The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe Summary and Analysis of Chapters 14-15: The Triumph of the Witch & Deeper Magic from Before the Dawn of Time

No one asks Aslan about the terms of his agreement with the White Witch, but he announces that they must set up camp for the evening in another location: at the Fords of Beruna. While they travel, Aslan tells Peter about the military plan that he has in mind: one battle against the Witch and her followers in the woods, and a second assault on her castle. Aslan then tells Peter that he cannot promise that he will be there to help. Peter is unnerved by Aslan's statement: the lion is clearly preoccupied and sad.

That night, Susan and Lucy have trouble sleeping. They have the same horrible feeling that something dreadful is about to happen to Aslan, or that he is about to do something horrible. They begin to wonder whether he is stealing away from the camp at that moment, and go outside to look for him just in time to see the lion leaving the camp. They follow him, and realize that he is making the journey back to the Stone Table. As they cross a clearing, he calls out to them, having been aware all along that they were following him. Susan and Lucy ask him if he is ill, and he answers, "I am sad and lonely." They walk together, and as they approach the Stone Table, Aslan tells them that they must wait where they are, and be sure that they are not seen.

A crowd of the Witch's evil supporters is gathered at the table, and they tie Aslan down. The Witch calls him "a fool." They shave his hair, strap a muzzle to his face, and mock him, calling him a cat. To Lucy, however, "the shorn face of Aslan looked...braver, more beautiful, and more patient than ever." The Witch bares her white arms, whets a knife, and declares that after Aslan is gone, nothing will prevent her from going after Edmund, too: "Fool, did you think that by all this you would save the human traitor?" Narnia, she cries out, will be hers forever. Susan and Lucy look away, unable to bear seeing the moment of Aslan's death.

The narrative skips over any description of Aslan's actual death, focusing instead on Susan and Lucy, who are crying silently as they watch the horrible event. They approach Aslan's limp body: "At any other time they would have trembled with fear; but now the sadness and shame and horror of Aslan's death so filled their minds that they hardly thought of it." They kiss his face and manage to remove the muzzle. The night grows cold, and, after hours and hours, the sky to the East suddenly looks a little lighter. They notice tiny movements in the grass all around them, and realize that little grey field mice are nibbling away at the cords binding Aslan to the Stone Table. The two girls are watching the sun rise out of the sea and listening to the birds singing when they hear a resounding crash behind them. They turn to see that the Stone Table has been broken into two pieces. Aslan's body is nowhere in sight. Susan asks, "Is it more magic?" The girls look around the area...and then they see him. Lucy wonders whether he is a ghost, but he is in fact very real, having returned from the dead. Lucy exclaims, "Oh, you're real, you're real!" Aslan explains to the girls that there is a deeper magic than the one that the Witch knows, one that comes from before the dawn of time. The magic written before the dawn of time dictates that when one gives his life for the life of a traitor, all is forgiven, and the life that has been snuffed out rises again.

Aslan rejoices in his renewed strength. The girls scramble onto the lion's back, and he runs through the country, faster than the fastest of racehorses. By mid-day, they arrive at the Witch's home. From a distance it seems like a little toy castle, but as they draw near it seems to frown at them. Aslan tells the children to hold tight, and leaps over the wall into the courtyard, which is filled with statues.


These two chapters reveal the nature of the agreement between Aslan and the White Witch. They learn that Aslan has in fact volunteered to take Edmund's place: an act that draws heavily on the story of Christianity. Aslan allows himself to be killed on the Stone Table, and Susan and Lucy witness the event. Aslan's death and rebirth are direct allusions to the Passion and Resurrection of Christ. Recalling Christ's death to atone for the sins of humanity, Aslan gives his life voluntarily in penance for Edmund's wrongdoings. Aslan's action is a powerful expression of love and forgiveness, as well as his faith that Edmund is someone worth redeeming.

The events that occur at the Stone Table create an allegorical picture of the story of Christ, albeit with a different set of symbols (e.g. a Stone Table rather than a cross). This creative decision suggests that Lewis hoped that the reader would experience an old story in a fresh way, thereby stirring in his audience the same sense of wonder and awe that he believed is experienced upon first hearing the story of Christ's death and rebirth. Some critics have criticized the use of creative allegories as unoriginal; however, Lewis' personal faith and fascination with religion and myth suggest that he believed otherwise. For Lewis, the important thing was to tell a good story: by culling from the story of Christ, he was working with the best one he knew.

The night scene at the Stone Table directly contrasts with the events of the previous day, which were celebratory, bright, and full of hope. At night, the White Witch reigns: the narrative aligns her with the moon and the darkness, which create an atmosphere in which things are difficult to see and can easily be misjudged. Prior to his death, Aslan suffers the mockery of the evil creatures who are gathered in support of the Witch: they shave off his hair, strap a muzzle onto his face, and call him a "cat." This collective mockery echoes Edmund's individual "silly and childish" reaction to the stone statue of the lion in the Witch's courtyard - the one that he believed was Aslan. The narrative suggests that mockery, in general, is borne out of fear, as well as a childish desire to exercise power over another. In this case, the evil creatures have lived in fear of Aslan for a long time; once they realize he does not intend to fight back, however, they develop the "courage" to childishly harass him. The circumstances of Aslan's death directly echo the mockery that Christ suffered before his crucifixion. The narrative, however, skips over the actual killing, carefully avoiding gratuitous details and keeping in mind the intended audience, which may have been too young to handle such an event.

Aslan's rebirth coincides with the sunrise, emphasizing the link between Aslan and the daytime: the time when everything can be seen clearly. Susan and Lucy, seeing that Aslan has come back to life, can hardly believe it. At first, Lucy wonders whether he is a ghost, but then realizes that he is quite real. Lewis again illustrates how "seeing" can lead to "belief" in something fantastic; this episode recalls the earlier scene when the Professor told Peter and Susan to entertain the possibility that Lucy's story about Narnia might be true. While it may seem improbable for someone to die and come back to life, the truth is literally standing right in front of Susan and Lucy - they must believe what they see. The joy and wonder that the girls feel as they cling to Aslan's back, practically flying through Narnia, is an almost religious bliss.

The narrative suggests that the defeat of the White Witch is imminent. Her own carelessness (not unlike the carelessness Edmund has shown throughout the tale) limits her powers; she fails to look beyond the dawn of time to find the "Deeper Magic"; had she done so, she would have known that Aslan was going to come back to life. The Witch's failure to look "deeper" is an echo of the wardrobe door itself: the facade falls away to reveal the truth only if one has faith and pure intentions. While the Emperor's magic governs Narnia in accordance with a set of fixed laws, the magic from before the dawn of time recognizes that some actions merit exceptional treatment. Aslan's sacrifice enables him to transcend even the most basic tenets of life and death, and absolves Edmund, the traitor.

Just prior to killing Aslan, however, the White Witch confides to Aslan that she has no intention of keeping her promise to allow Edmund to live, in spite of the fact that Aslan has volunteered to die in his place. She gloats that once Aslan is gone, there will be no one to stop her from killing the children and keeping Narnia under her power forever. This admission marks her as a traitor to her agreement with Aslan, as well as a traitor against the Emperor's Magic itself. These plot points drive the narrative towards the Witch's death and the fulfillment of the prophecy.