My senior year of high school, all the girls were raving about Ben Barnes, the actor who played Prince Caspian. I, not being a fan of long hair, preferred the actor who played Peter. My friends bemoaned, “Of course you would like Peter.” Peter is brave and responsible, but often kind; he is the idyllic good character. My friends told me, “He’s too good. No one like that would ever exist in real life.” As a person who tends to view the world in black and white, it made sense for me to find myself attracted to Peter, even though he is unrealistically perfect.
One of my other friends, however, confessed to being rather fond of Edmund. “Edmund!” I exclaimed, “But he betrays everyone!” She, a Christian, reminded me, “But he is real. He has both good and evil inside him and it takes a struggle for the good to triumph.” In this world, there are no Peters. There are only Edmunds. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Which is a very good thing for me, because if a Peter did exist, I could never deserve him.Edmund foolishly aligns himself with the White Witch, who appears fair at first but proves to be malicious and evil incarnate. He betrays his siblings for his own selfish gain. He makes a pact with the (allegorical) Satan because of his gluttony and ambition. Yet when the White Witch reveals her true nature, he recognizes his mistake. He longs to return to his family once more. Most of us, entrapped by the devil’s temptations, eventually realize our mistake and long to rejoin our Father once more.
When Edmund does reunite with the forces of good, he must face Aslan, with whom he has a conversation “which Edmund never forgot.” Aslan returns Edmund to his siblings, saying, ““Here is your brother… there is no need to talk to him about what is past.” How often do we fear repentance, worrying about who will judge us or what people will say? Yet the family of God is not like that; Peter, Susan, and Lucy lovingly accepts Edmund’s return, no questions asked.
It is only the White Witch who returns to remind them, “You have a traitor there, Aslan.” When we think that all has been forgiven, Satan lingers and reminds us of the sin from which we thought we were free. Aslan sacrifices himself to save Edmund so that he may remain with his family. Edmund proves to be one of their bravest soldiers. Peter admits, “We’d have been beaten if it hadn’t been for him.” Even though Edmund made a mistake, he was still useful and important to completing the mission.
In the end, Edmund is made a ruler of Cair Paravel just like the rest of his siblings: his treason sin is forgotten and forgiven forever. I hope to always remember that I am like Edmund: fallen, sinful, betraying those I love. But Christ has been sacrificed for me so that my treason may be forgiven, and now I may be given a home in heaven.
In my efforts to be brave and responsible like Peter, I tend to bury myself in theology and books on doctrine. My shelves are lined with non-fiction: my attempts to be productive in how I spend my time. Yet often the greatest lessons are not found in the scholars of old or the brightest academics of today, but rather in children’s tales of good and evil. In particular, a tale about a boy who had a little bit of both inside him.
I know there’s nothing miraculously insightful or new in this post: everyone knows that the Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe is a Christian allegory. Yet if you’re like me, you may feel guilty for reading fiction when you could be learning something more useful. In our last print issue, Nick Nowalk urged us to read old books. I’d like to urge you to not just read old books, but to read children’s books. They may remind you of things you’ve forgotten after being buried in academic studies for several months. If we’re supposed to cultivate a childlike faith, it seems like reading children’s books is a good place to start.