So "Aslan" is the creator of Narnia and a magical powerful lion. When I was reading the books I didn't realize that Aslan was actually the real name of this lion because "Aslan" means "lion" in Turkish and I was reading the books in my native language (which is Turkish) , so I just thought it was direct translation.

After I watched the movies in their own language,I realized the word and searched for it to see if it has a meaning in English. But both wikipedia and narnia.wiki.com state that the word is indeed from Turkish and no further explanation is given.

I tried to find an explanation on why C.S. Lewis used a Turkish word for this character and only found that he never visited Turkey or Ottoman Empire and there is a debate going on whether it is just coincidentally or not. The character is also believed to represent Jesus and it sounds odd to me to choose the name from a non-christian country (whether it is odd or not is not part of the question).

On the question given above (represent Jesus), I have also found this comment saying that Lewis used other Turkish objects too.

Aslan means "lion" in Turkish. Lewis also used "Turkish delight" in his books. In the movie, the tents at Aslan's soldiers' camp bear a great resemblance to Ottoman and Turkish war tents. Peter is known as Peter the Magnificent just like the Ottoman Sultan Suleyman. Lewis used many things from other cultures (mostly Turkish and Middle Eastern), it wouldn't be surprising if Aslan was based on Jesus Christ.

Is there any connection or info on why C.S. Lewis chose a Turkish word or on his interest in Turkish culture?

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    I came in to point out Aslan was Turkish for lion, but it looks like you knew that. Might want to change your title to ask why Lewis used Turkish references, Commented Jul 23, 2016 at 2:37
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    Turkish Delight is a well known type of confectionery in the UK.
    – user23614
    Commented Jul 23, 2016 at 8:54
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    @HarryJohnston On the other hand, the Calormenes are mostly not presented in a very positive light. There are a few good ones, like Aravis from The Horse and His Boy and Emeth from The Last Battle, but they're regarded as good only because they completely renounce their own culture and adopt Narnian ways. In general the Calormenes are villains, and their god Tash is revealed to be the Narnian equivalent of Satan in The Last Battle. It's a bit odd that Lewis would make the "Middle Eastern" country so villainous if he had such positive feelings towards Turkish and Middle Eastern culture.
    – Torisuda
    Commented Jul 23, 2016 at 15:50
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    @Torisuda: that's not really what I meant, perhaps "fond" was a poor choice of words. A person can be interested in, even fascinated by a culture - fond of it as a potential setting, subject of study, and/or source of inspiration - without approving of it from either a religious or cultural standpoint. (And of course C.S. Lewis fought in World War I, and the Ottomans were on the other side.) Commented Jul 24, 2016 at 1:21
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    CS Lewis was a member of the Inklings, a small group of scholars and authors that included philologist JRR Tolkien. Authors borrow words from other languages frequently, and in this respect Lewis and Tolkien resembled each other. I would expect Lewis' use of "Aslan" to be as deliberate as Tolkien's use of names and events from every variant of the Epic of Gilgamesh known to scholarship.
    – pojo-guy
    Commented Nov 24, 2017 at 8:13

4 Answers 4


As far as the name "Aslan" is concerned, Lewis explained this directly in response to a letter asking this very question:

Dear Miss Jenkins,

It is a pleasure to answer your question. I found the name in the notes to Lane's Arabian Nights: it is Turkish for Lion. I pronounce it as Ass-lan myself. And of course I meant the Lion of Judah. I am so glad you like the book. I hope you like the sequel (Prince Caspian) which came out in November.

Yours sincerely,

C.S. Lewis

Source: The Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis, Volume III: Narnia, Cambridge, and Joy

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    This most directly answers the question Commented Mar 6, 2018 at 19:01

You are starting from flawed assumptions. Turkey is most notable to most of us for Istanbul, formerly known as Constantinople, named after Constantine, ruler of the Eastern Roman Empire and made into its capital. Constantine is known for "Christianizing" Rome. So there is your "why use Turkey/Turkish"

Why the Lion? Lions are a common symbol of royalty and symbol of Christianity, specifically Jesus, so it makes perfect sense to use a Lion.

This doesn't say why he used Aslan absolutely. Only he knows, but what may have been going through his mind? As someone in the same position as Lewis I can tell you that a lot of the names I choose are chosen by simply thinking of a meaning or symbol in English and then checking in various languages to see what the word for that thing is and if I like the sound I go with it. Lewis was into Christian mythology so it is likely that he came across Turkish at some point, liked it and so when he had to come up with the name used it.

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    Yeah. Off the top of my head and get some of this info mixed up a bit. fixed the answer up the bit. As to the top part not answering the question. You question was "Is there any connection as to why Lewis chose the Turkish word for Lion" That Constantine plays this role is the likely reason and connection. regardless of whether Turkey currently secular or not. The top part add info to help explain the bottom part, explaining the likely reason for why Turkish and Lion in particular.
    – Durakken
    Commented Jul 23, 2016 at 3:14
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    Didn't they speak Greek and/or Latin in Byzantine Constantinople though...? So why Turkish, afaik they only started speaking Turkish in Istanbul after the fall of the Byzantine Empire. The Christian connection to Constantinople seems far-fetched at best...
    – Amarth
    Commented Mar 3, 2021 at 17:03
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    A bare minimum of research reveals that common languages in the Byzantine Empire (quoting wikipedia) were "Late Latin, Koine Greek, Medieval Greek (610–1453)". Whereas Aslan/Arslan originates from Turkic languages (Turkish, Persian etc). I'll have to down vote this answer for being factually incorrect and also speculation.
    – Amarth
    Commented Mar 3, 2021 at 17:07
  • +1 Also: Constantinople was once Byzantium (Why they changed it, I can't say. People just liked it better that wayyyyy. 🎶)
    – Lexible
    Commented Nov 29, 2022 at 19:29
  • Aslan is definitely old Turkic not Persian, although many Turkish words are Persian in origin. Commented Jan 8 at 9:08

I suggest this Quora answer to shed light on the several references to Turkic culture, he makes in his books: https://qr.ae/prXaHt

According to these, he has a deeper interest in Turkic culture other than seeing the word in the Arabian Tales (Which is odd in the first place, One Thousand and One Nights have mostly Arabic, Persian, Ancient Anatolian/Mesopotamian and Indian tales. At this time and when these folk tales were set Turkic culture would have been considered young and barbaric, Turks are originally Central Asian nomads after all. I have read the book in Turkish and have seen no content related to Turks)

And why wouldn't he be, really? Why is anyone interested in any culture? Many references are made to other cultures in other works and they are considered normal, I guess Turkic culture is not really known very well by most people so it creates some questions. He could have also made the relation of Turkic words= language spoken in ancient Anatolia, which is home to Orthodox Christianity, although Turks migrated there from Central Asia MUCH later. I have seen some authors make the same wrongful relation such as in a manga called Red River where the prince of the ancient Hittite people is called Aslan.

  • Hi, welcome to SF&F. Please don't reference an external site without quoting the relevant parts in your answer. Without knowing exactly what was said by whom it's really hard to understand how good these sources are.
    – DavidW
    Commented Nov 29, 2022 at 19:09

There is a possibility that Lewis found those names after studying Christian mythology, as Aslan the Lion is meant to be a representation of Jesus Christ, in a fictional universe where animals talk. But "Aslan" was also a title borne by several medieval Turkic rulers, including for example the Seljuk sultan Alp Arslan (meaning "brave lion"). Aslan is so named after a long tradition of rulers. Jesus was also named "the lion of Judah" in the Bible. Writers love to include these little snippets of meaning when choosing a character's name. I guess he wanted to drive his point home. As for the reason behind using Turkish references, it's probably because Turkey used to be a big epicenter of Christianity, and very early on too as Christianization started around the 1st century AD. Turkey plays a significant role in the Bible, for example Ancient Anatolia which is mentioned a bunch is located in modern Turkey. When researching the mythology he stumbled across Turkish Christian myths and voilà. And then there is the Exoticism trend but that's another question entirely.

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    Hi, welcome to SF&F! You've given us some answers for why, but without tying them to Lewis they seem a bit speculative. Can you provide any evidence that Lewis studied the iconography of Christianity in Anatolia?
    – DavidW
    Commented Mar 3, 2021 at 16:36
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    There is already an answer quoting Lewis where he says he picked the name upon stumbling across it in Arabian Nights. There is no connection between the Ottoman Empire and Christianity, since they were most definitely Muslim. Alp Arslan in particular apparently got his name after his victories over the Byzantine Christians, being Sunni himself. So a Christian connection to Turkey doesn't make any sense what so ever.
    – Amarth
    Commented Mar 3, 2021 at 17:03
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    Notably, the Byzantine Empire didn't speak Turkish nor name their rulers in that language, since they spoke Latin and Greek. As opposed to the Sunni Islam Ottoman Empire that introduced Turkish after they defeated the Christian Byzantines.
    – Amarth
    Commented Mar 3, 2021 at 17:11

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