The Fumi-e

Anatomy of Betrayal


How often we step on people and things and ideas we care about! How often we betray and set loose devastating impacts! What are the things we love that we have stepped on?

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe story revolves around a betrayal. Edmund, one of the four Pevensie children who come into Narnia through a wardrobe, betrays his brother and two sisters for power promised to him by the White Witch. He doesn’t hate them; he just loses his way in temptation for his own self-advancement.

There are many other well-known fictional betrayers. Golom in The Lord of the Rings betrayed Frodo in Shelob’s lair to get back the Ring of Power. Peter Pettigrew in the Harry Potter stories betrayed his friends, Lily and James (Harry’s parents), to become part of Voldemort’s power circle. Fredo, one of the Corleone brothers in the Godfather movies, betrays his brother Michael for a shot at power and respect. The theme of betrayal makes a gripping story.

Edmund, Golom, Peter, and Fredo stepped on brother and sisters, friends, or those they had promised to protect when they deliberately betrayed. Stepping on something is an apt visual of betrayal.

For over two hundred years in Japan from 1629 to 1856, government authorities forced people to step on something called a fumi-e to prove they were not Christians. The fumi-e was a stone tile carved with an image of the crucified Christ. For Japanese Christians to step on it would be, in their estimation, to betray Christ. But if they did not step on it, they were brutally tortured and then killed if they refused to betray their faith. This historical scenario was the set up for the climactic conflict in the book and movie Silence. Would the Christian foreign missionary step on the fumi-e to save hundreds of Japanese Christians from death?

But from a different perspective could stepping on the fumi-e be symbolic of the actual suffering of Christ to rescue all of us natural-born betrayers?

In The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe Aslan suffers so that Edmund can be rescued from death at the hands of the White Witch as punishment for his betrayal. Aslan himself is “stepped on,” bound to a stone table and slain with a knife. And Edmund is released from the White Witch.

The ending was not so happy for the other betrayers we have thought about. Golom was consumed in the molten lava of Mount Doom where the Ring of Power was forged. Peter Pettigrew was strangled to death by the silver hand that Voldemort had given him. Fredo was executed by the brother he betrayed while they were out fishing on a lake. In some way the thing that motivated them to betray or the person they delivered someone to in betrayal or the person they betrayed circled back around and destroyed the betrayers.

All except Edmund.







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