Lions and Witches

Fairy tales do not tell children the dragons exist. Children already know that dragons exist. Fairy tales tell children the dragons can be killed.
-G. K. Chesterton

Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.
-1 John 4:4

My son’s bedtime routine changed recently. Suddenly, a nighttime song and prayer wasn’t enough to calm him down enough for me to leave the room without him crying. So, we added storytelling to our routine.

We went through many of the classic tales that children his age usually love: Goldilocks and the Three Bears, Little Red Riding Hood, Hansel and Gretel and even the Pied Piper, which is kind of a terrifying story on a number of levels. It wasn’t long before these stories bored my son and I had to move on to something else.

I’ve always loved C. S. Lewis’ classic books, The Chronicles of Narnia. His English wit and peculiar characters captivate readers young and old alike. And the way he blends the message of Christianity into the fantasy world of Narnia—complete with marshwiggles and dufflepuds—arrests and inspires the soul.

My son is not yet ready for books with lengthy chapters, so I told him the story of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe in a series of installments. And you know what, he was mesmerized. He loved hearing about Mr. Tumnus the faun, and he was fascinated with Mr. and Mrs. Beaver. But eventually, we had to discuss the matter of the white witch.

I was surprised, even at three and a half years old, that my son was scared of the witch. He’s a pretty bold toddler. But as I talked about the snow whiteness of her skin and how she used her magic to turn her enemies to stone, his face showed a look of worry and terror.

“The witch wants to kill Lucy, and Edmund, and Peter and Susan?”

“Yes, son. She wants to kill them all so that she can still be in charge of Narnia.”

“Ooh,” he said. He was visibly frightened and his eyes went to a blank part of the ceiling so I knew he was thinking through it all. It’s at this point that time slowed down for me. I don’t want to be frightening my children at all. I don’t want him—at three years old—to know how dark and scary the world can be, whether it’s a fantasy land or real life. But I let him sit in that fear for a moment, because I wanted my next statement to have an impact.

“But you know what son? The witch isn’t the only person in this story who knows magic. There’s a lion in this story.”

He smiled. “A lion?” The fear of an evil witch who longed to kill the children in this story was immediately assuaged by the thought of a roaring, powerful lion who stood in her way. That night he went to sleep without fear, not because I had told him a story without magical, evil witches, but because I had told him a story about a powerful witch who meets her end at the hands of an even more powerful lion.

In thinking of the of our struggle and wrestling against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places, fear is understandable. But powerful lions aren’t unique to Narnia. And the Lion of Judah roars with power and authority from before and beyond that of Aslan.

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. Then Lion and Witch had rolled over together but with the Witch underneath; and at the same moment all war-like creatures whom Aslan had led from the Witch’s house rushed madly on the enemy lines, dwarfs with their battle-axes, dogs with teeth, the Giant with his club (and his feet also crushed dozens of the foe), unicorns with their horns, centaurs with swords and hoofs. And Peter’s tired army cheered, and the newcomers roared, and the enemy squealed and gibbered till the wood re-echoed with the din of that onset.

-C. S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe