I had a wonderful thanksgiving back home, but I didn't have time to write a new post so here's and old one from the summer that never got posted to this blog.
The Redeemed: A cross literature analysis
Throughout literature we often find these potent characters which I like to refer to as “The Redeemed” those who have traitored the cause of the hero, which is sometimes themselves, and then seek to return. How right Lewis was about his character, for all of us so quick to judge and condemn those who have betrayed our trust in the story, so quick with a cries of “an eye for an eye,” stand desperately in need of redemption. Having all at some point traitored to that cause which we so valiantly clung to in the preexistence we seek in desperation to be returned to that state from which we came, to have the consequences, and even the very memory of what we have done blotted out from the books of angels and the minds of men.
Today I would like to look at several of these characters: Severus Snape, from Harry Potter; Jaggar, from Haldu; Edmund Pevensie, from Narnia; and Anakin Skywalker, from Star Wars.
There are commonalities that bind these four men together, they all betrayed the hero’s cause in an effort to gain power, and later they all return to seek forgiveness and redemption for what they have done, and then they become a necessary and integral part of the defeat of the Dragon in the Heroic Cycle. Of this group of four, three of them sought power initially for the sake of a woman, two of them are maimed in their quest for power, two of them are relatives of the dragon defeating heroes, and all of them by virtue of their betrayal caused the deaths of others.
The initial hero phase: The redeemed generally begin a story (or a back story) as the hero or part of the heroes’ company. Are best example here is Anakin, the boy with power beyond that of any Jedi, the child of prophecy come to bring “balance” to the force. Obviously Anakin is meant to be the hero and, at least in Episode 1, he is. Edmund of course is also a child of prophecy and is to be one of the four kings and queens crowned in Cair Paravel. Jaggar is a trusted member of the royal families guards, he is princess Elens protector, and for all we are told he is valiant in the Valley War. Snape’s connection the hero phase is the weakest and is really only evident when we learn of his friendship with Lily.
The Seduction phase: After their initial time with or as the hero our characters enter a phase of seduction by what ever “darkness” happens to pervade their story. This phase usually begins when they become associated with the main antagonist of their story. This also is often, but not always, the point at which someone dies. Our four characters all have different ways in which this took place. Anakin’s is the longest and most drawn out as it begins essentially the moment he meets Senator Palpatine and continues until he assists in the death of Mace Windu. It takes place across years of time and we see that Mace, while his death concludes the seduction phase, is not the first to die, an entire Tusken camp is decimated by the enraged Anakin under the dark side influence, and Count Dooku (Darth Tyrannous) is decapitated in another dark side rage. Anakin’s seduction is the slow poison administered by a patient assassin. Anakin, remember he was the hero, is first intrigued by the dark side for reasons he feels are noble, unlike some of our other heroes, these involve saving his mother and saving his wife. But eventually the seduction takes him in the completely opposite direction until he is consumed with the lust for power. As previously stated the death of Mace marks a clear choice in Anakin’s mind where he steps completely out of the hero role and the seduction phase is completed.
Edmund’s seduction phase begins when he first encounters the White Witch (Jadis) and partakes of her food and drink, to which he becomes addicted. This addiction in addition to his search for power over his siblings, especially Peter, which is nursed by the witch in this first encounter, eventually drives Edmund into his betrayal. Unlike with Anakin it only takes Edmund one encounter with the antagonist to begin his seduction and when he leaves the Beaver’s home and arrives at the witch’s castle the seduction is complete, in this case, added by addiction, taking only a matter of days as opposed to years. Nobody dies in Edmunds initial betrayal, but they could have as Fennris (Maurgrim) acts on the orders to go to the house of the Beavers and kill whatever he finds there. There are two other important pieces that Lewis puts in to show Edmunds seduction, the first is the leaving of the coat, representative of warmth and family which shows the driving power of the addiction, the second is the defacing of the lion, the symbol of Aslan and Christ, showing the canker of his character.
The beginning of Jaggar’s seduction is not clear to us from the story but we know that by the beginning of Wizard of Ulpan he has determined he will do anything to obtain Elens. What we see of his seduction is bookended by two deaths, those of Grontow and Qanta. In between these two deaths he encounters the main antagonist, as in Edmund’s case, a witch, and she speeds the seduction along. In this case there is little of sneakiness in the seduction, Jaggar, as the witch notes, has already given way to himself, he knows what Dark Elves can do and he knows what he’s doing when he joins her.
Although unknown to the reader Snape’s redemption has essentially already begun by the time they enter the story and most of what we know of him as one of the Redeemed we learn in flash back from his memories. It appears his seduction, like Jaggar’s, was a slow one spurned on by himself as he nursed hurt and anger and was really only completed, not initiated by Voldemort. Snape is a follower of the dark arts from the beginning of his education and, aside from Lily, pals around with the wrong crowd at school. After school we do not know much except that he quickly joined the Death Eaters. We are not aware of any direct killings by Snape during his seduction but we can infer that they are likely, considering his place as a Death Eater.
In the final analysis then we find that the seduction of our characters generally begins within their own heart and it is then speeded on its way through the interference of the antagonist. The seduction generally is finished in a betrayal or death of some kind, and often both. Another note is that there is often some change by which we can identify that the seduction has taken place, Anakin is renamed Darth Vader, Severus acquires the Dark Mark, and Jaggar’s ear points reverse. Edmund alone of the four undergoes no such change.
The Missing phase: Now bear in mind that these are not the damned, but rather the Redeemed of which we are speaking, however, despite redemption there will always be something that they missed because they were not there for it and they cannot get it back. This phase can often overlap with both the phases both before and after. This phase generally involves a gift and/or experience of some kind that will never be regained by the individual. For Edmund in this phase he misses the crucial event of encountering Father Christmas and receiving a magical present to aid him, this point is struck home in Prince Caspian when the other children reclaim their presents from the treasure chamber. Everything else the other children gained eventually becomes Edmund’s as well, but this one thing he can never get back. This is probably the most clear of all the missing phases. Anakin however always claims the longest section as it took him longer to be seduced and also longer to be redeemed than any of the others. His missing phase is therefor also the longest. What Anakin misses here is the childhood of his children, along with sacrificing the majority of his life to the dark side. Despite redemption in the end Anakin will never get those back. Similarly due to one moment of drastic mistake Snape loses Lily forever. Jaggar’s missing phase is rather obscure as there is no particular event or object we can be sure he would have gained, we only know that his time was misused.
Sometimes the missing phase also involve direct loss on the characters part. We find that during this phase both Jaggar and Anakin are maimed in ways they will never recover from. Jaggar emerges with a hook in place of his right and and Anakin as a mostly robotic individual. These serve the reader as physical reminders of things lost or missing.
The Recognition and Escape phase: During this phase something happens to our characters to jolt them into a sense of what they have done and remorse for it. This generally involves them seeing that the lure of the darkness did not bring them what they thought it would. They then begin to wish for redemption and to search for escape.
While everything else about Anakin is longer his final phases are actually quite short. He begins recognition when he first realizes that the Emperor is really after Luke and after that will have no need for Darth Vader. This gives him somewhat of a jolt but he does not seek escape until the very end so that his final phases get rather lumped together.
Edmund’s recognition phase comes quickly after his seduction, when he realizes that he will never be the white witch’s prince and that his appetite for Turkish Delight will never be satisfied. This phase, and the need to escape, are spurred on by the witch’s new desire to kill him when the spring thaw begins. Edmund’s escape is accomplished at the hands of Aslan’s army.
Jaggar finds recognition similarly to Edmund as he sees the witch will not deliver on her promises and so he has become traitor for no reason, realizing that he can go no lower and lose no more than he has, he makes his escape from the amazon camp to do what he can to set things right.
Snape’s realization appears to have come upon him in a similar way. He sees that he can never gain what he wants no matter how powerful he becomes and that he has delivered the information that will hurt the one person he actually cares about. This jolt followed by the actual murders his information led too, cause him to seek escape.
So the commonalties here are that the Redeemed are generally shocked into looking for escape by finding that the promises they thought the darkness offered are not real and that the darkness views them simply as tools.
The Redemption phase: this phase may happen in a moment, or in a lifetime, but always it must involve forgiveness from a character who, in some measure, serves the story as a Christ figure. This is most visible in the case of Edmund, Aslan is one of the most potent Christ figures in literature. It is interesting that we never know what happens in Edmund’s private interview with Aslan after his rescue, that is not for us to know, the dealings of Christ with the Redeemed and the terms of that redemption are between them and no one else. Even Edmund does not know what the price of his redemption will be when the White Witch lays claim upon his traitor’s blood. What we know is that Aslan extends forgiveness to Edmund and asks the Pevensie children to do the same. Then Aslan delivers his own blood in place of Edmund and thus the boy is Redeemed by the Lion. This is the most potent and most biblical redemption of the four. It is a fairly quick redemption but very involved and Edmund will never forget it nor will it ever cease to effect him.
Anakin’s redemption is the fastest of the four, it happens during the final battle and after that is over during the final moments of his life. The Christ figure here is Luke, whose eligibility for that role can be discussed else where. Anakin begins his redemption when he kills Darth Sidious, and it is completed when he is forgiven by Luke and then becomes one with the force.
Jaggar’s redemption takes more time than Anakin’s as Jaggar’s redemption involves making more restitution for his wrongs. It begins when he chooses to be swallowed by the void by revealing the Witch’s plot. The Christ figure here is Haldu, except that it is really Haldu choosing not to be a Christ figure and deferring judgement to the Great One. Jaggar then continues his work of Redemption by leading Vensul and Kimberly to the Master Tome. His Redemption is completed when Kimberly forgives him and marries him.
Snape has the longest Redemption phase of any of our characters as it essentially takes place during all seven Harry Potter books and began before that. Upon escape Snape immediately seeks help from Dumbledore who acts as prophet/Christ figure in the books. Dumbledore extends a measure of forgiveness to Snape and allows him to teach and instructs him in what he must do to work at restitution for his crimes. Snape spends the entire series watching over Harry’s well being and fulfilling Dumbledore’s commands, all this plays into his Redemptive process. He works against the forces that once seduced him. His Redemption is not complete though until the main Christ figure, Harry Potter, forgives him after his life has ended.
The Dragon’s Defeat phase: This final phase is often part of the Redemption phase, but deserves its own time. The dragon in the Heroic cycle is the main antagonist or problem that has cause the Hero to leave home and search for a solution. In essence the Dragon and Redeemed have generally had a close relationship at some point in the story because the Dragon played some part in the seduction of the traitor. The Redeemed always plays a key role in the defeat of the Dragon, they know the dragon and having once succumbed to it, they abhor it. As part of their redemption they seek its destruction so it can not do to others what it has done to them.
In their moments of Redemption: Anakin hurls the Emperor into the pit, Edmund breaks the White Witch’s wand, Jaggar stabs the Witch, and Snape dies without allowing Voldemort mastery of the Elder Wand. It is in this moment of final battle with the Dragon, when the hero has past the trial but is most desperate for help, that the Redeemed are able to make recompense in some measure for their betrayal. The Redeemed are not the Heroes, they have given that up, but they are Redeemed and they make the defeat of the Dragon possible, and so; Luke escapes the Death Star II before it is destroyed, taking Anakin’s dead shell with him; Peter and Aslan defeat the White Witch over Edmund’s wounded body; Vensul burns the Master Tome as Jaggar slays the Witch; and Harry Potter defeats Voldemort with the power of Snape’s sacrifice and memory. The dragon is defeated by our Pure and Valiant Heroes, but it could not be done with out the help of the Redeemed.
And so, what have we learned here? Hopefully a great deal, for as was said before, we are the Redeemed, we would fancy ourselves the Heroes of our stories, but that is not the case, Christ is Hero, it is he that defeated death and hell and freed us. No, we are the Redeemed. We who, Initially stood with the Hero; we who, in some measure were Seduced into sin and wrong doing; we who, have Missed or Lost something because of our betrayal; we who, have Recognized our mistake and seek to Escape; we who receive Redemption and Forgiveness through the blood of Christ; we who then turn to aid in the Defeat of the Dragon; we who, are The Redeemed.