‘”You have a traitor there, Aslan.” said the Witch. Of course everyone present knew that she meant Edmund.’
– The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
I spent my childhood looking for Narnia inside every wardrobe. I even crawled into my cupboard with a blanket and pillow, and fell asleep there; determined not to miss the moment the doorway spontaneously opened into Aslan’s world.
I never did quite make it into Narnia, but it has never lost the charm and mystery that I first fell in love with during my childhood years.
Edmund the Betrayer
When I read this story as a child, my impression of Edmund was not a good one. To me, he was someone who was quite, well, despicable. A selfish and angsty pre-teen who sold out his siblings and dreamt of ruling in the meanest way possible.
Yes, Edmund the traitor. The ultimate betrayer. He had done everything worthy of scathing judgement, and now the Witch dished it out in large helpings. Suddenly, the Turkish delight had lost its sweet savour.
To his miserable credit, Edmund had been through a lot leading up to this public stand-off between Aslan and the White Witch, and it had been pretty awful. But most of it had also been self-inflicted—he was pretty awful himself. And I was as unimpressed as a nine-year-old can be.
Yet this time, 20 years later, as I read the story again I suddenly saw Edmund in a completely different light:
Edmund the Broken
Edmund stands before the entire crowd of Aslan’s army, his siblings and even Aslan himself, in full range of the Witch’s bruising shots. He has arrived in the Narnians’ midst, wounded and scratched and muddy and exhausted. On the inside, he hasn’t fared much better. Pride, selfishness and shame are heavy weights to carry, and Edmund’s heart bears the scratches and bruises of these as well.
He is a pitiful sight as he stands there awkward and ashamed, no doubt feeling foolish and perhaps even broken…
The scene is incredibly real to me because I, too, have been in Edmund’s place.
I have been bruised by grief and shame. I have stood and felt the thumping blows of accusations and struggled beneath the heaviness of labels I seem to deserve. The hurts and scratches and mud are my own, as tangible as the black ink that spills over these pages and pours out the painful story from which I can’t tear myself away.
I am a pitiful sight as I take in the Witch’s words. Awkward and ashamed, feeling foolish and perhaps even more than a little broken.
But Edmund is well ahead of me.
‘He just went on looking at Aslan.’
The breathless magic of these simple words floors me.
The parallel, being obviously and mysteriously woven in, crashes into my heart like a blinding revelation as I breathlessly watch this finale…
The Witch points her long white finger at Edmund. Her face twists in fiendish glee. She is loud and proud in her scornful condemnation, and he is the condemned.
Selfish. Ashamed. Broken.
Except that Edmund is no longer looking at the Witch.
Edmund the Redeemed
That very same morning, Aslan himself had spoken to the pitiful boy, and something had shifted. Instantaneously, it seemed, Edmund’s entire focus had swung around. Even his view of himself changed, and he now sees through the eyes of the noble Lion.
And I—pitiful and weak and just a little bruised—I too am drawn towards the Lion.
Suddenly, the accusations fall silent. The feelings of worthlessness vaporise and the unbearable labels simply dissolve like Narnian snowflakes in Aslan’s sun.
It doesn’t seem to matter what I, in my foolish pride and selfishness, have carried with me to the floor. It doesn’t seem to matter how awkward I look to an accusing world, or how loudly the cruel finger points at me, or how beaten down is my soul.
Love and grace dance together and hold me spellbound.
What the Witch Said
What the Witch said has no more power in this sacred place, and I look where Edmund looked and I see what Edmund saw.
That Aslan has eyes only for me.
‘”You have a traitor there, Aslan,” said the Witch. Of course everyone present knew that she meant Edmund.
But Edmund had got past thinking about himself after all he’d been through and after the talk he’d had that morning. He just went on looking at Aslan.
It didn’t seem to matter what the Witch said.‘
© Emma McGeorge
* All quotes from C.S. Lewis’ The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
** “What the Witch Said” originally published with Christian Today