IVP - Strangely Dim - If I Were King of the Forest

December 5, 2005

If I Were King of the Forest

Well, we're a week out from The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe hitting theaters. Yesterday I got a good, up-close look at some of the merchandising. There was Peter, there was Edmund, there was Aslan--with biting action?

I confess I'm not well-schooled in the Chronicles of Narnia, but I don't usually think of Aslan as biting stuff, although I suppose that's what lions do. I think of Aslan as talking and roaring and motioning and singing the world into existence--none of which are particularly compelling to a toy-buying public. Still, Aslan with biting action is kind of like Jesus with karate-chop action: certainly possible, it nevertheless kind of misses the point.

I was also a bit surprised not to find a Lucy anywhere in the table-top display of Narniastuff. Isn't she the cat's meow, so to speak? But I guess boys don't buy girl action figures.

I shouldn't be too critical--the Narnia movies have to fit into a Disney template, which means in order to earn its keep each Narnia film needs to generate merchandising sales. And if it's going to generate merchandising sales, it's going to have to ruthlessly analyze the market and bend Aslan, the sons of Adam and the daughters of Eve to its purposes. I'm sure that when The Horse and Its Boy hits the theaters, we'll be treated to a Bree action figure that shoots glue out of its hooves. (That one's for free, Disney.) It'll be edutainment.

Posted by Dave Zimmerman at December 5, 2005 2:13 PM Bookmark and Share


Macon had some tech trouble, which I'm told is now fixed. Here's what he had to say:

"hmmm. Now you've got me thinking. re: biting Aslan - In "The Silver Chair," Jill Pole asks Aslan to promise not to eat her, and Aslan tells her he's eaten boys and girls, kings and queens, and whole kingdoms. Perhaps that's what
Disney was thinking of here. Do I win a no-prize?"

For the uninitiated, "No-prizes" were rewards given out to Marvel comic book readers for (a) identifying and (2) reconciling continuity problems in their favorite superhero storylines. So yes, Macon, you do win a no-prize, which is French for nothing.

"re: no Lucy - I read earlier in the year that Disney's discovered an effective way to segment their audience between girls and boys: princesses & (effectively) Princes. Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Ariel (the mermaid) are in their Princess line. They have no trouble mining
their current characters for such Princesses. But they have had a hard time filling the "Prince" line for little boys. Perhaps they're using the Narnia characters to fill out this line and don't need Lucy to bolster their Princess line?"

I can accept that. Lucy's probably too young for them anyway.

"bonus trivia: Did you know that Walden Media, Disney's partner in this production, is owned by the same guy who started "The Foundation For
A Better Life" which does the "Pass It On" billboards?"

Interesting. Are those the billboards from God?

Comment by: dave (channeling Macon) at December 6, 2005 9:01 AM

Lewis said Aslan is "good but not safe." Just like Jeremiah's prophecy, we should not take our Lord lightly (see http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Matthew%207:21-23;&version=51;). Sin is a serious matter. To suggest that our Lord doesn't have teeth is not only ignorant, but also hurtful. When a lit match is brought near to gasoline, there is an explosion. Respect the teeth, less you be bit when you least expect it.

Comment by: Steve at December 6, 2005 2:39 PM

In my defense, I didn't say Jesus doesn't have teeth . . .

So what's at the center of Aslan as a character? When I think of LWW, I think of the atonement. I think of Aslan submitting himself to death at the hands of the witch. And quite frankly, when I see the phrase "biting action," I don't think of Jesus, no matter how unsafe he is. Jesus as sin-eater is utilitarian: Jesus attacks sin because sin needs attacking. In contrast, "biting action" is indiscriminate, wreckless. Aslan could bite anyone at any time, subject only to the whimsy of the kid who got him for Christmas. I could send Aslan on a rampage in my office, biting my superhero action figures in half, but there would be no meaning implied behind it other than I apparently don't have enough work to do.

Comment by: dave at December 6, 2005 2:53 PM

In LWW Aslan does kill the Witch. We do not actually witness the scene, but I'm guessing it might have something to do with His teeth. While LWW (as well as all the Narnia books) does has a cenral theme of redemption, redemption usualy requires a death to life experience, whether it is literal or figurative. Maybe the biting action represent that Aslan has conquered death and is now is it's master (can you say stretch?). It also reminds me of A Horse and His Boy when Aslan took a swipe at the girl (whose name slips my mind). I'm not sure why it reminds me so stop waiting for something deep and spiritual because it's not coming to me at this moment.
Also Aslan appears as a Lamb and an Albatros in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader...I wander what "action" they would have....For the north and Narnia!!!

Comment by: Damon Barnum at December 7, 2005 8:02 AM

It's clear I need a Narnia refresher course. I suppose my aversion to Aslan's teeth reflects just as much or more about me as it does about Disney. Maybe I don't like violence; maybe I don't like teeth; maybe I prefer the "friend we have in Jesus" to the "angry God" we find ourselves in the hand of. But still, if you're making a toy lion, what are you going to make it do?

* You can make it swish its tail.
* You can make give it paw-swiping action.
* You can make it bite.
* You can make it roar.

All things considered, I'd make it roar. A lion's roar demonstrates its dominance, communicates danger and announces its presence. Aslan's voice is what distinguishes him from other lions, which do not speak English and cannot sing life into existence. I ache and shudder to hear Aslan's voice, whether he bites me or not.

Comment by: dave at December 7, 2005 8:13 AM


Comment by: Damon at December 7, 2005 8:34 AM

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Behind the Strangeness

Lisa Rieck is a reader and writer who likes to discuss good ideas over hot drinks and gets inspired by the sky. She takes in all kinds of good ideas as a proofreader for InterVarsity Press.

Rebecca Larson is a writer/designer/creative type who has infiltrated IVP's web department, where she writes and edits online content. She enjoys a good pun and loves the smell of freshly printed books.

David A. Zimmerman is an editor for Likewise Books and a columnist for Burnside Writers Collective. He's written three books, most recently The Parable of the Unexpected Guest. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/unexpguest. Find his personal blog at loud-time.com.

Suanne Camfield is a publicist for InterVarsity Press and a freelance writer. She floats ungracefully between work, parenting and writing, and (much to her dismay) finds it impossible to read on a treadmill. She is a member of the Redbud Writers Guild and blogs at The Rough Cut.

Likewise Books from InterVarsity Press explore a thoughtful, active faith lived out in real time in the midst of an emerging culture.

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