In a Garden with Forbidden Fruit
By Robert Velarde
Author, The Heart of Narnia
As he begins to leave the garden, he sees the witch. Her mouth is stained with the juice of a silver apple, and she tosses away the core. Her skin has turned white. Digory runs away, but the witch is after him. He stops and threatens to return to his world then and there by the use of magic. Jadis tries to convince him to eat an apple because it has the power of youth as well as of life. If he does, he can rule the world as king, with her as his queen. This offer fails to induce Digory to eat the apple.
Next, Jadis tries another tack in her temptation of the boy. She tries to convince Digory to take an apple back to his mother so that she might be healed. Digory gasps and puts a hand to his head, for he loves his mother dearly and so much wants her to be healed. He struggles with the choice, feeling the force of the terrible decision before him.25 In the end, though, despite his desire to help his mother, Digory makes the right choice. He has made a promise to Aslan and he will not break it, no matter what.
In a way, each of us stands in a garden with forbidden fruit before us, just like Digory and just like Adam and Eve. These are the crisis points where our character is formed. The silver apple for us might be a sexual misadventure outside of marriage, an offer of illegal drugs at a party, the chance to destroy an enemy’s character with a lie, or any of innumerable other options. Regardless of the nature of our temptations, if we make good choices, we become more ethical people. If we make the wrong choices, our character
becomes worse and worse.
While not meant as tutorials in vice and virtue, the Chronicles of Narnia are filled with examples of both. In the chapters that follow, we will look at seven sets of characteristics as reflected in
• courage and cowardice
• fairness and unfairness
• honesty and dishonesty
• mercy and cruelty
• peace and war
• humility and pride
• repentance and unrepentance
Although these are seemingly opposing traits, they are not always clearly a matter of virtue in opposition to vice. For example, Lewis would argue that engaging in warfare is not always wrong. Still, in most cases, the traits discussed in the following chapters are quite dissimilar. Hence, honesty not only is distinct from dishonesty but also is virtuous, while dishonesty is not.
What these chapters all have in common is the theme of good versus evil. In part, this is because of the nature of fantasy literature. And, in part, this is because of the nature of real life here on earth. Just as there eventually came a showdown between the Narnians and the Calormenes, and just as Digory was presented with temptation by the witch, so all of us are engaged in the contest between right and wrong. We see it in small, personal decisions as well as in the great events of world history. May we learn from Peter and Reepicheep, Shasta and Jill, Digory and Polly, and other Narnian characters, especially Aslan, how to build a character for good.
Reflection and Response Questions
1. Think of a loved one you have lost. If, like Digory, you had been offered a means to save that person’s life but at the cost of defying a command of God, would you have taken the opportunity? If not, what would have kept you from disobeying God?
2. Most of us have at least one area of morality where we repeatedly let God down. It might be lust, anger, or some other sin. What is this habitual failing for you? Why do you think you tend to choose vice over virtue in this area of morality? Pray that God will use your reading of this book to place you more firmly on the side of good and not of evil.
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Excerpted from The Heart of Narnia: Wisdom, Virtue, and Life Lessons from the Classic Chronicles by Robert Velarde, NavPress Publishing Group, 2008. Used with Permission.
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