C S Lewis — Deeper Magic from before the Dawn of Time

The rising of the sun had made everything look so different—all the colours and shadows were changed—that for a moment they didn’t see the important thing. Then they did. The Stone Table was broken into two pieces by a great crack that ran down it from end to end; and there was no Aslan.

“Oh, oh, oh!” cried the two girls rushing back to the Table.

“Oh, it’s too bad,” sobbed Lucy; “they might have left the body alone.”

“Who’s done it?” cried Susan. “What does it mean? Is it more magic?”

“Yes!” said a great voice behind their backs. “It is more magic.” They looked round. There, shining in the sunrise, larger than they had seen him before, shaking his mane (for it had apparently grown again) stood Aslan himself.

“Oh, Aslan!” cried both the children, staring up at him, almost as much frightened as they were glad.

“Aren’t you dead then, dear Aslan?” said Lucy.

“Not now,” said Aslan.

“You’re not—not a—?” asked Susan in a shaky voice. She couldn’t bring herself to say the word ghost.

Aslan stooped his golden head and licked her forehead. The warmth of his breath and a rich sort of smell that seemed to hang about his hair came all over her.

“Do I look it?” he said.

“Oh, you’re real, you’re real! Oh, Aslan!” cried Lucy and both girls flung themselves upon him and covered him with kisses.

“But what does it all mean?” asked Susan when they were somewhat calmer.

“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. And now—

— The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe, C.S. Lewis, 1950, Chapter XV.

So I’ve been reading The Lion etc. to my daughter… and it’s odd how stodgy the 70 year old style of Lewis is.  And the allusion of Aslan’s death (and subsequent resurrection) for the treachery of Edmund is… not subtle.

But, paragraph I put in bold above struck me as I read it.  There is something… soul-touching about the notion of “deeper magic from beyond the dawn of time” which I think is human, and not particularly Christian.

As far as I can tell the argument Aslan/Lewis is making for ‘the deeper magic’ is that the Universe cannot abide an injustice.  So while the penalty for treachery is a death on the stone table (the ‘deep magic’ the witch knew), killing an innocent in the name of justice… is equally unjust, and so the universe itself revolts at such a death, and undoes it.

The act of a moral universe bending towards justice.

Anyway, thought I’d share the paragraph… oh, and questions, must have some questions…

  1. What do you find persuasive about the morality of the Narnia stories? What do you find objectionable?
  2. What thematic and narrative differences do you find in the story of Aslan’s death vs. the story of Christ’s death?
  3. What do you think of the notion of a moral universe? of a “deeper magic”? Do you think it raises false expectations to tell stories to children involving a “deeper magic” setting the universe to rights?
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