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Aslan in the 2005 film The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe,
voiced by Liam Neeson.
|Race||Talking Lion / Deity|
|Major character in|
|Portrayals in adaptations|
|1979 animated film: Stephen Thorne|
|1988-90 BBC miniseries: Ronald Pickup (voice)|
|2005-10 Walden film series: Liam Neeson (voice)|
Role in The Chronicles of Narnia
Aslan is first introduced in the book The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, which takes place one thousand years after Narnia's founding. He is first mentioned by Mr. Beaver, who tells the Pevensie children (Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy) that "Aslan is on the move". He explains that Aslan is the true king of Narnia and that the children (as Sons of Adam and Daughters of Eve) are the chosen ones to help end the tyrannical rule of the White Witch. Edmund, who was enchanted by the White Witch on his first visit to Narnia by eating enchanted Turkish Delight, betrays his siblings to the White Witch. After Edmund is rescued, the White Witch demands to execute him for treason. Aslan offers himself in Edmund's place, and the Witch executes him on the Stone Table. However, Aslan rises from the dead, leads his followers to victory, kills the Witch in battle, frees the prisoners that she had turned to stone, and crowns the Pevensie children as Kings and Queens of Narnia.
In Prince Caspian, which takes place 1,300 Narnian years after the events in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Aslan brings the Pevensies back to Narnia from their world to help Caspian—the rightful King of Narnia—to overthrow his usurping Uncle Miraz and restore freedom to Narnia.
The Voyage of the Dawn Treader involves a seafaring quest by King Caspian to find Aslan's Country in the uttermost East. Edmund and Lucy Pevensie are transported to Narnia along with their cousin, the recalcitrant Eustace. At one point on the journey, Eustace falls under an enchantment and becomes a dragon; Aslan delivers him from the enchantment. Aslan also guides the voyagers out of various perils. When they reach the world’s end, Aslan appears as a lamb before transforming into a lion. He shows Reepicheep (a Talking Mouse) the way to Aslan’s Country.
In The Silver Chair, Aslan brings Eustace and his classmate Jill to Narnia. He explains to Jill that she and Eustace are charged with the quest of finding King Caspian's son, Prince Rilian (who had disappeared years before) and gives her four Signs to guide them on their quest. Aslan makes no further appearance until the end of the story, but his Signs prove central to their successful quest. When he returns Eustace and Jill to their world, Aslan shows himself to the bullies at their school to frighten them.
The Horse and His Boy takes place during the reign of King Peter, Queen Susan, King Edmund, and Queen Lucy. Aslan's influence throughout "The Horse and his Boy" is at first hidden from the characters. Secretly, he delivered the infant Prince Cor of Archenland from his enemies, placing him in the hands of a Calormene fisherman (who made a slave of him and called him Shasta). Aslan, disguised as a "witless" lion, chases Shasta and the talking horse Bree so that they will meet their traveling companions (Aravis and Hwin), who—like Shasta and Bree—are fleeing to Narnia from the land of Calormen. In the form of a cat, Aslan comforts Shasta at the Tombs of the Ancient Kings (although as a lion, Aslan defends him from predatory jackals). It is Aslan who chases Bree and Hwin so that they will reach Archenland in time to warn that nation of an impending attack. After the attack on Archenland is defeated, Aslan turns the attacker—Prince Rabadash of Calormen—into a donkey; to cure himself of this "condition", Rabadash must present himself at the temple of the Calormene god Tash in Tashbaan.
The Magician's Nephew tells the story of Aslan’s creation of Narnia, his crowning of the first King and Queen of Narnia, and his gift of the power of speech to some of the animals. Aslan tells the two main characters—Digory Kirke and Polly Plummer—that the evil witch Jadis (later to become the White Witch) will pose a great threat to the Narnians. Aslan charges Digory and Polly with a quest to acquire a magic apple that, when planted, will protect Narnia from Jadis.
The Last Battle is the story of the end of the Narnian world. Aslan does not appear until late in the story. Eustace Scrubb and Jill Pole are brought into Narnia to help King Tirian and others as they fight for their lives. The Narnians are forced by their attackers into a stable that turns out to be a paradise. Aslan is there with King Peter and the other friends of Narnia. Narnia is destroyed and Aslan judges the people and animals of Narnia. Aslan then commands King Peter to shut the door on Narnia, and he leads them into his country (a platonic ideal of Narnia). Digory, Polly, Peter, Edmund, Lucy, Eustace, and Jill learn that they have died, or rather, passed into Aslan's Country, which is more real than the "Shadowlands" (to use Lewis's own word) from which they have come.
Although Aslan can be read as an original character, parallels exist with Christ. According to the author, Aslan is not an allegorical portrayal of Christ, but rather a suppositional incarnation of Christ Himself:
If Aslan represented the immaterial Deity, he would be an allegorical figure. In reality however, he is an invention giving an imaginary answer to the question, "What might Christ become like if there really were a world like Narnia and He chose to be incarnate and die and rise again in that world as He actually has done in ours?" This is not allegory at all.
This interpretation is related to J. R. R. Tolkien's concept of "secondary creation" expounded in his 1947 essay "On Fairy-Stories", reflecting discussions Lewis and Tolkien had in the Inklings group.
In one of his last letters, Lewis wrote, "Since Narnia is a world of Talking Beasts, I thought He [Christ] would become a Talking Beast there, as He became a man here. I pictured Him becoming a lion there because (a) the lion is supposed to be the king of beasts; (b) Christ is called "The Lion of Judah" in the Bible; (c) I'd been having strange dreams about lions when I began writing the work."
The similarity between the death and resurrection of Aslan and the death and resurrection of Jesus has been noted; one author has noted that like Jesus, Aslan was ridiculed before his death, mourned, and then discovered to be absent from the place where his body had been laid.
Aslan's words to the Calormene in The Last Battle ("I take to me the services which thou hast done to [the false god]... if any man swear by [him] and keep his oath for the oath's sake, it is by [Aslan] that he has truly sworn, though he know it not, and it is I who reward him"), ratifying the good deeds the latter did even in service to a false god, have been the subject of controversy because they implicitly endorse Inclusivism.
The first visual dramatization of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, broadcast on British television in 1967, presented a bipedal Aslan played by Bernard Kay. In the animated adaptation of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe distributed by the Children's Television Workshop (now Sesame Workshop), Aslan is voiced by Stephen Thorne. Thorne also makes appearances as the Great Lion in the adaptations made in the mid-1990s by BBC Radio.
In all four of the BBC television serial adaptations of the late 1980s and early 1990s (The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Prince Caspian and The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (two tales told in one package), The Silver Chair), Aslan is voiced by Ronald Pickup and the elaborate costume/puppet is operated by Alisa Berk, Tim Rose, and William Todd-Jones. In the Focus on the Family radio adaptations, he is portrayed by David Suchet.
In the 2005 film, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, the CGI Aslan is voiced by Liam Neeson. Neeson returned to voice the character in the sequel, The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian in 2008, and the third film in the series, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader.
- "Caspian to be Second Narnia movie". BBC News. 18 January 2006. Retrieved 1 December 2006.
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- Martindale, Wayne; Root, Jerry. The Quotable Lewis.
- Ford, Paul (2005). Companion to Narnia: Revised Edition. San Francisco: HarperCollins. p. 6. ISBN 978-0-06-079127-8.
- John Visser. "Into the Wardrobe".
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- McCormack, Elissa (2008). "Inclusivism in the Fiction of C.S. Lewis: The Case of Emeth". Logos: A Journal of Catholic Thought and Culture. 11 (4): 57–73.
- Imdb.com: Aslan
- SparkNotes reference to the meaning of Aslan's death
- "Aslan is still on the move" Christianity Today editorial, 6 August 2001.