He-Man, Christian Allegory & Transubstantiation
Christians have long made use of allegory to narrate the story of salvation. We have done this because, by utilizing fiction to retell the story of Jesus, we can present to an unbelieving world the archetypal themes of Christianity, as well as providing for ourselves a “novel” way 😉 to meditate upon our tale of grace…
A Common Example…
One popular example of Christian allegory would be “The Lion, the witch and the wardrobe” by C.S. Lewis. This is one of the first novels I can recall hearing as a child. However, it wasn’t until I was quite a bit older that I started to realize why the story felt so familiar…
C.S. Lewis’ goal in writing “The Chronicles Of Narnia” was to write a good story rather than simply a Christian story. Fortunately for us he does both! In “The Lion, the witch and the wardrobe” Lewis tells the story of the great lion Aslan who offers his life in place of the disobedient boy Edmund. Even with this brief outline, it is clear to see that this story is an allegory of Jesus’ Crucifixion and the offering of His life for sinners.
In my mid-twenties I did a lot of babysitting and, because of this, I got to read the book out loud for the children I was babysitting (complete with voices, of course). Reading the book as an adult, I was stunned to find Christ on every page.
A Rather Uncommon Example…
However, today I would like to offer a rather uncommon example of Christian allegory: “He-Man and the Masters of the Universe”. As a child I was a huge He-Man fan: I had seen every episode of the cartoon, I owned a vast array of He-Man toys and was even a member of the official He-Man fan club (I have a secret Eternian name..ssshhhh).
I recently purchased the DVDs of the show. As I watched them with the eyes of an adult, I recognized the clear Christian allegory. If you don’t believe me, I would invite you to watch the show’s opening credits:
Still not convinced? For shame! Well then, let me prove it to you…
1. The Show’s Name
The first clue is in the name of the show: “He-Man and the Masters of the Universe“. In what way is this a clue? Simply look at the traditional Hebrew blessing for bread:
Blessed are you, Lord our God, King of the universe, who brings forth bread from the earth
God is the King of the universe and Jesus is the the “bread come down from heaven” (John 6:41)
The chief protagonist in the story is a man named Adam. Er…hello? Can you think of anyone in the Bible named “Adam”?
So it is written: “The first man Adam became a living being” ; the last Adam, a life-giving spirit…”
– 1 Corinthians 15:45
Not only is the lead character in the show called “Adam”, he is also a Prince:
God exalted [Jesus] to his own right hand as Prince and Savior – Acts 5:31
So, as you can see, the show’s central character is a Christ-like figure…
3. Adam’s Parents
Are there any more similarities? What about Adam’s parents?
King Randor is Adam’s father and is the ruler of a Kingdom:
“Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come..” – Matthew 6:9-10
…and what’s the name of this Kingdom? It’s called the “Kingdom of Eternia” which resonates with another strong Biblical theme:
“Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life…” – John 3:36
And what of Adam’s mother, the Queen? Well, Queen Marlena is unique among the citizens of Eternia. You see, she was born on planet Earth, finding herself on Eternia after her spacecraft crash landed:
“Shake off your dust; rise up, sit enthroned…Daughter Zion” – Isaiah 52:1-2
After marrying the King she gave birth to Adam:
“Do not be afraid…you have found favor with the Lord. You will conceive and give birth to a son…”
– Luke 1:30
Prince Adam transforms into He-Man when he lifts high his magic sword. As Prince Adam he is weak, but as He-Man he is the most powerful man in the universe. In this we see something of the hypostatic union, the two natures of Jesus: fully God and fully man:
Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself…Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name… – Philippians 2:6-9
He-Man’s appearance is also telling. He has a huge red cross emblazoned across his breastplate. Could anything be more obvious?!
Also, He-Man’s armour almost exactly corresponds to the “Armour of God” which Paul describes in his letter to the Ephesians:
Therefore put on the full armour of God… Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. – Ephesians 6:13-17
In the show only three other people know that Adam is secretly He-Man:
The first person who knows Adam’s secret is Man-At-Arms, the father of Teela. The second person is Orko the Trollen who constantly gets into trouble. Finally, the third is the Sorceress who transforms in a bird:
Just as Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove – Mark 1:10
Of course, in Christianity the number three has great significance as it points to the Holy Trinity:
Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit – Matthew 28:19
Have I convinced you yet?
Cringer is Adam’s cowardly pet tiger. However when He-Man points his sword towards Cringer a bolt of light issues forth and transforms Cringer into the fearless Battle Cat:
This is clearly a reference to the Feast of Pentecost when bolts of light (the tongues of fire) transform the fearful Apostles into bold evangelists:
When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place…. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit – Acts 2:1
The evidence continues to build up…
6. The Enemy
He-Man’s mortal enemy is Skeletor, an evil sorcerer with the face of a skull:
Was there ever a more appropriate personification of evil and death?
Christ Jesus…destroyed death and has brought life – 2 Timothy 1:10
All of Skeletor’s minions represent some kind of demonic force:
For example, one of his henchmen is the snake-like “Kobra Khan”. In the Bible the “snake” brings about the fall of mankind:
Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?” – Genesis 3:1
Indeed, Skeletor’s headquarters is in Snake Mountain. Another of Skeletor’s minions is “Beast Man”:
The beast I saw resembled a leopard, but had feet like those of a bear and a mouth like that of a lion. The dragon gave the beast his power and his throne and great authority – Revelation 13:2
…another is called “Merman”:
The dragon stood on the shore…and I saw a beast coming out of the sea – Revelation 13:1
…and finally, another is the evil sorceress “Evil Lyn”, who represents Babylon:
“‘Fallen! Fallen is Babylon the Great!’ She has become a dwelling for demons and a haunt for every impure spirit – Revelation 18:2
7. Castle Grayskull
Probably the most important location in the TV show was Castle Grayskull. Likewise the “place of the Skull” is probably the most important location in the New Testament:
Carrying his own cross, he went out to the place of the Skull (which in Aramaic is called Golgotha) – John 19:17
It is He-Man’s task to protect Castle Grayskull from Skeletor. The Castle is therefore an allegory of the Church which was founded on St. Peter:
“And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it” – Matthew 16:18
Castle Grayskull is the home of the Sorceress who, as we have already indicated, represents the Holy Spirit. As we know, the Holy Spirit indwells in the Church.
Honestly, there’s much more I could say, but I think I’ve made my point…
Now that I have proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that He-Man is Christian allegory I would like to examine the profound truth of transubstantiation offered to us by this cartoon.
Transubstantiation is the Catholic doctrine which states that in the Eucharist the “substance” of the bread and wine changes into the “substance” of the Body and the Blood of Jesus, even though all that is accessible to the senses (the “accidents”), remains unchanged. Transubstantiation first took place at the Last Supper prior to Jesus’ crucifixion. The Mass is a re-presentation of this sacrifice of Christ.
So how are these truths communicated in “He-Man and the Masters of the Universe”?
As you heard in the video of the opening credits, Adam first became He-Man when he first lifted up his sword and said the words “By the power of Grayskull…I have the power!”. This event first took place inside Castle Grayskull.
In subsequent episodes, whenever we see Adam lift high his sword we suddenly see that he is somehow back at Castle Grayskull, as though it were the first time he transformed into He-Man.
(Some might argue that this was just because the animators were lazy, but I think they had deeper, theological objectives in mind)
So…we have the “elevation” of a sacred object, repetition of the “words of institution” and a “transformation” that takes place which is somehow linked to the original event… Does this remind you of anything? That’s right…the Eucharist.
It is also worth noting the visible changes which take place when Adam becomes He-Man, or rather the lack of changes. There really are very few differences in his appearance: his clothes change, his skin becomes slightly darker and his voice is somewhat deeper. That’s it… Even Superman has a more convincing disguise!
So…when Adam becomes He-Man he has very little outward change (we would say the “accidents” remain the same), but he is truly transformed from the “substance” of Adam to the “substance” of He-Man, from one who is weak to one with supernatural power. Transubstantiation. Boom!
So there you go: He-Man, christian allegory and transubstantiation. I bet you never knew children’s cartoons from the 80s were so profound and theologically rich…
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