Chronicles of Narnia: Voyage of the Dawn Treader

Liam Neeson's Comments on Aslan Stir Controversy

Narnia News Blog Update

December 4, 2010
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Well, the characterization of Liam Neeson’s quote in Britain’s MailOnline isn’t going to help matters much. According to a report posted by the website earlier today, Neeson was

claiming his character is also based on other religious leaders [besides Jesus Christ] such as Mohammed and Buddha.

That’s not exactly what Neeson said when he answered a question about his role as the Lion in the upcoming The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. You have to get deeper into the story to read what he actually said.

Aslan symbolises a Christ-like figure but he also symbolises for me Mohammed, Buddha and all the great spiritual leaders and prophets over the centuries. That’s who Aslan stands for as well as a mentor figure for kids – that’s what he means for me. [Emphasis added. To hear Neeson’s statements in their context, watch the video Greg Wright recorded at a roundtable interview in London: Press Conference, Part 1.]

The article goes on to say that Walter Hooper, C S Lewis’s secretary at the end of the Narnia author’s life and literary trustee of Lewis’s estate, “said the author would have been outraged.” Anglo-Catholic author William Oddie is quoted as saying Neeson’s words are

a betrayal of Lewis’s intention and a shameful distortion. Aslan is clearly established from the very beginning of the whole cannon as being a Christ figure. I can’t believe that Liam Neeson is so stupid as not to know.

Harsh words from a noted Christian scholar and “lifelong fan of the Chronicles of Narnia.”

While I agree that Lewis definitely had Jesus Christ in mind when he was writing the Chronicles, I do not find Neeson’s words outrageous, nor do I believe Lewis would have responded in such a gruff manner. Nor do I think he would have been nearly so displeased.

Let me try to explain what I mean.

When AslansCountry.com posted an article about Neeson’s quote earlier today, they received a reply from a “TG” who comments that faith is a personal journey, and recommends that Walter Hooper reread The Last Battle. TG’s apparent reference is a passage in Chapter 15 in which Aslan meets Emeth in the stable. Emeth is a Calormene who had served the god Tash all his life.  Aslan tells him, “Child, all the service that thou hast done to Tash, I account as service done to me.”

Some have taken Aslan’s words to mean that Lewis was a universalist, believing that all roads lead to the same end. This is untrue. In the same paragraph, Aslan responds to Emeth’s question about whether Aslan and Tash are the same. Letting out a growl “that shook the earth,” (The growl was not directed at Emeth.) he says,

It is false. Not because he and I are one, but because we are opposites, I take to me the services which thou hast done to him. …unless thy desire had been for me thou wouldst not have sought so long and so truly. For all find what they seek.

Lewis was not a universalist, but he did believe that those who follow spiritual leaders other than Christ can end up finding the truth. At Emeth’s death, as it were, he finds he was seeking Aslan all along. Lewis would “growl” at the notion that Christ and other spiritual leaders are essentially the same. He would not “growl” at someone (or call  him “stupid”) who was sincerely seeking the truth.

So, I don’t think that Lewis would be shattered because Neeson sees Mohammed and Buddha in Aslan. If Neeson finds other spiritual leaders besides Christ in Aslan, then perhaps it is because he sees something of Christ in them and someday will find what he is truly seeking.

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Mark received an Associates degree in Pastoral Ministries in 1989 and was licensed to the Gospel Ministry in 1997. Mark and his wife, who have been married over 30 years, live in northern Indiana. They have four grown children, two granddaughters, and one grandson. Besides his job for a manufacturing company, Mark also sells books—mainly related to C S Lewis and JRR Tolkien—on eBay (iHaveAnInkling).