by Kori Frazier Morgan
In high school, I was cast in a community theatre production of The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe. I played the Dwarf, the White Witch’s head minion in her quest to rule Narnia. I took great joy in this part, in my shaggy, black wig, enormous, black eyebrows, and hump-backed brown leather costume. I walked with a hunched-over, heavy gait, my face contorted in perpetual maniacal laughter. My teeth were painted yellow and blacked out. For weeks after the production, stains remained on the transparent brackets of my braces.
My favorite scene to perform was the execution of Aslan. In our staging, my task was to rally and rile the wolves and evil animals (played by children in grey sweat suits and costume ears), energizing them for the death of the Great Lion, who lay bound on the Stone Table. I leaped across the stage with abandon, the child-wolves gnashing their teeth in response. At one rehearsal, the director said I needed to tone it down—my character’s zeal for the White Witch’s crusade was too distracting.
As a teenager, I was an atheist. I’d been bullied, struggled with depression, and nearly lost my father to an illness that removed him from my life for three years. I could not conceive of how God would have brought these things to pass if He existed. But on the other, I was angry with Him for the direction my life had taken, the path toward self-destruction that I, my family, and the whole world seemed to be on.
It was a paradox I couldn’t reconcile—how can you hate someone you don’t believe is real?
As it happened, C.S. Lewis, Narnia’s creator, shared my sentiment. “Atheists express their rage against God, although in their view, He does not exist,” he wrote in The Problem of Pain. I became a Christian in my early twenties, and when I studied Lewis’s conversion in his book Surprised by Joy, I was comforted by this fact. He gave me a language for my complicated thinking about God, but it was about more than that. As I read his work, I learned of his own pain—the loss of his mother at a young age, horrific abuse at the hands of peers at boarding school, and the brutal suffering he endured as a British soldier in World War I.
Lewis showed me that I was not alone, that one of the greatest spiritual authors who ever lived, who wrote so beautifully about the struggle of unbelief, had traversed the same spiritual ground as me.
When I think of that scene in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, the energetic, unbridled performance I gave as we killed Aslan onstage, I can’t help but see the reality in it: my rebellion against Him was evident in my performance. I was acting out what was truly in my heart.
It is a kind of grace to me that Lewis understood this reality.
Two years ago, I reread the entire Chronicles of Narnia series for the first time since becoming a Christian in college. As a child, I had viewed them as only fairy tales, but even then, I sensed something mystical that I couldn’t identify. But now, the truth of his fanciful and often dark stories crept over me from chapter to chapter as though I were relieving the moment I first placed my hope in Jesus.
I saw who I was on that stage, how my zeal for Aslan’s death reflected the rebellious condition of my soul. But in His mercy, God stripped away the wig and black paint, straightened my spine, and showed me the way to walk.
I haven’t been on a stage in years, but I recall The Lion, the Witch, and Wardrobe most vividly of all the shows I was in. Today, it is not so much the costume or my stained braces or the chance to play a villain that I remember, but the instructiveness that time has brought forward, how it revealed my condition before God at a time when I was filled with rage. I am thankful that I traded it for grace, and that now, like the children who loved the Great Lion, I find myself bounding and playing in His presence, in true comprehension of joy.
Kori Frazier Morgan is an independent author and editor from Northeast Ohio. Her work has appeared in Calla Press, Kosmeo, Shenandoah, Forge, Blanket Sea, and other publications. Her novel in short stories, The Goodbye-Love Generation, was published in 2020. She is the founder and Chief Literary Strategist of Inkling Creative Strategies, an author services company that helps writers reach their full creative potential so they can impact and inspire readers. She received her Master of Fine Arts in fiction writing from West Virginia University.
One thought on “The Dwarf at the Stone Table”
Kori, what a beautiful and honest story of grace and redemption! I’m glad that Aslan’s death at the Stone Table wasn’t the end of the story for either of you.