Yesterday I said that there is a strong Christian aspect to The Wolf of Tebron. I wrote a little about it, but there is much more that can be said. Today I hope to say some of it.
I’m afraid that, in order to discuss certain elements of the book, I’m going to have to give away major parts of it. In other words, if you want to remain spoiler-free, abandon hope, all ye who enter here.
The wolf of Tebron is Ruyah. He’s a striking animal, even a kingly one – enormous, his silverish fur capturing and breaking “the light into hundreds of rainbow hues”. Anyone who has read the book will understand why I thought of Aslan. The similarities between wolf and lion run deep. Both reflect Christ in important ways: ageless, more than they appear, coming in a different form, guide to the hero’s journey and ultimately his savior, by a self-sacrificial death.
But the characters diverge in important ways. Aslan is not a constant character in the Narnia books; he can’t be. He’s too big for that. He would overwhelm the other characters, and even the story. His mere presence is overpowering – even to the White Witch. (“If she can stand on her two feet and look him in the face it’ll be the most she can do and more than I expect of her.”)
Ruyah does not overpower. He is constant in The Wolf of Tebron, and he has the fallibility that makes that possible. It works well in the book that Ruyah is tied up by ruffians, and driven away from the Moon’s house by his reaction to her splendor, and fallen under the mesmerizing lull of the Sun’s palace. But it’s impossible to imagine Aslan caught by anyone’s splendor or lull or desire for a valuable pelt. Perhaps the difference between Aslan and Ruyah is most concisely shown by the fact that Joran can think of Ruyah as his wolf.
All this is to illustrate what may be the most fundamental difference between them. Ruyah represents Christlike qualities in the tale; Aslan represents Christ.in Narnia. Ruyah cannot be Christ in Tebron. He isn’t big enough. Nor could Christ appear in any world as being made pure, or as having a physical wife and son, or as being on par with the forces He battles.
The South Wind is a similar case. “She searches into all things and wanders where she wishes, but you do not know where she comes from and where she is going.” 1 Cor. 2:10 states that “the Spirit searches all things.” And Jesus told Nicodemus, “The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”
The use of verses about the Holy Spirit is not coincidental. The South Wind searches Joran’s heart and teaches him the truth. Jesus called the Holy Spirit “the Spirit of truth”. The Nicene Creed teaches that He “has spoken through the prophets”, because we find in the Bible that the Holy Spirit reveals the truth and testifies to the truth.
In The Wolf of Tebron, the South Wind does the same. But as Ruyah is not Christ in Tebron, the South Wind is not the Holy Spirit in Tebron. Jesus, and the Spirit, are God, and Ruyah and the South Wind do not reflect “His eternal power and divine nature”.
So what do they reflect – certain attributes of Jesus and the Holy Spirit? You could say that. It might be even better to say that in this tale, Ruyah represents the work of Christ in saving, and the South Wind represents the work of the Holy Spirit in searching out and revealing the truth.
5 thoughts on “CSFF Blog Tour: The Wolf, the Lion, and the Messiah”
Nice analysis of the allegorical aspect of this story, Shannon, particularly that last paragraph. It’s easy to miss the subtlety of what the author’s trying to do in our attempt to stick nametags on things.
Shannon, great analysis! Fred Warren sent me over here. I too came to the conclusion that Susanne’s characters do not directly represent God, but they certainly explore aspects of His nature and work–which is, I think, a fine thing to do in Christian fiction :).
LOVE this post. I’m planning on something similar, but you’ve taken a little different tact. Where you came out is impressively true, I think.
Thank you for your comments. Looking at the tour, there’s been a lot of discussion over Ruyah and what, exactly, he represents. Not everybody thought the allegory was correct, but it was certainly thought-provoking. Susanne Lakin succeeded in giving it depth.