I admit that when a character called Charlotte Staples Lewis turned up on the ABC television series "Lost" last year, I was excited. The puzzle-like show is full of literary references, planted here and there, to give its most cultish fans even more mysteries to investigate. A lot of them are red herrings.
Charlotte, who spent her early girlhood on the mysterious island where most of the action is set, was later exiled to the mainland and told by her mother that she'd imagined the whole experience. That allusion to Lucy's first visits to Narnia, as well as the fact that time is inconsistent between the island and the mainland, appeared to be the only real similarities between "Lost" and "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe." It almost didn't seem worth remarking on them here.
But now that the final season of the series has started, the resemblance has become more striking. Jacob, the ostensibly benevolent presiding authority of the island, has been killed, not by his age-old adversary, the Man in Black (AKA, the "smoke monster"), but by the merely human Ben, an inveterate schemer who the Man goaded into stabbing Jacob because, for all his powers, he was unable to do it himself.
Ben had developed the same set of complaints about Jacob that my friend Lev Grossman has voiced against Aslan in the Chronicles: If he is so powerful and beneficent, why has he allowed so many terrible things to happen? (This line of thought is known as theodicy.) The Man convinces Ben that he has been slighted and abused by Jacob, working him up into a homicidal (or theocidal) rage.
In this season's premiere, Jacob appeared to another character, the likable Hurley, explaining that he's already been killed and making Hurley promise to perform a difficult task.
The conflict between Jacob and the Man in Black, like that between Aslan and the White Witch, is governed by rules that they, for all their powers, are not able to violate. Their key moves against each other are carried out by human beings. The Man is able to manipulate Ben's resentment in the same way the Witch takes advantage of Edmund's jealousy of Peter. "What about me?" Ben asks of Jacob at the fatal moment. "What about you?" Jacob answers, which is a just the sort of thing Aslan says to the children when they're being whiney or self-centered.
The producers of "Lost" have pointed to Stephen King's pop epic, "The Stand," as an important influence on the series. That novel and "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe" have a similar theme -- supernatural forces of good and evil duking it out via human intermediaries. At the moment, though, the resemblance to Lewis' book seems even more pronounced than the resemblance to King's.