So, I made it a project of mine to read The Chronicles of Narnia with my little sister, Mya, who’s eight. We started a bit ago and have been trying to read it every night, and tonight we got to Aslan dying. Now, she’s seen the movie, a very long time ago, so she knows he lives.
But knowing doesn’t change how it feels. And when I first listened to it on audiobook with my family (we did it every night when I was younger) and I hear the author telling about how the hags bound my hero, my great Lion, and they cursed and spat and kicked him. Shaved his mane. Humiliated him. And they were still terrified.
They laughed at him, and he just looked up at them, so sad, so sad for them. And then, the White Witch, who I hated, looks down, and she laughs.
Then she kills all the good that there ever was and has the audacity to gloat.
My heart was broken. And I had to wait, for a whole day, with Aslan dead. I knew he lived, but for that day, he was dead. Dead and gone and I couldn’t stand it.
So as I’m reading this to my sister, I am pouring my heart into these words, my voice rising and falling and going fast and slow and then we get to the horrible, horrible part with the Witch. And it pained me, so much to do this, but I read, and I laughed the Witch’s evil laugh, and I read how she thrust the knife into his heart, and I laughed her cackle, read how she rejoiced.
My voice faltered as I cried Susan and Lucy’s cry, begging for this not to be true, and then we look over at Aslan, and he’s so cold, so, so dead.
I shut the book and tell her we aren’t going to read for a minute. Because Aslan is dead. Yes, he will live, but right now, he is dead and we can’t change it. I tell her about how Aslan created Narnia, about how good he was, about how sad he was in the end, what he gave up for Edmund. I look at her, tears shining in my eyes and I say, “Mya, Aslan was so, so good, and he died for someone awful. They laughed and hurt him and he was just so sad.”
She’s crying. She’s confused, she asks me why she’s crying about a story, and I tell her it’s okay. I tell her to cry, as a tear slips down my cheek. Because Aslan is dead and it’s okay to cry for our great Lion. Our hearts break, mine, even though I know the story by heart, my heart breaks again as the Lion’s heart stops.
“How do you feel, Mya?”
“Sad… but… worse.” She looks up at me, her big sister, asking why I had to read this to her. Why did I let him die like that, why don’t I just read so we can see him live. But I won’t. Not yet. She has to understand.
You have to feel the pain before the beauty, Mya.
Then we hug, and then, tears in our eyes, we pick up where we left off. I read, my voice a whisper, Susan and Lucy sit with Aslan, crying and the field mice come, nibbling the ropes off, and then my voice gets louder and louder.
And then Susan looks behind her, and I’m nearly shouting as I read Aslan’s voice telling them he’s alive now. Mya is laughing and crying and so am I, I look down at her and say, “Now, what do you feel?”
“Happy, but it’s… better.”
“So, so much better, right?”
She nods, almost unable to talk. So I start reading, my voice getting louder and filled with joy, edged with sadness, as we read on.
Then I stop, close the book; we sit there, and she doesn’t move, and I look at her as she looks back at me. I’m trying not to cry and so is she and she crawls into my lap, hugging me.
But she’s still confused. Why is she crying for Aslan?
“Aslan isn’t God, Mya, but God is Aslan. All that you feel right now? The hurt and sadness and then that happiness that is far richer? That’s what God feels like.”
It hurt me to read that to her, to have her be hurt by Aslan’s death, and then make her wait. But you have to feel the pain before you feel the joy.
This was her first time, that a book has touched her like that emotionally, and I am just so glad I was the one to read it to her, the one to hug her and cry with her over Aslan, to rant about the Witch and then the one to laugh and spin her around when Aslan was back.
I get to make this journey through books that changed my life with her.
It is… quite honestly, so, so magical.