Children are generally predictable. When it comes to literature, they like who they are supposed to like and hate who they are supposed to hate. For our Magician’s Nephew party, we had about 70% Aslan costumes, as I would expect of Peter Pan or Huck Finn costumes if we were reading those respective works.
As we now work our way through The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, you can be sure that our young minds are day dreaming of leading the charge like Peter, standing for the truth like Lucy, or being courageous like Susan. And surely this was Lewis’ hope. We love Lewis for giving us virtuous characters who we would love for our children to emulate.
We should also be thankful that Lewis not only gives us characters who represent what we are called to be, but also those who remind us of who we really are. Although I can guarantee you no one will dress up as Edmund for our TLWW Party, Edmund Pevensie is the character Lewis has intended to most closely resemble us. The spirit of Edmund is in play as our boys fight to be first in line and steal each others milk during snack time; when our girls say hurtful things and brag about their latest accomplishments.
I think our students realize there is something strangely familiar about Edmund in these early chapters. But identifying oneself as Edmund is like listening to a recorded version of your own voice or looking at yourself in an upscale dressing room mirror; strange and unpleasant.
The early version of Edmund’s character exists to remind us that we are radically selfish and our natural propensity is towards self satisfaction/exaltation, even if it comes at the expense of others. The difficulty is getting our children to see this. Reading the book as an adult is much different than experiencing it as a child. Right now, Edmund is just the character they know they don’t like, the mirror is probably not working.
The book will do it’s job though, it always does. They will hate Edmund, then they will sympathize with him, and ultimately they will admire him in the books to come. The difference is Aslan, always Aslan. The narrator’s description of Edmund’s first Aslan encounter is simple:
As soon as they had breakfasted they all went out, and there they saw Aslan and Edmund walking together in the dewy grass, apart from the rest of the court. There is no need to tell you (and no one ever heard) what Aslan was saying, but is was a conversation which Edmund never forgot. As the others drew nearer Aslan turned to meet them, bringing Edmund with him.
“Here is your brother,” he said, “and–there is no need to talk to him about what is past.”
Edmund shook hands with each of the others and said to them each in turn, “I’m sorry,” and everyone said, “that’s alright.”
What was actually said is left to our imaginations, but whatever it was, we can be sure it was exactly what Edmund needed to hear.
Edmund is not a true hero in this book. But he is probably the character we would want our children to pay the closest attention to. I’d encourage you to spend some time prying with your children. Ask them what they think of Edmund at this point in the book. Ask them why he has made the choices he has thus far. Ask them if they have ever acted like Edmund. And later, when we get there, ask them what made Edmund change.