The Lion Aslan could be a lot of things, beyond being a powerful lion in the land of Narnia. I’ve been told he’s basically Jesus, but as I could never really square the adventurous fun of the Narnia books with the sanctimonious boredom of Sunday School, I always find that part of C.S. Lewis a little irritating.
For those who haven’t had the pleasure, Aslan is a magical lion who returns to the land of Narnia and breaks the cold misery that the White Witch has cursed the land with for years upon end. Aslan’s revolutionary return doesn’t go smoothly—he is betrayed, and in a trade for the life of his traitor, agrees to be killed by a mob of his opposition.
His sacrifice is done at the Stone Table, and Aslan is tied up and muzzled before he is paraded in front of all the creatures who believe in the creepy darkness of the White Witch’s power. And then the Witch kills him, with a knife made of stone.
The girls, Lucy and Susan, who hid in the shadows and watched their hero be bound and slaughtered wait until the Horribles go hooting away with the Witch. And then they come to him, hold his dead paws through the darkest part of the night, and take off his muzzle with their frozen fingers. Soon, the mice come creeping out of the fields and gnaw off the ropes that tied Aslan down.
And then, when the mice are gone and the girls are looking at the rising sun and imagining a world and a battle without their hero, there is a crack that shakes the earth, and Aslan comes back to life, stronger than ever.
I can, now, see the parallels to Jesus’ death and resurrection. I can also see the parallels to the seasons, to tides, to Apollo 13 slingshoting around the dark side of the moon.
It was the muzzling and the release that I thought of today, though. Science isn’t God, isn’t some sort of untouchable Deity or golden-maned savior in a fairy tale. However, in the work that the EPA, NOAA, and the USDA does, there is the information that can guide our country and culture out of the cursed rut of our own destruction through climate change and the impacts of pollution. Muzzling all of those voices, all those stories, all that information and data and solutions and knowledge, that is muzzling my real-life Aslan.
We need mice and moles and the little fingers of people lurking in the shadows to take off the muzzles and rip the ropes apart with their—our—teeth. The White Witch and the White House, they muzzle their prey before the slaughter.
Aslan explains to the relieved and confused little girls that there was a deeper than time magic that brought him back—that because the sacrifice was his choice in exchange for another’s life, it doesn’t “count.” For Lewis’s purposes of presenting Christian fables, this sacrifice to eternal life works well.
I, however, think more about the actions of the mice and the girls—they freed their hero, even as he seemed dead and gone. I like to believe that this—saving the savior—is part of what gives Aslan back his life. What good would his sacrifice have been if there had been no one at his side, releasing his voice to roar, his paws to crush the White Witch in battle?
I don’t need to spell this out with some fancy metaphor and image. Aslan is the work that the EPA, NOAA, USDA, NASA, and so many others do on behalf of all of us, for our safety and security in a fragile world. Trump and his gag order are the White Witch and her mob and muzzle and stone knife.
And we’re Susan, Lucy, and the Mice. Let’s get going, while we our love and belief can still bring back what we love and need to fight the coming battles.