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From the June, 2006
issue of Touchstone

 

Mane Attraction by Alice H. Cook

Mane Attraction

Not a Tame Lion: Unveil Narnia Through the Eyes of Lucy, Peter, and Other Characters Created by C. S. Lewis
by Bruce L. Edwards
Tyndale House, 2005
(252 pages, $12.99, paperback)

reviewed by Alice H. Cook

In his fiction Lewis was determined to turn hearts toward this true country [heaven], to write its history in our hearts by drawing attention to the echoes that already exist in our imagination,” writes Bruce Edwards in this collection of meditations on “significant encounters with Aslan.”

For Lewis, Edwards writes, the imagination is “an organ of truth—a way of knowing and seeing that complements the role of reason without displacing it.” It is “not just the proverbial muse for creating literature or art, but the primary means by which we make sense of the big picture behind the world at large. . . . Imagination provides the rationale for trusting reason in the first place and helps us to grasp the gestalt of life’s meaning—its enchanted core.”

So quite intentionally, Not a Tame Lion reintroduces the familiar to the reader. As Edwards explains, the Chronicles “rescue readers from the veil of familiarity by ushering them into the transcendent realm unreachable by mere reason and coldhearted induction. We do not ‘retreat from reality,’ Lewis reminds us. ‘We rediscover it.’”

Hope Comes First

Edwards, a professor of English at Bowling Green State University and the author or editor of several books on Lewis, points out that it was Lewis’s keen awareness of his personal lostness before he became a Christian that -enabled him to communicate the gospel with such passion and compassion.

As apologist and mythmaker, Lewis teaches us that hope comes first, and after it come the reasons for hope. Narnia does not capture us with safe platitudes but by the mane of a dangerously good Lion, a ferocious, wild, untamable Beast who loves us enough to lay down his life. We must never forget the bitter and confusing lostness, the isolation and spiritual barrenness by which the unsaved and the unenlightened negotiate the world.

The effect of Lewis’s writing, and the Chronicles in particular, is “to renew in us the hope of glory and to lead us beyond hope into saving faith and the security of our adoption as sons and daughters. . . . Evangelism, telling the Good News, is about giving people hope, an alternate history, a new cosmos, a new story, and the promise of a homeland that awaits us.”

The six meditations cover a broad scope of encounters with Aslan. In the first, “Inklings of Neverland,” the reader is introduced to Lewis and the origins of Narnia. “Encountering Aslan” uses passages from The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and The Magician’s Nephew to acquaint the reader with Aslan’s character and fierce goodness.

In the other meditations, “Valor Finds Validation” draws from incidents in five of the books where character is formed through crisis, while “Victory over Vanity” uses episodes from The Voyage of the ‘Dawn Treader’ and The Horse and His Boy to demonstrate how conquering one’s ego is a prerequisite to true service. In “Villainy Meets Viciousness,” evil is exemplified by Jadis, Uncle Andrew, the Queen of the Underland, and Nikabrik. The final meditation, “Vindication and Validation,” based on The Last Battle, deals with the culmination of this world and the thrilling hope for and ultimate reality of the next.

Unsafe Aslan

As every reader of the Chronicles knows, “Aslan is not safe, but he is good.” Like many of us, “the children do not yet know how awful goodness can be,” Edwards writes.

An encounter with Aslan will not leave them unchanged but will alter their concept of goodness forever. In Narnia, goodness is also terrible, that is, capable of inducing terror, not only in the evildoer who trembles at what is just and right but also in those who feel justified and righteous as they are. The terror arises not only out of physical presence—the mane, the roar, the power—but from the holiness, perfection, and majesty of embodying what is right and just.”

Letters Welcome: One of the reasons Touchstone exists is to encourage conversation among Christians, so we welcome letters responding to articles or raising matters of interest to our readers. However, because the space is limited, please keep your letters under 400 words. All letters may be edited for space and clarity when necessary. letters@touchstonemag.com

 

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