Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Dealing with Narnia

I grew up with these books and as I kid I was never particularly troubled by them (I recall I was probably about 9/10 when I read one of the later books - Voyage of the Dawn Treader - before I clicked about Aslan being Christ. And that was only because he suddenly appeared as a lamb...)

Anyway, thanks to the movie and the tie-in re-promotion of the books, there is a lot of comment about Lewis, his religion and the Narnia tales (here for Alison Lurie's rather generous, but reasonably balanced view; here for letters from the Observer on the topic, and here for Polly Tonybee's rant - and these are just the most recent from the Guardian/Observer).

Overall I guess I would say I'm ambivalent about these books: with an adult's eye they are undoubtedly deeply problematic - 'Muscular Christianity' indeed. But I did wince a lot reading PT's diatribe and wondered if she was writing polemic for its own sake?


And oh yeah: as much as I love Tilda Swinton and think she probably is magnificent as the Witch, she should have DARK hair as per the books...

6 comments:

HolyhosesRob said...

My older sister had the collection, I recall, but they never interested me - I don't know why.

I think that any possibility of taking simple pleasure in the film (as an adult) has gone, due to the ill-conceived marketing effort into the same religious groups that made Mel Gibson's thing such a success.

CS Lewis clearly had a right to write whatever he wanted to, internal logic and other people's opinions notwithstanding. And people also have a right to pick up the books and enjoy them or not.

But when a group of religionists start ramming it down your throat and telling you what to think, that's where I get off.

Lisa Rullsenberg said...

Yeah, getting into the marketing bed with those guys is just a disaster in my mind.

Marie said...

I doubt very much they work as propaganda for Christianity anyway, even once you have twigged. As I recall, my precise reaction when I figured it out was: "Oh, this is the same story as the Bible. Hmm, what's for dinner"?

Rob said...

I was discussing the Narnia series with my daughter Vanessa recently and we agreed that our favourite was The Magician's Nephew. It's been while since I read it, but my recollection is that it is the least heavy-handedly allegorical of the books. And the one I really don't like much at all is The Last Battle, which is much the most allegorical. While I don't like proselytisers I don't have a problem with Christian allegory per se; I think it's just that Lewis's genius as a writer was cramped by his perceived need to fit the stories around his message. I think he pulls it off in The Silver Chair, where the moralising is to a large extent kept separate from the main storyline (thus leaving Puddleglum - my favourite Narnian - pretty much unscathed).

In the same way that I couldn't fail to like J K Rowling after I encountered "Sunshine, daisies, butter mellow/Turn this stupid fat rat yellow", I cannot be too hard on C S Lewis. After all, the opening line of The Voyage of the Dawntreader is "There was a boy named Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it". Priceless.

Lisa Rullsenberg said...

In the same way that I couldn't fail to like J K Rowling after I encountered "Sunshine, daisies, butter mellow/Turn this stupid fat rat yellow", I cannot be too hard on C S Lewis. After all, the opening line of The Voyage of the Dawntreader is "There was a boy named Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it". Priceless.

Oh yeah, that is a great line. And another Puddleglum fan... I feel rather like him at the mo...

Rob said...

Oh dear. Well, please don't get depressed by the comment I've just put up on your Cambridge Arts Theatre post. I'm sure you wouldn't normally, but of you're feeling abnormally marsh-wiggly you might.