The Gospel in Narnia III

C.S. Lewis was a master storyteller and his Narnia books are fantastic stories.  But for those who are willing to look closer, there are layers beneath the basic story that are rich with meaning.

At the beginning of The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, Eustace was as unlikable a character as you'll find in the Narnia books. He was arrogant, selfish, and lazy.  There comes a point when Eustace wanders away from the ship (to avoid having to help work on repairing it) and finds himself in a downpour.  He hides in what he discovers to be a dragon's cave and finds all kinds of gold and other treasure in the cave.  In his greed, Eustace pockets as much treasure as he can, then he lays down and falls asleep.  When he wakes up, much to his horror, Eustace discovers that he has become a dragon.

As a dragon Eustace begins to recognize just how awful he had been.  He wants to be better.

Eventually, the lion called Aslan (the Christ figure in the Narnia series), comes to Eustace and helps him.  Eustace describes what happened, telling Edmund and Lucy that he had tried to free himself from the being a dragon.  Three times Edmund had used his claw, pierced his dragon exterior, and removed his dragon skin.  But each time he discovered that he had another layer of dragon skin underneath.  He couldn't free himself.

Eustace then explains to Edmund and Lucy what happened ...
Then the lion said—but I don’t know if it spoke—You will have to let me undress you. I was afraid of his claws, I can tell you, but I was pretty nearly desperate now. So I just lay flat down on my back to let him do it.
The very first tear he made was so deep that I thought it had gone right into my heart. And when he began pulling the skin off, it hurt worse than anything I’ve ever felt. The only thing that made me able to bear it was just the pleasure of feeling the stuff peel off. You know—if you’ve ever picked the scab of a sore place.  It hurts like billy-oh but it is such fun to see it coming away. 
Well, he peeled the beastly stuff right off — just as I thought I’d done it myself the other three times, only they hadn’t hurt — and there it was lying on the grass: only ever so much thicker, and darker, and more knobbly-looking than the others had been. And there was I as smooth and soft as a peeled switch and smaller than I had been. Then he caught hold of me — I didn’t like that much for I was very tender underneath now that I’d no skin on — and threw me into the water. It smarted like anything but only for a moment. After that it became perfectly delicious and as soon as I started swimming and splashing I found that all the pain had gone from my arm. And then I saw why. I’d turned into a boy again. . . .
After a bit the lion took me out and dressed me . . . in new clothes.
Eustace couldn't free himself from being a dragon.  Aslan had to do it.
We can't free ourselves from our sinful condition.  Christ must do it.

We try to do it ourselves, but as with Eustace, it doesn't actually work.

The removal of the dragon skin and the clothing of Eustace with new clothes, you might notice, take place in association with water. This is no accident.  Lewis understood that in Holy Baptism Christians are clothed with Christ and made new creatures.

Lewis also makes clear that to be made new by Christ can hurt.  The removal of the dragon skin for Eustace was simultaneously pleasant and painful; the same will be the true for Christians.  Christ's work of transforming us throughout our lives will be wonderful...and it will hurt too, as He purifies us.  We will find it painful to be changed and yet, it will be truly wonderful too.

The transformation of Eustace from dragon to boy again, from beast in how he acted to acting as a new person, is best experienced by reading the book, but seeing it visually can be powerful as well.  Here's a somewhat cheesy, but still helpful, presentation of the scene.

If you've never read these books, now's the time to do so.  Read them for the wonderful stories, but as you read them you'll get more than just stories; you'll find the gospel there too.

Here are the previous posts about the Gospel in Narnia The Gospel in Narnia The Gospel in Narnia II


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