Narnia: The Emperor's Hangwoman

[Content Note: Death, Torture, Execution]

Narnia Recap: Peter, Susan, Lucy, and the Beavers have caught up with Aslan at the Stone Table.

The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, Chapter 13: Deep Magic From The Dawn Of Time

   NOW WE MUST GET BACK TO EDMUND. When he had been made to walk far further than he had ever known that anybody could walk, the Witch at last halted in a dark valley all overshadowed with fir trees and yew trees. [...]
"No," said the dwarf, "it is no use now, O Queen. They must have reached the Stone Table by now."

As you'll recall, the three here -- Edmund, the Witch, and the Dwarf -- are arriving late to the Stone Table, much later than the party composed of Peter, Susan, Lucy, and the Beavers. This is odd because the Witch initially had the advantage of speed (with the sleigh) and a direct route (as opposed to the stealthy route that had to be taken by the other party). Certainly, the loss of the sleigh diminished the Witch's speed, but she carried on a forced march with the aid of a whip, while the Beaver-led party carried on a leisurely stroll, confident that they weren't in any hurry. So while the dwarf is right that the other children have reached the Stone Tablet, I find it interesting that he knows it.

   "Four thrones in Cair Paravel," said the Witch. "How if only three were filled? That would not fulfill the prophecy."

I also find it interesting that the Witch is really only now floating the idea that the prophecy could be thwarted by killing her human captive. It would seem like she would have thought about this long before now considering that the wording of the prophecy pretty clearly threatens her life and her reign:

   When Adam’s flesh and Adam’s bone
   Sits at Cair Paravel in throne,
   The evil time will be over and done."
   [...] "...down at Cair Paravel there are four thrones and it's a saying in Narnia time out of mind that when two Sons of Adam and two Daughters of Eve sit in those four thrones, then it will be the end not only of the White Witch's reign but of her life, and that is why we had to be so cautious as we came along, for if she knew about you four, your lives wouldn’t be worth a shake of my whiskers!"

So, really, when the dwarf is saying "what difference would it make [to thwart the prophecy] now that [Aslan] is here", he really should be reminded that the prophecy doesn't necessarily refer to the Witch's reign; it apparently refers to her life. So I would imagine it could make quite a bit of difference to Jadis, indeed, whether or not the prophecy-of-four is fulfilled. Aslan may not have let her rule since the dawn of time, but he's been more than happy to let her live since then. That's a pretty good incentive to kill Edmund right now, just to be safe. Or, really, to turn him into stone and shatter him, just so that the "flesh and bone" part of the prophecy can't be fulfilled to the letter.

   "I would like to have done it on the Stone Table itself," said the Witch. "That is the proper place. That is where it has always been done before."
   "It will be a long time now before the Stone Table can again be put to its proper use," said the dwarf.

So I would like to point out that this passage seems to me to indicate that Edmund isn't the first person to be slated for death on the Stone Table, and I would further conjecture that at least some of those people killed on the Stone Table were killed as part of its "proper use" as traitors condemned to death.

   "No," said the Witch. "There need be no flying. Go quickly. Summon all our people to meet me here as speedily as they can. Call out the giants and the werewolves and the spirits of those trees who are on our side. Call the Ghouls, and the Boggles, the Ogres, and the Minotaurs. Call the Cruels, the Hags, the Specters, and the people of the Toadstools. We will fight. What? Have I not still my wand? Will not their ranks turn into stone even as they come on? Be off quickly, I have a little thing to finish here while you are away."

Things I find of interest here:

  • 'Boggle' is apparently the Scottish variant of a Bogart, which is a household fairy that causes milk to go bad. Considering that Jadis names them fifth in the litany of the Gondor Calls for Aid, before even the Ogres, I have to wonder if Narnian Boggles are just that much more awesome or if she's going in geographical order or what. 
  • I'm also now wondering who provides the household milk in an economy for giant, sentient mammals -- does the butter on Mr. and Mrs. Beaver's table come from Cows or cows or what? 
  • Minotaurs are bull-headed men, so clearly are on the side of evil. As opposed, of course, to the man-headed bulls who we see both in this chapter and the last one and who are on the side of good, in addition to being incredibly creepy looking.
  • 'People of the Toadstools' sound even less useful than boggles in a fight. I mean, really? I thought I was kidding last week when I pointed out that the Narnian Toy Poodles and Chihuahuas wouldn't be much use in battle. However, we will at least give Lewis the benefit of the doubt and assume that his not-described People of the Toadstools do not look like this.

It also seems odd to me that the Local Despot doesn't really seem to have a standing army in the sense that Jadis can just say "go home and get the army". Instead we get this extremely convoluted "now Dasher, now Dancer, now Donner and Vixen!" call that names out each of the Witch's allies by group. This is probably for the benefit of the readers, but it's not really necessary; later, at the execution of Aslan, we'll get all these descriptions again, so it's not like this was needed, and it instead creates the very bizarre impression that the Witch has been running Narnia entirely by herself from her castle with just a small security force of wolves and a couple of dwarf-servants.

Even accounting for the whole wand issue, I'm just baffled that she's stayed in power this long. What is it with evil villains who don't have a staff? Susan and Edmund will have a whole contingent of Narnians on hand when they visit a foreign country in "The Horse and His Boy", which would seem to indicate that Narnia has some concept of delegation, but Jadis seems to be following some kind of Evil Overlord puritan philosophy where if you can't take over, run, and maintain a country entirely on your own bootstrapping merits, you don't deserve to be the local despot. How odd.

   Edmund found himself being roughly forced to his feet. Then the dwarf set him with his back against a tree and bound him fast. He saw the Witch take off her outer mantle. Her arms were bare underneath it and terribly white. Because they were so very white he could see them, but he could not see much else, it was so dark in this valley under the dark trees.
   "Prepare the victim," said the Witch. And the dwarf undid Edmund's collar and folded back his shirt at the neck. Then he took Edmund's hair and pulled his head back so that he had to raise his chin. After that Edmund heard a strange noise -- whizz -- whizz -- whizz. For a moment he couldn't think what it was. Then he realized. It was the sound of a knife being sharpened.

Alright, get the Edward Cullen vampire jokes out of your system.

There's something very odd about this scene, but I can't place my finger on what it is, precisely. The Witch is very intent on having this whole ritualistic ceremony, with the disrobing of her "outer mantle" and the ohh-la-la shock of the bare white arms that are so brightly white they're suddenly the only thing Edmund can see all of the sudden. Edmund is bound and very partially undressed, and then forced to watch (or, at least, listen) as a knife is produced and sharpened.

The ceremony drags things out for a reason, of course -- Edmund has to have time to be rescued. This wouldn't be possible, from a narrative standpoint, if the Witch had just shivved him five seconds into the chapter. I get that. And yet, it strikes me that Jadis seems really intent on doing this whole thing... right, for lack of a better word. Why?

Jadis really is the Emperor's hang-woman. Mr. Beaver mocks her for it, but Aslan seems to confirm it to be true, and we'll get to that in a moment. So she really does have a right to Edmund, and it would appear that she has the right to execute him under the circumstances she deems best for the situation. So knowing that time is of the essence, and that rescue is a possibility to be feared, she takes a tremendous amount of time to adhere to her usual ritual, despite the apparent fact that the ritual is entirely imposed on herself by herself. Neither Aslan nor the Emperor apparently specified these rules.

Which begs the question: why bother right now? Does this ceremony do something for her? Does it give her some kind of satisfaction that she can't bear to give up, even considering the dire need for haste at the moment? Does it provide her with some sort of power that she needs for the battle to come? Is she just extremely devoted to her routine?

And does it make sense for the Emperor to hand over the job of executioner to someone who gets power or pleasure from it? I know, I know: Because... Deep Magic. Or Jasper.

   At that very moment he heard loud shouts from every direction -- a drumming of hoofs and a beating of wings -- a scream from the Witch -- confusion all round him. And then he found he was being untied. Strong arms were round him and he heard big, kind voices saying things like --
   "Let him lie down -- give him some wine -- drink this -- steady now -- you'll be all right in a minute."
   Then he heard the voices of people who were not talking to him but to one another. And they were saying things like "Who's got the Witch?" "I thought you had her." "I didn't see her after I knocked the knife out of her hand -- I was after the dwarf -- do you mean to say she's escaped?" " -- A chap can't mind everything at once -- what's that? Oh, sorry, it's only an old stump!" But just at this point Edmund went off in a dead faint. [...]
   When the other children woke up next morning (they had been sleeping on piles of cushions in the pavilion) the first thing they heard -- from Mrs. Beaver -- was that their brother had been rescued and brought into camp late last night; and was at that moment with Aslan. As soon as they had breakfasted they all went out, and there they saw Aslan and Edmund walking together in the dewy grass, apart from the rest of the court. There is no need to tell you (and no one ever heard) what Aslan was saying, but it was a conversation which Edmund never forgot. As the others drew nearer Aslan turned to meet them, bringing Edmund with him.

One thing that really frustrates me about Lewis' writing style is that he has a habit of providing details that he knows are unimportant and then completely side-stepping the stuff that is really crucial. We will pretty much never come to an agreement on quite a lot of things in the Narnia mythos because so much of it is open-ended, but we are at least told that the children slept on cushions and were informed of Edmund's rescue by Mrs. Beaver. Thank god for that, because if we'd missed those details, it would have just ruined my immersion.

   Edmund shook hands with each of the others and said to each of them in turn, "I'm sorry," and everyone said, "That's all right." And then everyone wanted very hard to say something which would make it quite clear that they were all friends with him again -- something ordinary and natural -- and of course no one could think of anything in the world to say.

And those are the last official words spoken by child!Edmund for the book. Good-bye, Edmund! Enjoy your off-screen character development as a reformed sinner! We look forward to seeing you heroically-but-mortally wounded later!

   The leopard went away and soon returned leading the Witch's dwarf. [...]
   "The Queen of Narnia and Empress of the Lone Islands desires a safe conduct to come and speak with you," said the dwarf, "on a matter which is as much to your advantage as to hers."
   "Queen of Narnia, indeed!" said Mr. Beaver. "Of all the cheek -- "

I'm increasingly liking the opinion that some of you have offered that Mr. Beaver is not an author avatar set to dispense bizarre lore-breaking Platonic philosophies, and is instead the rather embarrassing racist grandfather or uncle who makes extended family gatherings intensely uncomfortable.

This would certainly go a long way towards explaining his completely forgetting the silent awe of being in his Lord's presence in order to instead interject snarky grumblings into the solemn proceedings. I mean, I'm pretty sure that the pavilion has something like two or three dozen entities in it at this point and I'm pretty sure that none of them asked Mr. Beaver's opinion at this time.

But, then, it's worth noting that unless we go with the "slowed time" theory of eternal winter where everyone alive now was also alive 100+ years ago when the Witch first took up residence -- and, for the record, I'm not -- no one in Narnia really knows how to behave under a monarchy any more than they know how to live under a weather system of four changing seasons. So maybe Mr. Beaver just doesn't realize that his behavior is kind of inappropriate for a solemn meeting of opposing powers.

Apparently, the Witch has been doing the whole despot thing on a strictly patrol basis, with her and a few spies scouring the countryside for disloyal people and turning them into stone. She's apparently had no court, no army, no navy, and no civil service. I assume she's had no taxes because the populace can't be producing much during the eternal winter. The Pevensies are going to have a long row to hoe when they become monarchs... and they'll be doing it without the help of Aslan (he disappears), without the help of the Animals around them (they lack experience), and with nothing more than a primary school education under their belts. Thank god they have the "monarch genes", I guess.

   "Peace, Beaver," said Aslan. "All names will soon be restored to their proper owners. In the meantime we will not dispute about them. Tell your mistress, Son of Earth, that I grant her safe conduct on condition that she leaves her wand behind her at that great oak."

Why does she need to leave the wand behind? She can't turn Aslan into stone, he can restore anyone she does turn into stone, and he's obviously not worried about the peace of mind of his people or he wouldn't have sent them out to her in the first place. Indeed, it would be a very good thing if she broke the terms of the peace right here and now, because then Aslan could kill her without any mark on his conscience, and no one would have to die in the coming sacrifice and subsequent battle.

Also, this seems like an absolutely astonishing leap of faith for Peter to take given that both he and his sister have been placed in mortal danger by this Lion in the last few hours. I suppose it might make sense if Peter has decided Aslan has powers of precognition, but I see no reason for him to assume that.

   A few minutes later the Witch herself walked out on to the top of the hill and came straight across and stood before Aslan. [...] It was the oddest thing to see those two faces -- the golden face and the dead-white face -- so close together. Not that the Witch looked Aslan exactly in his eyes; Mrs. Beaver particularly noticed this.

I quote this section only to ask someone to explain why Mrs. Beaver noticed anything particularly. She won't appear in the book again except as a quick-mention near the end: she's the head battle nurse in the upcoming battle.

   "You have a traitor there, Aslan," said the Witch. [...]
   "Well," said Aslan. "His offense was not against you."
   "Have you forgotten the Deep Magic?" asked the Witch.
   "Let us say I have forgotten it," answered Aslan gravely. "Tell us of this Deep Magic."

Aslan has to ask because this is a book, and the reader isn't going to know this stuff. And yet... this is a third-person narrated book! This isn't "if Bella doesn't see the conversation, we don't hear about it" first-person land -- we're hearing thoughts and seeing things through minor characters like Mrs. Beaver.

There's no reason why the Witch and Aslan couldn't go off and have a nice private conference to discuss all this and come to the same conclusions and the reader could have the same exposition from the narrator and -- and this is key -- Edmund wouldn't have to hear Aslan confirm that the Emperor totally signed his death warrant at the dawn of time.

Later in the book, Lucy and Susan will have a discussion about whether or not they should tell Edmund that Aslan died in his place and whether or not the knowledge would give Edmund a guilt complex. It's worth pointing out that if Aslan wanted to be really selfless, he could have thought of that in advance and arranged things so that none of the Pevensies had to see or know of his sacrifice. And yet... he doesn't.

Either Aslan doesn't look ahead as well as Peter thinks he does, or he seems to feel like his sacrifice needs witnesses -- even if they are small children who may be utterly traumatized by witnessing a brutal execution or by learning about it after the fact, along with the knowledge that that was supposed to be you.

And... to a certain extent, that doesn't seem very sacrificing to me. We already know that Aslan knows he's gaming the system -- he'll feel the pain, but he won't stay dead. So not only is he not really giving up his life, he's not really sparing the Pevensie children from trauma and pain. He could, but he doesn't.

   "Tell you?" said the Witch, her voice growing suddenly shriller. "Tell you what is written on that very Table of Stone which stands beside us? Tell you what is written in letters deep as a spear is long on the fire-stones on the Secret Hill? Tell you what is engraved on the scepter of the Emperor-beyond-the-Sea? You at least know the Magic which the Emperor put into Narnia at the very beginning. You know that every traitor belongs to me as my lawful prey and that for every treachery I have a right to a kill."
   "Oh," said Mr. Beaver. "So that's how you came to imagine yourself a queen -- because you were the Emperor's hangman. I see."
   "Peace, Beaver," said Aslan, with a very low growl.

And now we have the legal fine-print.

It's strange to me that the World Building Rules were duplicated across three different places, but maybe it fits into a sort of "mystic secrecy" theme. No one ever sees the Emperor's scepter because no one goes to the Emperor's country until they die, and no one (presumably) goes to the Secret Hill to brush up on their legalese, and though we don't know everything we could about the state of literacy in Narnia, it seems very likely to me that the runes carved into the Stone Table are not a language that many of the denizens are familiar with. So while on the face of it, it would seem unfair and useless for the laws to be written in words-no-one-can-read and in places-no-one-can-go, it's okay because they're magic laws.

And it's something of a shame that we don't get to read the legalese and see the real fine print; instead we just get the Witch's possible approximation of it. Does the law really say that every traitor belongs to her and that for every treachery she has a right to kill? How is 'traitor' defined? How is 'treachery' defined? Dictionary.com provides these non-legal definitions:

traitor. a person who betrays another, a cause, or any trust.
treachery. an act of perfidy [deliberate breach of faith or trust], faithlessness, or treason.

By this definition, Mr. Tumnus deserves death, for betraying the cause and trust of his employer, the Witch. Heck, I'd argue that by this definition Aslan deserves death, for breaching Susan's faith and trust by forcing her to dangle a few dangerous seconds longer so that Peter could 'earn his spurs' and save her instead of someone nearer to her.

What I wouldn't argue is that Edmund deserves death, because I would maintain that for "betray" to have any meaning in a legal system, it requires knowledge, deliberation, intent, and freedom from compulsion -- and we've been told, by the narrator, that Edmund did not fully realize that the Witch would hurt his brother and sisters...

   You mustn't think that even now Edmund was quite so bad that he actually wanted his brother and sisters to be turned into stone. He did want Turkish Delight and to be a Prince (and later a King) and to pay Peter out for calling him a beast. As for what the Witch would do with the others, he didn’t want her to be particularly nice to them -- certainly not to put them on the same level as himself; but he managed to believe, or to pretend he believed, that she wouldn’t do anything very bad to them

...and that he's being compelled by the power of the magic he ingested to obey the Witch's orders in a desperately hungry bid for more of the magic food. Indeed, the magic food has supposedly altered him to the point where Mr. Beaver claims he can recognize the Witch's victims on sight.

These are not trivial objections. The law is rarely black-and-white and with good reason: it is almost impossible to write a just law which will deal fairly with every possible circumstance. This is one of the many reasons why we have legal systems with courts and juries and lawyers and judges -- the idea being that together, as rational beings, we can arrive as a form of justice we can be satisfied with. But there is no wiggle-room in Narnia, and the "no traitors" law doesn't have to be just.

   "And so," continued the Witch, "that human creature is mine. His life is forfeit to me. His blood is my property."
   "Come and take it then," said the Bull with the man's head in a great bellowing voice.
   "Fool," said the Witch with a savage smile that was almost a snarl, "do you really think your master can rob me of my rights by mere force? He knows the Deep Magic better than that. He knows that unless I have blood as the Law says all Narnia will be overturned and perish in fire and water."
   "It is very true," said Aslan, "I do not deny it."

Considering the melting of 100 years' worth of snow build-up, it's pretty much all perished in water already. All that's missing is the fire, I would think.

   "Oh, Aslan!" whispered Susan in the Lion's ear, "can't we -- I mean, you won't, will you? Can't we do something about the Deep Magic? Isn't there something you can work against it?"
   "Work against the Emperor's Magic?" said Aslan, turning to her with something like a frown on his face. And nobody ever made that suggestion to him again.

I find two things interesting about this here.

First, Susan whispers her suggestion to Aslan. She's not speaking up in the meeting like Mr. Beaver or Mr. Bull-With-Human-Head. She's conversing privately with Aslan. Maybe it's because she recognizes that these outbursts are embarrassing to Aslan's authority, or maybe because she's really trying to take this whole Santa-mandated-femininity to heart, but she's trying to communicate to Aslan quietly, without drawing attention to herself. And... Aslan apparently calls her out publicly, because I see no other reason why nobody would ever dare make that suggestion again if they hadn't clearly heard his response to her. So... classy.

The second thing is that what Susan calls "Deep Magic", Aslan calls "the Emperor's Magic". This indicates to me that the Emperor isn't bound by the Deep Magic in a "sure, it sucks to put 9-year-olds to death for completely nonsensical reasons, but what can you do" kind of way, but rather that he created the Deep Magic, and planned it this way: if ever a 9-year-old isn't put to death in Narnia for completely nonsensical reasons, the whole country and everything in it will be destroyed. Why? Well, that's a very good question. You see, SHUT UP THAT'S WHY.

Is there an answer for this besides well, that's just how fictional fantasy world building magic works and how does that answer then mesh with the fact that there's a 'forever' escape clause built in? Shoot, how does it mesh with the fact that it hinges on Narnia being pretty much The Whole World instead of the Small Country it later becomes, and how does it mesh with the fact that it hinges on the life of a person who was not immortal when the world was called into being (and therefore theoretically wouldn't be the Magic-Sponsored Executioner for very long)? The only way this makes sense to me is as a Christian atonement metaphor that's been wrung through a washer a few times over until it's been stretched to include "and also 9-year-olds are sentenced to death for nonsensical reasons."

   "Fall back, all of you," said Aslan, "and I will talk to the Witch alone."
   They all obeyed. It was a terrible time this -- waiting and wondering while the Lion and the Witch talked earnestly together in low voices. Lucy said, "Oh, Edmund!" and began to cry. Peter stood with his back to the others looking out at the distant sea. The Beavers stood holding each other's paws with their heads bowed. The centaurs stamped uneasily with their hoofs. But everyone became perfectly still in the end, so that you noticed even small sounds like a bumble-bee flying past, or the birds in the forest down below them, or the wind rustling the leaves. And still the talk between Aslan and the White Witch went on.

Emperor's Magic or Deep Magic or Silly String Magic, it's not something the Narnians can work against. If Aslan says that it's not possible or not advisable to work against the magic, well... I guess you have to believe it. That's how the world is.

But what saddens me is how many of the Narnians accept it. For whatever reason, whether he has control over it or not, their Emperor-God is a blood-god. He doesn't do the killing himself (he outsources that to the employees) and he picks out sacrifices that will not be missed: no virgin girls or lovely young boys for this god, just the treasonous and the treacherous (even if they happen to be children, even if they happen to be coerced). But still, he's a blood-god demanding sacrifices in exchange for their lives, for their survival.

Maybe that's the way the world works. Maybe there's no point in questioning it. But I'm not sure that's automatically a reason to accept it. Maybe they can't help but fear the Emperor, but they don't have to worship him. Maybe they can't help but obey Aslan, but they don't have to love him. And maybe they can't help but hate the Witch, but they don't have to refuse to see that she's employed by their god.

135 comments:

Ivan Mous said...

Well, this section sounds about as horrible as it's been hyped up to be. Edmund really didn't do anything I'd call betraying at this point. I understand Edmund can't easily be shown committing any great sins in a kids book and still being called a hero later. But this is some serious Chick Tract territory here.

The "Let's say I've forgotten"-schtick is one of the worst invitations to an exposition I've ever seen, since the witch later taunts everyone that Aslan knows Deep Magic better than everyone. I'd be blatant in a movie where someone has to say it. In a book where the narrator could just say it (and in fact the narrator can rarely seem to shut the fuck up ever), it's just plain stupid.

I may be getting ahead of myself here, but the point is that there has been treachary (for a given value thereof), so there must be death now, correct? And Aslan will offer himself, since he's Jesus. But... couldn't anyone else make that offer? It's bothered me a bit that Jesus' sacrifice is always portrayed as something completely out of this world. Sure, according to the Bible he agreed to die painfully on behalf of others, I'm not denying that's not pretty amazing. But he's hardly unique. Throughout history, many people have sacrificed themselves for less (preventing everyone being tormented forever is a pretty big cause), without any guarantees of a payoff, let alone with knowledge that you're going to be ressurected anyway. So I don't find Jesus's sacrifice that unique.

But in Bible-logic, Jesus was the only one who could make that particular sacrifice, even if others would've been willing, cause he had the sinless blood. But is that the case here? Is there a reason only Aslan can offer himself, despite that he's by far the strongest fighter, and the most respected spiritual leader the resistance has? Can't Mr Beaver not own up on his responsibility for making Edmund a traitor by frigging not telling anyone he was magically enchanted to betray them, and conserve the much more usefull Aslan who could win the upcomming battle singlehandedly? And maybe Aslan or the potion of Deus Ex Machina could be used to fix him up afterwards. Or is there something special about Aslan in this story too? Or does the witch have to agree to the swap, and will she only settle for Aslan? In which case, great move agreeing to make the prophecy that'd lead to her downfall and death possible Witchy! Yeah, I know you fear Aslan, but the four kids are the ones that are needed for your defeat. If you can deny the swap, you really, really should've here.

Ivan Mous said...

Ah, now I'm stuck using my own name? Great, thanks Discuss. I'm bificommander in the previous posts.

Kit Whitfield said...

Since 'Cair' is presumably derived from 'Caer', meaning 'fortress', saying someone is 'at Cair' is like saying 'Let's go to Street.'

And on the same subject: 'Her arms were bare underneath it and terribly white. Because they were so very white he could see them, but he could not see much else, it was so dark in this valley under the dark trees.' That's two 'white's and two 'dark's in two sentences. The repeated 'dark' might be intended to be incantatory, but added to the 'white's it just comes out as flat and slack.

This is what I mean when I say Lewis is a careless writer.

--

One thing that really frustrates me about Lewis' writing style is that he has a habit of providing details that he knows are unimportant and then completely side-stepping the stuff that is really crucial.

It is, however, a convenient way of avoiding the risk of writing an important scene and not quite managing to write it well enough that the book works. I understand the temptation. I just have the decency to get writer's block if I succumb to it.

--

How is 'treachery' defined?

By failing to support Aslan and his values. No other loyalties are owed in this worldview.


You see, SHUT UP THAT'S WHY.

Not even that: shut up, or the extremely intimidating and forbidding lion with 'terrible' paws and claws and a demonstrably short temper and low tolerance of being crossed will be angry with you.

There's no joy in this Aslan except what Lewis insists characters feel on hearing his name. All his actual behaviour is full of implicit threat and no love.

Ana Mardoll said...

If it will let you log out and log in as your usual screen-name, you can copy-and-paste the previous comment, and repost it. I'll delete these three. (Your first two and mine here.)

Steph said...

Is it ever mentioned specifically who Edmund is supposed to be betraying? It doesn't make sense for it to be Aslan, because he was never on Aslan's side before this. I guess it's supposed to be his siblings? But it's really more bad judgement then betrayal; by the time he realizes what she's going to do he's not in control of the situation any more.
And if that law applied to betrayal of anyone -- wouldn't Edmund also be counted as a traitor if he agreed to help Jadis and then went off and helped Aslan? Seems to be like he's boned no matter what he does. Although I kind of doubt that Aslan would have been so eager to enforce that one.

Also, has it ever been addressed how big Narnia is supposed to be? On maps I've found, the wardrobe and the Stone Table are on almost opposite sides of the country, and they get across it in one night, during most of which they're not walking very quickly. The entire country is maybe ten or fifteen miles across? Do they live in an MMORPG?

"I guess these fall under the heading of things we can't answer because there's not enough information," thought Mrs. Beaver.

Brin Bellway said...

'People of the Toadstools' sound even less useful than boggles in a fight.

Well, the picture you gave (I know it didn't come with the book, but still) does have colouring characteristic of fly agarics. Maybe they attack using their drugs to incapacitate the enemy?

Alright, get the Edward Cullen vampire jokes out of your system.

It would so thoroughly have never occurred to me that I can't think of any even with prompting.

And those are the last official words spoken by child!Edmund for the book. Good-bye, Edmund!

*waves*

malpollyon said...

Do they live in an MMORPG?

That would explain a lot actually. The 100 year winter is caused by a bad patch in the last update that still hasn't been fixed that was supposed to be a holiday themed event (once Aslan is back the Christmas bonus items are re-enabled and distributed to the player base. Lucy gets two to compensate for a recent nerf to the "younger sister" class). The beavers are bad roleplayers, constantly bringing their player knowledge about the quests into character chat. It all makes sense now!

Ana Mardoll said...

I can't unsee it now. o.O

Majromax said...

The beavers are bad roleplayers, constantly bringing their player knowledge about the quests into character chat. It all makes sense now!
And Jadis is godmodding. "Muahaha! My candy was mind-controlling! Now, you must do my bidding!"

Of course, that's also why we don't see her interact with anyone except a couple flunkies like Maugrim (real-life significant other? Death == breakup?). Nobody likes playing with her, since she pulls stunts like that all the time. Maybe the Animals turned-to-stone are players who just quit the game rather than deal with the toxic RP environment.

Ana Mardoll said...

This conversation in general and the "turned to stone" thing in particular now require me to recommend Mogworld: http://www.amazon.com/review/R1TJUF0EU3OHSS?_encoding=UTF8&tag=anamarsram-20&linkCode=ur2&camp=1789&creative=390957

depizan said...

"How is 'treachery' defined?"

By failing to support Aslan and his values. No other loyalties are owed in this worldview.


Which would leave us with a very confusing list of potential traitors. Though, I think that's the case no matter how 'traitor' is defined in Narnia. If Jadis is, herself a traitor, wouldn't that place her in the same situation as KoKo in the Mikado? If she's not a traitor, aren't the people who oppose her traitors? (Since she'd then be presumed to be a legitimate authority) Tumnis has been on every side, so he's a traitor to someone no matter how you slice it.

Also, for a supposedly bloodthirsty villain, Jadis seems oddly reluctant to kill people. She's been turning people to stone when, apparently, she should've been executing them at the Stone Table as traitors. And, after noting the chance of him being rescued, she still bothers with ceremony. This is odd. As is her referring to him as a victim - not criminal, traitor, or even prisoner.

Ana Mardoll said...

As is her referring to him as a victim - not criminal, traitor, or even prisoner.

I hadn't noticed that until you said it, but now that seems very strange indeed.

One has to speculate how much choice Jadis has in this process. If she chooses to release Edmund *without* killing another in exchange, does Narnia still perish in fire and water? Can she, in other words, issue pardons? And are the stoned animals "awaiting processing" indefinitely?

hapax said...

Sorry, the quote from the Wicked Witch of the West was meant to answer the question of why Jadis was so fixated upon sacrificing Edmund *properly*.

Curse you, Disqus! [shakes fist]

Ana Mardoll said...

In the American edition, this bit is changed to "Tell you what is written in letters deep as a spear is long on the trunk of the World Ash Tree? " which is one of the reasons I identified the Emperor as Odin. Like the change of Maugrim's name, it alters the imagery from Celtic pagan worship -- which at the time of writing would have been seen as ambiguously "good", or at least "traditional" -- to Norse pagan worship, with all its connotations of savagery and barbarity.

Carve things on Yggdrasil the World Tree?! The tree that holds up the nine worlds?! And we're just going to carve laws into it?! *headdesk*

But, yeah, that makes a lot more sense why your mind went to Odin. Yeesh, why does "Americanization" change things willy-nilly??

Ana Mardoll said...

And you win the prize for explaining the Mrs. Beaver shout-out. This is perhaps the problem with spreading a book out over so many months. Good memory! :D

malpollyon said...

If she chooses to release Edmund *without* killing another in exchange, does Narnia still perish in fire and water? Can she, in other words, issue pardons? And are the stoned animals "awaiting processing" indefinitely?

Hmm... The reason she's behaving so strangely is that this is only the second time she's executed someone*. She was so horrified the first time that she's avoided it ever since, so she's been putting all the traitors the Deep Magic compels her to kill into magical stasis until she can find a way of saving them. Her whole "despotic rule" is her trying all sorts of things to find loopholes in the treachery definition (and she's nearly there! See Mr Tumnus).

She finally feels that the Edmund situation has forced her hand, but she still doesn't want to do it, as Aslan** and the Emperor will only replace her with a functional executioner. This is why she eagerly spares Edmund when offered the chance to get at Aslan, with him dead, rather than absent, she thinks the Emperor's authority will devolve to the children who will then be able to pardon the stoned Animals and the evil time will be over and done.

* I'm ignoring TMN for now, but I don't think we have the word of anyone other than Aslan (an our unreliable narrator) for what exactly happened on Charn.
** A fanatic famous for his incorruptible nature obsessed with executing traitors, he's not Jesus, he's Robespierre.

depizan said...

Oh, I like your version!

Ana Mardoll said...

Interestingly enough, I'm pretty sure Jadis confirms the FATAL spell on Charn, but this just makes the situation more confusing: why would someone who DEMONSTRABLY has no problem with world-killing be put in a situation where if her wishes aren't satisfied, there will be a world-killing?

Was the retcon of TMN supposed to tie those two ideas together somehow? Or is the one an Emperor Excuse and the other a Moral Event Horizon and they're not meant to be linked narratively?

Kit Whitfield said...

One has to speculate how much choice Jadis has in this process.

About as much choice as a thinly-written character being railroaded by an author ever gets, is my take. I agree she reads as predetermined, but I don't think she reads as more predetermined than anyone else. Lewis's work is heavy with inevitability.

malpollyon said...

Interestingly enough, I'm pretty sure Jadis confirms the FATAL spell on Charn

Ah, so perhaps she ate the apple because one lifetime would not be enough for her to atone a sin of that magnitude*, and her work in Narnia is her beginning, in fits and starts, to address her Karmic debt. Aslan originally expected her to either provide a steady stream of souls to feed Emperor, or break the rules allowing the Emperor to feed on the whole world at once. He was so astonished with the stasis loophole she found that he had to go and consult personally with the Emperor as to what they should do, the Emperor turns out to be almost exactly 50 light years away** by the shortest route through the most direct portals. This is either because he's paranoid about security, or possibly just an introvert.

*The Wood between the Worlds is clearly part of the Planescape setting if you ask me.

**Alternatively there's a direct portal, but the path between his sensory organs and his brain is several lightyears, making interactions very slow, which is why he has avatars like Aslan. The immense energy requirements for a being of that size is why he's the Devourer of Worlds.

Will Wildman said...

Given that we now have confirmation that the Emperor is basically Deep Jasper (he has in fact written the fabric of reality so that people automatically feel and believe certain things given certain prompts), I'm trying now to see this less as parable/near-allegory and more as Roald Dahl exaggeration. The laws aren't set the way they are because it's good and right; the laws are set because they reflect (like a funhouse mirror) the mercilessness of reality and the absoluteness of law as viewed by 7-12 year-olds. These kids have been ejected from their home and family because some people far away wanted to rule some people and kill some other people, so we sent our people to stop them and now they're trying to kill us. Of course they expect the world to be inherently screwed up.

Ask someone like Peter whether "All traitors must die" would make a good law of the universe and at best he'd have to think about it for a while. (They'd probably all be on-board with "When good people hear a good thing, they feel good" and it's 'bad' inverse.) Like a Dahl story, the morality and function of Narnia actually reflect the thought processes of a childlike mindset. The Emperor is no more thoughtful or mature than the Pevensies.

All of the above requires a pretty huge dose of Death Of The Author, but it works in a strange way.

---

I am confused as to why it's irrelevant for us to know what Aslan told Edmund, but important to know that Edmund never forgot it. My mind fills with dozens of options ranging from the practical* to the meta** to the obscene***.

*"We begin with the perfect omelette, which is made with two eggs, not three. Beginners sometimes add milk for thickness - this is a mistake!" (This line is one of the two reasons why Deep Blue Sea is not an absolute waste of time.)
**"Listen, this off-page conversation is the only chance for us to talk without the author hearing us. Don't talk any more while you're on-page; that's how he learns what you're thinking. He's got another six books to go, but I think we might be able to cut him off here if we can kill Jadis instead of letting her escape like he was planning. When the battle starts, go for her wand - I'll handle the rest."
***No examples necessary; fill in your own blank.

Will Wildman said...

As far as the People of the Toadstools are concerned, my guesses are that either they have a secret warrior caste kept hidden from most outsiders, or they are mostly useless but you really don't want to mess with their royalty.

Ana Mardoll said...

I really like this idea that the morality of the Narnia universe is the morality of the children within it. I wonder if we can make this work for the other books?

We have an ongoing epic battle in our house about the proper way to make scrambled eggs. Ana insists on using milk; Husband insists that milk in eggs is dreadful. Ana claims that milk is fat and flavor, both of which are good things to have in a breakfast; Husband insists that scrambled eggs with milk in them are runny in texture. This is a lie: Ana's scrambled eggs are never runny. It's not Ana's fault that "smooth and pleasing mouth-feel" translates to "runny" in Husband's world-view.

The issue has been solved -- for the time being -- by adding large quantities of cheese to the eggs. Husband likes cheese in his eggs and doesn't notice the milk at that point.

I was going to suggest that Obscene/Inappropriate-For-Children could be Aslan explaining how Edmund can have fun with the nymphs later on in life without pregnancy or icky-royal-coercion vibes, but then I realized that would probably also be Practical. And maybe Meta, because I always envision Adult!Pevensies in their 30's and I just have a hard time seeing them ALL as chaste as the morning dew or whatever.

Ana Mardoll said...

Is that Princess Peach? I thought it was the Twisted Disney guy, but apparently not.

http://jeftoon01.deviantart.com/gallery/11344500

Probably NSFW.

Will Wildman said...

It is Peach - or Princess Toadstool, as she may inform her foes before crushing them with root vegetables and sporting equipment. (She's pictured carrying an embalmed turnip, which strikes with the supernatural force of the wrathful dead.)

Ana Mardoll said...

I could have sworn it was a human heart, which shows how much I know about anatomy.

I like Peach. She's evolved a little from the princess-needing-rescue to a decent party member, at least in some of the RPGs. I'm given to understand that Zelda has had a similar evolution.

Illhousen said...

"Interestingly enough, I'm pretty sure Jadis confirms the FATAL spell on Charn"

Oh, that explain her character then. If you are referring to the RPG F.A.T.A.L., than I can totally relate to Jadis. I would gladly destroy that world too...

Regarding the nature of power and justice: http://www.smbc-comics.com/index.php?db=comics&id=2452#comic

Ana Mardoll said...

I was, but only as a shorthand for world-killing spells because I couldn't remember the in-universe name of the spell, and it seemed an appropriate substitute. I wasn't intending to suggest that Charn is the TRPG F.A.T.A.L. world, though I most certainly concur that the only way to deal with THAT world is to Kill It With Fire, and fast.

Also: for the rest of you, if you don't know what F.A.T.A.L. is, it's the worst TRPG in the world and there's a decent write-up on TV Tropes about it. Don't read it unless you're a sucker for Bile Fascination. TW for racism, sexism, rape, and really just every possible TW in the world, ever.

Wikipedia tells me that the actual Jadis spell is "the Deplorable Word". I presume since Lewis has Aslan call the worlds into being with words and song, another word can end the world. It's sort of logical, I reckon.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deplorable_Word

depizan said...

Although, the description of the war on Charn and the general attitude toward people as things do raise the possibility of Charn being the world of F.A.T.A.L. Worst crossover idea ever!

Ana Mardoll said...

Worst crossover idea ever!

Or is it? It goes a long way towards making Jadis a sympathetic character! ;)

Will Wildman said...

When do the Narnia books become public domain? I seem to recall that it might be in the 2030s?

I look forward to a Wicked-style rewrite in which Jadis is trying to free the universe from the grasp of the Emperor. There's quite a lot of material to work with.

Thomas Keyton said...

Carve things on Yggdrasil the World Tree?! The tree that holds up the nine worlds?! And we're just going to carve laws into it?! *headdesk*

I now have the image of a more safety-concerned Emperor nailing a piece of paper to Yggdrasill like some cosmic Martin Luther. Doesn't quite have the same ring, does it? (It's also reminiscent of the Ring Cycle, in which Wotan's inscribed all his contracts of power into Gungnir iirc, but again, "letters in very small and neat handwriting because the spear has to survive actual combat" also lacks a certain something.)

Thomas Keyton said...

Interestingly enough, I'm pretty sure Jadis confirms the FATAL spell on Charn, but this just makes the situation more confusing: why would someone who DEMONSTRABLY has no problem with world-killing be put in a situation where if her wishes aren't satisfied, there will be a world-killing?

Did the Deplorable Word destroy Charn (and thus was acting on a timer) or just kill everyone there except anyone in magical stasis? If the latter, Jadis was safe, if the former Jadis might have thought herself assured of an escape route, since only someone with access to interdimensional travel could awaken her. I don't think she has any such options on Narnia.

John Magnum said...

It kind of disappoints me when I see theodicies that end up pushing everything back to ineffability. It seems a little pointless.

Why did Jesus have to die?
Because the world was effed up and needed fixing, and somehow Jesus's death fixed the cosmos.
Why was the cosmos effed up in the first place?
Something complicated about free will.
Why is free will so valuable, and why does it necessitate tons of crappiness that doesn't appear to be remotely caused by the choices of those with free will? Which is to say, even if we do need free will, do we need free will *and* earthquakes and hurricanes and mosquitos?

And then you get into a bunch of fuzziness about what omnipotence and omnibenevolence actually mean, what constraints God was under when creating the world, and so forth. But there's never really an explanation, just "Well, who knows why God did it?"

In the specific, the whole business about "Why the eff does Edmund have to be ritually executed?" ends up raising questions about the Emperor. Is he insufficiently powerful and unable to change the Deep Magic? (Which would just raise further questions.) Is he morally repugnant and deliberately coded the Deep Magic so that it would have these effects? Was he well-intentioned but ignorant of the fact that his Deep Magic would necessitate Edmund's or Aslan's murder?

***

As a further note, can anyone familiar with the Bible point me to the textual evidence for the classic omnipotent, omniscient, omnibenevolent characterization of God? It seems like that standard set of adjectives arose more in the centuries of deliberation when the early church was being founded. I'm sure it's not all entirely extrabiblical invention, but I'd be interested in seeing how the propositions are deduced from the text.

John Magnum said...

Whoops, comment fail. I wanted to use angled brackets to enclose (various complicated reasons, depending on epoch, but in general:) but it tried to parse it as HTML. Not seeing a way to edit my post, I'll just post this correction.

Ana Mardoll said...

Disqus tries to interpret angle brackets as HTML. Square brackets are safe though. :)

Steph said...

Narnia and FATAL have one thing in common: women are automatically assumed to have lower combat stats.

I wonder what Narnia's equivalent of the racist cursed items would be. The Pointy Shoes of Curmudgeonly Calormenity?

Silverlocke980 said...

@ John Magnum: There's biblical evidence, though none of it is in the currently oft-quoted passages. Most of it is in Scriptures that call God things like Love, all-forgiving, etc. And some of it's Old Testament, too. The Bible, and Christianity as a whole, is a lot more complicated than either the Christians make it out to be, or my fellow atheists make it out to be; Old Testament God's not all plagues and wrath and New Testament God's not all hugs and kisses.

On point, I must say, for all the weird implications it brings up, the idea of a beaver burning one of the most powerful supernatural beings in Narnia with a job reference is hilarious. Narnia is shit, honestly, but that's a pretty good moment.

Brin Bellway said...

Will: "We begin with the perfect omelette, which is made with two eggs, not three. Beginners sometimes add milk for thickness - this is a mistake!" (This line is one of the two reasons why Deep Blue Sea is not an absolute waste of time.)

I thought it was ancient Romans who put milk in omelettes. I'd never heard of the practice until I made a Roman banquet for a history project. (It was okay, but not something I'd do again.)

Ana: Also: for the rest of you, if you don't know what F.A.T.A.L. is, it's the worst TRPG in the world and there's a decent write-up on TV Tropes about it. Don't read it unless you're a sucker for Bile Fascination. TW for racism, sexism, rape, and really just every possible TW in the world, ever.

Don't read it even you are a sucker for Bile Fascination. I tried to read a sporking of it once. I made it a third of the way through before giving up and felt unclean for the rest of the day.
(Sometimes the curiosity comes back, but then I remember how terrible I felt afterwards and it goes away again.)

Bayley G said...

I was going to say, how does any of this fly with the idea that Jadis is an interloper from another realm who came here to destroy things and....somehow was given a very important job that ought to be tempered with mercy? What? Is the Emporer on crack-rocks? But you guys have apparently covered that while I was stuck at work XD

I think the real answer is that she was the White Witch in Lewis' mind long before she was Jadis and he forgot what he'd written by then.

Pthalo said...

Hungarians do it too. I don't like it much -- it makes the eggs doughy, with a breadlike consistency. It ends up tasting like a pancake with too many eggs and not enough sugar.

Amaryllis said...

all his actual behaviour is full of implicit threat and no love.
He's not a tame lion, you know!

(I got really tired of that line; we know, already!)

hapax: I suspect this is meant to be an allusion to Matthew 16: 21-23
That makes sense. But then, why wasn't it thisPeter whispering suggestions to Aslan, what with him being the designated High King and all, first among his siblings just as St. Peter was first among the Apostles?

But no, it has to be poor old Susan getting slapped down again. We might have known.

We have an ongoing epic battle in our house about the proper way to make scrambled eggs. Ana insists on using milk; Husband insists that milk in eggs is dreadful.
Husband is perfectly correct. If you must have dairy in eggs, that's what cheese is for...Oh. Oh, I see that you think so too. Well, I'm glad that harmony has been restored.
(I hope that neither of you has fallen into that other dreadful habit of whipping the poor defenseless eggs until they froth? Leads to tough omelets, if you ask me...but I have a Husband too, and I'll just say that we stopped cooking eggs for each other years ago.)

hapax said...

I always put a splash of milk in omelettes -- it makes them fluffier, and if you use high enough heat and scrape constantly, they're not runny at all.

But never in omelettes -- I want them to be thin and delicate, not fluffy.

hapax said...

a splash of milk in SCRAMBLED EGGS, I meant.

Sheesh.

I cannot brain today, I haz teh stupid...

Ana Mardoll said...

Umm. The Bible (or the contradictory mishmash of dozens of texts in three different languages and several different literary genres compiled over centuries that for some reason people insist on treating as a single document) doesn't work like that. ESPECIALLY when people (including very clever and well-meaning people) try to make it work like that.

Seconding this, alas. The problem arises that a lot of people claim that it *does*, and then they go and write Left Behind novels. It's a big problem, actually, and not one easily solved because it's not like you can just haul out the source material and say "no, you're wrong, see here" because it's so much more complicated than that. :(

I've never really made a Proper Omelette, only scrambled eggs. I'm ridiculously pleased that hapax does the splash of milk too. I'm NOT alone! *happy dance*

Rikalous said...

Boggles have to be sneaky little dickens to perform all of their pranks undetected. That necessarily makes them good rogues and assassins. Jadis needs them to be able to counter the sneakiness of the Terriers or what-have-you.

Mushroom people sound funny until you've been hit with an Archenland ton of status effects. If you're lucky, they'll only poison you. If not, they'll also blind or confuse or paralyze you. They probably explode when they die, too.

The fact that there's a critter called a Cruel intrigues me. A spirit of malice, perhaps?

Side note: The MacLennan/Sartin review of FATAL is very entertaining if you've got the right sense of humor.

Rikalous said...

Something I apparently missed on the first read-through: I assume that all the dairy and meat and furs and every other product of that nature comes from animals, because getting it from Animals would be at best squicky* and at worst serial killer land. Likewise, the wood and fruit come from trees, not Trees. Using dead people for things is Just Not Done.

*except perhaps to a select group, and what they get up to in privacy is none of our business.

Mime_Paradox said...

Zelda's a rather special case, since she's not a singular character, but a series of characters who happen to share a name, phenotype and title. Depending on the version, she'll either be someone who's in constant need of rescue, or somebody who's only occasionally in need of rescue, and who'll help out. Peach, despite being more consistently played as stereotypically feminine, has had just as broad a history of kicking ass ever since Super Mario Bros 2, where she did everything Mario could do, plus flying.

As for the idea of Narnia being a MMO, maybe Jadis is simply the Narnia version of those gamers who insist on making things as hard for themselves as possible. Sure, she could prevent the prophecy from being fulfilled with a flick of her wrist--but where would be the fun in that? It's not a true challenge unless she's truly facing million-to-one odds and she's running the risk of being killed with every other step she takes.

John Magnum said...

@Hapax

Thanks for the great response.

I can respect the idea that there's a numinous transcendence to the universe, which some people have actually experienced. I don't think I have. One thing I tend to find odd is the specificity that people are able to apply to the ineffable Mystery of the cosmos. Christianity isn't just the assertion that there's Something More, but in fact rather a lot of details about the nature of that something. The distinction ends up feeling a little...convenient, if I'm speaking cynically. That is, we can be very specific about the nature of God and His relationship with the universe and our relationship with Him when we're making claims about morality and salvation. But for stuff like theodicy, we get to fall back on the ineffability and faithishness of religious belief. I know it's unfair to paint Christianity in this light, it's just an impression that I sometimes get.

The other thing is that in my own personal experience with Christianity and faith and belief, I was mostly ever convinced by the first mover argument. Like I said, I don't think I've had a personal experience with the transcendent, but when I did feel like I could confidently say "I believe in the existence of God" it was because I was receptive to the idea that the universe had to have an uncaused cause. That's a very propositional, deductive way of looking at God, which nearly mirrors some archetypical mathematical proofs.

The problem comes from the fact that it basically just pushes the mystery back one further level of inexplicability. The existence of the universe is very mysterious thing, but explaining it in terms of an even more complex, even more ineffable creator doesn't help. And since you can't make any observations of the creator, except by observing the creation, that theory doesn't actually give you new insight into the nature of the universe. If you take assumptions about the creator with you, those can shape your theory of the universe, but still.

I think this mathematical/propositional view has shaped a lot of the ways I look at religious claims. I'll reflexively ask "Where do we know this from?" Is it taken from the Bible? Is it a reasoned argument? Is it the Mysterious Feeling we get in the presence of Aslan?

***

I appreciate your analysis of the issue of the omni-omni God. I think the reason I was asking about a Biblical source is that "unbiblical" is a standard putdown for ideas, and in certain branches of Christianity the Bible is (ostensibly) taken as the sole source of dogma. The whole business of prooftexting, together with the austerely axiomatic construction of an omni-omni God... I don't know, something about it prods me. Maybe it's the mathematical style of it. It's not hard to draw a line from that to Aquinas and Spinoza.

One of the ideas that's been circulating a bit in my head is that the omni-omni construction, and its apparent irreconcilability with the problem of evil, are a bit of a red herring as far as Christianity is concerned. Which is to say, we don't really *need* Jesus and God to be infinitely powerful. The infinitely-loving aspect seems more crucial.

I don't know, this is feeling pretty unfocused. I'm not well-read in theology or the Bible. It's just thoughts I have when I read sites like this and Slacktivist and think about Christianity and the Bible. I hope I haven't been too disrespectful.

Adele said...

On the toadstool people...
Although I am not, generally a particularly visual person, particularly when I read, the toadstool people are one thing that I do have a longstanding image of.
This is of a gender-unknown humanoid peering around a toadstool in a dark forest - the toadstool is oddly undefined, but I don't think it's red with white spots.
This creature is lithe and sort of stretched, with long pointed fingernails that look quite threatening. It has skin a bit darker than olive, and dark dark eyes, and is about ten/fifteen centimetres tall, although this image is seen as if the viewer is that height as well, or maybe a little taller. I always imagined it as sort of "sleazing", if that counts as a verb, from place to place, and of having very, very smooth skin - almost as if it is slimy, although it is not wet. Maybe a little damp. It watches. Always watches, with those big, dark blank eyes peering around things.
I suppose "The Toadstool People" got very associated with mold and decay in my head, in a way that "The Mushroom People" certainly wouldn't.

Makabit said...

"Since 'Cair' is presumably derived from 'Caer', meaning 'fortress', saying someone is 'at Cair' is like saying 'Let's go to Street.'"

True, but if it's a language that's not spoken any longer in Narnia, that could indeed happen. The old mission trail here in California is "El Camino Real", and people will say things like "The bookstore is right off El Camino." So people do say, "Let's go to Street," under some circumstances.

Makabit said...

"And, after noting the chance of him being rescued, she still bothers with ceremony. This is odd. As is her referring to him as a victim - not criminal, traitor, or even prisoner."

There seem to be two things going on here, one of which is some sort of legal execution for treason, and the other of which is ritual sacrifice. Killing on the Stone Table much more closely resembles the latter--who on earth executes criminals by cutting their hearts out on a stone slab, unless they're criminals who have been designated as sacrifices?

Makabit said...

"I always envision Adult!Pevensies in their 30's and I just have a hard time seeing them ALL as chaste as the morning dew or whatever."

Well, Susan certainly seems to have something going on with Rabadash. I've always expected that part of what goes on with Susan and the lipstick and nylons is that it must be pure hell to go from an adult woman with sophisticated tastes and exotic lovers to being an English war-era schoolgirl again.

J. Random Scribbler said...

I agree about Susan, Makabit. So little of the writing I've seen on the whole "Problem of Susan" seems to respect how bizarre and traumatic that transition must have been. And then having to be children all over again in mundane England? It's a wonder more of them didn't have trouble.

John Magnum, I suspect we have some tendencies in common. I need to go home and get some sleep before I try to put together any kind of coherent contribution to the conversation, though.

Kit Whitfield said...

True, but if it's a language that's not spoken any longer in Narnia, that could indeed happen.

Fair point - but that'd mean nowhere else in Narnia with the term 'Cair' in its name. Which - well, I don't know. It just sits oddly with the Inkling aesthetic. I know Tolkein was a much more careful writer than Lewis, and I can't imagine him doing it.

The thing is, El Camino Real is in Spanish, which isn't a distant part of everyone's common language - it's a foreign tongue to English speakers, and I wonder if native Spanish speakers are equally likely to call it El Camino. Welsh terms like 'Caer' are in the bones of the language because they're part of a common heritage, and a common heritage is less susceptible to misuse because people have at least some kind of familiarity with it. 'At Cair', to this English native married to someone half-Welsh, just feels all wrong.

Francis D said...

My reading of the Stone Table is that the sacrifice was a ritual one - but Jadis never intended to carry it through. Instead she was trying to do exactly what happened - force Aslan's hand. Either Aslan gives himself to Jadis or she executes Edmund and stops the prophecy cold. And she hates the lion.

And on checking, I notice that nowhere in the text does Jadis (or anyone else) call Edmund a traitor. She calls Edmund a victim, and merely says that Aslan has a traitor with him. "For every treachery I have the right to a kill." But clearly substitutions can be made (as they are doing here).

Now suppose we assume that the traitor isn't Edmund, but Mr. Beaver. I think this explains absolutley everything, from Edmund leaving the house "unnoticed" to the Beavers' remarkable food supply even to Mr. Beaver's behaviour in this scene. Aslan won't give up the beavers because they've sworn fealty to him and been accepted and breaking faith with your vassals is itself an offence.

And it makes perfect sense of much of her behaviour. Mr Beaver at long last gave her the substitute he'd promised (and that in all honesty she never thought he was going to provide). And it turned out to be the kid she'd met before and liked, so she got angry and took a lot of it out on the poor kid.

This makes Jadis' slow progress to the central ritual site rather than giving him a traitors hanging and the annoying whine as she sharpens her dagger a challenge to Aslan. "Come and stop me." Cat ears would hear that sharpening - and find it incredibly annoying.

Cold and direct provocation; she's trying to play chicken with Aslan but isn't aware of the Deeper Magic from Before the Start of Time and instead thinks she's forced him into a lose-lose situation. He can either let himself be killed, break the Law of the Emperor Over the Water, give Mr. Beaver up and break faith with the Beasts, or give Edmund up and be responsible for destroying the Prophecy (thus once again breaking faith with Narnia). She wants his life (and it's one of the only two she wants - the other being the Emperor), but any of the rest will do.

And re: Charn, the reading I remember from when I was about 10 (shortly before the Berlin Wall came down) was that Charn had tried MAD to keep the peace, and it hadn't worked.

Ana Mardoll said...

It was beautiful and brought tears to my eyes. Thank you.

You have a really incredible knack for writing, but especially for writing conversation that conveys information and emotion while still flowing quickly and sounding natural. This is something I struggle with immensely in my own writing, and I'm utterly envious of how easy you make it look.

"I can make her wait," Aslan said, "But you must understand what you're doing. If you do this it will mean going to war with the one who made this world. What hangs in the balance is more than the fate of the world, but the world itself.

And this, of course, made me think of His Dark Materials. Aslan is now Lord Asriel, but with better ethics, under Queen Susan's guidance. :)

Lonespark said...

Holy psychological issues, batman.
Those Twisted Princesses are my new favorite thing in the world. Not all of them, so much. But I want Twisted Tiana and Twisted Mulan to have their own long-running tv adventures. And Twisted Snow White is very intriguing as well.

From this discussion I am learning soooo much about Christian symbols and myths and rich traditions that my Congregationalist upbringing gave me NO CLUE about. So that's a win.

Narnia seems like a weird mishmash of Deep Magic - wild, inexplicable, contradictory, fantastic - and a certain coziness that's really unappealing to me. There are elements of that in LOTR, too, but I mind less. I think it's because there's a lot less narrator moralizing and also because that world isn't obviously linked up with ours.

Ana Mardoll said...

I love your description of the Toadstool People -- I'm not much of a visualizer myself, but that was very vividly written. :D

depizan said...

who on earth executes criminals by cutting their hearts out on a stone slab, unless they're criminals who have been designated as sacrifices

Hey, Narnia is weird. But "victim" still seems like the wrong word for the sacrificer to use. I'd think sacrifice would be the more likely term there. It's as if a bit of the narrator slipped into Jadis's speech. Or as if Jadis herself is of mixed opinion on the whole thing.

depizan said...

Your versions of everything are so much better than the originals! If you ever get published, I'm buying your books.

Lonespark said...

Chris, that is wonderful! I suppose I might love any fantasy story involving due diligence (or any story at all. Embrace bureaucracy!), but it's wonderful from tip to tail.

Ana Mardoll said...

Seriously, seconding on the pre-ordering Chris' hypothetical books.

I also really like -- and maybe this is from the Twilight rewrites -- how non-gendered the conversations always are in Chris' rewrites. I really think you could change all the names in that Narnia rewrite just now and it wouldn't sound "off" at all. It's a perfect example of writing female characters as PEOPLE and not as FEMALE.

Ana Mardoll said...

We really do need more bureaucracy in fiction. Who was it who suggested a Lawful Evil bureaucracy that kept the trains running while the Chaotic Good party was trying to resurrect a Shoggoth for them to fight to shore up poll numbers? Or did I dream that up?

chris the cynic said...

You did not dream that up. The various things were suggested as a part of multiperson discussion starting with this post by Will Wildman.

Ana Mardoll said...

Oh my goodness, thank you. That comment thread is full of so much Win. I especially love the campaign slogans.

JenL said...

If we haven't passed up the egg discussion, I really can't stand scrambled eggs unless they're made the way my dad taught me to make them - with a splash of *canned* milk.

Lonespark said...

That quest-politics thread has added happiness to my life. And I do want to read an anthology based on it. Get it out for Christmas 2013, please.

Will Wildman said...

My brain is currently split between trying to get back into my NaNovel (I've been off it since hitting 50K, which is frustrating) and, apparently, trying to come up with even more genre mashup concepts. Is it possible to create the sword-n-sorcery/noir-mystery hybrid? Iterative metafictional culture-clash/paranormal romance-horror? Wuxia journalist-activism thriller? The concept deluge is making me froth, but it can't hurt to throw high-fantasy-pastiche/political-travelogue back onto the pile as well.

Rikalous said...

It just occurred to me that even if Jadis isn't really interested in executing/sacrificing anyone, a job from the Emperor doesn't sound like the sort of thing it's physically possible to walk away from...dammit, I want my Wicked-style Jadis novel.

Rikalous said...

Concerning sword-n-sorcery/noir-mystery, there's a Discworld noir game called, appropriately, Discworld Noir.

depizan said...

Gilbert and Sullivan managed a comedy operetta about - in part - a reluctant executioner, I don't see why someone couldn't manage a Wicked-style Jadis novel.

Makabit said...

"I agree about Susan, Makabit. So little of the writing I've seen on the whole "Problem of Susan" seems to respect how bizarre and traumatic that transition must have been. And then having to be children all over again in mundane England? It's a wonder more of them didn't have trouble."

Agreed. As to why it's Susan specifically, I wonder if part of the issue may not be that she's the most likely to be sexually aware, both before and after the Narnia experience. Peter's a year older, but a boy, and likely to be later to develop. Also, he has non-sexual sources of power even in England. Susan's pubescent...depending on her personal experience, perhaps already quite interested in boys when she goes through the wardrobe, or would be if she wasn't so weighed down by minding everyone else. I can see a lot of ways for this to go, but frankly, when you're taken out of your adult life, and plopped back into the body of a young adolescent girl, I can see that the one thing that might go through your mind is that you can't be queen in this world, and no one thinks you're especially important, but in a few years, you'll at least be able to make men look at you and want you, and have back the enjoyment of taking lovers and flirting and being beautiful.

Hence, lipstick, and hence refusing to give up the power of adult womanhood by remembering something that can only be categorized as a child's game in the new world. By the time the rest die, Susan's twenty-one, and well entitled to be a grown-up. But the family dynamic simply won't let her.

Dav said...

. . . like condensed milk? The sweet stuff? (Please say no. Please say no.)

Ana Mardoll said...

Could also be evaporated milk. I've been known to use that in mashed potatoes. Mmmmm. :)

Dav said...

Mushroom people sound funny until you've been hit with an Archenland ton of status effects. If you're lucky, they'll only poison you. If not, they'll also blind or confuse or paralyze you. They probably explode when they die, too.

Fungus is one of those omnipresent things, especially in forests. Much of it is out of sight, woven through the ground and bark and part of the lichen and living on tree branches and on rocks and in streams. Maybe not prime warriors, but pretty scary nonetheless, especially when you think what they might be able to do to the Trees. (I have a mental image of the mushroom people sending He Ringworm and She Ringworm to give everyone athlete's foot.)

If we want to enter the technical "making shit up" phase, I'd suggest a warrior based on something like puffballs, which send out clouds of spores when touched. Make up some nice evil consequences of the spores (not too far off - fungi are pretty biochemically amazing), and you have a true enemy. Also, Lewis could have a field day with False Morels, which look like delicious rare morels, but aren't. What if the bad mushroom people mixed with the good mushroom people, and no one could tell the difference? !!!!111!!!!1!

Redwood Rhiadra said...

I wonder if native Spanish speakers are equally likely to call it El Camino.

I live in the South Bay (the "Redwood" in my pseudonym is from Redwood City), and I've never heard a Spanish-speaker, or anyone else, call it anything different...

Will Wildman said...

Also, Lewis could have a field day with False Morels, which look like delicious rare morels, but aren't.

There's no two views about things that look like morels but aren't.

(It was that or some kind of shot at the morels and morelity that Lewis has presented, which we wish were false but doesn't seem to be. I couldn't find a way to make that snappy.)

JenL said...

. . . like condensed milk? The sweet stuff? (Please say no. Please say no.)
Oh, no, no - evaporated, like Ana says. It's not sweetened, but the taste is definitely different from drinking-milk.

Dav said...

Oh, no, no - evaporated, like Ana says.

Oh, good. I shall sleep soundly tonight.

Lonespark said...

Re: El Camino Real, there's one in New Mexico (er, I guess another part of the same one, back in the day?) and one's native languages don't seem to make much difference. There was also a restaurant called that in my college town, same deal...except that some odd college students from other parts of the country actually called it The El, aka The The.

Francis D said...

(I've tried to post something like this before but Disqus ate it I think)

I'm seeing an alternate reading. In the text it's nowhere explicitely stated that Edmund's life is needed for Edmund being a traitor. And we know that life debts can be transferred - after all that's what Aslan does. If the he who is a traitor is Mr. Beaver, then the whole thing makes absolute sense (I think).

Mr. Beaver owes his life to the reluctant Hangwoman for treason. And instead said that he'd send a Son of Adam to take his place when one appeared in Narnia. What he meant by this and what Jadis accepted was that he lived on sufferance because there were after all no Sons of Adam in Narnia. But when one showed up he fulfilled his debt (which Mrs Beaver was aware of). The Beavers having long collaborated.

This explains no one noticing Edmund leaving. The Beavers not only noticed, they encouraged it. And then lied (well, wouldn't you?) They also told the truth when saying he'd gone to see her, but not why. It wasn't something about the eyes - it was that he'd been sent.

This explains Jadis' reaction to Edmund's appearance. She was furious that a bargain she accepted precisely because there was no chance of it being fulfilled had just been fulfilled. And she treated him badly out of guilt. She was also telling the truth when she named Edmund victim rather than traitor - thrown to her by the cowardly beaver in an attempt to save his skin.

So she threw Plan B into operation. Throwing down the gauntlet to the enemy she had and despised. He couldn't straight rescue Edmund; that would be a violation of the Law (as would killing Jadis). He couldn't let Edmund be sacrificed - that would leave only three thrones filled. He couldn't turn over the Beaver - that would be breaking faith with someone who had sworn him fealty. Checkmate - Alan's only choice on the board was to offer himself. (She didn't of course know about the Deeper Magic). Any other choice he either broke the prophecy or broke faith (and if he broke faith he became a traitor).

And re: Charn, even as a ten year old I read that as MAD. Jadis made the fateful decision to actually go through with Mutaully Assured Destruction.

Makabit said...

"I live in the South Bay (the "Redwood" in my pseudonym is from Redwood City), and I've never heard a Spanish-speaker, or anyone else, call it anything different..."

Nor I, unless they actually say 'it's on Camino', which I've heard from Spanish-speakers as well.

I haven't read the chronologically earlier books of Narnia, so I don't know, but is it possible that the name was picked by some early Son of Adam who had read a lot of Welsh tales, and because the word is foreign and the place so central, that it has simply become 'Cair', agrammatically, when referred to by many Narnians?

Then, there are probably Narnians like me, who correct them, and are considered a pain in the ass.

depizan said...

Oh, this is a good alternate interpretation, too.

Is it just me, or do all of the alternate interpretations and rewrites make more sense than the straight text?

Ana Mardoll said...

I seriously am planning in the back of my head to organize some kind of thematic short story anthology (or anthologies) as an ebook. The book would be sold for free (to avoid the hassle of splitting 99 cents 13 ways for forever, but would be a vehicle for getting an author's name "out there". (I've bought stuff because I liked their short stories in an anthology and I can't be the only one.)

Unfortunately, this is tricky to organize because everyone is always very busy. Alas. :(

Charity Brighton said...

I guess when your goal is "tell a compelling, interesting story" and you're competing with someone whose goal is "tell a heavy-handed allegory as quickly as possible", you're going to win almost by default!

What's *really* cool is how objectively good these interpretations and rewrites are! Even if you barely remember the Narnia books, these could stand on their own.

J. Random Scribbler said...

Sign me up to buy that hypothetical anthology, if Chris's piece is a fair sample of the quality! I don't dare look at the quest/politics thread, because I *really* need to get back to work, but I've got it bookmarked.

Francis D, I like your idea too. That's not an interpretation I would've thought of, but now that you mention it, it makes a lot more sense than the canonical explanation!

Pthalo said...

@Francis D: wow. cool. I like that.

about "The El" and other things:

I'm trying to think about words borrowed from my native language and used differently in Hungarian, and also the common process in translation of inserting background information into the text. For example, a translation is not supposed to be literal word for word. A literal translation into English of the sign on the busses here would read "The crowdedness avoidance interests its in ask I proceed you the bus back area into." but a good translation would read "Please don't crowd around the doors, but proceed to the inner sections of the bus."

Good translations of things like newspaper articles go a step further. An original Hungarian newspaper article would just say "The Tisza", but in translation, you have to write "The Tisza river" because everyone in Hungary knows the Tisza is a river, but an English audience wouldn't necessarily.

Or an English article that discusses 9/11 could just say 9/11, but for a Hungarian audience you want to include a couple details to jog their memory of something that happened a decade ago halfway around the globe, as so you'd write "the September 11th 2001 terrorist attacks in New York" in Hungarian.

Similarly, in Hungarian I will say "my mother is a '56 Hungarian" and can be confident that everyone I'm speaking to knows exactly what that means. There isn't a Hungarian over the age of 6 who doesn't know what happened on 23rd October 1956 and who couldn't name the date. But in English, I say "my mother was one of the refugees who fled Hungary with her family in the aftermath of the Hungarian Revolution of 1956."

In Arizona, there's a mesa called Table Mesa. This is funny because mesa is the Spanish word for table, and in English, mesa means "a mountain-like thing that is shaped like a table, surrounded by steep cliffs." Anyway, I guess that mesa looked even more table-like than all the other mesas.


As for English words in Hungarian, loanwords from English that have usually changed their meanings, I mostly think of them as being Hungarian words and don't think of their English equivalents. I have no problem saying "DVD lemez" (DVD disc) because DVD isn't an abbreviation in Hungarian. That second D doesn't stand for anything in Hungarian (it should be an L after all). And I pronounced it like "day vay day". Whereas in English I would not say "DVD disc". Or when I say the word "akciĆ³" I don't think "action" I think "sale!" We have a store called "Coop" which is pronounced like "cope" and which my mother always tries to get me to pronounce as "co-wop."

I've even come to accept that Ceasar Salad is served with Thousand Island Dressing, and have stopped ordering it in the hopes of finding a place that "does it right".

Also, I've noticed that words which are spellt the same in different languages (but have completely different meanings are etymologically unrelated) are stored in completely different parts of my brain. I don't confuse the English "most" with the Hungarian "most" (meaning "now") or the Serbian "most" (meaning "bridge").

My point in all of this is that I'm assuming a Spanish speaker would adapt readily enough to saying "El Camino" to mean a specific road, and might find it amusing now and then when they stopped to think about it, but their brain would store it as "this isn't the spanish word "El Camino" it's a name in English". And if their English were good enough, they would be able to pronounce "El Camino" the road in an American accent when speaking in English, while retaining the ability to use "camino" in the spanish to mean road or path.

Lonespark said...

Now I want to listen to people speaking Spanish and talking about yellow things in Amarillo, TX. Just cuz. Accent-switching is fun when singers and actors do it in big chunks, but accent-and-language switching by, say, fast-talking announcers on the Spanish or Navajo radio stations is a whole 'nother level of cool.

Amaryllis said...

"So little of the writing I've seen on the whole "Problem of Susan" seems to respect how bizarre and traumatic that transition must have been. And then having to be children all over again in mundane England? It's a wonder more of them didn't have trouble. "

I don't know, I always had trouble believing that the Pevensies were ever grown up at all. I agree with whoever it was upthread (sorry, running late and I don't have time to re-read) who talked about this book as a story children tell to themselves. The adult Pevensies, at least in this first book, just sound like children who've been reading Malory, and have some vague notion of courts and quests and hunts and formal language.

I admit that's not particularly consistent with some of the later books, but then the later books aren't consistent with TLTWTW. ( For one thing, where did all those other humans come from, in THAHB? How did Narnia get to be so populated with Sons of Adam and Daughters of Eve in the mere score at most of years since the Pevensies arrived?)

I am much happier with these books if I don't try to make a consistent narrative out of them. They're myth and fable and fairytale, not psychologically realistic novels. As such, they're hit-and-miss, at least with me, but they still succeed better that way than in the other.)

Is it possible to create the sword-n-sorcery/noir-mystery hybrid?
Yes.

Will Wildman said...

Ah, Brust again. People keep on recommending those; obviously it's time I got around to reading some.

Will Wildman said...

I seriously am planning in the back of my head to organize some kind of thematic short story anthology (or anthologies) as an ebook. The book would be sold for free (to avoid the hassle of splitting 99 cents 13 ways for forever, but would be a vehicle for getting the authors' names "out there". (I've bought stuff because I liked their short stories in an anthology and I can't be the only one.)

Unfortunately, this is tricky to organize because everyone is always very busy. Alas. :(


Based on some of the post-NaNoWriMo discussion at Slacktiverse, it sounds like a lot of people think the beginning of the year (January-Marchish) is a much easier time to write in than the mess that is November. What sorts of themes did you have in mind?

Ana Mardoll said...

What sorts of themes did you have in mind?

ALL OF THEM.

Ha, I crack me up. :D

Here was what I'd thought of so far, but I'm NOT good at topic creation OR naming so MOAR IDEAS PLEASE:

* And Then John Was A Zombie — Zombie short stories, preferably with a bad/sad ending?
* Once, Twice, Thrice Upon A Time — Short one-offs of fairy tales and reinterpretations?
* Under the Sea — Exploratory fiction under the sea. Mermaids optional?
* Happiness is Mandatory — Fiction on totalitarian regimes like Orwell's 1984?
* Ghost Lights — Ghost stories, and other paranormal scariness?
* Tales From A Time When Terror Was Tardy -- Per the discussion thread above.

Even have some groups going here, but nothing serious yet:
http://www.wishfulwriters.com/groups/

I started a ghost story and I've got a plot and everything! But I need to, you know, WRITE it. Ha. But it's pretty fully outlined at this point.

hapax said...

restaurant that infamously served Chicken con Pollo.

Or, for another well-known example, the La Brea Tarpits = The The Tarpits Tarpits.

Isn't there a British hill whose name translates as something like Hillhillhillhillhill? [DuckDuckGo, ACTIVATE!]

Ah yes, Torpenhow Hill. Sadly, it seems to be an urban legend. :-(

hapax said...

Dear heavenly days, Will Wildman, you haven't read the Vlad Taltos books yet?

What do they teach children in schools these days?

[iz sad]

JenL said...

In Arizona, there's a mesa called Table Mesa. This is funny because mesa is the Spanish word for table, and in English, mesa means "a mountain-like thing that is shaped like a table, surrounded by steep cliffs." Anyway, I guess that mesa looked even more table-like than all the other mesas.

A couple of hours away from Picacho Peak.... ;-)

Steve Morrison said...

Wikipedia has a list of tautological place names which may be of interest.

Saito said...

It is my understanding that "sacrifice" IS an older meaning of "victim," coming to us directly from the Latin.

Izzy said...

The Wood between the Worlds is clearly part of the Planescape setting if you ask me.

Yes. That's why I always liked TMN, despite the issues--I read it when I'd already gotten into D&D, and holy shit interplanar portals!

Also, Charn=Dark Sun.

Fluffy_goddess said...

When I first read TLtWatW as a kid, I had two (contradictory) theories on the kids and aging, which isn't much of a problem when you are six years old and have contradictory theories on basically everything in the world.

a) They age at the same rate they would in the real world -- that is, not much at all. I based this on my fuzzy memories of the book about a month after I finished it, when one of my friends was reading it and confused, so it went: they're children of earth, therefore they age as children on earth would, physically. They get smarter and more mature because they get to spend years and years there, but physically they age maybe a day or two. Nobody questions this, because they are Legendary Kings And Queens, and legendary kings and queens *always* live for hundreds and hundreds of years; obviously Lewis just forgot to tell us that bit because it's to be assumed. This also explains how all the other humans and other countries arrived in the same world as Narnia -- now that Narnia has its proper rulers, it can get going again, whereas while the White Witch ruled, it was sealed off because it was out of sync with its own destiny. They're part of the magic of Narnia, and so they become something other than human.

b) They age, but very slowly, because they are special. (I figured the Sons of Adam and Daughters of Eve was also a way of ensuring Narnia got its proper Good Christian Figureheads; might as well then enchant them, because they're going to be around in a children's fantasy world, and such worlds do not include major characters dying or having to take multivitamins or any of the other nastiness of adult life.) As they do so, their life in England begins to seem more and more dreamlike, and they forget their roots. When that happens, they forget why they shouldn't go hunting past the lamppost, and fall out of Narnia, where the magic breaks. The magic is ultimately good, so forgetfulness means they're cast out, not killed. And since they've got no other place to go, they go back to being their child selves; I always sort of presumed the whole adventure in Narnia took a day or two, and that their host covered for them because he guessed where they were. This is also why they aren't all allowed back at once -- they've proven that adults can't handle being in Narnia without forgetting important details, so as soon as they've grown up in England and gotten to think like grown-ups there, they can't get in anymore. Only Children In Narnia, basically.

Layla said...

Interesting! I never thought of the Pevensies aging differently while in Narnia. My theory when I was eight (based vaguely on reading "Charlotte Sometimes" at the same time) was that the Pevensies couldn't get older in Narnia than they were going to get in our world. So the fact that they were all going to die in a train wreck in their late teens/early twenties meant that was the age they had to get kicked out of Narnia, too.

@Amaryllis: " I always had trouble believing that the Pevensies were ever grown up at all. "
According to Wikipedia, even Peter is only 22 in The Last Battle. So from this middle-aged lady's perspective, they don't. I'm not saying 20 or 22 year olds aren't mature/adult/responsible - just that it's very easy for me, based on my own life, to think that the Pevensies would still be retaining some of their childhood attitudes.

Dav said...

I vaguely remember mention of someone's golden beard. Am I making that up?

*checks* Yes, I am, but not the part about physical change.

"And Peter became a tall and deep-chested man and a great warrior [...]. And Susan grew into a tall and gracious woman with black hair that fell almost at her feet and the kings of the countries beyond the sea began to send ambassador asking for her hand in marriage [...]" And Edmund and Lucy have descriptions, too.

So they go on a hunt and chase a stag "And the next moment they all came tumbling out of a wardrobe door into the empty room, and they were no longer Kings and Queens [...] but just Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy in their old clothes. It was the same day and the same hour of the day on which they had all gone into the wardrobe to hide. Mrs. Macready and the visitors were still talking in the passage, and upon hearing the hysterical shrieks of the children, they came running in, wondering what could be the matter. But they never got an answer, for the transformation had quite broken the mind of the children. For it is known that young children are flexible, and their minds bend like saplings. But having spent so long in Narnia, their minds had grown up along with their bodies, and the force needed to make them young again snapped them like fragile twigs. And that is the very end of the adventure of the wardrobe."

John Magnum said...

Eugh. Rather morbid, that penultimate sentence.

Ana Mardoll said...

I need more coffee, clearly, because my first read through was "wait, I remember that being written a little differently..."

But it's basically how I imagine the Pevensie children would react. It's distressing to me that the AND THEY WENT HOME AGAIN paragraph is such a WHAM moment.

Layla said...

Rephrasing with more "I" language: I am significantly older than Peter Pevensie was at the time of his death, and still retain certain childhood perceptions, It does not surprise me at all that the Pevensies would continue to feel comfortable with thei childhood perceptions of royalty, chivalry, etc., especially given how strongly reinforced they were during their time in Narnia.

chris the cynic said...

Am I the only one on earth who doesn't think that suddenly becoming a child again would be a brain shattering soul crushing personality destroying experience?

I can't know, given that it has never happened to me, but my best guess is as follows:

If I woke up to find myself a nine year old there would be a strong suspicion that I had lost my mind or I was dreaming, I would do my best to get my bearings quietly and without drawing attention to myself (see previously mentioned suspicion of insanity and couple it with a very strong aversion to the idea of being identified as insane.) If the nine year oldness persisted I would go about my life to the best of my ability, which would probably be significantly better than I did when I was nine the first time, and never mention what happened to anyone.

And so it would go. Depending on the nature of the transformation, I might or might not make use of math and Latin textbooks to convince myself that I wasn't insane. (Ok, if I'm really just nine and that was all a delusion then how did I learn the gerundive? Huh?) And if I convinced myself that I wasn't insane, then I'd feel it even more important not to tell other people about my experience because what if someone tried to cure me of non-existent insanity? Imagine how wrong that might go.

And I think I'd go on with my life probably more or less as functional as I am now. (Of course, I'm not a king right now, and that switch would be more severe, but even so I don't see it being as damaging as everyone else seems to see it as being.)

Can't be sure that's what would happen, but that's how I think it would go.

-

Sometimes you spend a decade in a magical land inside a wardrobe, then you come out and find yourself as old as you were when you went in, back in your old life. So it goes. You can't have a breakdown every time something like that happens.

Brin Bellway said...

Now I'm thinking of the 'verse most of my daydreams are set in.

"For an adult mind, the recommended minimum age for a human vessel is twenty-three years. During times when demand far exceeds supply*, we will use bodies as young as twenty.

The use of bodies younger than twenty is strongly discouraged, especially for those living in or planning at any point during embodiment to visit a universe with age-compatibility restrictions. Entering such a universe in a body with the wrong maturation level may cause headaches, mood swings, and transplant rejection."

*[This is all the time, since they haven't figured out any way of growing a shell at faster than one dayper. A twenty-year-old body thus takes an actual twenty years to grow.]

Mime_Paradox said...

I don't know...even with the perks of living life with extra acquired wisdom, the fact that I'd have to come to terms with people once again discounting my opinion because HEY, I'm just a kid--except this time it's even worse because at least the first time I was actually as immature as I looked--is enough to make it seem not a good deal. Plus, I had a hard enough time interacting with 18-year olds when I returned to college as a 25-year old; being a 30-year old in a 9-year-old's body and unable to interact as an equal with my true peers would be far more than I would be able to take in stride.

Rikalous said...

My first thought was that the Narnia kids might be able to convince those around them that they were geniuses by proving that they had the knowledge and reasoning of adults, but a Narnian education probably doesn't cover a lot of things that British children would be expected to learn. Plus, they certainly weren't geniuses yesterday, so it would be quite an uphill battle. I guess the upside of that is that they won't have to deal with the fact that they already learned all their coursework. They've got each other and the Professor and eventually the other FoN to convince themselves they're not insane, but that leads to remarkable, and possibly unhealthy, insularity. Except for Susan, of course.

Has it ever been discussed here that Susan is the sensible one and the sensible thing to do is to ignore all those fantastical memories of a power fantasy and act your dang age? Lipstick and nylons may seem "silly" to Polly, but they're perfectly normal activities for a twenty-something female to engage in.

chris the cynic said...

I had a hard time interacting with 9 year olds the first go round, it would be more of the same. Like several of the people here, I always got along better with adults than people in my own age group, I imagine that that would likewise be more of the same.

That's probably coloring my reaction. Because it's making it seem like it would be just like the last time. Except the second time maybe I'd realize that no one else cared that the sun was going to expand and destroy the world in 5 billion years and just keep that tidbit to myself.

-

We don't really have much information on what the kids were like before they went to Narnia, but if it is the case that my experience as a kid is coloring my perception, then that implies that the problem isn't the age change, it's the childhood you were used to the first time.

It probably also depends on how much one needs human contact. The children, if they didn't want to interact with people treating them as children when they didn't need to, would have each other and what else? Books maybe? A nine year old who went to Narnia now could, on returning, take to the internet and, if really adult in mind, have no one realize he or she was a nine year old.

In person contact would, of course, fail to provide what is wanted most of the time.

Ana Mardoll said...

Am I the only one on earth who doesn't think that suddenly becoming a child again would be a brain shattering soul crushing personality destroying experience?

For me, it's not so much the "becoming a child again" part -- which I think I might enjoy -- so much as the "never live that life again" part.

For instance, I really like my currently life and friends and husband. If I was suddenly a kid again, well, it might be kind of cool to be a teenager again, but what if I made different choices and never met Husband or Best Friend or had Primary Cat and Auxiliary Backup Cat? That sentence scares the CRAP out of me. Now add into that the certainty that I'll NEVER meet them again (because the life I remember was in another reality) and no one will EVER understand that aspect of my life and my grief... oh my god. Nightmare Fuel to the max, for me.

I'm kind of reminded of that Star Trek episode where Picard lived an entire life in his mind on a planet (as part of a historical monument, I think) and then he died and his wife and child were gone and had never really been his and... that would be messed up. *shivers*

Brin Bellway said...

A nine year old who went to Narnia now could, on returning, take to the internet and, if really adult in mind, have no one realize he or she was a nine year old.

Well, it could be tricky. They have the maturity of, say, a thirty-year-old, they have the experience of a thirty-year-old, but they either can't talk or have to make stuff up about what happened to them...well, ever, because even that first decade (the Terran decade) of their life supposedly ended twenty years ago. I can't talk about having fond childhood memories of The Fifth Element if I'm claiming to have been born in 1981. I'd either have to choose my conversational topics very carefully, or be constantly checking Wikipedia trying to know all of and only what I should know.

depizan said...

I don't find the Star Trek episode particularly disturbing, because... I can't quite think of the right way to phrase it, but that seems more like an add on to one's life, and, in a world where people go play on the holodeck, well, that's not really that out of line.

The Narnia thing seems awful because they had ample time to have a life and attachments (though you'd think they'd have been upset about their previous life and attachments being - so far as they knew - unreachable again while they were in Narnia) and now they'll never see those people again. That's horrible. Being stuck back in children's bodies is just the icing on the horrible cake.

Being returned to one's own childhood is - to me - straight up nightmare fuel. My life hasn't been perfect, but there's nothing I'd want to undo that wouldn't undo things I'd never trade away. And I know there's no way I could be sure I wouldn't accidentally undo something.

Inquisitive Raven said...

I cannot imagine that there would be a problem with eating fruit from Trees. Trees produce fruit as a reproductive strategy. If the fruit don't get et, the seeds don't get spread. I suppose that a Tree might make the contract explicit though. You're not allowed to eat fruit from a Tree, unless you promise to plant at least one seed from that fruit somewhere, and the fruit had better be ripe.

Ana Mardoll said...

I think for me the episode was so sad because... I'm not sure how to frame it. Just having all these valuable memories and experiences that FELT like yours, but they weren't REALLY yours. I guess it'd be like... if I went to sleep tonight and woke up on a spaceship as a different person, and "Ana" and her life had all along been a construct from a machine. I think that would shake me up quite a bit -- especially if it turned out that I liked being Ana more than the New-Ana.

And living on a whole separate life apart from the loved one who died in my Ana life, and they hadn't even really loved ME because that was all a memory and... gah! Just sort of freaks me out.

Mime_Paradox said...

Well, it depends on the subject would be, probably. Some post-TLtWatW* fanfiction has the Pevensies be rather awesome at espionage, diplomacy and politics, which would be necessary both running a kingdom effectively and have core concepts that translate well to different contexts, especially when that context is war-time Britain. However, this wouldn't necessarily translate to adeptness at say, geometry, but even then, I imagine they'd have learned skills that would help them manage things like that with relative ease, such as effective time management and note-taking.

Chris the cynic, that sounds about right. Speaking in general, I feel it would probably be easier to people with net access. Even if one needed to carefully edit what they say in order to keep the masquerade, there's still loads of ways to express yourself without handing out compromising information. Might make it hard to keep a personal blog, though.

In the Narnia case, I tend to feel that even if they wouldn't be able to, say, openly try to organize a union, I feel that the average person to notice their unlikely maturity would chalk it to pressures from the war. Plus, it'd be considerably easier than it is now to simply fake one's identity and pretend to be older than you are (although that'd be easier for Peter and Susan than for Edmund and Lucy).

------

* By which I mean this: http://www.fanfiction.net/s/5209349/1/The_Queen_Susan_In_Tashbaan
It's sexy fun WW 2 espionage, and it's awesome.

BrokenBell said...

Speaking of FATAL (three days after the fact, I know, but I only just remembered) I internet-know a guy who's involved in an This is a blog post about it by one of the participants, mostly talking about some of the games they've got lined up. Really should've mentioned it sooner, but oh well.

Inquisitive Raven said...

I don't know why I didn't think of Brust, I've read more of the Jhereg series than I have this guy, so guess who I thought of first.

Amaryllis said...

I don't know those at all: are they good?

Rikalous said...

I figured that people wouldn't eat fruit from Trees because of the awkwardness/squickiness of eating something that used to be part of the person you're chatting with. Of course, feeding dead people to your dogs isn't any more socially acceptable than eating them yourself, so the contract method of dealing with fruit makes sense.

It occurs to me that Jadis's legions include Ghouls and Toadstool people, corpse-eaters all*. It further occurs to me that it's not easy to tell if a corpse belongs to an Animal or an animal. This leads me to Wildly Speculate that the reason those two groups went over to the Dark Side is that that side isn't so suspicious of cannibals or potential cannibals or suspected cannibals.

* For varying definitions of "corpse."

hapax said...

Well, in just my opinion, they started out marvellous good fun, and then after the first few books grew ... tired (same old same old), then grew frustrating as heck because none of the characters ever grew or changed or learned anything or even made up their gorram mind.

But I still like the Dead Man a lot.

hapax said...

As to the general returning-to-life-as-a-child topic... I dunno.

Maybe I also had an atypical childhood, but the concept of "live a huge proportion of my life in an alternative world, where I had friends and loves and a significant purpose, then being precipitously return my dull life as a child, where my family and the few of my age mates who bothered to talk to me didn't take me seriously or seem to understand what really mattered to me and what I was capable of"...

...yep, that about summed it up for me.

I don't want to sound like I'm trivializing the trauma that other people see that this must have caused for the Pevensies. Yet I confess that at both at the time, and even now, the descriptions of this "childhood" (and "adolescence") that people are assuming the Pevensies left and returned to seems quite as alien and dreamlike to me as their lives as Kings and Queens of Narnia!

Makabit said...

"Has it ever been discussed here that Susan is the sensible one and the sensible thing to do is to ignore all those fantastical memories of a power fantasy and act your dang age? Lipstick and nylons may seem "silly" to Polly, but they're perfectly normal activities for a twenty-something female to engage in."

I think that Susan is protecting herself, and hoping to get something out of her actual real life. The problem is that it turns out that the rules state that while being beautiful, and desired by men is great when you're a tall and gracious queen of Narnia with long black hair, it's tawdry and stupid when you're a tall and gracious college girl in England with a cute post-war bob.

Inquisitive Raven said...

On the "going to Street" discussion: You could actually say that where I live and have it make sense. There is a major thoroughfare in the area called, I kid you not, "Street Road." Given that there is a politically connected family around here named "Street," I suspect that it's named after that family. You may have heard of one of them, he used to be mayor. Unfortunately, his main claim to fame outside Philly may be the Federal corruption investigation of his office.

RebeccaCityofLadies said...

I didn't realize this at the time, but that scenelet, in retrospect, is pretty kinky. :O

Brin Bellway said...

You may have heard of one of them, he used to be mayor.

I haven't heard of him, but I have been on Street Road. We all had a (somewhat confused) laugh when we saw the next step on the directions.

Penprp said...

... Heh. And all this "regression to childhood" discussion just reminds me of Detective Conan. For those who don't watch the anime or read the manga, and don't want to wade through 800 chapters of it (or 600+ episodes, not counting filler,) Detective Conan's main character is a Sherlock Holmes-obsessed teenage detective, (sixteen on the verge of seventeen) Kudou Shinichi. He happens to see some criminal activity, gets blindsided, and is fed a poison that's supposed to be untraceable. Instead, it turns him into a six year old. He takes on the name Edogawa Conan and winds up solving mysteries. Most of them murders. It's a running thing that people who don't know him treat him like a child, which frustrates him greatly. It's a great series if you're willing to invest the time into it...

Rikalous said...

You'd think someone would be talking about getting the "kid" therapy after the fiftieth or so murder he witnesses. You'd think Ran at least would have some concern about his mental health.

Marc Mielke said...

I was thinking more Star Control II Mycons.

Steve Morrison said...

It occurs to me – if everything in Narnia, including the coats the children “borrowed”, and if the Boggles are another term for boggerts, then there’s a boggart in the wardrobe! I wonder if Rowling had LtWatW in mind when she wrote ch. 7 of Prisoner of Azkaban? It seems a long shot, although she is supposed to be a Narnia fan.

Majromax said...

In the American edition, this bit is changed to "Tell you what is written in letters deep as a spear is long on the trunk of the World Ash Tree? "
That just makes solid a concern I had with that kind of carving. Who carves anything that deep? It's far, far deeper than you need for an effective engraving, and by a spear-length you'll just start weakening the structure of the object.

I suppose "rules carved so deep they weaken the structure of the world" is an apt metaphor for Narnia, but I doubt it's the one that Lewis intended.

Majromax said...

"...For that’s another of the old rhymes:
When Adam’s flesh and Adam’s bone
Sits at Cair Paravel in throne,
The evil time will be over and done."


You know, since the Witch apparently doesn't have to exercise her rights straightaway, there's another, albeit riskier way to get what she wants.

Disappear. Let the kids play at monarchy. Aslan-attention-span-of-a-kitten will probably bugger off again like he's done before. Then come out of hiding and, wand in hand, demand her due. The other siblings don't know of this Deep Magic Jasper, so they would presumably rush to Edmund's aid.

"Fool," said the Witch with a savage smile that was almost a snarl, "do you really think your master can rob me of my rights by mere force? He knows the Deep Magic better than that. He knows that unless I have blood as the Law says all Narnia will be overturned and perish in fire and water."

And that's it. She has every expectation that, in a battle to enforce her rights, she'd win. Or at least the other side would lose. She can wait, hang out with the Toadstool people, have some curds and whey, and strike later at a time and place of her choosing.

After all, the prophesy only says that the evil time will be over and done. It doesn't say one bit about what happens afterwards.

hapax said...

A few comments just to toss out there:

"These things have to be done *delicately*, or you'll hurt the spell."

I quote this section only to ask someone to explain why Mrs. Beaver noticed anything particularly.
I know it seems like forever since we read it, but this probably alludes to Chapter 8, when Edmund asks if the Witch could turn Aslan into stone, and Mr. Beaver laughs at the idea: "Turn him into stone? If she can stand on her two feet and look him in the face it'll be the most she can do and more than I expect of her." Mrs Beaver then reiterates this when Susan confesses that she's nervous of seeing a lion, and Mrs Beaver responds: "If there's anyone who can appear before Aslan without their knees knocking, they're either braver than most or else just silly."

I didn't have any problem with the device of "pretend I have forgotten." It allows Aslan to discover what his enemy THINKS are the precise terms of the law, which gives him the wiggle room of an out: "for every treachery I have a right to a kill." Not to "kill the TRAITOR", but just to "kill SOMEONE."

Tell you what is written in letters deep as a spear is long on the fire-stones on the Secret Hill?
In the American edition, this bit is changed to "Tell you what is written in letters deep as a spear is long on the trunk of the World Ash Tree? " which is one of the reasons I identified the Emperor as Odin. Like the change of Maugrim's name, it alters the imagery from Celtic pagan worship -- which at the time of writing would have been seen as ambiguously "good", or at least "traditional" -- to Norse pagan worship, with all its connotations of savagery and barbarity.

Finally:

First, Susan whispers her suggestion to Aslan. [...] And... Aslan apparently calls her out publicly, because I see no other reason why nobody would ever dare make that suggestion again if they hadn't clearly heard his response to her.

I suspect this is meant to be an allusion to Matthew 16: 21-23:
From that time Jesus began to show His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised up on the third day. Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, “God forbid it, Lord! This shall never happen to You.” But He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; for you are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but man’s.”

Whether this makes Aslan (or Jesus, for that matter) more or less of an asshat is up to the reader, I suppose.

Makabit said...

In the American edition, this bit is changed to "Tell you what is written in letters deep as a spear is long on the trunk of the World Ash Tree? " which is one of the reasons I identified the Emperor as Odin. Like the change of Maugrim's name, it alters the imagery from Celtic pagan worship -- which at the time of writing would have been seen as ambiguously "good", or at least "traditional" -- to Norse pagan worship, with all its connotations of savagery and barbarity.

The question is, would one prefer to be burned in a wicker basket, or have one's lungs yanked out?

Odin, of course, also undergoes something like a crucifixion, although he does not do it on behalf of a sinful world. With a spear through him, on the World Tree--so that imagery actually works better in the Norse context.

Makabit said...

Re: El Camino Real, there's one in New Mexico (er, I guess another part of the same one, back in the day?) and one's native languages don't seem to make much difference. There was also a restaurant called that in my college town, same deal...except that some odd college students from other parts of the country actually called it The El, aka The The.

This recalls the restaurant that infamously served Chicken con Pollo.

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