Monday, May 8, 2017

The Tests of Peter Pevensie

I have been a Narnian fan for many years, and Peter Pevensie is one of my two favorite characters (the other is Reepicheep).  In the 2005 movie The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Peter Pevensie embarks on a journey that will result in overcoming his flaws.  I will assume that you are familiar with the original story from either book or movie (if not, find some time to read the one or watch the other, or preferably, do both).  Peter’s first test occurs during the air-raid.  Edmund runs back into the house to recover his father’s photo, and Peter chases him out of a sense of duty, not brotherly love.  As the Pevensies settle in to the house of Professor Kirke, Peter tries to comfort and encourage Lucy.  Even though he does not believe her stories about Narnia, he is sorry to have to tell her to stop pretending.  But Peter and Edmund continue to have friction in the Professor’s house and then when all four enter Narnia.

Peter is angry when Edmund runs off alone to the White Witch’s castle, yet there is a hint of brotherly love in his desire to charge the castle single-handed to rescue Edmund.  This would be suicidal and Mr. and Mrs. Beaver lead the three Pevensies to meet Aslan.  Peter is given a sword and shield by Father Christmas, then they proceed to cross the frozen river.  They are ambushed by the White Witch’s wolves under Maugrim, and Peter faces him down with his sword.  Susan (who is still hoping to return safely to England) dissuades Peter from fighting the wolf, but Peter shows initiative by shepherding his siblings to safety on a floating ice floe.

Meeting Aslan
The three siblings and the Beavers arrive at Aslan’s camp, where they meet the Great Lion himself.  Aslan asks where the fourth Pevenise is, and Mr. Beaver states that Edmund has betrayed them.  This may be the turning-point for Peter.  He sheathes his sword (which had been at the salute) and confesses that his harshness to Edmund had contributed to Edmund’s betrayal.

Aslan shows Peter the castle of Cair Paravel, where the four are to be Kings and Queens, but Peter is doubtful of his fitness for this responsibility.  Aslan encourages Peter “You brought them [your siblings] safely this far,” but Peter’s test comes in the next moment.

Maugrim and another wolf have chased Susan and Lucy Pevensie into a large tree and Peter runs to their rescue.  Maugrim is cynical of Peter’s ability—“Come on, we’ve already been through this before”, but Peter fights and kills him.  For his valor, Aslan knights him Sir Peter Wolf’s-Bane.

"Aslan believed you could...and so do I"
Edmund is rescued and Aslan sacrifices himself for him.  The White Witch and her hordes prepare to crush Aslan’s army, and Peter is forced into a major decision: fight or withdraw?  Edmund is Peter’s councilor, stating “there’s an army out there, and it’s ready to follow you.”  Again Peter is doubtful, but Edmund reminds him “Aslan believed you could,” and in a moment of forgiveness on both sides, “and so do I.” 

With the support of his brother, Peter commits the army to battle.  The battle rages and at a crucial moment, a dismounted Peter is targeted by the White Witch.  She is armed with a magic wand that can turn living creatures into stone.  Edmund had seen her do this to a fox and a Faun and knows that she will attack Peter.  Jumping down from a rocky outcropping, Edmund smashes the Witch’s wand.  Furiously, the Witch turns on Edmund, badly wounding him.

The Kings and Queens of Narnia
Peter sees the entire exchange, and now he runs to his brother’s defense—but not out of duty this time.  This time, Peter is motivated by brotherly love.  As Peter and the Witch duel, Aslan (who has come back to life) arrives with reinforcements, who rout the Witch’s army.  The four Pevensies are then happily crowned Kings and Queens at Cair Paravel.

The problems that Peter Pevensie faces are not unfamiliar to many of us. We interact with our siblings and often feel overwhelmed when great responsibilities are laid on our shoulders.  Yet it should be noted that Peter’s turning point occurs after he meets Aslan.  Much as we can try to manage our flaws and shortcomings, only Jesus Christ can truly set us free from them.

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