‘Is he – quite safe?’ asks Susan in Chapter 7 of The Lion. ‘Who said anything about safe? ’Course he isn’t safe,’ says Mr Beaver; ‘But he’s good.’ Aslan’s unsafeness is referred to repeatedly: ‘Is it not said in all the old stories that He is not a Tame Lion?’ (Last Battle Ch. 2). But what is perhaps most remarkable in the entire sequence – and in itself a compelling reason for never reading the books without including The Last Battle – is the way Lewis allows this very axiom almost to undermine faith and truth. To take a parallel from as different an author as you could imagine, Dostoevsky can write in his personal journals of how he has learned to sing his hosanna in the crucible of doubt – but he also, in The Brothers Karamazov uses precisely this phrase in the mouth of a diabolical visitant as a mocking summary of religious evasiveness and dishonesty. Similarly, when the malign Shift begins his campaign to take over Narnia, the fact that he orders things that are absolutely contrary to what might be expected of Aslan is initially met with confusion rather than rejection – because ‘he’s not a tame lion’. Is he bound by his own rules? There have been no signs in the stars to announce the coming again of Aslan; but ‘he is not the slave of the stars but their Maker’ (Last Battle Ch. 2). Appealing to the unpredictable wildness of Aslan has become an unanswerable tool of control….
Aslan makes no promise; nothing can make him safe, and there is no approaching him without an overwhelming sense of risk. But there is no other stream. A less fearful and guilty person than Jill might – like the talking horse Hwin in The Horse (Ch. 14) – conclude that ‘I’d rather be eaten by you than fed by anyone else.’ But one thing Aslan cannot do is pretend he is not what and who he is. Under his scrutiny the likelihood is that we shall all feel as unsafe as it is possible to be. In this crucial sense – and as it were in response to the doubts expressed in The Last Battle – Aslan cannot break his laws. He is not bound by anything except what and who he is, but that is a real and unbreakable bond. He cannot be other than truth. And confronted with truth in this shape, there may be no promises, no rewards and no security, but there is nowhere else to go. Trust in Aslan may even open up the horrific possibilities of corruption and nightmare that The Last Battle describes, but there is no way for Aslan to come into this world without such risks. There are no other options for truthfulness to enter our consciousness or, more importantly, for sacrificial love to break our chains. Rowan Williams, The Lion’s World