Narnia: The Clean and Tidy Poor

Narnia Recap: The four children have found their way into the magical land of Narnia, and have traveled as far as Mr. Tumnus' house, only to discover that he has been arrested by the Witch. Now the children are lost, cold, and hungry, and must decide what to do next.

The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, Chapter 7: A Day With The Beavers

   They were all still wondering what to do next, when Lucy said, "Look! There's a robin, with such a red breast. It's the first bird I've seen here. I say!--I wonder can birds talk in Narnia? It almost looks as if it wanted to say something to us." Then she turned to the Robin and said, "Please, can you tell us where Tumnus the Faun has been taken to?" As she said this she took a step toward the bird. It at once flew away but only as far as to the next tree. There it perched and looked at them very hard as if it understood all they had been saying. [...]
   "Do you know," said Lucy, "I really believe he means us to follow him."

I really like this scene for several reasons. I like the image of children and bird as the bird trains the children (who I imagine with little tilted heads, not unlike puppies) with little hops and significant looks to follow him. (I was going to question how Lucy knew the robin was a "he", but then I seem to recall that particularly bright plumage generally falls to the males in bird species, so score one to both Lucy and Mr. Lewis there. Let it not be said that I am above being completely wrong at least once per post. *wink*)

I also like the credulity of the children to up and follow a robin, because in the context given it makes perfect sense: they're in a magical land of fauns and river nymphs and wolves that can stove in a door and post a written notice on the carpet, so why wouldn't robins be intelligent? Of course, not all robins in Narnia are intelligent, because of the Animal/animal divide, but that won't really be sussed out until much later so for now we'll let it slide.

And I lastly like that this almost feels like grasping at straws for poor Lucy. She's led her siblings into a magical land which has seemed to them to be nothing but frightening and terrible: no food, no warmth, and death and destruction at the one place she knew to lead them. There's a touching child-like clinging to this idea that maybe, somehow, the robin is here to make things better. Yes! We need to follow him! And then we won't be lost anymore, because we'll have a destination to reach! It's terribly sweet.

It is also, perhaps, not terribly smart.

    They had been traveling in this way for about half an hour, with the two girls in front, when Edmund said to Peter, "if you're not still too high and mighty to talk to me, I've something to say which you'd better listen to."
   "What is it?" asked Peter.
   "Hush! Not so loud," said Edmund; "there's no good frightening the girls. But have you realized what we're doing?" [...] "We're following a guide we know nothing about. How do we know which side that bird is on? Why shouldn't it be leading us into a trap?"
   "That's a nasty idea. Still -- a robin, you know. They're good birds in all the stories I've ever read. I'm sure a robin wouldn't be on the wrong side."

So today I'd like to talk a little about race and class in The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe.

We've already touched a bit on the issues with the Witch's claim to the throne and what it means to be supported by a racial faction of Narnia that is composed of Always Chaotic Evil races. This brought up the same issues that ACE races usually bring up, which is to say that if a god or evolution made a race a natural predator of Humans or Talking Animals, does that automatically make the members of that race "evil" anymore than fluffy bunnies who eat carrots and weeds are automatically "good"? I still can't answer that question, but I would now like to look at the flip side: the "good" races in Narnia.

Peter claims here -- in what may or may not be an intentional attempt to inject a little more child-like credulity -- that the robin they follow is probably trustworthy because robins as a race are good animals. In other words, Peter considers it perfectly reasonable (at least in a pinch and with nothing better to go on) to judge the trustworthiness of an individual based on his perceived trustworthiness of that individual's race.

It's hard to say, within the confines of Narnia, that Peter is factually wrong. Yes, some of the trees are on the Witch's side, but apart from that the Witch's ranks seem almost completely composed of "bad" races and the Aslan loyalists seem to be almost entirely filled with "good" races. Even when we will later meet a rare good giant, the text will take a moment to point out that the Good Giant is descended from a long line of rare Good Giants as opposed to, say, being an individual who broke off from his family's values and forged his own path. Thus it begins to seem like identifying allies in Narnia is a simple matter of kingdom-division-class-order-family-genus-species with maybe a quick look-up table for known family exceptions like the Buffins giants.

   "If it comes to that, which is the right side? How do we know that the Fauns are in the right and the Queen (yes, I know we’ve been told she’s a witch) is in the wrong? We don’t really know anything about either."
   "The Faun saved Lucy."
   "He said he did. But how do we know? And there’s another thing too. Has anyone the least idea of the way home from here?" [...]

   "The robin!" cried Lucy, "the robin. It's flown away." And so it had -- right out of sight.
   "And now what are we to do?" said Edmund, giving Peter a look which was as much as to say "What did I tell you?" [...]
   "There's something moving among the trees over there to the left." [...]
   "I know what it is," said Peter; "it's a beaver. I saw the tail."
   "It wants us to go to it," said Susan, "and it is warning us not to make a noise."
   "I know," said Peter. "The question is, are we to go to it or not? What do you think, Lu?"
   "I think it's a nice beaver," said Lucy.
   "Yes, but how do we know?" said Edmund.

I have to admit that I'm actually quite surprised at how much I'm liking Edmund as a character in this read-through. When I was a child, I didn't like him at all, and I interpreted his behavior in this scene as very different than I do now. Before, it seemed like Edmund's logic chain was so much equivocation trying to distract or confuse or muddle his siblings from the path of Good. From that point of view, if Edmund is The Sinner in our narrative, he also spends a fair amount of time in The Deceiver role: of course the robin and the beavers are kind and trustworthy, and any aspersions that Edmund casts upon them just slows down his siblings (and, indeed, the story) in their quest to greatness.

Now, however, Edmund seems a very different character to me. He argues perfectly logically with Peter that perhaps they can't trust everyone they meet and that perhaps the Narnian civil war they're about to be plunged into is more complicated than has been represented to them by a faun who works for blackmarket goods as a kidnapper of children. There's another possible perspective here than just Edmund the Deceiver, and it's perhaps best termed Edmund the Cautious. In text, and with as little interpretive spin as I can put on it, Edmund has meet a woman who at first seemed dangerous and then seemed very pleasant indeed. She greeted him with hospitality and fed him food that he enjoyed, but the food made him feel unpleasant afterward. She has ordered Edmund to return to her with his siblings in tow and she will make them royalty and rulers... but of a country that seems bitterly divided over her legitimacy to rule and, for that matter, to appoint heirs.

It wouldn't take a rocket scientist to put together that something is rotten in the state of Narnia and that perhaps the children would be safest not declaring their allegiances to any one group at the moment. There's a conflict brewing under the surface, and the only representatives of that conflict that they have met in person were a Witch who calls herself Queen and a Faun who drugged a little girl and seriously considered kidnapping her before he apparently had a change of conscience. This doesn't seem to be the best sample set to base an important decision on -- and thus it doesn't surprise me terribly that Edmund might be in a trust no one and get back to a safe place quickly mindset.

It's not that I can't still see where the Edmund the Deceiver interpretation stems from; it's that I now see a perfectly valid alternative interpretation that seems -- to me -- to be completely supported in the text. Like all changes in paradigm, the fact that I'm reading the book from a new perspective surprises me -- it's like one of those retro Magic Eye puzzles, only it's got two perfectly good perspectives and suddenly I can see both. (And then I worry that there's a third or fourth or fifth one and things get really strange.)

Ahem. There's a lot of talking with Mr. Beaver about the trees being spies and the importance of the children keeping their voices down, and they eventually head off to Mr. Beaver's home which is build for a family of beavers but will nicely accommodate four human children for dinner, natch. And now we get back into the race and class issues and I'm just going to quote a couple of big blocks of text:

   Just below them a dam had been built across this river, and when they saw it everyone suddenly remembered that of course beavers are always making dams and felt quite sure that Mr. Beaver had made this one. They also noticed that he now had a sort of modest expression on his face -- the sort of look people have when you are visiting a garden they've made or reading a story they've written. So it was only common politeness when Susan said, "What a lovely dam!" And Mr. Beaver didn't say "Hush" this time but "Merely a trifle! Merely a trifle! And it isn't really finished!" [...]
   The first thing Lucy noticed as she went in was a burring sound, and the first thing she saw was a kind-looking old she-beaver sitting in the corner with a thread in her mouth working busily at her sewing machine, and it was from it that the sound came. She stopped her work and got up as soon as the children came in.
   "So you've come at last!" she said, holding out both her wrinkled old paws. "At last! To think that ever I should live to see this day! The potatoes are on boiling and the kettle's singing and I daresay, Mr. Beaver, you'll get us some fish." [...]
   Meanwhile the girls were helping Mrs. Beaver to fill the kettle and lay the table and cut the bread and put the plates in the oven to heat and draw a huge jug of beer for Mr. Beaver from a barrel which stood in one corner of the house, and to put on the frying-pan and get the dripping hot. Lucy thought the Beavers had a very snug little home though it was not at all like Mr. Tumnus's cave. There were no books or pictures, and instead of beds there were bunks, like on board ship, built into the wall. And there were hams and strings of onions hanging from the roof, and against the walls were gum boots and oilskins and hatchets and pairs of shears and spades and trowels and things for carrying mortar in and fishing-rods and fishing-nets and sacks. And the cloth on the table, though very clean, was very rough.
   Just as the frying-pan was nicely hissing Peter and Mr. Beaver came in with the fish which Mr. Beaver had already opened with his knife and cleaned out in the open air. You can think how good the new-caught fish smelled while they were frying and how the hungry children longed for them to be done and how very much hungrier still they had become before Mr. Beaver said, "Now we're nearly ready." Susan drained the potatoes and then put them all back in the empty pot to dry on the side of the range while Lucy was helping Mrs. Beaver to dish up the trout, so that in a very few minutes everyone was drawing up their stools (it was all three-legged stools in the Beavers' house except for Mrs. Beaver's own special rocking chair beside the fire) and preparing to enjoy themselves. There was a jug of creamy milk for the children (Mr. Beaver stuck to beer) and a great big lump of deep yellow butter in the middle of the table from which everyone took as much as he wanted to go with his potatoes, and all the children thought -- and I agree with them -- that there's nothing to beat good freshwater fish if you eat it when it has been alive half an hour ago and has come out of the pan half a minute ago. And when they had finished the fish Mrs. Beaver brought unexpectedly out of the oven a great and gloriously sticky marmalade roll, steaming hot, and at the same time moved the kettle onto the fire, so that when they had finished the marmalade roll the tea was made and ready to be poured out. And when each person had got his (or her) cup of tea, each person shoved back his (or her) stool so as to be able to lean against the wall and gave a long sigh of contentment.

That's a long passage, isn't it? I apologize for that, but there's so much there that I didn't want to trim.

There's some obvious gender issues here -- the girls stay inside to set the table and cook the potatoes while Peter goes out to 'help' Mr. Beaver catch fish -- but the most interesting thing of all to me is how Edmund disappears completely from the narrative. This is intentional: Edmund will disappear a little while later and a minor plot point will involve everyone trying to decide when they last saw Edmund (a peculiar thing, considering that when in a warm, cozy house, I usually notice exactly when someone opens the door to the freezing air and nips outside), so I'm not surprised that Edmund has been suddenly excised from the action so as to make him and his exit invisible to the reader. However, it's worth noting that even when Edmund is invisible to the reader, he shouldn't be invisible to his siblings.

Additionally, I imagine that Edmund is removed from the action in order to throw his sulkiness and sullen behavior more sharply into relief. Peter and Susan and Lucy help with their designated roles in life -- Peter the Man does the providing, Susan the Woman does the cooking, and Lucy the Child does the setting and serving. Edmund is the odd one out and has no real role, not the least because he isn't Good enough at the moment to accept his role.

But there's something else here that grabs my attention far more than Edmund and the other children, and that's the behavior and lifestyle of these good beavers. I've quoted Bobbie Ann Mason's excellent The Girl Sleuth before in this deconstruction and now I want to do so again:

...the books celebrate and perpetuate some outdated values which turn into stereotypes of good and evil. The sources of good are the property owners and businessmen, the "haves" and "winners," the people who run the world. The proper division of authority is male power and female domesticity. The sources of evil are (1) people too cheap to work for a living, and (2) just plain meanness. There is an accounting for some poor people who reveal nobility of purpose -- meaning that they submit to the authorities but have been waylaid by the evil forces. The way you recognize the fallen poor is that even though they live in a run-down section of town their houses are clean and their lawns are neatly trimmed and their flowers are blooming. They wear clean, but faded, garments.

That passage stuck with me as I read and re-read the description of the Beavers' home. I realize that childrens' escapist literature is traditionally supposed to contain cozy and comforting elements. I realize that the Pevensie children (and the vicarious reader) have been trudging through snow and cold and wet for a very long time now and that this moment of respite is a moment of mental healing and recuperation. I also realize, on an intellectual level, that this coming to safety-and-exposition in the Beavers home is not unlike the coming to the same in Rivendell in Tolkien's Lord of the Rings series. So I am not criticizing this scene for being here or even really for how it's worded.

But I do think it's interesting that the first "good Narnians" we're presented with (because I really do not and cannot count Mr. Tumnus) are repeatedly emphasized to be "working class" and possibly relatively impoverished (the limited space, the bunk beds, the lack of books and pictures, the limited storage for the daily working tools, the rough tablecloth) but also in the same breath we are reassured that the working class Beavers are very tidy. The home is "snug", but not too small. The beds are folded into the wall and are presumably made up nicely. The rough tablecloth is "very clean". Of course.

Mason's book is as much about class prejudice in childrens' detective series as it is about the series themselves. She argues persuasively that at least some of the writing contains a large amount of cultural backlash -- in many Nancy Drew, Bobbsey Twins, and other child sleuth adventures, the villains are lower class members who refuse to respect their place in the social order. This framing is partly from the necessity for "light" material (most parents don't want their children to read a Nancy Drew mystery featuring a serial rapist, nor was the world clamoring for a Hardy Boys / Hannibal Lector cross-over novel), but nevertheless conveys cultural attitudes: the shiftless, lazy, disrespectful poor represent a danger to the American aristocracy that Drew and her contemporaries represent.

Evil is not only sexy in Nancy's universe, it's disgustingly lower class. And the men aren't just evil, they're strange. Their names tell that: Rudy Raspin, Tom Tozzle, Tom Stripe, Mr. Warte, Bushy Trott, Grumper, Alonzo Rugby, and Red Buzby. They are all good-for-nothings who want to upset the elitist WASP order. They are tricksters and hucksters who sneer at the authorities -- the paternal benevolence of the businesses, institutions, and laws of the reigning upper classes. [...]

Good and evil are strictly white and black terms. Criminals are dark-hued and poor. One crook is "dark, with a mottled complexion and piercing black eyes." (The Clue in the Old Album, p. 4) [...] Piercing dark eyes are the most common characteristic of Nancy's foes. Their greedy eyes are piercing because they are disrespectful, gazing threateningly beyond their station, perhaps seeing through the facades of the gentry whose power they crave. All the virtues of refinement, taste, intelligence, and beauty belong to Nancy's class, while everyone else is vulgar, greedy, ill-tempered, insolent. [...]

Thus, the original Nancy Drew series -- the first thirty-five or so volumes which accumulated throughout the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s-portrays a fading aristocracy, threatened by the restless lower classes. [...] When minorities know their place, Nancy treats them graciously. She is generous to truck drivers and cabbies and maids. But woe betide the upstarts, the dishonest social climbers who want to grab at the top.

These prejudices are prejudices we still live with. The poor-and-clean are virtuous and their poverty is unhappy misfortune; the poor-and-slovenly are lazy and their poverty is brought upon themselves. We see a variant of this in Health-At-Every-Size (HAES) training: We have been taught that the unhealthy-and-thin are simply unlucky in their genetics or circumstance; the unhealthy-and-fat are viewed as not prioritizing their health and are frequently told by their medical providers not to seek help until their weight has been reduced. And there are a thousand variations on these social prejudices, the ideas that in order to "deserve" sympathy, the poor or unhealthy or otherwise unfortunate must earn the sympathy through unrelated virtues such as tidiness.

The Witch serves Edmund magically sweet food in attractive packages; the Beavers serve the Pevensie children hearty fresh food in a poor-but-clean setting. There's a lot to be said of this juxtaposition. There's the aspect of things not always being what they appear: the Beavers' food is poor-but-rich (in the "good for your emotional health" sort of richness) while the Witch's food is expensive-looking but dreadful for the soul. Then there's the question of nationality and appropriateness: the Beavers' serve their guests good hearty English fare, while the Witch is peddling foreign candies and spiced drinks to Edmund.

Now, too, I wonder if we can't juxtapose this scene with last week's question of legitimacy for yet another perspective. The Witch will later be accused by the Beavers as a low-class up-start -- she's the Emperor's executioner who fancies herself a queen, they claim. And it's true that the Witch is both a foreigner in Narnia (courtesy of The Magician's Nephew) and does not submit to either Aslan's authority nor the implied authority of the Pevenise children for being human (and therefore potential rightful rulers of the land in which she resides).

The Beavers, of course, are lower class themselves. They work hard for their day-to-day living, and they can't afford a large home, nor fancy furnishings, nor non-rough tablecloths. They sew their bed sheets and tablecloths themselves rather than buy such things new. (Question: Why beavers would need or want bed sheets and tablecloths such that a sewing machine would be a necessary tool in their home? Discuss.) But the Beavers, as poor as they are, are the good-clean-knows-their-place poor. They aren't up-start poor. They don't fancy themselves good enough to rule Narnia despite the fact that they probably know more about ruling a country than the English children Aslan keeps importing every few centuries before then disappearing for decades at a time. No, they keep to themselves, and maintain a clean home, and they even maintain one that is big enough and well-stocked enough to offer succor to passing English humans despite the fact that the creamy milk and beer and lump of butter have to cost a fortune in fish trading. The Beavers are good lower class people, born and raised in Narnia; the Witch is bad lower class, born and raised elsewhere and utterly unwilling to submit to the will of the appropriate authorities.

None of these observations are judgments on Lewis. It's fine that the Beavers are poor in addition to being good, and it's self-evident that anyone who turns to stone all opposition can be pretty safely deemed bad. But I do find it interesting how the good and the bad are described here, and it ties in again with that question of legitimacy that we looked at last time. How would the story be different, I wonder, if the oppressive ruler was ruling with Aslan's seal of approval (Say what you like about her, he would argue, she keeps the Calormen out and she runs the blackmarket dairy trade with remarkable efficiency!) and the deeply annoyed Narnians didn't have clean, tidy homes to telegraph their essential good natures? Can we as a society allow for good people who also can't be bothered to dust everyday without having to go whole hog into Untidy Absentminded Genius territory?

Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go clean my house.

115 comments:

Personal Failure said...

You know, as a child, I glossed right over that scene, but looking at it now? How much butter did the Pevensies use, and how long will the Beavers have to go without butter because of that? The same applies to the potatoes and the sweets and the tea.

Beyond that, this is an odd view of poverty, especially coming from someone who lived through the deprivations of WWII. Despite being poor, the Beavers have lots of butter and fish and potatoes and tea, so much so that they can cheerfully fill up three or four hungry children without any apparent worry. Why? Real poverty doesn't work that way. WWII rationing didn't work that way. I'm not expecting a discourse on the economic realities of a made up realm, but still, it's weird.

Ana Mardoll said...

Something that I've thought of since, thanks to emails with MMY, is that the Pevensie children don't have to experience any culture shock in Narnia.

The "people" of Narnia, regardless of their animal race, eat the same foods that the Pevensie children have grown up on, and they eat them in the same way. At no point in their travels with animals will they be expected to eat raw fish with the Beavers or fresh crickets with a family of Robins. Wherever they go, there is tea and fried fish and roasted potatoes and marmalade rolls.

Narnia isn't just ruled by English children, the culture itself is utterly and completely English. The children won't have to adapt or change or ever really confront the reality that there are different preferences and lifestyles beyond their own. It's a comforting fantasy, perhaps, but an odd decision when building a fantastical world.

Will Wildman said...

Well, given that beavers don't normally eat butter or potatoes or fish, I might guess that the Beavers view this as a feast day to celebrate the arrival of their future monarchs, after which they can go back to the bark that they would normally happily chow on if they weren't hosting humans. (I realise that animals and Animals could quite reasonably have different diets, but if the Wolves still insist on eating only meat, there's obviously some degree of contiguity between them.)

On one level, I like the Beavers' general characterisation because the animal is used as shorthand for industriousness, and this seems like a good way of anthropomorphising that idea. (Mind you, actual beavers are pretty gender-equal in their familial division of duties.) It even makes sense in-universe that this is the best that the oppressed animals could hope for. But then there's the really obvious parallels to class in contemporary literature that makes it all kind of ick.

And I too end up wondering about the stockpile of food the Beavers apparently have, and think this doesn't really properly reflect living in a rationed and oppressed environment - it would do a lot more to impress the stranglehold the White Witch has on Narnia if all this pre-dinner baccano produced a much less satisfying meal. (How are there still fish in the river? How long has Jadis' fimbulvetr been running at this point? Are there Fish, and if so how does one ensure that they have caught a fish and not a potential backgammon partner?)

It seems to me like each individual part of the scenario can work okay, but only based on mutually exclusive prior assumptions.

Against all logic, I have no inherent problem with the sewing machine ex nihilo.

Ana Mardoll said...

Are there Fish, and if so how does one ensure that they have caught a fish and not a potential backgammon partner?

This made me laugh so hard, but it's part of the reason I have trouble vilifying Wolves for eating Rabbits. If you're a stealthy killer/hunter by nature, how are you precisely to know that what you're going after isn't intelligent? The only difference between animals and Animals, physically, is that the Animals are slightly larger.

I suppose that maybe the Wolf could discover the mistake once the Rabbit started babbling incoherently pleasedon'teatmepleasedon'teatmepleasedon'teatme, but it seems to me that there MUST be some legitimate mistakes that occur. Surely this can't be the Wolves fault, can it?

Will Wildman said...

I reread my own post and caught myself referring to the Pevensies as monarchs, which is obviously silly, because there are four of them, which makes them tetrarchs, except then Peter is High King, so maybe he does get to overrule the others? (This discussion is probably best left for the end of the book, but my error glared at me.)

If you're a stealthy killer/hunter by nature, how are you precisely to know that what you're going after isn't intelligent?

Thus the sewing machine of mystery becomes even more important, because it is in every Animal's best interest to make themselves clearly not an animal - wearing some type of clothing, even just a headband, marks you as socially unacceptable nosh.

Ana Mardoll said...

You are right -- in theory, Peter overrules the others, though I do not know that this ever is done in practice.

I have it in my head that the animals are not to wear clothing (outside of a certain mouse's affectation for hats, IIRC in Dawn Treader), lest they lose their essential animal nature. On the other hand, I can find nothing via a quick search of The Magician's Nephew (where rules of that sort would have been dispensed at creation), so I suspect that is osmosis from Animal Farm.

Gelliebean said...

I think this is why I have such an appreciation for Alfie P. Doolittle....

"I ask ya, what am l? I'm one o' the undeserving poor, that's what I am. Think what that means to a man.

"It means he's up against middle-class morality for all the time. If there's anything goin' an' I ask for a bit of it, it's always the same story; 'You're undeservin', so you can't have it' ..... I'm playin' straight with you. I ain't pretendin' to be deservin'. No, I'm undeservin', and I mean to go on bein' undeservin'. I like it an' that's the truth."

(I had to go look it up for the exact quote... My memory isn't that good) :-p

Kit Whitfield said...

I like the image of children and bird as the bird trains the children (who I imagine with little tilted heads, not unlike puppies) with little hops and significant looks to follow him.

I think he nicked it from The Secret Garden.

Also, since Turkish Delight seemed to cause some confusion previously, it should probably be pointed out that the robin wouldn't look like this:

http://birdsofnorthamerica.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/01/american_robin.jpg

It'd look like this:

http://jillsbooks.files.wordpress.com/2010/12/english-robin-in-the-snow1.jpg

--

the Beavers' food is poor-but-rich

Actually, I don't think it's poor by the standards of the day. They have hams, which would cost a fair bit if you didn't raise them yourself. They have butter, which was something the British government rationed the heck out of during wartime. Even the marmalade roll: unlike jam, which can be made from British-grown fruit, marmalade has to be made from imported oranges. This isn't poor food; it's middle-class food - not at all what you'd expect genuinely poor people to afford. If they were actually poor and you weren't thinking about winter, you'd expect them to be offering a 'tea' mostly based on bread, as that's filling and reasonably cheap; they'd be more likely to spread it with dripping than bread, maybe with some home-made blackberry jam if you wanted to be luxurious, since you can pick blackberries out of the hedgerows. They're less like poor people sharing their repast, and more like pub landlords with a hearty menu.

Lewis, I think, was able to identify that food porn is a common staple of children's fiction, but not at all interested in using food to denote actual circumstances or character. But then, he's like that with pretty much everything.

redcrow said...

>>>"Still--a robin, you know. They're good birds in all the stories I've ever read. I'm sure a robin wouldn't be on the wrong side."

Peter approves of Batman?


Magic Eye puzzles are retro now? Suddenly I feel horribly old...

Amaranth said...

I always chalked the "Englishness" of Narnia up to the fact that the first people in Narnia, who witnessed its creation in fact, were English. It would make a sort of sense for the new Animals and other sentient inhabitants to absorb that already-established culture from their appointed human King and Queen, and thus Narnian culture as a whole would develop with an English flavor from the get-go.

I think it's somewhat similar to areas in Africa and the Americas where the local culture has mixed with flavors of French or Spanish or English, because they had French and Spanish and English rulers for so long. One especially sees this with food. With that in mind, the Beaver's hearty English meal in the heart of Narnia doesn't strike me as odd on those grounds.

Brin Bellway said...

Are there Fish, and if so how does one ensure that they have caught a fish and not a potential backgammon partner?

Maurice the talking cat, of Terry Pratchett's The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents, makes sure to catch every mouse he eats alive. Then he tells them, "Say something. Anything. If you can speak, I'll let you go." (Ur bognvarq fncvrapr ol rngvat n gnyxvat zbhfr, naq nf V erpnyy ur srryf dhvgr thvygl nobhg vg.)

It might also be possible to make traps checked relatively infrequently (daily, say) in such a way that sapient creatures could figure out how to escape fairly easily, so they won't be stuck there waiting for you to free them. I recall a crayfisher on Dirty Jobs saying that the crayfish could leave at any time; the only reason they stayed was because they weren't willing/didn't see a reason to leave the bait behind.

Pthalo said...

I think Fish would be too smart to bite the shiny hook. They would have passed legends down of Blublub the Fish and the Shiny Hook to their children. So you'd mostly be catching fish.

Ana Mardoll said...

Plausible, but problem is that the beavers don't use rods and hooks, though... ;)

Amaryllis said...

they eventually head off to Mr. Beaver's home which is build for a family of beavers but will nicely accommodate four human children for dinner, natch..

That was why I never could get through The Wind In the Willows, as a child. I was fine with the talking animals, and water-rats messing about in boats, and house-proud moles, and field-mice who keep grocerys shops-- but when it came to Mr. Toad being able to drive a human-sized car, and dealing with human-sized policemen and washerwomen, I couldn't wrap my brain around it.

I believe that some of the Animals are supposed to be larger than their counterpart animals, like the above-mentioned Mouse, so maybe these are outsized Beavers? I can't remember if the text makes it clear, and anyway, it's not an invariable rule thorughout the series.

Nathaniel said...

Part of the problem of allegory in a fantasy setting is that the allegory can often conflict with in world logic. This sort of sloppiness extends to much of Narnia's books unfortunately.

hapax said...

I agree with Kit here (see, it *does* happen once or twice [grin]) that the Beavers weren't meant to be lower class at all, but solidly "bluff and hearty" middle class.

And I'm baffled as to how the off hand snark by Mr Beaver about "The Emperor's hangman" translates to Jadis as representing the "bad" Poor. Jadis has never, ever been an examplar of the lower-class, "jumped-up" or not. If anything, she is an archetype of the Jaded Aristocrat. ("Bad (= "foreign") blood, you know" of course.)

Even before she was revealed in TMN to be the last of and *extremely* long line of Kings and Queens of the World, she was always presented as luxurious, indolent, corrupt, but ever-so-elegant (and naughtily enticing) Aristo.

(Contrast, if you like, with King Lune, who first appears in his old clothes after working in his kennels -- but his manners are exquisite. Now there, one can hear Lewis saying, is a Proper King!)

Lunch Meat said...

A lot of book series (I don't know if this is limited just to children's literature, but the examples I can think of are) have the problem that the first book is markedly different in characterization, style, or rules of world-building than all the rest. A couple of possible reasons are that the author only intended to write one book and didn't plan the rest until the first book was successful, or that the author realized zie just didn't want to continue with certain choices made in the first book--zie might make a main character a supporting character, or change a rule of magic because it makes the heroes' task too hard or too easy. The examples I can think of off the top of my head are Redwall and Animorphs. I think a lot of readers are able to forgive the author ret-conning away aspects of the first book, just because it's so hard to know where a series will go in the beginning. Now, realizing that we've only touched the first part of one book so far, is it possible that some of Lewis's problems can be attributed to this being the first book? Like, I'm pretty sure sewing machines never show up again, just like horses never show up in Brian Jacques' books after Redwall. Since I haven't really read these books with a critical eye, I'm open to anyone correcting me or showing more inconsistencies/weirdnesses among the later books.

Ana Mardoll said...

And I'm baffled as to how the off hand snark by Mr Beaver about "The Emperor's hangman" translates to Jadis as representing the "bad" Poor. Jadis has never, ever been an examplar of the lower-class, "jumped-up" or not. If anything, she is an archetype of the Jaded Aristocrat. ("Bad (= "foreign") blood, you know" of course.)

I think the two are not mutually exclusive. Mason pulls several examples in the early Nancy Drew books of foreign aristocrats who are also poor. Some are "bad" and some are "good", and the defining traits are similar for the non-aristocratic poor: the good are clean and submit to authority (i.e., King Frank and Queen Helen), the bad are slovenly and have piercing eyes and think themselves better than the authorities (i.e., Queen Jadis).

This may be a trait of the Drew books being written for an American audience, but I would imagine that a European author like Lewis would still have understood the concept of fallen-and-foreign aristocracy, surely?

(I just realized that if the earliest Drew books were coming out in the 1930s, then they predate the first Narnia book (1950) by almost 20 years. Huh.)

Ana Mardoll said...

Is there not also - forgive me, I haven't read Redwall much - a later book where the protagonists kill a nursery full of baby [evil race]? I remember that being an internet uproar at the time, though how the author presented it, I don't know.

...

The more I think about it, the more I feel confused with the Beavers. I must grant that their food is not lower class, if that is what my British readers tell me, BUT to me a defining feature of middle class is the disposable income to pursue art and education. The Beavers, pointedly, do not have art or books - this is in contrast to Mr. Tumnus' home.

Furthermore, when they are later given gifts by Father Christmas, these gifts will be "useful" gifts - not useful for war, as the childrens' gifts are, just practical gifts in general. There will, in short, be no frivolities for the Beavers. This says "working class" to me, regardless of the food, but perhaps this is not what Lewis meant to convey.

hapax said...

Thinking this over, there simply aren't ANY poor in Narnia. Not really. I don't remember a single Narnian ever being overly thin, or dressed in rags, or living in a hovel, or begging ... The closest I can think of are Frank and Helen, who are supposed to be "rough diamonds" of the lower class, but as far as I could tell, Frank owned his own horse and cab, and wasn't too excessively distressed at the destruction of the latter. That doesn't sound like poverty to me -- of course, Lewis could have been just that tone-deaf at expressing life on the margins.

The only times that Lewis shows truly poor folks, they are the signifier of evil rule. The slave market in the Lone Islands, the beggars (and of course Shasta and his "father") in Calormen. But even then they are ... off. Lewis did make a praiseworthy attempt to show how "middle class morality" might be too expensive a luxury for someone as desperately poor as Shasta (contrast his matter of fact acceptance of "stealing" with Bree's hypocritical euphemism of "raiding"), but I never get the feeling that Shasta was ever all that hungry, or ill, or cold, or desperate.

And there is the genuinely bizarre implication that he was grateful to be sold as a slave -- I'm not sure if that was Lewis's effort to show how truly corrupt Calormen society was, but it came off unpleasantly like the old canard that the poor don't REALLY love their families, like we nice middle class folks do, because they can't afford the emotional pain of watching them suffer...

...and since I'm spiralling away on tangents, now I'm thinking of Georgette Heyer, who was publishing about the same time as Lewis, and who also displayed some very unpleasant classism and other bigotries (so much so that she, like Lewis, is also often unconsciously assigned to an earlier time than she actually wrote.) Heyer (whose books I also love, btw), has that Good Poor / Bad Poor dichotomy in SPADES.

But particularly I'm thinking of that scene in THE GRAND SOPHY, in which Sophy "buys" the climbing boy. IIRC, it is almost a perfect parallel (mutatis mutandis), note for note, to the scene where the Tarkheen buys Shasta -- except since we see it through Sophy's eyes, the readers know that Sophy is "good" and this is actually a benefit to the boy (just what we are told Shasta is hoping.)

I'm trying to imagine a similar scene being written by Dickens -- who, with all his prejudices, had a genuine empathy for the poor as human beings Just Like Us. Can anyone recall one?

(There *is* that weird little bit in one of Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House books -- maybe LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRAIRIE -- in which Laura begs Pa to buy her the "Indian baby". Maybe I'm reading my modern understandings back into it, but iirc, it comes of as reflecting *shamefully* on the young Laura, and her bigoted Othering of the Native people...)

Oh, look at me still talking while there is librarying to do...

Will Wildman said...

So... if I'm following you, chris, you're saying we have a moral obligation to kill baby hurricanes?

---

I went back to reread some of the chapter two decon in the hopes that it would make the nature of Jadis' oppression clearer, but I'm still somewhat stuck. The perpetual winter is obviously bad, and her tendency to petrify her enemies isn't acceptable, but it's less clear to me what her rulership entails. She doesn't appear to tax or conscript the Animals*, nor really do much of anything. (We have previously noted that the crowned Pevensies will also apparently be Royals Who Don't Do Anything, so this would be contiguous with the tradition.)

In short, I'm not clear on why this is characterised as a struggle for rulership rather than a 'kick out the evil warlord/sorceress' problem. I feel like there's a fundamental difference between 'oppressive ruler' and 'powerful warlord' that's making it hard for this whole situation to gel in my mind. Admittedly, one of the criteria for which Jadis petrifies people is suggesting that anyone other than she can/should rule Narnia, but as I said, it's not clear what use Narnia has for a ruler anyway.

*There is the thing about Tumnus being a possibly-unwilling secret agent, but that appears to have been a unique case. The useful thing about ACE races is that it's easy to have an all-volunteer Army of Doom.

Ana Mardoll said...

*mouth drops open in surprise*

I had completely forgotten about that scene. I haven't read the Ingalls-Wilder books for years, but still!

I have them in ebook form... Hold on... (The word Indian appears 248 times in PRAIRIE.)

Here we go:

Then came a mother riding, with a baby in a basket on each side of her pony.

Laura looked straight into the bright eyes of the little baby nearer her. Only its small head showed above the basket’s rim. Its hair was as black as a crow and its eyes were black as a night when no stars shine.

Those black eyes looked deep into Laura’s eyes and she looked deep down into the blackness of that little baby’s eyes, and she wanted that one little baby.

“Pa,” she said, “get me that little Indian baby!”

“Hush, Laura!” Pa told her sternly.

The little baby was going by. Its head turned and its eyes kept looking into Laura’s eyes.

“Oh, I want it! I want it!” Laura begged. The baby was going farther and farther away, but it did not stop looking back at Laura. “It wants to stay with me,” Laura begged. “Please, Pa, please!”

“Hush, Laura,” Pa said. “The Indian woman wants to keep her baby.”

“Oh, Pa!” Laura pleaded, and then she began to cry. It was shameful to cry, but she couldn’t help it. The little Indian baby was gone. She knew she would never see it any more.

Later her Mother will ask why Laura wanted it when they had their own baby already. I know she's a little girl at this point, but... I think I would have explained the situation a little differently myself! O.o

Brin Bellway said...

she, like Lewis, is also often unconsciously assigned to an earlier time than she actually wrote.

I was surprised to see a birth year of 1898 in the bio on my copy of Out of the Silent Planet. My impressions of the time of both his birth and his writing of Narnia were shifted about twenty years after they actually were.
(Then again, there was the whole "Bible ripping off the Byrds" thing. Little-kid!me really did think that. Clearly my temporal impressions aren't the most trustworthy.)

chris the cynic said...

So... if I'm following you, chris, you're saying we have a moral obligation to kill baby hurricanes?

Well I'd want to make sure that it didn't have some negative unintended consequences since upsetting the balance of nature has a tendency to ... unbalance things. But if they appear to be headed towards populated areas I suppose I do come down in favor of dispersal.

It's somewhat harder to apply the same thing to always chaotic evil races. Among many other things, if you slaughter them all without even trying to see if they could turn out good, how the hell do you know that they're always evil in the first place? There's a line somewhere between "We have to kill every single one of the genetically modified bats before they breed with the local population and kill off all the non bat species on the continent (and then themselves die of starvation)" and "Hey, backgammon playing lizard eggs, lizards are always evil, lets crush them all."*

The useful thing about ACE races is that it's easy to have an all-volunteer Army of Doom.

Have an internet.

-

* I don't know about whatever Ana is referring to in Redwall, but I would guess that if the protagonists killed off an enemy nursery it was a nursery full of unhatched eggs. I would guess this in part because I think the absence of vermin babies in almost all of Redwall is because babies, even vermin babies, are hard to think of as evil.

You know that the vermin hordes are born instead of magically appearing fully grown because occasionally one of them has a family relationship, but you don't see any kids and you don't hear about their childhood (with the exception of Veil who was not raised normally) and I think that's because if you did they'd be easier to identify with.

If you thought about the horde in terms of, "I wonder what their childhood was like?" or whether or not they have mouths to feed back home, then its probably going to lessen your enjoyment of the crushing defeat they eventually suffer.

Ana Mardoll said...

* I don't know about whatever Ana is referring to in Redwall,

I can't find anything on Google with connection to Redwall, so it would seem I am most likely remembering a different series. I do that sometimes, I'm afraid. *blush* NOW BACK TO YOUR REGULARLY SCHEDULED PROGRAM, ALREADY IN PROGRESS. :D

Dav said...

I have to wonder what deals the Beavers may have cut to get their bounty. Marmalade roll? In Narnia? Even under normal circumstances, that marmalade requires oranges and a large quantity of sugar - luxury goods that have to be imported. And either the fruit has to be shipped fresh (and therefore fast), or there's an additional cost from making/shipping such a fragile item. (Moreso because the people most likely to have oranges probably don't consume marmalade much themselves.) Add winter to the mix - decades of it, and the travel complications, the extra markup the south can charge for *any* food good, much less a luxury food good, and you've got another suspicious case of prosperity on hand. Ditto for tea. And butter? Where did *that* come from? There hasn't been pasture in Narnia for years, so that means tons of hay shipped north, or again, a highly perishable food good has to be prepared and shipped north by the non-winter bound south.

The Beavers *know* some of the trees are untrustworthy, and they're worried about word getting back to Jadis - but it may not just be because they'd be seen helping humans. Jadis is not new; she's had ample time to establish an extensive spy network, and I imagine that in addition to looking out for human children, they're also tasked to keep a close watch on anyone who isn't on the payroll. Some Animals may be slipping under the radar - some Birds, maybe some underground creatures or migratory Animals. But the Beavers have a pretty noticeable dam, and it's probably on a waterway - the pond is likely only there because of the dam. (And it may be pretty old, too, since if winter means the water's been frozen, the pond almost certainly formed pre-Witch.) I would expect the waterways to be used as impromptu roads during the long winter, as well.

In short: Jadis knows about the Beavers. If they're not spying for her, she's got someone watching them, if only because it's a good idea to keep an eye on people on the roads that are your enemies. Yet Mr. Beaver feels comfortable bringing the kids back to his home, as long as they're quiet about it. That fits much more into the scenario that they're spies (at best, double agents), just like Tumnus, and their concern is not alerting their "allies" that they've flipped. Especially once you get an eyeful of that marmalade roll.

Ana Mardoll said...

It's becoming increasingly clear to me that the Pevensie children are the most boring part of this story. Epic adventures be damned, we want ECONOMICS with our escapist fantasy! :D

Did someone say there was a Narnia fanfic that explained the black market and gave us a view of the double-agents (like the Beavers?) and the dangerous and exciting lives that they live?

But if the Beavers are employed by Jadis, to what end? Are they simply tasked with maintaining the waterway? Wouldn't that imply a level of country management above and beyond what the Narnian royalty do?

And if the Beavers are in the employ of Jadis, does that tarnish their reputation somewhat and muddy the revolutionary waters a bit? It's not their fault if they're given no choice whatsoever, but what are they doing above and beyond to earn the marmalade and butter? Those aren't staples and Jadis doesn't strike me as a generous employer. It seems to me that they'd have to do something seriously helpful for that amount of windfall.

Unless, of course, they really *are* poor and Lewis just didn't think out the implications of their expensive food, but can we call that on a deconstruction? I'm not sure.

Dav said...

I'd propose they watch the "roads". The waterways themselves might not need extensive work - the advantage of using them in the winter is that they're flat, clear of vegetation, and have prescribed routes not subject to as much obfuscation because of snow drift and such.

My guess is that they report who comes and goes, what the patterns are, especially for some of the "undocumented" migratory animals. Maybe they shelter Jadis's search parties or patrols - it would explain the excess food they have, and the easy routine Mrs. Beaver has for taking care of visitors - she knows exactly when to pop the kettle on, exactly when the rolls come out of the oven, etc. They even have extra stools.

Will Wildman said...

I have taken the hurricane thing to its logical conclusion, wherein we reform them to the side of Good, such that a windstorm blows through a lumber yard and leaves a trail of bungalows in its wake.

It's the only way to stop the vicious cycle.

---

It seems to me that they'd have to do something seriously helpful for that amount of windfall.

How much has Tumnus been doing for her that's allowed him to amass his luxuries? The alternative to the Beavers directly working for Jadis is that there is a broad Animal black market. Those who are in Jadis' employ get stuff on the basis that they can trade it for whatever else they want: Mrs Beaver may have stitched up a blanket for some Squirrels' nest, and in exchange they gave her the marmalade that they received in thanks from a Stag for chewing him free from a thicket, with the Stag having accepted the marmalade as a reward for protecting some Ducks from the harassment of roaming predators*. He didn't need the marmalade as a fodstuff, but he knew he could trade it later for something worthwhile. If he hadn't stumbled into that thicket, he was going to go see the Porcupines that run the bespoke grooming toolshop.

*The Ducks, of course, are evil miscreant traitors so far in Jadis' pocket that they're quacking out lint.

Will Wildman said...

Meant to add:

Unless, of course, they really *are* poor and Lewis just didn't think out the implications of their expensive food, but can we call that on a deconstruction? I'm not sure.

One of the key features of deconstruction (as I understand the literary concept) is identifying the places where result does not flow from premise, whether it's action not matching character or circumstances not matching world. So while we may not be able to say why Lewis has given his oppressed civilians foods that they shouldn't have in the world as described, it seems entire within your purview to conclude that if he did think through all the implications, he decided to ignore them.

Ana Mardoll said...

Isn't the problem with the Black Market that the marmalade had to be imported into Narnia somehow? It simply can't be locally made because the oranges wouldn't grow in the climate.

Are Animals conducting raids on Calormen and Archenland territory to steal marmalade? And wouldn't the implied risk (or high cost if they are hiring out work to the south) drive the prices up dramatically? O.o

LOVE the idea of good hurricanes. Clearly the baby one, raised to be good, will die in an epic confrontation with an evil hurricane and its sacrifice will usher in a utopia of human-hurricane relations.

Ana Mardoll said...

@Will, or - alternately - the marmalade is allegorical??

Probably unrelated: my Mom bought some rainbow colored cutlery the other day. All I could think of was the Roman Road Walking Stick that Fred linked to a few weeks back. I kept expecting to have someone witness to me while I was trying to eat.

Lunch Meat said...

Jumping back in to talk about Redwall, since I was a little obsessed with them as a preteen--the other frustrating thing about the story of Veil is that there is a parallel story, Taggerung, about an otter who is raised by...weasels, I think? Or were they ferrets? Anyway, while the story of Veil shows that "vermin" are just so evil that even when they're raised good, they still turn bad, Taggerung's lesson is that otters are just so freaking good that even though no one ever teaches him to be good or tells him not to hurt weaker creatures, in any way shape or form, he still realizes how evil they all are and he ends up leaving. He's not hurt or oppressed by the vermin, either--he is adopted by the horde's leader and is given the best instruction, food and care that they can provide. He is even honored. And yet he's still naturally good. I believe this is one of the only stories that show the lives of young vermin.

Other interesting species are the deceitful ones, who aren't truly evil and who cooperate with the good people but will betray them if given half a chance. Foxes are a good example, and I believe we see a quite young fox in one of the books.

Also, I hope I'm not the only one who thought that even though cats are ACE, they are the best characters?

Will Wildman said...

Isn't the problem with the Black Market that the marmalade had to be imported into Narnia somehow? It simply can't be locally made because the oranges wouldn't grow in the climate.

I assume, based on evidence up to now, that Jadis can conjure whatever she wants as tools to bribe willing Animals. The imported marmalade is only necessary if they're getting around Jadis' control - thus in my situation I note the complicit Ducks as the original marmalade recipients.

---

Clearly the baby one, raised to be good, will die in an epic confrontation with an evil hurricane

"Rica*, what are you doing?"
"No one else can stop that tropical storm. It's up to me now."
"It's too big! You'll just be absorbed!"
"Not if I spin in the opposite direction!"
"Rica, you'll never make it!"
"SOMEONE HAS TO TRY!"

-excerpt from my upcoming blockbuster screenplay Rica: An Amerricane** Heroine

*'Rica' is of course pronounced 'ri-kay, since it's an abbreviated form.
**If you look closely here you can catch the point where my pun-shame centre burnt out.

Ana Mardoll said...

-excerpt from my upcoming blockbuster screenplay Rica: An Amerricane** Heroine

Awesome. Instant book award if Rica dies. Of course, if you want to be optioned by Disney, you'll have to write an alternate ending where she coughs and comes back to life while everyone watches mournfully on...

Dav said...

Maybe she turns into something else?
Hurricane + hurricane = a cumulus cloud?
Or maybe she grows up to become Charybdis?

chris the cynic said...

Cats, I think, are a mostly evil race right from the start. It's been a long time since I read Redwall, but as I recall the cat in that, which would be the first cat in the series, basically said, "I know I'm supposed to be evil but I've never really had it in me so I'm not. You can calm down. ... Why are you looking at me that way, you ran straight into my mouth. If I'd wanted you dead I wouldn't have spat you out."

Compare that with rats where they were all evil all the time for several books and I think cats are supposed to be a more liminal case. Also in the story of Martin, as I recall, the original head cat was a foreign warlord who extracted high taxes, but he wasn't all that cruel. His son turned out to be good, and it was only his daughter who evil. (Here's a question, is it only male cats who have a potential for good, or are there good female cats as well? I think Redwall cat found a date, but it was an off screen in an epilogue sort of thing.)

And as for the story of Tag, oh god where do we start?

You know what would have made it a much better story? If he weren't an otter. If he were the actual son of the leader and it just turned out that he wasn't a killer. If instead of being a story about "Otters are magically good," it was about how hard it is for someone raised in that situation to hold on to the good. With the message being something like, they aren't born evil, and it's possible for them to remain not-evil, but it takes a lot of work.

It could have even been used to explain why vermin were all so evil, maybe anyone other than the chief's son would have been killed off because they were considered weak but due to nepotism he was allowed to live and that's why he, as opposed to someone else in the tribe, turned out good.

-

Back on topic

What if the white witch in her white witchiness is responsible for the total lack of apparent poverty in Narnia? What if her, "I can make food ex nihilo," power is THE source off food? Maybe she makes so much people don't know what to do with it.

"I'll help you chop and carry that wood in exchange for an old tablecloth."

"Ok, but please take these five pounds of butter and two jars of marmalade as well."

"Do I have to?"

"I you want a table cloth."

And then that person has to figure out who they're going to dump this excess luxury on because they don't have space for it in their cupboards at home. Maybe they can throw a feast for some random strangers and use some of it up.

-

@ Will Wildman

Want an internet? Want a bunch of internets? They're yours.

Ana Mardoll said...

What if the white witch in her white witchiness is responsible for the total lack of apparent poverty in Narnia? What if her, "I can make food ex nihilo," power is THE source off food? Maybe she makes so much people don't know what to do with it.

So clearly she isn't making it perpetual winter for the LULZ, but rather the use of her power requires ambient heat as a power source and the creation of the food is lowering the Narnia temperature and keeping it iced over constantly.

She keeps Father Christmas out, obviously, because she believes in the egalitarian sharing of resources and Christmas presents have always favored the rich over the poor, as Terry Pratchett's Death discovered during his stint as Hogfather.

Gelliebean said...

Taken all together, it sounds like time for a "Wicked"-style rewrite.... :-p Hopefully with fewer, shorter scene breaks. :-D

hapax said...

alternately - the marmalade is allegorical??

Okay, I've read enough medieval biblical interpretation, I should be able to do this in my sleep.

[cracks fingers]

What are the distinguishing characteristics of marmalade?


It is usually made of orange fruit and peel.
It is generally spread on toast and eaten for breakfast.
In appearance, it is thick, and translucent.

Obviously, MARMALADE stands for the WISDOM THAT COMES FROM EXPERIENCE.

The Beavers are old, and have therefore experienced much of life; the fruit of these experiences (under the Witch) are undoubtedly bitter and sour, but when they are processed through time (and proper, Aslan-ly reflection) prove to be sweet and wholesome.

We know that these experiences have been processed in the requisite way, because "marmalade" is normally served on toast (that is, through the Word of God (the Bread of Heaven) who will come to help "her" (that is, the Church = Good Narnians) "at the break of day." (Ps 46)

But this wisdom of experience is not perfectly transparent -- it is as "a cloudy glass" (1 Cor 13:12) -- because it is only an approximation of the "true Wisdom" -- the "Light of Christ" (2 Cor 4:6).

In this particular situation, the Beavers are aiding the Pevensies ( = the Christian pilgrim seeking to "reign with Christ" (Rom 5:17)) with the "marmalade" of their wisdom gained through bitter experience. Note that they do this through their hospitality -- "civil as an orange"! -- through a sacred meal of grilled fish, like that which Our Lord shared with his disciples after his Resurrection. (John 21:9)

But! While this wisdom (because it is necessary but insufficient) is normally offered at "breakfast" (that is, from the mentor to the pilgrim *beginning* the quest), here it is "unexpectedly" offered at the conclusion of the evening meal!

What are we to make of that?

Well, let's look at the details. It is not only "unexpected" but "great and gloriously sticky" and "steaming hot ... out of the oven".

Clearly this is prophetic of the fiery trials the children are about to experience, that will "forge" them into the proper Kings and Queens. The wisdom imparted by the Beavers will have to be especially "sticky" to allow them to persevere.

The spiral shape of the treat indicates the inward journey of self-examination that each child has to undergo in preparation. Only after sharing this symbolic sacrament are the children prepared to hear the all the wisdom of experience the Beavers are prepared to lengthily exposit.

I think it is HIghly Significant that Edward "participated in" but was unable to fully "enjoy" this ritual, and would only be fully cleansed after he (and he alone!) received along with the Bread of the Marmalade Roll, the culminating "cordial" (the "Wine of the heart") made from the "berries of the sun" (or should that be the "Son"?)

Don't stop me, I'm on a roll...

Brin Bellway said...

Amaryllis: Before Suzanne Collins became famous for The Hunger Games, she wrote a series for slightly younger readers about a mixed society of humans and talking animals living under the streets of New York.

Always feels weird reading sentences like that. In my household, Suzanne Collins is known for the Underland Chronicles first, Hunger Games a distant second. (Never did get around to reading that last book, though.)

Ana Mardoll said...

Seconding Hapax's essential awesomeness, and Chris your story made me tear up a little. So in the interests of light-heartedness, here is another twist on the Evil-Absent-Father, Good-Heroic-Son story:

http://www.giantitp.com/comics/oots0762.html

Loquat said...

Ana, I vaguely recall reading a McSweeney's parody letter exchange purporting to be between the Redwall author and his publisher, concerning a Redwall book with a multiple-hundred-page scene of the heroes slaughtering a nursery full of vermin babies. So maybe you're thinking of that?

Also, regarding the class status of the Beavers: I get sort of a yeoman-farmer impression from them, strange as that may seem given their lack of a farm. (Yeoman-fisherman? Yeoman-construction-worker?) While they have no apparent education or interest in same, they're clearly hard-working and prosperous enough to afford middle-class food. The now-outdated phrase "no better than they should be" probably applies here - living the best possible version of the life one was born to, with no aspiration to live any other way.

Ana Mardoll said...

@Loquat, yes! That is precisely what I am remembering. I knew the piece was parody/humorous, but I had assumed (badly) that something it in was substantially true. I can't find it online now, though.

Cupcakedoll said...

Will Wildman, have an internet for the baby hurricanes.

Chris the Cynic, have an internet for the warlord and his son, that's just lovely. And a further internet for the "gold bar" thing. That's so good I'm mentally flagging it "stolen idea- don't use it!" If you read it in the new postapocalyptic bestseller ten years from now that means the flagging failed and your future self will have to contact mine for a share of the royalties.

I have nothing else to add. Everyone is smarter than me and has already said it all.

chris the cynic said...

I still don't know if you're referring to an actual story here

No, no actual story. Taggerung, which is what got me thinking on the subject of Hero adopted and raised by Warlord, is different enough that that scene couldn't happen.

What I wrote assumes that the adoption was a result something along the lines of Warlord going, "I have vanquished my enemies and won the day and-" notices future hero, "apparently I've created an orphan baby. Hey little guy ,what are we going to do with you?" and eventually deciding on adopting him. The story in Taggerung was that the title character was kidnapped and raised by the warlord, and his father murdered, because a prophecy said he'd be a really impressive fighter, which makes things different.

Ana Mardoll said...

"I have vanquished my enemies and won the day and-" notices future hero, "apparently I've created an orphan baby. Hey little guy ,what are we going to do with you?"

And I just love this idea so much because it has a humanizing element that most villains aren't allowed to have. Villains who raise babies do it because they grew up lusting after baby's mom or because baby is going to be a great asset someday or because it's delicious irony that baby calls Villain "daddy". Best case, they raise the kid because they want an heir. They never do it for "good" reasons because that would make the story complicated and ambiguous and the villain wouldn't be cookie-cutter-evil anymore.

But most "evil" people aren't 100% evil for the LULZ all the time. I can see a lot of evil warlords being "oh, crap, an orphan. Well, now what?"

I love this idea so much, I really do.

Another Chris said...

@Chris the Cynic:

I was about to say that your story about the two potential heirs (one jerk, one not) was actually done in Eva Ibbotson's "The Secret of Platform 13" (which I think has already been mentioned on this blog, where someone pointed out that the blurb read like Harry Potter before Harry Potter), but turns out I misremembered and SPOILER the good kid is actually the true heir. END SPOILER. I prefer your plot.

Good post as usual, Ana! I love my food porn, but it doesn't make an awful lot of sense here.

Dav said...

Hapax, you are awesome.

I was taken aback to realize that marmalade rolls aren't quite whatI was envisioning - I was thinking of something like those orange flavored breakfast sweet rolls, except with marmalade on top instead of creamy orange frosting. So many subtle cultural things at work. Although partly I think it's because I don't think the sliceable jelly roll things look as appetizing as sweet rolls - I want more jelly and less pound/sponge cake texture.

And thanks, Kit, for the visual aid with the robin. I was indeed picturing the North American version.

Michael Mock said...

On an unrelated note...

"I have to admit that I'm actually quite surprised at how much I'm liking Edmund as a character in this read-through."

I had a similar experience with the old Dungeons and Dragons cartoon. Anyone else remember that? It was more than a little erratic in its plotting (and even in things that ought to have been consistent - world-building sorts of things) but the six main characters were very consistent.

One of them was Eric, the Cowardly Cavalier with the magic shield. Eric was probably the least... respectable... character in the group. Even the Bumbling Magician pitched in to help the others, but Eric was constantly grumbling, regularly questioning whatever dangerous and ill-defined quest they'd been set on, and frequently doing his best to run away from the monsters and beasties and traps that filled the world around them.

Eric is unabashedly cowardly, he's untrusting, he's impolite, he's unpleasant... and, watching the series again as an adult, he's very frequently right.

hapax said...

Brain-Twin!

I *always* liked Eric best. Hank the Ranger -- the supposed leader -- was Scooby-Doo's Fred squared, calling forth every unpleasant association of the high school quarterback. And the snot-nosed barbarian kid -- Bobby? -- wanted to be run over by a truck so bad (in deference to the children watching, he can be saved at the last moment by a smug sparkling stranger)

Diana (the Acrobat) would have made a great leader, but she was a Girl! And Brown! so was naturally disqualified.

I recall one episode in which Eric some how went off on his own, and got the Dungeon Master's powers, and he KICKED ASS. Of course, he Learned Better about Friendship and Cooperation and Deferring to Properly Constituted Authorities by the end of the ep, but it was awesome while it lasted.

Ana Mardoll said...

I haven't seen these, but now I wish I had. I *thought* I had, but Husband has informed me that I'm thinking of the Dragonlance movie he owns. Now *that* is awful -- I think Tanis is whiny and the Evil Wizard of the group is the only one who seems to be sensible and nice to people of different cultures.

Apparently there is something wrong with me that I keep finding the evil good guys sensible. ;)

chris the cynic said...

And the snot-nosed barbarian kid -- Bobby? -- wanted to be run over by a truck so bad (in deference to the children watching, he can be saved at the last moment by a smug sparkling stranger)

See, if I actually knew anything about Dungeons and Dragons this is where I could talk about someone arguing that they really want to be made into a sparklethighs because ohmygod do you see what that does to your stats? The armor class bonus alone is worth it, you become nigh indestructible and ... and ... and I've got nothing beyond "armor class". Obviously strength and speed and whatnot would have to be quantified. I just have no idea how.

Also, the unexpected inclusion of a smug sparkling stranger was a very nice touch.

Ana Mardoll said...

Apparently your Charisma stat goes through the roof -- the Cullens are so pretty that no one minds Edward being a smug jerk constantly.

Agility goes up, natch. Strength, too.

I'm not so sure about Intelligence and Wisdom. I mean, sure they all have 10 college degrees apiece or whatever, but when BELLA SWAN is able to trick you (I'm looking at you, Jasper and Alice, well up at the end of the novel), then you're doing something wrong.

chris the cynic said...

Just for clarification, am I getting names confused or did you just say that Bella tricked the person who can see the future and (if I inferred correctly from the tiny amount of information gleaned when trying to verify that Bella isn't a chess person) has such fine control over this power that she uses it to cheat at chess?

I could see tricking someone who could only see broad strokes, but if you can look in detail enough to know whether someone is going to move the castle or the horsey (we need childish names for all of the pieces, bishops would be the pointy guys, I'm not sure about pawns, kings, and queens) then it should be very, very difficult to trick you.

Ana Mardoll said...

I don't recall any chess playing, but yes, by the end of this book, Bella will successfully trick a Future Seer and a guy whose talent is reading and guiding other peoples' emotions.

Impressive, no?

BrokenBell said...

I think Intelligence stays pretty much unchanged, but Wisdom takes heavy penalties, since vampires cease to mature or change*. I imagine Alice's Future Sight ability requires a stiff skill check against Wisdom, which she often fumbles. However, since Meyer always min-maxes with Vampirism in mind, she's developed a tendency to pretty much ignore Wisdom entirely in character creation, leaving most of her characters severely lacking.

If you think of Bella as a character designed with Vampirism in mind, she kinda makes sense. Strength, Dexterity, and Constitution were ignored, since Vampirism gives you excessive amounts of all three, regardless of what you start with; no Wisdom, because that's going to be removed later on anyway. Since it's a speech-heavy campaign, the player poured points into Charisma and Intelligence, allowing Bella to succeed in most relevant skill checks, even though her player isn't very good at acting like a charismatic or intelligent person.

*Idea: becoming a Petrified Vampire gives you huge bonuses to various stats, and gives you free access to a high-level ability of your choice, but you cease to gain any more EXP? It'd give you a huge amount of power much quicker than the rest of the party, but in time, other characters can develop to an equivalent level, with a far greater degree of freedom, fewer weaknesses, and will eventually surpass you entirely. Maybe Bella has a longer period of viability, because her build is specifically designed to gain access to the Petrified Vampire class much faster than intended, and compensate for its weaknesses. She's still going to lag behind, after a while, but she'll be a real powerhouse for a long time. And with her (Charisma based?) shield ability, she can protect a significantly weaker party against threats that vastly outlevel them, allowing them to take quests they really shouldn't be able to take, and get EXP and high-level loot at a much faster rate.

Otherwise... Chris' extended universes are amazing, as always (seriously, they are) but I think Hapax might just have clinched it with her Allegory of the Marmalade Roll, which was way more convincing than it had any right to be. I mean, freaking links to actual scripture?! Holy crap. Absolute genius.

Will is awarded a bonus prize (the Golden Groan) for Best/Most Horrifying Punnery. Good show, sir. Good show.

(Narnia? What's a Narnia?)

Ana Mardoll said...

BB, that makes so much sense, actually. The high Int and Charisma for Bella explains why she breezes through school and has everyone fall in love with her. The bad Player explains why she only seems to excel at background checks.

How do we explain her immunity to mind reading?

I'm relieved to hear that I wasn't the only one who found Hapax's marmalade discussion convincing. I was afraid I was just credulous. Hapax, would you like to be Internet Pope?

Alice in Wonderland had marmalade, too, come to think on it.

chris the cynic said...

I tried looking up chess on a Twilight wiki and other than Eric being the chess club type pretty much the only thing it said was that Jasper didn't like playing chess with Mind Reader and Future Seer because ... well because they were mind reader and future seer. That made things significantly unfair. I don't know if that's accurate, but that's what it said.

Mind reading, sure*, but using the ability to see the future for a chess game seems like an incredibly impressive amount of control. I can only see two ways it would work. One is if the future seer can actually see individual moves which is really just an incredible resolution for the ability, the other is if the future seer can see the outcome of the game and then uses a brute force, "Well what if I move this piece? How about this one? This one?" and then once a piece that leads to is found victory cycle through every possible move it can make. Here the impressiveness is not the level of detail that one can see in but the fine distinctions that can be used to determine the future seen, it's at a level of, "If I move this piece then..." If I leave Bella alone for five minutes instead of three then...

-

I'm relieved to hear that I wasn't the only one who found Hapax's marmalade discussion convincing.

I, for one, want more. And I find myself wondering how I can convince hapax to play a certain video game just to see her apply a theological interpretation.

-

* Though it makes me wonder about the ways around it. Obviously the most awesome solution would be to simply be so good that your opponent, even knowing exactly what you're planning, loses anyway.

Another possibility has to do with the fact that once someone is good enough at something they can often figure out what to do without consciously knowing why they were doing it. Assuming that that applies to chess, it would mean that Edward would know what you're thinking but that wouldn't be all that helpful because the reason you were doing what you were doing wasn't at the level of thought. At some point, presumably, you're going to have to start putting conscious thought into what you're doing but hopefully by then you've gained enough of an advantage Edward loses anyway.

Another would be to think so many different things that you confuse the hell out of him.

Ana Mardoll said...

One would think the future-seeing ability would be prone to griefing behavior.

Alice: "I already know I'm going to win..."
Opponent: "Oh, shut up, Alice, you do not. Stop saying that."

Anyone remember the Dilbert animated series where Dilbert plays chess (and then badminton!) with a super-intelligent computer.

Computer: "I've calculated all 9,368 moves you can make. All of them result in you losing."
Dilbert: "Stupid mind games."

We now come again to the question: Does Edward have conscious control over his talent? If he does, it's VERY rude for him to use it in chess and to listen in to his "family".

chris the cynic said...

If Edward has control over his power and he uses it without permission at all then that's very rude in most situations. If he's not going to be evil then I think we have to accept that it isn't within his power to turn the ability off.

Of course, "If he's not going to be evil," is something that requires significant meditation. Is he going to be not evil? I kind of feel like the story isn't moving in that direction.

Will Wildman said...

I am still frozen in awe at hapax's marmalade roll allegory. That was masterful.

---

the castle or the horsey (we need childish names for all of the pieces, bishops would be the pointy guys, I'm not sure about pawns, kings, and queens)

This is Alice playing, yes? Rook = castle, knight = horsey, bishop = pointy, pawns = humans, king = the load, queen = the awesome one (or 'me'). As a follow-up to the post-hospital Vampire Family Discussion scene, I'm now imagining one of the vampires doing a puppet dialogue with the nearby chessboard.
"King Bella says 'Oh no, that truck shaped like a castle is going to crush me!' But then Queen Edward shows up: 'I'LL save you!' Pow! And all the teenagers - those are these billion pawns standing around - are all 'Holy @#$%, he can move on diagonals!' Then all the queens from the secret Italian chessboards get together and burn down our house. What part of this don't you understand?"

---

Good lord, even the Narnia threads turn into Twilight threads now. *cough* Let's see, can I rerail? Improbable.

I have a running preference for inverting things that I find problematic: see my insistence that Edmund is the Best Character and my reaction to encountering a country love song that is 90% gross gender essentialism ("That would be perfect for one of the big scenes in these teenage boys' romance arc, but I'll have to figure out how many divine Seal Judgments can smite the world before the internet is likely to collapse").

Thus, I am fundamentally pro-orc now, because they seem to be the most prominent Always Chaotic Evil race with little to no justification. I've flipflopped through a couple of options on how I'd like to approach that - one of my favourites involves an orc being the first of her kind to move into a human city, getting caught up in local politics and ultimately in racial equality movements inspired by 1960s USA.

I'm also quite fascinated with the idea of villains swapping sides without fundamentally changing a lot of their views. Partly, perhaps, it's some kind of transitive conviction in my head that says if there's no evil quite like a fallen angel then there must be no good quite like a risen demon. Partly it's the feeling that the forces of good could really use someone on their side who wasn't particularly enamored of their worldview, to point out everything that's wrong with their version of the narrative. And partly I'm guessing it's just bloody-minded contrarianness (contrarianitude?) on my part.

What I'm saying could basically be summarised as: if it's established that Wolves are ACE, then what I'd like to see most of all is a Wolf show up now to assist the Pevensies, not because he's all in favour of Aslan, but because this eternal winter is keeping the rabbit population down and he's never going to get to go on a delicious killing spree like he wants unless they get rid of Jadis.

Brin Bellway said...

Mind reading, sure*

* Though it makes me wonder about the ways around it.


I'd give you a relevant comic link, but the site is down until further notice. Basically, the secret is not to plan ahead. Bernie thinks up long schemes that rely on Z not making a certain move, which she promptly does. But Z never plans beyond the current move, so he can't do the same to her.

Ana Mardoll said...

Brin, I believe in TV Trope terms that would be called Indy Ploy?

Will, good grief, I laughed so hard at the chess-puppet demonstration. I have tears in my eyes now.

not because he's all in favour of Aslan, but because this eternal winter is keeping the rabbit population down and he's never going to get to go on a delicious killing spree like he wants unless they get rid of Jadis.

I love good bad guys. I must once again brag on Order of the Stick, because that's basically what Belkar is. :D

BrokenBell said...

Well, if Twilight: The RPG includes a Traits system, she might've taken Disasterously Clumsy (periodic rolls are made against your Dexterity. If you succeed, nothing happens. If you fail, roll a d20, refer to the supplied Accident Chart) to earn enough points to take Strong Minded (when making rolls affected by Wisdom, player may choose instead to use their Charisma modifier). That's assuming that a "Mind Reading" attempt is usually circumvented by a Wisdom check, which seems suitable. I also think that it would make sense for Bella's player to mitigate the Wisdom deficiency inherent to the character build, and maximise on the high Charisma that will only get higher; the clumsiness would only be a problem until Bella's Dexterity goes through the roof.

Probably worth mentioning that this has the barest minimum to do with any actual existing game. I'm just a nerd; I've been privy to many conversations about tabletop RPGs, but I'm not especially au fait with the specifics. The closest I've been to playing an actual game of DnD is Neverwinter Nights 2. As convincing as it may or may not sound to the layman, I'm probably making some crippling errors with regards to how skill checks actually work. Then again, there are a lot of wildly different rulebooks floating around...

chris the cynic said...

I'm also quite fascinated with the idea of villains swapping sides without fundamentally changing a lot of their views.

I mentioned at some point, probably at new-slacktivist, that in my head I have an evil overlord who turns to the side of good after greater evils repeatedly forced him to team up with the good guys resulting in them rubbing off on him. What I didn't mention at the time, because we were just talking about waltzing into the enemy hideout like it was your home, was that his conversion leaves most of his views and personality intact.

In particular, he'd still think he ought to be in charge. His methods simply changed, and when they instituted a democracy he made sure there were no term limits, and wherever he went as part of the campaign to defeat the greater evil essentially doubled as his political campaign. The good guys convinced him that legitimate authority had to come from the people, so when he converted he made sure to get some of that.

Will Wildman said...

In particular, he'd still think he ought to be in charge. His methods simply changed, and when they instituted a democracy he made sure there were no term limits, and wherever he went as part of the campaign to defeat the greater evil essentially doubled as his political campaign. The good guys convinced him that legitimate authority had to come from the people, so when he converted he made sure to get some of that.

Oh sweet Buddha - this is fantastic - I want to see a modern-day-fantasy story about a world where political campaigns are also epic cross-country quests, and so your campaign staff is also your adventuring party*, and the news is not only filled with the speeches and debates you've held, but journalists also question your decision to get that wyvern to give up its shard of the Chalice of Nalani using intimidation instead of charm, and the liberal-conservative spectrum is replaced with the alignment grid**, and and and - well, there goes my ability to concentrate for the rest of the day.

*"This is Jim, chief of new media communications and one of the most talented rune-monks in the country; this is Heather, my speech-writing lead and former Arch Ranger for northern Ontario; and now I'm going to pass you off to my print media liaison, Wendy. I know she looks young, but she has a Master's from Cambridge and a Blue Robe from the Academy of the Nine Unbound Stars."

**"Neutral Good: For the Canada You've Always Wanted."
"Lawful Evil: It's Time for Honest Government."

chris the cynic said...

What I'm saying could basically be summarised as: if it's established that Wolves are ACE, then what I'd like to see most of all is a Wolf show up now to assist the Pevensies, not because he's all in favour of Aslan, but because this eternal winter is keeping the rabbit population down and he's never going to get to go on a delicious killing spree like he wants unless they get rid of Jadis.

Of course the problem with allies like this is that the moment Jadis is gone things get complicated.

I often mention the game Deus Ex. When it gets to the end the three forces that have been directing you up to this point suddenly give you wildly divergent orders. What united them all was that they wanted to stop the antagonists from winning, when it came time to determine what the endgame should be, they all had vastly different outcomes in mind. No matter what you did, from the perspective of 2/3s of your allies you'd be a backstabbing traitor.

Spoilers to some extent.

Bar tebhc jnf ybpny erfvfgnapr zbirzragf gung rffragvnyyl jnagrq gb yvir va yvoregbcvn (gur hfhny guvatf nobhg gur anvirgr bs jnagvat yvoregbcvn qba'g nccyl, gurl jrer jryy nezrq naq betnavmrq ng gur ybpny yriry, gur gbgny pbyyncfr bs pvivyvmngvba jbhyq unir yrsg gurz va punetr bs gurve erfcrpgvir nernf.) Nabgure tebhc unq ab ceboyrz jvgu n pbafcvenpl ehyvat gur jbeyq, gurl whfg gubhtug gung gur nagntbavfgf jrer gur jebat bar. Gur ynfg snpgvba jnf na NV. Npghnyyl, gjb ohg bayl bar ng n gvzr naq gur frpbaq jnf znqr va cneg sebz gur svefg. Vgf fgnapr jnf gung jr arrq gb qb guvatf pbzcyrgryl qvssreragyl, naq guhf vg jnagrq gb zretr jvgu lbhe oenva naq unir lbh-vg ehyr gur jbeyq.

Va nal bgure fgbel rnpu bs gurfr tebhcf jbhyq yvxryl or gur onq thlf, ohg gurl'er nyy nyyvrq ntnvafg n tebhc jub vf RIVY! naq lbh, gur tbbq thl (hayrff lbh pubbfr gb or n wrex/zheqrere/bgurejvfr onq crefba, va juvpu pnfr: lbh, gur onq thl), unir gb pubbfr orgjrra gur bcgvbaf gurl tvir lbh. V graq gb fvqr jvgu gur NV, gur yvoregnevnaf naq gur pbafcvenpl ner obgu pyrneyl rivy sbe ernfbaf V'z abg tbvat gb trg vagb evtug abj.

Vs fbzrbar vf tbvat gb unir znffvir nzbhagf bs haqrfreirq hapurpxrq cbjre, V'q cersre vg or fbzrbar jub vf genqvat fynirf be erfcbafvoyr sbe gur Xraarql nffnffvangvba, sbe rknzcyr.

-

Also on the subject of Deus Ex, did Aquinas ever talk about a city on a hill? It's a biblical reference so it wouldn't surprise me if he did, but I can't find a reference to him saying it so I've never been sure whether Page was talking about something real, or it was just an example of him not knowing what he was talking about.

chris the cynic said...

[At a press confrence]
Candidate: Marissa Orcslayer of The Parchment Press.
Marissa: Thank you. Is true that you originally recruited most of your senior campaign staff from a local tavern?
Candidate: Of course, that's how these things are done.
Marissa: Do you really think that the best way to lead this country into the future is to put it into the hands of a bunch of drunks?

Ana Mardoll said...

Well, if Twilight: The RPG includes a Traits system, she might've taken Disasterously Clumsy (periodic rolls are made against your Dexterity. If you succeed, nothing happens. If you fail, roll a d20, refer to the supplied Accident Chart) to earn enough points to take Strong Minded (when making rolls affected by Wisdom, player may choose instead to use their Charisma modifier). That's assuming that a "Mind Reading" attempt is usually circumvented by a Wisdom check, which seems suitable.

Sounds reasonable, although I'm like you in that I'm immersed in the culture but not necessarily in the rules floating around out there. I think in this case we can safely assume that the Twilight RPG is a homebrew. I mean, sparkly vampires? Come on. :P

Will, I find your Loawful Evil slogan oddly compelling. I say "oddly" because I consider myself to be Chaotic Good (Husband is Lawful Neutral, by the way, which causes no end of problems), so you'd think I'd be against a Lawful Evil government, yet the slogan really does stick with you. I want it on a T-shirt.

I'm also extremely interested in applying to the Academy of Nine Unbound Stars. It sounds very classy.

Will Wildman said...

Google Books tells me there's some discussion of the city on a hill in Aquinas' Catena Aurea, volume 1 part 1.

---

Of course the problem with allies like this is that the moment Jadis is gone things get complicated.

In the hypothetical Wolf's case, there shouldn't be, as long as his preferred prey is rabbits and not Rabbits, and he's not hiding any additional motives or goals. It's functionally simplier but morally more complicated if the Wolf is being perfectly honest about his motives and really just doesn't care about who 'rules' as long as he can maximise his supply of scurrying meat.

---

you'd think I'd be against a Lawful Evil government, yet the slogan really does stick with you. I want it on a T-shirt.

The Lawful Evil campaign operates on key principles that: 1) it's basically what most people end up feeling like their government is anyway, and 2) they promise to always follow the rules in determining whom to fleece. (They also make the rules, but they do have to follow parliamentary procedure.) I think a lot of people would find them oddly compelling. ("Lawful Evil: We'll Never Fail To Meet Your Expectations.")

Last time I took an alignment test, I was just barely Neutral Good, bordering on True Neutral. My favourite representation of this is a demotivational poster with a scraggly old druid glaring out at someone, captioned "True Neutral: Get the hell off my damn lawn."

I think my ideal result would be a minority government of Neutral Good and a Lawful Neutral opposition, for maximum progress but reasonable thought put into the methods of that progress. Chaotic Evil would mostly be to keep Question Period interesting.

Ana Mardoll said...

@Will, I like your ideas and would like to subscribe to your newsletter. :D

On a more serious note (well, not really), I really am sad that we don't get to see more of the Narnia governing system (Hey! Look at that! Back on topic via Twilight --> RPGs --> Alignments --> Government --> Narnia! Or something. :P) because it would be interesting to see what is keeping the Animals working together.

I think it stands to reason that there are going to be a LOT of conflicts of what's the best way to do things when you have this many radically different species in an area. At this only gets so much WORSE when you realize that even things like the TREES are intelligent. How do you deal with that? If I recall correctly, the "in book epilogue" of the Pevensie reign mentions that they kept trees from being chopped down "unnecessarily" which of course begs the question of what happens when a tree needs to be chopped down *necessarily*. And the tree is intelligent. Gah!

(OK, now I've got a Rush song stuck in my head. THEY WONDER WHY THE MAPLES CAN'T BE HAPPY IN THEIR SHAY-ADE!!)

In the real world, wolves prey on rabbits and -- in theory -- a nice balance is achieved between the high rabbit birth rate and the wolf consuming rate. A balance is good because otherwise the rabbits would overpopulate and eat all the greenery and then everyone would starve to death and no more rabbits. How, I ask you, is the high population kept in check for Rabbits? Do the Rabbits reproduce at different rates than their rabbit counterparts? Are all the Rabbits employed as farmers, and must toil endlessly to keep their litters fed? I don't think a high (natral) death rate can be appealed to here -- squirrels will live for 20 years or so if they are allowed to live naturally, so I imagine Rabbits have at least 10-20 years in them.

Maybe some Rabbit children are actually rabbits, but that would be even more horrific in its own way. Little Billy gets to wear a waistcoat and not be eaten by Wolves; little Bobby on the other hand, will be nommage before subdown. My god, how depressing that would be.

But even beyond food chain issues, what happens when the Beavers Coalition wants to dam up a river and the Trees downriver want to vote against it? In a fight for shelter versus sustinance, who wins? Must the Beavers promise to bring water to the Trees to make up for the lost water? But what if they don't hold up their end of the bargain?

Presumably this is where the Kings come in (how do the Trees get a message to the ruling body?) but what precisely does the King do to command obediance? Aslan buggers off for decades at a time, and one *assumes* that the King doesn't keep a standing army of sharp-toothed Wolves at his beck and call, so........yeah?

chris the cynic said...

In the hypothetical Wolf's case, there shouldn't be, as long as his preferred prey is rabbits and not Rabbits, and he's not hiding any additional motives or goals. It's functionally simplier but morally more complicated if the Wolf is being perfectly honest about his motives and really just doesn't care about who 'rules' as long as he can maximise his supply of scurrying meat.

That's definitely true if the hypothetical Wolf isn't evil, and thus will return to his non-evil predation once things are over. But at that point aren't we basically changing his alignment? I thought you wanted an ACE Wolf who joined up for purely pragmatic reasons but none the less remained CE. In that case once he no longer has common cause wouldn't he co back to doing whatever it is he does that earns him the E in ACE?

I'm not sure at this point whether we're talking about an evil Wolf who wants to get fed, or a neutral wolf whose whole motivation boils down to:

"I want food. Are you food?" is yes, kill and eat, if no next question.
"Are you helping me get food?" if yes, become ally, if not next motivation
"Are you making it more difficult for me to get food?" if yes oppose, if not next question
"Do you think I am food?" if yes kill or run like hell, depending on available options.

The order might need some work. "Do you think I am food?" in particular should probably be higher on the list. But I think what I was trying to say is clear enough.

-

Google Books tells me there's some discussion of the city on a hill in Aquinas' Catena Aurea, volume 1 part 1.

It never occurred to me to do a book search. I tried finding a searchable archive of Aquinas online (which never really worked out) but I never even thought to search Google books.

Thank you.

chris the cynic said...

Administering Narnia seems like it would be utter hell. (What a horrible thing to inflict on children.)

I wanted to say more, but I'm not sure what I could possibly say. It just seems like hell.

(Hey! Look at that! Back on topic via Twilight --> RPGs --> Alignments --> Government --> Narnia! Or something. :P)

I think the circle was:
Narnia--> RPG based TV --> Twilight --> RPGs --> Alignments --> Government --> Narnia

Or something, as you say.

Ana Mardoll said...

Ah, yes, that sounds more correct.

I very honestly feel that the Pevensie children will (and should) be utterly traumatized by their lives spent in Narnia and then being shoved without warning back into their childhood lives. In light of this conversation, I have to also believe that they all become tree-hugging environmentalists to an absolutely fanatical (I mean that without prejudice, but it's a loaded word, I know. What would be better?) degree. I would also rather expect them to be very UN-deferential to authorty -- after you've been a King, you know all too well how wrong and fallible a king can be, after all.

I wonder how Lewis would feel about that.

Will Wildman said...

In terms of specifying the philosophy of the ACE Wolves, I guess it comes down to whether it's a sort of libertarian CE or a cackling-supervillain CE. I would expect the Wolves to be Chaotic Evil because they reject all external authority and they refuse to empathise with others, and this one Wolf is interested in the anti-Jadis campaign because: overthrowing authority, yay, plus lots more stuff for me to hunt, kill, and devour. It's a CE that is self-serving above all else. (The Chaotic aspect includes in its scope the freedom to use Lawful Good as a source of support.) The kind of CE that actively wants to cause maximum suffering to all other things seems unlikely to develop into an entire race, just aberrant Joker-like individuals.

---

Will, I like your ideas and would like to subscribe to your newsletter.

Possibly if you have nothing else important to do you would be interested to learn that I have a blog now?

I hope that link works; attempts to link to it have continually betrayed me.

Will Wildman said...

Sigh, no, that link does not work. (Why does Disqus not have a preview button?)

narrowcrookedlanes dot wordpress dot com should get you there.

Ana Mardoll said...

How odd -- it looks like Disqus tried to prepend my address to you posted one! Very weird. o.O

I didn't know you had a blog, though, thank you! One more for my RSS feed when I SHOULD BE WORKING. :D

chris the cynic said...

I would expect the Wolves to be Chaotic Evil because they reject all external authority and they refuse to empathise with others

Add in a touch of willingness to work against their own self interest so long as it hurts someone they dislike more and you've just described one of my aunts.

A pack of wolf versions of her would be terrifying.

That one of her daughters turned out to be LAWFUL! neutral is something I chalk up to rebelliousness. Yes, the capital letters and exclamation point are completely necessary to describe the extent of her lawfulness. She takes it that far, or did as of when I last interacted with her.

Dav said...

I want to see a modern-day-fantasy story about a world where political campaigns are also epic cross-country quests, and so your campaign staff is also your adventuring party

I'm trying to calculate what level interns would hit, given that fetch-and-carry quests are usually 25-100 XP a pop. Conservatively, that's 5 quests a day, 5 days a week, for a year - they would be about *level 16* by the AD&D 3.5 rules. Not including bonuses for role play, or weekend side quests.

I wonder what Congress would be like if everyone there was at least a level 20 adventurer. I sort of imagine Camp David would include a cave of wyverns, so presidents could have some nice relaxing hunting. Would the Secretary of State have to be a paladin/cleric, so she could detect evil?

chris the cynic said...

What happens if, come election year, there are no major quests to be done?

-

I'm suddenly imagining political campaigns trying to fake epic quests because it turned out that everything in the country was going well leaving no major wrongs for the candidates to right. Now they have no idea what to do. Before it was as simple as standing up to evil from beyond time stopping along the way to attend debates, give interviews and hold the occasional rally. Now all of the evils from beyond time are gone so ... what now? The entire campaign playbook assumes that this will all be structured around the larger quest.

Someone will no doubt suggest releasing evil in a can so it can be defeated again, but hopefully that person will be smacked and then ignored.

Will Wildman said...

That's an interesting point, Dav, and now I'm wondering what kind of stat growth the Intern class offers, what array of skills and feats are available to them, and where their level cap is. Possibly the fatal flaw is that Interns cap out at level 4 and then spend the rest of their time trying desperately to find an opportunity to multi-class so they can make use of all their extra experience.

(The story as I'm envisioning it would not be an Order-of-the-Stick-esque world that literally functions by tabletop rules, but this is an equally valid and entertaining direction to consider.)

Ana Mardoll said...

There is a short story anthology in all this, just waiting to burst forth, I swear. :D

chris the cynic said...

(The story as I'm envisioning it would not be an Order-of-the-Stick-esque world that literally functions by tabletop rules, but this is an equally valid and entertaining direction to consider.)

Of course not, but many within the story's world would no doubt enjoy sitting down for a nice game of Politics and that game would need rules.

"Politics" might not be a good enough name. Politics & Pegasi?

Actually, there would probably be more than one game. It would be a part of people's daily reality and so all sorts of people would try to capitalize on it. It wouldn't just be a D&D like game, there'd be something like Magic the Gathering, computer games, board games. Anything that might allow one group of non adventures to profit based on other non-adventurer's desire to tap into the exciting world of the adventurers.

(Not everyone can be a roving adventurer fighting evil with a big stick, some people have to be computer programmers otherwise Jim isn't going to be able to do much in the realm of new media.)

-

@Ana Mardoll

The Year Without a Crisis:
Tales from a Time when Terror ... I've run out of T words. Is there a T word for "declined to show up"?

Dav said...

I'm not sure I'm endorsing such a literal by-the-rules world; I just find that piece extra amusing.

I strongly suspect there would be some nasty, unfortunate implications to these things; opposing parties would do everything possible to hinder the growth of their opponents' experience and talent pool, so I'd actually expect most 1st level interns would have to have armed escorts, or they'd be found defenestrated in the reflecting pool. Come to think of it, older politicians would have a lot to gain from keeping the experience level of the young whippersnappers down. A lot of time would have to be wasted pretending to be mid-level and invisible. I imagine a lot of points would go into sneak and disguise, so there would be a bunch of Rogues. Which actually might explain a few things about the successful ones . . .

Dav said...

I can imagine Bears and Bulls being the equivalent RPG of choice. Along with the 26 manuals, including the Chairman of the Federal Reserve Manual, the Corporate Reference Manual (vol. I, II, and III), the Great Depression Campaign World, etc.

Elections of the Era of Elusive Evil?

Ana Mardoll said...

Tales from a Time when Terror was Tardy
Elections of the Era of Elusive Evil?


Best. Thread. Ever.

chris the cynic said...

A question that naturally arises from the premise is how campaign contributions and lobbyists fit into all of this?

To a certain extent we can see some of the same things happening, it doesn't matter how good you are on foreign policy or how many monsters you've slain if you can't afford some air time, so there would still be some of the same expenditures. At the same time, it might be really helpful if your shady corporate overlords could loan you Excalibur for a while.

And what is a lobbyist? Is it just an ordinary representative of moneyed interests, or is it something more? Lobbyist are oh so willing to assist with the business of legislating, perhaps they'll do the same when that business includes quests. Perhaps the best lobbyists are level 99 whatevers who are ready to give you some help, outside of the public eye of course, when you need it most.

A lobbyist is being talked down to by a freshman lawmaker and has to explain, ever so menacingly, that he's slain more dragons than anyone currently holding elected office so perhaps it would be best not to underestimate him.

If he gets pissed off he'll deliver politician's opponent a Cthulhu head on a silver platter and let opponent take full credit.

-

Or, conversely, maybe manipulating elections is a crime punishable by death and there are not-evil beings who none the less find humans very tasty waiting by who would be quite happy to enforce that rule if you just give them the opportunity.

Or possibly somewhere in between. Though assuming a high level of corruption involving high powered lobbyists would probably make for more interesting stories.

Inquisitive Raven said...

I think the issue is that Disqus recognizes that it's supposed to be a web address, but if you don't specifically put in the "http://" at the beginning, it thinks that it's a supposed to point to a page on the current website.

chris the cynic said...

It's worth pointing out that there clearly two distinct worlds* that fit Will's original description.

One where things are relatively straightforward and lacking in systemic corruption. Yes, chaotic Evil is very corrupt, and Lawful Evil games the system, and chaotic anything plays fast and loose with the rules at best, and one could go on, but that's what they do. And of course there are going to be people pretending to be something they're not or stealing credit for the work of others, and whatnot, but for the most part things will work how a political system built on mixing adventure campaign and political campaign ought to ideally work.

And the other one is the one with shadowy corporate overlords and lots of seedy underbelly. Defenestration and lobbyists abound. Look at posts by Dav and myself above for some thoughts on that.

Both seem like they'd be very interesting settings.

-

* Ok, there are in fact lots of distinct worlds, possibly infinite in fact, but let's stick with the dichotomy for simplicity.

Ana Mardoll said...

* Ok, there are in fact lots of distinct worlds, possibly infinite in fact, but let's stick with the dichotomy for simplicity.

There are two kinds of people in the world: people who believe there are two kinds of people in the world, and people who don't.

chris the cynic said...

It occurs to me that maybe they are the same world but different countries. Maybe, for example, Canada has a functioning hero based political system while the US is mired in corruption.

Loquat said...

an orc being the first of her kind to move into a human city, getting caught up in local politics and ultimately in racial equality movements inspired by 1960s USA.

Dude! I have a story where orcs are an underclass in a human civilization inspired by mid-twentieth-century USA too!

Although I suspect our worlds diverge wildly after that point - my orcs are an underclass in no small part because their ancestors made a habit of periodically sweeping down upon the human lands in rampaging hordes, which worked out well for them right up until the humans developed sufficiently advanced guns, at which point the human army rampaged back and seriously considered outright exterminating the orcish race before deciding to just take those who surrendered to be semi-slave laborers. Plus my orcs are a couple of decades earlier than yours, looking at a major war and deciding to enlist in their country's army to prove their loyalty, much like Japanese-Americans who fought in Europe during WWII.

So yeah, go orcs!

To return to something resembling the current topic - my brain is now trying to rewrite Wag the Dog to fit into this adventure-based political system.

Steve Morrison said...

Come to think of it, is that picture a beaver at all? It looks quite a bit like an otter.

Ana Mardoll said...

I think you're probably right (City Girl here, so I can't be sure), but it was just so dang cute, and the other Google Image results for "beaver" were not..... very useful. And that was with Safe Search turned ON.

chris the cynic said...

You know, at some point I did notice that it was an otter but it didn't seem out of place because we were talking about Redwall at the time.

Laiima said...

I read the comments thru 9/14, and then didn't return until today, So many delightful images and ideas!

The stuff about the campaign trail-quest reminded me of Diana Wynne Jones' Dark Lord of Derkholm.

Kit Whitfield said...

Come to think of it, is that picture a beaver at all? It looks quite a bit like an otter.

It's a sea otter. :-)

Jckeeml said...

Ah, the Beavers have to eat marmalade roll because they can't eat Trees, and they've depopulated the trees?

Anon said...

necroposting to say that as I was reading through your deconstruction of TLTWATW, the "Robins are good birds" thing lept out at me as a "huh?" moment. The only real time Robins are mentioned in fairy tales I can recall offhand is the robins in babes in the woods - where the robins, at the end of the story, come and cover some corpses with leaves, a somewhat sinister and not exactly super awesomely helpful role.

I really enjoy the Narnia deconstruction, please keep up the good work!

Ana Mardoll said...

Thank you!

I don't think I've read that particular fairy tale story. I'm going to have to look for it now. Sounds fascinating. :)

Anton_Mates said...

(I was going to question how Lucy knew the robin was a "he", but then I seem to recall that particularly bright plumage generally falls to the males in bird species, so score one to both Lucy and Mr. Lewis there.

Actually, both sexes of European Robins have pretty much identical plumage. Lucy knew the robin was female because he wasn't inside a house doing chores.

Ursula L said...

As far as the children trusting strangers is concerned, perhaps they're trusting due to their circumstances? These are kids who have been sent to live with absolute strangers. And they're living with strangers in order to try to save their lives.

So it makes sense that they'd be trusting of strangers, because that's what they've been told to do. It also makes sense that they'd use race/nationality as a measure of trust - they've been sent to live with Good English Strangers because Bad German Strangers are dropping bombs on them.

They're also living in the middle of a war. So they might not think in terms of avoiding taking sides, because they're children who are already on one side in a war. Their safety lies in knowing what side they are on, not in trying to remain neutral. So they all focus on figuring out which side is "theirs" - not even which side they want to be "theirs" but rather which side their life has put them on.

Their lives demand that they trust strangers quickly and absolutely, while also recognizing others as deadly enemies. They aren't innocent children walking into Narnia, they are children who are wise in the ways of war, and who know bone-deep that war is something that children are involved in. They can't avoid being involved in WWII, fleeing bombs and living away from home, so they don't think about avoiding the Narnian war either, but rather accept it as something that they're part of.

Being neutral and waiting to learn more before deciding if you'll choose sides and if so, which side, doesn't often work for an individual caught up in a genuine war. Neither side will want you going back and forth, learning about them and then perhaps being in a position to give that advice to the other side. Either side may well assume "if you aren't with us, you're against us" and treat individual neutrality as suspect. The individual is likely to be "assigned" a side by the nature of the war - their nation, their ethnic group, their social class - and not welcome on the other side.

It would be interesting to compare how children living in war zones today react to TLTWATW, compared to children living in peaceful areas.

tomwest said...

I think it's Lewis's badly-repressed desires for a desert featuring foreign fruit and lots of sugar in a time of strict rationing...

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