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Speculative Faith Reading Group 8: The Stone Table

Jul 26, 2012

This morning I realized: oh, great, I will be struggling during this Saturday’s LWW reading group at my church. Why? Because our two-chapter reading will end with Aslan’s death.

Embarrassing? Perhaps. Yet I’ve come to view emotional responses to the death of a story’s hero, particularly such a strong Christ-like hero as the Lion of Narnia, as acts of worship.

Have you ever been singing in church and suddenly become self-aware? You think: I like this song, I enjoy these people, I love the preaching, and I really should be more emotional in my singing to God, but I’m not. To me this happens more often than I’d like to admit. And one solution is this: thanks to Christ’s righteousness, I am overcome as a rightful response to His truth and sacrifice, maybe not during every church song, but by stories like this one.

How has Aslan’s death affected you, and how does it affect you now? (We will get to his resurrection and the story’s eucatastrophe next week, in the final installment of this LWW reading-group series.) How do other heroes’ deaths remind you of Christ’s ultimate death?

Chapter 13: Deep Magic from the Dawn of Time

  1. The Witch says: “[Aslan] may not stay long. And then—we would fall upon the three [children] at Cair.” (page 135) After we’ve read of the Witch’s terror at Aslan’s arrival, do you think she truly believes Aslan will simply leave Narnia back in her hands?
  2. “I would like to have done it on the Stone Table itself,” said the Witch. “That is the proper place. That is where it has always been done before.” (page 135) By now, what is she planning? How does this fit with our first glimpse of the Stone Table? (Do you recall the last chapter’s description of its ancient appearance and mysterious carven symbols?)
  3. What ideas do you get about the Stone Table and its history and purpose? How is this way of discussing it better than saying something like, Now you see, the Stone Table had long ago been used for sacrifices, or whatever purpose you think it had in the past?
  4. Quick silly question: Does anyone remember, in the BBC LWW film, the Witch saying “You!” to the Wolf, who (in dog form) looks up and immediately begins dog-smiling?
  5. Now we hear the Witch describe the bad creatures. Among these, which seems scariest?
  6. How do you feel, with Edmund, to hear the “whizz—whizz—whizz” knife-sharpening sound? Does the good creatures’ arrival seem expected or surprising?
  7. At last Edmund is forgiven, after a conversation with Aslan to which we are not privy. What do you think Aslan said to him? Why does the author not show that conversation? And why do you think Aslan says “there is no need to talk to him about what is past” (page 139)? Who was Edmund’s worst sin against — his brother and sisters, or Aslan?
  8. Now we immediately learn something new: Edmund has met Aslan and repented, but consequences remain. Edmund must be killed for his treason. Do you see the story progression: events go from bad, to good, to bad, to worse, to good, to even worse?
  9. Mr. Beaver refers to the Witch as the “Emperor’s hangman” (page 142). Is this accurate? What about in our world — does God have a “hangman” or does He punish sin Himself?
  10. Look up Hebrews 9:22. Then Romans 3:21-26. In our world, Who requires the shedding of blood as payment for sin? Now consider the Witch’s words, which Aslan does not deny: “… That human creature is mine. His life is forfeit to me. His blood is my property.” (page 142) How is this different from how and why Jesus died for people in our world?
  11. “Work against the Emperor’s Magic?” said Aslan … (page 142). Is Aslan “limited” by this Deep Magic? Even if he is not, how does this all-powerful Lion come across in this?
  12. When the Witch questions Aslan, how do you like his reaction? What kind of reminder does this serve, even after all the worrying and uncertainty about the Witch’s claim?

Chapter 14: The Triumph of the Witch

  1. As the camp is moving, Aslan is unusually sad and distracted. He seems more “mortal” (or “human”) than we ever see him again in the stories. How does this strike you, when compared with Christ’s response to his forthcoming suffering? Can Christ be affected by emotions outside Himself? Is He vulnerable to them? What about God the Father?
  2. Returned to the Stone Table, we find the hordes of evil creatures, many of which the Witch had mentioned earlier. Lewis names some and leaves others unspoken — “and other creatures whom I won’t describe because if I did the grown-ups would not let you read this book” (page 151). Parents with children: is that true? And for all readers: how does this whimsical line, amidst such evil creatures and events, strike you?
  3. Earlier, Edmund deceived himself. In the last chapter, the Witch suggests Aslan would simply leave Narnia without defeating her. Here, the terrified creatures advance on Aslan, find him not resistant, and then gain a little more confidence, at least enough to mock him. “The cowards!” sobbed Susan. (page 154) Aren’t they also self-deceived?
  4. In one sense, evil people crucified Christ. In another sense, we all killed Him. How does Aslan’s death on the Table show one side of this real-world truth, and not another?
  5. Pretend this is your first reading. Does the Witch’s boast make it seem all hope is gone?

E. Stephen Burnett

E. Stephen Burnett explores biblical truth and fantastic stories as editor of Lorehaven magazine (debuting autumn 2017). He also writes for Christianity Today, Christ and Pop Culture, and Speculative Faith. He and his wife, Lacy, live in the Austin area and serve as members of Southern Hills Baptist Church.

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4 comments on "Speculative Faith Reading Group 8: The Stone Table"

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Some scenes–no matter how many times I witness them–still make me feel horrible and empty. Aslan’s death is one of those–strangely, moreso in the Radio Theatre version than the film.  And the silence and the emptiness afterwards…it loses something in the film by cutting away to the battle.

The Witch says: “[Aslan] may not stay long. And then—we would fall upon the three [children] at Cair.” (page 135) After we’ve read of the Witch’s terror at Aslan’s arrival, do you think she truly believes Aslan will simply leave Narnia back in her hands? So, presumably the Witch has changed her mind about killing Edmund because her situation is so desperate, but she refuses to admit her desperation to herself? She must have known that Aslan would avenge the murder of the children of prophecy, otherwise she would have killed Edmund when she first saw him. What ideas do… Read more »

[…] noted here, the Deep Magic is similar to God’s Law, but not exact. One does not need to parse the Witch’s […]

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