Aslan is the creator and sovereign of the parallel world of Narnia. Even though Aslan is a lion, Lewis uses fantasy to give him personality and powers unmistakably characteristic of the New Testament portrait of Jesus Christ.
The Caring Creator. In The Magician’s Nephew, Digory and his friend Polly use special rings to pass into other universes. In one instance, they are transported to a place where they witness the creation of a new world. In the darkness, a beautiful voice sings stars into existence followed by a newly created sunrise.
In the morning light, they see that a mysterious lion is the singer. When Narnia’s creation is complete, Aslan, the great lion and Narnia’s creator, gives the gift of speech to animals and then celebrates with his creation:
“Creatures, I give you yourselves,” said the strong, happy voice of Aslan. “I give to you forever this land of Narnia. I give you the woods, the fruits, the rivers. I give you the stars, and I give you myself” (p.71, The Chronicles Of Narnia).
The parallel between Aslan and Jesus Christ as Creator is clearly intentional. Lewis is obviously following the words of the gospel writer John who tells us: “All things were made through [Christ], and without Him nothing was made that was made” (Jn. 1:3). As the Jesus of the Bible is the powerful Creator of heaven and earth, so Aslan is the sovereign creator in Narnia.
The Compassionate King. In The Lion, The Witch, And The Wardrobe, the four Pevensie children —Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy—discover entrance into Narnia through a wardrobe closet. Not long after their arrival, the children are greeted by a talking beaver. To their surprise, the children learn that animals in Narnia can talk. They are told by Mr. Beaver that Narnia is under the spell of a wicked witch who makes it “always winter and never Christmas.” Yet Mr. Beaver assures the children that there’s hope. They have received reports that Aslan, the great lion, “is on the move.” Having never heard of him, the children are strangely excited and fearfully curious. They wonder how safe they might feel in the presence of the great lion:
“Then he isn’t safe?” said Lucy. “Safe?” said Mr. Beaver; “Don’t you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? ’Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you” (p.146, The Chronicles Of Narnia).
In portraying a lion as the king of Narnia, Lewis creates a parallel to the Bible’s messianic reference to the Lion of Judah. Revelation, the last book of the New Testament, says that at the end of the world the Lion of Judah will bring judgment on the earth by opening a sealed scroll. The apostle John declared: “Behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has prevailed to open the scroll and to loose its seven seals” (Rev. 5:5). Like Aslan, the Lord Jesus isn’t safe (tame or under our control), but He is good.
The Risen Savior. In The Lion, The Witch, And The Wardrobe, Edmund is enslaved by the evil White Witch when he eats an enchanted candy called Turkish Delight. In a vain attempt to feed his craving, Edmund is willing to betray his brother and sisters to the White Witch. Aslan meets with the witch and offers to die in place of the traitor to satisfy, by some deep magic, a requirement of ancient Narnian law.
After suffering cruelly at the hands of the White Witch and her followers, Aslan is killed on a great stone table. But at sunrise, Aslan comes back to life and appears to Susan and Lucy. When Susan asks what it all means, he answers:
“It means,” said Aslan, “that though the witch knew the deep magic, there is a magic deeper still which she did not know. Her knowledge goes back only to the dawn of time. But if she could have looked a little further back, into the stillness and the darkness before time dawned, she would have read there a different incantation. She would have known that when a willing victim who had committed no treachery was killed in a traitor’s stead, the table would crack and death itself would start working backwards” (p.185, The Chronicles Of Narnia).
The sacrifice of Aslan to break the power of the deep magic of the witch finds a historical, real-life parallel in the New Testament gospel of Luke. There we find an account of the resurrected Jesus explaining the meaning of His own resurrection:
Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day, and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name (Lk. 24:46-47).
The New Testament teaches that Christ’s death and resurrection has provided redemption for all who believe (Rom. 3:23; 6:23; Ti. 3:5). And, like Edmund, all of us are rebels in need of forgiveness (Eph. 2:1-3; 1 Pet. 3:18).
The Faithful Friend. In The Voyage Of The Dawn Treader, Aslan tells Lucy and Edmund that they won’t be returning to Narnia. They respond with tears but are assured that they will see Aslan again in their own world:
“But you shall meet me, dear one,” said Aslan. “Are—are you there too, Sir?” said Edmund. “I am,” said Aslan. “But there I have another name. You must learn to know me by that name. This was the very reason why you were brought to Narnia, that by knowing me here for a little, you may know me better there” (p.541, The Chronicles Of Narnia).
In this passage, Lewis uses Aslan to parallel the Jesus of the New Testament who said:
No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you (Jn. 15:15).
In these four portraits of Aslan, Lewis offers an imaginary parallel with clear portraits of Christ as Creator, King, Savior, and Friend. But what other biblical parallels can we find in The Chronicles Of Narnia? To answer that question, we must turn our attention to each book in the series and examine the story behind the stories.