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By Tamara Cohen and Simon Caldwell | Daily Mail | Dec. 4th, 2010
The much-loved children’s stories have an unapologetic Christian message.
C. S. Lewis was clear that the character of Aslan in his Chronicles of Narnia is based on Christ.
But actor Liam Neeson, who voices the lion in the latest Narnia film, has prompted a row after claiming his character is also based on other religious leaders such as Mohammed and Buddha.
Symbol of Christ: The Character of Aslan, voiced by Neeson, was stated by its author C.S. Lewis as Christian
Fans of Lewis’s stories are fuming, claiming Neeson is ruining the author’s legacy to be ‘politically correct’.
Aslan features in all seven Narnia books, steering the children away from evil and encouraging them to take the right path.
In the climax of the first book The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, he sacrifices his life to save Narnia from an evil witch before rising triumphantly from the dead.
Controversy: Liam Neeson's view on the role of Aslan has sparked anger
C S Lewis had a firm view about the role of Aslan in the Chronicles of Narnia.
The author once wrote of the character: ‘He is an invention giving an imaginary answer to the question, “What might Christ become like if there really were a world like Narnia, and He chose to be incarnate and die and rise again in that world as He actually has done in ours?”’
Lewis also said that the books are full of Christian symbolism, covering subjects such as heaven and the end of the world.
This represents the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and in shattering the power of the White Witch, the resurrection’s conquest of original sin.
Ahead of the release of The Voyage of the Dawn Treader next Thursday, Neeson said: ‘Aslan symbolises a Christ-like figure but he also symbolises for me Mohammed, Buddha and all the great spiritual leaders and prophets over the centuries.
‘That’s who Aslan stands for as well as a mentor figure for kids – that’s what he means for me.’
Neeson, 58, who grew up in Ballymena, Northern Ireland, is a practising Roman Catholic and was named after his parish priest. His actress wife Natasha Richardson died in a skiing accident in March last year.
Two years ago, he teamed up with an order of American Catholic priests to bring out a CD of spiritual meditations for Lent.
Walter Hooper, Lewis’s former secretary and a trustee of his estate, said the author would have been outraged.
‘It is nothing whatever to do with Islam,’ he said.
‘Lewis would have simply denied that. He wrote that the “whole Narnian story is about Christ”. Lewis could not have been clearer.’
He attributed Neeson’s remarks to political correctness and a desire to be ‘very multicultural’, adding: ‘I don’t know Liam Neeson or what he is thinking about… but it was not Lewis’s intention.’
William Oddie, a fomer editor of The Catholic Herald and a lifelong fan of the Chronicles of Narnia, accused Neeson of ‘a betrayal of Lewis’s intention and a shameful distortion’.
He said: ‘Aslan is clearly established from the very beginning of the whole cannon as being a Christ figure. I can’t believe that Liam Neeson is so stupid as not to know.’
The Chronicles of Narnia mainly follow the adventures of four siblings as they discover a magical land, full of talking beasts, unicorns and witches. Clive Staples Lewis, a devoted Christian, wrote the books between 1949 and 1954.
The Voyage of the Dawn Treader is the third book to be made into a film, following The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe in 2005 and Prince Caspian in 2008.