Liam Neeson Angers Narnia Fans By Comparing Aslan to Buddha and Mohammed
Liam Neeson, who voices Aslan, the Christ-like lion throughout the Chronicles of Narnia film series, has just caused a bit of controversy among Christian fans of the series during Voyage of the Dawn Treader press tour. Neeson said that to him, the lion symbolizes all great prophets including Buddha and Mohammed. I'm guessing this would have gone unnoticed if not for that Mohammed part, but let's take a closer look at these supposedly misguided, controversial statements and the ensuing criticism.
Neeson told The Daily Mail:
"Aslan symbolises a Christ-like figure but he also symbolizes 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."
And cue the outrage. Walter Hooper, Lewis's former secretary and a trustee of his estate said "It is nothing whatever to do with Islam. Lewis would have simply denied that. He wrote that the 'whole Narnian story is about Christ.'" Added William Oddie, a former editor of The Catholic Herald, "I can't believe that Liam Neeson is so stupid..."
Whew. I'll admit that Lewis' text is as subtle as a sledgehammer in its Christian symbolism. But just to play (ahem) devil's advocate, shouldn't any serious work of art should be open to individual interpretation? It's not like Neeson put any words in Lewis' mouth. And is this really a bigger deal than having a professed-agnostic direct the film? Especially since Neeson is Roman Catholic and actually helped an order of American Catholic priests to bring out a CD of spiritual meditations for Lent two years ago?
In any case, I'm guessing the controversy will blow over once fans realize they can't actually think of anyone who could knock Aslan's voice out of the park the way Neeson has. Meanwhile, I'm much more interested in the charming and unpredictable Tilda Swinton's take on what Aslan symbolizes.
[The Daily Mail]
·The Narnia Policeman [Christianity Today]