The Enclosed Garden in C.S. Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia (2023)

A garden enclosed is my sister my spouse;
a spring shut up, a fountain sealed.
-Canticles 4:12

I. Introduction

To Christian writers, landscape and its seasons are not merely backdrops for plots and characters. As places of destination they are integral elements of quest narratives or pilgrimages. More importantly, nature’s cyclical patterns often function as maps of the human soul: “[t]o the Christian, the seasons’ round, often represented by a contrast between spring garden and winter wilderness, is a natural figure of man’s spiritual life” (Stewart 105). This correspondence between microcosm and macrocosm is a classical belief that pervaded Christian literature in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. One specific structure of landscape that has been widely used by Christian writers to narrate the cycle of Christian history, from paradise to wilderness and back to paradise, is the enclosed garden (hortus conclusus). The enclosed garden was such a common trope in medieval and Renaissance art that “scarcely an event from the life of Christ exists for which some artist at some time or other has not provided a backdrop of an unfinished enclosure [….] The touchstone of the enclosed garden [was] an emblem (hortus mentis) of man’s inner being. This is how the figure was used by St. Teresa and St. John, and how it was used by Herbert, Vaughan, and Marvell” (Stewart 47, 169). As J.T. Rhodes and Clifford Davidson also affirm, “[t]he beginning and end of time were marked by the garden” (95).

A. Bartlett’s The Earthly Paradise and the Renaissance Epic is of great help in interpreting these gardens and their motifs. Giamatti defines the Garden of Eden as “a place of perfect repose and harmony” (11) which exists “in some normally inaccessible part of the earth, which might become the goal of man’s search and, in a literal as well as metaphorical way, the object of his dreams” (15). The traditional motifs of this garden in its ideal form are trees, fruits, green hills, sweet odors and a well or fountain. It is also usually located on a mountain, “a befitting spot of worship” (Porteus 45). Moreover, as Stewart writes, “[n]ight cannot fall in the enclosed garden because the sun, who is the Son, has eternally risen” (110). However, this garden can also be a garden of loss, a type of Gethsemane, a moment of temptation or a place where temptation is actualized as in the biblical Garden of Eden, a place where the self folds back, serpentine, on its own image (Gillespie 314). A serpent, dragon, or worm (or witch or ape in Lewis’s Chronicles) is sometimes lurking in this garden. As a place of actualized temptation, it becomes a non-garden-a wilderness, exposed to spiritual and physical onslaughts, a dry land, a wild wood, a thick forest, harboring dragons and serpents in its midst, and also, in the case of Lewis, a courtyard of petrified animals, or a field of snow-all metaphors of exile and isolation in various forms: doubt, rebellion, restlessness, failure, and fear (McGrath 24 and passim).

Building on Genesis 2:8-10, as well as the images of the vineyard in Isaiah 5 and John 15, biblical exegetes saw the vineyards as “lands enclosed from the open wilderness by the art of man’s husbandry” (Stewart 53). To Isaiah, the vineyard is Jerusalem, the Lord’s garden built on a fruitful hill and surrounded by a fence (Isaiah 5:1-2), the City of God. Early medieval and Christian commentators went on to view the vineyard as a metaphor of the church, a divine enclosure with God/Christ as gardeners, set off from the rest of the world through God’s mercy. On the individual level, the garden is the soul; the wilderness is the corrupted flesh. Man acting in cooperation with God/Christ will attain a place in the celestial garden. Thus the “wild is separated from the regenerate” (Stewart 54).

In describing his various gardens in the Chronicles of Narnia, C.S. Lewis draws heavily upon these traditional motifs of gardens in biblical, classical, and early Christian literature.[1] Before writing the Chronicles, he had explored in depth this long tradition of garden poetry in The Allegory of Love (1936).[2] In his discussion of the Roman de la Rose, the most famous and influential of all medieval garden poems, Lewis compares Claudian’s garden of the Hesperides, “the land of longing, the Earthly Paradise, the garden east of the sun and west of the moon” (75-76), to the Good Shepherd’s pasture which is the true garden, the celestial paradise. He writes, “[w]hen we have seen the true garden we look back and realize that the garden of courtly love is an impostor” (151). Lewis’s belief in an absolute truth will resurface in his fiction, in the description of the garden in The Last Battle and at other points throughout his Narnian retelling of Christian temptation and redemption. A close reading of the Chronicles, in canonical order, reveals that these multiple levels of meaning regarding the garden imagery operate to some degree in the three types of gardens that are vital to Lewis’s overarching narrative: 1) the garden created (a type of the biblical Garden of Eden) in The Magician’s Nephew which focuses on the inward struggle of the soul in the context of temptation; 2) the garden restored (a type of terrestrial paradise) in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader which focuses on the trials of the fallen soul and its restoration into a community that experiences rest and refreshment of the spirit (the church by analogy); and 3) the garden eternal (a type of a celestial paradise) in The Last Battle, the locus of full perfection, open to all of Aslan’s followers and analogous to the Christian heaven.

I. The Magician’s Nephew

The newly created garden in The Magician’s Nephew is an analogue of the biblical garden as a place of the soul’s temptation. In this garden, Miltonian echoes from Paradise Lost, as well as exegetical literature on The Song of Solomon, abound, specifically in Lewis’s use of garden motifs and the staging of an archetypal scene of temptation.

As Amphion, King of Thebes, built the walls of his city by moving stones into place through the music of his lyre and as Orpheus tamed beasts and denizens of Hades through his music, so Aslan creates Narnia through the power of his song in The Magician’s Nephew. In a series of splendid tableaux, as if in a medieval painting, life in its multifarious forms bursts out from darkness: first light, then grass, then trees and animals. Far beyond the edges of this flourishing Narnia, lies the first created garden in the Chronicles. Yet like the biblical Garden of Eden and Milton’s garden in Paradise Lost, it includes the potentiality for evil, for the Witch is already lurking there, just like Satan in Milton’s garden and the dragon in the garden of the Hesperides. Interestingly, not only is the garden in Magician’s Nephew the first fully developed garden in the Chronicles, if read canonically, but it is also the only one that has the elements of evil in it.

Milton’s influence is evident in Lewis’s use of traditional geographical garden motifs, though the two questers in search of the garden, Satan and Digory, have two different motives: Satan to destroy the Garden of Eden and its inhabitants through the fruit; Digory to protect Narnia and cure his mother through the apple. The first is motivated by disobedience to God, the second by obedience to Aslan. However, one of the similar motifs used by both Lewis and Milton is the garden’s remoteness. Like Satan, who has to fly across the vast expanse of the universe to reach Eden, Digory and Polly ride on Fledge, the flying horse, to cross the Western Wild (an evil direction in Narnia compared to the east) to get to the garden of the silver apples. The grim and horrible mountains that they fly over, sometimes symbolic of sin in biblical tradition (Nicholson 43-45), parallel the realm of Chaos in Paradise Lost. Flying to the garden in Magician’s Nephew means going through various boundaries: a waterfall that divides Narnia from the wilderness (later brought up in The Last Battle and The Voyage of the Dawn Treader as a tall shimmering wave dividing Aslan’s Country from the rest of Narnia) and a lake encircled by mountains of ice. The garden proper, like Milton’s, is an enclosed garden atop a green hill (traditionally a holy spot for prayer) with a “high wall of green turf” (156). In medieval and renaissance Christianity, these walls shielded their enclosures from natural and spiritual onslaughts. They mark the dispensation of grace for those who enter the garden lawfully (Stewart 59). Furthermore, as in Milton’s garden, there are high gates into the garden, facing east (a sacred direction), though in The Magician’s Nephew the gates are gold with an inscription in silver letters:

Come in by the gold gates or not at all,

Take of my fruit for others or forbear,

For those who steal or those who climb my wall

Shall find their heart’s desire and find despair. (187)

The Christian virtue of caritas suggested in this poem (i.e. “Take of my fruit for others or forbear”) and its opposite, the sin of acedia, spiritual despair brought about by the slothful satisfaction of sinful desires (i.e. by “those who steal or those who climb my walls”), will become more apparent in the later temptation scene of Digory by the Witch. Digory, in all naiveté, cannot imagine anyone climbing over the gates (like Satan and the Witch), nor eating of the fruit (as Satan pretends to have done, and which the Witch actually does). The gates, like the garden walls, reaffirm the realm’s exclusiveness, accessible only to those who follow Aslan in Narnia and God in our world. Digory immediately notices this distinctness: “[y]ou never saw a place which was so obviously private. You could see at a glance that it belonged to someone else. Only a fool would dream of going in unless he had been sent there on a very special business” (187).

The doctrine of grace, similarly available specifically to the faithful, who can hear God’s words (or Aslan’s in Narnia), is represented by another common medieval and renaissance garden motif-the fountain at the center of the enclosed garden. An ubiquitous image in medieval paintings as well, it alludes to the “well of living waters” from the Song of Solomon (4:15) and the spring of eternal life in John 4:14. Lewis’s garden also has a sweet odor that harkens back to the garden of Alkinoös in the Odyssey and certainly to Milton’s. The medieval Pearl-poet likewise describes the fruits in his vision as having refreshing scents (Nephew 87-88). Lewis, following these earlier writers, also notes the “heavenly” and “lovely” smells in the garden (185, 188).

However, the central and most powerful garden motif in The Magician’s Nephew is the silver apple tree, situated in the middle of the garden beside the fountain. The silver apples resemble other fruits in earlier garden poetry. Although the fruit of the Tree of Life in Milton’s garden is not silver or gold, it is “of vegetable gold” (4.220), and other trees in the garden have fruit “burnish’t with Golden Rind” (4.249). When Digory enters the garden, he “knew which the right tree was at once, partly because it stood in the very center and partly because the great silver apples with which it was loaded shone so and cast a light of their own down on the shadowy places where the sunlight did not reach” (Nephew 188). This passage seems to be a paraphrase from Psalm 121:5-6: “The Lord is thy keeper: the Lord is thy shade upon thy right hand. / The sun shall not smite thee by day, nor the moon by night.”

Over time, the apple image has accrued a rich cluster of associations in Christian literature particularly because of its locus amoenus in The Song of Solomon as providing refreshment for the soul, as a few passages from this work might illustrate. The beloved (the Bride-groom or Christ) is repeatedly compared to apples or the apple tree by the speaker (the soul): “As the apple tree among the trees of the wood, so is my beloved among the sons. I sat down under his shadow with great delight, and his fruit was sweet to my taste” (2:3). Lewis’s description of the shadowy places of the apple tree seems to have its source in the Song. The speaker then complains of her lovesickness saying, “[s]tay me with flagons, comfort me with apples, for I am sick of love” (2:5). In canticle 8:5 the speaker addresses the beloved: “I raised thee up under the apple tree: there thy mother brought thee forth: there she brought thee forth that bear thee.” Such verses gave rise in biblical commentaries to the metaphor of Christ as tree and fruit as well as gardener. In one of his poems in Pia Desideria (1628), Herman Hugo renders a verse paraphrase of the image of the apple tree as a healer of a soul caught in “the burning sand of spiritual wilderness.” She hears the voice of God saying,

(Video) The Truth Behind C.S. Lewis and Digory Kirke | Narnia Lore | Into the Wardrobe

I know you see Jerusalem above

Thither your life and your endeavors move:

But with the tedious Pilgrimage dismay’d,

Implore refreshment from the Apple’s shade.

See, see, I come to bring your pains relief!

Beneath my shadow ease your weary grief.

Behold my arms stretch’d on the fatal Tree,

With these extended boughs I’ll cover thee.

Behold my bleeding feet, my gaping side,

In these free Coverts thou thy self maist hide

This shade will grant thee thy desir’d repose,

This Tree alone for that kind purpose grows.

(22-33 qtd. by Stewart 87-88)

Under one of his emblems, Hugo writes the following epigram: “The Tree of Life, to wit, the Apple, is the holy Cross; its Fruit is Christ, its shadow the refreshment and defense of mankind” (qtd. by Stewart 88). The parched soul, the Bride in The Songs, turns to the apple tree for refreshment and regeneration, “allowing a garden to spring where all had been desert” (Stewart 168). Stewart concludes, “[w]hether in poetry or painting, the fruit of the apple tree of the Songs symbolizes the Eucharist” (85). In Paradise Lost, abundant grace is represented by the Tree of Life.

This sacramental meaning of the apple applies, to a certain extent, to the apples in Aslan’s garden, for through them, Aslan inspires Digory with strength to defeat the Witch and keep Narnia safe. In Narnia, the apple is also a healing apple if plucked and eaten properly at the right time, and by the right person. Aslan’s role as a healer, like Christ in the passages from the Song, is clear in that he later uses the apple to heal Digory’s mother. Aslan’s role as a gardener, like Christ in our world based on John 15, is shown through the planting of the apple by having Digory throw it towards the river soil. After the coronation of the King and Queen of Narnia, the silver apple tree shoots up from the soil: “[i]ts spreading branches seemed to cast a light rather than shade, and the silver apples peeped out like stars from under every leaf. But it was the smell which came from it, even more than the sight that had made everyone draw in their breath” (206). The smell breaks one’s heart. In a passage that alludes to the apple tree in The Song of Solomon, Aslan tells Digory, who is a type of a soul in pilgrimage, “[f]or this fruit you have hungered and thirsted and wept” (198) and, later, he commands, “[g]uard this tree, for it is your shield [….] While that Tree flourishes she [the Witch] will never come down to Narnia” (206). Aslan is thus tree, fruit, and gardener, a figure of Christ. Accordingly, like Jesus in John 13:26-38 he foresees his own martyrdom, which will occur at the hands of the Witch in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. He tells his followers, “Evil will come of that evil [the Witch], but it is still a long way off, and I will see to it that the worst falls upon myself” (Nephew 161). But as long as the apple tree flourishes in Narnia, the Witch will stay away.

To further understand the Christian meaning of Lewis’s garden and the apple tree, we must now turn to the temptation scene of Digory by the Witch (191-195), the only such scene that occurs in a garden setting in the Chronicles. It also presents parallels to Satan’s temptation of Eve in Paradise Lost, with the fruit becoming more central than ever in both works. For in both settings it is the eating (or not eating) of the fruit that matters, an action upon which hangs the destiny of Narnia and the world. Eating the forbidden fruit in Milton’s garden leads to, among many catastrophes, its desecration and the expulsion of its inhabitants; eating of the apple in Lewis’s garden at the wrong time will transform one’s perception of good into evil.

Both the Witch and Satan have already vaulted over the garden walls and entered the private enclosed garden unlawfully. Unlike Satan, the Witch has actually eaten of the fruit, and she proceeds to fill in Digory’s fancy with vain hopes and illusory dreams, much like Satan in tempting Eve, to turn the good into evil in his mind. Cloaking evil with good is Satan’s signature. This action is the essence of fraud, heavily punished in earlier works like Dante’s Inferno and Spenser’s Fairie Queene. The Witch tempts Digory on many levels, playing on false hope, fear, love for mother and friend, and his sense of security. First, like Satan, she appeals to his vanity, describing the apple as “the apple of youth, the apple of life,” without telling him of the disastrous consequences (192). These words echo Satan’s words to Eve: “Ye shall not die. / How should ye? By the fruit? it gives you life / to knowledge” (Milton 9.685-687). The Witch, like Satan again, targets Digory’s loyalty to his master by attempting to convince him of Aslan’s tyranny and his plans to enslave him, thus trying to create a breach between him and Aslan. This is the same trick that Satan plays on his angels, saying, “[i]t is better to reign in Hell than serve in Heaven” (1.262). Both suffer from pride and from acedia, the sin of sloth and despair, the results of their unsuccessful quests to defy God and Aslan. Satan and the Witch try to arouse the same despair in their victims, which would then lead them to eat the fruit. When the Witch fails, she changes her strategy by appealing to Digory’s feelings for his mother, urging him to steal the apple to save her. Her “fatal mistake” occurs when she tempts him, in a last desperate effort, to abandon Polly in Narnia so that she would not tell on him. His head clears at this mean and shocking suggestion to break a promise to a friend, and he confronts her with the question, “What’s it got to do with you?” (195). The Witch, defeated, turns and skulks northward, in the evil direction where Satan, too, masses his forces in Paradise Lost.

The temptation by the Witch becomes a rite of passage for Digory, who passes these challenges through his classical virtues of temperance, continence, moral courage, loyalty, and through his Christian virtue of caritas, albeit with some help from Aslan, who earlier gave him a Lion’s kiss to instill “new strength and courage into him” (169). In the quest for the silver apple, Digory finds himself and recognizes his identity as one loyal to Aslan. While Digory is not of the same stature as the biblical or Miltonic Adam[3], Aslan occasionally calls him a “son of Adam,” and his resistance to the Witch demonstrates both his own virtues and his dependence upon Aslan for crucial help. When we next meet Diggory in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, he is a professor in England and has carefully retained his childhood experience of redemption. Through Digory and Aslan, Lewis’s mythopoeic imagination transforms the garden with the apple tree, scorched by Satan, Adam, and Eve, into a shining icon of Christian hope and regeneration. The wall, gates, fruits, and heavenly smell will all re-appear in The Last Battle.

II. The Voyage of the Dawn Treader[4]

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The Voyage of the Dawn Treader includes a locus amoenus of the traditional garden. Indeed, it approaches the type of the earthly garden trope by mirroring in itself another garden, the celestial paradise. The landscape of the garden is offered to us first in relation to Eustace’s story and his metamorphosis into a dragon and back to a human. As Eustace narrates, the lion took him to “the top of a mountain I’d never seen before and on the top of this mountain there was a garden-trees and fruit and everything. In the middle of it there was a well” (114). The traditional garden motifs are here: the mountain, trees, fruit, and a well. This place is of great significance to Eustace because he is immersed in that well by Aslan in order to regain his human shape. With careful ministration, the process of Eustace’s regeneration, described through baptismal imagery, is completed: the undressing, the peeling off of Eustace’s dragon skin, the throwing of Eustace into the water, and Aslan’s dressing him in new clothes. As a result, in regaining his humanity through interaction with Aslan, Eustace loses his unbelief, his greed, his sloth, and his hostility to others-even to Reepicheep. He is accepted into the community of the other travelers as a committed member.[5] Lewis is suggesting here his belief in the interdependence of Christians and the importance of fellowship to survive physically and be saved spiritually. The iconic image of Aslan as a persistent Christ figure who enters a human life and transforms a willing soul into participation in such a fellowship is obvious here, as it will be in The Last Battle.[6] For, as Alister McGrath states, “[w]e are not meant to travel alone” (McGrath 27). So Eustace’s garden becomes the Garden of Eden restored. He will forever remember the garden as a place of purification and regeneration through Aslan’s love. However, he does not remember the specific location of this garden or the means of his getting there. It does not conform to laws of space and time like the garden we shall see in The Last Battle; its role is to function as an iconic image that points to Aslan’s Country (the Christian earthly paradise in our world) and to an act of restoration by Aslan which prefigures the apocalypse in The Last Battle, when the Narnians and the British children are spiritually ready. This iconic image does not appear again until the final tableau in the story, where it is linked to other icons in a sublime pageant, a type of communal experience in the Chronicles.

The last hortus conclusus tableau in Dawn Treader incorporates all the motifs of the garden which have been discussed in previous depictions. It, however, is the most sublime. All laws of space and time are broken:

They [the three children and Reepicheep] saw a wonder ahead. It was as if a wall stood up between them and the sky, a greenish-gray, trembling, shimmering wall. Then up came the sun, and at its first rising they saw it through the wall and it turned into wonderful rainbow colors. Then they knew that the wall was really a long, tall wave-a wave endlessly fixed in one place as you may often see at the edge of a waterfall. (263-64)

The shimmering high wave that seems to be a boundary between the Narnian world and Aslan’s is actually surmountable. In some religious works, the terrestrial paradise is separated from the rest of the world by a body of water instead of a wall, based on Ezekiel 47 and Revelation 22:1-2 (Rhodes and Davidson 81): “And he showed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and the Lamb.” Reepicheep, in his little coracle, will later glide up one side of it and down the other into Aslan’s Country. And even the huge sun is not an obstacle to their vision. Beyond it, the four travelers can see the high green mountains of Aslan’s Country beyond the borders of the world, which they will climb in The Last Battle towards the eternal garden. As the sun rises, the sight of the mountains disappears, again suggesting that light (Christ) is the source of all meaning in the universe. The travelers have reached a point where laws of time and space do not exist. This dynamic scene integrates all natural icons of the Narnian landscape (light, green mountains, trees, and water) with Aslan to suggest that Narnia and Aslan’s Country are actually linked, and Aslan is the Bridge Builder. The tableau invites the readers to conceive likewise of Earth and Heaven as more closely linked than they appear to be, and to recognize that our loci of our experience are in a real sense spiritually meaningful. Lewis himself states in Miracles that the physical and spiritual are actually one: “[t]hat archaic sort of thinking will become simply the correct sort when Nature and Spirit are fully harmonized-when Spirit rides Nature so perfectly that the two together make rather a Centaur than a mounted knight” (Miracles 164).

A short time later, the children waded into the calm water (a final stage of regeneration) to get to a flat open-spaced green meadow where, sure enough, sky and water meet. But as they went on they got the strangest impression that here the sky did really come down and join the earth-a blue wall, very bright, but real and solid: more like glass than anything else. And soon they were quite sure of it. It was very near now.

But between them and the foot of the sky there was something so white on the green grass that even with their eagles’ eyes they could hardly look at it. They came on and saw that it was a Lamb.

(Dawn Treader 267-68)

Later, as they eat the fish offered by the Lamb, suggesting both the Eucharist and Christ’s appearance to his disciples after the Resurrection, the Lamb transforms into Aslan. Two iconic images of Christ are unified here: “Then all in one moment there was a rending of the blue wall (like a curtain being torn) and a terrible white light from beyond the sky” (270). The children, as a group, are rewarded with a direct experience of Aslan’s presence.

The iconography in these last two scenes, the richest yet in Dawn Treader, pulls together all the preceding icons in a glorious finale. The lamb and the white light (magnified so that it is all that the children see for a moment) are icons of Christ (the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world) and can also be perceived as “the fruitfulness of Christ’s union with the church” (Stewart 168). The green meadow is one of the traditional motifs of the earthly and celestial garden. The image of glass mirrors the description of the New Jerusalem in Revelation: “And before the throne there was a sea of glass like unto crystal” and “the city was pure gold, like unto clear glass” (Revelation 4:6 and 21:18, respectively). All of the natural icons in the East of Narnia are integrated into this collage with Aslan at the center. Rhodes and Davidson describe the same motifs in The Lyfe of saynt Brandon which, like Dawn Treader, is supposedly an actual voyage from island to island representing various visions of paradise. As in Dawn Treader, the travelers sail through a black cloud onto an island shining with light “as bryght as the Sonne,” with herbs and trees and “full of grene pasture whein were y whytest ā gretest shepe that euer they sawe” (sig. A3r-A3v). The last island is full of ripe fruits, clear light, and precious stones. Like Aslan’s Country, it is at the farthest eastward edge of the world and separated by a body of water (Rhodes and Davidson 79-80).

III. The Last Battle

The final destination of Aslan’s followers, the garden eternal at the end of The Last Battle, includes the most powerful and intense imagery of all Narnian gardens. It is the “real” garden. The old Narnia is destroyed, leveled with water and blighted by total darkness. All Narnians, including the Pevensie children, are actually dead in the human sense, and so are liberated from time and space, ready to enter Aslan’s real country if they believe in him. The celestial garden is an analogue of the Christian heaven, although it has no specific geometrical shape, nor is it symbolically orientated like the four-square biblical City of God with its jeweled streets, or like the Pearl poet’s vision of Heaven, for example.[7] It is not an artificial garden like that in Guillaume de Lorris’s Roman de la Rose, but more like the enclosed garden of de Meun’s Roman, where there is no deceit, misery, or death, and nature is whole and more beautiful than ever. It is fluid, ever-changing, for Lewis’s purpose is to present this garden as a dynamic, mystical experience, unfolding in Aslan beyond space and time. So there is some distortion and confusion in geography and location since the focus is on Aslan’s followers’ entry into a true union with him as Christians are “in-Godded” when they are transported into God and enter His garden.

To encourage his followers to submit to a mystical, transcendental experience, in a Narnia-within-Narnia, Aslan, like God or Christ, takes on the proactive role of a gardener, as he had done earlier in Magician’s Nephew and Dawn Treader, bent on cultivating the souls of his followers. As God intervenes in miraculous events for the good of his people, so does Aslan. He acts as an inspiring, charismatic leader, plans his followers’ journey to the garden, and arranges the path according to a specific principle. Before Aslan appears, Aslan’s followers are treated to a feast of fruits that are the juiciest with a taste that cannot be described. As a garden motif, the fruits appeared in Magician’s Nephew and are found also in Pearl and Paradise Lost, where their scent is deemed refreshing. They signify in both Pearl and The Last Battle the Eucharis but bear no association to the forbidden fruit of Magician’s Nephew. No White Witch or Satan inhabit this garden of perfection. As usual, Aslan appears in a flash of light, and while his followers are kneeling in a circle around him, he bends down to touch them with his tongue. He extends his love even to Emeth, the pious Calormen who was seeking Aslan in the false god Tash, by touching his forehead with his tongue and breath. This is another example of the inclusiveness Lewis associates with Christianity as discussed above in relation to Dawn Treader.

Aslan then takes his followers on what appears to be a surrealistic journey. There sense of vision heightened, they are bombarded, to a greater extent than in the finale of Dawn Treader, with exquisite imagery at a high speed by an author whose major talent lies in creating verbal tableaux. One exquisite tableau after another cross in front of these travelers’ eyes: “[t]he Country flew past them as if they were seeing it from the windows of an express train” (Battle 214). Moreover, the colors of the images are so intense that the children understand they are entering a new world. Eustace exclaims, “I bet there isn’t a country like this anywhere in our world. Look at the colors! You couldn’t get a blue like the blue on those mountains in our world” (209). For they are entering the real Narnia, as different from the old one “as a real thing is from a shadow or as waking life is from a dream” (212). As Lewis further states, “[t]he new [Narnia] was a deeper country: every rock and flower and blade of grass looked as if it meant more” (213). Lewis, I believe, is suggesting not just that God’s garden is not of this world, though there is a path to it from this world, but also that true art (and mythopoetic creation in general) can suggest Reality better than everyday life experiences. Indeed, Lewis describes the real Narnia as a looking-glass that intensifies a scene’s beauty for its viewer (212), and certainly not like the mirror perilous of Tennyson’s “Lady of Shalott,” nor like the reflecting fountain in Guillaume de Lorris’s Roman de la Rose, “angled both to dazzle and to blind the dreamer” (Pearsall and Salter 88). Lewis always believed in the significant role of mythopoeia in revealing the Christian truth and hoped that his ekphrastic tableaux in The Chronicles would link his fiction with his Christology.

However, although the imagery of the landscape surrounding the garden in Last Battle is fluid, it is far from chaotic. It is carefully organized by Lewis according to the major principle of “further up and further in,” suggesting a movement of elevation towards a center-of Narnia, of all “real worlds” and communities (including the church), and of the soul. For paradisal states culminate in a state of unity of the soul with God pursuant to its degree of activity and reception of His bounty and grace. Aslan, with the help of Jewel, the unicorn (an emblem of Christ) and Farsight, the eagle, urges the voyagers on toward the garden which is situated high (further up) and in the center (further in). Lucy and the Faun, the most philosophical of all Talking Beasts, apprehend the ambiguous structure of this quest early on but can only explain it in paradoxes. It is like an onion, says Tunmus, where “each circle is larger than the last” (Battle 225) or like the Stable, concludes Lucy, where “it is far bigger inside than it was outside” (224). The movement towards the garden is a physical and spiritual elevation like Jacob’s vision (Genesis 18:12) or the lifting up of St. Paul on the road to Damascus.

The landscape leading up to the celestial garden proper, ambiguous in its geographical location, includes the traditional garden motifs discussed earlier. A gentle daylight shines over it. In proximity to the garden proper, there is the great waterfall mentioned earlier as one of the boundaries of the garden in Magician’s Nephew and Dawn Treader, dividing Aslan’s Country from Narnia. Water is abundant. There are blue lakes and “tons of water every second flashing like diamonds in some places and dark glassy green in others” (Battle 215). Jewels and glass pertain to the heavenly Jerusalem as has been discussed with respect to Dawn Treader. And as readers have been expecting all along, there, on top of “a smooth green hill” (Battle 219) lies the garden, complete with a green wall enclosing trees with leaves like silver and fruits like gold. These motifs harken back to the Miltonic and classical gardens of Magician’s Nephew and Revelation 21:18-22. The medieval poem Pearl describes a similar vision of paradise:

As bornyst sylver the lef on slyde³,

That thike con trylle on uch a tynde.

Quen glem of glodez agaynz hem glyde³,

Wyth schymeryng scheme ful schrylle they schynde.[8] (77-80)

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The garden has great golden gates which swing open only to the elect. And through the gates, they pass “into the delicious smell that blew toward them out of that garden into the cool mixture of sunlight and shadow under the trees, walking on spongy turf that was all dotted with white flowers” (Battle 222). This passage is redolent with Christ’s presence: the “sunlight” is an icon of Christ; the “shadow” takes us back to Canticles 2:3 and to The Magician’s Nephew, with the apple tree representing Christ and the beloved (the soul) sitting “under his shadow with great delight”; the white flowers with their heavenly fragrances allude to Christ (Rhodes and Davidson 88). To round out the picture of the celestial paradise, there is a phoenix perched on one of the trees. Used by Lactanius for his own Christian purposes in Carmen de Ave Phoenice, the phoenix is mentioned as an inhabitant of paradise (Pearsall and Salter 65; Lewis, Discarded Image 150). Generally, the phoenix is a symbol of Christ’s resurrection. It is important to note that Lewis is careful to describe these pleasures of paradise as sensual experiences first which are later transmuted into a resounding experience of eternal joy.

Finally, inside the garden, at the top of the green hill, which seems bigger on the inside than on the outside, the elect are treated to an Olympian view of the real Narnia. To their amazement (and the readers’) Aslan’s garden is at the center of all real worlds. All mountains with the gardens on top of them discussed earlier are part of one great chain of mountains that circle all real worlds, including the “real” England. The garden of temptation in Magician’s Nephew, the garden of Eustace’s restoration in Dawn Treader, Aslan’s Country beyond the sea-are all “spurs jutting out from the great mountains of Aslan” (Battle 226). The voyagers, and we, have reached the center, the final destination of the Chronicles of Narnia. “Here, then, the blessed will find themselves translated from the thorny world to a place where only the ‘flow’rs of grace’ and all good things grow-a place safe at last from the ravages of the anti-gardener Satan and from all earthly anxiety” (Rhodes and Davidson 95).

The Last Battle, like The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, ends in a pageant, a truly communal experience, with everyone walking in a bright procession towards high green mountains, sweet orchards, and flashing waterfalls, one above the other (Battle 227). Finally, Aslan appears, “leaping down from cliff to cliff like a living cataract of power and beauty” (227), an image reminiscent of the beloved in Canticles 1:8: “Behold he cometh leaping upon the mountains, skipping upon the hills.” No tame Lion, Aslan, like Christ, pursues his followers unabashedly and finally reverses the catastrophes of Narnia to restore his elect to the garden eternal. And thus so are we in our world directly connected to Heaven through Christ, the Bridge Builder. In receiving his grace, one becomes, as the Psalm says, “like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper” (Psalm 1:3)-an appropriate image to end the discussion on the enclosed garden.


Lewis used classical Christian garden motifs to paint his various gardens as settings for the struggle in the depth of the Christian soul, for the soul’s restoration through grace, and for complete union of the soul with Christ. The enclosed garden with its silver and golden fruit, heavenly scent, and golden gates, perched on top of a hill or mountain is the garden of the human soul, is analogous to the church, and acts as an image of the real heavenly abode of all Christians who receive salvation. Whether Lewis’s gardens focus on cultivating and caring for fruits and trees, on the state of regeneration in the presence of the Lamb, or on the transportation into Aslan, Narnian garden iconography speaks to the Christian soul and inspires it with longing for the lost paradise. As has been shown, the garden is at the basis of Lewis’s Chronicles, and his integration of classical Christian motifs drawn from earlier authors endows it with an iconic role and thus with the credibility to tell the story of the Gospel, from creation to redemption. The divine purpose is clearly expressed through Aslan, by his gift of love, and in the beauty of the gardens. Furthermore, there is a clear movement in the order of the gardens in The Chronicles. As the story of the Gospel unfolds, the garden becomes more of a locus of unitive and communal experience than an individual transformation and purgation. Lewis suggests the significance of the community in the Christian experience-the belief that a true Christian does not worship in isolation, but rather that each develops in relationship with others. No Christian needs to undertake the pilgrimage of faith alone (McGrath 23). In a letter dated March 27, 1948, Lewis turns to the garden as an image of hope in a turbulent world. He writes, “I have always believed that Voltaire, infidel that he was, thought aright in that admonition of his to cultivate your own garden” (Letters 2.844). One would hope that one’s garden has a golden lion in it and a hearty crowd of companions.

Works Cited

Bible (KJV).

Christopher, Joe. “Mount Purgatory Arises near Narnia.” Mythlore: A Journal of J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Charles Williams, and Mythopoeic Literature 23.2 (Spring 2001): 65-90.

Davidson, Clifford. Ed. The Iconography of Heaven. Early Drama, Art, and Music. Monograph Series 21. Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo, Michigan: Medieval Institute Publications, 1994.

Downing, David C. Into the Region of Awe: Mysticism in C.S. Lewis. Downers Grove, Ill.: Crossway Books, 2005.

_______. Planets in Peril: A Critical Study of C.S. Lewis’s Ransom Trilogy. Amherst: The U of Massachusetts Press, 1992.

Giamatti, A. Bartlett. The Earthly Paradise and the Renaissance Epic. New York: Norton, 1989.

Gillespie, Gerald Ernest Paul. Garden and Labyrinth of Time: Studies in Renaissance and Baroque Literature. New York: P. Lang, 1988.

Homer. Odyssey. Trans. Robert Fitzgerald. New York: Doubleday, 1961. New York: Vintage Classics, 1990.

Khoddam, Salwa. “Where Sky and Water Meet: Christian Iconography in C.S. Lewis’s The Voyage of the Dawn Treader.” Mythlore: A Journal of J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Charles Williams, and Mythopoeic Literature 23.2 (Spring 2001): 36-52.

Lewis, C. S. The Allegory of Love. OUP, 1947.

_____. The Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis. Ed. Walter Hooper. Vol. 2. San Francisco: HarperCollins, 2004.

_____. The Discarded Image: An Introduction to Medieval and Renaissance Literature. 1964, Cambridge UP, 1981.

_____. “The Grand Miracle.” God in the Dock: Essays on Theology and Ethics. Ed. Walter Hooper. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 1970.

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_____. The Letters of C.S. Lewis. Ed. W. H. Lewis. New York: Harcourt Brace. 1975.

_____. The Last Battle. New York: HarperTrophy, 1994.

_____. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. New York: HarperTrophy, 1994.

_____. The Magician’s Nephew. New York: HarperTrophy, 1994.

Martindale, Wayne. Beyond Shadowlands: C.S. Lewis on Heaven and Hell. Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway Books, 2005.

McGrath, Alister. The Journey: A Pilgrim in the Lands of the Spirit. London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1999.

Milton, John. Complete Poems and Major Prose. Ed. Merritt Y. Hughes. Indianapolis, Ind.: Odyssey Press, 1957.

Nicholson, Marjorie Hope. Mountain Gloom and Mountain Glory. Cornell UP, 1959. Rpt. U of Washington P, 1997.

Pearl. Ed. Boris Ford. Medieval Literature: Chaucer and the Alliterative Tradition. Vol. 1. London: Pelican, 1982. Rpt. London: Penguin, 1997.

Pearsall, Derek and Elizabeth Salter. Landscapes and Seasons of the Medieval World. London: Paul Eleck, 1973.

Pitts, Mary Ellen. “The Motif of the Garden in the Novels of J.R.R. Tolkien, Charles Williams, and C. S. Lewis.” Mythlore: A Journal of J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Charles Williams, and Mythopoeic Literature 30 (Winter 1982): 3-6, 42.

Porteous, Alexander. The Forest in Folklore and Mythology. 1928. New York: Dover, 2002.

Rhodes J.T. and Clifford Davidson. “The Garden of Paradise.” Iconography of Heaven. Ed. Clifford Davidson. Early Drama, Art, and Music Monograph Series, 21. Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo, Michigan: Medieval Institute Publications, 1994. 69-103.

Stewart, Stanley. The Enclosed Garden. Wisconsin UP, 1966.

[1] Joe Christopher discusses the garden imagery mostly in relationship to Dante’s garden of Eden in Purgatorio and provides different details on Lewis’s garden in The Magician’s Nephew and John Milton’s Paradise Lost from those in my paper. See Christopher, “Mount Purgatory Arises near Narnia”. Mythlore: A Journal of J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Charles Williams, and Mythopoeic Literature 23.2 (Spring 2001) 65-90.

[2] Scholars have also noted the motif of the enclosed garden in Lewis’s space trilogy (Downing 80; Pitts 3, 5). In a sermon titled “The Grand Miracle” (1945), Lewis further outlines the religious meaning of seasons and refers to winter as death and spring and summer as Christ’s Resurrection (87-88).

[3] Unlike Diggory, Adam and Eve fail the test miserably. But their temptation is more complex and perilous, and their tempter more subtle and guileful, appearing in the shape of a captivating Talking Beast.

[4] This section has been previously published: see Salwa Khoddam, “Where Sky and Water Meet: Christian Iconography in C.S. Lewis’s The Voyage of the Dawn Treader.” Mythlore: A Journal of J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Charles Williams, and Mythopoeic Literature 23.2 (Spring 2001) 36-52.

[5] For a lengthy discussion on Eustace’s “un-dragoning” by Aslan, see Wayne Martindale, Beyond Shadowlands: C.S. Lewis on Heaven and Hell (Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway Books, 2005) 106-108, 114-119.

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[6] According to Lewis, Christ also works on many who do not know him. In one of his letters, he writes, “I think that every prayer which is sincerely made even to a false god […] is accepted by the true God and that Christ saves many who do not think they know Him” (Letters 247). In like manner, Emeth, the Calormene in The Last Battle will be embraced by Aslan as one of his sons.

[7] On Lewis’s mysticism in The Chronicles of Narnia, see David C. Downing, Into the Region of Awe: Mysticism in C.S. Lewis (Downers Grove, Ill.: Intervarsity Press, 2005) 125-143.

[8]The leaves that quiver abundantly on every branch slide against each other as burnished silver” (Ford 476). The convergences between Lewis’s and the Pearl poet’s visions of the celestial gardens require more study, which I hope to complete in the future. Derek Pearsall and Elizabeth Salter, Landscapes and Seasons of the Medieval World (London: Paul Elek, 1973), provide a detailed study of the Pearl.


Is Narnia The Garden of Eden? ›

The world of Narnia and the Garden of Eden run parallel to each other. The world of Narnia was introduced in the book of The Magicians Nephew from the Chronicles of Narnia. The themes of creation, original sin and temptation are portrayed in this book. The creation of the world is portrayed in the The Book of Genesis.

What happens to Aslan at the end of the last battle? ›

Peter closes the freezing door and locks it, thus bringing an end to the World of Narnia. However, Aslan leads them away from their dead world and into his own country.

Is Narnia based on Jesus? ›

The whole Narnia series is about Christ, more than the obvious Biblical allusions that Aslan is symbolic of Christ. “Christ is present in the story in two modes at once,” Ward said.

What religion is Narnia based on? ›

Author C.S. Lewis uses Christian symbolism and themes in "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe," and throughout his Chronicles of Narnia. Here are some examples: The four Pevensie children parallel the four apostles of Jesus, close confidants called by him to help carry out his mission.

Who left Narnia in the end? ›

Her whole idea is to race on to the silliest time of one's life as quick as she can and then stop there as long as she can." Thus, Susan does not enter the real Narnia with the others at the end of the series.

Does Aslan have a daughter? ›

Aslan, also known as The Great Lion, is the creator and one true king of the world of Narnia, and generally a figure of all that is good.
Aslan king of Narnia
RelativesAlexandra Narnia (daughter) Emperor-Over-the-Sea (father) Balsam (younger brother) Philip (younger brother)
10 more rows

Who left at the end of Narnia? ›

In fact, I think it's a mistake to call what happens to Susan "punishment." At the end of The Last Battle, Susan lost her entire family in one horrifying accident, and while they go to Narnia, she's left alone in the real world because she wasn't with them at the time of the crash.

What does Mr Tumnus represent? ›

Answer and Explanation: Mr. Tumnus represents redemption in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. He has fallen under the assumption that the White Witch will always reign in Narnia, and this idea has robbed him of his hope.

Who is God in Narnia? ›

Tash is a fictional deity and demonic god, found in C. S. Lewis's Chronicles of Narnia series. He is an antagonist in the novels The Horse and His Boy and The Last Battle. Tash is the patron god of the ruling class of Calormen.

Why is it called Narnia? ›

Lewis had underscored the name of a little town called Narnia, simply because he liked the sound of it. Narnia — or 'Narni' in Italian — is in Umbria, halfway between Rome and Assisi.

Who represents Jesus in Narnia? ›

Aslan % In the allegory of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, Aslan represents Christ. Aslan's death to save Edmund's life and his subsequent resurrection are clear references to the life of Christ.

What race is Aslan? ›

RaceTalking Lion / Deity
FamilyEmperor-Over-the-Sea (father)
NationalityAslan's Country
4 more rows

Is Aslan based on Jesus? ›

Aslan is the only character to appear in all seven books of the Chronicles of Narnia. Aslan represents Jesus Christ, according to the author, C. S. Lewis, who uses the allegory in the books that Aslan is the Lion and the Lamb, which also says in the Bible about God.

Why did Susan quit Narnia? ›

At the end of Prince Caspian, Peter announces that he will not be returning to Narnia, and neither will Susan, because Aslan has told them they are too old.

What is Aslan's name in our world? ›

Answer and Explanation: In the real world, Aslan is Jesus Christ. Aslan transcends dimensions and can appear in multiple forms depending on which world he is in.

Why did Susan get kicked out of Narnia? ›

Susan's disbelief has prevented her from returning to Narnia - she is described as no longer a friend of Narnia. She acts as though their adventures were all make believe, and calls the others childish for still believing.

Is Aslan male or female? ›

A striking name of Turkish origin, Aslan is a boy's name that means “lion.” This powerful title is derived from Old Turkic and was used as an epithet for Turkish emperors in the Middle Ages.

Is Aslan a God? ›

Answer and Explanation: While Aslan can be interpreted as a very involved, non-Christian god in The Chronicles of Narnia, author CS Lewis actually conceived of Aslan as a parallel for Jesus Christ rather than a parallel of the Christian God.

Is Narnia based on the Bible? ›

The subject of Christianity in the novels has become the focal point of many books. Rev. Abraham Tucker pointed out that "While there are in the Narnia tales many clear parallels with Biblical events, they are far from precise, one-on-one parallels.

What happens to Lucy in Narnia? ›

Answer and Explanation: Lucy Pevensie dies in a train wreck in The Last Battle. She believes that she and her siblings were simply pulled into Narnia like before, but they learn at the end of the novel that they all died at the train station when a train derailed.

Is Susan in The Last Battle? ›

Where is Queen Susan?” “My sister Susan,” answered Peter shortly and gravely, “is no longer a friend of Narnia.” In an early 1955 letter to a girl named Marcia, Lewis first revealed his decision to have Susan lose her way in The Last Battle.

What happens if a human dies in Narnia? ›

Whatever happens to the children in Narnia, no time has ever passed in their own world and, as far as their physical bodies are concerned, they return to being just as they were before they entered the wardrobe (or whatever it was).

What does Narnia have to do with Christianity? ›

kingdom and salvation are what the story is all about." The similarity between the death and resurrection of Aslan and the death and resurrection of Jesus in the Bible 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 is Garden of Eden now? ›

The location of Eden is described in the Book of Genesis as the source of four tributaries. Various suggestions have been made for its location: at the head of the Persian Gulf, in southern Mesopotamia (now Iraq) where the Tigris and Euphrates rivers run into the sea; and in Armenia.

Who is the Garden of Eden in the Bible? ›

Garden of Eden, in the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) book of Genesis, biblical earthly paradise inhabited by the first created man and woman, Adam and Eve, prior to their expulsion for disobeying the commands of God.

What is the prophecy of Narnia? ›

They need to fulfill a prophecy—when the four thrones at Cair Paravel are occupied by four "Sons of Adam and Daughters of Eve," it will end bad times in Narnia. He tells them that the Queen has twisted this prophecy into a justification for her reign. She says that she is human and the rightful heir to the throne.

What is the main problem in Narnia? ›

The White Witch, Queen of Narnia, sets out to capture and destroy Lucy and her siblings Peter, Susan, and Edmund. Although there are other conflicts in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, such as the arrest of Mr. Tumnus, the central issue is really the Witch's animosity toward the Pevensie children.

How tall was Jesus? ›

He may have stood about 5-ft.-5-in. (166 cm) tall, the average man's height at the time.

What language did Adam & Eve speak? ›

The Adamic language, according to Jewish tradition (as recorded in the midrashim) and some Christians, is the language spoken by Adam (and possibly Eve) in the Garden of Eden.

What was the purpose of the Garden of Eden? ›

Definition of Eden, Garden of

The beautiful garden containing the tree of life, where God intended Adam and Eve to live in peaceful and contented innocence, effortlessly reaping the fruits of the Earth. The garden also contained the tree of knowledge of good and evil, from which Adam and Eve were forbidden to eat.

What does a garden symbolize in the Bible? ›

Ordered and well-watered, a garden can symbolize the abundance that God offers to human beings, the quiet care that can produce fruitfulness in our lives and in the world around us and the hope that what is buried in death can produce great beauty.

Who planted the tree in the Garden of Eden? ›

Man was without sin, and all was right with the world. He created the first man, Adam, in the garden of Eden–a place of spectacular beauty. In the garden He also put two specific trees–the Tree of Life and the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil (Genesis 2:9).

What was lost in the Garden of Eden? ›

Adam and Eve lived in the Garden of Eden. They lost their paradise by consuming the forbidden fruit of the Tree of Knowledge. This temptation of knowledge was offered by Satan. The result was the loss of paradise.

Why is Aslan called? ›

The words "aslan" and "arslan" are Turkish for "lion". Aslan is the only character to appear in all seven books of the Chronicles of Narnia. Aslan represents Jesus Christ, according to the author, C. S.

Who is Aslan supposed to represent? ›

In the allegory of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, Aslan represents Christ. Aslan's death to save Edmund's life and his subsequent resurrection are clear references to the life of Christ.


1. The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe Audiobook - Part One
2. The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe - CS Lewis - Narrated Abridged Audiobook
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3. The Space Trilogy | C.S. Lewis | Into the Wardrobe
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4. Lewis Lectures - The Last Battle by CS Lewis
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5. Clive Staples Lewis: The Lost Poet Of Narnia | C.S. Lewis Documentary | | Timeline
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6. The Chronicles of Narnia The Magician's Nephew Full Audiobook
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