“I’d turned into a boy again” by C.S. Lewis

“They went to the rocks and sat down looking out across the bay while the sky got paler and paler and the stars disappeared except for one very bright one low down and near the horizon.

“I won’t tell you how I became a—a dragon till I can tell the others and get it all over,” said Eustace. “By the way, I didn’t even know it was a dragon till I heard you all using the word when I turned up here the other morning. I want to tell you how I stopped being one.”

“Fire ahead,” said Edmund.

“Well, last night I was more miserable than ever. And that beastly arm-ring was hurting like anything—”

“Is that all right now?”

Eustace laughed—a different laugh from any Edmund had heard him give before—and slipped the bracelet easily off his arm.

“There it is,” he said, “and anyone who likes can have it as far as I’m concerned. Well, as I say, I was lying awake and wondering what on earth would become of me. And then—but, mind you, it may have been all a dream. I don’t know.”

“Go on,” said Edmund, with considerable patience.

“Well, anyway, I looked up and saw the very last thing I expected: a huge lion coming slowly toward me. And one queer thing was that there was no moon last night, but there was moonlight where the lion was. So it came nearer and nearer. I was terribly afraid of it. You may think that, being a dragon, I could have knocked any lion out easily enough. But it wasn’t that kind of fear. I wasn’t afraid of it eating me, I was just afraid of it—if you can understand. Well, it came close up to me and looked straight into my eyes. And I shut my eyes tight. But that wasn’t any good because it told me to follow it.”

“You mean it spoke?”

“I don’t know. Now that you mention it, I don’t think it did. But it told me all the same. And I knew I’d have to do what it told me, so I got up and followed it. And it led me a long way into the mountains. And there was always this moonlight over and round the lion wherever we went. So at last we came 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.

“I knew it was a well because you could see the water bubbling up from the bottom of it: but it was a lot bigger than most wells—like a very big, round bath with marble steps going down into it. The water was as clear as anything and I thought if I could get in there and bathe, it would ease the pain in my leg. But the lion told me I must undress first. Mind you, I don’t know if he said any words out loud or not.

“I was just going to say that I couldn’t undress because I hadn’t any clothes on when I suddenly thought that dragons are snaky sort of things and snakes can cast their skins. Oh, of course, thought I, that’s what the lion means. So I started scratching myself and my scales began coming off all over the place. And then I scratched a little deeper and, instead of just scales coming off here and there, my whole skin started peeling off beautifully, like it does after an illness, or as if I was a banana. In a minute or two I just stepped out of it. I could see it lying there beside me, looking rather nasty. It was a most lovely feeling. So I started to go down into the well for my bathe.

“But just as I was going to put my feet into the water I looked down and saw that they were all hard and rough and wrinkled and scaly just as they had been before. Oh, that’s all right, said I, it only means I had another smaller suit on underneath the first one, and I’ll have to get out of it too. So I scratched and tore again and this underskin peeled off beautifully and out I stepped and left it lying beside the other one and went down to the well for my bathe.

“Well, exactly the same thing happened again. And I thought to myself, oh dear, how ever many skins have I got to take off? For I was longing to bathe my leg. So I scratched away for the third time and got off a third skin, just like the two others, and stepped out of it. But as soon as I looked at myself in the water I knew it had been no good.

“Then the lion said—but I don’t know if it spoke—‘You will have to let me undress you.’ I was afraid of his claws, I can tell you, but I was pretty nearly desperate now. So I just lay flat down on my back to let him do it.

“The very first tear he made was so deep that I thought it had gone right into my heart. And when he began pulling the skin off, it hurt worse than anything I’ve ever felt. The only thing that made me able to bear it was just the pleasure of feeling the stuff peel off. You know—if you’ve ever picked the scab off a sore place. It hurts like billy-oh but it is such fun to see it coming away.”

“I know exactly what you mean,” said Edmund.

“Well, he peeled the beastly stuff right off—just as I thought I’d done it myself the other three times, only they hadn’t hurt—and there it was, lying on the grass, only ever so much thicker, and darker, and more knobbly-looking than the others had been. And there was I as smooth and soft as a peeled switch and smaller than I had been. Then he caught hold of me—I didn’t like that much for I was very tender underneath now that I’d no skin on—and threw me into the water. It smarted like anything but only for a moment. After that it became perfectly delicious and as soon as I started swimming and splashing I found that all the pain had gone from my arm. And then I saw why. I’d turned into a boy again. You’d think me simply phony if I told you how I felt about my own arms. I know they’ve no muscle and are pretty mouldy compared with Caspian’s, but I was so glad to see them.

“After a bit the lion took me out and dressed me—”

“Dressed you? With his paws?”

“Well, I don’t exactly remember that bit. But he did somehow or other, in new clothes—the same I’ve got on now, as a matter of fact. And then suddenly I was back here. Which is what makes me think it must have been a dream.”

“No. It wasn’t a dream,” said Edmund.

“Why not?”

“Well, there are the clothes, for one thing. And you have been—well, undragoned, for another.”

“What do you think it was, then?” asked Eustace.

“I think you’ve seen Aslan,” said Edmund.

“Aslan!” said Eustace. “I’ve heard that name mentioned several times since we joined the Dawn Treader. And I felt—I don’t know what—I hated it. But I was hating everything then. And by the way, I’d like to apologize. I’m afraid I’ve been pretty beastly.”

“That’s all right,” said Edmund. “Between ourselves, you haven’t been as bad as I was on my first trip to Narnia. You were only an ass, but I was a traitor.”

“Well, don’t tell me about it, then,” said Eustace. “But who is Aslan? Do you know him?”

“Well—he knows me,” said Edmund. “He is the great Lion, the son of the Emperor-beyond-the-Sea, who saved me and saved Narnia. We’ve all seen him. Lucy sees him most often. And it may be Aslan’s country we are sailing to.”

–C.S. Lewis, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader: The Chronicles of Narnia (New York: Harper, 1952), 473-475.

“He could have used anyone” by C.S. Lewis

“To Lucy Matthews:

The Kilns,
Headington Quarry,
Oxford
Sept 14th 1957

Dear Lucy Matthews,

I am so glad you like the Narnian stories and it was nice of you to write and tell me. I love E. Nesbit too and I think I have learned a lot from her about how to write stories of this kind.

Do you know Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings? I think you would like it. I am also bad at Maths and it is a continual nuisance to me– I get muddled over my change in shops. I hope you’ll have better luck and get over the difficulty! It makes life a lot easier.

It makes me, I think, more humble than proud to know that Aslan has allowed me to be the means of making Him more real to you. Because He could have used anyone–as He made a donkey preach a good sermon to Balaam.

Perhaps, in return, you will sometimes say a prayer for me? With all good wishes.

Yours sincerely,

C. S. Lewis”

–C.S. Lewis, The Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis, Volume 3: Narnia, Cambridge, and Joy, 1950 – 1963, Ed. Walter Hooper (New York: HarperCollins, 2007), 3: 882-883. Lewis was born on November 29, 1898.

“Aslan likes to be asked” by C.S. Lewis

“Now they were over the top of the cliffs and in a few minutes the valley land of Narnia had sunk out of sight behind them. They were flying over a wild country of steep hills and dark forests, still following the course of the river.

The really big mountains loomed ahead. But the sun was now in the travelers’ eyes and they couldn’t see things very clearly in that direction.

For the sun sank lower and lower till the western sky was all like one great furnace full of melted gold; and it set at last behind a jagged peak which stood up against the brightness as sharp and flat as if it were cut out of cardboard.

“It’s none too warm up here,” said Polly.

“And my wings are beginning to ache,” said Fledge. “There’s no sign of the valley with a Lake in it, like what Aslan said. What about coming down and looking out for a decent spot to spend the night in? We shan’t reach that place tonight.”

“Yes, and surely it’s about time for supper?” said Digory.

So Fledge came lower and lower. As they came down nearer to the earth and among the hills, the air grew warmer and after traveling so many hours with nothing to listen to but the beat of Fledge’s wings, it was nice to hear the homely and earthy noises again—the chatter of the river on its stony bed and the creaking of trees in the light wind.

A warm, good smell of sun-baked earth and grass and flowers came up to them. At last Fledge alighted. Digory rolled off and helped Polly to dismount. Both were glad to stretch their stiff legs.

The valley in which they had come down was in the heart of the mountains; snowy heights, one of them looking rose-red in the reflections of the sunset, towered above them.

“I am hungry,” said Digory.

“Well, tuck in,” said Fledge, taking a big mouthful of grass.

Then he raised his head, still chewing and with bits of grass sticking out on each side of his mouth like whiskers, and said, “Come on, you two. Don’t be shy. There’s plenty for us all.”

“But we can’t eat grass,” said Digory.

“H’m, h’m,” said Fledge, speaking with his mouth full. “Well— h’m— don’t know quite what you’ll do then. Very good grass too.”

Polly and Digory stared at one another in dismay.

“Well, I do think someone might have arranged about our meals,” said Digory.

“I’m sure Aslan would have, if you’d asked him,” said Fledge.

“Wouldn’t he know without being asked?” said Polly.

“I’ve no doubt he would,” said the Horse. “But I’ve a sort of idea he likes to be asked.”

–C.S. Lewis, The Magician’s Nephew: The Chronicles of Narnia (New York: HarperCollins, 1950), 86-87.

“Devastating desire” by C.S. Lewis

“I feel strongly, with you, that there was something more than a physical pleasure in those youthful activities. Even now, at my age, do we often have a purely physical pleasure?

Well, perhaps, a few of the more hopelessly prosaic ones: say, scratching or getting one’s shoes off when one’s feet are tired.

I’m sure my meals are not a purely physical pleasure. All the associations of every other time one has had the same food (every rasher of bacon is now 56 years thick with me) come in: and with the things like Bread, Wine, Honey, Apples, there are all the echoes of myth, fairy-tale, poetry, and Scripture.

So that the physical pleasure is also imaginative and even spiritual. Every meal can be a kind of lower sacrament.

‘Devastating gratitude’ is a good phrase: but my own experience is rather ‘devastating desire’– desire for that-of-which-the-present-joy-is-a-Reminder.

All my life nature and art have been reminding me of something I’ve never seen: saying ‘Look! What does this– and this– remind you of?’

I am so glad that you find (as I do too) that life, far from getting dull and empty as one grows older, opens out. It is like being in a house where one keeps on discovering new rooms.”

–C.S. Lewis, “To Mary Van Deusen” (March 3, 1955) in The Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis: Narnia, Cambridge, and Joy 1950-1963, Volume 3 (Ed. Walter Hooper; New York: HarperCollins, 2007), 583-584.

“There is no other stream” by C.S. Lewis

“Although the sight of water made her feel ten times thirstier than before, she didn’t rush forward and drink. She stood as still as if she had been turned into stone, with her mouth wide open. And she had a very good reason; just on this side of the stream lay the lion.

It lay with its head raised and its two fore-paws out in front of it, like the lions in Trafalgar Square. She knew at once that it had seen her, for it eyes looked straight into hers for a moment and then turned away– as if it knew her quite well and didn’t think much of her.

‘If I run away, it’ll be after me in a moment,’ thought Jill. ‘And if I go on, I shall run straight into its mouth.’ Anyway, she couldn’t have moved if she had tried, and she couldn’t take her eyes off it.

How long this lasted, she could not be sure; it seemed like hours. And the thirst became so bad that she almost felt she would not mind being eaten by the lion if only she could be sure of getting a mouthful of water first.

‘If you’re thirsty, you may drink.’

They were the first words she had heard since Scrubb had spoken to her on the edge of the cliff. For a second she stared here and there, wondering who had spoken.

Then the voice said again, ‘If you are thirsty, come and drink,’ and of course she remembered what Scrubb had said about animals talking in that other world, and realized that it was the lion speaking.

Anyway, she had seen its lips move this time, and the voice was not like a man’s. It was deeper, wilder, and stronger; a sort of heavy, golden voice. It did not make her any less frightened than she had been before, but it made her frightened in a rather different way.

‘Are you not thirsty?’ said the Lion.

‘I’m dying of thirst,’ said Jill

‘Then drink,’ said the Lion.

‘May I—could I—would you mind going away while I do?’ said Jill.

The Lion answered this only by a look and a very low growl. And as Jill gazed at its motionless bulk, she realized that she might as well have asked the whole mountain to move aside for her convenience. The delicious rippling noise of the stream was driving her nearly frantic.

‘Will you promise not to—do anything to me, if I do come?’ said Jill.

‘I make no promise,’ said the Lion.

Do you eat girls?’ she said.

‘I have swallowed up girls and boys, women and men, kings and emperors, cities and realms,’ said the Lion. It didn’t say this as if it were boasting, nor as if it were sorry, nor as if it were angry. It just said it.

‘I daren’t come and drink,’ said Jill.

‘Then you will die of thirst,’ said the Lion.

‘Oh dear!’ said Jill, coming another step nearer. ‘I suppose I must go and look for another stream then.’

‘There is no other stream,’ said the Lion.”

–C.S. Lewis, The Silver Chair (New York: Harper, 1953), 21–23.

“Eternal life is the ultimate story” by Douglas Wilson

“All the best stories which have been told or lived out before this are like dreams compared to the real story that we will all eventually wake up into. That story is one that never ends, ‘in which every chapter is better than the one before.’

In other words, heaven is like a story, but one that is better than the best book you have ever read. The hints that Lucy got in the magician’s book, or the hints that you get when you read a really great book or have an especially good dream—those all point to the final book.

All earthly stories end, even when they are so good that you wish they would go on and on for thousands of pages more. But this final story will not end. Every chapter is richer, fuller, and more thrilling than the last. Eternal life is the ultimate story.

Every good story foretells this last one in some way. Every good story that is told here on earth has a kind of shadowy reality, but it always taps into a deeper reality and truth.

J. R. R. Tolkien was once asked if he thought that The Lord of the Rings had actually happened somewhere, at some time. He replied, ‘One hopes.’ Lewis and Tolkien believed that storytelling was much more than just making something up. It was about human writers, as bearers of God’s image, imitating God’s work of creation.

Even though they cannot create physical things in reality, they can still create worlds that resonate with the truth of God’s reality. This is why Lewis said that a good adventure story is truer than a dull history.

The events in the story might not have happened, but it more closely resembles the type of world that God made than a soulless retelling of true events. And when we finally enter heaven we will realize in full how all the best stories were prefiguring that last, greatest story of all…

It is so important for you to devote yourself to reading good stories. Life is too short for bad ones. Learn to read good stories and learn to write good stories too. Practice writing good stories by writing really bad ones, and by showing them to your teachers and parents and friends so they can help you make better stories.

The Christian world needs far more good storytellers than it has. Some of us might be tempted to think that the Christian world needs more theology books instead, but I think that is fundamentally against the spirit of the Bible. The Bible is not a book full of theology and doctrine.

It is a book full of stories, poetry, prophecies, and songs, along with a few doctrinal books. Of course, I am not saying theology and doctrine are unimportant; they are essential. But most of God’s word comes to us in the form of story.

Whether they are the parables of Jesus or the great stories of the Old Testament, like David defeating Goliath, Jehoshaphat conquering with the choir in front of the army, the walls of Jericho falling down, the escape from Egypt and the dividing of the Red Sea—they all remind us to think about the Christian life and our relationship to God as a story. We are supposed to live like we are in one of God’s stories.

This is why I believe that one of the most important things C. S. Lewis did for the Christian world was to bring back the centrality of storytelling. We do not need to feel guilty about loving these stories. We do not need to think, ‘If I were a real Christian I would be reading something more serious instead of these stories.’

Rather, we are supposed to love stories. We are supposed to think in these categories and try out these thought experiments. If you were with King Tirian in The Last Battle, what would you do? If you were sailing on the Dawn Treader, what kind of character would you be?

How would you react in this or that situation? We are continually telling ourselves stories all day long. We convince ourselves that we are a certain kind of character and that our friends and family and other people we meet are other kinds of characters. What kind of story are you telling? Is it true?”

–Douglas Wilson, What I Learned in Narnia (Moscow, ID: Canon Press, 2010), 125-127.

“But there I have another name” by C.S. Lewis

“‘Please, Aslan,’ said Lucy. ‘Before we go, will you tell us when we can come back to Narnia again? Please. And oh, do, do, do make it soon.’

‘Dearest,’ said Aslan very gently, ‘you and your brother will never come back to Narnia.’

‘Oh, Aslan!!’ said Edmund and Lucy both together in despairing voices.

‘You are too old, children,’ said Aslan, ‘and you must begin to come close to your own world now.’

‘It isn’t Narnia, you know,’ sobbed Lucy. “It’s you. We shan’t meet you there. And how can we live, never meeting you?’

‘But you shall meet me, dear one,’ said Aslan.

‘Are– are you there too, Sir?’ said Edmund.

‘I am,’ said Aslan. ‘But there I have another name. You must learn to know me by that name. This was the very reason why you were brought to Narnia, that by knowing me here for a little, you may know me better there.'”

–C.S. Lewis, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader: The Chronicles of Narnia, Book 5 (New York: HarperCollins, 1952/1994), 540-541.