at the start of our acquaintance with the other world, the spiritual world, we too may not want to be seen as contemplating that grander world.
And contemplating it Lucy is. Lying in bed, she cannot sleep, for the memory of Narnia remains in her head. She stares at the candle until she can wait no longer. She wraps herself in her robe, takes that candle, and goes back to the wardrobe to see if it all really was just a dream or if it is real.
After another adventure in Narnia, Lucy returns once more to her normal world but is too excited to return to bed. How can one sleep in the darkness after being in that other, bright world? So she runs into Peter’s room and turns on the light in his room as well, excitedly waking him up to share her experience with him again, only to be met with the same response as before: As Susan enters the room, she tells Lucy, “You’ve been dreaming.” But Peter is at least willing to listen to her try to convince them. He asks Edmund, whom Lucy claims also went there, “You saw the faun?”
And it is just here that we see a sad truth about any link between the worlds: that the link in itself cannot automatically accomplish its full purpose of transferring people from one world to another. It must have the acceptance and cooperation–the willingness–of those who would cross over. Nor is that all that is required. For Edmund had indeed voluntarily crossed over, but he was unwilling to admit it in the face of others who had not, for fear that they would ridicule him and for fear that he would have to admit that he had been wrong before, when he had joined the others in disbelieving Lucy. He is not the first to have this reaction to being confronted with the truth of the other world.
“Yet at the same time many even among the leaders believed in him. But because of the Pharisees they would not confess their faith for fear they would be put out of the synagogue; for they loved praise from men more than praise from God” (Jn. 5:42,43).
Narnia and the kingdom of God may whisper in the ears of all, but not all respond to that whisper.
So, twice a link has been furnished for the Pevensie children to cross over into Narnia. The first time there was but one child; the second, that number increased twofold, to Lucy and Edmund. Now it will double again, for the next time the link appears, all four children will enter into Narnia. And again, it is not at the children’s behest that this link appears, for they run into the wardrobe not seeking a way to another world but to escape judgment and punishment in this one, for having accidentally broken a window. But the link does appear, solely at the discretion of the Ruler of Narnia. He knows when the link is needed and he provides it at the proper time. However, none of the children are prepared for the wardrobe to be an entrance into Narnia at this time, for their focus is on what is happening in their world.
“Just as it was in the days of Noah, so also will it be in the days of the Son of Man. People were eating, drinking, marrying and being given in marriage up to the day Noah entered the ark. Then the flood came and destroyed them all” (Lk. 17:26,27).
Jesus is the ark of God. He is the one way (Jn. 14:6) that God has provided for us to escape the coming flood of God’s wrath upon this world. The wardrobe is an ark of wood for the children, though they are not prepared for all that it means to enter into that ark, just as most people do not fully realize what it means to believe in Jesus until after they have entered into him through faith. It is only afterwards that they grow in that faith, day by day.
Susan epitomizes this experience, for she is the logical one, the one who relies on reasoning and logic to explain every situation she encounters. But the first time she enters Narnia through the wardrobe she suddenly comes face to face with a situation for which logic cannot furnish a reasonable cause. One moment she is in her familiar, ordinary world, and the next she is suddenly in the unfamiliar, extraordinary world of Narnia. What is a logical mind to do when confronted with a seemingly incomprehensible situation? It must react in the only way it knows to react when faced with that which it cannot explain. Susan looks out at the incredible world of Narnia that somehow manages to exist within the wardrobe and says the one word, the only word, that she can: “Impossible!”
A moment earlier Susan had been in her tiny little world and now. . . . This is similar to when we accept Christ: Before, our familiar world was all we knew and if we are honest and admit it, we ourselves were the main focus in that world. But now, with Christ . . . there is all of infinity and the God of no limits and love beyond comprehension, and so many other things. Impossible! But it is true nonetheless.
Susan said it at the start of their journey. At the end, it is the witch’s turn. After she had killed Aslan the Lion, he turns up very much alive at the battle at the end. When she hears him roar and sees him, she can say only one thing: “Impossible!” Is that not what God’s plan of salvation is about, doing what is impossible?
But what is impossible with man is possible with God (Mk. 10:27). Both the witch and Susan make a telling statement that reveals their true selves. Susan is so solidly entrenched in living her life based on logic and the mind and all the usual human ways of doing things that she cannot bring herself to accept that there might be another and better way of living. Fear suddenly sweeps over her at the possibility of having to step out in a new direction into unknown territory, and after only her first few steps out of the wardrobe into Narnia, she says, “Maybe we should go back.”
Susan is not alone in fear of the unknown, fear of leaving comfortable old ways of living, even if those ways include a horrendous war going on that threatens to kill her and all she holds dear. Better the known and familiar than the unknown and unfamiliar. She wants to go back. Others have heard such whispers–but they are not from God:
” We remember the fish we ate in Egypt at no cost–also the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic. But now we have lost our appetite; we never see anything but this manna!” (Num. 11:5,6).
Like the Israelites of old, who had just been set free from slavery in Egypt, Susan wants to return to her old and familiar ways, even though that includes returning to a world torn by war and that threatens her very existence. She has no appetite for this new world with its unknowns. Whether the rallying cry is “Back to Egypt!” or “Back to England!”, it speaks to the basic fear in all of us at encountering the unknown.
Susan needs to have her fear replaced by faith; otherwise, the consequences for not doing so are most severe:
“But my righteous one will live by faith. And if he shrinks back, I will not be pleased with him. But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who believe and are saved” (Heb. 10:38,39).
But there is yet another danger as well. For sometimes, this looking back is not out of fear of what may lie ahead but of longing for what was left behind. While the goodness and promise of Narnia may whisper to beckon us forward, there are also whispers that beckon backward, to our own destruction. Lot’s wife epitomizes what happens when the wrong choice is made as to which whisper to listen to (Gen. 19:26). Jesus himself said that “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God” (Lk. 9:62). Not only must we pay no heed to the shouts of fools, we must be careful which whispers we listen to: those of Narnia, representing God’s kingdom, or of the world.
Peter must make a decision when faced with which way the children should go upon their first entry into Narnia from the wardrobe. Susan wants to go back, but Edmund wants to look around, even if for the wrong reasons. To whom should he listen? Peter is the eldest and all the children always look to him for leadership and decisions–and Peter here makes a wise choice, for, recognizing that he himself has no firsthand knowledge of Narnia, he humbles himself and lets someone who does have such knowledge make the decision.
“All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows who the Son is except the Father, and no one knows who the Father is except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him” (Lk. 10:22).
Many people of many religions claim to know what God is like, but Jesus boldly declares that in truth only he is the One who can make the Father known to us. The wise person listens to him, even as God himself has commanded us to do (Mt. 17:5).
Thus Peter is wise to follow this principle and he lets the only one (as far as he then knows) who has been to Narnia make the decision. At this, Lucy brightens up because she wants them all to meet Mr. Tumnus. While Susan is afraid because she has yet to experience any of the good of Narnia, Lucy can calm her fears because she has. Mr. Tumnus is good and she need have no fear of going at least that far, to meet him. So it is that they all set off on their first journey as a family into Narnia. The link has done its job. Now it is up to the Pevensie children to do theirs, to fulfill their prophetic roles in Narnia. But that is another whisper from Narnia.
PROPHETIC WHISPERS from NARNIA
The first the Pevensie children hear of the prophecy concerning themselves is at the Beaver’s hut. Mister Beaver is astounded and chagrined that they have never heard of this prophecy before; after all, it is all about them! But once Mrs. Beaver tells them what that prophecy is, it is the children’s’ turn to be astounded. They are supposed to save Narnia! Or, as Peter puts it with such astonished tone: “And you think we’re the ones?”
They are indeed. There was another man who had trouble believing that he should be the one to deliver an entire people from slavery. His name was Moses. yet another had the name of Gideon. Both had severe doubts about their qualifications for the job. Or, as the old joke goes about Moses’ reply to the Lord’s command to send him to deliver his people from slavery in Egypt: “Here I am, Lord. Send Aaron.” However, divine destiny cannot be so easily turned aside, ” for God’s gifts and his call are irrevocable” (Rom. 11:29).
Nevertheless, that does not mean that all who are called to such a high destiny accept that call easily. There was one who sought to run away from God’s prophetic call upon his life by the name of Jonah. Peter also sought to avoid the prophetic call upon his life and that of his brother and sisters. He arose from the Beavers’ table and said, “I’m sorry, but I’m afraid it’s time the four of us were getting home.” The trouble was, there were now not four but only three of them around that table; Edmund had already disappeared, seeking a different destiny for himself than that to which the Narnian prophecy had committed him. That disappearance forces Peter and his two sisters to begin fulfilling their calling and destiny whether they want to or not, for they cannot return home through the wardrobe without their brother; they now must rescue Edmund from the witch, and to do that they need Aslan’s help.
Ah, yes, things are working out to channel them into their destiny after all. And yet it is not like they are helpless victims of fate, for Edmund freely chose to abandon them, and they have freely chosen not to abandon him–and it is all working towards the fulfillment of destiny for all of them, so that Narnia itself will no longer be abandoned to the witch’s power. So it is that Narnia whispers to us that when we seek the benefit of the Kingdom of God first, many shall benefit; the circle of blessing from a single pebble thrown into water keeps expanding over the pond of prophecy until it reaches the far shore.
But even if one rebels against such prophecy, somehow it manages to come to fulfillment anyway. The witch may want to stop the prophecy from coming true by using Edmund as bait to capture the other children and then kill them, as Beaver so startlingly tells the children, but by her very actions the witch actually ensures that the prophecy will come true. For if she had not imprisoned Edmund, the children would have returned to their own world and left her alone. Now they will not rest until Edmund is free, and that means that they must indeed battle the witch–just as the prophecy foretold. Even evil, operating under its own free will, cannot stop what has been prophesied from happening.
“The Lord works out everything for his own ends–even the wicked for a day of disaster” (Prov. 16:4).
This matter of prophecy and destiny is very deep and often is misinterpreted by nonbelievers and Christians alike. Never does the fact that the Bible makes predictions or prophecies ever nullify the awesome fact that human beings have free will. Free will and destiny, though sometimes seemingly contradictory to each other, can and do co-exist in our world, and is so portrayed in Narnia as a reflection of our world, but only because One who has infinite knowledge and wisdom has the power to enable both to exist without either interfering with each other or being untrue to their essence and meaning.
One of the deepest scenes in LWW occurs when Aslan is speaking privately with Peter, in Aslan’s camp, as they both look out over the landscape to the castle Cair Paravel in the distance. Aslan tells Peter that one day he will sit on one of four thrones there, as high king–another prophecy. When Peter hangs his head at this because he feels unworthy of such an honor, Aslan asks him, “You doubt the prophecy?” and Peter replies, “No. That’s just it.” Peter’s problem is not that he doubts the prophecy but that he believes it–and that prophecy says that he will rule from that throne, something he obviously does not feel qualified to do, just as he knows that he first must do battle with the white witch, something for which he also does not feel ready.
Aslan then tries to bolster Peter’s faith and to expand his vision of reality by mentioning that the Deep Magic that determines all their destinies includes his–Aslan’s–own as well. If even the ruler of all of Narnia is subject to destiny’s power, then surely Peter can rest easy that all will be well.
Now, some may object to Aslan’s words about even he himself being subject to this power of destiny. Since Aslan clearly represents Jesus in the film, isn’t that lowering the status of God and putting him beneath something higher, the force of destiny? Not at all, when rightly understood. For the Bible itself speaks of this deep and mysterious thing we call destiny and it does so in such a way that we see that it does not exert a force stronger than God himself, nor is it higher than God but subservient to him, that God created this thing we call destiny and he created it to serve his purposes. Destiny, like everything else, is a servant to its Creator. A look at a some Bible passages helps clarify all this.
When Jesus was in the Garden of Gethsemane, facing his opponents who had come to arrest him, Peter drew a sword to defend him. But Jesus rebuked him, citing a higher purpose, or destiny, than that which governed what Peter wanted to take place. He said to Peter:
“Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels? But how then would the Scriptures be fulfilled that say it must happen in this way?” (Mt. 26:53,54).
That is destiny, but it is not a destiny that overwhelms the Son of God, whether he wants it to or not, but a destiny to which that Son of God has voluntarily submitted himself, out of his great love for the Father and his purposes.
The Bible says of Jesus that he was destined or chosen
“before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake” (1 Ptr. 1:20). God chose his Son to be the one and only Savior of the world before he created that world.
That is destiny.
It may sound like the Son had no choice, but that is not what Scripture says, for elsewhere it quotes Jesus as saying of the sacrifice of his life for the world that “no one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father” (Jn. 10:18).
That is free will.
The Son so loves the Father that he freely offers to be that willing sacrifice for the whole world. Thus destiny and free will combine to produce that which the Father desires. Only in the sense that the Son voluntarily submits himself in love to the Father and to the destiny that the Father has chosen for him is it true that destiny governs the Son.
We also have a choice about our destiny. God has a good destiny, fashioned out of love, for all that he has created. But he does not force that destiny upon us. We have the incredible gift of free will to accept or deny this destiny. This amazing power to choose is hinted at in Aslan’s words to Peter as they stare out over the landscape to far away Cair Paravel. When Peter balks at the cost of fulfilling the destiny thrust upon him, Aslan says quietly but firmly to him, “I ask you to consider what I ask of you.” That is all that God asks of us as well. We are asked to consider the cost of accepting the destiny God has for us, but also to consider the consequences of not accepting it. Cost and consequences. We can indeed refuse to pay the cost for accepting our destiny in Christ, but only to incur a far greater cost: even our very soul:
“What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?” (Mk. 8:36).
Yet some do reject the good destiny that God wants them to have, even though it costs them their very soul.
“The Pharisees and experts in the law rejected God’s purpose for themselves, because they had not been baptized by John” (Lk. 7:30).
However, some, after considering the cost, deem Jesus to be more valuable even than their very soul and life, and surrender that soul and life to him.
“I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ” (Ph. 3:8).
The seeming paradox facing us, then, is that to save our soul, we must lose it, surrender it to the only One who can save it. For if we cling to it and refuse this destiny, we shall indeed lose our very soul. But if we give it up to Jesus, he will save it for all eternity.
It is too bad that a word like magic must be used in this film, as it has a bad connotation in culture, and rightly so. Yet there is a place for the proper use of this word when speaking of the things of God in a film such as this. We need to remember that words often have more than one meaning. A dictionary I consulted lists the first meaning of the word magic as being associated with sorcery. This would be a wrong meaning of the word in this particular moment in the film. But the second meaning is simply the use of supernatural powers. Certainly that meaning fits this moment, for supernatural powers are at work here, just as in real life regarding the invisible war between God and Satan and good and evil.
In fact, while, of necessity, the Narnia films make use of the occult type of magic, as evidenced by the white witch, it also contains the other meaning of the word, reserved for instances where the supernatural power of God or Aslan is meant. And it is deep–too deep for the limited human mind to comprehend fully, but still able to whisper enough of its essence into our ears so that we tremble at the love and humility that the Son has that he would do this, first out of love for his Father and then out of love for us.
Aslan says that the Deep Magic governs him but that is only because, as we see later in the film, that, like Jesus, he is willing to lay down his life of his own free will to obtain the release of Edmund and then for all of those in Narnia. The true governing force in Aslan’s life is not destiny but love; that is the very essence of who he is. Destiny simply flows out from that love and then governs the actions of those caught up in that great love. Destiny is subservient to love and the God who is love, Jesus, rather than the other way around. Destiny flows out from the One who is its source. He who is the Supreme God of all that is also reigns supreme over destiny.
So it is that LWW whispers to us of very deep things, deep things like destiny and prophecy and free will. And just as in real life, we see in Narnia the playing out of these deep things without, perhaps, always being conscious of their presence and the connections between them. But whether we are aware of them or are able to understand them or not, we are able to see these deep things at work in the images of this film. And for that I am thankful to God, for as is his wont, he has used common things like scenes in a movie to whisper to me of deep things in my spirit. That is exactly how the Spirit works in those who submit to their destiny as children of God:
“God has revealed it to us by his Spirit. The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God” (1 Cor. 2:10).
FAMILY WHISPERS from NARNIA
One of the major virtues of LWW is its emphasis on family. All through the film we see how the Pevensie children stick up for one another and take care of one another. Mention has already been made how, even though Edmund temporarily rejects the bond of family between himself and his siblings, they continue to honor that bond to retrieve him back to safety in the family circle, even at the risk of their own lives.
This stress point of Edmund’s rebellious streak is seen from the very first of the film, where he resents Peter’s dominance over him, even when it means saving Edmund from the bombs exploding near their house under attack by the enemy bombers. Another example of his occurs later when Edmund makes a point of putting up his own grip on the train’s rack instead of having Peter do it for him. Edmund feels squelched by his big brother and that animosity eventually leads to his fateful betrayal of the children to the witch and to his own downfall.
Some children–and adults–do seem to have such a strong pull towards independence that they do have trouble submitting to parents or siblings, and the family tie is tested to the breaking point. This extreme individualism is often difficult for the rest in the family to understand, for they are more secure in their roles and relationships and have no need for such drastic actions as Edmund displayed by running back into the house against his mother’s wishes simply to retrieve a picture of his father. Peter is greatly upset at this foolish behavior and says so to Edmund: “Why can’t you just do what you’re told?” He totally does not understand. But later, in Aslan’s Camp, Peter admits that he partly to blame for Edmund’s rebellion. He says to Aslan, “I was too hard on him.” But then Susan jumps in to stick up for Peter, saying, “We all were.” They are family. They are not a perfect family, but they are held together by a bond that is stronger than that which attacks that bond.
Another scene that emphasizes this family bond takes place in the professor’s study, when Peter and Susan relate to the professor why Lucy is upset over the differences of views regarding the existence of Narnia through the link of the wardrobe. After being astonished that the professor believes Lucy’s view and not theirs, Peter says to the professor, “You’re saying that we should just believe her?” And the professor replies, “She’s your sister, isn’t she? You’re a family. You might just try acting like one.”
Well, they do. All through the story, we see little glimpses of just how much of a real family these four children are. We see it when, their first night in the professor’s mansion in the country, Susan turns off the radio because she feels the need to address Lucy’s obvious discouragement and loneliness in the new environment. We see it in Peter’s constant care of the other children, constantly taking Lucy’s hand to reassure her in their travels in Narnia, and the many times in which we see Susan putting an arm around Lucy to reassure her.
Poor Peter. He tries so hard to be the man of the house while his father is gone–so much so that, in one scene, Edmund rebels against his zealous attempts at this, shouting at him, “You think you’re Dad, but your not!” and then stomps out of the room. But, despite such lapses, Peter really does work hard at bearing the responsibility placed on his young shoulders and generally does an admirable job. I especially like the moment when they are crossing the frozen river that is breaking up beneath their feet, just below the waterfall, and the wolves of the witch are in hot pursuit of them, and it is all around a dangerous situation. Then, in the midst of all this danger, Susan succumbs to fear, again, and to a longing to be back home, safe and sound–emotions which no doubt Peter was also feeling but to which he is determined not to give in, but to see his sisters safely across the river and out of danger. In the middle of the river Susan untactfully says, “If Mum could see us now . . .” That is not what Peter needs to hear just then. He is trying his hardest to handle a situation of many dangers that would tax the will and emotions of a mature adult and, feeling his own inadequacy, he responds in irritation back to Susan, “Mum’s not here!”
Family does not just happen. It is not blood alone that determines family but the efforts of those involved to want to make a family out of whatever is available. Sometimes what is available is not much, but you make do with what you have rather than wish for that which is unavailable to you.
But my favorite scene that reflects the deep sense of family that the Pevensies display is that first, rainy day in the professor’s house in the country. They are all bored and trying to deal with a new environment away from their mother and not making much headway until Lucy decides she can take no more and begs Peter, as the head of that family in the absence now of both father and mother, to play hide and seek.
How wonderful the gift God has given to us of little children! One moment they are all bored to distraction, and the next, after the energetic pleading of a small child, even the older children find themselves actually enjoying a children’s game, not knowing that it will soon lead to even more exciting adventures via the wardrobe’s hidden link to Narnia.
Another reason this is one of my favorite scenes in the movie is because it brings back memories of similar moments in my own life. As I said earlier, I was born at the end of that great war which forms the backdrop for this movie, World War Two, and I remember as a child putting together jigsaw puzzles with my grandmother of some of the planes used in that war, planes such as the P-38 and the B-17 and B-24 bombers. My father, like the Pevensie’s father, served in that war and was, in fact away in that war when I was born, so I stayed with my mother at my grandparents’ house for the first years of my life, which was not all that unusual at that time because of the war. Thus my first family was of many aunts and uncles and my grandparents and my mother, but not my father. But it was still a family that stuck together and loved one another. The Pevensie children was such a family as well.
Peter expresses the strong bond of family well when he converses with Aslan from the overlook of the camp. For when Aslan says to Peter that he did well to bring his family to him, Peter says with sadness, “Not all of them.” Even if Edmund is in rebellion and has betrayed that family, that family tie still holds Peter’s heart to Edmund. He cannot let him go even after all Edmund has done to them. Or as Lucy so simply put it to Aslan, “Sir, he’s our brother.”
What a wonderful heart’s desire to belong to a family like that. And that is exactly what the Bible describes as the family of God to which all who believe in Jesus do belong. For he is described there as our brother who does not turn his back on us, even after we have turned our back on him:
“Both the one who makes men holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers” (Heb. 2:11).
Amazing, that Jesus is not ashamed to be called our brother, he in his holiness, we in our shameful sin. But that is the truth. We are God’s children: “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” (1 Jn. 3:1).
God has a deep affection for family, so much so that one goal of Jesus’ life on earth was to provide children for our heavenly Father. This film reflects the high value God places on family.
Though LWW could be seen as a simple children’s film, in reality there are many deep themes and scenes throughout the film. One of the deepest occurs in the scene from Aslan’s Camp, when Aslan has freed Edmund from the witch’s grasp, only to have the witch come into the camp demanding Edmund’s blood because he is a traitor, as is her legitimate right to demand. Aslan takes the queen into his tent and after she leaves, she thinks she has bargained a great deal. But no one outside knows this. All they know is that when the two emerge, and the queen leaves, Aslan announces that she has renounced her claim on the traitor Edmond. Of course she has. He is small fry. What she really wants is the death of Aslan himself. She is willing to release the boy Edmund and let him go if she can thus obtain the death of Aslan himself.
But no one else knows this, that Aslan has promised to take Edmund’s place in the legal contract and to die in his place. No one knows this; they just all rejoice and shout with happiness that their lost brother is no longer to be killed.
No one knows . . . but then there is that silent moment when smiling and happy little Lucy has a serious look suddenly steal across her face because she looks at Aslan and sees the deep sorrow on his face and she senses that something far deeper has just taken place than she or any of the others realize. That fleeting moment of two spirits meeting and sensing and communicating beyond ordinary words is a communication of spirit to spirit. Lucy looks at Aslan and he at her, and though she may not understand, she knows that something much deeper is occurring right then–and it is something very tragic and costly to Aslan–and to her, because she loves Aslan. She senses that Aslan has just done something beyond all human comprehension (at least hers, and she represents all of us)–and the depth of this as-yet unknown sacrifice hurts her as well.
“Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls; all your waves and breakers have swept over me” (Psalm 42:7).
I love the way the scene just shows on the face of Aslan the deep sorrow and sober realization he feels right then, because he is fully aware of what it is going to cost him to free the boy. He hangs his head in full realization of what his love for Edmund and the others will cost him. Only those who truly love know how costly love is.
I love how the film show Aslan emerging from the tent when the witch departs. Everyone backs away in fear from her as she leaves. Then Aslan stops and stares for a long moment directly at Edmund. This is what the film is all about. There are no words, only silence. But the love in Aslan’s heart for one person condemned to die is captured in that one look. Edmund looks back at Aslan, full of fear and despair. Is he to be returned to the witch, to face death for his rebellion? His entire fate hangs in the balance of whatever Aslan is about to say, and he knows this full well.
When I watch that moment again each time I play the movie, I cry–for I am Edmund. I see in Aslan’s long, penetrating stare my Lord Jesus, staring deep into my heart and knowing what I am really like and yet still going ahead with his plan to take my place of punishment for who I am. And I cry and thank Jesus from my heart for what he did for me and for all of us on the cross. He knew the cost of what he was going to have to do to secure our release from death–and yet he did it anyway. On the cross, he was abandoned by God, the very Father he loved so much. The pain of the cross is beyond our comprehension, just as little Lucy could not fathom what it was going to cost Aslan to fulfill his promise to the wicked queen for the release of Edmund.
This moment also harks back to an earlier moment, when the children first met Aslan at his tent. When told that Edmund had been captured by the queen, Aslan promises to do what he can to free him, but he then quietly adds, “This may be more difficult than you think.” I have found that this is typical of how God speaks in his Word. Often, he will say a very deep and profound thing there, but will not shout it out to draw attention to its deep nature. He simply and quietly says the truth and leaves it to his Holy Spirit to arouse an awareness in any reader whose spirit is in tune with His (Heb 4:12). More difficult than they think to get their brother back? That is an understatement worthy of God.
Another deep whisper from Narnia is heard in the scene just before the battle between the witch and her army and the Narnian army. I really like the way the movie has no sound at all as the charge of the final battle comes. Both of these armies are charging towards one another at full tilt, and the fate of all of Narnia hangs in the balance. It is obviously the climax of the whole story and one might think that dramatic, serious music should be playing to call attention to the supreme importance of this moment.
But, no. Wisely, the makers of this realistic portrayal of evil versus good chose to have no sound at all as this climactic moment builds up. This reminds me of Revelation, where Scripture portrays the final moments of this world in a similar battle, and it says that there is silence in heaven for half an hour (Rev 8:1). Why the silence? I believe it is to emphasize the gravity of what is taking place: the end of the world and the final battle and final judgment of all mankind. Sometimes the magnitude of the moment demands silence rather than words. When it is all over, there is no more to be said. And Scripture also says that the kingdom of God does not consist of talk but of power (1 Cor 4:20).
“Silence is praise to the, O God, in Zion” (Ps. 65:2).
By using silence and a view from very far away which shows the magnitude of the moment and the battle, this technique shouts far louder than if a noisy, calamitous film score were playing just then. The silence communicates the awesome nature of the moment. But then, our entire life is actually such an awesome “moment”. For we are but a moment in eternity, and yet all hangs in the balance of that one moment. Jesus used simple parables and common things of life to illustrate the deep things of God. This is necessary because those deep things are so deep that they are beyond the comprehension of man. Only a wise and good teacher can relate these things beyond understanding to simple things that we can understand and thus ensure that we are able to grasp them. Silence is often not as simple as it first appears.
And so it is with this film. Very deep things are involved in the story of this film and yet through visual images such as those mentioned above those deep things become more comprehensible to us. I do believe that God has brought together all the human elements needed to make this film so that we can relate to him better and have deeper appreciation of the profound nature of our own existence and his. He uses a children’s tale to teach us of him.
“It is written in the Prophets: `They will all be taught by God'” (John 6:45).
“All your sons will be taught by the Lord, and great will be your children’s peace” (Is. 54:13).
When Jesus was 12 years old, his parents found him in the temple, teaching the learned scholars. To teach the things of God, God uses children and the things of children–even a story or film that some view as a children’s story. That is another reason I like that scene near the beginning of the film, where the children are spending their first full day in the countryside at the professor’s mansion. Everything is the same and dull and boring because of the rain outside–until a children’s game of hide and seek unexpectedly opens up a new world to their eyes through the wardrobe’s entrance to Narnia.
Deep things are dealt with in this film. Despite whatever negative connotations might be involved with the word magic, it is fitting and proper that C.S. Lewis should use the phrase Deep Magic to represent the subject matter of this film. For deep things of God are truly dealt with here and I am very grateful for the visual and audio manner in which they are portrayed–including, as mentioned, even those moments when there is no sound to be heard. We thus are made ready to leave the shouting of the world and are more receptive to discern the whispers of Narnia.
WHISPERS OF CHILDHOOD
Childhood is special, mostly a happiness and ignorance of the evil in the beyond. But as we grow older, sadly, we do become aware of the evil and the danger it poses to us. The LWW film masterfully blends in an ever-increasing awareness of this threat of evil beyond childhood’s protected playpen. Lucy is the first to catch a glimpse that not all is peaceful in Narnia when Mr. Tumnus mentions that some of the trees are on the witch’s side. Later, when all four of the children enter Tumnus’ abode, they read the notice of his arrest and see the ruins of his place, and Lucy shows at the same time both an awareness and an ignorance of evil when she says, “Who would do something like this?” She is aware of the obvious destruction caused by evil that is now before her eyes, but she cannot fathom who would do something such as this evil.
I have much the same reaction when viewing the very opening sequence in the film, of the enemy bombers dropping their bombs upon the civilian neighborhoods below. It is all a very mechanical operation: mechanical creations called airplanes soar overhead, releasing bombs without feelings that are indifferent to whether they destroy a house or those in it, and they are released from their own temporary housing in the bomb bay through a mechanical-electrical mechanism.
But all of these mechanical monsters were created by human beings, and they are piloted by human beings and crew that are following orders from other human beings to wipe out those dwellings below them that are home to other human beings. What kind of people are these that can bring about such inhumane, inhuman actions as this? Or, as Lucy put it so well, “Who would do such a thing?” She does not understand, and neither do I. This is war. War is terrible beyond human comprehension.
But then I think of my own human nature and know that it is sinful, just as is the nature of those who would do such things. Paul examined his own heart and pronounced judgment on it, saying that no good thing dwelt there, within his heart (Rom. 7:18). Evil is not only far away, within the darkened hearts of those who would bomb innocent women and children, it is much closer than I care to admit, even within my own heart. Jesus said that it not just those who actually kill someone who are murderers, but those who hate someone else in their heart is of the same mind (Mt. 6:21,22).
Later, the others have their awareness of evil raised as well when they leave Beaver’s lodge to find Edmund, and the beaver restrains Peter from charging off to the witch’s castle to retrieve Edmond. He has to explain to Peter and to all of them that the witch wants to kill them! As soon as he says that, you can see the alarm on their faces. They had slowly been realizing more and more of the danger of Narnia, but to suddenly hear that their own lives are threatened–it suddenly becomes not a game of hide and seek any more. And that, too, is like real life, sad to say. Scripture says that the devil is like a roaring lion–not the good lion of Narnia–seeking someone to devour. That someone could easily be us. It is us. To escape that lion as it roars at us to make us afraid, we need to listen to the whispers that remind us that another Lion, the Lion of Judah, protects us.
WHISPERS OF WEAPONS
Do you remember the scene in LWW just before the big battle is to take place between the Narnians and the White Witch and her army? She says with utter confidence to her aide, “I have no interest in prisoners. Kill them all.” Right there is a part of the answer to the profound question of why the devil fights against the infinite Supreme Being: He thinks he can win!
There is not a shred of doubt in the witch’s mind that she will win. She issues the command as if it were a foregone conclusion. After all, has she not just killed mighty Aslan? The Narnians’ great protector is gone. Nothing can stop her now
There is one weapon in particular that our enemy relies upon to help him win the war. That weapon is the law. God is just and he can no more break the law than anyone else can. To do so would be to deny who he is, the perfectly just and righteous Being upon whose character the law is built and upon which all human morality and fair play depends.
Satan knows this and tries to use this requirement for God to be true to himself and his own just character against him. Examples of how he does this can be seen in his dispute over the body of Moses (Jude 9); his charges in the heavenly court against Job’s motives for serving God (Job1:9,10; Job 2:1); and his legal demand to have Peter (Lk. 22:31 RSV).
I love how LWW accurately portrays the devil’s misuse of this weapon. This is seen most clearly in the dramatic confrontation of the Queen with Aslan at his camp. She has come into the camp with great pomp to demand of Aslan that he release the traitor Edmund to her, as is her right according to the law of Narnia. She knows the law and knows that Aslan himself must abide by it. That is why she defiantly challenges Aslan, “You dare not refuse me.” She knows that to refuse her legitimate legal right to Edmund as a traitor would mean that Aslan himself is breaking his own law, being untrue to himself and the deepest fundamentals of existence.
Aslan is perturbed by her recitation of the law to him and replies in anger, “Do not recite the Deep Magic to me, witch; I was there when it was written.”
“But to the wicked God says: ‘What right have you to recite my statutes, or take my covenant on your lips?'” (Ps. 50:16).
Aslan knows the law at its deepest level, that it is an expression of love, not just right and wrong, and that is why he is willing to sacrifice himself in Edmund’s place on the Stone Table: both because he loves Edmund and because he knows that the law of love will not let him down, that he will rise again to life. He explained this to Susan and Lucy in his brief but deep discourse to them as they saw him alive again at that Table. He began, “If the witch knew the true meaning of sacrifice . . .”
If she knew. . . . But she does not know. If she had known, she would not continue to fight against that which it is impossible to defeat. In her darkened mind, she cannot fathom this mystery of love, just as she cannot understand how forgiveness and mercy can exist together with justice and judgment. She, with the devil, does not understand that mercy triumphs over judgment (Jam. 2:13). When she utters the single word, “Impossible!” it is not only because of her astonishment that Aslan has come back to life from death, but that he manages to fulfill the demands of the law that a traitor be punished and yet still give mercy to Edmund. How can both requirements be met? Impossible! But with God, all things are possible and thus mercy can triumph over judgment.
Other weapons appear in Narnia. When the children meet Father Christmas, he gives them unusual Christmas gifts, saying, “These are tools, not toys.” In fact, they are weapons. He knows they will soon be going into battle, as he informs Peter: “The time to use these may be near at hand.” They will need weapons to protect themselves and defeat the enemy.
But these are not ordinary weapons. The witch has supernatural powers, including her spear that turns whomever it strikes into stone, and to defeat her requires weapons more powerful than anything human beings are capable of producing. But there is one thing human beings can make use of that is more powerful than mere physical weapons. That secret weapon is hinted at when Father Christmas hands Susan her bow and says to her, “Trust in this bow and it will not easily miss.”
Faith or trust is the secret weapon that enables weak human beings to battle far stronger spiritual beings and to conquer them. But it is not faith in faith but faith in the One who has destined them for this very battle and who is ever with them, even in them: “Greater is he who is in you than he who is in the world” (1 Jn. 4:4). Even if that world is as foreign to us as the world of Narnia is to the children.
Our weapons are weapons of the spirit, not the familiar weapons of swords that people of this world rely upon, although there are times when we must also make use of these physical weapons, as World War Two so dramatically showed us. Peter was given a real sword and a shield; Lucy was given a dagger. There are legitimate uses for God’s children to make use of the physical weapons of warfare as well. For as the statesman Edmund Burke has noted, all that is required for evil to win is for good men to do nothing. The Bible is full of real battles with real swords.
Real weapons of warfare, in fact, are the main visual image of the very beginning of this film. This opening sequence, of enemy bombers reigning down bombs upon London, is a very wise choice by the makers of this film. For it sets the tone, that though this be a children’s fantasy, it has it foundations set upon the reality of the real world. Thus there is established at the onset a basis for making the fantastic creatures and settings of the mythical Narnia to be a true reflection, nonetheless, of the real world. Real lessons of real importance are to be conveyed through this film. If this were not so, it would be just another film of entertainment. As it is, it becomes a vehicle for transmitting deep truths about reality and God and there would be no purpose in my writing this piece and no reason for you to read it.
The world is full of entertaining little films and books and all kinds of diversions. But this film is not just a diversion, although it is entertaining as well, but it has at its heart eternal truths of a deep nature that the wise will do well to pay attention to and heed. For in truth, World War Two especially was an attempt by the evil one to take over this world and he is not through with such attempts even yet, and we need to be prepared for more such battles to come. And if we will let it, a film such as this can help us do just that, for it is in itself a weapon we can use.
An example of the connection between the real world and the fantasy world of Narnia is in Peter’s use of the griffons to drop rocks onto the advancing army of the witch. Where did Peter get this idea? From having been subject to this weapon while living in England, during the blitz of London. He had experienced firsthand the terror of bombs dropping from the sky.
But in the end, it is not any physical weapon that wins the battle but the Spirit of the Lord.
“Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the Lord Almighty” (Zech. 4:6).
The Spirit of God is He who gives the victory, not any plan or weapon of man.
“The horse is made ready for the day of battle, but victory rests with the Lord” (Prov. 21:31).
So it is that the Pevensie children, under the direction and guidance of Aslan, finally achieve the victory over the evil witch’s forces and all Narnia is set free. The children then are crowned and sit on their respective thrones on the mountain of Cair Paravel, and from there grow up and experience the heights of Narnia’s wonders. Surely this must be the high point of their lives.
But then, one day, while chasing a stag, they rediscover the wardrobe and find themselves back in the everyday world of the country mansion in England. They suddenly go from the heights of supernatural living back to the ordinary world they once knew. This is similar to the dramatic experience of the inner three disciples, who accompanied Jesus up the mountain and there saw his glory, only to return down the mountain to the world waiting for them with its problems (Luke 9:28-37).
It is quite fitting that the film should end in a way similar to that of the disciples coming down from the mountain with Jesus. For though this film is full of wondrous scenes that transport us away from this world and its cares for a while, the time does come when, like the disciples and the Pevensie children, we too must leave the theatre and the wonderful world of Narnia and return to the real world we left behind for a brief while. In this, the film also reflects reality. For heaven is real and it still waits for us, just as Narnia waits for the return of the children. Like them, we too have tasted heaven by entering through the door–not of a wardrobe but the door of Jesus, who brings heaven down into our hearts until that glorious day when we go up to be with him forever.
But until that day, there is work for us to do for him in this world. But now, through watching this film, perhaps we are encouraged to carry out our tasks with a better understanding of what those tasks are all about: establishing the kingdom of God on this earth through lives submitted to him as our God and King and Lord and Savior. I am glad and thankful that along the way, God gives gifts to human beings that allow the creation of films like The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.”