We all know the story. There were four children named Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy who were sent to live in the country in a large manor. The youngest, Lucy, stumbles upon a magic wardrobe that opens into a strange land blanketed with snow that is called Narnia. She returns, tells her siblings, and none of them believe her.
|Photo from Tampa Bay Times’ archives.
Image property of Disney, 2005.
Later, Edmund manages to follow her through the wardrobe and discovers the place for himself. Only, instead of meeting the hospitable faun Mr. Tumnus, Edmund encounters the White Witch. She gives him enchanted Turkish delight and a hot drink and uses false promises to lure him into a plot of betrayal: to bring his siblings to her the next time he comes to Narnia.
Edmund attempts to do the White Witch’s bidding, but he cannot sway them once they all go to Narnia. Leaving them at the Beavers’ cozy home, he trudges through the snow to the White Witch’s castle, where he is taken prisoner. Eventually, Aslan secures his release–by penalty of his own death–and Edmund realizes the price that he should have paid and is forever grateful. (Much later in the series, he relates to his cousin Eustace for similar changes.)
When I was a child, listening to these stories as my mother read them, I despised Edmund. I related much more to Lucy who seemed brave and trusting. I could not understand why Edmund was such a sullen pill of a child or why he was led astray. Concurrently, I did not understand the depth of Aslan’s sacrifice for him or the grander metaphor at work. In fact, it was not until I was halfway through college, that it hit me: I am Edmund.
I was listening to a radio theater version of this story, doing my homework and not really paying attention, when goosebumps spread up and down my arms. I stopped what I was doing, listened intently, and then I started crying. Somehow over the years, my focus shifted from innocent, brave Lucy to petulant, sullen Edmund who betrayed his very family and sided with Narnia’s worst enemy.
The more I listened, the more I saw myself in that broken little boy, trapped in a prison of his own making, desperately in need of rescue. In Aslan’s willing sacrifice, I saw Jesus’ crucifixion–as Lewis intended–and it became real to me. I saw the correlation between my own corruption and the requirement for Jesus’ death to bring about salvation. In quick succession, I felt guilt and mourning followed by relief and thanksgiving.
Once I realized how much I identified with Edmund, I began to notice similar stories that seemed like mine. Suddenly, I was Gomer from the book of Hosea, and I related to the prodigal son in Jesus’ parable for the first time. It was through these stories–and writing out my own–that I grew closer to God.
Part of my own attraction to writing stories is that I get to tell them in new ways. There really isn’t anything new under the sun, but the way I see and write about something is going to be unique to me. And maybe, just maybe, the way I tell a story will truly resonate with a reader and change his or her life in a powerful way.
What characters do you identify with in stories? Was there a particular book that changed the way you saw yourself or the world around you?