“If the witch understood the true meaning of sacrifice, she might have interpreted the Deep Magic differently, for when a willing victim who has committed no treachery, dies in a traitor’s stead, the stone table will crack and even death itself will turn backwards.”
“Oh, how interesting,” Lucy said. “What is the true meaning of sacrifice, Aslan?”
“It is an artificial anti-concept,” Aslan said in his low, golden voice. “It is the ultimate force of destruction. The very word self less suggests self-immolation, a complete annihilation of one’s own self for the sake of others. Sacrifice destroys knowledge, skill, talent, usefulness, all in the name of duty. It destroys love and self-esteem, which are the same thing. Self-sacrifice is an immoral nightmare.”
“I don’t quite understand,” Lucy said. “Does this mean Edmund is going to die instead of you?”
“Let us put it this way,” Aslan said. “If I exchange a penny for a dollar, have I made a sacrifice?”
“No,” Lucy said.
“But if I were to exchange a dollar for a penny instead,” Aslan said, sounding rather as if he had a locomotive in his throat, “would I be making a sacrifice then?”
“Y-e-s,” Lucy said.
“And you understand why your brother is not the dollar, in this analogy,” he said.
“So Edmund must die,” Lucy said triumphantly, “or else you would be betraying your own values!”
“Exactly,” Aslan said. “Have a penny.”
Edmund burst into tears, like a Communist.
“Oh, do be quiet,” Lucy said to Edmund. “I want to listen to Aslan explain his plans for a transcontinental railroad into Calormen again.”
“Thank you for your hospitality,” Susan said politely, “but we really have to go.”
Mr. Beaver’s face fell. “Oh, you can’t just leave.”
“He’s right. We have to help Mr. Tumnus,” Lucy said.
“We don’t have to do anything,” Aslan reminded her. “Mr. Tumnus’ troubles sound like a Mr. Tumnus problem.”
Lucy helped herself to another slice of cake instead of chasing after a pantsless man-goat who had failed to guard his own self-interest, and was all the happier for it.
“A propos of nothing in particular,” Aslan said rather suddenly, “I don’t want you thinking I’m a metaphor for Jesus, or anything like that.”
“Oh, no, rather,” Susan said.
“And nothing happens to you after you die,” he said. “I want to be very clear about that.”
“Nothing at all,” Peter said. “Very sensible outlook, that.”
“It’s why we must focus on our own well-being in the present,” Aslan said, “and build as many trains as we can before dying.”
“To trains,” Lucy said, and they all raised a meaningful glass.
“I can’t do it,” Mr. Tumnus cried. “I was going to turn you over to the White Witch, but now that I have met you, and had tea with you, I cannot give you to her. And she will surely turn me to stone for defying her.” And he began to weep bitter tears.
“You know what you should do,” Lucy said, helping herself to another piece of Battenberg, “is go on strike.”
Mallory is an Editor of The Toast.