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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)|
Aslan (// or //) is the main character in C. S. Lewis's The Chronicles of Narnia series. He is "the Great Lion" of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and his role in Narnia is developed throughout the remaining books. He is also the only character to appear in all seven books of the series. Aslan is Turkish for "lion". Lewis often capitalises the word lion in reference to Aslan, since, at least partially, he represents Jesus Christ.
Aslan is depicted as a talking lion, the King of Beasts, son of the Emperor-Over-the-Sea, the king of Narnia; a wise, compassionate, magical authority (both temporal and spiritual); mysterious and benevolent guide to the human children who visit; guardian and saviour of Narnia. The author, C. S. Lewis, described Aslan as an alternative version of Christ; that is, as the form in which Christ might have appeared in a fantasy world.
Throughout the series, it is stated that Aslan is "not a tame lion", since, despite his gentle and loving nature, he is powerful and can be dangerous. He has many followers, including humans, talking beasts, and mythological creatures such as Centaurs, Fauns, Dryads, Dwarfs, Giants, Satyrs, Naiads, Hamadryads, Mermaids, Sylvans, Unicorns, and Winged Horses.
- 1 Role in The Chronicles of Narnia
- 2 Influences
- 3 Portrayals
- 4 References
- 5 External links
Role in The Chronicles of Narnia
In The Magician's Nephew
(This is the first story in the chronology of Narnia, and of its human visitors, but the sixth tale that Lewis wrote, and for most readers, it is not the first meeting with the character.)
When Digory, Polly, Jadis of Charn, Uncle Andrew, the Cabby and Strawberry inadvertently enter a new world using magic rings, they find it an empty void. Aslan appears, and through the power of his singing, calls the world of Narnia into existence.
All the characters immediately feel awe for Aslan. Jadis expresses this as fear and hatred, and before fleeing she assaults Aslan with an iron bar that she tore from a lamp-post in London. Aslan is unperturbed and continues calling plants and animals into existence. The power of his song is so great that even the iron bar, dropped on fertile earth, grows into a functioning lamp post, and toffees sprout into fruit trees. Aslan claims the power of his song will last for a few days.
Aslan then selects two of most animals that his song has called into existence and gives them the power of speech and reason. He instructs them to look after all the animals. He appoints the cabby to be King Frank of Narnia and brings his wife Nellie from Earth to be Queen Helen.
Aslan explains that Jadis will pose a great threat to the Narnians, and charges Digory and Polly with a quest to acquire a magic apple so they may plant it to protect the land. To aid them, he turns Strawberry into a winged horse named Fledge. When the quest is complete, he crowns Frank and Helen, and advises Digory to take an apple from the tree to revive his sick mother.
At the end of the novel, he takes Digory, Polly and Uncle Andrew back to the Wood between the Worlds, without the use of magic rings, and warns them that their Earth would be in danger from an event similar to one that resulted in the destruction of all life on Charn.
In The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
Aslan is first introduced in the book The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Narnia is now in the hundredth year of the tyrannical rule of Jadis, who has returned as a powerful sorceress called the White Witch. Jadis has condemned the land to endless winter – but never Christmas – and has turned hundreds of Aslan's followers to stone.
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. Even as the children explore Narnia, Aslan's presence begins to weaken Jadis' grip on the land; the ice begins to melt and Father Christmas appears at last and gives the children gifts.
Edmund, who was enchanted by the White Witch on his first visit to Narnia by eating enchanted Turkish Delight, attempts to betray his siblings and is not present to receive a gift. Mr. and Mrs. Beaver lead the others to Aslan at the Stone Table at a large gathering of Loyal Narnians preparing for war. Aslan sends his creatures to rescue Edmund. Peter slays Maugrim the Wolf, chief of the Witch's secret police, and Aslan makes Peter a knight.
The White Witch comes in parley and demands her right to execute Edmund for his betrayal, citing Deep Magic from the Dawn of Time that gives her power over all traitors. In private conversation with her, Aslan offers himself in Edmund's place, and she accepts his offer, though none of Aslan's followers know this. Susan and Lucy, unable to sleep, follow Aslan to the Stone Table that night. They watch from afar as the White Witch asks her evil people to tie him up, shave him, and the Witch kills Aslan with her knife.
With her greatest adversary dead, the Witch leaves with her army to prepare for war against the Narnians, convinced that she will win. Lucy, Susan, and a number of mice remove the bonds from Aslan's body; but as the Stone Table breaks they find that his body is gone. To their shock, Aslan reappears alive and well, thanks to a Deeper Magic from before the Dawn of Time. The Witch, having entered Narnia only at the Dawn of Time, had not known of this. Aslan explains that the Deeper Magic is invoked when an innocent willingly offers his life in place of a traitor's, causing death itself to be reversed until the victim is reborn.
Aslan goes to the Witch's palace and, with his breath, brings the statues of her petrified enemies back to life. He leads them all to aid Peter, Edmund, and the Narnian army, who are fighting the Witch's army. At the conclusion of the battle, Aslan leaps upon the Witch and kills her.
After the defeat of the evil forces, Aslan crowns the four children as Kings and Queens of Narnia, and during the celebration he quietly slips away. The children say nothing about it, for Mr. Beaver had warned them, "...one day you'll see him and another you won't" (a line assigned to Tumnus in the 2005 film), foreshadowing Aslan's role in the books to follow.
In The Horse and his Boy
The Horse and His Boy is set during the reign of Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy in Narnia, the only extended story told of that period.
This book is about finding one's home. The talking horses Bree and Hwin seek their home in the land of Narnia where they were born. For Shasta and Aravis, the two humans who journey with them, finding home is more a matter of the heart (For Aravis had run away from home and Shasta ran away to evade slavery).
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). When Shasta meets Bree, it is Aslan, disguised as a "witless" lion, who drives them to join Aravis and Hwin. In the form of a cat, Aslan comforts Shasta when he feels abandoned 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 the king of the impending attack by the Calormene army, led by Rabadash. Aslan gives Shasta the resolve to help save Archenland and Narnia from the invaders. He slashes Aravis across the back with his claws as punishment for disregarding her servant's safety when she ran away from home: the cuts on her back equal the severity of her servant's whipping.
Eventually Aslan shows himself directly to the travelers, addressing their fears or their self-pity, or their condescension towards others, or their pomposity (after Shasta and Aravis ask why some of the events happened, he said "I tell no one's story but their own"). After the victory over the Calormenes, Aslan reveals himself to Rabadash in an effort to free him of his arrogant and violent ways. When kind words and forgiveness fail to soften Rabadash, who calls Aslan the "demon of Narnia", Aslan resorts to an act of severe kindness: he turns Rabadash into a donkey. To cure himself of this "condition", Rabadash must present himself at the temple of the Calormene god Tash in Tashban, where in the sight of his people he would be restored to human form. But if he thereafter goes without ten miles of the temple, he would be turned back into a donkey permanently. Since then, Rabadash remained in Tashban where he ruled until his death.
In Prince Caspian
The novel Prince Caspian takes place 1,300 Narnian years after the events in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Aslan and the Pevensie children have become near-forgotten "myths", and Narnia is now ruled by Telmarines, humans who have since conquered and settled in Narnia.
Aslan serves to guide the Pevensie children to Prince Caspian, but he appears unambiguously to them only when they put their faith in his will and really try to see him.
The loyal Narnians gather at Aslan's How, a mound over the site of the Stone Table. Here Prince Caspian forms his army to fight for Narnia against his uncle. Meanwhile, Aslan re-awakens the spirits of the forest and the river, leading a Bacchanalian revel through the oppressed towns and fomenting a popular revolution.
When the Telmarines are defeated and the Old Order is restored, Aslan creates a door in the air allowing the children to return to Earth – along with any Telmarines who do not wish to remain in the renewed Narnia, where humans and animals are equal. He tells Peter and Susan that they are now too old to return to Narnia, having learned all they can from their experiences there. However, he tells Edmund and Lucy that they may return to Narnia.
In The Voyage of the Dawn Treader
Edmund, Lucy and their cousin Eustace Clarence Scrubb (who "almost deserved it") arrive into Narnia through a painting of a ship which turns into Caspian's ship, Dawn Treader. Caspian, having established peace in Narnia as the new King, has set out on a voyage in search of the Seven Lost Lords who had been loyal to his late father and were subsequently banished by the usurper Miraz. The talking mouse Reepicheep accompanies Caspian in hopes that their voyage will lead to Aslan's Country in the uttermost East, for he was told by a dryad that his fate lies in Aslan's country. Lucy and Caspian come to the conclusion that it was Aslan who summoned the three children into Narnia to help Caspian on his quest.
On many of the islands where they stop, a brief glimpse of Aslan or his image is enough to guide Caspian and his crew away from danger and folly. When the recalcitrant Eustace becomes a dragon, Aslan meets him and pulls the dragon-skin away, leaving Eustace a chastened and more pleasant boy.
In a magician's house on another island, Lucy attempts to perform a spell that would make her tragically beautiful, despite being warned of negative consequences. Just as she is about to say the words, however, she sees an image of Aslan snarling at her, frightening her from reading the spell (in the 2010 film, she reads the spell and turns into a version of Susan and finds her brothers have not heard of Lucy or Narnia). Aslan also reprimands her for using another spell to see what her friends say about her. She encounters a story-spell that she feels is the best story ever that disappears after she reads it, and Aslan reassures her that she will be able to read it again.
Eventually Edmund, Lucy, Eustace, and Reepicheep the mouse reach the world's end, where Aslan appears as a lamb before transforming into a lion (a scene that refers to John 21:12, where Jesus appears after his resurrection and makes a breakfast of fish for his disciples). He shows Reepicheep the way to his country and helps the children return home. He tells Edmund and Lucy that, like Peter and Susan, they have become too old to return to Narnia, and that they must instead come to know him in their world — a relatively direct reference to the Christian theme of the series. He does not say whether Eustace will return to Narnia.
In The Silver Chair
The story begins with Eustace Scrubb, who was introduced in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, and his classmate Jill. They are unhappy at their school, where bullying is left uncorrected. One day they are beset by bullies, and Eustace suggests that they ask for Aslan's help. They blunder through a temporary gate and find themselves in a Unknown Place, atop an immense cliff. Jill, showing off, moves too close to the edge, and Eustace falls off trying to pull her back.
Aslan appears and saves Eustace by blowing him into Narnia. Then he explains to Jill that she and Eustace are charged with the quest of finding Caspian's son Prince Rilian who disappeared years before. He tells her that their task has become more difficult because of what she did, but gives her four Signs to guide them on their quest. The fourth and final Sign is that at a key moment they will be asked to do something "in Aslan's name".
According to the Narnian timeline, fifty years have elapsed since The Voyage of the Dawn Treader.
Aslan then blows Jill into Narnia, where she arrives a few moments after Eustace. They see a very old King Caspian setting sail to search for Aslan one last time, but fail to realise who he is until it is too late, and are unable to speak to him. However, the elderly Lord Regent, Trumpkin the Dwarf, takes them to Cair Paravel. There they are aided by Master Glimfeather the Owl and a Parliament of his fellow talking owls (a pun on Chaucer's Parlement of Foules, and a nod toward "parliament" as a collective noun for owls, as "exaltation" is for larks). The owls explain that Rilian disappeared while searching for the green serpent that killed his mother; they believe that he is now under the spell of an enchantress he had seen in the forest while searching for the serpent. As Jill and Eustace journey toward the far north of Narnia, they acquire a companion and guide, a gloomy but stalwart Marsh-wiggle, fittingly named Puddleglum (or "the wet blanket").
Aslan makes no further appearance until the end of the story, but his Signs prove central to the quest, and belief in Aslan plays a crucial part in defeating the Lady of the Green Kirtle, who tries to destroy the children's belief in the reality of Narnia. The children manage to rescue Rilian, and they return him to Narnia just in time to meet his father, who dies shortly afterwards.
In the end, Aslan sends Jill and Eustace back to our world. Aided by a rejuvenated Caspian, Aslan helps them repay the school bullies — and make the school better in the process. Aslan shows himself to the bullies, who, seeing only what they take to be a wild lion, are severely shaken. But no one believes their story, as the only other witnesses are Jill, Eustace and Caspian.
In The Last Battle
The ape Shift disguises the reluctant donkey Puzzle as Aslan and fools the Narnians into thinking that Aslan has returned. Shift issues commands in "Aslan's" name and takes advantage of the credulous Narnians.
Shift and the unbelieving Calormene leader Rishda Tarkaan encourage the invading Calormenes and the dispirited Narnians to treat Aslan and the Calormene god Tash as a single, combined being — "Tashlan". Dissenters are thrown into Puzzle's stable supposedly to meet "Tashlan" where they are murdered by Calormene soldiers.
King Tirian of Narnia calls on Aslan for help, and Jill and Eustace arrive in Narnia. They help Tirian and the remaining loyal Narnians battle the Calormenes and their allies, but are all forced through the stable door along with several Black Dwarfs. They find themselves not within the confines of a stable, but in a paradise: Aslan's Country. Aslan is there, with King Peter and the other Pevensies (except for Susan, who no longer believes in Narnia) with other characters from previous books, and they watch through the stable door as the world of Narnia is destroyed with the dragons and the salamanders ripping up the trees and Father Time crushing the sun. All of the people and animals (including those who had previously died) gather outside the barn and are judged by Aslan. The animals who have been loyal to Aslan or the morality upheld by Narnians join Aslan in Aslan's Country. The animals who have opposed or deserted him become ordinary animals and vanish to an unknown place that not even C.S. Lewis knows where they went. The Black Dwarfs (who unlike the Red Dwarfs have lost faith in Aslan) are unable to see Aslan's Country, certain that they are still inside an ordinary stable. When Lucy asks Aslan to help them, he tells her that he will show her what he can and what he cannot do. He then growls at the Black Dwarfs, and makes food magically appear in their hands. This fails to convince them: they think that the growling is a machine and that the food is only what would normally be found in a stable. Aslan tells the children that the Black Dwarfs shut themselves out from him, and therefore cannot be reached, much like Uncle Andrew in The Magician's Nephew.
Aslan then commands Peter to shut the door on Narnia, and he leads them into his country, a platonic ideal of Narnia. He greets Emeth, a devout yet kind Tash-worshipping Calormene, telling him that "I and Tash are of such different kinds that no service which is vile can be done to me, and none which is not vile can be done to him." As they get "further up and further in", the Narnians find Aslan's country getting bigger and better, eventually encompassing Earth as well. 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. In particular, Aslan's sacrifice and subsequent resurrection parallel Christ's crucifixion and resurrection. Aslan also has God-like powers; he created Narnia with a song (The Magician’s Nephew). The Emperor-Over-the-Sea then refers to God the Father, and Aslan’s country (The Voyage of the Dawn Treader) to heaven. In The Last Battle a new Narnia is made and also a new Earth, as in the Book of Revelation. Furthermore, there are biblical references of Christ being called a lion, as in Revelation 5:5 "Then one of the elders said to me, “Do not weep. See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals." (NRSV). When he first appeared at the end of The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, he looked like a lamb, which is also a symbol of Christ, who is frequently described throughout the New Testament as being "The Lamb of God".
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.
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 [Christ] 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 under the name of Tash, have been the subject of controversy in some Christian circles. See Emeth for details.
In 375 Saint Augustine compared Jesus both with a lamb (Agnus Dei) and with a lion: "Why a lamb in his passion? Because he underwent death without being guilty of any iniquity. Why a lion in his passion? Because in being slain, he slew death. Why a lamb in his resurrection? Because his innocence is everlasting. Why a lion in his resurrection? Because everlasting also is his might." At the end of The Voyage of the Dawn Treader Aslan appears to the children as a lamb and tells them that this is how he appears in their world.
Revelation 5:5 states "And one of the elders saith unto me, Weep not: behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, hath prevailed to open the book, and to loose the seven seals thereof." This is widely regarded as a reference to Jesus.
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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. 18 January 2006. Retrieved 1 December 2006.
- "Langenscheidt Pocket Turkish Dictionary".
- The Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis, vol iii, p 160: "I found the name [Aslan]...it is the Turkish for Lion. ... And of course it meant the Lion of Judah."
- Martindale, Wayne; Root, Jerry. The Quotable Lewis.
- William C. Weinrich, Revelation, 2005, ISBN 0-8308-1497-3, page 73.
- Aslan at the Internet Movie Database
- SparkNotes reference to the meaning of Aslan's death
- "Aslan is still on the move" Christianity Today editorial, 6 August 2001.