WARNING: This blog post has spoilers! If you haven’t read these books… just be aware of this. Although, all the books (and play) mentioned are typically “older” books.
I recently went to see a performance of Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale. My nieces were in the cast. My older niece (12) gave me a nice, detailed synopsis of the play before I went. Which was great. I did study this play at University, but it’s been awhile and I had forgotten much of the story. And the only thing I really remembered is that it is the most “fairy tale-ish” of Shakespeare’s plays (often considered a romance).
And also I remembered the resurrection scene.
This is the part where the statue becomes human. (Of course, it’s not really a physical resurrection. Hermione, the queen, was alive this whole time. But, her husband, King Leontes, did NOT know this. So, for him, it WAS a resurrection!)
And that got me thinking of resurrection as a theme in books.
The most obvious book is also one of my favourites:
#1 – The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe // by C.S. Lewis
Lewis doesn’t just pretend to have a resurrection like in The Winter’s Tale. There is an actual physical resurrection of the Lion in this book. He really IS killed by the White Witch on the Stone Table.
But, the White Witch doesn’t know the deeper magic.
“It means,” said Aslan, “that though the Witch knew the Deep Magic, there is a magic deeper still which she did not know. Her knowledge goes back only to the dawn of Time. But if she could have looked a little further back, into the stillness and the darkness before Time dawned, she would have read there a different incantation. She would have known that when a willing victim who had committed no treachery was killed in a traitor’s stead, the Table would crack and Death itself would start working backwards.”
(The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, Chapter 15)
Of course, Aslan in these scenes is a straight allegory of Jesus and his sacrifice in the Bible. Complete with the girls (Lucy and Susan standing in for the women in the Bible) being the ones to first encounter Aslan post-resurrection.
Note: The book cover above shows Aslan and the girls during this moment in the book!
#2 – The Lord of the Rings // by J.R.R. Tolkien
It shouldn’t surprise us that Tolkien has his own resurrection thing going. After all, he and Lewis were really good friends! (Tolkien was instrumental in Lewis becoming a Christian in the first place.)
So, we have Gandalf. In order to save the other members of the Fellowship, he falls in an abyss to defeat the Balrog. He dies, but is resurrected to return to Middle Earth… no longer as Gandalf the Grey, but as Gandalf the White.
At last Aragorn stirred. ‘Gandalf!’ he said. ‘Beyond all hope you return to us in our need!’…
‘Gandalf,’ the old man repeated, as if recalling from old memory a long disused word. ‘Yes, that was the name. I was Gandalf.’…
He laid his hand on Gimli’s head and the Dwarf looked up and laughed suddenly. ‘Gandalf!’ he said. ‘But you are all in white!’
‘Yes, I am white now,’ said Gandalf. ‘Indeed I am Saruman, one might almost say, Saruman as he should have been. But come now, tell me of yourselves! I have passed through fire and deep water, since we parted. I have forgotten much that I thought I knew, and learned again much that I had forgotten. I can see many things far off, but many things that are close at hand I cannot see.’
(The Two Towers, Book 3, Chapter 5)
#3 – Bridge to Terabithia // by Katherine Paterson
Jesse’s friend, Leslie, dies near the end of book. Jesse is devastated. But unlike the two stories above, Paterson doesn’t give us a physical resurrection in this book.
No, this book’s resurrection is more than just a person. It’s about all that Leslie embodied. The idea of Terabithia. Leslie created this whole fantasy world of Terabithia and helped Jesse to see it and embrace it. So, in losing Leslie, Jesse also loses Terabithia.
So, in a sense, it’s Terabithia that gets a resurrection. And that happens when Jesse shares the secret of Terabithia with his “bratty” little sister, May Belle. While it doesn’t bring back his friend, Leslie, it does bring back some of the magic he felt when he was with Leslie. Except, this time, he’s sharing the magic with May Belle. And in time, something that will also be passed on with their baby sister.
And when [Jess] finished, he put flowers in [May Belle’s] hair and led her across the bridge—the great bridge into Terabithia—which might look to someone with no magic in him like a few planks across a nearly dry gully.
“Shhh,” he said. “Look.”
“Can’t you see ‘um?” he whispered. “All the Terabithians standing on tiptoe to see you.”
“Shhh, yes. There’s a rumor going around that the beautiful girl arriving today might be the queen they’ve been waiting for.”
(Bridge to Terabithia, Chapter 13)
#4 – The Giver // by Lois Lowry
There’s no actual death in this one (at least of characters we get to know in the book). But there IS a symbolic death.
At the end of the book, when Jonas comes to the realization about what the Community is and what will happen to Gabe if he doesn’t act… When he takes Gabe and leaves the Community, in a sense the young, naive Jonas does “die”. He leaves, not only childhood behind, but the innocence and “protectiveness” of the Community.
But he is resurrected at the end of the book. The memories given to him by the Giver—memories of the sled and music—usher Jonas and Gabe into a new community and a new life Elsewhere.
For the first time, he heard something that he knew to be music. He heard people singing. Behind him, across vast distances of space and time, from the place he had left, he thought he heard music too. But perhaps, it was only an echo.
(The Giver, Chapter 23)
What about you? Do you have any books to add to this list?