In his essay “Charity,” (chapter 9, book 3 of Mere Christianity) C.S. Lewis describes the act of charity as Christian love in action. He depicts this virtue in The Lion, The Witch, And The Wardrobe through the characters of Mr. Tumnus, Lucy, and Aslan.
Mr. Tumnus is the first to demonstrate this kind of love by sacrificing his future for Lucy, whom he only meets that day. “She’ll turn me into stone and I shall be only a statue….I hadn’t known what Humans were like before I met you. Of course I can’t give you up to the Witch; not now that I know you. But we must be off at once” (20). Had it not been for Mr. Tumnus, Lucy would not arrive back to her own realm in one piece.
When Lucy returns to Narnia with her siblings, all four of them perform a similar act of charity. “We can’t just go home, not after this. It is all on my account that the poor Faun has got into this trouble. He hid me from the Witch and showed me the way back. That’s what it means by comforting the Queen’s enemies and fraternizing with Humans. We simply must try to rescue him” (59). Upon the discovery that Mr. Tumnus has been taken by the witch, they decide to stay in Narnia and do their best to rescue him rather than return home. This sacrifice of all four children, though three of the four didn’t know the faun they were putting themselves for, is a result of Mr. Tumnus’s sacrifice for themselves. It’s a fantasy spin on the classic proverb, “what goes around comes around;” the most efficient way to create a ripple effect of love is to spread love.
While these two acts begin the ripple effect of Narnian and Christian sacrifice, it is best depicted by the Christ-like death of Aslan. “When a willing victim who had committed no treachery was killed on the traitor’s stead, the Table would crack and Death itself would start working backward” (163). By dying a traitor’s death in place of Edmund, Aslan forgives him of his treachery and redeems his place on the throne in Cair Paravel.
None of these sacrifices would be feasible without the others. These acts work together to instill the great virtue of sacrifice in Mr. Tumnus and the four children, in addition to other characters, such as the mice who are so grateful for Aslan’s sacrifice that they nibble off the ropes confining their natural predator. The Lion, The Witch and, The Wardrobe confirms Lewis’s belief that unconditional love is not an emotion, but an action that gives without asking for return.