Narnia: The Arthurian Court

Content Note: Battlefield Medicine, Survivor Guilt, Secrets, Body Mismatch

Narnia Recap: Aslan has joined the battle against the White Witch.

The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, Chapter 17: The Hunting of the White Stag

   THE BATTLE WAS ALL OVER A FEW MINUTES after their arrival. [...]
   "It was all Edmund's doing, Aslan," Peter was saying. "We'd have been beaten if it hadn't been for him. The Witch was turning our troops into stone right and left. But nothing would stop him. He fought his way through three ogres to where she was just turning one of your leopards into a statue. And when he reached her he had sense to bring his sword smashing down on her wand instead of trying to go for her directly and simply getting made a statue himself for his pains. That was the mistake all the rest were making. Once her wand was broken we began to have some chance -- if we hadn't lost so many already. He was terribly wounded. We must go and see him."

As a quick note, Peter is still referring to the army as Aslan's with this "your leopards" statement. I'm guessing it's meant as a sign of respect to Aslan (Peter may be High King, but Aslan is his superior), but it instead can give the impression that -- of all the four children -- Peter has adopted Narnia into his heart the least.

Moving on, this is the moment Team Edmund has been waiting for: Edmund is the hero of this battle. He fought his way valiantly to the Witch and kept his attention entirely on destroying her wand, even knowing that would leave him open to be stabbed by her stone knife. He choose to sacrifice himself because he saw no other way for his side to win the battle, and he choose it bravely and freely instead of turning tail and running for the lamppost. Edmund is a citizen of Narnia, just as much as Susan and Lucy are, but he has bought it at a high price.

A part of me greatly appreciates this. I have, after all, been a surprisingly (to myself, anyway) staunch Edmund supporter from the start of this deconstruction. And yet... another part of me finds this scene so frustrating. We don't get to hear from Edmund, he is just as robbed of a voice in this scene as he was in the chapters since his rescue from the Witch. First he will be too wounded to speak, and then we'll get a quick description of how much better he looks, which comes packaged as a back-handed compliment! It's so frustrating to me.

We've talked before about this story really being Aslan's story, and not the Pevensie children's story. And from a writing standpoint, that's fair, it's the story the author wanted to tell. But from a reading standpoint, it frustrates me so very much. There's this whole story here of a young boy caught in the middle of a world war, torn apart from his mother and father, and utterly unsure of his future. And then he finds himself in a magical world, caught in the clutches of someone who seemed powerful enough to protect him and yet now represents a terrible danger to him. And after being saved from her, he opposed her in a direct and brave way, taking control of his future -- even if that future was only death. How powerful that story would be for me.

And yet... we're instead given this death-and-resurrection story about a distant deity-like figure who oscillates between unaccountably angry and unapproachably silly, almost like a Bacchus figure. It's still a story that could be powerful, but it just doesn't resonate with me in the same way. Maybe because Edmund's story seems touchingly human, but Aslan's story seems distantly inhuman to me.

   They found Edmund in charge of Mrs. Beaver a little way back from the fighting line. He was covered with blood, his mouth was open, and his face a nasty green color.
   "Quick, Lucy," said Aslan.
   And then, almost for the first time, Lucy remembered the precious cordial that had been given her for a Christmas present. Her hands trembled so much that she could hardly undo the stopper, but she managed it in the end and poured a few drops into her brother's mouth.
   "There are other people wounded," said Aslan while she was still looking eagerly into Edmund's pale face and wondering if the cordial would have any result.
   "Yes, I know," said Lucy crossly. "Wait a minute."
   "Daughter of Eve," said Aslan in a graver voice, "others also are at the point of death. Must more people die for Edmund?"

And this is kind of a perfect example of what I mean when I say Aslan is distant and unapproachable.

Lucy is eight-years-old. She should be given the time to stay by her brother's side and watch him heal. There are critical patients waiting outside? Great, send a centaur or a dryad or a river-god or Mrs. Beaver around with the cordial. There's this assumption that because Lucy was given the rare healing potion, she has to be the person to dispense it, and I just can't get on-board with that. She's a child! She shouldn't be the head battle-field nurse. She can't possibly be expected to go out and make the hard decisions of who is seriously wounded and needs the cordial right away and who is 'merely' in agonizing pain. The very fact that Aslan puts this burden on her infuriates me.

Now, maybe some quirk of Father Christmas' magic is that the healing potion has to be dispensed by Lucy in order for it to work. Well, in that case, I'm angry at Father Christmas because, again, eight-year-old. Here's a thought, Father Christmas: how about next time you give the sword to Susan so that she can defend herself against the Wolf, give the bow to Lucy so that she can back up Susan against said Wolf, and give the horn and cordial to Peter so that Peter can call Aslan there directly instead of having them waste time being "scented" out, plus he can heal himself and his army as needed.

   "I'm sorry, Aslan," said Lucy, getting up and going with him. And for the next half-hour they were busy -- she attending to the wounded while he restored those who had been turned into stone. When at last she was free to come back to Edmund she found him standing on his feet and not only healed of his wounds but looking better than she had seen him look -- oh, for ages; in fact ever since his first term at that horrid school which was where he had begun to go wrong. He had become his real old self again and could look you in the face. And there on the field of battle Aslan made him a knight.

And that is what I mean by "back-handed compliment".

I don't need to be told that Edmund looks redeemed. As far as I'm concerned, Edmund has been redeemed since his rescue, when he apologized to his siblings and shook hands and went back to talking about normal things. As far as I'm concerned, Edmund has been a hero since he decided to stay and fight instead of run for home. As far as I'm concerned, Edmund has been The Hero of this battle since he sacrificed himself to destroy the Witch's primary weapon.

Telling me, after all this, that he doesn't look like a jerk anymore just strikes me as mean-spirited. I want to retort that, yeah, I kind of figured. Thanks for ruining a beautiful moment.

   "Does he know," whispered Lucy to Susan, "what Aslan did for him? Does he know what the arrangement with the Witch really was?"
   "Hush! No. Of course not," said Susan.
   "Oughtn't he to be told?" said Lucy.
   "Oh, surely not," said Susan. "It would be too awful for him. Think how you'd feel if you were he."
   "All the same I think he ought to know," said Lucy. But at that moment they were interrupted.

Aslan has actually had some alone time with Edmund earlier, so I'm not so sure I'd jump to the assumption that Edmund has no idea what happened. But at the same time, I wholeheartedly agree with Susan: Edmund should not be told.

The thing is, when people tell children -- as I was told as a child -- that Jesus would still have died on their behalf even if no one else needed his sacrifice, the child usually has the safety net of understanding that the statement is a hypothetical. I mean, sure, Jesus would have died for you and only you, but he didn't so no worries about that. If a child is taught substitution theory, they're almost always taught it with a serving of shared community guilt -- Jesus, they are told, died for all of us.

But Edmund doesn't have this buffer. Aslan didn't die for the treachery of all Narnians. Aslan died for the treachery of Edmund. Sure, he came out on the other end all better, but that wouldn't even begin to make it better for me. This isn't the sort of story that would leave me feeling grateful and relieved and happy and thankful on the other end; hearing something like that in Edmund's position would leave me with a nasty case of survivor guilt and lifelong nightmares.

And this is really one more reason why I feel like Lucy and Susan shouldn't have been included in as witnesses. They've been put into a position where they have to either burden their brother with a terrible realization, or they have to keep an awful secret from him for the rest of their lives. What will they say when Peter and Edmund ask where Aslan and the girls went? When the boys ask why Aslan didn't just tell everyone he was going for reinforcements? What can the girls say? What should they say? And this is one more example of my feeling that Aslan refuses to anticipate problems and take steps to solve them.

   "Once a king or queen in Narnia, always a king or queen. Bear it well, Sons of Adam! Bear it well, Daughters of Eve!" said Aslan.
   So the children sat on their thrones and scepters were put into their hands and they gave rewards and honors to all their friends, to Tumnus the Faun, and to the Beavers, and Giant Rumblebuffin, to the leopards, and the good centaurs, and the good dwarfs, and to the lion. [...]
   But amid all these rejoicings Aslan himself quietly slipped away. And when the Kings and Queens noticed that he wasn't there they said nothing about it. For Mr. Beaver had warned them, "He'll be coming and going," he had said. "One day you'll see him and another you won't. He doesn't like being tied down -- and of course he has other countries to attend to. It's quite all right. He'll often drop in. Only you mustn't press him. He's wild, you know. Not like a tame lion."

The only ruler Narnia has had in 100 years was the White Witch who apparently believed that the best government was one that governed simply. She kept no court, maintained no diplomatic relations, had no advisers, and ruled entirely by threat of force.

There is no friendly-and-experienced party that the children can turn to for on-the-job training. No foreign royalty they can lean on, no professional adviser they can trust. Knowing this, I'd be interested to know what "rewards and honors" they give to "all their friends". Are they handing out titles? Lands? Responsibilities? Placement in the new Narnia government? I'm seriously curious; how a court rewards its people can have wide-reaching effects on a country.

And then there's the curious wording that they reward not those who were instrumental in the battle or extra specially loyal to Narnia through the hard times. They reward "their friends". They reward Mr. Tumnus. For what? The only thing he's done in this book is not kidnap a small child and turn her over to be murdered. Are the other Narnians, the Aslan Loyalists, going to be annoyed that a former employee of the Witch is given a reward? I wonder.

   And now, as you see, this story is nearly (but not quite) at an end. These two Kings and two Queens governed Narnia well, and long and happy was their reign. At first much of their time was spent in seeking out the remnants of the White Witch's army and destroying them, and indeed for a long time there would be news of evil things lurking in the wilder parts of the forest -- a haunting here and a killing there, a glimpse of a werewolf one month and a rumor of a hag the next. But in the end all that foul brood was stamped out. And they made good laws and kept the peace and saved good trees from being unnecessarily cut down, and liberated young dwarfs and young satyrs from being sent to school, and generally stopped busybodies and interferers and encouraged ordinary people who wanted to live and let live. And they drove back the fierce giants (quite a different sort from Giant Rumblebuffin) on the north of Narnia when these ventured across the frontier. And they entered into friendship and alliance with countries beyond the sea and paid them visits of state and received visits of state from them. And they themselves grew and changed as the years passed over them. And Peter became a tall and deep-chested man and a great warrior, and he was called King Peter the Magnificent. And Susan grew into a tall and gracious woman with black hair that fell almost to her feet and the kings of the countries beyond the sea began to send ambassadors asking for her hand in marriage. And she was called Susan the Gentle. Edmund was a graver and quieter man than Peter, and great in council and judgment. He was called King Edmund the Just. But as for Lucy, she was always gay and golden-haired, and all princes in those parts desired her to be their Queen, and her own people called her Queen Lucy the Valiant.

Oh my gosh. So much to unpack in that one paragraph. Where do we start?

The first part of their reign involves hunting down and killing all the Witch's old supporters. But... it's okay because the supporters were all evil and horrible people and need killing. Except... they need killing because they kill in order to... eat. These don't seem to be people who refuse to be nice farmers and instead become murderous bandits. They're Hags and Werewolves. Do werewolves in this mythos even have control over their killing? If they don't, should they be systematically murdered just like that?

They "saved good trees from being unnecessarily cut down". What does that mean? Does that mean the "bad" trees still get cut down? How do you tell the difference between a good tree and a bad tree? (Which one of you posited the hilarious image of a murderous tree being helplessly climbed on by happy children and shading picnicking lovers? I can't get that image from my head now.) Does it mean that the good trees are still cut down if it's deemed "necessary"? How does that work? You can't just relocate a grown tree without causing a massive amount of trauma to the system and risking killing it. If it's "necessary" to have a cleared forest somewhere, are the good trees just out of luck?

Why did the dwarfs and satyrs need to be liberated from going to school? (Yes, I know this was just a cozy detail added. I refuse to let it slide.) Was the White Witch pro-education? Was the education sinister in some way or inappropriate for dwarfs and satyrs? But "liberated" seems to indicate that some force was still propelling the youths into school, so who was it and why and why would it be appropriate for the Pevensies to muscle in and tell whoever it was -- the elder dwarfs? the elder satyrs? -- how to educate their children?

And finally, though no ages are given for the grown-up Pevensie children, I always got the feeling that the children grew to be in their late-twenties, possibly early thirties. I'd be interested in hearing other people's interpretations of that.

   So they lived in great joy and if ever they remembered their life in this world it was only as one remembers a dream. And one year it fell out that Tumnus (who was a middle-aged Faun by now and beginning to be stout) came down river and brought them news that the White Stag had once more appeared in his parts -- the White Stag who would give you wishes if you caught him. So these two Kings and two Queens with the principal members of their court, rode a-hunting with horns and hounds in the Western Woods to follow the White Stag. [...] And they saw the stag enter into a thicket where their horses could not follow. Then said King Peter (for they talked in quite a different style now, having been Kings and Queens for so long), "Fair Consorts, let us now alight from our horses and follow this beast into the thicket; for in all my days I never hunted a nobler quarry."

At some point, I got this scene and one from The Last Battle swapped in my head, and I thought he Pevensie were looking for Aslan -- that they thought he'd been sighted and they were hoping to see him again. But, no, they're hunting an innocent animal because if you catch it, it gives you wishes. So basically the Pevensies are greedy exploiters of nature, and I will now reflect in the irony that they supposedly reign by a motto of "live and let live". You keep using that word, C.S. Lewis, and I do not think you know what it means.

   "Fair friends, here is a great marvel for I seem to see a tree of iron."
   "Madam," said King Edmund, "if you look well upon it you shall see it is a pillar of iron with a lantern set on the top thereof." [...] "I know not how it is, but this lamp on the post worketh upon me strangely. It runs in my mind that I have seen the like before; as it were in a dream, or in the dream of a dream."   "Sir," answered they all, "it is even so with us also."
   "And more," said Queen Lucy, "for it will not go out of my mind that if we pass this post and lantern either we shall find strange adventures or else some great change of our fortunes."
   "Madam," said King Edmund, "the like foreboding stirreth in my heart also."
   "And in mine, fair brother," said King Peter.

This is Narnia, land of a thousand forebodings. Hearing the name of Aslan makes good people feel lovely and warm and tingly all over because he is good. Seeing the runes on the Stone Table makes people feel strange and solemn and uncomfortable because it's a piece of old magic and was a designated execution place for traitors. In short, when you have a feeling in Narnia, you listen to it.

The Pevensie rulers have just had a feeling that passing the lamppost will result in a "great change of [their] fortunes." They feel this way because that is precisely true.

   "And in mine too," said Queen Susan. "Wherefore by my counsel we shall lightly return to our horses and follow this White Stag no further."
   "Madam," said King Peter, "therein I pray thee to have me excused. For never since we four were Kings and Queens in Narnia have we set our hands to any high matter, as battles, quests, feats of arms, acts of justice, and the like, and then given over; but always what we have taken in hand, the same we have achieved."
   "Sister," said Queen Lucy, "my royal brother speaks rightly. And it seems to me we should be shamed if for any fearing or foreboding we turned back from following so noble a beast as now we have in chase."
   "And so say I," said King Edmund. "And I have such desire to find the signification of this thing that I would not by my good will turn back for the richest jewel in all Narnia and all the islands."
   "Then in the name of Aslan," said Queen Susan, "if ye will all have it so, let us go on and take the adventure that shall fall to us."

This. This. This!

This passage makes me so caps-lock rage-y. The Pevensies are terrible rulers. I don't care that this is supposed to be an Arthurian court and an allusion to courtly legends. This is an inexcusable way to run a country. Bad enough that you are hunting one of your own subjects so that you can terrorize it into enriching you. Bad enough that you let your court fall behind because everyone was pooped so now you are endangering your country by having the entire ruling family riding alone and unguarded through a thick wood. Now you are pushing past a feeling of foreboding because of a foolish belief that "brave" equals "foolhardy".

Is this supposed to be a good model for ruling a country? "Peter, you know, I feel a foreboding that if we go to war against this country, the cost in lives may be far too great to justify the ideological cause." "I've no doubt that you're right, sis, but we've never backed down from a fight before! Yeee-haaw!"

And it's not even Cowboy Rulership here. Peter is saying that they have literally never done something halfway. They've never gotten halfway through a war or a building project or a quest or anything and reconsidered things or discovered new information that made them change their mind. They are the most dangerous of zealots: ones who will never, ever consider doing things another way. If they had to ride off a sheer cliff to get the White Stag, they would because better that than not get what they wanted. Oh. My. Gosh.

And -- fun fact -- Susan is the one who urged against continuing on, and the others shamed her into continuing. I can't imagine why she might grow up in England to be a little chilly to her siblings when they invite her over for Narnia Night. OH WAIT, YES I CAN. "Hey, sis, you want to bring dessert for Narnia Potluck Night?" "Well, gee, Peter, I would but I WOULD RATHER YOU HAD LISTENED TO ME WHEN I SAID IT WAS A BAD IDEA TO KEEP GOING PAST THE LAMPPOST. Cake or pie?"

   So these Kings and Queens entered the thicket, and before they had gone a score of paces they all remembered that the thing they had seen was called a lamp-post, and before they had gone twenty more they noticed that they were making their way not through branches but through coats. And next moment they all came tumbling out of a wardrobe door into the empty room, and they were no longer Kings and Queens in their hunting array but just Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy in their old clothes. [...]
   And that would have been the very end of the story if it hadn't been that they felt they really must explain to the Professor why four of the coats out of his wardrobe were missing. And the Professor, who was a very remarkable man, didn't tell them not to be silly or not to tell lies, but believed the whole story. "No," he said, "I don't think it will be any good trying to go back through the wardrobe door to get the coats. You won't get into Narnia again by that route. Nor would the coats be much use by now if you did! Eh? What's that? Yes, of course you'll get back to Narnia again someday. Once a King in Narnia, always a King in Narnia. But don't go trying to use the same route twice. Indeed, don't try to get there at all. It'll happen when you're not looking for it. And don't talk too much about it even among yourselves. And don't mention it to anyone else unless you find that they've had adventures of the same sort themselves. What's that? How will you know? Oh, you'll know all right. Odd things they say -- even their looks -- will let the secret out. Keep your eyes open. Bless me, what do they teach them at these schools?"

We've already talked a bit -- and we'll talk some more in the future I hope -- about the many reasons why I find this an incredibly traumatizing passage. I feel like there would be this huge issue of body... mismatch, for lack of a better word. The 'children' are now adults in a body that presents as a child. I feel like there would be issues of grief and loss -- every friend, loved one, surrogate parent, and acquaintance they knew in Narnia is lost to them forever, without any chance to say goodbye. I feel like there would be issues of guilt: they left behind no clear successor in Narnia and now what will happen to the country? Will it be invaded? Consumed by civil war? Beyond anything else, they have no one to talk to, no one who can believe them.

Except the Professor. Who is, by the Power of Retcon, a terrible lying jerk here. He lies once by assuring them that they'll totally get back into Narnia a second time. I mean, they will, but he doesn't know that -- the Professor visited Narnia once and only once. He lies a second time by assuring the children that they'll be able to tell at a look who has been in Narnia before -- the Professor has been in Narnia before and the children don't recognize that. They talked to him about Narnia not because they could tell he'd been there, but because they wanted to explain about the coats. And he's additionally a jerk with his whole WHY YOU SO IGNORANT speech when he of all people should recognize how traumatized the Pevensie "children" are. Stay classy, Professor.

And that's the end of "The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe". Let's talk about this chapter today and then do a bit of an open thread retrospective / moving-forward next time. Thank you, all!

174 comments:

Dav said...

Courtly language.

I know it's nitpicking, but I can't help it. There's *no* evidence that any population in Narnia talks like the Pevensies do in this chapter. So where did it come from? There's no court to initiate the children into the odd "ye olden tymes" dialect. There's no standing precedent - the glimpses we get of Jadis either in or out of the castle don't indicate that she spoke like that.

So there's only a couple options left. Maybe it was imported from Archenland or something, if the children got a political tutor or council. Seems unlikely, but possible.

Maybe the kids made it up on their own, mimicking what they thought court life was like, which sort of makes them extra-terrible rulers. (Nor does it really match up with what we know of them - they know how serious Narnia is from the get-go of their rule. There's no time to be sitting around making up linguistic games.) And maybe "consort" meant something different back in the day, but I can't imagine referring to any of my siblings that way without giggling madly.

So my guess is that the Deep Magic is working on them, forcing them into molds for the High Kings and Queens of Narnia. This mold probably *is* taken from the modern ideas of how people talked in English court back in the day, folded into Narnia along with Father Christmas and kangaroos. And so it makes sense that there's some weird behavior, too: hunting was a big thing for nobility in the real world, so it's a big thing in Narnia, even though hunting is suddenly a totally different activity when you have good reason to believe that your quarry may be an Animal. (Puts a whole new spin on The Most Dangerous Game, doesn't it?)

More evidence that their minds have been tampered with is in the forgetting of the lamppost, even though that's a pretty significant place in their personal histories, and pretty much unique in the land, and so likely a landmark that's referred to frequently. They're not so young that they couldn't remember common objects from the real world, are they? Especially when they've got each other to hold onto some of the real world?

Sidenote: if I were a foreign nation and just discovered that the evil tyrant ruling it was dead and there were four prepubescent children on the thrones in the crumbling castle without so much as a regent in sight, and spring had returned so it was worth ruling, I'd like to think I wouldn't immediately try to take advantage of that situation, but surely *all* the countries out there are not so obliging as the best fantasy version of myself.

Bificommander said...

Just a second. So at no point in the entire 10+ years do the children even consider going back to their home in England? I can understand being caught up in the adventure, but afterwards they're named King and Queen and that's the end of that? Even to the point that they can't remember what a lamppost is or that it sits at their point of entry? Edmund and Lucy both know first hand that it is, or at least was, possible to go back the way you came. I guess being King and Queen of a magical land is a pretty sweet gig, especially if you can apparently be a great ruler without any formal training, but no one had a single friend or relative they missed a bit?

And a second point, these people that asked Susan to marry her: What species are they? Human? Why didn't any of them try to be king/queen of Narnia? Or are they human in all aspects besides being a 'Son of Adam'/'Daughter of Eve', somehow? I don't know, cause I don't think we met a single human inhabitant of Narnia in this book. All were Animals or fantasy races. Just another reason I'd think the kids might at some point like to go back home and interact with some more members of their own species.

Bificommander said...

PS: "But don't go trying to use the same route twice." That's BS, and the professor knows it. Lucy and Edmund have both entered and left Narnia multiple times now. They even told him. So if they can't get back now, something has apparently changed. My best guess is that Narnia doesn't need the kids anymore, so the Deep Magic or whatever blocks the access route. Which makes it all the weirder that 'Prince' decides to drop the children back into the world well after the poopoo has hit the fan again. If we are to conclude the gateway to Narnia apparently opens based on rules of its own, then those rules seriously bite for these kids. They only ever get to the damn place when it is in a complete FUBAR state.

Ana Mardoll said...

I'd like to think I wouldn't immediately try to take advantage of that situation, but surely *all* the countries out there are not so obliging as the best fantasy version of myself.

Heh. This.

Wasn't there a princess of Prussia who -- if I remember correctly -- her dad got all the surrounding countries to TOTES AGREE that when he died and she became queen, they wouldn't invade her country? And they did agree, and then he died, and then they all invaded? I vaguely remember a history lesson along those lines.

EdinburghEye said...

Susan is the one who urged against continuing on, and the others shamed her into continuing. I can't imagine why she might grow up in England to be a little chilly to her siblings when they invite her over for Narnia Night. OH WAIT, YES I CAN. "Hey, sis, you want to bring dessert for Narnia Potluck Night?" "Well, gee, Peter, I would but I WOULD RATHER YOU HAD LISTENED TO ME WHEN I SAID IT WAS A BAD IDEA TO KEEP GOING PAST THE LAMPPOST. Cake or pie?"


LOL. Fair point, and not one that occurred to me before now.

Just FWIW, a white stag is used as a figure for Christ in some of what-I-think-of as Christian fairy tales - and I expect Lewis knew that.

In a sense, then, the Pevensies are hunting Christ, who will answer their prayers ("give them wishes") if they catch the Stag, and what they get is what Aslan/Christ/White Stag decrees they should have prayed for - to return home.

Looked at that way, Susan's rejection of the lamppost "adventure" prefigures her rejection of Aslan and later of Narnia - the four kings, er, soon-to-be-kids-again, are being given the answer to what-should-have-been-their-prayers, and only Susan is doubtful about accepting it.

I don't know if Lewis had all that in mind when he wrote it. When I first read it, way back when, I took it to be a slightly-unsatisfying wrap-up to the end of the story, which got the children back into the "real world" and that was that. But in terms of Narnia as a Christian allegory, I think it possible.

Ana Mardoll said...

And a second point, these people that asked Susan to marry her: What species are they? Human?

As the series expands, there will be a sister nation called Archenland with their own ruling family, another nation called Calormen with their ruling family, and some random-ish island nations with princes and the like. So... maybe? But of course in TLTWTW, it *feels* like the Pevensies are the only humans in the world.

Ana Mardoll said...

Whoa, I Did Not Know That about the white stag being a Christ figure in tales. Wow.

Will Wildman said...

The Stag thing doesn't bother me because, based on what we know of the most powerful figures of Narnia (which a wish-granter would have to be), they fall into pretty narrow archetypes. Santa gives gifts and tells you off if you think your gift is wrong and then books it. Aslan also commands people to do things with his Omniscient Morality License, is weirdly playful, and books it when he doesn't feel like being around any more. Jadis - well, we still don't fully understand Jadis, but I feel safe in suggesting that the White Stag legend is probably not glossing over the Stag's desire to CONQUER THE WORLD (although it would be great if it did). Thus, if one's been living in Narnia for 10-30 years, it seems likely that they'd all be genre-savvy enough to realise that a nigh-god in the aspect of a prey animal is voluntarily playing a game: catch me if you can. Otherwise, the legend would be 'if you catch the White Stag it will totally @#$% you up with its antlers and then transmogrify you into a dinette set'.

This is unrealistic, but Narnia runs on unrealistic. That is possibly its literal purpose.

I do find the sudden mention of other countries to be very weird, for all the reasons other people have mentioned. Are their inhabitants human? Do they look human while not actually being human?! COMMENCE THE CLEANSING CRUSADE! ...*cough*

The bit about rescuing dwarves and satyrs from school is also odd, because it's only too easy to imagine what kind of set-up would make that necessary (I'm Canada; I know what kind of atrocity residential schools were [if you are thinking about Googling, be prepared for horrendous racism and all kinds of child abuse]), yet I can't think about who would be running said schools. Or is it supposed to tie in with Edmund's School Of Evil, suggesting that the tendency for evil among dwarves and satyrs is the result of early indoctrination by their institutions as designed by the rest of their society and the Pevensie Dynasty is going to force a total societal reform? No, wait, that's the same thing over again. I'm baffled. Ideological indoctrinations for everyone!

The best reponse I can think to the post-battle sum-up of Edmund is to paraphrase a Doctor Who recap at Television Without Pity: Don't call this his redemption. He has never needed to be anything more than who he is.

Izzy said...

As I read through the deconstruction, part of it honestly seems to be a problem that comes up a lot in children's fiction--I noticed it in some of the Harry Potter books too.

To wit: When you're a kid (at least in my experience) the absolutely last thing you want, ever, is for people to treat you like a kid. You're a spy; you're a fighter; you're a queen; you are Eight Years Old, and you are Not a Baby, Dammit, and you will add that last "dammit" to prove as much, because grownups swear and you are absolutely a grownup and capable of doing grownup things if Mom and Dad would just lighten up for a second OH MY GOD.

So when you read about people your own age, you don't want to think about them being taken care of, or having accommodations made because of their age, because that's *your* age, and you are Not a Baby, MOOOOOOOOOM, COME ON. So I can sort of deal with Aslan's reaction, and the sure-you-can-rule-the-kingdom thing, that way: expressing doubts about whether Lucy could be a battlefield medic or the four kids could rule would have come off, when I was that age, as the fantasy equivalent of "you can't go down to the store alone," and COME ON DAAAAD YOU NEVER LET ME DO ANYYYYYTHING.

Not a response you really want, as an author.

As an adult re-reading that sort of thing, it's very "...wait, what? And they're how old? Fighting dragons? Whaaaaat? Do they not have CPS here?" But as a kid...yes, furthermore Hell yes. Dragons! Fighting them! It's AWESOME!

Reconciling the two points of view is hard, and probably one of the reasons why so many classic children's stories feature dead parents and father-figures who die halfway through. There's that, or there's the "kids happen to be the only ones around who can deal for XYZ reasons," or there's what Lewis and Rowling do, which is treat kids as unacknowledged adults.

Casus Belli said...

Well, for me, the worst thing is this:
“Must more people die for Edmund?”
Aslan, you f**k!

So a young child, by no will of his own, gets to a country geopolitically messed up, gets entangled with what he perceives as the rightful ruler, is drugged, then is set-up as the reason for killing the deity through some convoluted and senseless magic upon which he has no control, thrust into a war he did not provoke and HE is responsible for people’s deaths?
Isn’t there enough evidence that the war would have happened anyways because of Aslan’s return (and arguably the children’s presence, all four of them), not so much Edmund’s “treason”?

Plus, Aslan is saying this AT EARSHOT FROM EDMUND! He can hear you for pete’s sake! Not only is he not dead but he just received the potion, meaning he’s getting better. So on top of everything that Edmund had to go through, Aslan adds a generous amount of survivor guilt!
“Glad you’re feeling better Edmund. Oh, BTW, you know you’re responsible for everyone’s death, right?”
Jerk!

Lonespark said...

Otherwise, the legend would be 'if you catch the White Stag it will totally @#$% you up with its antlers and then transmogrify you into a dinette set'.

Heh.

depizan said...

While I rather agree with Izzy, there's something kind of disturbing about the mixture of cozy and, well, not that the end of this book is. We don't see the battle, but people are dead and dying and Lucy has to heal them. Edmund appears to have been not only injured, but poisoned, and Lucy clearly isn't sure whether he'll live. Even an adult might want to pass the healing draught off to someone who's brother isn't maybe dying. It's as if Lewis cozied out the exciting part and left in the grim part. Weird choice, dude.

Also, there is so much world building WTFery in this tiny segment that it blows my mind. In addition to all the horrors of their reign that have already been pointed out, if Susan is getting marriage offers, we have to assume that there's something like humans, if not actual humans, in Narnia. I don't care how gorgeous Susan is to humans, I have trouble believing that it also makes her gorgeous to Beavers, Elk, and Cheetahs. So... Sons of Adam and Daughters of Eve must mean Earthling not human, right?*

But then we get the Professor's little speech (which may well be all lies, yes, but does Lewis intend that?) in which he tells them that they will know other people who've been to Narnia. Wait, WHAT!? I know that time passes differently in Narnia, but this raises all kinds of weird questions. (Also, there's the background question of why no brave Narnians have ever ventured through the wardrobe or other portal to Earth in search of Earthlings to fulfill the prophesy and free their land. ... And suddenly I want fan fic of this.)



*And what, exactly, does that mean on the grand scale. All humans can't originate on Earth or the humans who are there might work to fulfill the prophesy. (more fan fic!) Unless they've been breeding with Beavers, and have diluted their pure human genetics. So, where do humans originate from and why are Earthlings special? Or is that we need to have Christian humans?

Ana Mardoll said...

Wow, I hadn't even considered that Edward might over-hear that.

depizan said...

Poor Edmund really is the book's butt monkey.

Lonespark said...

you are Eight Years Old, and you are Not a Baby, Dammit, and you will add that last "dammit" to prove as much, because grownups swear and you are absolutely a grownup and capable of doing grownup things

Yes, this is a really excellent point. Stories for kids aren't the same as stories for adults, and shouldn't be, and fairy tales can be great at straddling that line.

It reminds me a bit of how much I identified with the hobbits in LOTR. They aren't children, but they're small, so they look childlike and weak to other peoples, and they are absolutely innocent/ignorant, even though that doesn't make them less brave or smart or hardworking... So I was always thinking "WTF, Boromir, stop talking down to the short people! What do you mean you have a better idea of how to survive in the wilderness or or fight for your life with edged weapons against unspeakable creatures?!" In recent years I can see several perspectives, none of which are wrong, per se...

Makabit said...

There seem to be other human or human-to-my-eye Narnians by 'The Horse And His Boy', which takes place sometime during the Pevensie's reign.

My theory is that humans who made their way into Archenland during the long winter begin to resettle once Jadis is gone, but I may be entirely off. And no clue if you can be human but not a descendent of Adam and Eve.

Ana Mardoll said...

Also, there is so much world building WTFery in this tiny segment that it blows my mind.

It really astonishes me, too.

I get the vague impression that Lewis wrote this bit first or... somehow in a very disconnected way from the rest of the story. Maybe because it reminds me of the Tom Bombadil stuff in LOTR that's like... okay, doesn't really fit but apparently Tolkien wrote it for another 'verse and couldn't bear to give it up? Because this is so densely weird that it doesn't feel like the same book somehow.

Makabit said...

Absolutely. The fantasy of much of children's fantasy is being allowed to do things that in the real world, sane adults protect their children from doing.

I spent literally years of my childhood imagining myself in adult roles that mostly involved swords.

depizan said...

I spent literally years of my childhood imagining myself in adult roles that mostly involved swords.

Oh, me too. And magic, and bows, and space ships and... Wait, was I supposed to stop doing this?

Bificommander said...

I suppose that childish fantasy is fine, but that doesn't excuse Aslan from going "Hey, 8 year old, that little prick of a brother is probably not dying anymore so get to healing the other horribly mangled bodies already. Even if he does die, he somehow made me die for him, so stop caring so much. If any of the injured Animals (who probably wouldn't have been injured if Aslan just told them to evade the battle with the Witch untill he was ready to pwn them all) die, it's on your and your brother's head, y'know." Kids having adult adventures in a fantasy land is fine, but putting them through adult-level suffering and berating them for not being stone-cold about it strikes me as very bad form.

On the white stag you need to catch to get gifts, I noticed that this pops up in Guild Wars 2. It's not out yet, but they released some info, and if you make a Sylvari character (a race of plant people, sort of a cross between Dryads and Elves) one of the choices for the spiritual Dream you have is catching a white stag that promises to give you great powers if you do. So perhaps this is indeed a pre-existing legend and it's more of a playfull game of tag instead of a traditional bloody hunt. Or alternatively, the devs ripped it off from Narnia, that's also possible.

beshemoth said...

Love your deconstructions, never had any relevant points to make. And still don't, but here's a somewhat relevant xkcd... http://xkcd.com/693/
(hoping link actually works)

Izzy said...

Aslan is kind of a dick about that, yeah. I agree with Depizan about how weird this bit is: first of all, even an adult would justifiably want to make sure her brother was okay, and Lucy hasn't been shown to have any skill with the vial that another bystander couldn't deal with. And it didn't seem like a bit that needed to be in the story, for that matter.

Also, I now have the perverse urge to write fanfic where Susan gets courted by, like, the Goblin King from Labyrinth or a Vulcan or something.

Ana Mardoll said...

Kids having adult adventures in a fantasy land is fine, but putting them through adult-level suffering and berating them for not being stone-cold about it strikes me as very bad form.

I wonder if it's a fantasy rooted in a misunderstanding of adults??

I wouldn't be able to leave Edmund (NOT Edward, I called him Edward up-thread, I knew this day would come, what was I thinking doing Twilight and Narnia at the same time??) alone. Not as a child, not as an adult. But perhaps Lewis expects children to expect adults WOULD be able to do so, and thus the child must be a super-adult in order to fill a fantasy role?

Then again, I was possibly a strange child. One of the things I liked about Wrede's Enchanted Forest Chronicles was that Cimorene asked for help and sought second opinions, and yet I've seen it criticized for that very reason as anti-feminist. (Buh.) One of the things I HATE about Harry Potter is the "never tell the adults anything" tendencies of the children, because that was not me at all. I confided in adults obsessively.

I really liked Pullman's His Dark Materials because Lyra is like that. She confides in the gypsies and they treat her respectfully, but not as a super-adult. She's a child, and she acts like I did as a child, but she's still respected and treated as having value. How resonant.

Ana Mardoll said...

beshemoth, first off, *lurker hugs* (It's traditional!)

Second off, OMG I LOVE THAT. How have I missed that xkcd? I love their strip so much, and that is so very very fitting. Thank you!!

Brin Bellway said...

"I know not how it is, but this lamp on the post worketh upon me strangely. It runs in my mind that I have seen the like before; as it were in a dream, or in the dream of a dream." "Sir," answered they all, "it is even so with us also."

I see Dav got to the "What the fuck has the Ambient Narnian Magic done to them?" reaction first.

So my guess is that the Deep Magic is working on them, forcing them into molds for the High Kings and Queens of Narnia.

Is anyone else reminded of that DS9 episode where everyone's possessed by the telepathic archive? Or (somewhat less so) the poltergeist in Buffy? At least those stories acknowledged the possession.

How will you know? Oh, you'll know all right. Odd things they say -- even their looks -- will let the secret out. Keep your eyes open. Bless me, what do they teach them at these schools?

Because it's a horrible failing of the school system not teaching them how to detect if someone's a fellow Narnian.

Will: I'm Canada

You're an escapee from Hetalia? Why have you never mentioned this before?

beshemoth: here's a somewhat relevant xkcd

Which reminds me of a story somebody linked to a while back, where was it...ah, here it is: Relentlessly Mundane.

(P.S. Thank god when I broke the italics it was somewhere with editing.)

Ana Mardoll said...

where Susan gets courted by, like, the Goblin King from Labyrinth

DAVID BOWIE? NOOOOOOOOOOOOO! LOL.

Bificommander said...

Addendum on the child fantasy: The way the royal rule of the children is handled is an acceptable method of handling the fantasy. Sure, the kids can be kings. They're all basically good kids, like the reader, so sure you can be king/queen. How hard can it be right? Just don't be a head-chopping meany. No need for the book to go into the detailed economic logistics the children have to be responsible for. Sure, we can make fun of how easy it is, but in the end it doesn't send too terrible a message to the kids. They're unlikely to become ruler themselves any time soon.

Ana Mardoll said...

Because it's a horrible failing of the school system not teaching them how to detect if someone's a fellow Narnian.

I didn't even think of that. Can we extrapolate that the Professor expects schools to teach them stereotyping people?

depizan said...

Except what we're given of the kids' reign doesn't sound good. They abolished school, engaged in ethnic cleansing, have no problem with good sapients being killed if it's "necessary," and are apparently libertarians. This is an improvement over Jadis? I'd say this is a classic case of the winners writing the history books. (Though they're doing a terrible job of making themselves look good. Hell, all Jadis did was kill a few people. At least she wasn't against education and, so far as we know, didn't commit genocide.)

Izzy said...

Narnia, at least in this book, is just weird about adult-child stuff in general: 99% of the population are not human, so it's less Adults Are Useless and more Adults Don't Exist--it's understandable that they don't think "oh, these are kids".* But then...Aslan and Father Christmas.

Which I can also sort of understand: having the adult figures treat you as an adult is one of the things about those fantasies.

Because I had very good parents and all, but man, if I had found a magic sword or a hidden land or whatever? *So* not telling my parents. Parents are not fun; parents, in fact, exist to keep you from staying up late and eating what you want and watching the movies you want and going places on your own and riding your bike to the interesting part of town you've never been to and jumping on the bed and going on that rope swing and painting your room silver and...basically, the cooler the thing you wanted to do was, the less chance your parents would let you do it. Human-shaped barriers, parents. And teachers. And pretty much everyone over thirty. (Babysitters were kiiiindamaybeokay if they could beat Nintendo games.)

Sort of likewise for advice: like, they're just going to tell you not to do the cool, fun thing (at best) and actively prevent you from doing it at worst, so get advice from someone who will tell you *how* to do it without getting killed.

These days, I like getting advice from my mom, and she's very cautious about not offering it, which is sort of an amusing reversal.

I also liked the Enchanted Forest stuff, and thought Cimorene was very sensible and awesome. Then again, the people she was asking advice from were, like, dragons and witches, and they didn't try to keep her from having fun. So that helped.

*Their eyes are open and they can hunt for themselves! What more do you want?

Izzy said...

Nothing good.

Everything AWESOME.

Ana Mardoll said...

and are apparently libertarians.

And when they Go Galt (disappear) the country suffers horribly for it...

Ana Mardoll said...

*Their eyes are open and they can hunt for themselves! What more do you want?

This made me laugh so hard. I want fan fic that makes this explicitly stated. :D

Izzy said...

I should note here that there are perfectly good reasons for parents to be said human-shaped barriers: you do, in fact, need to get some sleep and learn multiplication, you do not need to eat an entire tub of frosting or watch the Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and breaking your neck is a problem. These are legitimate concerns.

...but try telling me that when I was ten. ;)

Majromax said...

And one year it fell out that Tumnus (who was a middle-aged Faun by now and beginning to be stout)

And now, for the Tragedy of Mr. Tumnus.

Consider the time-compression of Narnia. The kids spend on the order of a decade in Narnia as Kings and Queens, but they stumble out of the wardrobe and their first thought is "I hope we won't get in trouble for the coats" -- not "we're so totes going to be in trouble for vanishing for a week!" Absentminded professor or not, the childrens' caretaker would surely get worried if the children were absent (at dinners, if no other time!) for several days.

So, what do we make of the time that passed in Narnia between Lucy's first encounter with Mr. Tumnus and the childrens' last entry? According to the narrative, it was at least a few days of Earth time... does that correspond to three or four decades of Narnia time? Has Mr. Tumnus been released from petrification only to find that every other faun he knew and loved to be dead and buried for three generations? (If a decade turns Mr. Tumnus from a spry, young faun to a portly, middle-aged one, the species must not be unusually long-lived.)

And entirely plausible point is that Lucy's first visit to Narnia was roughly contemporaneous with Jadis's rise to power. That's why she needed the kidnap-squad of fauns -- all the other humans had just recently been driven out of Narnia. Edmund's acquaintance with Jadis may have occurred at he midpoint of her reign, meaning she was playing a long game indeed with the Turkish Delight.

depizan said...

We never do get a Earth to Narnia time conversion, do we. What bits we do have seem remarkably inconsistent. Unless your theory is correct.

Ana Mardoll said...

As much as I DEARLY LOVE THIS THEORY (and I do), doesn't Lucy visit thrice?

Once, with Tumnus, then with Tumnus and Edward, then with all four? So if Tumnus was aging during the time between 1 and 2, wouldn't he have mentioned that to Lucy? (Like, "It's been 14 years since your last visit and I'm confident the Witch doesn't know...")

But I do love the idea of the long game. :D

Rikalous said...

The main kids in Harry Potter not going to the adults about anything makes sense given their backgrounds. Harry's foster parents were abusive, and he never found an adult to call the UK's equivalent of Child Protective Services. Ron's no doubt used to going to siblings for help while Dad's at work and Mom's juggling five different tasks already, and any sort of tattling to Mom would have been seen as a gross betrayal by everyone except Percy. Hermione I seem to recall did tell the other two to tell Dumbledore or McGonagoll about the upcoming assault on the Philosopher's Stone, but I guess for the most part she just goes along with her friends. Besides all that, a good deal of the time the kids are doing something illegal and understandably don't want authority figures to know about it.
---
The only way I can make sense of the Professor's speech is if he's hoping that the kids will get to thinking and eventually deduce that the only way he could know as much as he does about Narnia is if he went there himself. Or maybe he'll introduce them to Polly and see if they figure out that she's been there. Presumably this exercise will be wonderful for their mental development and not at all make them pissed off and mistrustful of everything the Professor tells them for the rest of their mutual lives.
---
One thing about the dwarf-and-satyr-indoctrination schools that bugs me is the fact that they're only for dwarves and satyrs. Where are the dryad-and-naiad-and-Animal-indoctrination schools? We know some of the Trees are Jadisians; why aren't the Aslanite's saplings being indoctrinated away from their parents (or whatever term you use with trees)?
---
re: Earth time vs. Narnia time: An Earth year before Caspian correlates to thousands of Narnian years, then a year later Edmund falls into a painting and (three? six? not very many, at least) years have passed in Narnia. So the kids weren't necessarily missing for any time at all.

Lucy's visit must have come some time after all the royalty-worthy humans had been defeated by Jadis, because Mr. Tumnus says he's never seen a Son of Adam or Daughter of Eve.

Majromax said...

As much as I DEARLY LOVE THIS THEORY (and I do), doesn't Lucy visit thrice?

Once, with Tumnus, then with Tumnus and Edward, then with all four?


A fair point. Since the authorial resolution is probably that the connection is full of wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey stuff, I'll proceed to ignore that.

Who's to say that it was the same Tumnus? Perhaps Lucy's first visit was to Tumnus the Elder, and her second visit was to Tumnus the Younger, who followed in his father's line of work? By that point, the position of Royal Kidnapper was more of a ceremonial title, but as is often the case with titles and stations they're a great deal harder to abolish than they should be.

Edmund himself never visited Tumnus, only Lucy.

(Besides, at least here in the deconstructions we don't see any of Lucy's second visit with Tumnus directly.)

Ana Mardoll said...

This is true. I would contend perhaps that Lucy is a bit absent-minded to not notice that Tumnus the Younger is not the same person as Tumnus the Elder (at least, she never mentions this!) but possibly all fauns look and sound identical.

Will Wildman said...

As I recall the professor's look-over-there non-explanation for how time could obviously be bent and thus Lucy is telling the truth, his specific phrase is that another world would have 'its own time'. Thus it is not so much that Earth-time passes very slowly relative to Narnia-time, but that they are two completely separate things which occasionally bridge. In theory, this would mean that while Earth-time is 'frozen' while you are in Narnia, you cannot be certain exactly how long will have passed between the bridge-point when you left and the bridge-point that you arrived; only that they are very likely to be much closer together than the span of time spent in Narnia.

For those who know Doctor Who, I would draw a parallel: the TARDIS can vanish from London at 4:00 pm and reappear in London at 4:05, and the Doctor might have had twenty years' worth of adventures in the meantime, but that doesn't mean that time on Earth passes at a rate of five minutes per twenty years of TARDIS-time; it just means that the two are independent threads with occasional links.

What none of this explains is exactly why the Pevensie kids got de-aged (and de-magicked, since they no longer speak Yee Oldene Tonguee) when they passed back to Earth and they won't get re-aged when they return in the next book.

Will Wildman said...

On further thought, I would have preferred to phrase that as 'Yee Oldeneth Tonguesooth'.

Makabit said...

I must try "His Dark Materials" again, one of these days. I got about halfway into the first book, and completely lost interest.

I see people talk about it, it's controversial, it's anti-religion, no it's not, and I think, "Wait, there were CONCEPTS in there?"

Ana Mardoll said...

@Will, I like both versions. Let's have a schism over the correct one! :D

@Makabit, I think it's a YMMV series, but it's up there with THG in terms of "books that I smuggled to work so I could finish the last few chapters in the restroom because my heart would stop beating if I didn't find out the end" criteria. Um. Ahem.

Anyway, I'd had people call for that and/or THG to be decon'd here but I'm not sure I could run a sustained positive decon. (Then again, that's practically what Twilight is now in my determination to be Fair and Balanced, so many a positive decon could let me get some ire out and still seem nice overall.) And, of course, some of you have mentioned a GRRM decon, ahahahahahahaSOMUCHPAINhaha.

Here's to wishing I could quit my day job and decon DAY AND NIGHT, lol. :D

Ana Mardoll said...

Oh, and the religious stuff that everyone gets all up in arms about doesn't really happen until the 2nd and 3rd books.

Casus Belli said...

Prompt :-)

Ana Mardoll said...

Woo-hoo! Spoilers for His Dark Materials:

Onfvpnyyl, gur Cebgntbavfg (Ylen)'f sngure qrpvqrf gung Gur Ernfba Jr Pna'g Unir Avpr Guvatf vf orpnhfr Tbq fhpxf naq ur jntrf n jne ba Urnira. Vg gheaf bhg gung gur Nepunatry Tnoevry/Zvpunry/V-pna'g-erzrzore unf gnxra bire Urnira ybat ntb, naq frnyrq Tbq urezrgvpnyyl va n pelfgny gb xrrc uvz sebz qlvat bs byq ntr. Gur xvq cebgntbavfgf nppvqragnyyl yrg Tbq bhg bs gur pelfgny naq ur qvrf. Urapr gur pevrf bs "gur xvqf va gur frevrf XVYY TBQ!"

Gur bgure pbagebirefvny guvat vf gung gur xvqf tb gb gur ernyz bs gur qrnq naq ernyvmr gung gur nsgreyvsr vf njshy. Gur xvqf jbex bhg n jnl sbe gur tubfgf bs gur qrnq gb tb vagb aba-rkvfgrapr, naq gurl bcra n creznarag evsg va gur nsgreyvsr fb gung tubfgf pna raq gurve rkvfgrapr vs gurl fb pubbfr.

Jryy, naq gur BGURE pbagebirefvny guvat vf gung gur xvq cebgntbavfgf ernyvmr gurl ybir rnpu bgure naq gurl gbhpu rnpu bgure'f fbhyf (juvpu znavsrfg nf navznyf) orsber ergheavat gb gurve erfcrpgvir jbeyqf. Fbzr crbcyr vagrecerg guvf nf frkhny NJNERARFF, bguref vagrecerg vg nf npghny frk.

JonathanPelikan said...

I have to say, every time you point out that the Aslan business seems disconnected, as in we can't connect to it, the story is about him instead of the kids, etc... a lot of that resonates so hard with me because I'm an atheist. And your objections to some of Aslan's actions and attitudes are classical atheist objections to Jesus or religion in general.

"Wait, he has to die? Says who? The Force that binds us and protects us and will, on a whim, allow the world to be destroyed said that? Why?"

"Because shut up, that's why."

Ana Mardoll said...

(Oh, I completely agree, but I should have mentioned that I dislike the Potter adults for the same reason! However, this answer and the previous one -- that the children have no reliable adult role models -- is a decent enough explanation, I think.)

★☆ keri ☆★ said...

Just an idle observation - until today, I always had the impression that the children ruled Narnia for much, much longer than 10 years or so. It seemed to me that they were there for centuries rather like Jadis had been, but with proper seasons. They're aging much more slowly, but it's also been much longer, which is why they talk funny at the end and can't remember the lamppost anymore.

I guess I must not have thought of the ages long winter as being strictly about Jadis's rule, but more an aspect of how slowly time moves.

Ana Mardoll said...

That's fascinating. I see no immediate reason why that *couldn't* be so -- the lifespans of fauns have not been revealed to us.

Randomosity said...

On Never Tell Adults Anything, I was that kid. I learned early that I was on my own. No one told me they were working behind the scenes to try to stop the severe bullying in school. Instead I was told to fight my own battles which translates to a seven year old as "you're on your own, kid" instead of permission to beat up the bullies which was probably what was meant. Try beating up bullies when you're a skinny scrawny runt who's had it demonstrated time and time again by the teachers that victims are the ones who get punished and popular kids can beat you up in front of teachers with impunity. This is why I'm Chaotic Trying to Be Good But Really Neutral and victim blaming is my number one Berserk Button.

Nope, never told the adults a thing, because the adults in question were either siding with the bullies, had no clue how to deal with it, or so full of guilt that they couldn't hear any more. My parents were right most of the time but when the so-called child psychology experts got involved, It Got Worse.

I imagine Harry Potter was very much the same way.

Ana Mardoll said...

@Randomosity, I hadn't thought of it that way. That's so horrible, I'm sorry to hear that. :(

Hugs? That doesn't seem nearly enough, though.

mandassassin said...

On the humans-but-not-children-of-Adam-and-Eve: Y'know, I've been wondering if the other human inhabitants of the 'verse might not be the descendants of Adam and Lillith, since we're getting all Christian mythology up in here. So, they're human, technically, but not good enough to rule Aslan's chosen country of Narnia because of their 'tainted' bloodline. Fanfic theory!

Ana Mardoll said...

And it ties in with David Bowie, goblin king.

Amaryllis said...

AS for the White Stag, I give you The Vision of St. Eustace.

I doubt that Eustace Clarence Scrubb's parents had the saint in mind when they named him, but I wouldn't put it past C. S. Lewis.

depizan said...

here's one particular nation that is rather relevant to this discussion- Telmar, inhabited by the Telmarines. IIRC, their origins were that of Spanish pirates who shipwrecked and were teleported to Narnia; so it can probably be inferred that there are similar origins for the other nations as well.

And exactly why couldn't four of them sit on the thrones, pray tell?

Yeah, yeah, a wizard did it.

(Snark aimed at Lewis, not you.)

Though, the more Edmund's part in the battle gets mentioned, the more understand why Lewis left out the battle - he's got no idea how to make that scene work. Because I sure don't. Jadis's wand is a ranged weapon. How exactly is going for her wand sufficiently different from going for her for his attack to have succeeded? This strikes me as exactly like rushing a person with a gun and somehow succeeding because you were after the gun, not the person.

Can someone with more combat/martial arts/etc experience than me (which would be any at all) either confirm that this makes no sense or explain why it does, in fact make sense? I can see a difference in close fighting, but I can't believe Jadis would let anyone get close. And, you know, her wand doesn't exactly run out of bullets. (Or, if one can rush her while another is being stoned, why did it take Edmund going for the wand?)

Ana Mardoll said...

Though, the more Edmund's part in the battle gets mentioned, the more understand why Lewis left out the battle - he's got no idea how to make that scene work. Because I sure don't. Jadis's wand is a ranged weapon. How exactly is going for her wand sufficiently different from going for her for his attack to have succeeded? This strikes me as exactly like rushing a person with a gun and somehow succeeding because you were after the gun, not the person.

I was confused by that too.

The only way I can make it work is with D&D rules where each attacker gets first strike, and the Witch can absorb damage to her self but her wand is a one-hit point item.

Randomosity said...

Thanks, Ana. I don't think of it that much, but I have a lasting distrust of psychologists. My parents had it right most of the time. I came out the other side with a very strong sense of justice and Never Punish The Innocent is part of my personal ethics.

Most of my childhood was pretty good. My parents not only allowed me to watch ANYTHING on TV with them, but they sat down with me over triggery things like child abuse scenes and talked about what we'd watched.

Kish said...

I read the Golden Compass. Only.

Ng gur raq bs vg, Ybeq Nfevry xvyyf n sevraq bs Ylen'f, n xvgpura obl. Orpnhfr ur arrqf n uhzna fnpevsvpr gb cbjre uvf qvzrafvba-geniryvat fcryy, naq vg'f abg yvxr n xvgpura obl znggref.

Juvyr guvf vf frpbaqunaq vasbezngvba naq guhf znl or vanpphengr, (nyorvg frpbaqunaq vasbezngvba sebz n ynetr ahzore bs hapbaarpgrq fbheprf juvpu V irel zhpu qbhog vf vanpphengr--pna lbh gryy ol nyy guvf urqtvat gung V srry boyvtngrq gb or irel pyrne jurgure jung V'z pbzzhavpngvat vf fbzrguvat V crefbanyyl bofreirq be abg?) jung V urneq jnf gung, vs lbh jrer hajvyyvat gb npprcg gur cybg gerngvat Ybeq Nfevry nf flzcngurgvp naq lbh-qba'g-unir-gb-yvxr-uvz-ohg-lbh-unir-gb-nterr-ur'f-n-terng-zna...naq xvaq bs sbetrggvat nyy nobhg Ebtre gur xvgpura obl...gura gurer jnf yvggyr cbvag va ernqvat orlbaq gur svefg obbx. Hayrff lbh jnagrq lbhe oybbq cerffher envfrq.

Jeannette Ng said...

Well, with regards to David Bowie's Goblin King, you know how he's said to be responsible for the sexual awakening of many a geeky girl (that is, he's one of the first men they find sexually attractive and they go express it in the medium of fanfic). I'm sure there's something to be said about romantic heroes evolving not from the figure of the hero but from the figure of the villain in gothic literature.

Also, speaking of the Hunger Games, I've been writing a lengthy deconstruction of it, for what that's worth on my shiny new blog: http://cloudtigers.blogspot.com/ It's not as lengthy as these by-chapter discussions, though I'm wondering if I may adopt that approach for the next book so the segments (now divided into first fifty pages, last third, everything in between) are quite unwieldy.

Ana Mardoll said...

I'm glad to hear that you're alright. :)

Ana Mardoll said...

His Dark Materials:

Vagrerfgvat. V arire pnzr gb yvxr Ybeq Nfevry be Ynql Jungf-Ure-Snpr. Gurl ybir Ylen naq gurl fhccbeg pnhfrf gung znl-be-znl-abg-or-tbbq ohg gurl ner hggreyl noubeerag crbcyr, vzub.

Gung'f cebonoyl nobhg gur pybfrfg V'ir pbzr gb srryvat yvxr "tevggl" svpgvba jnf ernyvfgvp naq jryy-qbar. Hfhnyyl V qvfyvxr "tevggl" svpgvba orpnhfr V QB srry yvxr V'z orvat chfurq gb rkphfr onq orunivbe.

LZZI, znlor?

@ Jeanette, you've been added to the Blog Bounce, with relish!

Will Wildman said...

Can someone with more combat/martial arts/etc experience than me (which would be any at all) either confirm that this makes no sense or explain why it does, in fact make sense?

I'm not an expert, but I would suggest (and I think the movie kind of does this, but it also lets Edmund get a near-ambush on her) that the issue is Jadis' two weapons, the 'knife' and the wand. If someone is focused on attacking Jadis, then they're expecting to get into a duel, which means manuevering around her weaponry until they can force an opening in her defences, and in that kind of situation, she's got plenty of time to line up a spell. Conversely, if their sole focus is on striking her wand, and they don't care about getting stabbed, there's very little she can do about it except try to get out of range. Given that the weapon is supposed to be the thing between you and your opponent, it's much harder to protect and use simultaneously. Jadis' real mistake is ever allowing anyone to get close enough that her knife becomes relevant; she should be riding on top of a giant's shoulders, where making a suicidal rush to short range is impossible.

Long story short, sometimes an unarmed person can win a fistfight with someone who's got a gun, but step 1 is pretty much always 'Get close to ruin their aim and then get the gun out of their hand'.

Steph said...

I... think it was me that said that about the evil tree? But I'm not totally sure, so someone else correct me if it was them instead.

I love His Dark Materials, and I've been a little surprised to hear how preachy people seem to think it is -- one friend told me she thought it was much preachier than Narnia, which I don't think is the case at all. HDM has its soapboxy moments, but Narnia seems to be hitting you over the head with its philosophy in every single chapter. Of course, the Narnia books are also much shorter, so it's possible it's just more noticeable because it's concentrated? (And as an atheist I'm not exactly an unbiased reader of the two.)

The ending to this book always made me feel a little weird and sad as a kid. It doesn't seem so much that they were put back into child bodies with their adult brains as that they were reset, and forgot everything about their old lives beyond some dreamlike recollections -- so it's almost as if those versions of them simply "died". I always worried about their friends back in Narnia, who never knew what happened to them. You just know Tumnus must have felt awful for telling them about the stag in the first place.

So -- you're going on to Prince Caspian, right?

depizan said...

Yeah, it's figuring out how step 1 was accomplished (or why it wasn't before Edmund) is where I'm stuck. I can see a bunch of people rushing her working, or an ambush/near-ambush, but the way the fight is described, the emphasis is on what he attacked, which leads to bafflement. Or it's a clever way of getting around the fact that Aslan's army was idiotically rushing at her one at a time and Edmund was the first person to think to rush her at the same time as someone else. Someone should've pointed out to Peter that it's villains who are supposed to use mook chivalry.

hapax said...

I've always read the last few pages as the "cozy realism" of the main adventure slowly dissolving into the dream-like world of legends -- and the only way the children COULD return to the real-world is to awaken from the dream with a thump, with all the momentary disorientation that entails. The dream you fades, and what lingers are images and sensations and a vague sense of loss, but not permanent sense of being in the wrong body and world.

(I think that Lewis was tipping his hand with his allusion to Plato, and the cycle of ascent and return to the mystic vision. Of course, that all got mucked up with the sequels.)

---

HIS DARK MATERIALS ....

Loved the first, and quite liked the second, although I had GINORMOUS problems with the worldbuilding (really, I cannot think of a world that could be so like our own, and yet with THOSE SPECIFIC differences, which did not basically require people to Stop Being Human -- of course, this is my same problem with most didactic dystopias) and I could not help but thinking , "Congratulations, Phillip Pullman, you read a book on Gnosticism! Too bad you completely didn't understand it."

But it turns out that I was the one Not Getting It, and I liked / hated all the Wrong Characters (or liked /hated them for the Wrong Reasons), so Phillip Pullman very kindly abandoned plot and character and all that nonsense for the entire third book so he could explain to me how WRONG WRONG WRONG I was.

Oh, also (SPOILER) gur plavpnyyl znavchyngvir grnewrexre pbapyhfvba. Naq gung fbzrubj V'z fhccbfrq gb npprcg gung ol fbzr zntvpny unaqjnivat, ng yrnfg guerr havirefrf ner fnirq (nf n sevraq bs zvaq chg vg) ol fragvrag fhongbzvp cnegvpyrf jvgu n gebcvfz sbe chorfprag frk.

And don't get me started on the clever? ironic ? hypocritical? climactic condemnation of storytelling as "LIES!" -- in a work of fiction.

But yeah. Not a fan.

Makabit said...

I have always thought that the classic "The kids have to do it on their own because there are no functional adults in the story" push-over-a-cliff moment is the South Park episode where the other kids have to get Kyle institutionalized by themselves. Because the adults can't be bothered.

Makabit said...

"Telmar, inhabited by the Telmarines. IIRC, their origins were that of Spanish pirates who shipwrecked and were teleported to Narnia; so it can probably be inferred that there are similar origins for the other nations as well."

I suppose there must have been lady Spanish pirates as well then?

Makabit said...

Thank you, all, for the HDM info. I picked up The Golden Compass because people raved about it, and basically, my response was, "Man, this is dull."

Perhaps I'll try again.

octopod42 said...

Oh man, someone on some thread somewhere (!) posted a link to a Narnia fanfic that went through the first -- six months, maybe? -- of the Pevensies' reign, and all their traveling around making allegiances and trying to get things back into some kind of order after the battle and Jadis' fall and all that, and it was pretty amazing from what I recall.

I think it was on FF.n? Does anyone know what I'm talking about?

Rikalous said...

From what I remember of Caspian, the ladies were residents of the island the pirates were shipwrecked on. It may not have been a circular island with a single palm tree in the center, but that's what I'm going to picture it as.
---
May as well give my two cents on Dark Materials. My experience with it was pretty similar to that with Narnia: I read them both when I was a callow thing, blind to attempts to push a worldview, especially a religious one. Consequently I got to enjoy the cool magical things and completely ignore the fail. I should probably pick them up sometime to see if I still like them.

depizan said...

Wait, so there were already human women in Narnia? Or were the pirates into other species?

If the first, where did they come from? If the second, how'd we get viable, non-sterile offspring out of this?

cofax said...

I think it was on FF.n? Does anyone know what I'm talking about?

Erm, that would be my story, I suspect. You can find it here.

It is in some way my attempt to answer some of the questions raised by Ana and others in this deconstruction, although I wrote it a while before this project started. Many of these questions are acknowledged and addressed by ficwriters--well, at least by ficwriters who think about these things.

But a number of the questions can't be "fixed", so to speak, by after-the-fact revisionism. At least, not without taking apart the entire assemblage and rebuilding from scratch. Which is possible, but then it's AU, and that basically means you've given up making sense of the original source.

With regards to the chronology: there is a timeline that Lewis drafted (after all the books were written, I think), which asserts that the Pevensies were in Narnia for about fifteen years, so Lucy was in her early 20s by the time they left. And yes, they left without heirs. One of the better Narnia ficwriters, Bedlamsbard, has a long series of stories built on the premise that Narnia fell apart, was repeatedly invaded, and things went to shit very badly for a very long time. As a result there's more than a bit of resentment towards the Pevensies when they finally do come back... She has an index to the series here, if anyone is interested. It's great stuff.

Rikalous said...

No, no, the island they shipwrecked on was on Earth. After a while of being on the island, and making booze out of the native plants and interbreeding with the native people, they find a cave that leads to Narnia. Come to think of it, all that drinking and fornicating might be why no Telamarines sat on the four thrones.

J. Random Scribbler said...

TW: childhood depression, heaven, fictional trauma

I'll go back and read the comments later but I just have to say something first: when I read this as a depressed nine-year-old, by the time I got to the middle of this chapter I was just about jumping up and down in my chair thinking like "This is SO COOL! And there's six more books! I'm going to love reading about them as kings and queens and all the adventures they had-- wait, what? The lamp-post again? Oh no, please don't do that, nooooo!" And then they're back with into their childhoods again, and I'm back in my reality I'd been trying to escape from, feeling so let down I just wanted to crawl into a hole.

I got over it, and read the next book because at least they were going to get back to Narnia somehow, right? But I'll never forget that moment that felt like "Look, there's all of heaven stretched out before you... HA! TRICKED YOU! Back to earth you go!"

Yeah, I know, it was only because I was so privileged and sheltered that something like this could seem like an actual trauma. But at the time, it really did hurt, and the memory still makes me sad even three decades later.

And, um, yeah, I actually had a point before I got carried away. The thing is that whatever pain and letdown I felt was just a wispy little shadow compared to what the characters must have gone through. Now there would have been a real trauma, a massive fracture of their whole reality. Even if they were only 18-20 before leaving Narnia*, it would have been a third of their lives snatched away, dumping them back into childhood in the dreariness of postwar England.

Yet somehow in book seven Lewis has Susan dismissing all this as "Oh, just games we played when we were little." I can't get my mind around that, especially since we're so clearly meant to believe that she was serious. It makes me so angry when I hear people defending Lewis's portrayal of her; so many of them just blithely ignore the vast gaping dissociation that would have to be going on in her mind for her to say something like that and believe it after all the years in Narnia and the years of having to pass as a child again afterwards. (And don't even get me started on the end of book two!)

Anyway, I have to rein this in and get some work done before I can go to bed. Must... not... start... reading... comments...!

*I always imagined they were older than that, too, but I couldn't really put a number on my mental image of them.

Kit Whitfield said...

and generally stopped busybodies and interferers and encouraged ordinary people who wanted to live and let live

...Because busily deciding who should die and then going out and killing them is a Royal Prerogative.

--

The Pevensies are terrible rulers. I don't care that this is supposed to be an Arthurian court and an allusion to courtly legends. This is an inexcusable way to run a country.

I think the idea is that to run the country, you have to embody its virtues. A much more fun way, and somebody poorer than you will do the actual work.

--

What species are they? Human?

Not entirely. They're brown-skinned, you see.

Makhno said...

The courtly language seems very specifically aimed at Arthurian evocations - I'm pretty sure it's pastiche Malory. A _bad_ pastiche of a writer vastly superior to Lewis, and whom Lewis' juvenile intended audience won't have read so they won't recognise it, but recognisable nevertheless. Which, in turn, suggests that Lewis was thinking of this White Stag: http://www.sacred-texts.com/neu/mart/mart050.htm and similar magical creatures hunted in the Arthurian mythos.

Patrick Knipe said...

And why couldn't four of them sit on the thrones, pray tell?

The hilarious thing about this, Dezipan, is that one of them does do exactly that in Prince Caspian, which is all about the Telmarines usurping the Narnian throne.

Patrick Knipe said...

...

...

You know, I'm -sure- this is addressed somewhere but for the life of me I cannot remember the details...

Gelliebean said...

I remember the White Hart/White Hind being a symbol for the beginning of a quest in Arthurian stories.... One might interpret this as an indication that the children's resumption of their 'normal' lives would constitute a new adventure with new responsibilities akin to those they already accomplished - i.e., you've learned everything you needed to here, so that you can take it back and put it to good use.

For my part, I always found this sort of ending unsatisfying in the extreme - like the worst sort of 'it was all a dream' cop-out. If someone is transported to a fairyland, has adventures, and saves the world, I think they've earned the right to stay there.... The Pevensies were tricked into giving up something wonderful and never had the option to even consider whether they wanted to go home or not.

FWIW, there are only two stories I've read ending with the protagonist going home again that didn't make me feel cheated. One was The Wizard of Oz, where Dorothy is not a Chosen Savior and her entire purpose and desire is just to make it back. The other was Caverns of Socrates by Dennis McKiernan, where the fantasy land is actually a virtual reality RPG setting, and (spoilers) gur cebgntbavfgf abg bayl ner gelvat gb rfpncr gur jbeyq va juvpu n penmrq pbzchgre unf genccrq gurz, ohg gurl nyfb oevat onpx fbzr bs gur zntvp cbjref gung gurve punenpgref unq va gur tnzr gb erny yvsr. Aside from those two, I get very let down and frustrated hitting this kind of an ending.

Lonespark said...

Ohhhh, Brin,
That Jo Walton story is BrilliantAmazingAwesomeSad.

JenL said...

But if the kids ruled Narnia for centuries, then it leaves me wondering why (other than author fiat) none of them had any (worth mentioning) love affairs? I can see 10 (maybe even 20) years spent getting things under control, during which you put off any romance. But centuries?

If they started out as the only humans, and only over centuries do other humans stumble in, form countries, and start to send ambassadors - I guess. And by that point I suppose 200 years as the only humans would form a habit of sticking together as a family. But ... that would be sad, and soul-twisting in a nasty way, seems to me - there's no one who's really physiologically compatible to mate with, other than your siblings? For centuries?

chris the cynic said...

FWIW, there are only two stories I've read ending with the protagonist going home again that didn't make me feel cheated.

If you follow my discussion of .hack//Sign I hope by the end that I can bring that number up to three, although that isn't quite the same as the usual for a number of reasons. It'll be a while before we get there though. I'm less than half way through the first episode at the moment.

-

I've never been a fan of the kicked out of super special place ending either.

"Thank you for saving us. Now get out."

"But I've made all these great friends and I really like it here."

"Get out."

"Can I visit on the weekends?"

"No."

"How about once a month?"

"Get out."

"Once a year? Please. I'm begging you here."

"Get out now. Back to your world with you foreigner!"

Um... yay? This is good how?

On the plus side, the kids got to stay for quite a while in Narnia, on the down side they got to stay for quite a while in Narnia. It was their home for fuck's sake. They barely even remembered their lives before. Even if Narnia does operate on a principle of needing to get the illegals out before they can have anchor babies, don't you think an exception could be made for the royalty who fracking grew up there? Pass the Narnia, England is but a Dream to me Act.

You can't just cast people out of their home and have it be a happy ending.

They should have ruled for a little while, left the wardrobe, come back to rule for a little while, left the wardrobe, and so on. They could have stopped by every day. Rule as long as it takes to get stuff in order, prepare Narnia for their departure, and then go back out of the wardrobe. There would be continuity of government and identity. Their Narnia selves would never get too much older than their England selves because they'd never stay in Narnia for all that long. Narnia would be structured around the idea that there would regular periods with rulers present, and regular periods with rulers absent. They'd have to deal with about an day earth time without their royalty, but after that the royalty would be back to deal with any problems that cropped up.

The reign of the kings and queens of Narnia could thus endure for thousands of years with a fair degree of stability.

--

I haven't read most of the comments, apologies if this has all be said before.

JenL said...

Mine wasn't quite so severe, but my folks wanted to raise kids who were independent and capable of solving their own problems. So I didn't get "you're on your own" so much as "don't come to us unless you really need us". And then, when I did - when the problem was my older brother harassing me (nothing sexual, but borderline emotionally abusive, and putting me in some physical danger) - talking to my mom led to her talking to my dad, led to dad talking to my brother, which led to my brother upping the harassment. After all, he babysat me alone all day long.

So, I grew up to solve the problems I could, and basically do my best to ignore the problems I can't solve. I find it very difficult to ask for help - a lot of times, when I want help, I really have a hard time figuring out who (or how) to ask.

But I still think I'd have clued some adult in on a bit more than the PotterVerse kids did.... ;-)

JenL said...

I slogged through The Golden Compass because a co-worker raved about the trilogy so... I actually read a chapter or two of the second book before deciding there wasn't a character I'd met that I actually liked, and most of them I actively disliked, so... why was I reading this?

Thomas Keyton said...

At first much of their time was spent in seeking out the remnants of the White Witch's army and destroying them... But in the end all that foul brood was stamped out.

It’s not unique to Narnia, but damn it I am sick of authors never using the word “kill” when talking about evil non-humans. Armies can be destroyed. Superweapons can be destroyed. Zombies under the absolute control of their necromancer can be destroyed. Belief systems and philosophies can be stamped out. Werewolves, hags, vampires, Daleks, killer sapient robots etc are killed.

and the good centaurs, and the good dwarfs

So are the evil centaurs and dwarves being sought out and destroyed? Is this a Reborn Phoenix reign or a Dragon reign? (With Aslan as patron god it’s certainly not an Iorich reign.)

John Biles said...

To understand why the Pevensies abolish school, you have to understand that CS Lewis *loathed* his secondary education. He was tutored at home as a child instead of primary school and he spent his secondary school at boarding houses where he had a miserable experience.

Lewis: "School life was almost wholly dominated by the social struggle, to get on, to arrive. The rivalry was fierce, the prizes glittering, the hell of failure severe. I came to hate school, I never ceased by letter or by word of mouth to beg my father that I might be taken away. "

Until college, all of his enjoyable education experiences came from private tutoring, like William Kirkpatrick, who he studied with after he was 16 but before college. (Or his tutors of his youth.)

He also felt he wasn't really taught to truly *think logically* until he met Kirkpatrick, who was rigorously logical and skeptical (and an atheist). He was a strong influence on the period where Lewis was an atheist. But even after Lewis returned to religion, he still was very grateful to the man and saw him as a great teacher.

RE: His Dark Materials
Just as preachy as Narnia, just preaching something different. The more you agree with an author like that, though, the less one tends to notice the preaching.

RE: The Courtly Language
Having watched one of my younger sisters go native in a very short time when we lived in Colombia, it doesn't surprise me that kids catapulted into that position basically throw themselves into the role of monarchs and try to act the way they think they should act, especially when the main other humans they ever met are likely people with similar behavior patterns.

RE: Sudden Adulthood

I can understand why Lewis doesn't address it, but really, it should be a huger shock than it is, the wrapup is too fast to even really address it properly. These are not very long books, after all.

RE: Parents and Kids

I totally agree, kids feel they are ready for anything and parents main role to kids often seems to be the no-fun, you can't do that brigade.

Because often, they're right.

WRT Harry Potter
I was a good student, I loved school, but in the end, I could never ever trust teachers to actually protect me from bullies or help me with anything outside the classroom and by the time I was Harry's age, I'd stopped even trying.

And given the Wizarding world is run by stupid rules and tends to basically be 'he who has the most wands makes the rules', I can't blame him too much.


Anyway, I've been largely silent and may well be largely silent again, but thanks for doing this, Ms. Mardoll. Whether I agree or disagree, I enjoy reading a thoughtful critique done this well.

Fluffy_goddess said...

From my perspective, the only way the *thanks for saving us now get back to your own world* thing can work well is if it's taken as training for some more serious, more difficult work. If all the children's adventures in Narnia were the work of a benevolent deity who was preparing them for the grimmer, less adventurous, and more degrading work of fighting, say, WWII, that would work for me -- and I've read fanfiction where the brothers, at least, do great and important war work together because they're finally the right age to learn how to use the skills in judgement and physical fighting that they learned in Narnia.

Basically, Narnia is either a tragedy, or a shared vision-quest.

BH said...

Ana, if you're interested, farla on livejournal did a wonderful, in depth, and extremely critical chapter by chapter deconstruction of The Hunger Games: http://farla.livejournal.com/tag/hunger%20games

I still like the books, but now I realize there's a lot of toxic stuff in them that I never noticed the first time I blazed through them.

Ana Mardoll said...

Thanks for the link! I might not read them, though, if they're critical, because I think I would get frustrated. I briefly unfollowed Sady of Tiger Beatdown because she had this huge series of tweets about Peeta being a horrible Rape Culture supporter and I was chuffed and tired of seeing that in my morning feed over breakfast. *blushes with fangirl shame*

For full disclosure, I see all the toxic stuff in THG as Susanne Collins saying This Is Why We Can't Have Nice Things. And I firmly believe the whole series is the deliberate and systematic work of someone showing that Rape Culture ruins relationships, even when the people involved are individually nice. But I'm given to understand it's a YMMV series.

Ana Mardoll said...

And having taken a quick look... yeah.

Wow, "Foxface will be in her den". We're not even pretending she's a person any more.

This is precisely what I mean. I totally totally TOTALLY get what the deconer is saying, but I feel like Collins WANTS us to see that. I feel like she's trying to point out that this twisted, warped, terrible, violent *cough*AmericanIllusion*cough* society has basically forced Katniss to de-personify everyone around her in order to survive, both physically and emotionally.

So all I can say to stuff like that is, "Yeah, that's the point."

And that ^^ argues subjective interpretation and/or Authorial Intent which can really derail a decon because neither can really be proven. :)

BH said...

What are your opinions on the protagonist-centered morality issue, then? For me, that was the most salient point of farla's deconstruction. It was something I never thought about it all until then and once I did, a lightbulb clicked on in my head: this is so damn common, it's everywhere, how could I not have noticed! So I have to thank the decon for that. And there's really no looking past the lack of research, either. No matter what, I don't think you could argue *that* is intentional.

I'm not trying to accuse you of being defensive or anything, but...I do think it's harder to look critically at things we like and struggle to handwave away these issues? I guess I'm weird in that I actively seek out critical meta of things I like and I enjoy them (and I get frustrated and all "GRR Cult of Nice!" when I can't find them), but then again I tend to self-consciously gravitate towards thinks that I know are objectively bad but hit my id somehow. Almost all my reading-for-pleasure falls into that category. *shrug*

BH said...

I mean, I still think the decon is worth an in-depth look because I've never read one (aside form yours) that was so systematic about taking apart a book and looking at its nuts and bolts. And...I won't lie, it helped me with my own writing. A lot. So I may have as much of an irrational attachment to farla's decons as you do to the actual books. XD

I do think farla says a lot of worthwhile things, though, and she admits that the books are an enjoyable quick read, so it's not just hate!hate!hate! all the time (although her opinion of the last two books is pretty low, but mine is too).

Ana Mardoll said...

What are your opinions on the protagonist-centered morality issue, then?

I guess my opinion would be that I don't see it. :/ When I hear "protagonist centered morality", I think of a protagonist like the Pevenies who kill werewolf babies, but it's alright because they're the protagonists. I can't think of anyone that Katniss kills that she doesn't beat herself up over in spades: especially when she goes on the victory tour and recognizes how horrible it is for the parents of her victims to have to see her in person. The narrative doesn't flinch from that, and I think it's done very effectively.

And there's really no looking past the lack of research, either.

I'll cop to not knowing what you're referring to here. I thought the series *felt* well-researched (I enjoyed the survival stuff), but I'm highly forgiving of Research Fail if I like the underlying story. Especially when I didn't notice any. Specifics might help me discuss it with you. :)

Brin Bellway said...

Ana: de-personify

You know that weird glee you get when you're, say, watching a TV show, and you notice a little reference to a past episode? That's how I feel right now. It's like a continuity nod in real life!

Ana Mardoll said...

LOL! I re-typed it and everything!

(I may have trouble remembering who says what on the blog, but I'm pretty good I think on the content itself! We'll see how long that lasts, ha.)

Jeannette Ng said...

To understand why the Pevensies abolish school, you have to understand that CS Lewis *loathed* his secondary education. He was tutored at home as a child instead of primary school and he spent his secondary school at boarding houses where he had a miserable experience.

I think the problem isn't so much that the Penvensies abolish school, it is that Lewis feels that everyone will agree automatically with him that they need to be abolished. With no further explaination or justification. I wouldn't necessarily mind a lengthy aside in which the kings and queens of Narnia uncover the dark side of the school system.

Thus I can understand why he did it and that is interesting, but equally I'm not sure it necessarily works per se.

And there's really no looking past the lack of research, either.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but some (but not all) of the things that seem like research fails turn out to be plot points. Of course, not all of them do and that's often a problem of hiding your foreshadowing in research fails (or other such inconsistencies) you really have to be very confident that they are the only ones and that they won't annoy your reader before you reveal how clever you've been all along.

Good, very classic example would be the Village where the standard mishmash anachronism stew costuming turns out to be foreshadowing. Suffice to say, it's clever when it works but can backfire horribly.

I'll add now that I do rather like The Hunger Games, though I suspect not for the "standard" reasons.

Makabit said...

I've seen that too, although the timing is pretty tight. I assume the children are taken out to the country because the Blitz has begun, which would place events in 1940 at the earliest.

If we assume a date in late 1940 for LWW, Peter will be eighteen when the war ends, Edmund sixteen. I believe enlistment age was sixteen, but they wouldn't deploy to combat until 18 (I may be mistaken, and this may have changed by war's end). There's just enough time, basically, to get Peter into combat before it's over. Susan would be old enough to go into nursing or ambulance driving or something similar in London. The younger two, I don't know about for sure.

Also, I am not sure that being a knight with a sword on a horse, or a Horse, is really actually good training for what warfare was like in the twentieth century. I realize it's a bit more metaphorical than that.

depizan said...

All this discussion has suddenly made me wonder whether Diane Wynne Jones had LWW in mind at all when she wrote A Tale of Time City. It's another evacuee from the war ends up in a different world story, though it has little else in common with LWW, with a very different ending. Almost an opposite ending in terms of what happens for the main character. (Which was what made me wonder if she had LWW in mind, in the first place. She seemed like the sort of writer who might go "well, that's a completely horrible and traumatizing ending" and end up with a whole book.)

Theo said...

Like hapax said, the ending of TLTWATW only makes any kind of sense if you read it as the story sliding into a dreamlike fairytale mode as a transition back to the real world.

In case anyone here hasn't read Cofax's 'Carpetbaggers' fanfic, I recommend it with no reservations whatever. It seriously is one of the best things I've read in years, and it actually achieves the impossible task of doing credible worldbuilding with Narnia. :)

Theo said...

One of the better Narnia ficwriters, Bedlamsbard, has a long series of stories built on the premise that Narnia fell apart, was repeatedly invaded, and things went to shit very badly for a very long time. As a result there's more than a bit of resentment towards the Pevensies when they finally do come back... She has an index to the series here, if anyone is interested. It's great stuff.

That looks interesting. Shame it seems to be crammed full of (underage?) incest slash, which isn't my cup of tea to put it mildly.

Will Wildman said...

Not to derail further - but having read Hunger Games just recently I tend to pounce on opportunities to discuss it, and the 'protagonist-centred morality' is an interesting point. I have also not read the linked deconstructions, so I don't know the exact definition used in there, but I assume the basic meaning is still 'morality is defined by whatever the protagonist likes or benefits from', such that killing the protagonist's friend is bad but the protagonist killing someone else is okay. Which... I didn't really think THG featured at all. I mean, I can kind of see it, but I feel like you have to be skimming really quickly or not thinking about the characters in order to do so. It's like the house-elves in Harry Potter: I've known some people to say "JK Rowling basically made a race of happy slaves!" while I and others were more "Okay, JKR, we get it, slavery is pure evil and even warps the minds of some slaves until they cannot imagine any other life; this is a good point but we can maybe build on it instead of just repeating it AGAIN".

Apparently some things that I feel beaten over the head with as a reader are in fact YMMV? THG was presented in tight-first-person from the perspective of a messed-up, physically-traumatised PTSD-rocked teenage girl living in the decaying suburbs of Dystopia - I expect her to do horrible things without really noticing how awful they are.

Ana Mardoll said...

For the record, I am ideologically in favor of fun derails but ESPECIALLY fun derails about The Hunger Games. :D

I've noticed that with books too, and indeed with deconstructed works. How many times have we heard me say "ZOMG NARNIA HEAVY-HANDED" only to find that other people didn't read it that way at all? I think we see that with The Hunger Games and Harry Potter and His Dark Materials and so much more: the message you get from the text varies.

I think that doesn't make the deconer right or wrong, so much as just having a subjective opinion. Maybe? I dunno.

Divya Jagadeesan said...

Hi Ana. I will go ahead and add my request here for an ASOIF decon :) . I never got past a quarter of the first book but being a fantasy geek, I was bombarded with information about the series from every site or forum that I visit. So much so that I completely gave up trying to avoid spoilers for the series though I did intend to go back and read the whole thing once it was finished. All the opinions that I have heard have been overwhelmingly positive (except Tiger beatdown) so it would be very very interesting to read your take on the series.

chris the cynic said...

Wait, we're making requests? Well in that case, Ana, remember how (what disqus tells me is five months ago) you said you need to read the Dune books with a subversive eye? I'd love to see the result of that.

Ana Mardoll said...

LOL. We will finish Claymore soon, so it's probably time for a request thread. At least with ASOIF, I'm pretty sure most of you wouldn't hate me after. Dune, I'm not so sure.

Dav said...

Dune: I wouldn't hate you as long as you *burned it with fire*.

Ana Mardoll said...

LOL. What if I nuke the site from orbit?

Whitney Barnes said...

Re: Harry Potter

If Dumbldore and Harry Potter had been smart, this would have been most of the Order of the Phoenix:

Harry: I want to join the OoP.

Dumbledore: You are too young, it's too dangersous

H: Being a bystander probably isn't safe for anyone, but it's certainly not safe for me.

D: Good point. But, you have some kind of connection with V. It's possible he could read your mind, and that woud be bad. Learn to protect your mind, and we'll tell you everything.

H: Okay. But it wouldn't hurt if you pointed out to Snape that I'm not the jerk my father was. I don't torture the unpopular kids, and I'm not breaking the rules to be an entiteld jerk, I'm doing because no one will believe me when I say that bad things are happening, and someone has to deal with all that.

If Harry had learned to protect his mind, the whole sequence of events in the end would never have happened.

Nina said...

Actually, a lot of kids were evacuated before the Blitz began, in 1939. But since bombing didn't start for almost a year, a lot of kids went back home, only to be reevacuated in 1940. The same thing happened in 1944. After the Blitz was over, a lot of kids went home, but were then reevacuated when the rocket attacks began in 1944. So the Pevensies could have been evacuated as early as Fall of 1939, which would give them an extra year of age by the end of the war, making it much more likely for them to get involved by the end of the war.

chris the cynic said...

It's the only way to be sure.

-

(Says someone who actually liked Dune.)

Rikalous said...

One of the Pensieve memories Harry reads shows that Dumbledore did point out to Snape "You say this kid's mini-James, but none of his other teachers see anything like that." Snape just had too many Harry's-parents issues to listen.

As for the rest of your post, Dumbledore acknowledges at the end of Phoenix that he's been coddling Harry by concealing harsh truths from him, even though Harry's clearly shown he's capable of handling adult responsibilities like dueling Voldemort. It's not directly stated, but I think it's plausible that Dumbledore underestimated exactly how much Snape and Harry hated each other, and how hard it would be for them to work together.

I don't see the problems as resulting from general stupidity so much as character flaws.

Harry also would have been able to avoid the tragedy at the end if he'd opened that package Sirius gave him fairly early on. The fact that it could have been prevented so easily feeds into the tragedy.

Redwood Rhiadra said...

There is little or no teaching about the problem Harry faces - what Horcruxes are, how to recognize them, how to investigate to find them, how to fight to protect himself while looking for them, how to destroy them, and how to destroy Voldemort once the Horcruxes were gone.

This is because Dumbledore's entire plan, since Halloween 1981, is "Harry must let Voldemort kill him." His portrait flat-out admits it in the last book. And until very late in the game - until Albus is *dying* - there is no "and Harry comes back to life" clause in that plan - Albus has no reason to believe the Hallows will be available. Even when he discovers the Stone, and therefore knows there's a chance for Harry to survive, he makes *damn* sure it won't happen unless Albus has died *first*. (Hides the stone in the snitch which Harry will only get in Albus's will.)

depizan said...

This is because Dumbledore's entire plan, since Halloween 1981, is "Harry must let Voldemort kill him."

Which I find falls into the category of evil. It may be evil for the greater good (something Dumbledore is known to have a problem with), but grooming a child to be a willing sacrifice is F-ed up on multiple levels. It may have been the only option, which would suck, but I don't think that makes it any less disturbing.

It also doesn't entirely make sense, at least from the information we're given. (Note, I'm not arguing that it wasn't Dumbledore's plan. I agree that it totally was.) Voldemort doesn't have to personally destroy any of his other horcruxes, so I fail to see why he has to kill Harry. I'd love to know why they couldn't have destroyed all the other horcruxes and stuffed Voldie in Azkaban until Harry died of old age. Now, there may well be a reason that they couldn't, but I don't feel we were given it in text.

Of course, by the last book, there were so many world building WTFs and plot holes that I dearly wish she'd had a good editor. If the book had had it's many, many, many, many flaws ironed out a bit, Dumbledore might come off less like someone who jumped straight to child sacrifice. (Though failing to actually include the information as to why things had to be done a certain way is a fault that crept into her writing at least as early as OotP if not before. My kingdom for an editor! Or several!)

BH said...

I'm s orry, Will, but I really don't' like the implication that mine (and farla's) reading of the books comes from not "thinking about the characters' or "skimming really quickly."

I'm a fast reader, that's true, but I did get this underlying uneasy feeling even while reading the books. And if you read the decon, you'll notice that farla is quite methodical about her reading and even points out that if she hadn't read it as slowly and thoughtfully, she probably would have actually enjoyed it a lot.

I'm not going to argue that your and Ana's and the other fans' interpretation is wrong. Everyone has their own interpretation. I take issue at being told that my interpretation is just because I wasn't ~interrogating the text from the right perspective~.

Actually...this is pretty much the kick to the seat of the pants that I needed in order to realize that I don't actually like the books that much and should probably stop saying that I like them. There are a lot of other YA books (even dystopians) that I enjoy better, so maybe i should be reading those instead.

Sorry if I come across as hostile in any way. I'm pretty shy, mostly a lurker, and I've always admired the community here and Ana's deconstructions. I just don't like feeling crummy because people think I'm a poor reader for not enjoying a book series.

depizan said...

Well, one flaw (for me) in the series was that it had a bad case of telling, not showing, when it came to wizarding abilities. I needed to have a much better understanding of relative wizard power levels. I never got it. We were shown a few incompetent wizards, but that was about it. Simply saying "Voldemort is scary and powerful" isn't enough. For me. (I had a similar problem with the question of why not use Muggle weaponry against the extraordinarily poorly educated wizards. Rowling may have had a reason, but it never made it into the books.)

I know that what you describe is what happened. But if it was Dumbledore's plan, why the frack didn't he tell Harry. There's no reason for Harry to have to believe he was committing suicide, is there? And, since it was the horcruxes that rendered Voldemort unkillible, it didn't really matter whether Harry lived or died. Once the horcruxes were gone, Voldemort was as mortal as anyone else.

I don't know. I just felt like there was so much potential that got lost by the end of the series. Mostly because no one was editing, continuity editing, or just plain asking Rowling WTF!? periodically. Some of the WTFery was probably intended as character flaws, like Dumbledore's absolute refusal to explain anything to anyone ever until long after the fact, but I don't think the Order's incompetence, the incoherence of the world building when it came to exactly how the Wizarding and Muggle world connected (or the fact that, from a Muggle standpoint, the Wizarding world is pretty much evil, regardless of who's in charge of it), the protagonist centered morality of the happily ever after bit, or any number of other issues were intentional. Sometimes a writer needs an editor or a good friend to go "Wait, what?" because it's damned easy to think you put everything that needed to go in the scene in the scene when you didn't and damned easy to miss that something that sounds fine from one perspective sounds totally F-ed up from another.

chris the cynic said...

I'm a fast reader, that's true, but I did get this underlying uneasy feeling even while reading the books.

I'm confused. Much of this is almost certainly because I haven't read the books and have no intention to ever read them, but given that I'm trying to follow this thread I have to read the posts about the books because otherwise I might miss something because I skipped a post and it turned out only part of it was about those books and the other parts were relevant to other things.

So, for example, Will's post that you're responding to I read in full and it seems to say, if I can paraphrase severely, "I don't see how you could read the books without getting an underlying uneasy feeling which demonstrated that we're not supposed to consider these elements good things."

You responded with, "I did get this underlying uneasy feeling," which leaves me wondering, isn't that Will's point?

As I said, I'm confused.

-

So, for someone who hasn't read the books, could you explain your problem with them? Originally I thought you were saying that they didn't give an appropriate feeling of unease and therefore supported things that should have been condemned with an underlying feeling of unease. Now you're saying that you got the very thing I thought you were calling out the books for not providing.

If I were to read the books (which I won't, so there's no points off for giving the wrong answer because no one can know and I'm just asking for your best guess) would the problem be that I'd encounter bad things presented in a positive light, or that I'd see bad things presented in a light which produces negative reactions (for example uneasy feelings)?

I probably shouldn't be asking so much about books I'll never read, but I've had to read about them so much that I'm definitely interested in your criticism of them and, as I said, at this point I don't understand it at all.

depizan said...

Yes. The people Voldemort tried to hurt and kill at the end were only immune to Voldemort's efforts because Harry had chosen to sacrifice himself to save them.

Except this is one of the WTFs right there. I swear we see at least one other person sacrifice themselves in the last book without their savee gaining immunity. It's a great idea, but it got executed poorly.

Redwood Rhiadra said...

Sorry, but *the entire point* of Book Seven was that Harry had to reunite all three hallows in order to become the "Master of Death" and survive. Even the title reflects this.

The gleam of triumph is that one more step of Dumbledore's plan has been completed - Voldemort has been resurrected so he can kill Harry, and he is no longer subject to the blood protection that killed his host in first year.

Makabit said...

OK, good point. I may have gotten in stuck in my mind that it's later from the opening of the movie--which, BTW, does a much better point of suggesting what may be eating Edmund than Lewis ever does with his nonsense about school turning him into a bad person.

Kish said...

*shrug* I see little point to trading back and forth "you're wrong/no you're wrong." So--after suggesting you might want to reread the part that starts with 'remember what he did, in his greed and cruelty'--I'll withdraw from this particular back-and-forth.

Nina said...

Well, I certainly don't insist on that interpretation (that they evac'ed in 1939). I mean, from what I recall of the beginning of the text, Lewis was pretty vague about what happened and when before they ended up at the Professor's house.

I had a similar experience with respect to the movie. I thought it was pretty good and then went and reread the book and realized how much character development they built into the movie that simply isn't in the book. I rarely find a movie that I like better than the book version, but this was one of them. I think the movie was in general a tighter story with more fleshed out characters.

Dav said...

That is acceptable.

I was startled to reread Dune some years ago and discover that almost all my love for Dune boiled down to the mini-series, which can roughly be divided into love for a) Patrick Stewart, b) Sting, and c) the idea of a little box that could hurt you without causing damage, with a little extra love for the Bene Gesserit scenery chewing left over.

In short, it was very much a "funny feelings in my pants" kind of love, which did a lot to gloss over the dross.

I did like the super-soldiers from the prison planet, though. That was neat.

Will Wildman said...

Sorry if I come across as hostile in any way. I'm pretty shy, mostly a lurker, and I've always admired the community here and Ana's deconstructions. I just don't like feeling crummy because people think I'm a poor reader for not enjoying a book series.

I'm sorry; I think we've had a serious miscommunication. I would never ever say that someone must like a particular book or they are a bad reader - that would be absurd on so many levels. And I think I pretty explicitly stated that I have not read the deconstructions you linked to, so I can't as yet directly address any of the cases that might be made over there. I just laid out a specific premise that seemed to have been raised - the idea that morality in THG is heavily biased towards Katniss' whims - and asserted that I don't think this is supportable by the text. If you'd like to discuss further, particularly if there are specific instances that you think highlight a problem, I'd be happy to continue. I would certainly not want to shut anyone down, and you're probably right that I didn't choose my phrasing as appropriately as I should have.

Fluffy_goddess said...

...Yes, yes it is. And also, I did not intend to write WWII there. Sorry! (This is what comes of retyping a comment because disqus ate it; I was thinking of later conflicts.)

Though there *are* skills which are transferable -- a good military leader would need to adapt tactics to go from Narnian battles to Earth battles, but figuring out how to read people, and what sort of pressure and training people will respond to (both under your command and above you) is very, very significant, and not a skill that tends to be cheaply taught.

BH said...

Sorry, I wasn't being specific enough. By "underlying uneasy feeling" I meant...it's hard to explain, but it definitely wasn't an "appropriate reaction to the disturbing things that were presented in the text." It was more...kind of this general distaste I felt towards Katniss, which I couldn't really explain, and this uncomfortable sense that the text was being emotionally manipulative.

It doesn't have anything to do with the bad things being presented in a positive light (which they aren't) or bad things being presented in a light which produces negative reactions. It was an uneasy feeling on a more meta level, if that makes sense. A feeling that I was at war with the text itself, or that the subtext really did not line up with the text and was not *intentionally* supposed to be disturbing (or even present).

I feel like I'm not explaining myself really well...and this is just my impression, to boot. It's possible all the toxic emotionally manipulative protagonist-centered things I sensed were put there deliberately, as Ana says. It's also equally possible that all of it was unintentional on the author's part.

chris the cynic said...

I feel like I'm not explaining myself really well

I'm grateful to you for just trying. It's hard enough to explain one's personal experience of a text to someone who has read it, harder still to explain to one, such as myself, who hasn't.

BH said...

Thanks for the apology, Will. It was pretty late at night and I probably read you as being more hostile than you were (didn't notice you were actually talking about Harry Potter...which is another series I read pretty antagonistically, though I enjoy them at heart), so I apologize too.

I don't really enjoy discussing the Hunger Games because I don't dislike them enough to rant about them, as I do with...say, about 90 percent of DC's output these days. Or that one book Across the Universe, I could go on and on about it (mostly what I perceived as horrific racefail; full disclosure, I'm not white). I feel that anything I want to say has already been said by farla, anyway. But I could take a stab at discussing the morality in THG, even though it's been so long that I don't really remember everything that happened.

I don't feel like it is biased toward Katniss's whims, more that the book itself seems to be trying too hard to make her come across as special and different. I could be wrong about this and maybe all the speshul snowflakeness is intentional and meant to be deconstructed, but I've read enough YA to know that speshul snowflake protagonists are a dime a dozen (ironically) and Katniss doesn't really read as different enough from the other such protagonists for me to believe that she's an intentional send-up, but this is just my interpretation and it's possible that Collins is being too subtle for me to notice. IDK, because I don't think the books are very subtle overall.

The frustrating thing is that I feel like the basic premise of the books is quite good. I just think they would be a lot better if they weren't from exclusively Katniss' perspective. First person is fine with me, but I don't think it's a good choice for a dystopian story and I don't buy that the first person is meant to make Katniss seem unreliable; I feel like it's so we can sympathize with her better. Getting to see the POV of the other tributes would make it a lot better...though more obviously indebted to Battle Royale. I didn't like the dehumanizing treatment the other tributes got. Rue was just a victim, Cato a monster. Maybe it's intentional on Collins' part, as Ana says, but I don't believe that because I feel that the books are otherwise trying so damned hard to make us cheer on Katniss. Maybe this would all be resolved easier if she had just included some other perspectives, then we wouldn't be having arguments like this. To me, unreliability only works if it's *really* strong and apparent (as it is in a good number of Poe short stories) or if it's offset by balancing/correcting characters and perspectives, which I don't feel is the case in Hunger Games.

Maybe I am just reading it in a shallow way and there's a lot of subtle stuff buried beneath, but honestly I feel that when you decon books like Hunger Games, Narnia, Harry Potter, and the lot, everything you interpret depends more on *you* (general you, not you in particular) than on the author. Very rarely do authors actually think their books through to such a depth. Most just want to tell a story that interests them.

Sorry for being all over the place. I probably should include specific instances from the text or whatever, but honestly I don't feel bothered to get them out and go through them and mark them up. They were good for a quick read but aren't books that I really feel like returning to anytime soon. I mean to say...I don't care about them enough to really discuss them in-depth. For YA books, they aren't bad. There's a lot worse in the YA section that I could complain about, and a lot better that I could squee about.

Ana Mardoll said...

I also wish to apologize, and I hope I've not made you feel disrespected. Certainly, two people whose opinions I respect very highly do not like THG, so there's plenty of room in my life for more! ;)

Possibly the problem here is that we've been talking high level concepts (Protagonist Centered Morality, Research Fail) without discussing low level examples, and that's not always easy. :)

Will Wildman said...

One of the things that I particularly liked about THG was that I really didn't get any impression that Katniss was supposed to be all that inherently special - she wasn't a Chosen One from birth, she was built. She catches people's attention because Cinna has great ideas for fashion. She gains sympathy and emotional traction because Peeta plays out a whole soap opera story (which is a complicated thing to get into; I can easily see why people would strongly dislike Peeta's schemes). She is able to spark a rebellion because people shape her into a rallying hero, not because she's just so awesome all the time. She does take a few key actions that make a real difference - she's not just a passive object being acted upon - but THG really stands out for me as a story that shows the Chosen One concept as a PR campaign being run by an entire team of folks with complementary skills.

But if you aren't interested in further Hunger Games talk, please don't feel obligated. I know that feeling of "I disliked this book, but not enough to make it interesting". (When I talk about The Stand, for example, it's mostly because I look forward to the reactions of people when they realise I'm serious and that is an actual thing that exists in the world.)

Ana Mardoll said...

So funny, because now I kind of think I should do a THG decon. Because when someone says Katniss is a special snowflake, I'm startled because I see her as a deconstruction of the trope, and Cato... Poor Cato. I thought the whole point of his character is that he's not a monster at all. The scene where Katniss mercy-kills him beaks my heart.

And +1 to the PR team, Will.

Maybe I need to make time for this...

J. Random Scribbler said...

Original topic:

Um, yeah, I guess I could have read the comments before posting such an angsty comment myself; it honestly had never occurred to me that just as the Pevensies' bodies were returned to childhood, their minds could have been as well. Thus removing most of the trauma and actually making it plausible that Susan could dismiss it all as "childish games." I do agree with whoever mentioned upthread that it's pretty squicky to think about their grownup Narnian selves essentially being killed in the process, though.

And I'm not normally so angsty; my circumstances are just unusual at the moment. And it doesn't help that shyness makes it hard to post unless I feel strongly about something. And... why was I apologizing anyway? This is one of the most accepting communities I've ever seen. Reflexes, I guess, heh.

Anyway, current topic:

I've read THG but not the other two books, though I did spend an evening once devouring Mark reads The Hunger Games up to the end of the second book. I'm curious what folks think of his take; he's writing partially for comedic effect but does touch on deeper stuff. His read of the Harry Potter series is interesting too, though again not a pure decon, and he's currently doing the Lord of the Rings. Anybody else familiar with his stuff?

Will Wildman said...

Ooh, Mark Reads Twilight is where I first learned that there were so many reasons to dislike Twilight that were completely independent from 'lol sparkles' or 'girl stuff is silly'. Now I have two THG decons to look into.

Ana Mardoll said...

I LOVED Mark's take on THG, partly because he approached the series in the same way I did, but also because he's really lovely to read in general. I love his decons a lot, and I buy them when he compiles them, but I can't keep up in real time, which is hard/sad for me. I don't know where he finds the time, I'm amazed by his awesomeness.

cofax said...

To be honest, some of that's there, yes, but it's pretty well labelled and thus avoidable. The stuff that isn't incest or slash (which are in fact separate if sometimes overlapping categories) is really quite good. I can recommend, as an example, Written in the Dust, which is an entirely inoffensive story about historiography in Telmarine Narnia.

My personal favorite of her work is the unfinished novel Dust in the Air, in which The Last Battle takes a sharp left turn, the Calormenes conquer Narnia, the Pevensies return to be greeted as gods and lead a guerrilla insurrection, and it becomes really obvious that Bed has both spent a lot of time in post-Katrina New Orleans and read the Gentlemen Bastards novels.

If you are in fact interested in Narnia fic, Rthstewart is worth checking out: she writes prolifically but with professional levels of craft and research, and her original characters are as complex and interesting as the ones from canon. But she doesn't pretent to be writing children's fiction, and her adult characters behave like adults (including sex).

RebeccaCityofLadies said...

@Fluffy_goddess: That's one (probably the only!) thing I like about the films of Narnia - that they contextualize the children's adventures in Narnia with what's going on in the real world. I do like the WWII fics, even if the timeline doesn't quite work.

@Ana: Wow. I totally did not remember that it was Susan who urged them not to go past the lamp-post. That puts all of Susan's post-Narnia actions in an entirely new light.

Loquat said...

Having just recently read the Hunger Games trilogy, I have to admit I liked it upon reading it but find farla's decon raised a lot of problems I didn't notice at first. Katniss really does go into THESE OTHER TRIBUTES ARE NOT REAL PEOPLE AND I WILL KILL THEM mode surprisingly quickly in both games, and even oblivious me noticed that it was awfully convenient how the Evul Careers killed all the others so Katniss only had to kill people she (and District 12 people in general? Nobody ever seemed to treat her differently on account of her having killed other human beings) already thought of as evil.

There's a very good fanfic of Beetee's life here - shockingly good, in fact, for having been written by a middle-schooler - and one of the things I love about it is how Beetee goes into the Games a scared kid who's really not sure he can kill other people, almost all the kids he winds up killing are depicted as normal, non-evil kids, and when he gets back his family's really not sure what they think of him now that they've seen him commit premeditated murder.

Jeannette said...

What are your opinions on the protagonist-centered morality issue, then?

There is also a difference between protagonists you're supposed to agree with and protagonists you're not. To me, not all protagonists need to be a paragon of Virtue. The only problem I have is when I get the feeling that you're supposed to think they're doing good, when they're not. Like Edward's abusive behaviour being romantic, to take the simplest example. It's about the framing?

"Okay, JKR, we get it, slavery is pure evil and even warps the minds of some slaves until they cannot imagine any other life; this is a good point but we can maybe build on it instead of just repeating it AGAIN".

Yes! And can it please be at least referenced at the end? As opposed to treating it as though the death of Dobby makes everything OK. All I ask is really just a "Hey, Hermione, how's that job fighting for elf rights doing?" in the epilogue.

Rikalous said...

I'm pretty sure Rowling stated in an interview that Hermione gets laws passed that demand more humane treatment for House-Elves.

Jenny Islander said...

About the White Stag--as a kid I assumed that the Hunt was a bloodless Hunt, the way flag football is thudless football, and the Stag was in it for the challenge. So a successful Hunt would end with the hounds and horses (some of whom would be Talking Beasts) and beaters and hornblowers and all surrounding the Stag shouting "GOT YOUUUUU!" and the Stag saying, "Yep, you did it, lemme catch my breath and then it's winning lottery tickets for all." Of course the Stag had been caught, oh, once, and the rest of the time he just had fun messing with people in the woods.

As an adult I recognize that they are hunting the White Stag, an image of Jesus, in order to achieve their desire, and the hunt lands them back in the world where they belong, because Christianity has to be lived out in everyday life. But also, as an adult reading the Chronicles to my own children, I find myself editing as I go. It's a shame; I guess I'll have to provide a marked-up copy when my kids are all confident readers and let them compare to the original if they want.

Theo said...

Thanks, I'll check it out. :) For the record, I don't mind adult characters having sex at all - it's sibling incest and/or underage sex I admit to being squicked out by.

Will Wildman said...

it was awfully convenient how the Evul Careers killed all the others so Katniss only had to kill people she [...] already thought of as evil.

I have yet to check out farla's decon (though I intend to) but we barely get any characterisation of any other tributes in the first book. Katniss' first plan is to run for it, which she does for a long time, and then she ends up killing some of the ones who had survived the original bloodbath. If there had been other survivors, it would have been those she ended up fighting.

I dunno, if a 15-year-old girl raised in devastating poverty under the iron fist of a brutal totalitarian government got thrown into a nightmare arena surrounded by people who were entirely willing to kill her, and she had stuck to an idealistic plan to save everyone, I'd have found it deeply unrealistic. The first book was very much about small concepts of rebellion sparking within people who have lost all hope and principle.

But possibly I will have a different perspective after readingfarla; I don't know.

I'm pretty sure Rowling stated in an interview that Hermione gets laws passed that demand more humane treatment for House-Elves.

She did; apparently Hermione's post-Hogwarts path was to go to Magic Law School, get into government, and start a huge reform in Magical Creature Equal Rights. And I have no idea why Rowling decided to save that for the interviews and spend the epilogue on BABIES FOR EVERYONE. But I was always saddened throughout the series when Hermione's plotlines got sidetracked to be part of a Beta Couple that I never found particularly plausible or compelling.

Dav said...

One of the things I was loved was that [Hunger Game SPOILERS] Pngb vf cbegenlrq nf na rivy pnerre, ohg uvf qrngu vf bar bs gur zbfg ubeevsvp guvatf rire. Vg znqr zr srry thvygl sbe ybbxvat sbejneq gb uvf qrngu, naq V guvax gung jnf irel avpryl qbar. Jr qba'g ernyyl xabj jung Pngb'f yvxr bhgfvqr gur Tnzrf - fher, ur'f pyrneyl ybfvat pbageby bs uvf grzcre vafvqr gurz, ohg V'z abg fher gung zl natre znantrzrag jbhyq ubyq hc va uvf pvephzfgnaprf.

Gung fnvq, gur cybg gjvfg V jnf *ernyyl* ubcvat sbe jnf n orgenlny sebz Ehr, cnegyl orpnhfr Xngavff pna or fb oyvaq jura arprffnel naq hc gb gung cbvag, V sryg yvxr fur'q qvivqrq gur Gevohgrf arngyl vagb obkrf naq gurer unqa'g orra zhpu fhoirefvba bs gung. (Crrgn wbvavat gur Pnerref jnf, fbeg bs, rkprcg vg jnfa'g erny.)

Ana Mardoll said...

I dunno, if a 15-year-old girl raised in devastating poverty under the iron fist of a brutal totalitarian government got thrown into a nightmare arena surrounded by people who were entirely willing to kill her, and she had stuck to an idealistic plan to save everyone, I'd have found it deeply unrealistic.

I think so too. I also understood the book to say that even if it had come down to Katniss and Peeta and Rue and Nicey McNiceGuy, the game would have simply become all of them trying to survive while the Game Keepers (or whatever they were called) came up with increasingly more entertaining ways to kill them. There's some mention in the book, iirc, that some tributes win by "default", i.e., Last Person Not Killed By Natural Disaster. Annie is one of these.

Seconding Dav on the powerful portrayal of Cato. Mark of Mark Reads calls that out BEAUTIFULLY.

Thomas Keyton said...

Except this is one of the WTFs right there. I swear we see at least one other person sacrifice themselves in the last book without their savee gaining immunity. It's a great idea, but it got executed poorly

One of Harry's visions of Voldemort features a woman he was interrogating for the whereabouts of Gregorovitch throw herself in front of her children just as Voldemort casts an AK. No mention of any debodying, so I guess this woman just didn't love her kids as much as Lily loved Harry. (Also, surely everyone who went into hopeless battle against Voldemort, giants, Dementors, Death Eaters, Acromantulae, etc, were just as willing to die for their loved ones as Harry and Lily, but they don't produce any noticeable result).

ZMiles said...

As I recall, the difference was supposed to be that Voldy offered to spare Lily, and she chose to die anyway. I don't think he offered to let anyone else live if they just got out of his way, so it wasn't considered as big of a sacrifice -- the people were doomed no matter what. (This is also why James' sacrifice doesn't count; Voldy never gave him a chance to surrender and live).

Makabit said...

But you see, at that point I'm just going oh, whatever.

IF Voldemort offers you a chance to live, and IF you instead die, protecting the right person, THEN something deep and mysterious happens...you know what, I simply don't buy it.

It smells of the Deep Magic. Why is it like this? Because it has to be, for the plot to go in this direction and save the writer's fanny!

Thomas Keyton said...

I don't think he offered to let anyone else live if they just got out of his way, so it wasn't considered as big of a sacrifice -- the people were doomed no matter what

He offered the Hogwarts defenders a chance to surrender Harry, so...

Anton_Mates said...

Um, yeah, I guess I could have read the comments before posting such an angsty comment myself; it honestly had never occurred to me that just as the Pevensies' bodies were returned to childhood, their minds could have been as well. Thus removing most of the trauma and actually making it plausible that Susan could dismiss it all as "childish games."

In Prince Caspian, it seems pretty clear (to me) that the kids have an "Earthly mind" and a "Narnian mind." When they go back to England, they seem to forget most of the details of their Narnian reign, as well as the practical skills and knowledge they'd acquired like swordfighting, swimming (for the younger kids), and courtly speech. They also revert personality-wise; the boys don't carry themselves like men anymore, and Susan's timid in an un-queenly fashion (although we see in THAHB that she was pretty timid as a queen, too). When they return to Narnia, they gradually recover all that stuff, but it takes days and exposure to various "triggers" like Cair Paravel and (of course) Aslan. At the same time, I think they start to lose their English knowledge a bit. For instance, when Susan recalls the White Stag chase she momentarily forgets the name of England and calls it "that other place."

So yes, TLB-era Susan has probably genuinely forgotten that her trips to Narnia were real; I don't think she's just pretending to forget in order to piss off her siblings. But her forgetfulness is probably a symptom of her corruption (as far as Lewis is concerned). The other seven visitors to Narnia followed Aslan's instructions to "know him by another name" on Earth, presumably by becoming good Christians, and they also spent lots of time discussing Narnia with each other. As a result, by TLB they've become better at retaining their Narnianness while on Earth; Peter's still all kingly, and he can turn on Narnian speech patterns whenever he needs to. It's Susan's own fault that she's gone the other way.

(This attitude shows up elsewhere in Lewis; both in The Great Divorce and in Screwtape, I think. People fall away from God by trying to ignore what they know to be right and true; eventually they succeed in this and actually don't know it anymore. But their ignorance is their fault, not God's.)

Dav said...

People fall away from God by trying to ignore what they know to be right and true; eventually they succeed in this and actually don't know it anymore. But their ignorance is their fault, not God's.

This is one of those things about Lewis that makes me *SO STABBY*.

Will Wildman said...

In Prince Caspian, it seems pretty clear that the kids have an "Earthly mind" and a "Narnian mind." When they go back to England, they seem to forget most of the details of their Narnian reign, as well as the practical skills and knowledge they'd acquired like swordfighting, swimming (for the younger kids), and courtly speech. They also revert personality-wise; the boys don't carry themselves like men anymore, and Susan's timid in an un-queenly fashion.

That's disappointing; one of the parts of the Prince Caspian movie that I liked was that Peter is shown as unable to adjust after decades of being treated as High King of the nation, and constantly picks fights with other schoolboys for failing to treat him with the respect he thinks he deserves. I'll be curious to see how it rolls out in the books, since for that and other reasons I thought the movie really evoked their loss of Narnia and they total joy when they realise they've returned.

Rowen said...

Avoid Storm Constantine like the plague then. Well, some of her older stuff. I've only read Wraeththu and that Storm Dragon Heir trilogy.

but yeah, avoid her.

Also, some of Piers Anthony's stuff can and does get squicky. Especially the book where they end up choosing a new God.

depizan said...

I've got to say, that's a much better explanation. So would an explanation of Lily casting some protection on her son - I'd buy an extra powerful protection spell from a dying witch over what we were given.

chris the cynic said...

Bearing in mind that I stopped reading at the fifth book, did later books massively rewrite Lily's death story?

My memory was that every interesting thing about what happened between Lily, Harry, and Voldomort was because Lily pulled a Hermonie and simply knew precisely the right archaic, almost never thought about much less used, spell for the occasion. Something which Voldy had apparently been aware of at some point because his younger self recognized what she must have done when informed that it had happened.

If Lily is no longer said to have singlehandedly change the course of human events via RESEARCH! (and a splash of love) that seems like a massive character derailment. That was the one thing we knew about her.

Will Wildman said...

Exactly how the defensive magic is supposed to have worked for Lily is never particularly clear - I too originally got the impression that she was consciously shielding Harry via love+death+magic=win, but no one ever talks further about there having been an intentional spell cast and in the last book it seems that Harry is able to create a similar 'shield' through his own death, and he definitely didn't use any additional magic. So it's totally possible to read the series and conclude that Lily didn't actually do anything more than refuse to hand over her son in exchange for her own life.

Harry's sacrifice-shield over everyone doesn't function in the same way that Lily's did (Voldemort can still cast spells on people with no rebound, but their effects are weakened and temporary) but Harry does explicitly draw a parallel to his mother's sacrifice. I never really felt like that was a necessary addition to the sequence.

There does seem to be a confused alchemy to the situation. If it's just 'dying to protect soemone' then it should be happening all the time. In Lily's case, it seems to be 'dying to protect someone even though you explicitly don't have to'. In Harry's case, Voldemort does not offer to spare him, so it's not th same scenario; it's back to just being that Harry volunteers himself because Voldemort offers to spare others if Harry stops fighting back. Except that even then, Harry's primary motivation wasn't to protect everyone else, it was because he 'knew' that he had to die in order to make Voldemort mortal again.

All of that confusion could have been avoided if Harry wasn't indicated to have somehow nerfed Voldemort's power by dying, and since that's not even particularly plot-relevant, I rather wish it had been cut.

Bayley G said...

I almost wonder if some beta didn't say "Hang on a tic, didn't he just do the same thing his mum did?" and Rowling went "Ooh, good idea, I'll toss in some protection mojo."

Lunch Meat said...

I feel like I remember reading that another component of the "spell" is not fighting back...So everyone at Hogwarts who was willing to die, doesn't count because they were killed while fighting. Both Lily and Harry just stood there and let it happen.

Makabit said...

"Before he was given up to death, a death he freely accepted..."

I normally love religious imagery. I'm writing a bloody science fiction novel now that's mostly nothing but Catholicism and Renaissance art and stuff blowing up.

So WHY do the Christian overtones of the end of Harry Potter fill me with such contempt and annoyance?

Ursula L said...

Well, in all fairness, if a few more adults told them a few more details, the kids might be more willing to respond. But how many adults ever willingly told Harry anything about what was going on in the present? Lupus & Sirius talked about the past. Mr. Weasely told him one or two things, over the protests of Mrs. Weasely. And what adults ever told Ron or Hermione anything, outside of lessons?

So the kids might think "hey, maybe if I got to ______, he or she will know enough context to make sense of this!" But there's no reason to follow that up with "and then he or she will explain it to me!"

It's worse than that, really. The adults in the HP universe actively keep secrets from Harry and his friends, and undermine the children's confidence in their own observations.

This is most obvious in the sixth book, when Harry correctly observes that Draco is involved in some sort of scheme, and that Snape is somehow mixed up in it. Harry's conclusions aren't correct, but Dumbledore's insistence that there is nothing going on dismisses all of Harry's observations, rather than teaching him how to draw correct conclusions. Dumbledore effectively gaslights Harry on the issue of what Draco is doing, dismissing Harry's correct observations and plausible though partially incorrect conclusions.

Dumbledore's "lessons" with Harry focus on telling Harry about Voldemort's background and pressuring Harry to get information from Slughorn. There is little or no teaching about the problem Harry faces - what Horcruxes are, how to recognize them, how to investigate to find them, how to fight to protect himself while looking for them, how to destroy them, and how to destroy Voldemort once the Horcruxes were gone.

Dumbledore then takes Harry to find the Horcrux without first sharing any information about where they are going or what to expect, or what he should do if Dumbledore is killed or incapacitated, how to recognize a horcrux or how to destroy a horcrux. Basalisk fangs can destroy Horcruxes, and there is an entire mouthful of Basalisk teeth in the dungeons of Hogworts, yet they head out to find a Horcrux without first picking up a fang or two, and perhaps stashing a few for later use.

JenL said...

And finally, though no ages are given for the grown-up Pevensie children, I always got the feeling that the children grew to be in their late-twenties, possibly early thirties. I'd be interested in hearing other people's interpretations of that.

From the "they grew up to be Real Menz and Real Womenz", I'd agree - except for the part about other countries beginning to send ambassadors looking to marry Susan. Why wait so long to ask to marry her?

Of course - why only her? Why aren't ambassadors looking to marry Princesses to the guys of the family? The text says everybody wanted Lucy to be their Queen, but doesn't say anyone's actually proposed.

Sure, could be the author just didn't bother going there - he could have meant it as just a quick wrap-up with little thought given, and he thinks of romances and marriages as being a girl thing.

Or maybe they've really only "grown up" to where the older kids are 18 or 20? That could explain them still being such kids - no romances, no long term planning, no apparent maturity, no impulse control...

JenL said...

PS: "But don't go trying to use the same route twice." That's BS, and the professor knows it. Lucy and Edmund have both entered and left Narnia multiple times now. They even told him. So if they can't get back now, something has apparently changed. My best guess is that Narnia doesn't need the kids anymore, so the Deep Magic or whatever blocks the access route.

I believe the explanation of the "now it works, now it doesn't" wardrobe originally was that if you were *trying* to use it to get to Narnia, it didn't work. So Lucy hides, goes to Narnia. The children search - wardrobe. Lucy hides again, goes to Narnia. Edmund searches for Lucy, follows her. Finally, all the children hide, all go to Narnia.

Not sure how Lucy is so innocent that she manages twice to enter the wardrobe to hide without thinking "maybe I'll go back to Narnia!"

But if the Professor were shown to have any special knowledge of the wardrobe (other than knowing the history of the wood) or even shown to have listened really carefully to what the children said, he could have figured out that it's unlikely the children would ever again enter the wardrobe without thinking of Narnia. He might have also figured that it was at least possible there were other access points to Narnia, but he couldn't have known that for certain.

There's NO way he could have known for sure that the kids *would* go back. Unless, of course, it was just an author guaranteeing that he could write a sequel, assuming this book sold well.

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