That title just about says it all.
“Can’t you get to sleep either?” said Susan.
“No,” said Lucy. “I thought you were asleep. I say, Susan!”
“I’ve a most horrible feeling – as if something were hanging over us.”
“Have you? Because, as a matter of fact, so have I.”
“Something about Aslan,” said Lucy. “Either some dreadful thing is going to happen to him, or something dreadful he’s going to do.”
This chapter is full of dread as Aslan has his Gethsemane. It’s at this point that the girls are separated from the boys (the boys are left nervously anticipating the fight against the Witch), with the girls joining Aslan in his journey back to the Stone Table.
“Aslan! Dear Aslan!” said Lucy, “what is wrong? Can’t you tell us?”
“Are you ill, dear Aslan?” asked Susan.
“No,” said Aslan. “I am sad and lonely. Lay your hands on my mane so that I can feel you are there and let us walk like that.”
Somehow, it seems as if the children are the only ones unaware of what’s going on – not just Susan and Lucy, but all the children when they first read it (or perhaps hear it). They just know something awful is about to happen, and they’re not completely sure why. They keep asking themselves why Aslan doesn’t just fight back when the Witch does all sorts of little cruelties to him.
Honestly, that’s one of the greatest strengths of Lewis’s allegory – it takes an idea that often becomes stale to adults (and even children) who have heard it so many times before, then recasts it as a totally different story. The children ask questions about Aslan that they’d never ask about God or Christ, which can make the adults see the original story in a new light, too. It’s an obvious allegory, but that doesn’t mean it’s a carbon copy with a talking lion in place of a man. It’s a powerful tool for engaging children in conversation about things that most adults assume they wouldn’t have anything relevant to say about. Speaking as someone who grew up with these books, Lewis’s portrayal of Aslan has really colored the way I see God to this day.
On a lighter note:
But such people! Ogres with monstrous teeth, and wolves, and bull-headed men; spirits of evil trees and poisonous plants; and other creatures whom I won’t describe because if I did the grown-ups would probably not let you read this book
And on a somber note:
“And now, who has won? Fool, did you think that by all this you would save the human traitor? Now I will kill you instead of him as our pact was and so the Deep Magic will be appeased. But when you are dead what will prevent me from killing him as well? And who will take him out of my hand then? Understand that you have given me Narnia forever, you have lost your own life and you have not saved his. In that knowledge, despair and die.”
Next time: Eucatastrophe