Narnia: Good Kings, Bad Laws (and why Lawful Stupid isn't a valid alignment)

[Content Note: Physical Abuse, Slavery]

Narnia Recap: Peter, Susan, Lucy, and the Beavers are traveling to the place where they expect to find Aslan. Along the way they have seen proof that the Witch's spell is weakening, in the form of Father Christmas who supplied them with food and presents.

The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, Chapter 11: Aslan Is Nearer

Edmund fans will be disappointed to note that this is the last chapter in the book where Child!Edmund will be allowed a voice. Say your fond farewells now.*

   EDMUND MEANWHILE HAD BEEN HAVING a most disappointing time. When the dwarf had gone to get the sledge ready he expected that the Witch would start being nice to him, as she had been at their last meeting. But she said nothing at all. And when at last Edmund plucked up his courage to say, "Please, your Majesty, could I have some Turkish Delight? You -- you -- said -- " she answered, "Silence, fool!" Then she appeared to change her mind and said, as if to herself, "And yet it will not do to have the brat fainting on the way," and once more clapped her hands. Another dwarf appeared.
   "Bring the human creature food and drink," she said.

With Chapter 11, we'll be looking a little bit at how the White Which treats her minions, and the implications of such. By way of preview, I will note that she is cold and cruel to her minions, openly refers to them as slaves, and threatens them with death. It's possible she's under a lot of stress and isn't normally like this, but it seems pretty heavily implied to me in the text that her behavior isn't terribly atypical for a normal day in the Witch's household.

This sort of thing isn't unusual in literature, though it's admittedly a pet peeve of mine. There's an unfortunate implication that being "evil" means being evil all the time, to everyone, and frequently for no reason. The problem with being Stupid Evil, however, is that it's very hard to understand why the Stupid Evil dictator has any supporters whatsoever. (The other problem, of course, is the accidental implication that if a dictator is nice to some people sometimes, zie can't be that bad, right?)

Now, there are some ways around this. Maybe the dictator is so powerful that no one dares cross them, despite their always Stupid Evil policies. The problem here, though, is that this view tends to infantalize the minions to the point where, say, stabbing the evil dictator in their sleep or similar assassination methods just never occurs to them. Another way around this is to have the Always Chaotic Minions equally stupidly evil, to the point where they don't really mind being beaten at a moment's notice on a daily basis because they are ideologically devoted to the concept of Evil to the point where their own self-preservation instincts are over-ridden.

I was going to suggest that Lewis was going for the latter here, and was in the middle of typing "Wow, it's lucky that the Witch has all these Always Chaotic Evil races willing to mobilize for war on her behalf, because it's sure not her personality!" when I had a moment of doubt. Why does the Stupid Evil queen have all these people willing to lay down their lives on the battlefield against Aslan? I suppose if we go with the obvious Christian allegory, the answer would be that the Ghouls and Ogres and Werewolves all just hate Aslan so much that they're willing to join together against their own self-interest in order to battle the forces of good. And I'd reckon that's a valid interpretation of the book.

And yet, I've always had a sympathy towards the bad guys in the X-Men comics. The point has been made that the "bad guys" in X-Men tend to be the ones least able to blend in to human society. The only good guy in the main X-Men cast that doesn't look 100% normal is Cyclops with his visor, and the pretty sunglasses in the movie fixed that right up. You have to latch on to Beast in order to find someone who simply can't pass, and he's fortunate enough to have quite a lot of privilege attached to his government job (depending on which X-Men continuity is being followed). On the other side, quite a few of the bad guys in the X-Men 'verse are mutants who simply cannot pass and have zero privilege to protect themselves from discrimination. So while a lot of them say they hate humans, it's never completely clear if they'd feel the same way in a world where the humans would be willing to live in peace with them.

All of which is a VERY long way to say: Are the Witch's forces willing to fight on her side because they hate Aslan, or is it because the Ghouls and Ogres and Werewolves wouldn't have a safe place under an Aslanian regime? Is the Witch's abusive behavior to her minions suffered because her minions can't figure out how to safely turn on her, or is her bad behavior somehow better than what they might otherwise endure? (More likely the author didn't really think too hard about it. But by gum, if I want to read too much into the motivation behind Random Evil Minion #871, then I will.)

Anyway. A dwarf brings Edmund some dry bread and cold water.

   "Turkish Delight for the little Prince. Ha! Ha! Ha!"
   "Take it away," said Edmund sulkily. "I don't want dry bread." But the Witch suddenly turned on him with such a terrible expression on her face that he apologized and began to nibble at the bread, though it was so stale he could hardly get it down.
   "You may be glad enough of it before you taste bread again," said the Witch.

I couldn't work it into my huge ramble above, so this is as good a place as any to offer the theory that in addition (or possibly in contrast) to being Stupid Evil, it's entirely possible that the Witch and her minions are just doing it For The Evulz.

   And oh, how miserable he was! It didn’t look now as if the Witch intended to make him a King. All the things he had said to make himself believe that she was good and kind and that her side was really the right side sounded to him silly now. He would have given anything to meet the others at this moment -- even Peter! The only way to comfort himself now was to try to believe that the whole thing was a dream and that he might wake up at any moment. And as they went on, hour after hour, it did come to seem like a dream.

It's interesting that the Witch didn't want Edmund "fainting along the way", given that the text states that she fully intends to ride the entire way to the Stone Table (at which point she appears to intend to either kill Edmund or use him as a bargaining chip against the remaining three children). It seems like a fainting child would be just the thing here, considering that the faint won't kill him and it will keep him quiet and docile.

Of course, it wouldn't do for Edmund to faint because eventually the snow will thaw to the point where the sleigh can go no further and then everyone has to get out and walk -- but the Witch doesn't have a way to know this in advance and seems to be genuinely surprised and outraged when it happens. So I'm not sure where this fits on the Narnia clairvoyance scale, to be honest. I will say, however, that if you want to keep a child from fainting, you might want to supply a coat in addition to the crust of bread before you take him out in a several-hours-long sleigh ride in below-freezing weather.

   How Edmund hoped she was going to say something about breakfast! But she had stopped for quite a different reason. A little way off at the foot of a tree sat a merry party, a squirrel and his wife with their children and two satyrs and a dwarf and an old dog-fox, all on stools round a table. Edmund couldn't quite see what they were eating, but it smelled lovely and there seemed to be decorations of holly and he wasn't at all sure that he didn't see something like a plum pudding. [...]
   "F-F-F-Father Christmas," stammered the Fox. [...]
   Edmund saw the Witch bite her lips so that a drop of blood appeared on her white cheek. Then she raised her wand. "Oh, don't, don't, please don't," shouted Edmund, but even while he was shouting she had waved her wand and instantly where the merry party had been there were only statues of creatures (one with its stone fork fixed forever halfway to its stone mouth) seated round a stone table on which there were stone plates and a stone plum pudding.

And... unless I miss my count, those will be the last words said by Child!Edmund in this book.*

The narrator makes a point of saying outright that this is the first time in the story that Edmund has felt sorry for anyone other than himself. However, the narrator earlier didn't know how long Edmund stood staring at the stone lion in the Witch's courtyard, so if zie can't even keep track of measurable things like time, I'm not about to give zie a pass on knowing Edmund's innermost thoughts and feelings. Especially not when earlier in Chapter 9, Edmund passed a faun statue with a sad expression, and Edmund wondered if the statue had been Lucy's friend. Maybe he was wondering purely for information's sake, but the tenor of the passage sounded more like sympathy to me.

   Now they were steadily racing on again. And soon Edmund noticed that the snow which splashed against them as they rushed through it was much wetter than it had been all last night. At the same time he noticed that he was feeling much less cold. It was also becoming foggy. In fact every minute it grew foggier and warmer. And the sledge was not running nearly as well as it had been running up till now. [...]
   "It's no good, your Majesty," said the dwarf. "We can't sledge in this thaw."
   "Then we must walk," said the Witch.
   "We shall never overtake them walking," growled the dwarf. "Not with the start they've got."
   "Are you my councillor or my slave?" said the Witch. "Do as you're told. Tie the hands of the human creature behind it and keep hold of the end of the rope. And take your whip. And cut the harness of the reindeer; they'll find their own way home."

So. Edmund has been bound, placed on a forced march, and threatened with a whip. And just in case the gravity of the situation is lost on you, the narrative has a helpful little picture attached.

What strikes me about this passage and the context around it is how thoroughly it obscures Edmund, despite him being ostensibly the point of view character for the chapter. There are approximately three pages left in this chapter and two full pictures, and all the words and images remaining in the chapter will deal with flowers and spring and the Witch's reaction to them.

Lewis is frequently compared to Tolkien for various reasons, and it strikes me that Tolkien has a similar scene in his books where complex protagonists are captured by evil creatures and then bound and forced to journey towards their doom. The difference, to me, is striking: when Merry and Pippin are within the custody of the orcs, we feel sorry for them. We feel scared for them. We want them to be alright. I read that scene as a child with tears swimming in my eyes, barely able to slow down enough to read the page because if I could just keep flipping pages fast enough maybe everything would be alright.

You can feel sorry for Edmund here, but you're kind of doing so on your own dime. You're not being fed any descriptions of how Edmund feels, you don't get a sense of his fear, or his loneliness in captivity, or how very much he misses his mommy and wishes he could just go home. Sure, we had a quick throw-away line earlier about how he even missed Peter, but this framing only seemed to serve as a reminder that Peter was right and Edmund was wrong and now Edmund is righteously suffering for his sins. If the narrative drives home a point that Edmund is to be pitied and that no one deserves the treatment he is receiving, I don't see it. If the narrative makes the case that Edmund is a vulnerable 9-year-old boy who is suffering mightily in this strange, confusing, and violent world, I can't find it.

It's odd to me that Tolkien was able to evoke more pity from me regarding two adults adventuring in their own universe than Lewis has tried to work from me regarding a small child who has stumbled unwillingly into an unfamiliar wonderland. This passage should be a sad one that copes with Edmund's loss and fear and grief, not a treatise on flowers.

Maybe that would be too over-the-top when Lewis had a more subtle point to be made, I don't know. But I do know that in a very few chapters, Aslan will acknowledge that the Witch has a right to Edmund's life, has a literally God-Given Right to kill this boy.

Now, Aslan is going to do everything in his power to save Edmund. Aslan is going to offer himself willingly in exchange. But -- and this is a crucial point to me -- the Witch doesn't have to take the exchange. This isn't "The Hunger Games" where Katniss' sacrifice is automatically accepted because there are rules for that sort of thing. Jadis owns Edmund's life. Aslan confirms this is fact. She can choose to accept a substitute, but she can just as easily say, "No, I think I want to keep what was behind Door Number 1." She can choose to keep and kill Edmund, and Aslan will not do anything to stop her.

Flash back to Tolkien. What if Aragorn caught up with the orcs who held Merry and Pippin in custody and it turns out that the orcs had an old treaty saying that any hobbits who maliciously trespassed in their lands were theirs to kill? What if Aragorn's own ancestor had ratified the treaty, and Aragorn was ostensibly bound by that decision? Would readers accept an Aragorn who said well, crap, I guess that's that then, unless you'd rather take me instead?

No. They couldn't. They wouldn't. Or, to be more accurate, I couldn't and wouldn't. I loved Merry and Pippin and while they were quite clearly at war with the orcs with their whole "mission to destroy the ring" thing, they were on the side of good and the orcs were evil, and giving them up for death would have been wrong. An Aragorn that gave up characters whom I loved in favor of the legality of a centuries-old treaty in spite of the utter wrongness of that treaty and the devastating effect it would wreak on their lives and the quest at large would have been an Aragorn I wanted nothing to do with. A good king doesn't let evil win because of legalities. A good king doesn't let the innocent suffer because of an unjust law. A good king doesn't play roulette with the lives of the people he loves. A good king may be Lawful Good, but he is not Lawful Stupid and he doesn't uphold unjust laws that kill the people he cares about.

But Aslan does that. And in order for Aslan to be good, and in order for the Witch's claim on Edmund to be anything other than a complete wall-banger moment for the reader, it is vitally important that Edmund be characterized as little as possible. His internal sufferings with his bound hands and the whip at his back aren't obscured to protect the children; they're obscured to protect Aslan and the Emperor because the more you feel sorry for Edmund, the less thrilled you're going to be at his death sentence.

   "This is no thaw," said the dwarf, suddenly stopping. "This is Spring. What are we to do? Your winter has been destroyed, I tell you! This is Aslan's doing."
   "If either of you mentions that name again," said the Witch, "he shall instantly be killed."

* Edited to add: I was wrong; Child!Edmund has one line in Chapter 13 in which he says "I'm sorry" in the middle of a paragraph describing his reunion with his siblings.


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Rowen said...

One of the MANY MANY MANY problems I had with the Legends of Dune books that Brian Herbert "wrote" was the character of Erasmus. He's a robot that's been alive for thousands of years, yet is still baffled as to how humans "work" and spends most of his time inventing more and more cruel and unusual "tests" to put mankind through, just to see what makes us tick. You'd think after the first hundred he'd have learned "humans don't like being hit with sticks."

Samantha C said...

Hmmmm.....a Good King (or Queen) can certainly be put into situations where they have to weigh the life or safety of their nearest and dearest against the safety of the kingdom as a whole. I can think of dozens of scenes where the painful decision must be made. The real problem is it doesn't work against The Evulz. An Aslan should have no guarantee that a Jadis would stop where she promised to stop, no reason to believe that a sacrifice would be of any use.

A beloved noble from your country living in a neighboring one nearly starts an uprising; their king wants to kill him as a criminal, and your rescuing him would almost certainly provoke a war = difficult moral decision made with pain.

Eeevil creatures have captured your purest-of-heart people for no good reason = yeah, don't worry about legality.

mmy said...

@Rowen -- well yes, that was a problem with Erasmus. Actually Herbert the younger really didn't seem to "get" robots/computers at all.

@Ana: I got the sense when first reading the Narnia books that people needed to be stupid/evil/thoughtless/forgetful because Lewis was just moving around his cardboard cutouts on the page. When a plot requires that people be randomly stupid/evil then it is a bad plot

Will Wildman said...

*bids a fond farewell to Edmund's point of view*

An Aslan should have no guarantee that a Jadis would stop where she promised to stop, no reason to believe that a sacrifice would be of any use.

I got the impression that in Narnia the laws are enforced by the background magic itself, such that if Jadis killed Aslan and then Edmund too, she would make herself vulnerable to unspecified cosmic retribution. This still leaves further questions (like why the magic laws don't say anything about a century of sadistic dictatorship) but in the situation as given I think it makes sense.


From the book: "And cut the harness of the reindeer; they'll find their own way home."

This intrigues me. Why set them free? To prevent them from starving while trapped there stuck to the sledge? It implies Jadis doesn't intend to recover the sledge, or she would need them later, after she kills Edmund and drives off Aslan. She can't be worried that the Pevensies will find it and use it to catch up, since it's useless without the snow.

And which home will the reindeer return to? I was considering the possibility of murderously evil Reindeer, but there's no capital, so presumably these are not chatty Reindeer but regular reindeer with no particular history of strong moral principles. Does she expect them to go back to her House and wait to be useful again? I'd expect even simple reindeer to react to their sudden freedom from a merciless overlord and the onset of spring by dashing away into the woods for lunch and reindeer-related Fun Times. Have they been trained to return to her House if they're cut free? It's possible, but it would be a weirdly practical thing in the midst of the romantically-impractical land. Has she fed them conjured grasses that let her impose her will on them freely? Then why does she need the driver and the whip?

At the bare minimum, I feel like there's a missed opportunity here in which Jadis abandons the reindeer still strapped to the sledge and Edmund, once rescued, remembers and comes back to get them loose.

Thomas Keyton said...

I got the impression that in Narnia the laws are enforced by the background magic itself, such that if Jadis killed Aslan and then Edmund too, she would make herself vulnerable to unspecified cosmic retribution.

But why would the Emperor give a job to someone who destroyed her own world and whose first actions on entering Narnia were to attack Aslan and steal his fruit? It would make more sense, at least to me, if she were a more Satanic figure in that she was the first traitor against the Emperor, but she's not, and in any case Tash's existence in LB seems to imply that the position of Adversary is filled. Also, how much of a traitor does someone have to be for Jadis to legally kill hir? Would Jadis have had a right to Lucy's friend in VDT? And what happens if the betrayed party forgives the traitor? Or what if the traitor is someone like Snape? Or (spoilers for - I think it's the latest book in Wheel of Time but I gave up on that series after book ten went nowhere so I'm not good on details) fbzrbar yvxr Ireva, jub wbvarq gur Oynpx Nwnu vagraqvat sebz gur fgneg gb orgenl gur Qnex Bar. Or do the last two examples fall under the Tough Guide to Fantasyland clause of Heel Face Turns merely consisting of seeing the error of their ways rather than being real treachery? And why is treason the only crime meriting Jadis' personal attention? And how did she exercise her rights prior to now - did she visit every inhabited country like an evil Father Christmas? (Also, Mr Beaver will taunt Jadis later on with basing her claim to Narnia on being "the Emperor's hangman", but in Aslan's absence she's the only authorised agent of the Emperor present, so she seems to have something of a point.)

Ana Mardoll said...

And how did she exercise her rights prior to now - did she visit every inhabited country like an evil Father Christmas?

Does this mean she's basically Torquemada of the Spanish Inquisition? Only, of course, the people she executes are technically guilty of certain definitions of treason?

Kit Whitfield said...

The emphasis on rules rather reminds me of Piers Plowman ... which, now I look it up, it turns out Lewis was a fan of:

"What is truly exceptional about Langland is the kind, and the degree, of his poetic imagination," his "power of rendering imaginable what before was only intelligible."

Admittedly it's years since I've read it, but I found Piers a pretty cold and authoritarian text at the time - and I remember that when Christ harrows Hell, He talks a lot more about how the terms have been fulfilled and thus the Devil has no choice than he does about the condition of the damned. And scholars relate this to the 'devil's rights theory of atonement', which is part of medieval theology.

... and which I don't have time to look up properly. However, since Lewis was aggressively anti-modern, it could well be an influence.

Rowen said...

I also wondered why she ties him up. To stop him running away? Does this mean her magic isn't working anymore, cause it does during the fight scene later, and then Aslan is in his full leonine glory.

For some reason, I got the impression that she couldn't travel anywhere without some sort of entourage, and thus trussed Edmund up as a reindeer, since she let her own reindeer go. But, while that made sense when I was 8, it doesn't make sense now.

chris the cynic said...

Ryan from my NaNoWriMo book would tell you that no one can be evil all the time. Within everyone exists an unkillable spark of good which is annoyingly persistent in its need to be let out. If not their race, or their family or their country or their minions or a few select friends, well the pets are a surprisingly common outlet. Why do you think supervillains stroke their cats? Because the cats like being pet and the villains love their cats.

Clearly Jadis loves her reindeer. She may work them hard but she has obviously been kind to them at home to the point that home has positive associations in their minds and so they will return their of their own free will to wait for their loving mistress to return.

Bificommander said...

"He has not been here! He cannot have been here! How dare you -- but no. Say you have been lying and you shall even now be forgiven."

This sounds amazingly like a deal that Aslam!Jesus would offer here. "You displease me and are worthy of punishment. But cast your believes aside and agree with me and I will offer you forgiveness." The only difference in the story is that the queen wants them to reject a truth while Aslam!Jesus wants them to accept the truth. But that's a flimsy excuse, as in the real world it's a Christian's word against that of anyone else's. And it certainly isn't a good basis for a loving and kindly diety, that the only thing saving him from being the same as Satan is who he decides to punish.

The Stupid-Evil doesn't make that much sense. She was excessively nice to Edmund when they first met to lure him into a trap. So she's capable of it. I fail to understand why she's not trying pretend now. She didn't turn mean the second Edmund ate the fruit, so she couldn't have been that confident that the fruit would make him agree to everything. That should mean there's still a risk now Edmund will jump off the sled and get away if she makes him think he's in danger.

I also would like to comment on how this type of villain is just so much less creepy than any villain who's all smiling and polite and friendly while radiating an aura of malevolence (sort of what Nicky Alps was supposed to be, had he been written by a better author). The screeching villain incapable of any other emotion than blind disdain is just uninteresting. But I have little experience with how young children would view such a villain. There's a chance they might not 'get' it, or alternatively that they find hir too scary and make them afraid of everyone acting nice to them. Perhaps I'm giving the target age range for these books too little credits, but I just don't know this for certain.

depizan said...

Given that there are villains who pretend to be nice in folk and fairy tales, not to mention other kids' books, I think the target audience isn't the issue. I kind of lean toward Lewis viewing Evil as stupid, or lacking in self control. She could keep it together, sort of, to con Edmund into eating the enchanted food, but the moment she didn't absolutely have to fake it, she reverts to Stupid Evil.

But I am not a fan of this book, and never have been. Hapax might have more insight, or at least interesting things to say about it. (It really is interesting to read what a fan of something I don't care for sees in the work. Even if I don't necessarily agree. This blog and readership would make one awesome book group. And I don't usually like book groups.)

I have so many problems with this part of the story. I have trouble seeing Edmund as a real traitor, especially when you throw in the enchanted food. His actions once he gets to Jadis's place make no sense, unless he's acting under a compulsion of some kind. He seemed genuinely disturbed and frightened by her statue garden (and to believe that they were transformed people), and yet he trots in and tells her where his siblings are anyway. That doesn't strike me as a plausible non-enchanted action.

Then, even after she starts acting villainy, he still asks after the enchanted food. I'm sure Lewis was going for the whole whiny kid wants candy idea, but it reads to me more like junkie to dealer. "I stole the 6 Mercedes, can I have a fix now."

His complete submission to Jadis also reads as really weird to me, but that could just be because of how I was raised. Still, he goes along with someone who's acting fairly evil and he can only just barely get himself to notice this. He still thinks she might give him breakfast! Either he's still being mind controlled in some way or children of Lewis's time were creepily obedient to any and all adults.

Pthalo said...

Thomas, WOT got better with The Gathering Storm and Towers of Midnight in the hands of Brandon Sanderson working from the notes Robert Jordan had left behind. So it's worth giving it another shot, seeing as how you did make it all the way through book 10. Books 11 and 12 are great. Stuff starts happening, plot threads that have been going on for several books too many finally get tied together. And Book 13, coming out soon, will be the last.

As a child, I think I preferred "evil all the time villains" but only because I wished it worked that way in real life.

Kit Whitfield said...

I also wondered why she ties him up.

Call me low-minded, but Lewis is on record as a sadomasochist, and this is not the only time Jadis is associated with a whip or the only time we see a witch tying a male character up (see The Silver Chair). It's one of those things that tends to happen in his books.

Izzy said...

See, this actually would work in a different mythos.

Greek mythology (as far as I understand it)? Norse mythology? Hell, D&D? Sure. The gods may be good, but they're not OmniOmni--there are Greater Rules--and if anyone actually set up the universe, those people were kind of dicks. That's how it goes. Jadis gets anyone who commits a crime of Level X; Aslan isn't saying this is right, he's just saying that this is the way it is.

Problem is, this doesn't work with Christianity. And even if you take the Christianity out of it, I'm not sure it works with Magician's Nephew, where we see that he created the world and that Jadis is just a random alien chick who got lucky re: magic fruit. The whole "right to a kill"/"Emperor's hangman" thing here is sort of...dude, at what point did you decide that it was a good idea to give this woman a job?

...although I could sort of almost see it. Aslan/Emperor figures that it's a chance of redemption. Jadis has certain talents, no talent is completely bad, let's put her to work as My cosmic avenger chick and see if that helps matters. A little naive, but I could spin that.

Will Wildman said...

Clearly Jadis loves her reindeer. She may work them hard but she has obviously been kind to them at home to the point that home has positive associations in their minds and so they will return their of their own free will to wait for their loving mistress to return.

This is now my personal canon. Jadis may have killed her entire world, usurped rulership of a fantastical kingdom, crushed all dissent with her murderous secret police, invoked winter without end, and routinely abused as many people as she can, but if you mess with her reindeer then you are a lawn ornament.


I'm definitely of the opinion that villains who are too good at controlling themselves are acutely realistic and thus much scarier, at least assuming a certain type of childhood. (I don't know what it's like if you grow up in circumstances where there are actual constant threats from continually-abusive family or extremely dangerous neighbourhoods.) I would extrapolate that the villains who can control themselves aren't necessarily scary because they'll trick you (child) but because they'll be able to weasel out if you try to bring in other authorities (adults).

Rowen said...

Ugh. I . . .couldn't even make it that far. I got half way through Fires of Heaven before giving up in boredom. I made it a little further in Sword of Truth before having the same reaction.

Libby said...

I got as far as Pillars of Creation in Sword of Truth before I couldn't deal with any more of Richard the mighty Gary Stu saving the day (and the various forms of sexual violence visited upon him and his beloved). My sibling loved the books, so I read as far as I could to expand our shared vocabulary, but the plots of the first few books were tedious and repetitive to me, and Goodkind's books have at least as many issues as Twilight. Wizard's First Rule would have been a reasonably good (though triggeriffic) stand-alone novel. The author just added an extra dozen books after.

In Wheel of Time, I hit the wall with Crossroads of Twilight. Maybe I'll read the book summaries on Dragonmount and give the Sanderson books a try. In the beginning, before we ended up with scores of major and recurring secondary characters progressing roughly two miles per book, I really loved the series.


I feel like Edmund is tied up and given bread to drive home the idea that sin doesn't pay. (I also feel that Lewis doesn't give children enough credit, at least not in TLTWATW.) Edmund has to suffer for his betrayal. Since Lewis knows Aslan will take on his death sentence, Edmund's punishment has to happen beforehand. Otherwise, children might get the idea that sin means warm coats and free candy with no consequences to themselves. If we look on Edmund as being a fully culpable, bad little boy, then his rough treatment at the hands of the White Witch satisfies the human desire for retribution and justice, while Aslan gets to show forgiveness and grace.

Ana Mardoll said...

Call me low-minded, but Lewis is on record as a sadomasochist, and this is not the only time Jadis is associated with a whip or the only time we see a witch tying a male character up (see The Silver Chair). It's one of those things that tends to happen in his books.


Now I'm all interested. I googled this and found two seemingly-contradictory statements -- one where it seemed that Lewis was very pro-S&M play and one where it seemed he was very anti-S&M play and felt anguished over ever being pro in the first place.

This isn't really THAT contradictory, since in my experience, it's not uncommon for pro-S&M players to be internally conflicted because of societal disapproval, but since the second source seemed to hinge the anti-S&M as being related to Lewis' conversion, it seems contradictory because the first pro-S&M source was cloaked in Christian speech about idolatry.

(And it was *classic* Lewis in that it was basically, "here is the right way, here is the wrong way". He seemed to be saying that S&M play was great as long as a sense of humor was maintained, but if the sense of humor was lost, it was a slippery slope to idolatry. Which, first of all, what. And second of all, hi, Lewis, guess what? I know more about my sexuality than you do, and I think we can copy-paste that sentence for everyone else on earth while we're at it. LOL.)

Of course, now I'm going to waggle my finger and say that just because Twilight has S&M parts doesn't mean that S. Meyer is an S&M practitioner. So is the reverse true? That just because Lewis may have been an S&M practitioner doesn't mean it leaked into his works? I'm not sure; I just felt like being contrary for a moment.

I would love more information. I'm actually pretty surprised by this revelation because I consider "pro-S&M play" to be a pretty liberal position, so, um, yay for Lewis, I guess? Except for the whole "needing to make arbitrary rules about it so it'll tie into Christianity". Maybe it's a wash.

Ana Mardoll said...

Also, OMG we're talking about S&M play in a NARNIA DECONSTRUCTION. Not Twilight, where I expected that to happen. Narnia. Hello, Tuesday, you have caught my attention. If we don't hit 300 in this thread, it won't be from lack of interesting material.

Redwood Rhiadra said...

Back when I read, which had a lot of good discussions, someone in the S&M scene mentioned that there were a surprising number of conservative Christians practicing BDSM. Since a lot of S&M play doesn't involve direct sexual contact, they rationalized that they weren't violating their Christian beliefs.

Dav said...

Since a lot of S&M play doesn't involve direct sexual contact, they rationalized that they weren't violating their Christian beliefs.

Actually, I agree. BDSM isn't necessarily sex. Or about sex. Or sexual. (Okay, the last bit is pushing it, but I know at least one person for whom it is true.) Which is not to endorse not mentioning to your spouse that you spend Friday nights involved in sexually charged encounters, but still.

Given the incredible burdens placed on conservative Christians to be perfect and never to do or think anything sexual, and the emphasis on suffering and giving of one's identity, it surprises me not a whit that aspects of that get bound up in sexual turn-ons.

Is no one going to champion the idea of chaotic evil reindeer? Not even given that we know that the evilest creatures appear somewhat similar to real things, and reindeer, while not actually deer*, look sort of like them, thus leading people to false beliefs?

* Not deer in England or the lower 48 states, anyway, which is the same thing. Anglofauna FTW.

Ana Mardoll said...

Anglofauna FTW.

Dav, the only thing saving me from snorting milk out my nose was that I'd already finished my milk. Bonus points for staying within the world building.

And yet... Santa has reindeer too! And they freaking fly, which is very unusual for deer AND reindeer. So I have to think that Santa is evil. Q.E.D.

Rikalous said...

Capitalized Reindeer could be evil, and I would like to see them because, hey, there's no reason they wouldn't be but it would catch people by surprise. Uncapitalized reindeer are Always Neutral Hungry, just like all other nonsapient animals.

Now that I think about it, Reindeer probably are evil. After all, the entire reindeer community* ostracizes one of their number for having the wrong color nose. That's not something you find on the shiny end of the alignment spectrum. And Ana, Santa isn't evil, he's the King in Red** who forces the evil minions to work for the cause of good.

* Our records are very specific about this. It's all of them, not just kids (foals? fawns?) who haven't developed a conscience yet.

** The Filler of Stockings, the Lurker in Fireplaces, the Bringer of Gifts.

Dav said...

Santa has reindeer too! And they freaking fly, which is very unusual for deer AND reindeer.

That *is* a problem. (Why does Santa have reindeer again? Is that from one of the 150 traditions that got absorbed into Christmas, or is a Victorian made-up thing, or what? So. Weird.)

Maybe Santa is rehabilitating reindeer. The name "Blitzen" doesn't have the friendliest roots, and I can't be the only person who has negative connotations with the name "Donner". Maybe Santa runs an Aslan-approved work camp for tough cases. One night a year, he gets a chance to exhaust the reindeer as best he can, to prevent them from incredible evil the rest of the year. The presents and visits are just a convenient way to increase their workload - flying is hard, but take-off really sucks it out of you. I suspect after Christmas, most of the team spends a solid four months recovering.

Dav said...

Our minds are clearly similar, and thus awesome. Internet fistbump.

Ana Mardoll said...

Ahahaha. I am stealing Always Neutral Hungry so much. *steals*

hapax said...

"Six to eight black men, did you say?"

Rikalous said...

Thank you, hive sibling. The reindeer sleigh sounds Norse to me. Thor had a chariot driven by goats*, which could have mutated into a reindeer sleigh as easily as St. Nicholas becomes Santa Clause.

Ana, I am delighted to spread the meme.

*and Freya had one driven by cats, and Frey rides a boar. The eight-legged horse barely stands out.

Makabit said...

I'm not sure why Santa has reindeer. "Night Before Christmas" seems to be the earliest reference I can find, and that's from 1823, but it's an American poem, and it seems odd that an American would settle on reindeer unless there was an earlier tradition. Maybe it's just because they're northern critters, and it goes with the North Pole concept?

There's a Scandinavian tradition of something called the 'Yule Goat' that may or may not be connected to Thor flying around in a sled pulled by goats. And some pictures of Santa riding on a Yule Goat. So there may be some link in there.

Makabit said...

Six to eight black men! No more, no less!

God, I love that piece.

Pthalo said...

Parents give their kids little switches here too. They're usually about a foot long, and you don't actually hit the kids with it. It's just a joke. St. Mikulás (Santa) brings chocolates and little switches on December 6th, and the baby Jesus brings presents on Christmas Eve.

On Easter Monday, in the villages, the boys throw well water on the girls and the girls give them chocolate or money. It's worse here in the cities: the boys spray you with perfume in exchange for chocolate and or money. By the end of the day, you smell of 20 different types of perfume.

chris the cynic said...

I think a lot of our interpretation of Aslan's offer of a trade is going to depend in what kind of rules we're talking about. If we're talking about rules like the laws of physics, then I don't think we'd be too down on Aragorn for not breaking them.

If someone tries to shield another person from something with their own body we generally don't look down on them for saying to inertia (because inertia is usually the rule in play), "Take me instead," and if inertia says, "No, I think I'd rather not, I'm going to hit that person instead of letting you get in place to make the exchange," we don't declare them bad kings. We'd be foolish to. ("If you'd been a better king you would have said, "To hell with inertia," and either accelerated faster than physically possible so you could die in so-and-so's place or you would have simply refused to play by its rules entirely, you would have ordered, 'Imperial battleship, halt the flow of time!' and made it so no one had to die.")

Of course I'm getting the impression that in one of the books I have not read someone made the rules instead of having them be natural outgrowths of a universe that requires someone somewhere who embodies traitorousness have power over traitors. Of course that's still not necessarily a problem in the present if the law, once written, cannot be altered. Screwing up when you made the unbreakable rules doesn't necessarily mean you're a jerk for trying to do the best you can within them later on.


When I started writing this post I was convinced it would be about gravity, somehow it ended up being inertia.

Izzy said...

This isn't really THAT contradictory, since in my experience, it's not uncommon for pro-S&M players to be internally conflicted because of societal disapproval

This always surprises me: due to the Internet, I knew what a safeword was before I'd properly kissed a boy, and I went to a very liberal high school and college. S&M was...something you do on boring Fridays, and I remember actually being most annoyed at the people who thought it meant they were Dark and Misunderstood. "Pfft, every third sophomore owns a dog collar and a whip."

He seemed to be saying that S&M play was great as long as a sense of humor was maintained, but if the sense of humor was lost, it was a slippery slope to idolatry.

I don't know about idolatry, and I don't know about internal health, but, in fairness, I do have a hard time putting up with people who Take S&M Very Seriously. I have a hard time putting up with people who Take X Very Seriously, as a general thing, where X is anything they do for fun: there's a certain amount of seriousness involved in making sure everything goes right, but if you can't joke about it at the end of the day, you're kind of that guy everyone avoids at parties.

Kit Whitfield said...

This always surprises me

Varies from place to place, I guess, and certainly generation to generation. I wouldn't expect a man of Lewis's time and place to be entirely comfortable with it - enjoy it as a decadent pleasure, perhaps, but not see it as normal.

And with his comment on idolatry ... well, when you add it to his youthful fantasies, that does suggest that he felt a certain pull towards it. It sounds like the comment of an insider, in imagination at least, who understood the fascination.

Like I say, there's no reason why a kinky person can't write books for children. But on the issue of idolatry ... well, that's an important issue: sexuality and spirituality can combine in odd ways and get mistaken one for the other, and I sometimes feel Lewis needs to disentangle his more than he does.

Will Wildman said...

Kish - if that is the case (I don't remember either) then I would assume the difference is execution vs casualties of war: Edmund is a 'traitor' and so Jadis gets to off him however she likes, whereas taking out the Pevensies after Aslan is dead would be a matter of meeting them on an even battlefield. Sort of the difference between scoring a regular goal and getting to take a penalty shot.

Izzy said...

Oh, true. I was responding to the present-tense thing in general, rather than Lewis in specific.

Ana Mardoll said...

Steve, thank you for the link, and Kit, thank you for that wonderful breakdown. There's a post in there, I just know it, but I can't quite wrap my brain around it.

I will confess that the quoted portion made me uncomfortable. Not, I hope, because I'm uptight about BDSM, but more because I'm a little uncomfortable reading about a man's private fantasies to hurt (in -- I assume -- an appropriately consensual setting) a strange woman. This is possibly a "my kink is different" issue, though, since I rarely fantasize about real people, so maybe there's a disconnect there.

(Mandatory Twilight de-rail: is Edward/Jacob a source of powerful fantasy in part because they are fictional and therefore the fantasizer doesn't need to feel conflicted that they're fantasizing about a real person who might not appreciate being an object of fantasy?)

I do think there's an interesting point in there about how a strong appreciation of power dynamics can flow into multiple outlets, from being overpowered spiritually to overpowered physically to overpowered politically, even. (Not referring to Lewis, just thinking out loud now.) I think we see and acknowledge similar "theme leakage" in Twilight, so that resonates with me.

It comes to mind that a lot of the Bible, read through modern eyes at least, has to do with overpowering things and people in general. There *are* egalitarian relationships in there, but the more common go-tos are things like David and Bathsheba and Xerxes and Esther, in which cases we have very little information on the dynamics of their relationship because (imho) that wasn't the point the author was concerned with.

(And, seriously, you pastors out there need to stop pushing your interpretations on Bathsheba. Fanfic is all well and good, but you have to acknowledge that it's fanfic and not TOTAL TRUTHINESS that you got from the text somehow. Anyway, I'm biased: to me, the most interesting part of the story is that god's supposed punishment conveniently got rid of a would-have-been favored child whose paternity would have been in doubt.)

Where was I? Anyway, all that to say, that was fascinating, thank you, Kit. :)

Ana Mardoll said...

Oh! I know what I was going to say. :)

I don't like the "don't take it seriously" criticism in general because it's a little... I'm not sure. Tone argument-y?

I guess it's partly because *I* take things seriously. Look at me! I spend hours every week writing about Twilight! I need to lighten up and take it less seriously. Geez. :/

I also kind of take my own personal pleasure seriously. Too much information, probably, but there it is. :/

Plus it sort of smacks of "right way, wrong way, and coincidentally I know the right way!" and I dislike that a lot. Basically it boils down to the person being the Absolute Arbiter of whether or not Couple A is Taking It Too Seriously And Thus Idolatrous or Maintaining The Appropriate Level Of Humor. It's taking something completely subjective and trying to impose objective rules on it, I think. :(

Ana Mardoll said...

Sort of the difference between scoring a regular goal and getting to take a penalty shot.

Also, this made me laugh. What a perfect analogy.

Ana Mardoll said...

Also! (Wow. Quadruple post.) I have completely meaningless statistics! There are six instances of the word "whip" in the LWW:

"The sledge was a fine sight as it came sweeping toward Edmund with the bells jingling and the dwarf cracking his whip and the snow flying up on each side of it."

"Then he cried out “Merry Christmas! Long live the true King!” and cracked his whip, and he and the reindeer and the sledge and all were out of sight before anyone realized that they had started."

"“Are you my councillor or my slave?” said the Witch. “Do as you’re told. Tie the hands of the human creature behind it and keep hold of the end of the rope. And take your whip. And cut the harness of the reindeer; they’ll find their own way home.”"

"“Speak, vermin!” she said again. “Or do you want my dwarf to find you a tongue with his whip? What is the meaning of all this gluttony, this waste, this self-indulgence? Where did you get all these things?”"

"The sledge jerked, and skidded and kept on jolting as if it had struck against stones. And however the dwarf whipped the poor reindeer the sledge went slower and slower."

"He kept on slipping in the slush and mud and wet grass, and every time he slipped the dwarf gave him a curse and sometimes a flick with the whip. The Witch walked behind the dwarf and kept on saying, “Faster! Faster!”"

Now, you say, "Ana, why is that interesting?" and I say, "It is interesting because SANTA USES A WHIP TO COMMAND HIS REINDEER." That pretty much cinches it that Santa is evil.

(Can anyone with experience with teams of horses, dogs, etc. weigh in on this? I don't think a whip is strictly necessary to command animal teams, but I could be totally wrong.)

Izzy said...

Hey, I'd be the last person to call TMI on anything. ;)

I think, first of all, there's taking things seriously and taking things seriously. Like...okay, deconstruction is good. Putting effort into having fun is good. Crafting stuff is awesome. I work pretty hard on my games, my novels, and my sex life. But...then there's the guy who uses the term "travesty" about D&D 4E, or who can't let you listen to Ke$ha without going off on some rant about pop and how Autotune is the Antichrist, or who thinks that his encyclopedic knowledge of Vonnegut is a true and deep expression of his soul. Or, in this case, the girls I knew in college who thought liking to be whipped made them Phedre no Delaunay.

Or...Phedre no Delaunay. God.

There's taking things seriously in their own context, and then there's not having a sense of perspective. (Sense of humor is a little tougher, since there's the whole "oh you humorless feminists" BS, but...I do think it's useful to be able to see the funny, for things that are actually funny.)

Which all runs into the second part of this, which is the subjective/objective, inside/outside line. Because however seriously you take yourself is none of my business...until you corner me at a party and start talking about how nobody understands the dark inner mystery of your soul because mild bondage...or you start a fight over the math in the Harry Potter books, or whatever. At that point, I have a right to say "That guy? Takes X *waaaay* too seriously. I need about five more drinks if he's gonna stay here," or similar.

I mean, take stuff as seriously as generic-you want. The real problem comes when you start expecting other people to give it that much weight.

chris the cynic said...

My understanding is that the point of a whip when driving animals isn't to strike them, in fact you really don't want to do that, it's to scare the hell out of them when the whip breaks the sound barrier.

Santa is terrifying his deer with a sonic boom device, which is the intended purpose of the whip; the dwarf is being an idiot, and an actively harmful one at that.

I think Santa is doing a better job of evil overlord. The true overlord knows that where possible you want to rule by fear, not actual violence. Frightened reindeer will will obey your evil whims, wounded reindeer are going to be less than efficient.

The whip exists to break their minds, not their bodies.

hapax said...

No expert, but my understanding from an indepth study of historical romance novels [g] is that you use the "crack of the whip" (as Santa did) to command a team with sound (much as I teach my dogs to respond to hand claps and whistles)

To actually flick the team with the whip and use pain is considered Bad Form and the sign of poor training and lack of discipline on the part of the driver.

Ana Mardoll said...

I think that all makes sense because your framing is one of personal preference. As in, you need more drinks in order to deal with That Guy. That makes sense to me, it does.

I think the Lewis quote kind of rubbed me up the wrong way because it was paired with idolatry which is, in most contexts, something that is meant to be taken seriously.

So it was less "if you don't keep a sense of humor about BDSM then I don't want to talk to you at a party" and more "if you don't keep a sense of humor about BDSM then you are committing a grave and serious error that may have major consequences down the road". Well, um, okay. Thanks for the heads-up.

Yea, indeed, I could get all meta and say that taking "a sense of humor about BDSM" as a subject so seriously as to start flinging around terms like "idolatry" is the kind of seriousness for which I will need five more drinks before I can listen. ;)

chris the cynic said...

I have nothing of substance to add but I wanted to say that I love the Yeats references.

hapax said...

The whip exists to break their minds, not their bodies

Umm. /looks at the current pooch snoozing on her pillow/. And when I clap my hands twice, to indicate "time to go in the crate now!" ?

Rowen said...

I've come across WAY too many people who use Kushiel's Dart as a guidebook. I never really like it when things I like get picked up by people I don't like. . .^_^

Ana Mardoll said...

Perhaps you think this is too charitable an interpretation. Perhaps you think it makes him even worse. :-)

I at least think it makes it more interesting. I like the proposed divide between loving/angry god. And yet... hmm.

I'm really sorry we generally don't have more surviving religious documents from under-privileged groups like women and slaves. There's a certain amount of conflation in my mind with "things are bad" and "things are bad FOR US" where the ruling party (and therefore most likely to write stuff that will be preserved) is backlashing against a perceived threat that may be less of a REAL threat and more of a "threat" to their existing power.

(Completely rambling at this point, and not really on Lewis anymore, I'll admit.)

I do think we tend to see more sympathetic, loving gods from legitimately under-privileged groups. The Queen of Heaven -- what we know about her -- seems to have been worshiped as a powerful figure, yes, but a powerfully protective figure. Other goddesses, like Hera, represent this divide -- the surviving myths about her show her as a strong, imposing, terrible figure who frequently hurts and kills her husband's mistresses, children, and victims, but she seems to have been hugely popular with women as a group as a protective figure. Oddly (*snerk*) those myths haven't survived in the same way the "nagging shrew wife" myths have survived.

So I rather think that under-privileged groups can and do still worship loving and protective gods, even if some others gravitate towards harsh and powerful ones. And I additionally have something of a hard time splicing "harsh and powerful protector" from "harsh and powerful abuser" in some of these theologies.

And, of course, in Twilight. ;)

Ana Mardoll said...

Re: Sound. Ok. Makes sense. But... our dog trainer used soft clicks and whistles. Dogs, at least, have pretty sensitive ears and don't need loud whips. Maybe reindeer are different.

Still, it's *Santa*. Aren't the reindeer supposed to be nominally intelligent? VALUES DISSONANCE.

chris the cynic said...

Pretty sure that's different for a couple of reasons. In terms of the general physics of the situation, I'm pretty sure you're not producing sonic booms. That's a relatively minor different though.

The big thing is that my understanding that the entire point of a whip is that it functions on fear. The sound scares the animals. (Not because they think they'll be whipped, but just because it's a scary sound for certain quadrupeds.) If Santa's reindeer are trained that, "Whip crack means [whatever]," that training originated on a basis of, "This scares you and I want you to react with fear," and then worked its way into a more mundane command after many, many times of the response being one of fear.

Unless you trained your dog to go to the crate by frightening it into the crate repeatedly and the clapping is a reminder of that experience (and indeed the thing that originally produced the fear in the first place) I don't think that's the same thing.

Rowen said...

I could be misremembering things, but doesn't Hera get a fairly positive light in regards to Jason?

Ana Mardoll said...

Maybe there's a difference between reindeer and dogs. Modern dog training is -- if I understand correctly -- predicated on the belief that fear-as-a-motivation is a very poor substitute for praise-and-rewards-as-a-motivation. But dogs are smart and reindeer possibly...are not?

Izzy said...

My mind? *Blown*. ;)

But yeah. It's hard for me to take the word "idolatry" seriously in just about any context, actually--I could make exceptions for some OWS-style points about devotion to money--so that doesn't help either. It just seems so quaint, like the bits in Victorian YA about the Dangers of Sensational Novels or the Horrors of Slang or whatever.

I think the Lewis quote kind of rubbed me up the wrong way because it was paired with idolatry which is, in most contexts, something that is meant to be taken seriously.

So it was less "if you don't keep a sense of humor about BDSM then I don't want to talk to you at a party" and more "if you don't keep a sense of humor about BDSM then you are committing a grave and serious error that may have major consequences down the road". Well, um, okay. Thanks for the heads-up.

Yeah, I can see that bugging. I mean, I think keeping a sense of humor about life in general is a good idea--sex has its mishaps, and it helps to be able to see the funny side of same--but the emphasis on BDSM in particular could definitely be grating. Especially as Lewis probably meant something different by "major consequences" than"the risk that you turn into that guy who's all about being a dom and slinks around in non-matching blacks and $40 wristcuffs trying to go all Master of Darkness at every damn woman in the room".

Ana Mardoll said...

I believe she does. (Now that I think on it, I feel that the Jason myth is one of the few where the gods aren't picking sides or otherwise bickering with each other.)

She's also on the side of the Greeks in the Trojan war, but since the whole thing started because Paris picked Aphrodite over the other goddesses, she sort of had to be for narrative reasons.

chris the cynic said...

That depends whose side you take.

Also it's worth mentioning that the myth of Jason is all kinds of messed up in terms of our understanding of it. We know that it was pre Homeric but our best surviving records are very, very post Homeric. As near as I can tell from my completely amateur in no-way peer reviewed looking at things the story originally seems to have ended when they got home without the whole downer, downer, major downer, and off to Athens for some more downers ending. If that was indeed the case then I'm going to say possibly yes.

Hera manipulated the hell out of Medea for the benefit of Jason but given that Medea was both foreign and female I don't think the audience at the time would have a problem with that. If it ends with them happily together then you don't have feelings of, "What the Hell Hera? How could you not see that pairing these two would destroy four cities and leave everyone miserable?"

So, for a given value of positive, and for a given value of Jason, yeah, I think she probably does come off as positive regarding Jason.

hapax said...

I'm really sorry we generally don't have more surviving religious documents from under-privileged groups like women and slaves.

There's good work being done on the cults devoted to particular saints. See the devotion to St. Uncumber / Wilgefortis / Kummernis, e.g. It's certainly the most common way to read the book of Revalation.

Generalizing ENORMOUSLY to the point of deserving having my keyboard taken away, I'd say that these were groups interested in a powerful supernatural protector, not necessarily universally ethical or loving but sympathetic and protective of the oppressed group; the power was not necessarily exercised in Hulk!God SMASH ways, but more often through subversion and trickery.

I could go on at length tying this to the tenets of Liberation Theology and God's preferential treatment of the poor and similar modern doctrines, but must really dash now.

Interesting conversation!

Ana Mardoll said...

I always found it interesting that it's Hera that manipulates Medea, not Aphrodite. Maybe it's the confines of the narrative (perhaps they didn't have Aphrodite when the tale was first written), but it's interesting to me because Aphrodite is the goddess of love, and Hera is goddess of marriage and family.

There's an impression created that Medea isn't betraying her family for sexy fun-times; rather, she's been divinely guided into a NEW "family" to protect. It lends a certain legitimacy to her actions that I wonder if it was intended or not....

The fact that Medea is betrayed in the end is also interesting with her conflation of Hera. Hera is, of course, famously cheated on and equally famously murders her husband's (usually innocent) lovers. One wonders if some Medea-fanficing-poet thought that perhaps a parallel could be made and went with it.

If so, it would be interesting to see how a detail that might have been added to absolve Medea of responsibility for betrayal and murder could later be used to tack on a brand new tale of... betrayal and murder. Ha, the Greeks! :D

Rowen said...

Interestingly, and this is a big case of telephone, according to the website Timeless Myths (I have no idea how that website is regarded in terms of research), Apollodous and Apollonius of Rhodes said that Medea was eventually married to Achilles in the Elysian Fields.

chris the cynic said...

Someone somewhere added the argument that the reason Hera didn't step in when Jason was utterly destroyed was that he turned his back on his marriage, and Hera, being the goddess of marriage, ditched him for that. I don't know if there's an explanation for why she didn't step in to stop the happily married couple from being re-exiled in the first place.

Theo said...

This time I'm pretty much with hapax in my reading of the scene. Edmund kind of makes sense if you read him as being scared senseless as well as feebly hanging on to the promise of his fix. Actually, I think depizan's comment:

I'm sure Lewis was going for the whole whiny kid wants candy idea, but it reads to me more like junkie to dealer, "I stole the 6 Mercedes, can I have a fix now."

is kind of fitting. Both Lewis and Tolkien tended to sometimes portray evil as a kind of addiction, getting you more and more desperate for ever-diminishing returns (the most obvious example being Gollum).

Re Lewis and sadism: regardless of how closely or not this related to his sexual orientation, I think there's a minor but obvious sadistic streak in his books, of a rather immature, schoolboy-ish character. To me, the most obvious expressions of this aren't the occasional whips and bindings, but the serial (and, at least supposedly, comic) humiliations heaped on some characters in various scenes - Eustace in VDT, Rabadash (and to some extent the Vizier) in THAHB, Weston in [i]Out of the Silent Planets[/i] and particularly Uncle Andrew for much of the second half of TMN. These scenes, of course, aren't overtly sexualised and there's no reason at all to think Lewis consciously thought of them as such - it should be noted that the victims of these humiliation congas are always male. Lewis, if the idea had occurred to him (as it probably might, given his recorded fantasies as mentioned above) would probably have balked at the idea of writing a scene where a female character is comically hurt and humiliated (not only would it seem unchivalrous in itself, but the sexual subtext would also presumably have been conscious and obvious to himself). The closest we get to anything like that IIRC is Aravis getting lightly mauled by Aslan in THAHB, and that bit isn't played for laughs at all.

Rowen said...

Going back a bit, this talk of Lawful stupid and such reminds me of a few DnD games I played in college.

In one, everyone was instructed to play an evil character. Half the team thought about this and realized they couldn't really pull it off, so they played chaotic neutral. I tried playing a chaotic evil cleric, but . . . really couldn't. Once you get past doing it for the lulz, and you give the character a background, it gets harder to justify that this person really is "evil" even if every now and then you steal from babies or something. Either that or you have to play someone who. . .well, doesn't interact well with others, and it's VERY hard to do that in a game designed around a team.

In the other, we were playing in a low magic setting, and most of the team chose to play bards and sorcerers and stuff that would, in most circumstances, get their characters in a lot of trouble among the locals. *someone* had just joined and decided to play a paladin from a wealthy family, so grew up on stories of magic casters=demons in bags of flesh. This derailed the game for a while as the rest of the party had to convince said paladin that they were NOT denizens of the underworld in need of a good smiting. For some reason, said paladin got a reputation for being Lawful Stupid. . .

Pthalo said...

im thinking...and this is muddled migrainey thinking and i should be in bed but it's only 7pm and i dont want to go to bed so early...but i'm thinking that one of the children has to be kidnapped by the white witch for the adds tension and stuff. and it has to be one of the smaller two, because if it were one of the older two they'd be old enough to fend for themselves. and if it were lucy, she'd be a damsel in distress. she would've been kidnapped by tumnus and everyone would have had to go after her (so they would have had to have known about narnia by that point and they didn't). susan also would've been a damsel in distress, but an older one. and i must say it's better this isn't a damsel in distress story. so what if it had been peter? well, peter's nearly grown, he's somewhat of a father figure, as susan is the mother figure. it's true edmund went off on his own but he couldn't 'elp it what with the magical food no more'n Lucy could've 'elped it with the tea which made at her drowsy at Tumnus' place.

what i mean is, Susan and Peter would've had to rescue themselves, I think, whereas Edmund and Lucy are little enough that they need rescuing. and I guess I don't like to think what the story would've been like if it'd been Lucy. More offensive, I think.

Steve Morrison said...

Lewis may not have known that! In MN, when Frank’s horse Strawberry receives the gift of intelligence from Aslan on the first day of Narnia, he recollects that Frank “used to tie a horrid black thing behind me and then hit me to make me run, and however far I ran this black thing would always be coming rattle-rattle behind me.”

chris the cynic said...

I always found it interesting that it's Hera that manipulates Medea, not Aphrodite. Maybe it's the confines of the narrative (perhaps they didn't have Aphrodite when the tale was first written), but it's interesting to me because Aphrodite is the goddess of love, and Hera is goddess of marriage and family.

It occurred to me about halfway through my hour long walk home* that in Euripides Jason credits Aphrodite. Medea points out that she's been doing all the work (she killed the dragon, she killed her brother, she killed Jason's uncle, she ) and he owes her. He responds that if he owes anyone it's Aphrodite. (Well, as I recall he didn't use her name, but the goddess from Cyprus is Aphrodite.)

I'm not going to pull out my copy to double check right now, but I'm pretty sure that was how it happened in Euripides' Medea, of course in that play the entire thing we're talking about is in flashback since they're already exiled and Jason has already come up with his brilliant plan. [Note that the plan was in no way brilliant.]


*Damn it brain, this is when you're supposed to be coming up with NaNoWriMo stuff.

Thomas Keyton said...

Thanks for the recommendation.

Thomas Keyton said...

the Bringer of Gifts.

Holy crap, Santa is Annatar?

Ana Mardoll said...

I realize the Witch is the bad guy, but I have to think that in a world of Horses and Reindeer, there would be a very different mood regarding the treatment of horses and reindeer.

For instance, even though the unintelligent races exist for nomming on, I have to think it would be in very poor taste for, say, the royal family to wear fur. Thoughts?

depizan said...

The one time I played in an evil campaign, most of us (myself included) decided that evil pretty much amounted to supremely selfish. This worked reasonably well, since it meant that the characters could be a team... as long as there was something in it for them. Which, in D&D, there generally is.

Right now, I'm playing in a game with two Lawful Good (but not Lawful Stupid) characters, a Chaotic Good character, and a Chaotic... either Good or Neutral, not sure, character. So far, this is working better than you might think. Though planning can be a bit interesting.

Your paladin game sounds more like a case of the paladin's player actually taking the setting into consideration and *gasp* roleplaying.

Ana Mardoll said...

Would be interesting to know if that was a RetCon or an Unreliable Narrator.

I find it ironic when heroes credit the gods, because in many cases they don't actually seem to KNOW who their benefactor is.

Thomas Keyton said...

Medea was eventually married to Achilles in the Elysian Fields.

My Robert Graves book of Greek myths says the same thing (but without the citations).

chris the cynic said...

It's definitely hard to be sure. In the play all you've got is the claims people make so it's hard to be sure about anything.

For example, the only reason that I feel comfortable taking Medea's word that she killed the dragon is that Jason doesn't say, "Hang on a minute, I killed the dragon." When Jason credits Aphrodite there's no one around who could plausibly correct him if he's wrong, so there's no reason to take the lack of refutation as a sign he was right.

depizan said...

For instance, even though the unintelligent races exist for nomming on, I have to think it would be in very poor taste for, say, the royal family to wear fur.

Unless there's some visible difference between fur from a mink and fur from a Mink.

I must say that having both sapient and non-sapient versions of all animals makes for a world that is far more complicated than Lewis seems to realize, or at least than he deals with in the books. How would a Horse feel about people riding horses? How would a Rabbit feel about people eating rabbits? We humans are, depending on our culture, put off by people eating apes and monkeys, presumably because they're close evolutionary relatives. On the other hand, we humans have a long history of deeming other humans to be non-sapient or at least inferior and doing all kinds of horrible things to them.

Ana Mardoll said...

I do not understand this pairing. o.O

Rowen said...

We had a lot of players who didn't always take stock of what was going on around them . . The highlight was a game where we were tracking werewolves who were terrorizing a town and in the middle of the night, and in the middle of the forest, the druid goes "Guys, don't freak out!" and changed into a wolf in front of the team, which we didn't know he could do.

Rikalous said...

Based on the scene in Silver Chair where our heroes find out they're eating Deer, I think the idea of wearing Mink fur would be so shocking that wearing mink would be fine. After all, a stranger's leather jacket might be made from human hide, but we assume it isn't unless we already know we're living in a slasher movie. Suggesting that the royal family wears Mink fur would probably be far more rude than wearing mink.

Rikalous said...

In the story I got the titles from, "Santa" is an Eldritch Thing using the power of all the children wishing for Santa to show up to try and manifest in our universe. Our hero realizes that the children also expect Santa to leave after eating the cookies and filling the stocking, so he uses a stocking and some party leftovers to banish the Thing.

The Laundry series rocks like that.

Dav said...

I tend to think the "eating that animal is gross" has a lot to do with what you're used to. Plenty of animals eat close evolutionary relatives, or each other. Plenty of cultures find other cultures' foods revolting, usually because it's not considered food in the host culture. Food preferences are strongly learned.

I would expect, for Lewis, to see Good Animals reacting with approval to animals being used in traditional ways. That is, a good Horse understands its place in the world, yadda yadda. Evil Reindeer rebel against the traditional use of reindeer as jerky, but that's just because they don't respect authority of the jerky-makers.

That's . . . not very satisfying, though. I think a lot would depend on how much contact the speaking animals and the non-speaking animals had. If a Horse had, essentially, a pet cat that hung out with him in the barn and sat on his back and hunted mice in his grain, he might feel more strongly about their treatment, much as I do. He might care nothing for wild non-sentient voles or something.

Which makes me wonder about the talking Animals. And plants, I guess - aren't there talking trees? What about slime molds? Cholera? With a big enough colony of bacteria, I can imagine your cheese piping up one day to address you. Which sort of puts the end to any food porn enjoyment. (How many Yeasts died to make that bread?)

Rikalous said...

That's the advantage of having a fairly loving deity uplifting things, instead of intelligence just randomly appearing. Aslan doesn't make Bacteria because there isn't really a way for the Animals and Plants to tell Bacteria from bacteria.

Loquat said...

To add to Rikalous's point, I vaguely recall a scene from The Last Battle where the last king of Narnia sees a team of horses being beaten and ordered to work harder by some human or dwarf master, and his initial reaction is pretty much "ok, that sucks, but I don't really have the right to step in here" - and then the horses start complaining back, which means they're actually Horses, and the king FLIPS OUT.

Mind you, the king's human. It's unclear how much time he's actually spent with Animals in his life.

hapax said...

Well, Aslan didn't uplift *mice*, either, until they "proved their worth" (or some other stupid rationale, it's never made explicit), which made me so darn mad as a kid (and now!).

But once they were turned into Mice, they also grew into the size of rabbits. Theoretically, Aslan could
have done the same for some saccharomyces that, I dunno, gave the Witch a bad yeast infection (ewwww), and then have them grow to the size of doorknobs, so people could keep the distinction straight, and not accidentally bake with them.

But, still, eeeeewwwww.


Loquat said...

WRT how humans would feel about non-sapient humans - I think it's a safe assumption that if some demonstrably less intelligent hominid species had survived, their status would range from "slave" to "worker who gets all the crappiest hard labor". Whether we'd also be comfortable with letting aliens or talking animals eat them is another question - I can imagine it being a hot-button issue like abortion.

But not in Narnia, of course. Lewis does like his fictional characters comfortable and obedient to authority. That pretty much rules out the existence of hotly debated social issues right there.

Steph said...

Am I the only one who found the image of one of the partygoers frozen "with its stone fork fixed forever halfway to its stone mouth" sort of hilarious? I realize it's supposed to be all sad and mournful, but all I could think of was that it means that someone was cheerfully shoveling in the plum pudding the whole time Jadis was threatening them.

(I'm pretty sure I've never commented here before, so let me take a moment to say how much I love these deconstructions! I've been reading over the whole series again thanks to them.)

Makabit said...

Just in relation to the idea of an element of sexual fantasy in the Narnia books, I recall a scene in Shadowlands, where someone is trying to read the fur coats in the wardrobe into a sort of vaginal/birthing image, and Lewis is telling them they're getting way too involved in dissecting a children's book.

chris the cynic said...

I suppose that there could be some rationale. Medea has a habit of killing members of her family to get her way, much of the Iliad has Achilles sitting on the sidelines while his own people are killed at his request so his boss will feel really bad about being a jerk to him and stealing the woman that he had rightfully kidnapped.

Medea kills her own family, Achilles prays to his mother that his own people will be killed. There's a similarity there.

Achilles has the killing done on a much, much larger scale, but Medea actually does it herself instead of having her mom get Zeus to do the hard work for her.

Ana Mardoll said...

Theoretically, Aslan could have done the same for some saccharomyces that, I dunno, gave the Witch a bad yeast infection.

I'm a terrible person, I know, but I laughed. :D

Steph! Hi! Welcome! LURKER HUGS!

Re: Animals and animals... I suspect it would be REALLY complicated. Look how much differently we, Real World Humans, view animals and animal rights both in terms of different cultures and in terms of broad individual spectrum. And some humans are moral vegetarians, and others are not.

I do think it's a shame we don't see any Horses campaigning passionately for horses' right to not be used as beasts of burden, labor, and war mounts. Being a war mount horse would, I think be SO much worse than being a war mount Horse who could -- presumably -- agree with the conflict (or be a paid mercenary) and additionally wouldn't be FREAKING TERRIFIED during the OMG WHISKEY TANGO FOXTROT battle.

My thoughts, anyway.

Ana Mardoll said...

This has an element of sense, but... am I the only one who sees Medea as a "thinker" and Achilles as, uh, not so much? No accounting for tastes, I guess. :)

Makabit said...

Regarding the Judgement of Paris: One of my students commented that he would have chosen Athena, because he figured that if he was wise, he could probably get a hot girl to like him on his own merits, preferably one who wasn't already married to some other guy.

Ana Mardoll said...

To be fair, though, isn't there an indication in the text that he doesn't know he's getting a married woman? :) Just... the hawtest one evah? (I've even heard of one adaptation where Paris thought he was getting Aphrodite herself.)

I always thought that was kind of bait-and-switch of her... :/

Makabit said...

True, it's not clear that Paris realizes there's anything to the offer except "hottest girl in the world'.

Giggles said...

'I have trouble seeing Edmund as a real traitor, especially when you throw in the enchanted food. His actions once he gets to Jadis's place make no sense, unless he's acting under a compulsion of some kind. He seemed genuinely disturbed and frightened by her statue garden (and to believe that they were transformed people), and yet he trots in and tells her where his siblings are anyway. That doesn't strike me as a plausible non-enchanted action.'

The only thing I could think of, after re-reading Narnia in the light of Harry Potter was the Imperious Curse or a love potion. Harry wouldn't consider Ron a traitor if Ron was Imperio'd into serving Voldemort. To use an example from the books, Voldemort's mum uses a love potion to get his dad to be in a relationship with her. I haven't met anybody who thinks that wasn't wrong. I get that it's supposed to be Satan tempting people with his offers but there's a difference between tempting and drugging and manipulating.

Silver Adept said...

I'm only dropping into the thread because people have mentioned the contexts of BDSM and Christianity without mentioning the practice, joke/satire or no, of Christian Domestic Discipline. Google at your own risk, but suffice to say, it is one possible reconciliationthat makes BDSM practice work under the auspices of the Scriptures.

Makabit said...

Actually, the whole "Christian BDSM" thing ran through my mind earlier, as I wondered if that could be one direction that might make Lewis warn of idolatry. If you lose the sense of 'fun', ie, that this is something you do with your partner for fun, and stray in the direction of imagining that you are disciplining your spouse on God's behalf, or as God's representative, you're getting into the deep waters of confusing your sexuality with God's will, and ultimately, in some way, yourself with God.

Of course, Lewis never saw that weird webpage, but I can still easily see him having a conversation with someone that might make him worry about where that could lead.

chris the cynic said...

Not a chance in hell. The student should take a look at the threats Aphrodite made to Helen. If you cross Aphrodite you're not going to get the girl, or the boy, ever. He'd have the wisdom to know that celibacy was the best course of action from here on out.

Though, Greece being as it was, there would be ways to get around the fact that every woman on earth would find him sexually repulsive. I hope, for the good of humanity, that your student wouldn't actually consider making use of any such options.

It's also worth considering that the wisdom Athena granted would be less than that had by Athena herself who couldn't even figure out the right bribe to offer.

Also, Paris was just offered the most beautiful woman in the world, for all she knew she was from America. (Example picked to point out that she could have been from somewhere he didn't even know existed.)


On a completely different subject, the movie Mission Impossible is on. I have decided that I would have preferred if Emilio Estevez's character, Jack, had been the one to survive instead of Tom Cruise's character, Ethan.

Rowen said...

When I was very young, I read a book by Asimov where he postulated that in a beauty contest where one of the contestants is the goddess of beauty, that the other two don't have a chance.

Ursula L said...

On Easter Monday, in the villages, the boys throw well water on the girls and the girls give them chocolate or money. It's worse here in the cities: the boys spray you with perfume in exchange for chocolate and or money. By the end of the day, you smell of 20 different types of perfume.

Dyngus Day!

I didn't know of this holiday until I moved to Buffalo. Here, people spray each other with water from squirt guns, hit each other with pussywillow branches, and drink a lot.

Izzy said...

Heh, yeah. Or, indeed, Hera: odds are, if you're the most powerful dude ever, you can get a whole bunch of women. Chicks, I hear, Dig That. Or some of us do.

But also what everyone above said re: Aphrodite.

hapax said...

Give it up for Aphrodite
Yes, she's fickle and she's flighty
But in her see-through nightie
She's good enough for me!

depizan said...

I get that it's supposed to be Satan tempting people with his offers but there's a difference between tempting and drugging and manipulating.

A world of difference, indeed. Enchanting people to be traitors is cheating. Though really, Jadis creating traitors to punish is all kinds of messed up anyway - police aren't allowed to go and open brothels so that they can arrest people for soliciting prostitution. Throwing in magic just makes it worse.

Giggles said...

'Jadis creating traitors to punish is all kinds of messed up anyway'

Talk about job security.

Also, that would just ruin the christian themes of the book. If Edmund is mind controlled by magic sweets then he doesn't really need Aslan to die for him and he doesn't need to repent.

Can you tell I'm an atheist?

chris the cynic said...

Can you tell I'm an atheist?

No. Well, I mean I can now that you've asked the question. But before you said it your post read perfectly Christian to me. Of course it also read perfectly Pagan to me. Perfectly Jewish as well. Nothing screamed out nonbeliever. Not that anything cried out, "Not-non believer," either. Nothing came across as believing, disbelieving, or being agnostic. It seemed very non-specific as to what you believed or didn't believe.

If I had had to guess I would have leaned towards you being a Christian simply because you felt yourself qualified to speak to what would and would not ruin the Christian themes.

Maybe I shouldn't single you out, I frequently see people saying something that in no way indicates they are a part of group X followed by, "Can you tell I'm a member of group X?" I really fail to get it. Sure, now that people have been given an indication, via the question, they can tell, but giving that nothing in the preceding even hinted at the affiliation, where does the question come from?

I'm never sure whether I'm supposed to say, "Yes, I can absolutely tell, it's so obvious," or, "No, I had no idea, you really do a good job hiding it and blending in with non-Xians." Regardless, since you asked, it's the second. Based on your post I would say that, if you didn't ask, "Can you tell I'm an atheist?" the answer would be no. Not a bit. If someone were inclined to think you were a theist nothing you have said other than that question would tip them off. If someone had no inclinations there would be nothing to tip them in any direction whatsoever. I can't tell, I'd be suspicious of anyone claiming that they could.

If you'd said, "Can you tell I'm a Catholic?" I don't think anyone would have found that any more or less appropriate an end to your post.

Dav said...

Oh, hapax, how delightful. I do like the idea of doorknob-sized fungus. What, do you think, Santa would bring Mrs. Yeast for Christmas?

My bet is on a fondu set.

Ana Mardoll said...

Elevator Guy? He was my favorite character! I agree that it was a tragedy that he died. Didn't remember that was Estevez, though...

M Saito said...

Ow. My brain. Caribou. Deer. Reindeer... not deer? Howahbuzah?

Dav said...

Mostly I was just being silly. But colloquially, a deer - the Platonic idea of a deer - in the US is usually a white-tailed deer. Since Lewis made a whole thing earlier in the book about the evilest creatures looking or pretending to be human, I was going on the theory that the same holds for deer: if something is close to the idea of a deer, and makes you think of a deer, but isn't really a deer, it must be evil. Since reindeer are similar to what most English speakers think of as deer, but different, they're evil.

On a totally unrelated note, sleep deprivation makes you think that you're much cleverer and clearer than you actually are.

Ana Mardoll said...

If the reverse is true, I've been sleep deprived my entire life. o.O

Layla said...

That was the way I read Edmund as well, when I was a child - scared to death that the Witch is starting to look like A Very Bad Person, and trying to prove to himself that his suspicions are wrong. As in: She said she'd give me Turkish Delight, so I'll remind her of it, and she'll give it to me , proving that she's really the nice, friendly lady I met in the forest, not the evil woman the Beavers and Lucy claim she is. Which of course she fails to do.

My first post! Because I love Edmund, and realized this was my last opportunity to comment on a scene with Edmund dialogue.

Kit Whitfield said...

I recall a scene in Shadowlands, where someone is trying to read the fur coats in the wardrobe into a sort of vaginal/birthing image, and Lewis is telling them they're getting way too involved in dissecting a children's book.

We probably all are, by that logic. But to my mind it's genre snobbery to say that because a book is for children it merits a lesser degree of analysis or can only bear a lighter load of symbolic resonance than a book for adult - and rather scornful of children to boot.

chris the cynic said...

Yes, Elevator guy.

I didn't remember who played him either. Then when I saw it last night my reaction was basically: "Hey, wait. Is that ..." *Looks up* "It is, I don't think I ever knew that before."

Ana Mardoll said...

@Layla, welcome! Lurker hugs! I like that idea, that Edmund is giving the Witch opportunities to be nice again. Sort of a proactive thing, I think.

@Kit, that's more charitable than my initial response which was largely a musing that he was probably squicked by the discussion of ladybits. I need to stop being so cynical.

I kind of like the wardrobe-birthing-image symbolism, whether it was intentional or not. I presume Lewis actually set it up that way because he wanted something vaguely "door-ish" and because fur coats were needed so the children don't freeze to death. But I still like the birthing symbolism.

And now I'm sad that no Rabbit crosses their path in the beginning and calls them "Murderers!" for wearing fur. Ha.

@chris, that death affected me more strongly than, say, Tom Cruise's would have by the end of the film. I don't know why, I just thought Elevator Guy was a really awesome character and potentially very intriguing. What a waste. :(

chris the cynic said...

It's somewhat surprising how fast a character can jump out as awesome and intriguing. It's somewhat depressing how often it seems to be a character who is killed off pretty quickly.

Ana Mardoll said...

Maybe there's a Conservation of Awesome for characters. Someone REALLY awesome has to be killed immediately because otherwise the awesome would collapse into a singularity...?

Silver Adept said...

@Kit Whitfield

It's not just you who considers such things to be genre snobbery. On my end of the publishing spectrum, there's a lot of side-eyes and sometimes overt flak that I hear/read/have to deal with when it comes to making excellent recommendations for books - both of the "well, they're books for kids/teens" and on the other side of "Well, my kid's not ready for this/that subject matter shouldn't be in those kinds of books." I have a fairly good patter down for dealing with those kinds of things, but there are times that I want to reach across the counter and drive someone's head into the nearest Immovable Object to see if that will allow the idea to sink in.

Or, we can let several prominent authors say how much respect and care picture books deserve, and by extension, works for children. They do it better, anyway.

Kit Whitfield said...

@Silver Adept - what a great manifesto! Thanks for pointing it out.

As an adult who reads to her child, and as a lover of art: that'll preach.

Pthalo said...

Probably a lot of immigrants from eastern europe in Buffalo then. :) something similar is done in Poland as well.

Rikalous said...

There have been six books published in the Dresden Files after the Great Dinosaur Moment. The guy who controlled the zombie T. Rex with a one-man polka band suit is still alive. Your argument is invalid.

Or maybe it's a matter of comparative awesome? So in a world where the Tinkerbellesque fairies kill things with box cutters, you can get away with a lot before you need to die.

Ana Mardoll said...

LOL. Well, my opinions on the Dresden franchise (based on the first book and a half) are notoriously controversial, so I can't speak to any zombie T-Rex guys. :D

Ana Mardoll said...

Heh. I like to think I'd be all "very interesting, do go on," but who can say.

I'm reminded of Hitchhiker fans figuring out that "what do you get if you multiple 6 by 9" does indeed equal 42 in Base 13 and Douglas Adams explaining "I don't write jokes in Base 13". It was all quite droll. :D

Steve Morrison said...

You may have just explained the origin of Bunnicula!

chris the cynic said...

Cat: "It says to drive a sharp stake through its heart. How do we know if the stake is sharp?"
Dog: "We could taste it."

Or something like that, it's been years. I just know that a cat was trying to kill a bunny by pressing a piece of meat into its chest, which would have to be the most adorable attempted murder of all time.

Steve Morrison said...

Lewis would have agreed with you here (gasp!) – see e.g. what he wrote in his essay On Juvenile Tastes. I wonder how authentic that quote from Shadowlands really is.

Syfr0 said...

Buffalo is *very* Polish.

[[waves to Ursula L]]

Kish said...

Chester: It says to pound a sharp steak through the vampire's heart. A sharp steak?
Harold: I'll taste it and tell you if it's sharp. (Background here: Harold has never understood or been terribly sympathetic to Chester's desire to kill the vampire rabbit, who harmlessly drains the juice from vegetables; Chester has been somewhere between convinced that the rabbit had a more nefarious agenda, and simply motivated by a belief that killing the vampire is What Is Done. Harold has, however, been very interested in the steak ever since Chester got it out.)
Chester: Never mind, this will do. It's sirloin.

(Although the rabbit is inert during the daytime, Chester finds he quite lacks the strength to pound a sirloin steak through his chest. Then the humans find out their cat has dragged their planned dinner out and gotten it all dirty; Chester gets locked out of the house for the rest of the night, and Harold gets the steak after all.)

vega said...

Re: Animal training, horses and whips- it is a common misconception that whips are used mainly to inflict pain or terror on an animal. Someone already pointed out how counterproductive it is to actually injure a horse in the name of "discipline." Similarly, it's in nobody's interest to cause a horse to be terrified- a terrified horse is an out-of-control horse, and an out-of-control horse is a threat to the life and limb of everyone present, including the horse. In fact, far more effort in training goes to keeping the horse from reacting with fear. Horses are prey animals, and their first instinct when confronted with a surprising stimulus is to bolt, which, again, is dangerous.

However, when training, we need to be able to use the horse's natural reactions in a controlled way. It's bad for the horse to actually fear the whip, but one of the horse's most basic, immediate reactions is always going to be, "Move away from sudden movement/sharp sound." And "move away" is an incredibly important concept to be able to communicate when working with any large animal. The whip isn't a punishment, but an aid in communication.

To demonstrate- a few videos of ground training:
You can't always see the lunge whip at the beginning, but that gives an idea of the context in which it's used.
Contains a good example of desensitizing a horse to the whip in order to reduce fear.

On the subject of BDSM- my primary reaction to seeing it in practice has generally been on the order of, "God, not one of you knows how to use a riding crop properly." Having grown up seeing leather and whips in practical, every day use kind of takes a bit of the edge off the shock value, I think.

Did Lewis ride? I wonder how he treated his horses... you can tell a lot about someone by seeing how a horse they've been training acts with them.

Sailorsaturumon132000 said...

Well, here we see Lewis depart from source material. While Snow Queen was nat GOOD to Kay (she promised him hew shoes if he makes the word "eternity" from ice crystals, but enchanted them so this was impossible), she certainly was NICE. The white Witch shows her true colors the moment she no longer needs deceiving.
This is another idea by Lewis, namely that niceness is only a badly sitting mask for evilness. Now some comments.
First, Lawful Stupid is NOT an alignment - it is a bad playstyle. However, we don't know whether this was juat some stupid law or a deep reason. Aslan cites "Deep Magic", so it is very well possible that saving Edmund would have very dire consequences for everybody - we just aren't told. This ties nicely to idea that Devil has power over bad people. Note for example, that LOTR has similar laws - one CANNOT use The Ring for good, just to name an example.
> And yet, I've always had a sympathy towards the bad guys in the X-Men comics. The point has been made that > the "bad guys" in X-Men tend to be the ones least able to blend in to human society.
Except, of course, their leaders. Magneto looks exactly like human, if he wouldn't use his abilities no one could tel the difference. Mystique can attain any for, which means she can also blend in perfectly. Same for Jane Grey /Phoenix. So while the grunts may really be outracised, the leaders could easily blend in and live among humans - but CHOSE to oppose everybody, including human-friendly mutants.
> ...Tolkien was able to evoke more pity from me regarding two adults adventuring in their own universe...
Um. no. Merri and Pippin are adolescent by Hobbit standarts, even though their age is adult for human. And of course their size means they are treated as children from the narrative and others. And since this is trgheir first time outside Shire, and their only guilt is NOT wanting to leave Frodo alone (the opposite of treason) they DO deserve more pity.
> If the narrative drives home a point that Edmund is to be pitied and that no one deserves the treatment he is
> receiving, I don't see it.
No, the narrative drives the point home that EVERYBODY who betrays his siblings (and the right cause) will deservedly suffer. The whole point with the law is PRECISELY this: Edmund does deserve to die, by the law, but also by Lewis' standards (which is why Narnia having such a law in the first place didn't sound absurd to Lewis). Any sparing of his life is a Clemency. This clemency can only be granted by Aslan, and once he grants this, he has Deeper Magic to override Deep magic. In this case, this works by an offer which the White Witch cannot actually refuse (even though she should).

Rikalous said...

A note about Magneto: while he can pass for mundane easily, he's a Holocaust survivor who's understandably less than thrilled about the idea of having to stay in the closet to avoid persecution while he watches his people be discriminated against. The degree to which he's a sympathetic extremist versus a bigoted terrorist as bad as those he hates depends on who's writing him at the moment.

Oh, and Toad ran one incarnation of the brotherhood*, so the leaders don't always look more normal than the grunts.

* After the movie came out and people realized that toad powers weren't any more laughable than, say, Spiderman's powers.

Rowen said...

You know what happens when a toad gets struck by lightening . . .?

hf said...

You've almost got it. But you're giving the Emperor too much credit (it really does just want to eat worlds). When Jadis ate the fruit, the sign at the garden entrance promised that she would "find her heart's desire and find despair." That was the deal.

Her heart's desire was to kill Aslan. This explains what she thought was happening when he offered his life for Edmund's. She must have figured he had no choice about dying. In her eyes he wanted to try and salvage something from his death, or at least make it look like a noble failure rather than a purely stupid and greedy one.

She obtained her hangman job (whatever that means) in the same way. Quite probably she thought she could hide the dream of killing Aslan within a larger mental picture that included killing a lot of other people. If the Emperor or whatever telepathic force controlled the garden didn't look to closely at her request, it might agree to the deal without realizing what that meant for its brain-eating agent.

Lewis, of course, wants to portray Jadis as motivated solely by power. He says that as soon as she heard Aslan's voice she wanted more than anything else to stop the singing. But it seems like he wants us to take this as hatred of any power she doesn't share, rather than a natural if Reaver-ish resistance to mind-control. So Lewis likely meant us to see her getting (a share of) the Emperor's power as her real desire, and killing Aslan as a side-goal or corollary. If I wanted to justify the plot I'd add something about her lacking the ability to imagine the Emperor's true power and thus asking for something smaller.

On a related note, Thomas Keyton said Jadis "destroyed her own world". This is true in the sense that she killed everyone else there. But the world of Charn was dying already. I've speculated before that her stasis spell delayed the digestion of that world by the Emperor. This really does seem like the meaning Lewis intended or one close to it*, though instead of "digestion" he'd probably say she kept her home from its 'natural Destiny,' or 'place within the Balance.' According to this theory, everyone she killed may have been about to die anyway.

*I think the second time I saw that line about the trees drinking the water that represents the life and warmth of the worlds, my child-self thought, "Wait, does this mean we can just cut them down?"

Kit Whitfield said...

That's extremely interesting, vega!

chris the cynic said...

Wait. Wait, wait, wait. Wait.

She wants to kill Aslan so she keeps him out for a hundred years? How does that work? (The only way I can see is if she thought Narnia was the only source of food, and thus he'd starve.)

In one of my stories Nick Andes (the Antichrist) is constantly frustrated that he has to wait seven long years for God to come into range. Now part of this has do do with the fact that while God is out Nick's range the Earth isn't out of range of God's artillery (which is what the Tribulation, as defined in the books of Tim Lahaye, is all about) but part of it is that he doesn't have to wait, in this too a big part of it is Left Behind theology related (think about all those kidnapped children) but another part of it is that he has a visceral hatred of God and would rather not wait to act on it.

If Jadis wants Aslan dead shouldn't she be, you know, trying to get him in the same place as she is? It would be one thing if she'd been spending the last hundred years trying to set up her Aslan trap, but I'm not seeing any evidence that she ever made preparations.

Sailorsaturumon132000 said...

True Magneto does have a reason to oppose the anti-mutant laws, that's still a more a choice and not direct pressure. On the other hand Wolverine isn't exactly easy to mistake for human. And basically, ALL mutants working for Xavier come out of the closet, which is especially hard for those who were previously mistaken for humans, as opposed to "mutant, and proud of it" attitude.
Regarding Narnia Laws - we do have something similar in LOTR with sparing Gollum. Bilbo spared him, and later the elves spared him and that's how he was able to stalk the Fellowship. And yet, Gandalf repeatedly notes it was a right thing to do - and it indeed is.
A more close example is the Ring. Denethor suggests using against Sauron would be more rational, but Gandalf rebusffs him by pointing out this is magically impossible - the Ring is only for evil. Similarly it's impossible to move the Ring overseas. The point of this is that whenever magic is involved, it can have strange, but irrevocable laws, and "any traitor's life is forfeit and Jadis has right to kill him/her" is one of them.

hf said...

Yeah, that definitely requires explanation.

Jadis does research the prophecies and look for ways to exploit them. In fact, when you put all this together with the fact that she wanted to grab all four of the prophesied humans instead of just killing one -- even though she would supposedly die if and only if they all sat on 'their' thrones -- it seems like she was willing to offer Aslan her own life in exchange. She would keep the four imprisoned close to her, perhaps petrified, so that in order for the prophecy to happen Aslan would need to come to her. Then she could "find despair" and let him arrange her death if necessary, just so long as she got to kill the accursed mind flayer.

But it also seems like she thought Aslan might wriggle out of it somehow (which he did, in spirit). Reading ahead, I see she thought he might just leave as soon as he realized he could die. (That at least seems like the only explanation that gives Jadis credit for rational thought.) And she gets upset when he asks her to explain the Deep Magic, like she fears for a moment that she might have overestimated his family's Lawful-ness. It seems like after the first century or two of Aslan's absence, she resigned herself to merely keeping the coward far away.

hf said...

As for why she doesn't try to reach Aslan in the Emperor-world, I think we have to say she fears the Emperor's effect on her. Last time she went there it made her sick and almost incapable of movement. She visited twice that we know of, and the second time seemed worse than the first. I speculated that this effect stemmed from the effort of resisting mind control. Her other presumed contact with the Emperor or its tree-offspring, when she ate the fruit, turned her face permanently white.

So while she'd risk her life to kill Aslan (and that part counts as canon), she understandably won't give the Emperor another chance to steal her mind.

depizan said...

My take on the Ring is that it is evil. It is repeatedly talked about - as far as I remember - as if it has a will of it's own. That's a little different from unexplained irrevocable laws.

I'd have to reread The Lion, The Witch, And The Wardrobe, but I found the whole "traitors' lives are forfeit, Jadis gets to kill them...but somehow someone can take their place" thing very bizarre the two times I've read it. It's like there's parts of the equation missing, both in terms of exactly what's going on magically (what would happen if the old magic was disobeyed, why in hell does a replacement work) and in terms of how people view the thing (I don't remember people treating it as nearly as fucked up as it seems, but I could be misremembering).

WingedBeast said...

It's from Sinterklaas, which has Norse origins stemming from a personification of Odin.

Rikalous said...

Wolverine's very easy to mistake for a mundane. All he has to do is keep his claws retracted and not get shot and he's golden. He's spent more time passing than most mutants have been alive.

While X-Men continuity is tangled and I'm not up on the most recent developments, I thought that the X-Men operated under secret identities, hence the code names.

The sparing Gollum thing is interesting for the contrasts that develop. Tolkien's "the right thing, not the smart thing" was letting someone live. Lewis, on the other hand, seems to be saying that the right thing was for someone to be punished. There was some leeway concerning who got punished, but the punishment needed to occur.

Mime_Paradox said...

Nope: the X-Men have been out for a good long while now, ever since Grant Morrison took over the book in 2001 and altered the paradigm to "mutants as a subculture" with things like mutant neighborhoods, mutant movies and mutant fashions, and designed them on the whole to be much harder to blend in. It's been one of the few things from his run that have stuck, and has been expanded to adaptations and such.

Curiously enough, one of the recent developments has been a schism between the world's remaining mutant population, with Wolverine attempting to follow the whole "educate them to be an example in a world that hates and fears them", while Cyclops takes the remaining mutants and attempts to shape them into a proactive pro-mutant pseudo-military force, a la The Brotherhood. Incidentally, Magneto is part of that latter team.

chris the cynic said...

My memory from Lord of the Rings (and it has been a long time since I read them) was that there were two different reasons they couldn't use the Ring. The second was that anyone with the power to break the Ring free of its present state would be turned evil by using that power.

Frodo and Aragorn can't use the Ring against Sauron because the Ring is evil and it likes Sauron.

Gandalf and Galadriel can use the Ring against Sauron because they have the power to fundamentally alter the Ring to the point that it likes them instead of Sauron. In their case the problem isn't the Ring, it's the power. If they used that much power (and it would take a lot to alter the Ring in that way) the process (not the Ring) would corrupt them and turn them evil.

That's my memory, the Ring is evil for reasons that go back to it's creation and influence it's current state of mind, but that's not what stops the really powerful magic people because they can get around that. What stops them is that the level of power needed to get around that literally corrupts, and they can't get around that. The Ring would still be evil, but it would only be evil because it would be devoted to them, and they would be evil.

There was an unexplained irrevocable law, as I recall, and it was that if you use too much power, even with the intent to do good, you will be turned evil in the process. Breaking the Ring free of the forces that made it evil is something firmly in the "too much power" department. Now the Ring would be connected to you, and you (through no fault of the Ring) would be evil, so the Ring would remain evil.


Mime_Paradox wrote: Incidentally, Magneto is part of that latter team.

Of course he is.

If he were part of the former team, the "educate them to be an example in a world that hates and fears them" that would be interesting. Can't have that.

Of course I don't have a lot of grounds to complain as I generally don't read comics anyway.

Ana Mardoll said...

My 20 cents (adjusted for inflation), is that the Ring/Deep Magic parallel really only sort of proves my point.

There is something rotten in the state of Narnia that 9-year-old "traitors" (and what is Edmund's act of betrayal again?) are put to death. Ultimately it doesn't matter if Jadis has dominion over "traitors" because of the Emperor's fiat or because of the Deep Magic, because the Emperor is -- in my mind -- responsible for the Deep Magic being the way it is. So essentially, if the Ring is evil because Sauron is evil, so too we can say that the Deep Magic is evil because the Emperor is evil. In each case, you know their evil by the fruits of their creations.

Re: X-Men, I'm sad to hear that the writers have insisted on them being "out". I'm reminded of well-intentioned, but ultimately privileged allies who insist that all gays should be outed because it's only when they're out that they can show they don't eat babies for lunch. The thing is, a lot of people have good reasons to stay closeted, and no one should make that choice for them. Even more so in the case of mutants, who risk being killed not just out of prejudice but also because they are potentially "dangerous". (Here I'm thinking that Armageddon Man -- the powers of Armageddon! -- would face being killed by well-intentioned extremists not wanting to have Armageddon occur. Or whatever.)

However, again, the point that the leaders can largely pass is really immaterial. My point was that Obviously Different people -- like Toad in X-Men and like Werewolves and Ghouls in Narnia -- tend to be on the side of "evil". This is partly because authors and moviemakers like to dehumanize the bad guys so they can be killed with impunity, but in text we have to acknowledge that perhaps their lives under Evil Regime #507 are happier, healthier, and marginally safer than they would be under Aslan-Approved Rulership or the human world equivalent.

Ana Mardoll said...

Also, I do like that Gollum was brought up. If anyone deserves death, it's he -- he murdered his best friend for the ring only a short time after the OTHER guy acquired it. I'm pretty sure the Ring doesn't worth *that* fast, although the books are never fully clear on how it can arrange things. But regardless, Gollum is a murderer under far less direct mind control than Edmund.

Tolkien's morality compels him to keep Gollum alive, and in the end Gollum saves the day in the most unlikely manner. Lewis' morality compels him to have Edmund put to death so that Aslan can step in and take the bullet for him. They're two very different philosophies, and it really only works because Aslan is cheating (he knows he won't stay dead).

art for anatomists said...

"And when at last Edmund plucked up his courage to say, Please, your Majesty, could I have some Turkish Delight? You -- you -- said -- " she answered, "Silence, fool!"

Sorry if someone else pointed this out already, I just noticed that the White Witch can break her promise to Edmund without any magical consequences but still earns the right to kill him. So in this deal with the devil he's held liable for the small print which he never got to read even if the other side breaks the contract?

depizan said...

Huh. Hadn't even noticed that. Isn't getting the devil to break zir side of the deal the way people usually get out of contracts with the devil?

chris the cynic said...

The impression I have is that her right to him has nothing to do with the fact that she made a deal with him. It has to do with the fact that he is, under deep magic reckoning, a traitor and she has the right to traitors.

If he had made no deal, but Narnia-traitorifed himself anyway (say told mean people who would do bad things to his siblings where to find the siblings just for the hell of it) the White Witch would still have power of Edmund's life and death.

If he'd broken his deal with her and said, "Screw it, I'm telling everyone about the White Witch and I'm not telling her anything more or doing anything more for her," then she wouldn't have the right to his life even though he broke the deal. Breach of contract isn't the same as being a traitor.

The White Witch and Edmund are on opposite sides, even if Edmund doesn't realize it, so they can do all manner of things to each other without becoming traitors. (Of course, given that she is the one who has power of traitors, presumably she can betray people all she wants without fear of repercussion. She'll just choose not to execute her right to kill herself.)

depizan said...

Isn't it a bit of a problem to be a traitor by making a deal with someone you don't know is on the other side? (Never mind the mind control.) And that's beside the question Gelliebean brings up: how is it that Edmund is the first traitor ever?

There's just so much about the entire Edmund is a traitor, and must be killed, except Aslan can totally take his place situation that seems both ill-thought-out (or not explained) and does not match my own ethics at all. I can't accept magic that requires a mind controlled nine year old boy who clearly didn't want anyone dead to die for being a traitor as anything but evil. Or, at best, lawful neutral. Good people should fight such things, not obey them.

chris the cynic said...

There certainly is a problem. That is, I think, probably why Lewis has Edmund realizing deep down that the Witch is evil. I don't think that this helps at all. On the surface Edmund's not-on-our-side senses were apparently ringing at the sound of Aslan's name so I don't see his deep down senses being very helpful.

My point was that the Witch going back on her word really has nothing to do with her having claim to Edmund because it wasn't the deal they made that gave her that claim. It was what he did as a result of the deal, yes, but if he'd done the same thing without a deal she'd still have claim because the deal itself wasn't what mattered.

I don't think that Aslan being able to trade places is really that problematic. The Witch has some sort of magical claim over the lives of traitors, this in itself is problematic as is the way traitor is defined, but I don't think anything implies that she has to kill them. If she wanted to she could presumably let Edmund live. The trade simply means that she can also renounce her claim. For all we know she does that frequently. "Well I could kill your sibling Mr. Aardvark, but if you swear fealty to me I'll renounce my claim on sibling's life."

Unless there's something that specifically says that she can only renounce the claim in return for another life. In that case one has to wonder why no one has made the offer before. I don't mean in a, "Then I shall rise again and all will be perfect. I can't lose!" kind of way. I mean in a, "Please, I don't want X to die. I beg you your majesty, take me instead," kind of way. (It could be that Aslan is the only person she thought was worth the trade.)

The problematic part is that:
1 She has this power over traitors why again?
2 Edmund is a traitor? Really?

We also have no sense of consequences. If the Deep Magic is going to kill everyone who tries to keep Edmund from her unless she renounces her claim then that's probably a pretty good reason to offer an exchange. Otherwise your entire army just died without putting up a fight when you tried to stop it.

If the Deep Magic is going to say, "5 yard penalty to the Aslan side," not so much.

And then there's returning to point 1 above, why is it this way? Was the Deep Magic something fundamental to the nature of reality such that even being all powerful doesn't give you the ability to change it because that's literally impossible and thus not a real power and thus not one of the powers included in the all powerful package? Was it something that seemed like a good idea at the time and can't be changed now that it has proven incredibly stupid? Was this honestly how it was intended to work by the theoretical good guy?

Whatever the answer will determine a lot of whether the Aslan side is good or ... not.


By the way, completely unrelated, I keep on thinking it would have been neat if they'd had humans in addition to the Humans.

Thomas Keyton said...

If I remember correctly, Xavier was only outed as a mutant when the ghost of his evil psychic twin he killed in the womb possessed him in Grant Morrison's run on the title. (And in any case, mutants like Colossus, Iceman, or Nightcrawler, whose appearances as X-Men were phenomenally different from their civilian looks, weren't exactly out in the earlier stories either). And the earliest X-Men costumes featured cowls, so again, they weren't that interested in being publicly out as mutants for quite some time.

Also, magic may follow "strange, but irrevocable laws", but when the setting posits an omnipotent Emperor who by implication wrote those laws, we're left with a strange but irrevocable Emperor, which when presented with laws like this, move him a little closer to Cthulhu.

Ana Mardoll said...

I really want to say something, but I have nothing except a resounding THIS to this post.

I think a lot of the controversy over Narnia is that this world building (ex. Deep Magic consequences) isn't done in text and it's up to the reader to bring it on over. So you've got some people saying the Emperor is evil for setting it all up this way and other people saying that the Emperor never had a choice.

For instance, can Jadis really choose to spare traitors entirely? I wasn't getting that in text, and now I honestly don't know.

And we still don't know if it's a traitor-against-Narnia thing (in which case, you gave the job to an enemy of Narnia, WHY precisely) or a traitor-to-all-causes thing (in which case, does she execute NaNos who cheat a little on the last 1,000 words)?

Ana Mardoll said...

we're left with a strange but irrevocable Emperor, which when presented with laws like this, move him a little closer to Cthulhu.

Also, this, too. Which is why the idea of Emperor = World Eater kind of creeps me out. In a good way.

depizan said...

Also, how is Jadis herself not a traitor-against-Narnia.

Emperor Cthulhu's choices and laws make my brain hurt. (And I still don't know why people we're told are good guys aren't concerned about stopping him.)

chris the cynic said...

And we still don't know if it's a traitor-against-Narnia thing (in which case, you gave the job to an enemy of Narnia, WHY precisely) or a traitor-to-all-causes thing (in which case, does she execute NaNos who cheat a little on the last 1,000 words)?

I'm not entirely sure what I want to say about this. On the one hand the idea of people being executed for cheating on NaNo is horrific, on the other hand I love your use of it as an example.


Also, on the subject of NaNo and nothing else, at there forums someone asked for help writing a prophesy, they said, "Anyway, I need help writing a prophecy. It needs to include that whatever it is will start in the morning and end with the new moon." One response was:

From the Breaking Dawn until the New Moon rises, the land will lie under the Twilight of the Eclipse.

Ana Mardoll said...

I'm not entirely sure what I want to say about this. On the one hand the idea of people being executed for cheating on NaNo is horrific, on the other hand I love your use of it as an example.

Ha, I'm glad you enjoyed. This is the point, though: we're all "traitors" to a cause depending on how loosely you define all those words. For myself, I promised myself to Jesus when I was a kid and then many times later up through and including young adulthood. I'm not a Christian anymore, so there's that.

I think Lewis would like the point that we're all "traitors" deserving "death" since it fits the analogy a bit. Problem is, it means all of Narnia is forfeit to an evil murdering witch while the Emperor has been enjoying hot toddies and waiting for four human kids to be born and/or show up. :/

I like the idea up-thread that everyone in the story except maybe Witch, Emperor, and Aslan are -- in fact -- aspects of Mega-Edmund.

Rikalous said...

Fascinating. I'm going to try and work Jadis and Charn into it, because writing it off as out-of-universe fail locks you out of the 100% completion secret ending.

So we're already positing that Narnia is Unfallen and Earth is Fallen-But-Redeemed. So Charn, which stands as a contrast to Narnia in a number of ways and died after a bitter struggle over temporal power, must be a Fallen-And-Unredeemed world. So when fallen Jadis enters Narnia, it has to deal with her in a different way than the Redeemed Humans. The only way it can fit her into the framework is to make her its hangman, similar to the Jewish devil-works-for-God thing. So giving Jadis power over traitors doesn't just punish enemies of the Emperor, it makes, or attempts to make, Jadis not be an enemy of said Emperor. She can't be forced to become good*, but she can be given an out.

All of a sudden I'm connecting the Emperor-over-the-sea with the Emperor on the Golden Throne, leader of the Imperium of Man. Why did that only kick in now?

*That was originally "made good," which I realized sounded like it was impossible for her to be good, which wasn't what I meant but might in fact be accurate.

Kish said...

Susan (I'm nearly certain it's Susan, though it could be's interesting to consider the implications if it is Susan, though) suggests working against the Deep Magic, in response to which Aslan growls, "Work against the Emperor's magic?" and no one ever makes that suggestion to him again.

And that is as much energy as Lewis ever gives to the idea that magic which decrees nine-year-olds getting their throats cut might not be perfectly just.

hapax said...

Rikalous, that's brilliant. And I think it totally works.

Will Wildman said...

The subheading for this blog appears to be a (self-fulfilling) prophecy - we have an entire community that Cheerfully Reads Too Much Into Things and it is endlessly spectacular. hapax, Rikalous, everyone - brilliant.

Jewish devil-works-for-God thing

I'm familiar with the original idea of 'the Accuser, God's prosecuting attorney', but I thought Judaism didn't have a devil-figure?

chris the cynic said...

I'm familiar with the original idea of 'the Accuser, God's prosecuting attorney', but I thought Judaism didn't have a devil-figure?

My understanding is that it's more complicated than that. Satan does appear for all the world to work for God in Job which is, I'm guessing, what you're thinking of.

There are plenty of books outside if the Torah which give us a broader view of what was believed in the past before the pruning of history got to work (similar to how things like The Gospel of Thomas give us a glimpse of the diversity of early Christianity.)

Anyway, if you go outside of the currently accepted works my understanding is that there is a devil figure to be found.

As I understand it Judaism doesn't currently have a devil figure but at some point for at least some practitioners it very much did. On the subject of "very much" this is very much not my area of expertise.

Rowen said...

. . . Maybe the Emperor remembers and that's why we have the Problem of Susan, and the whole "lipstick and nylons" is a cover up.

Which. . . now I'm starting to spin a story where Susan is the only one to escape Aslan's mind-flayer powers and is now working incognito against the future raid of the Emperor, but is hiding it through a social butterfly exterior. Kinda like Cinderella in Fables.

Rowen said...

Damnit, I'm at work, and can't write "Susan Pevensie: Inter-dimensional Woman of Mystery" fan fic.

Ana Mardoll said...

100% completion, heh.

Yeah, I thought Lucifer/Satan in Job wasn't so much Executes The Traitors as Designated Cynical Guy For Purposes Of Standardized Testing. :/

And, yes, it's Susan that suggests going against the Emperor. Proving, to me, that Lewis was uncomfortable or, perhaps, ill-disposed with her from the beginning. If the whole Ana-counts-all-the-Pevensie-words-and-makes-a-chart thing at the beginning of this didn't tip you off. :P

Ana Mardoll said...

Also, what are the implications if Charn is a Fallen AND Unredeemed world? Charn was dying when Jadis used the final magic, so it's not likely that Jesus/Aslan/Second Person of the Trinity was just waiting for a good time to pop in and redeem everyone. Are there some planets J/A/2 doesn't care about?

hapax said...

Are there some planets J/A/2 doesn't care about?

I don't know how Lewis would answer that -- it was always my biggest problem with TMN, though.

The Space Trilogy (which I haven't re-read nearly as many times as Narnia, so my memory for details is fuzzier) implies no, but that every planet gets only one "intervention."

Some (most) planets do resist "falling", but ickily enough, only by violence -- Ransom only smashes Weston's head in with a rock on Perelandra, but who knows how many were slaughtered by the Oyarsa on Malcandra? (And why didn't Maleldil save everyone a lot of pain and suffering by sending a handy elephant to step on the snake in the Garden of Eden?)

It looks like Narnia got off easy -- all anyone had to do was refuse to steal an apple.

Of course, it is implied that Charn is much older than Earth, and Narnia much younger. And Charn, we know, started out "good", and only fell gradually. It would be nice to let the Emperor off the hook and suggest that he's learning how to fine-tune the Deep Magic as he goes along, but I suspect that Lewis would be insulted at the suggestion.

Rikalous said...

I don't think it's so much that J/A/2 didn't care about Charn, as the early Charnites managed to screw themselves out the salvation deal. While the Emperor's salvation plan may be wise and wide-ranging, there are, IIRC, a whole heck of a lot of worlds full of free-willed beings. Given that, I think it's plausible that the inhabitants of at least one world managed to do something so spectacularly unusual that there was no way in the Rules to prevent or redress their fall. Maybe someone bashed Charn-Jesus's head in with a rock the night before the soldiers came, to save him the pain and humiliation to come? Maybe a mugger shanked him before he got big, or a sniper cut him off midspeech?

My understanding of Jewish theology is definitely spotty, and may well be inaccurate. I really should have disclaimered it to avoid potential fail. I blame the early hour.

Standardized Testing Devil does make Job more palatable. One of my brothers, who took a bible study course, compared the story to The Killing Joke. In The Killing Joke, the Joker kidnaps Commissioner Gordon and tries to drive him insane, including showing him pictures of his daughter, who the Joker shot in the spine for the purpose of that little show. The main difference brother found between that and Job was that Batman and the Joker didn't have a side bet going on about how Gordon would take it.

Ana Mardoll said...

That makes sense, but in my mind, if J/A/2 was REALLY committed, he'd keep coming back until he got it right.

The story of Job freaks me the heck out. The ending, especially: and then he had TWICE AS MANY kids as before and everything was lovely forever. It's a good parable, I suppose, but creepy as all get out to me if read literally.

chris the cynic said...

Satan in Job (who is, if you take Job in itself not really easy to describe as the Devil or Lucifer) doesn't really have a bet with God. He has a claim. He says to God, basically, "You're being an unfair jerk. Yes, Job is wonderful and says great stuff about you, you're bribing him. He's not good because he's actually good, he's good because his circumstances give him absolutely no reason to be bad. I can demonstrate this if you give me the chance."

I might be putting a little too much rebellion into Satan there. I doubt he, as presented in Job, would call God unfair or a Jerk.

Of course, it's late for me and I'm tired, so for all I know when I wake up in the morning and look at this post none of it will make sense.

Rikalous said...

J/A/2 can be committed all he wants. There are Rules that Must Be Followed, even if it requires Abusing The Shift Key. I figured it would be built into the cosmos that you get one chance to not fall, and one chance to pick yourself up. After that, it just doesn't work anymore, because those are the Rules.

Cupcakedoll said...

Everyone discussing the Unfallen/Fallen/Redeemed worlds might enjoy Diane Duane's So You Want To Be A Wizard and sequels, plus the two spinoff books about cats. The series starts out as a fairly standard "kids get magic" series but the second book begins a theme of different species' Garden of Eden moments, how each species handled it and how it turned out. It's not meant as Christian allegory (I don't think!) but it's a wonderful set of ideas about the meaning of The Fall.

Consumer Unit 5012 said...

To respond to a question way-back-when, I can think of one fantasy world that has 'humans' as well as 'Humans' - Glorantha, the setting of the old RuneQuest RPG. The mythological explanation is that when everything was being sorted out as to what would be people and what would be animals, this group lost out. (There's a race of intelligent tapir-like creatures in the same area - presumably, they won whatever the herd men lost..)

hf said...

I don't think it's so much that J/A/2 didn't care about Charn, as the early Charnites managed to screw themselves out the salvation deal.

Eh, if we go by their images and if we can trust the children's perceptions, the early Charnians seemed to do quite well. Maybe Lewis meant to suggest that they had a late Fall. I'm more inclined to say that it all went wrong when the Emperor drained most of the warmth from their Sun.

Rikalous said...

That's right. I have vague memories of a line of portraits of rulers that got eviler as you went. A late Fall (and a mild Winter, no doubt) is one possibility, but I just remembered that Jadis cast Word of Genocide. That sounds like the kind of spell that taints the user such that their only righteous use is as an executioner.

Amaryllis said...

Even the first book fits within that theme, don't you think? And the last book-- that last one that I read, anyway-- ends with an...interesting...take on the nature of the Power That Redeems. (Jbbs jbbs)

No, on googling, I find that I missed the most recently published, and that there's another in the pipeline.

Also, those books include one of my favorite "not a wizard in a story about wizards" characters. I'm very fond of Carmela, who is perfectly comfortable with wizardry, neither envious nor terrified by it, and also comfortable with herself, with her own talents and her own contributions to make. She's a teenage girl allowed to be interested in clothes and boys and shopping and pop music, but -- imagine!-- she's also allowed to be a worthwhile person.

hapax said...

I read A WIZARD'S DILEMMA right after my mother's diagnosis of recurring breast cancer. It took me years to get back to the series without falling apart.

But I'm glad I did. A WIZARD ON MARS is a hoot -- tons of homages to Old Skool Pulp SF, and a very interesting character development re: Kit and Nina that fans of the series have been waiting years for...

Dragoness Eclectic said...

On re-reading JRRT lately, I find the Ring is Evil to be quite simple and obvious: we are told that Sauron poured much of his power and Will into the Ring so that it could control the Three Rings and their wearers Note that those wearers were the most powerful of the Firstborn, Noldor and Sindar who had defied Morgoth himself (Sauron's old boss). Sauron essentially cloned himself into the Ring. Why can't you use the Ring for good? Because you're now wearing Sauron on your finger, and he tends to run things HIS way. If you're strong-willed and don't just get taken over, well, Sauron was the most notoriously sweet-tongued trickster of the bad guys. There's a long list of very powerful rulers he'd deceived and persuaded into doing Sauron's will instead of their own, and did I mention that when you wield the Ring, you're wearing Sauron on your finger and trusting him as your magical deputy? It's not a strange law of magic, it's you're wearing Sauron on your finger.

On Aslan and the Deep Magic: Aslan isn't the King here, he's the Crown Prince, and he has to obey his Father's laws. Most times and places, Kings had to obey the laws, too, and they weren't lightly changed--there's a word for rulers who rule by personal decree and whim, and it's 'despot', not 'king'. c.f. the "Laws of the Medes and the Persians, which cannot be revoked even by the king". Remember that Aslan acts with the authority of the Emperor Beyond the Sea; I would argue that Aslan cannot just ignore Law he doesn't like without losing that authority and legitimacy.

On Job: some time ago I started interpreting the dialogue between God and Satan as God's attempt to get through to Satan--I think God is trying to turn Satan from his hatred of humanity, and perhaps redeem him.

chris the cynic said...

If you've read through recently you should know better than I do.

Didn't Gandalf specifically state that it was possible to de-Sauronify the ring? (And that doing so would be a very bad idea because power corruption and whatnot.)

Or am I just imagining that.

Ana Mardoll said...

I'm not a Jewish scholar, but I believe this is a very Christian interpretation of Satan. It's my understanding that in Job, Satan is doing his divinely-appointed job - he's supposed to doubt and question the worshipers. He's like Quality Control for believers.

chris the cynic said...

He's like Quality Control for believers.

That's the perfect description of Satan in Job as the story is understood by me. I definitely intend to steal that in the future should the opportunity arise.

Ana Mardoll said...

Ha, I'm glad you liked. :)

As for kings and obeying laws, laws come from somewhere. Either the Emperor made the "traitors die, no exception for age" rule, or something else did. It's implied in Aslan's dialog that the Emperor created it.

As for despots, I would prefer a king who doesn't follow an unjust law to one who does. But I am Chaotic Good, so there's that. :)

Kish said...

I'm nearly certain that what he said, was that if he ever touched the Ring he would be irresistibly tempted to put it on, use it to destroy Sauron, and become a tyrant as bad as Sauron himself had been. Not because of the level of power required to purify the Ring, but because of the nature of the Ring.

Ana Mardoll said...

I can see it read both ways:

‘Alas, no,’ said Elrond. ‘We cannot use the Ruling Ring. That we now know too well. It belongs to Sauron and was made by him alone, and is altogether evil. Its strength, Boromir, is too great for anyone to wield at will, save only those who have already a great power of their own. But for them it holds an even deadlier peril. The very desire of it corrupts the heart. Consider Saruman. If any of the Wise should with this Ring overthrow the Lord of Mordor, using his own arts, he would then set himself on Sauron’s throne, and yet another Dark Lord would appear. And that is another reason why the Ring should be destroyed: as long as it is in the world it will be a danger even to the Wise. For nothing is evil in the beginning. Even Sauron was not so. I fear to take the Ring to hide it. I will not take the Ring to wield it.’

There's the point made that the Ring is loyal to Sauron, but that the Very Powerful CAN break that loyalty. The point is made, though, that the Very Powerful would be corrupted... but whether by the power they used to break the Ring or by the evilness of the Ring or by "desire" for the Ring isn't really clear.

I posit, though, that Elrond may be winging it here. I mean, nobody -- to my knowledge -- has tried, have they? :/

chris the cynic said...

Lewis was just mentioned in a class on Latin. Specifically his version of the Psyche scene from Apuleius. The discussion is about how things don't come to us unchanged but exist in the context that is constantly changing over time*. Specifically here on how the idea of a goddess had changed.

Anyway, Lewis gets mentioned for Till We Have Faces which I have never previously heard of.

Naturally I thought of here.


* For example, "dulce et decorum est pro patria mori," which is now said without any reference to Horace (in which the next line is, "cause if you run you'll die anyway") and was used as war propaganda for World War I and is now used in anti-war arguments.

hapax said...

TILL WE HAVE FACE alternates every time I read it between the Lewis book I love most and the Lewis book I most wish to heave across the room, set on fire with my brain, and spontaneously erase from existence.

My reaction pretty much depends on how willing I am to accept "That's not FAIR!" as a valid argument against the Source, Ground, and Reason for Being.

Also how tolerant I am feeling of those inevitable OH NO JACK LEWIS NO SexismFail moments.

Actually, given my love/hate relationship with that book, if I'm ever tempted to do a deconstruction of my own, it would be an ideal text.

sekushinonyanko said...

I prefer villains that don't consider themselves evil and would be quite disgusted by the emotional incontinence and immaturity of Stupid Evil villains. There's something really scary about characters that do terrible things but are unaware these things are terrible. When characters have real range of emotion and drives and motivations that don't fall in the "always chaotic evil" box it's hard not to wonder if you're sure if they're a villain or just a misguided person doing villainous things.

I would say Mrs. Coulter from His Dark Materials was a great example of politely malevolent villainy.

Ana Mardoll said...

I loved His Dark Materials because of Mrs. Coulter and ummmmm. Mr. Coulter? Lyra's dad.

They're both utterly complex, totally evil, completely depraved, and thoroughly polite and sensible. Mrs. Coulter loves Lyra and protects and raises her... while she's ripping out the souls of small children. Mr. Coulter (seriously what is his name? I cannot remember.) protects Lyra and provides for her education... and then murders her friend in cold blood to tear open the dimensions.

I agree, evil people who think they are doing good things (and in some cases are!) are much scarier.

chris the cynic said...

Which naturally makes me think of:

The Operative: I believe in something greater than myself. A better world. A world without sin.
Malcolm Reynolds: So me and mine gotta lay down and die... so you can live in your better world?
The Operative: I'm not going to live there. There's no place for me there... any more than there is for you. Malcolm... I'm a monster.What I do is evil. I have no illusions about it, but it must be done.

Brin Bellway said...

Mr. Coulter (seriously what is his name? I cannot remember.)

Lord Asriel.

Steve Morrison said...

I would be very interested in this if you actually did it!

Will Wildman said...

On the subject of Lewis: I have encountered a NaNovelist who argued that not only would it be morally inappropriate to represent Logos* as something less than magnficent (and thus that Aslan is acceptable while having the god-figure of Narnia be a Rat is would be blasphemous) but that Lewis subconsciously selected the lion from Revelation 5:5 so that it would be acceptable to make Aslan divine later on. I feel like this is missing a point. (I also kind of want to see a version of Narnia in which Aslan is a rat and treated as no less glorious for it.)

*The person in question said 'Jesus'; I know hapax (and Lewis?) would specify 'the Second Person of the Trinity'; I'm reasonably sure that 'Logos' is a shorter way of referring to the same person? Although now that I've made this footnote, 'shorter' has gone out the window.


On the subject of things we might deconstruct: Kit mentioned the other day in the Twilight thread that James Bond is a strongly-male-oriented fantasy, and I was intrigued - partly because I've never given Bond that much thought, and partly because I'm not used to enjoying things that get described as 'male fantasy'. I've never read a James Bond novel, but now I'm wondering about starting a regular deconstruction of one. I'd have no idea where to begin, of course; I'd have to find out if it's the sort of series where you really should start at the beginning, or if it's episodic enough that there are better entry points later on.

Ana Mardoll said...

Logos seems like a good term for "2nd person of the trinity", but we'll see what Hapax thinks. :)

However, when the person in question said "Jesus", they may well have meant "Jesus". For a good many people, there is no difference between "Jesus" and "2nd person of the Trinity", and indeed for a good many people such a parsing would be as repellant to them as, say, associating a fictional lion of Lewis' imagination with the Jesus they personally worship. When I was a Christian, I would have felt the parsing between Jesus and Logos to be extremely distressing, in much the same way as I would be distressed if you tried to parse an Ana and Ana's Soul as two different and distinct beings.

So while I respect Hapax's beliefs, this is something of a Surgeon General's Warning that some people use the word "Jesus" differently from others. :)

See also the Wicca: You Can't Define It! post. :D

Will Wildman said...

Not at all picked-on; my thinking was that if I say 'Logos' a person who does not believe there's any distinction would think 'Logos == Jesus' and a person who does believe there's a distinction would be free to make it. If I'm wrong about that, I do want to know.

Actually, in the same discussion the same person was protesting that it was a sketchy sign of relativism to suggest that God/Jesus could be anything but entirely male, which was part of why I brought in Logos to begin with (since in French it's 'La Parole' and thus can't help but be feminine). The discussion centred on a fantasy world and a messiah figure who was supposed to also be Logos, but the writer couldn't decide if it was morally acceptable to have this figure be in any way un-Jesusy, such as being a woman.

Ana Mardoll said...

Interesting. In "The Dance of the Dissident Daughter", Sue Monk Kidd has a lot to say on how and why we normalize God as male and why that's incredibly damaging to women. (She fought it for a long time before eventually having to leave. Only so many spoons, I guess.)

I don't think that anyone here would have a problem with the postulation of Jesus verses Logos, since we're all about theory and subjectivity and opinion. If someone in authority over me was pushing it as "fact" in my former life as a Christian, though, I would have found the distinction distressing, or rather the insistence that I had to accept it that way. So I think you should definitely use it freely without worry. :)

Rowen said...

I posit, though, that Elrond may be winging it here. I mean, nobody -- to my knowledge -- has tried, have they? :/

I don't think Elrond would know this, but I thought that was the whole point of the Tom Bombadil interlude. I mean, he puts the ring on and nothing happens. Of course, he has no intention to use it.

hapax said...

Since I'm the one pushing the distinction (not just for me but for Lewis as well), yes, I think "Logos" works -- it's not *quite* the same thing as "Second Person", but it embodies the *function* of the Second Person both as Jesus (and, I would argue, Aslan) quite well.

Ana, please let me make clear that I'm not saying this is the CORRECT Christology. Mormon Christology, for example, is very very different, and it's not my business to say one is "right" and another "wrong."

I brought it up in the context of "Aslan is a bad equivalent for Jesus because X" and I wanted to clear Lewis of at least *that* crime -- Aslan =/= Jesus, not in Lewis's intent.

When we finally meet Aslan (I think it's the next chapter?) I intend to point out all the ways in which Aslan is NOTHING like Jesus, if Ana doesn't beat me to it.

(There are subtler ways in which Aslan isn't much like the Logos, either, unless the Emperor's plan involves losing his hat.*)

*GG reference. Sorry, I'm on a sugar high right now.)

Ana Mardoll said...

Wasn't that because TB was Middle Earth's forgetful Jesus figure and therefore specially exempt?

Honestly, I never found the TB portion of the book interesting or coherent. I know it's bad to admit that, but there it is. When the movies came out and people were saying "They cut TB!" I was like "Who?" Had to go back and re-read. "Oh. The guy that makes no sense, doesn't advance the plot, doesn't reveal character, and wastes a monumental amount of my time. ... Of course he was cut!"

Someone explain TB fandom to me, please. I want to understand.

hapax said...

Tom Bombadil wasn't a Jesus figure. He was a leftover from another cosmology entirely, which JRRT later abandoned; he just kept in Tom because he liked the poetry.

That's why he doesn't "fit in", and the Ring had no effect. It would be like having Dumbledore show up in the middle of Lyra's London from HIS DARK MATERIALS, and asking what his daemon would be.

Ana Mardoll said...

Ana, please let me make clear that I'm not saying this is the CORRECT Christology.

I knew that you weren't, but I wanted to put a big banner up just in case a misunderstanding was made. ;)

Ana Mardoll said...

I only heard the "Jesus figure" second-hand... probably by the same people who kept insisting to me that Neo was too. I don't really think it's a good fit in either case, but since Tolkien apparently self-identified as Christian, I thought they might know what they were talking about.

What cosmology was he a leftover from?

Rowen said...

The Adventures of Tom Bombadil. Here, wikipedia sums it up better then I can.

Will Wildman said...

I did kind of love the whole sequence with Tom Bombadil in the book (particularly the subsequent barrow-wight debacle) but I wasn't remotely disappointed that he was cut from the movie. I mean - Ana, you play LOTRO, you know what a ruin they made of him in the game. I'll feed him his yellow boots. In the movie it would probably have been even more of a mess.

I had heard that Tom was supposed to be a physical expression of Eru, but I'm fuzzy on where 'Jesus figure' would come into it, since he does little in the way of saving, teaching, or really much of anything except hanging out in his preferred forest and hills. When people are pretending that LOTR is allegory, they're supposed to claim that Frodo is Jesus. And the Ring is the atomic bomb, I think? I kind of want to see a terrible political cartoon of all of this with gratuitous labels.

Izzy said...

I always thought Gandalf was Jesus?

Rikalous said...

Male lions may look pretty, but I understand they spend most of their time waiting for the lionesses to bring home the meat. That does not inspire reverence in me. At least rats work for their food.

Now I'm wondering why Aslan has a specific beast form at all. Why not do the thing where everyone who beholds him sees him as their own species? Pretty clear indication of divinity, and emphasizes that the Rats are as much his as the Great Cats.

Rikalous said...

I read once that Tolkien responded to the claims that the Ring was a nuke by pointing out that if it was, than it would have been used against Sauron.

hf said...

Originally Tom Bombadil appeared as a nature spirit in an earlier work. But even then (Wikipedia says) he exerted his power through words. I've seen a persuasive argument that in LOTR we should regard him as the Maker-god Aule, husband of the wild-life-goddess Yavanna (also the creator of dwarves). And Elrond or Gandalf tells us that such Powers won't take the Ring or destroy it because -- well, there's probably a reason beyond 'God is an a-hole.'

The actual meta reason lies in the link between Tom and Tolkien. The author has great power through his words, but he can't fix the characters' central problem because then he'd have no story.

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