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C.S. Lewis knew exactly what he was doing when he wrote The Chronicles of Narnia, as many theses, dissertations, and books have shown. He purposefully fused elements from European mythology (like dwarfs, dryads, dragons), Arthurian legends, medieval feudalism, mysticism, as well as Christianity when creating the imaginary world of Narnia. While he did NOT intend to write Narnia as a Christian allegory (such as Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress), he clearly intended the Narnian characters to possess analogous moral agencies with the earth Christians counterparts through the creatures's relationship with Aslan and the Emperor beyond the sea.

Magic in Narnia vs. the Bible, explaining to children

Christian children and adults alike obviously want to read The Chronicles of Narnia alongside the Bible. But how do we reconcile some use of magic depicted positively in Narnia with apparent Biblical condemnation of all use of the magical arts (see Bible verses)? When you read the Bible on some days and Narnia on other days to your kids, the natural questions from intelligent kids, especially whose parents prohibit them to read Harry Potter books are: "But Daddy, why is magic OK in Narnia, but not in the Bible? Why is it OK for me to read Narnia but not Harry Potter? Why is the magician Merlin in The Story of King Arthur and His Knights a good guy?"

Imagine the Narnia children themselves (Peter, Lucy, Edmund, etc.). We presume they are Christians on earth and read the Bible. How would they translate their experience of Narnian magic: embracing the positive ones into the earthly Christian equivalent but refraining from the negative ones?

Types of magic use, and how C.S. Lewis depict them in the stories

It looks like C.S. Lewis was careful enough while the story is happening on earth to disapprove the use of magic: portraying the usage of the magic rings for traffic between Earth and Narnia in The Last Battle and the amateur magician uncle's dabbling with magic in The Magician's Nephew negatively. Even in Narnia, it is clear that several magicians are portrayed negatively, such as the White Witch in LWW and the hag whom Nikabrik invited in PC. That's not problematic at all.

But what about Doctor Cornelius who used a little magic in PC, the magician Coriakin, and even Lucy's reciting the spell to make the Duffers visible again in VDT? After that, Coriakin even used more magic to feast the Narians, generated a map of their travel magically on parchment (which Caspian then hang in Cair Paravel), and even "mended the stern of the Dawn Treader where it had been damaged by the Sea Serpent and loaded her with useful gifts." All those are depicted positively.

Another issue is how the characters and the narrator seem to be using the word "magic" as though it's a morally neutral descriptive term. "Aslan mentions "Deep magic" in LWW. C.S. Lewis labels the traffic between Earth and Narnia as "magic", Susan's gift as "the great magic horn of Narnia", Lucy's cordial as "magic fluid", preservation of treasure in Prince Caspian as "by some magic in the air", and countless other references.

Problem of translation between Narnia magic and Biblical concepts

Obviously the answer is complicated. We probably need to translate C.S. Lewis use of the word "magic" in positive Narnian context to equally positive concept in real earth and Christianity. When Aslan attributes his resurrection to "Deep Magic" it probably means miracle. The operation of Susan's horn is analogous to prayer. Lucy's cordial is analogous to oil of the sick, etc.

Rather than a case by case conceptual translation, is there a unifying principle that ties good magic/magician in Narnia to a single concept/principle in earth Christianity and bad magic/magician in Narnia to another? I'm looking for something relatively simple that a Christian parent can use to explain to a child.

An acceptable answer has to provide a single (or a handful) of principles that can translate every occurrence of magic in all 7 books, either by good actors or bad actors. Especially when the narrator (C.S. Lewis) depicts the occurrence positively, because C.S. Lewis is Christian, there has to be a Christian explanation that does not violate the Biblical prohibition on magical practices.

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    I have been waiting for this one. It seems, I have read something about how in ages past, Christians employed magic into some stories in order to expose Christian truths!
    – Ken Graham
    Commented Jun 13, 2020 at 0:55
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    It's been a long time since I read the Narnia books, but it seems to me that many occurrences of "magic" in Narnia correspond to what in the real world would be called interactions between the natural, material universe and the supernatural world. Commented Jun 13, 2020 at 0:56
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    I would make the distinction between magic as manipulation and magic in service of the creator. Pharaoh's servants and Moses both turned staves into serpents, but one was a bald Harry Potter-like manipulation of the material world while the other was done in obedience to the One who created the material world.
    – zippy2006
    Commented Jun 13, 2020 at 20:20
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    "because C.S. Lewis is Christian, there has to be a Christian explanation that does not violate the Biblical prohibition on magical practices" - why? We find the same theme in J.R.R. Tolkien's work, as well as in much older stories, such as 9th-century Beowulf (a saga Christianized by the monk who recorded it, with Pagan magic deliberately left intact), and the 12th-century Reprecentacion de los Reyes Magos in which the 3 kings of the East are depicted as magicians by the Christian author of the play. Likewise, Dante's Inferno does not present a Christian doctrinal hell.
    – Codosaur
    Commented Jun 14, 2020 at 6:52
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    @KenGraham After some research, I have a potential answer along the following lines: 1) Magic is part of a fairy tale genre, so has to be interpreted that way; 2) C.S. Lewis was careful enough to warn the protagonists that they should rely on Aslan rather than magic; magic use was allowed only by non-humans (Coriakin is a punished star); 3) Aslan is more supreme over all magic and he is in charge to delegate magic use as he sees fit; all unauthorized use are clearly depicted as insubordination / evil. Commented Jun 15, 2020 at 2:07

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In the real world, there is no fairy tale magic. (Devotees of Harry Potter, take note.) If you see something "magical", you're either seeing (1) a fraud, (2) a marvel of technology, (3) a holy miracle of God, or (4) some kind of demonic action.

The Bible and the Church forbid "sorcery" and "witchcraft" because those words literally refer to that practice (#4) of trying to obtain supernatural power through devil-worship. We can say that these practices are morally wrong, and that you should not go to fortune tellers and witch doctors, without having to accept the premise that they actually work -- they probably don't. But if they do, demons are involved.

That's not to say that miracles of God don't happen in our lives. I'm sure they do, but I have a hunch they are recognizably different from sorcery and witchcraft, so you wouldn't mistake the two.

On the other hand, in a fairy tale, there is such a thing as fairy tale magic. That kind of magic, in those fictional worlds, does not come as a result of devil-worship. You can think of it as a kind of marvellous technology that works on Narnian laws of physics. For that reason, it's not a sin for Narnians to use benign magic for good. Nor is it a sin for Harry Potter or Merlin or your kid's favorite Disney character to use fairy-tale magic. The risk of sin is that someone in the real world might mistake fantasy for reality and make moral compromises to try to obtain supernatural power here.

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Anyone who believes that C.S. Lewis was anything other than one of the most sincere and completely devoted Christians of the 20th century must have no idea about his reputation as a Christian apologist. To be clear, the Chronicles were intended for CHILDREN and were written to appeal to the sensibilities and intellectual development of CHILDREN. While I think CSL wrote the Chronicles for anyone under the age of about 16, some of us who read these books over and over tend to put too much thought into what he was trying to convey with his symbolism and imagery. Sometimes, he was just trying to get kids to think about their place as people in a world created by God.

By using references to magic, talking animals, knights, and dragons, Lewis was merely trying to appeal to the sense of fantasy that most young kids have naturally. He never suggested or implied that magic was an alternative to being a good, moral person; or that one should seek wealth and success over their relationships with others. In fact, in almost every example I can think of, those characters who rely upon magic to obtain their desires always end up losing them. Only those characters who are willing to sacrifice their own safety, comfort, and reputations can eventually see Aslan. And those who cannot see Aslan cannot enjoy the blessings of his presence.

I think CSL was trying to get across that Jesus expects us to come to Him as children; that is, without any preconceived notions about what is possible. To be a Christian, it is necessary to first accept that the supernatural has dominion over the natural world. If we are willing to believe in magic, then we should be more than willing to believe in God. CSL once wrote that those who practice Paganism are much closer to Christians than Atheists or Agnostics.

So while his images might seem pagan, his intent was to inspire children to seek the supernatural; and consider that without the supernatural, there can be no nature. This was a self-evident proposition for him, but he explained it very well in numerous essays and in his most famous work on the subject. I think Narnia is just an extension of this idea that a belief in God begins with a belief in something other than a corporeal existence. He used magic to cultivate this belief and to inspire curiosity among children about what their true roles on Earth might be.

It was also just a set of really neat books for kids to read that disguised Christian ethics as fairy tales. Thank God for C.S. Lewis and the Chronicles of Narnia.

As for the comment about CSL's and JRR Tolkien's works being somehow un-Christian, clearly the commenter has not read either author very much. If you do just a little research you will find that JRRT was another Christian who tried to do the same thing for adults (among his many other intentions) with the Lord of the Rings. Although Narnia was not as linguistically rich or as complete of a work as the Rings, both authors should be read by Christians because they convey mind-opening truths about strength of character and powers greater than self-interest that can't be absorbed through a sermon or even a philosophy class.

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  • Your sentence capture CS Lewis's intent well "while his images might seem pagan, his intent was to inspire children to seek the supernatural; and consider that without the supernatural, there can be no nature." If I may interpolate, this strategy represents using magic as a "cultural language" to communicate theological truth that transcends culture: paganism for adult (in terms of European myths) and fairy tale magic for children. The audience is 20th century mentality that is bereft of any miracles, which are essential way for a Christian God to reveal Himself to us in a personal way. Commented Mar 23, 2023 at 16:37
  • That was very well said. Commented Apr 20, 2023 at 1:01
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In Narnia, magic is used to represent the non-human power that God has, and Aslan himself is seen to be powerful. For example, in the Bible, prophets have non-human abilities but it is seen as spiritual gifts rather than evil magic, because it was given to them by God.

In the Bible, magic often refers to people who use spiritual power for their own gain, to prophesy against God's will or to harm others (this is where Jadis the White Witch represents Satan - she has power which is in opposition to Aslan's good power).

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How to interpret C.S. Lewis's use of magic by good moral agents in the Chronicles of Narnia to be acceptable to earth Christians?

Magic is not a new subject matter in Christian fiction. It is one that seems to come to the forefront more often in modern times due to such books as The Lord of the Rings and C. S. Lewis’ The Chronicle of Narnia tales.

Magic included in Christian fiction is not new. I can remember reading such books when I was quite young. Some were several hundred years old. In fact, they were generally written not so much to promote the use of magic, but rather to make some Christian moral teaching or doctrine come to light. Besides real magical spells were never given. After all, it is simply Christian fiction.

The use of real spells has no use in Christian fiction and neither Tolkien or Lewis employed it. They are both great Christian writers!

C.S. Lewis was a brilliant Christian writer and knew how to make the imaginary come alive. We call this simply Christian fantasy which can allow an author, like Lewis to model his story around the essence of the moral life between good and evil.

“So why bother putting magic in stories at all?” someone might ask. “If magic can be an issue, why shouldn’t a Christian writer leave it out of stories altogether?” I’d say there are three basic reasons to work out a means to include magic in stories: 1) Fantasy is a popular genre with loads of readers. It makes sense to desire to reach them within their genre expectations from a strictly analytical point of view. Not to mention it can inherently interesting to write fantasy for people who’ve read it–and fantasy normally contains magic. 2) Fantasy has the ability to use analogy or allegory or myth-making to create powerful messages about the world we live in. And what the story calls “magic” can be a key part of any such analogy. C.S. Lewis achieved using the word “magic” that way in the Chronicles of Narnia, in fact. 3) And it so happens to be that magic is a staple of fantasy as much as aliens are a staple of science fiction. You could write the one without including the other, but it would not really represent the genre well for the most part. Or be as interesting. - Seven Ways to Deal With the Problem Magic Poses Christian Fantasy Writers

Lewis was a great Christian fiction author.

In his Chronicles of Narnia, Lewis makes it clear that the source and creation of all life is Jesus Christ, symbolized by the Great Lion, Aslan. And Aslan tells the children who come into Narnia from our world that they were there because He has called them; and that they will know Him in their own world, too – only “by another name.” It takes a very dense reader not to know that this other name is Jesus.

This is what Lewis gets right. In all seven Narnia books, the theme is getting to know Christ. For the most part, this is accomplished through obedience and love. This is a very big thing to get right. - After Lewis and Tolkien

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Aslanin the 2005 film The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.

Magic or no magic The Chronicles of Narnia is full of Christian themes and imagery.

In one of his last letters, Lewis wrote, "Since Narnia is a world of Talking Beasts, I thought He [Christ] would become a Talking Beast there, as He became a man here. I pictured Him becoming a lion there because (a) the lion is supposed to be the king of beasts; (b) Christ is called "The Lion of Judah" in the Bible; (c) I'd been having strange dreams about lions when I began writing the work."

The similarity between the death and resurrection of Aslan and the death and resurrection of Jesus has been noted; one author has noted that like Jesus, Aslan was ridiculed before his death, mourned, and then discovered to be absent from the place where his body had been laid. - Aslan

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We have seen that when we try to justify something, that means it tends to be wrong. When we excuse magic in other shows, movies, books, and games, this shows we are trying to justify magic, this thinking is wrong because God's word is very clear about those who practice sorcery (magic) or "tolerate (accept) Jeezbul" who sacrificed children, worshipped and performed witchcraft (magic) before idols.

Whether it's fictional or nonfiction, we are shaped by the content we take in and when we begin to agree with the material of the content it can change how we look at life. We become desensitized to magic, and we will look no different than the World that agrees with this stuff.

I know this because I use to be a huge LOTR, HP, and LOZ fan for 15 years! But when I looked objectively through the lens of scripture and allowed His Word to change me, I realized to please God and to have a proper relationship with my Savior I needed to get rid of the junk that was distracting/separating me from Him. I did not want to be honest, I just wanted to keep living the way I was yet something needed to change, I knew it was wrong by what God's word said and we can even see in the Book of Acts of those who when they rejected their magical practices they burned their magic scrolls. It wasn't an easy task, the scrolls were not cheap and I did the same with the magic in my life. Get rid of it! I don't care if the author or the content has "Christian values" or "story" but that it's encouraging the truth and to do what's right by the Bible's standard.

I'm sorry, C.S. Lewis & J.R. Tolkien books are not good books through the lens of scripture so I would recommend as Believers to stop promoting or reading such books, hopefully, other books as well so Believers stop encouraging magic and false gods to be normalized in our society. That is all.

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    – agarza
    Commented Mar 19, 2023 at 4:19
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    This is potentially a good answer (and is different from the others) but it might be criticised for a style or form not suitable for this site. The first sentence directly addresses the question, and that's good, but much of what follows becomes more and more personal, and that's bad. Answers here should be written as objectively as possible (as if they were part of a secular encyclopedia article). In particular, the use of personal pronouns, such as "I" (12 times), "me", and "my" are normally not suitable.¶ Use highly rated questions and answers as examples. Please do continue to contribute. Commented Mar 20, 2023 at 14:18
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    You are correct that people are trying to justify things that are wrong. However, C. S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia, and J. R. R. Tolkien’s lore is much different than other works. It can be hard to see that if you don’t read other books of theirs, but they were not approving of demonic things.
    – TacoBlayno
    Commented Mar 23, 2023 at 4:33
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    However, magic in Conicals of Narnia is much different than magic prohibited in the Bible. In that series, magic simply means super natural. Aslan’s power was capped magic, yet he was to represent Christ. The Bible never bans “magic” in that sense. What it bans is devil worship. The words used by the Bible literally mean to speak with spirits that are against God. The words don’t translate the same as C. S. Lewis’s. Read Earl Wajenbirg’s post: quora.com/…
    – TacoBlayno
    Commented Mar 23, 2023 at 4:46
  • Both of my girls got highest marks in the National Mythology Exams during our homeschooling years and the primary thing they took away from it was that all of those 'gods' were way too much like us humans to be actually God...they were just 'gods' made in our image...just idols and stories. Because they recognize this they never wanted to use 'magic' as they see that reliance upon the true God is infinitely more powerful. It is important to emphasize principle over the letter of the law (which kills). Commented Mar 23, 2023 at 22:08

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