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The setting and story of The Chronicles of Narnia are strongly linked to Christianity: Aslan, who sacrifices himself for a traitor in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe before returning to life, represents and literally is Jesus Christ, and much has been written about the Christian symbolism and allegory in the Narnia books.

At one point in Prince Caspian, the ancient Graeco-Roman god Bacchus (Dionysus) shows up, along with Silenus and a bunch of others, for what seems to be a full-on Bacchanalia.

How does this figure of ancient polytheism fit into the Christian story of Narnia? Of course, nature spirits like dryads and naiads are already not very consistent with Christianity, but it does feel consistent with the whole Narnian thing of talking animals. Bacchus, however, isn't a minor unnamed figure in Graeco-Roman mythology - he's one of the big twelve Olympian gods! How come he shows up as a minor figure in the Narnian mythos, apparently summoned by Christ/Aslan?

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At the end of Bacchus’ appearance, Susan says to Lucy, “I wouldn’t have felt safe with Bacchus and all his wild girls if we’d met them without Aslan”. I think this gives a clue to the answer to your question. In my opinion, Christians, Christ followers, (and if we apply the representation in the chronicles of Narnia, Aslan followers) May enjoy the good things of the earth, including wine and revelry, as long as they are in the presence of God (here Aslan) and those ‘good gifts’ are received in submission to Him. Cf the bible verse, “all good gifts are from above” and the wedding at Cana. Note too the lines preceding Bacchus’ appearance when the tree spirits “gaze on Aslan…and adored him”. This scene, in my opinion is a demonstration of Aslan’s authority and a display of creation worshipping the Creator in joyful submission to Him, just as the biblical world view portrays the church and Christ.

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  • As an aside addressing more, the “why Bacchus”part of your question,we are also invited into the complex, yet fun world of CS Lewis’ imagination &insight into his own classical education& influences. As the classics were seen to be the foundation of education in Lewis’ era, & he came to believe in Christ later in life, perhaps we can dare to suppose that he was also laying down his own education to the Christian story in this scene. However I appreciate that there is some poetic license in this interpretation…
    – RITStewart
    Oct 27, 2022 at 20:54
  • As you mention classical influences, it's worth noting that Bacchus/Dionysus was a mainstay of Renaissance art made in Christian Europe. Clearly not considered very blasphemous. (There was also a St Bacchus but I don't think he's relevant.)
    – Stuart F
    Nov 1, 2022 at 16:30
  • Also, while Christianity has historically been monotheistic, believing that there is only one god, the Jewish tradition was a bit more flexible, more indicating that Yahweh was greater than any other god, and that the Jewish people should worship none other. So this reinforces the Jewish idea that there may be other gods, but that they cannot stand against the One True God. Oct 16, 2023 at 17:20
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The above answer is quite right. The idea is that wine, pleasure and revelry are okay: Jesus drank wine, and was described as a winebibber. But there are two excesses: asceticism of drinking nothing but water, and godless pleasure seeking. Lewis shows that pleasure and happiness have a place, and Bacchus is the best personification of that, seeing as Lewis was already using mythology(naiads, dryads) in the narrative.

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  • Answers here should each stand on their own; Stack Exchange does not have "threads" for answers to reply to each other
    – bobble
    Oct 12, 2023 at 13:50
  • That answer has already been given.
    – Chenmunka
    Oct 12, 2023 at 18:17

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