Multiple Meanings in The Place of the Lion
In The Place of the Lion Williams writes an elaborate Revelations kind of prophecy, blending realism with the supernatural and symbolic. The place of the lion is earth; the lion is both a Form for the supernatural beings medievalists called Intelligences, and the symbol for man, as the lion in the story is a hybrid of both. This is the opposite of what Williams? friend, C.S. Lewis, made of the lion in The Chronicles of Narnia, where it symbolized God. In Williams? book this is the eagle. The eagle is also the Form the protagonist, Anthony, identifies with, if not interchanges with. Other animals represent multiple meanings too, such as the snake is a literal threat to Anthony, as well as a Form, such as Aristotle called it, for the supernatural force to come into our world, and the symbol for Satan or evil.
The mixture of meanings reflects the theme of the other world opening up into, and destroying, this world. Williams portrays the chaos and confusion this could cause, and the various kinds of reactions by characters. The most substantial characters ? Anthony, Damaris, his beloved, and his friend Quentin ? all have some knowledge of the supernatural world as depicted in literature and the Bible, but they don?t necessarily believe it until it impinges on their world. For instance, Damaris studies and writes her thesis on medieval literature, specifically Abelard. She is aware of the religious beliefs of the period, but she does not share them. They are only of academic interest. It is only after an encounter in which Abelard comes alive, and becomes death, that she realizes the truth ? that Abelard was real, not just an historical figure or concept.
Williams integrates his interest in philosophy and literature without becoming overbearing or too obscure (a criticism made by friends of other works of his). Christianity is the true account to which the story conforms, but it also incorporates Plato?s Ideas, Aristotle?s Forms, and the argument between universals and specifics that Abelard became noted for, at least in his own autobiography.