Friday, August 05, 2022

Susan and the "Aslan of Oxford"


What really happened to Susan? C. S. Lewis sometimes received letters asking about her fate. (JK Rowling and Philip Pullman also object to Lewis' story on this account.) He replied to one or two correspondents, "I think Susan's salvation is more of an adult story. Why don't you write it yourself?"

So I did, and wove that tale into my new book, The Case for Aslan: Evidence for Jesus in the Land of Narnia. Here's how one chapter, set at Wadham College in Oxford, begins:

Scene: A second-floor office in a functional stone building, with windows overlooking a grassy quadrangle and ornate spires. An elderly man is staring into space, books jumbled in lopsided piles on his desk. A drawing hangs near the door, of two men in old-fashioned wigs, sitting in a wooden boat with feathered wings, flying above the very quad visible out the window. One is smoking a pipe, while the other trails fishing tackle, at which peck a flock of ducks. A basket of apples rests on the cupboard below the drawing: a faint humming sound can be heard from the cupboard.
Knock, knock!
“Come in!”
A young lady of about twenty-five enters. She is stylishly-dressed and attractive, with long black hair and a skirt to match. She smiles, a bit crookedly, as if some weight were pressing on her cheeks.
The old man looks up, and his mouth drops open.
“My dear! So good to see you!”
“Sorry, professor... It’s been... a while.”
“Sit down, sit down! Tea? Coffee?”
“Tea, if it’s not too much trouble!”
“I have been praying for you.”
“Does it hit the ceiling and bounce back?”
The old man glances at his guest with furrowed brows. He nips several tea leaves and drops them in a ceramic mug decorated with a picture of a cat prowling among peonies.
“Here you are,” the professor sighs. The girl puts her hand on his shoulder.
“Sorry, Uncle Digs. But I do wonder. Am I a total lunatic? Did all that— really happen?”

“Crazy? No. But you do look tired. What have you been up to for the past, what is it, four years?”
“Searching for a door back in, I guess. But it seems the Emperor needed my parents beyond the bloody sea more than their daughter did!”
“I am so sorry. If there is anything I can do— anything at all.”
“Well, I wouldn’t mind some sugar. And a few answers, if you can spare them, Professor.
“Even if all those crazy memories were real— horseback rides with centaurs, visits from princes— Rabadash was a dish, you know, I would have loved to see him in donkey ears— the funny way Tumnus danced out of rooms after he scored a diplomatic victory— I can’t believe I’m saying these things out loud to another human being— how would I prove it? Or maybe there’s another way in. Maybe if I could find some clue that Aslan came to our world, I would feel a tad less... alone.
“So I started visiting the Bod.”
“To find... ?”
“If our Aslan is real. I mean, hang it all, half the colleges in this town— Jesus, Christ Church, Body of Christ... hang his name over their entryways.“

“Magdalen for a pert lady disciple.”
“Yes. And a bunch are named for male apostles, too. So I started reading Bultmann. Crossan. Vermes. Meier. Pagels. Ehrman. Piles of stuff, and everyone seemed to find a different Jesus, like the blind men and the elephant.”
“But who did you find?”

“If you don’t mind, professor, let me ask the questions. Sorry. I guess that means, I haven’t made up my mind. Except I think Empress Jadis runs this hell-hole of a planet.” She smiled faintly. “Especially London. London is the worst.”
“When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life,” the professor thought to himself. Still, her sarcasm showed spirit. That had to be a good sign.

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