Father Christmas in Narnia? What On Earth Was Lewis Thinking?

Tolkien didn’t approve of C.S. Lewis’s somewhat odd insertion of Father Christmas into Narnia. You may have even wondered yourself, “Why does the jolly man dressed in red show up in the story?” And, like Tolkien, Lewis had other friends who encouraged him to leave this bit out. He didn’t. Why?

One good theory for making sense of Lewis’s approach is found in the work of preeminent C.S. Lewis scholar Michael Ward. Ward discovered a rather complex, but ultimately satisfying, approach to a hidden system behind Lewis’s stories. Ward describes that elements like the inclusion of Father Christmas point to a hidden code based on medieval cosmology, one that can best be explained by understanding Lewis’s area of academic expertise in the Middle Ages.

I want to suggest an additional explanation that in no way challenges, but could compliment, Ward’s Narnia Code motif in making sense of the use of Father Christmas . This could be another element behind why Lewis refused the advice of trusted friends and left Father Christmas in Narnia. I have to admit this is far from original. It was first mentioned to me at a conference on C.S. Lewis at which I was speaking in Nashville, TN. I do not recall the name of the individual or I would include it in this post.

“Why is Father Christmas in Narnia?” the conference attendee asked me. Good question, I responded. He then quizzed me over who most represented God the Father in Narnia (the obvious answer is the Emperor-Beyond-the-Sea). Aslan is clearly a Christ figure in the story keeping in mind Narnia isn’t to be interpreted as straight allegory. “Who then is the third person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit, in Narnia?” he asked me. I shrugged.

I didn’t think the Holy Spirit had to make a cameo in the Chronicles. Can’t the story be adequate with types of Father and Son?, I thought.  “Who in the story, besides Aslan, needs no introduction to the children, knows their names, and comes to give them gifts?” he asked. My eyes widened. “I think you might be on to something,” I responded.