Easter in Narnia: What Really Happened at the Stone Table
In The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, the schoolboy Peter finds himself in two bloodthirsty battles. In the first he fights and slays Maugrim the Wolf, captain of the Witch’s secret police. You’ve got to admire Peter’s courage. One day he’s playing hide and seek in the Professor’s house, the next he’s given a sword and told to fight “a huge grey beast.” Here’s what happens:
Peter did not feel very brave; indeed, he felt he was going to be sick. But that made no difference to what he had to do. He rushed up to the monster and aimed a slash of his sword at its side. That stroke never reached the Wolf. Quick as lightning it turned round, its eyes flaming, and its mouth wide open in a howl of anger. If it had not been so angry that it simply had to howl it would have got him by the throat at once. As it was – though all this happened too quickly for Peter to think at all – he had just time to duck down and plunge his sword, as hard as he could, between the brute’s forelegs into its heart. (p.120)
The day after he kills the wolf, Peter finds himself in hand to hand combat with the White Witch herself. In this second battle it is not Peter who is victorious.
What is interesting about these two battles is Aslan’s reaction to them. In the first, he tells the Narnians to stand back saying, “Let the prince win his spurs.” The wolf is for Peter to deal with alone.
Now you have to imagine that Aslan could’ve killed the wolf with no trouble at all. But this was a test for Peter. He had to “win his spurs.” Although Peter was afraid, I don’t believe he was in any real danger at all. Aslan would not have set him up for failure. Instead, Aslan wanted to release the warrior-heart of the future High King of Narnia. Aslan already knew that Peter was the right man for the job, but Peter didn’t. Hence the wolf-test. A shepherd-king needs to be able to handle wolves. This battle reminds us of David the future king fighting the lion and the bear.
But Aslan’s reaction to Peter’s second battle – the one with the Witch – was very different. After Aslan liberated the captives from the Witch’s house he raced to the battle with Lucy and Susan riding on his back. Here’s what they saw when they arrived:
She (the Witch) was fighting with her stone knife. It was Peter she was fighting – both of them going at it so hard that Lucy could hardly make out what was happening; she only saw the stone knife and Peter’s sword flashing so quickly that they looked like three knives and three swords. The pair were in the centre. On each side the line stretched out. Horrible things were happening wherever she looked.
“Off my back children,” shouted Aslan. And they both tumbled off. Then with a roar that shook all Narnia from the western lamp-post to the shores of the eastern sea the great beast flung himself upon the White Witch. Lucy saw her face lifted towards him for one second with an expression of terror and amazement. The Lion and the Witch had rolled over together but with the Witch underneath. (pp.160-1)
And in Lewis’s economical writing, that was the end of the White Witch!
In the first battle Aslan held back and let Peter fight. But in this second battle, Aslan does it all. He doesn’t stop to ask if Peter needs his help. He just comes with a mighty roar and destroys the Witch himself.
The Witch was Aslan’s enemy. It was she who held his creation in bondage and had put all of Narnia under a curse. And it was she who had delivered the killer stroke the previous night on the Stone Table. You get the sense that with Aslan and the Witch, that “this was personal.”
If Peter in the first battle reminds us of David the shepherd-boy, then Aslan in the second reminds us of Jesus the Deliverer. 1 John 3:8 tells us that the reason the Son of God came was to destroy the devil’s work. Jesus came to save us and defeat him. Colossians 3:15 tells us that Jesus disarmed and triumphed over his enemies at the cross.
Today is Good Friday. At Easter we celebrate Jesus’ death which bought our forgiveness and His resurrection which secured our justification. But that’s not all he did. At the first Easter Jesus also triumphed over the devil. We need not fear the enemy any longer. He has been disarmed and defeated. This was not a victory we won. Jesus did it all. We were under attack but the Lion of Judah took it personally.
Imagine what a talented movie-maker could do with this story!
Picture the scene. There’s Jesus, not looking at all dead, standing in power and splendor ready to tear down the gates of hell. Inside the devil is in shock. His throne is cracking and the ground beneath him is breaking open. The camera goes for a close-up of Jesus’ face. Beneath a determined brow is a set smile that says two words, “I’m back.”
Three days after the battle with the Witch, Aslan crowned Peter as High King of Narnia. More battles were to follow but Peter never had to worry about the White Witch ever again. CS Lewis writes that Peter and his royal siblings “lived in great joy” (p.167).
Similarly, we have been called us to “reign in life” through Jesus Christ (Rms 5:17). It’s like we have been crowned kings in his name. And we can reign because the enemy has already been defeated. Although there will be battles to fight and victories to win, we can live in great joy because of what Jesus did at the first Easter.
Note: When The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe was released in the US, the Wolf’s name was changed from Maugrim to Fenris Ulf. Just in case you were wondering.
That was so good!