Posted by: celticanglican | November 28, 2010

What is the Significance of Aslan?

Q. I’ve read that Aslan in C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia series is meant to symbolize Jesus. What is the specific significance of a lion?

A. Good question! Jesus is referred to as the Lion of Judah in Revelation 5:5

The lion was the symbol of the Jewish tribe of Judah (Genesis 49:9)

The Aslan of the Narnia series is definitely a Christ-like figure, so it’s a fitting choice, IMO.



  1. “Aslan” means “lion” in Persian, I believe. A number of books have been written on The Narnian Chronicles. Wikipedia has this notation:

    “Although Aslan can be read as an original character, there are parallels with the character and story of 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 ‘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’ (KJV).

    According to the author, Aslan is not an allegorical portrayal of Christ, but rather a different, hypothetical, 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.

    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 hi,”), ratifying the good deeds the latter did even under the name of Tash, have beenn the subject of controversy in some Christian circles. See Emeth for details.”

    Aslan does tell the Pevensies that they will come to know him in a different form in our world. In The Voyage of the Dawn Treader he appears to Lucy, Edmund, and Eustace in the form of a Lamb. In The Last Battle Aslan is transformed before the Pevensies, Professor Kirk, Jill, Eustace, and Tirian and they address him as “the Glorious One,” in other words, Christ.

    Sydney Carter wrote a Christmas carol, “Every star shall sing a carol!” which asks the question”Who can tell what other body he will hallow for his own?” See 100Hymns for Today.

  2. Hi Robin,

    Thanks for the mention of “Every star shall sing a carol!”. I think this is one of the lesser-known treasures in hymnody.

  3. I love the line from the books that Aslan “is not a tame lion.” How easy it is to go from that to “Our God is not a tame God.” 🙂

    Although it was hard for me to re-read these books as an adult, I still think they are brilliant and Aslan will always be special to me.

    Thanks for the post about him.

  4. You’re very welcome, Peggy. Please make yourself at home.

  5. I first read the Narnia Chronicles shortly after their initial publication. I have been rereading them ever since–at least once a year if not more often. If I were making a list of books that had been a significant spiritual influence in my life, I would include the Narnia Chronicles in that list.

    When reading the Narnia Chronicles, I definitely recommend starting with The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe rather than The Magician’s Nephew. This is how the Narnia Chronicles were first published and how I first read them.

    BBC dramatized The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, Prince Caspian, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, and The Silver Church for TV. While the BBC dramatization lacks the computer-enhanced animation of the Disney movies, the scripts are truer to the books. Tom Baker who played the Fourth Doctor in the BBC TV series Doctor Who is Puddleglum in The Silver Chair. The BBC dramatization is on the Internet on You-Tube, as are the Disney movies.

  6. Hi Robin,
    What’s your opinion of the Disney movies?

  7. They are state of the art as far as computer-enhanced animation, special effects, etc. The casting and performance of the actors cannot be faulted. However, the director and the script-writers do take liberties with the stories that are not really needed to tell the story in a movie format. The director’s conception of Narnia also shows the influence of contemporary sword and sorcery book illustrations and computer games.

    Compare the three movies with the Pauline Bayne’s illustrations of the books. Pauline Baynes also illustrated J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Adventures of Tom Bombadil and The Farmer Giles of Ham and George MacDonald’s The Princess and the Goblin and The Princess and Curdy. In Pauline Bayne’s illustrations the Calormen wear armor as do Eustace and Jill in The Last Days. However, the centaurs and fauns do not. Cladding them in armor takes away some of their wildness. Narnia is a world of centaurs, fauns, dryads, river gods, giants, dragons, Monopods, sea monsters, mermen, stars at rest, and talking animals. Bacchus, Selenes, and the bachantes were ommitted from the Disney version of Prince Caspian but they represent the wildness that is Narnia. Even Aslan is no tame lion!

    The wildness is an integral part of Narnia. Narnia is a world in which the unexpected can and does happen. Narnia is not just a world filled with magic. Narnia is numinous–filled with a sense of the presence of divinity in a way that our world is only in a few places. Otherworldliness is another word that comes to mind. Also Faerie as described in J. R. R. Tolkein’s Smith of Wootton Major.

    Lucy M. Boston captures this otherworldliness in her Green Knowe books. Kenneth Graham also captures it in “Piper at the Gates of Dawn” in Wind in the Willows; Lloyd Alexander in the Chronicles of Prydian or Taran the Wanderer books; Terry Pratchett in his Discworld books involving the young girl who was a Chalk Witch, Cornelia Funke in her Inkheart trilogy and Dragon Rider. This are just a few of the writers who come to mind.

  8. I forgot Walter de la Mare’s The Royal Monkeys.

    On the other hand, the movies are entertaining and they do encourage children to read the books. I saw the movie Inkheart before I read the trilogy. I had picked up the book and glanced through it and put it back on the library shelf. The movie prompted me to take a second look. I am glad that I did.

    I read a lot of children’s literature and young adult literature–Mary Norton, E. Nesbit, Edward Eager, J. K. Rowling, Rosemary Sutcliff, and others. Also science fiction, historical fiction, and fantasy, and detective novels–Andre Norton, Jack Vance, Maurice Walsh, H. Rider Haggard, Lord Dunsany, Dorothy Sayer, Agatha Christie, to name a few authors.

    I lived for a number of years in Suffolk not far from the home of H. Rider Haggard.

    Among my interests is the study of fairy tales, folk lore, and mythology especially of England, Ireland, Scotland, the Isle of Man, the Faroe Islands, the Hebrides, and Brittany. Also the Scandanavian countries, Iceland, Finland, the Ukraine, and Russia.

    I was born in England. My mother is English with a Scottish grandmother. My father was American. His father was Irish and his mother Cornish.

  9. Actually, Aslan means lion in Turkish, not Persian

    • I stand corrected. All I could recall was that it was a language from that part of the world. I do not claim to have an encyclopedic memory. If I realize that I have give inaccurate information, I will go back and correct it. I have no investment in being right all the time.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: