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Many, if not most modern authors show a remarkable level of influence from ancient writings and ideas.

This may be evident in character development, plot line, or the underlying message of the story. C.S. Lewis is widely regarded as an influential writer of the 20th century, with 50 or so works published in more than 30 languages. It is generally acknowledged that he draws heavily from Christian motifs and theology when writing his books, for example, in his (arguably best-known) works, the Chronicles of Narnia (Como 1994). For example, in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe the deity-like figure, Aslan, acts on behalf of his father, the unseen Emperor-Beyond-the-Sea, and in addition gives his life to ransom an unworthy character, Edmund, from a certain death (Lewis 1970a). However, it is certain that New Testament inspirations were not the only ones to affect Lewis‟ writings; in fact, a much older set of stories and ideas show influence. These are the Greek mythological stories, and their underlying themes. This paper seeks to further explore this possibility by investigating the Classical Traditions of Greek mythology, as found in C.S. Lewis‟ The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.

The Wardrobe and Narnia When the reader first enters the land of Narnia along with Lucy Pevensie, the first creature she meets is the faun Tumnus. Described as half goat and half man, he is recognizable as a satyr. However, since Lewis adheres to his own strict guidelines for children‟s literature, the satyr is not revealed in the true Greek sense of uncontrolled, overtly sexual behaviour (Campbell and Jackson 2007). As the story progresses, other inhabitants of Narnia are introduced, including talking animals, and various creatures arising from Greek mythology: nymphs and tree-spirits, the Pegasus, centaurs, giants, dwarfs and minotaurs, and most interestingly the god Bacchus.


Tumnus explains to Lucy the wonder of Narnia before the White Witch assumed power: “ . as will be revealed. in two sequels to the book considered here: Prince Caspian. and sometimes Bacchus himself. Edmund. respectively. and as an adult translated for himself a nearly complete rendition of the Aeneid (Nelson 2002).. Was Lewis aware of the Greek influences on his books? Certainly. discovered by Lucy‟s brother. 13). the wildness and revelry of these Maenads is especially described by Euripides in his Bacchae (Woodruff 1998). The Witch is the malevolent “deity”. and then the streams would run with wine instead of water and the whole forest would give itself up to jollification for weeks on end. In Greek myths. she reports that Lewis himself admits that the Jadis “is of course Circe” (2004). notably similar to the Greek goddess Circe. turning water into wine and followed by a dancing band of female tree-spirits: his Maenads. the Greek god of wine (further identified by his friend Silenus the drunkard).. As a young boy he was keenly interested in reading Greek.In a specific example. Finally. summer when the woods were green and old Silenus on his fat donkey would come to visit them. ~2~ . However. Lewis presents him as a young river god. as observed by Jean Graham in her article. is better known as Dionysus. events mirror closely Homer‟s Iliad and Odyssey. The White Witch and her Power The second Narnian encountered is the White Witch (Jadis). In fact. and The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. Bacchus. of course.” (Lewis 1970. contrasted with the good Aslan and. Irish and Norse mythologies. the classical influences and parallels run much deeper than simply borrowing characters.

In Lewis‟ Narnia.Like Circe. but in fact has no intention of sharing her power.220-36). supplied by Hermes with the antidote for Circe‟s potion is able to withstand her. unless he allows it. and offers to betray his only link to home. “If she can stand on her two feet and look him in the face it‟l l be the most she can do. and offered delicious enchanted food. Circe is also in possession of a powerful golden wand. when his expedition brings the hero to the island of Aiaia in search of food. Like Circe. to incapacitate potential threats. the Witch is beautiful and ageless. Both keep a tidy and welcoming outer appearance. Beaver exclaims of the Witch. the younger girls are innocent and tom-boyish and have ~3~ . he forgets what he ought to do. Another quality shared by the Witch and Circe is their employment of deception to attain what they want. Although. Edmund is invited to ride in the comfortable sledge of the White Witch. The Witch promises that Edmund will be made her prince (34). 10.261-63). Through his desire for more of the Turkish delight. which she uses to put men completely under her control by turning them bodily into pigs (Lattimore 1965. Naïvely trusting her. Jadis uses a wand. succumbing to the potion lacing their drinks. his brother and sisters (Lewis 1970a). usually male. In The Odyssey. This manifests through the use of her wand and enchanted food by both. and under her power they forget their own country (Lattimore 1965. some of his men are drawn in by Circe‟s beautiful singing and welcoming home. allowing her to turn living creatures into stone statures (Lewis 1970a. Similarly.. the White Witch has no power over the hero of the story.. the idea of a grown-up woman with power is presented as dangerous and even unnatural. Odysseus. 10.” (74). 111-113). and in possession of considerable power. while Mr. Both women use their wand. in contrast.

adventures. Women in general are presented as deceptive in Greek mythology: summarizing the mindset of his era. Graham notes that following transition to womanhood. In many cases. She is not the rightful ruler. Just like rumbling Zeus wanted. 158). Their conclusion was that absolute authority is a distinctly male characteristic and property.” (Lombardo 1993. As Mr. in contrast to the Witch. holding the world back from progressing toward happiness and spring. As punishment to mankind for stealing back fire... as son of the Emperor. holds all the land in the grips of winter. and therefore the suppression of the role of the female in religion and society is a theme heavily underlined in greek myths. where a woman was given power and it led to some great calamity. ~4~ . the quicksilver messenger [Hermes] put in her breast Lies and wheedling words and a cheating heart. intruding from a different world. therefore that the female Witch uses the phallic symbol of the wand to assert her authority (Graham 2004). 96-99) Pandora. Pandora. Hesiod in his Works and Days recounts the creation of the first woman. It is not coincidence. as is recounted in The Magician’s Nephew (Lewis 1970b). The Lion and his Return The Lion. their nature is assumed to change (2004). Although she is as beautiful as an immortal goddess. She may only be Queen of Narnia up until the time when the male ruler returns. unexplained absence. in fact she is an usurper. Here she is reminiscent of the Titan Uranus (Lombardo Theogony 1993. is the rightful King of Narnia. seizing opportunity in his extended. she is fashioned under Zeus‟ orders. hypothetical situations are described. the White Witch. and her descendents (mortal women) only bring trouble. However. “.

it is “always winter and never Christmas” (Lewis 1970a.1-640). Also congruent with the portrayal of the Witch as Uranus. giants. followed by real spring (115). 166). 102). apes. we see reflections of ancient Greek heroes. centaurs. minotaurs and the spirits of poisonous plants (148-54). Both Odysseus and Aslan prove their heroic nature by embarking on journeys to the land of the dead. dogs. lions. Like Odysseus. unicorns and treenymphs (Lewis 1970a. the primitive. vultures. and returning safely – in a way which no one has done before. hags. efreets. one of the first signs of her diminishing power is the return of Father Christmas. The “noble” beasts are beautiful and good. In both Aslan‟s situation and nature. Evil. Thus. leopards. and the Fates In examining the creatures of Narnia. and the ugly: ogres. one finds shallowness in the tendency to relate outward appearance to their inward natures. beavers. her symbol of masculinity. Odysseus does so by sailing down the Styx (Lattimore 1965. spectres. stags. Aslan is an hero of intelligence as well as strength – outwitting the Witch through the use of his more extensive knowledge about the Deep Magic (Campbell and Jackson 2007).Beaver remarks. and must resolve the conflicts he finds there. in order to gain information. Her army is ~5~ . and side with Aslan: eagles. dwarfs. Back to the Wardrobe: Good. the White Witch is surrounded by the deformed. were-wolves. 11. In contrast. wolves. he is returning home after a long absence. fauns and satyrs. incubuses. and so overthrows death itself. also deceiving her by pretending he knows nothing (Holbrook 1991). while Aslan does so by submitting to be killed on a behalf of a guilty one. such as Odysseus. this conflict can only be resolved by further violent struggle – which ironically includes breaking her wand.

this is unusual. but the Cyclopes with their deformity are seen as primitive and slow-witted. Typhaon and the Minotaur. and so prove the heroic nature of the champion (Lombardo Theogony 1993).. why do you prophesy my death? There is no need I know very well myself that it is my destiny to die here. For example. at the hand of “a great god and your powerful destiny”.described as a “crowd of horrible creatures . In addition. such as the Medusa. However. emphasis mine). the Sphinx.” (Verity 2011. A great contrast of human response to prophesy is found in Homer‟s Iliad. shown through two characters who receive a the same message. as a general theme of greek tragedies involves futile struggling of humans to escape the ~6~ . This theme is very greek in origin. To this the hero responds: “Xanthus. the Olympian gods are stunningly beautiful. many of the greek heroes must face beings monstrous in appearance and behaviour. namely Fate. First.420-423) Here. The only fate for these monsters is to be killed. in an exchange. in the daylight. 19. for example the famed Pythia of Apollo (Bushnell 1988). These are reminiscent of Greek mythology: the Fates are children of Zeus (Lombardo Theogony 1993). but for all that I shall not hold back until I have driven the Trojans to eat their fill of war. the Cyclopes. Scylla and Charybdis. Achilles‟ horse Xanthus speaks and prophesies of Achilles‟ impending death. but their decisions are unchangeable and unavoidable even by the gods.. far from my dear father and mother. The Fates are revealed by the gods in the form of prophesies and oracles. we see a calm acceptance of fate and the resolve to make the best of it. Narnia is ultimately governed by a force greater than both Aslan and the Witch. they looked even stranger and more evil and more deformed” (173.

Both speak of the beginning of an end to the Witch‟s reign. and it is all over (Lewis 1970a. he purposefully misinterprets them to himself. expecting that they will come true. triumphantly stating: “.” Through this she means to prevent the four thrones from being filled. However. The second manifestation of fate is in the Deep Magic.every traitor belongs to me . like Hector. she argues that unless she has blood “as the Law says all Narnia will be overturned and perish in fire and water” (Lewis 1970a. Hector. 139-41). her face turns “towards him for one second with an expression of terror and amazement”. In Narnia. At first. and (b) the crowning of two kings and two queens (sons of Adam and daughters of Eve. unwilling to accept the idea of his own death. However. respectively) at Cair Paraval.. denies her approaching ruin and fights to the end to avoid her fate. as Edmund‟s betrayal seems to lead to certain death. which Aslan ultimately does. The White Witch. there are two separate prophesies mentioned. following (a) the return of Aslan. the second prophesy seems impossible.. Unknown to the witch.. laws set in place at the beginning of time by the Emperor-Beyond-the-Sea.fate they have discovered. 174). Another hero of the Iliad. his deception means that he becomes lawful property of the Witch.. However. the followers of Aslan hold steadfastly to the prophesies of his return. until he is confronted with it at Achilles‟ hands (Bushnell 1988. In that last moment. until she is confronted with the risen Aslan. When Edmund betrays his brother and sisters to the Witch. When Aslan‟s people protest.487-89)... 2728). She comes into Aslan‟s camp. his life is forfeit. there is even deeper magic (from before the dawn ~7~ . also receives warnings that he will soon die (6. the deep magic states that an someone one can die in the guilty one‟s place.

Indeed. 186) ~8~ .. death cannot hold them and will begin to work backwards.of time) that when an innocent one dies willingly in these circumstances. when she is surprised by the return of the living Aslan (174). we note that Lewis‟ work. although a children‟s novel. and the Wardrobe. Although in most studies of the book reference is usually attributed (quite appropriately) to the Christian aspects of Aslan and Narnia. the Witch. . contain many literary themes adapted from Greek and Christian stories. This leads to the demise of the Witch..S. The Lion.what do they teach them at these schools? (Lewis 1970a. In conclusion. the essayist believes that the picture is not understood in maximum possible depth unless the Greek influences are also accounted for. Lewis‟ works joins the ranks of the many influential western literature inspired deeply by the classical tradition. C.

The Skeleton in the Wardrobe. Lewis. 1988.BIBLIOGRAPHY Bushnell. “Mere Lewis. New York: Oxford University Press. no. Nelson. Ithaca: Cornell University Press. not safe‟: Structure vs. no. Translated by Stanley Lombardo. “Women. “ „Good. 1970b. 2 (1994): 109-117. Ethan. The Lion. Works and Days and Theogony. Graham. Bacchae. Hesiod. 1-2 (2004): 32-44. 99-100 (2007): 41-62. Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing. C. and Power: Circe and Lilith in Narnia.” Mythlore 26. Homer. 1993. the Witch and the Wardrobe. Campbell. Michael. Homer.” The American Prospect 14. Como. 1970a. 1998. and Robert Jackson." Children’s Literature Association Quarterly 29. C. Euripides. Rebecca. New York: Macmillian Publishing. Sex. The Iliad. 2011. ~9~ .S. The Magician’s Nephew. 1991. Lewis.S. Jean. no. Prophesying Tragedy: Signs and Voice in Sophocles’ Theban Plays. 4 (2002): 29-32. Lewisburg: Bucknell University Press. Chaos in Narnia and the Writing Workshop. David. no. Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing.” The Wilson Quarterly 18. The Odyssey. 1965. Holbrook. Translated by Paul Woodruff. “The Gospel according to Lewis. Translated by Anthony Verity. James. New York: Harper and Row. Translated by Richmond Lattimore. New York: Macmillian Publishing.