Narnia: Playful Animals, Platonic Allies

[Content Note: Classist Language, War, Deformation, Disabilities]

Narnia Recap: Aslan has been resurrected and has carried Susan and Lucy to the Witch's house. 

The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, Chapter 16: What Happened With The Statues

   "WHAT AN EXTRAORDINARY PLACE!" cried Lucy. "All those stone animals -- and people too! It's -- it's like a museum."
   "Hush," said Susan, "Aslan's doing something."

This is a very cozy chapter, possibly the coziest thus far. The reader is still in the post-resurrection relief that Aslan is alright and that everything is going to end nicely, and despite the fact that there is actually a war going on a short ways away, we are going to have a play day with silliness and the battle itself will be limited to three paragraphs at the end. Considering that this book was written for a young audience, it was probably a wise choice; not everything needs to be dark and gritty.

What does puzzle me, though, is Lucy's opening statement. "Extraordinary" probably does describe the Witch's statue garden, but though it can be applied to negative things, it very rarely seems to be. Lucy's peculiar word-choice, as well as her animals! people! museum! narrative strikes me as very odd, almost as though Lucy doesn't know that these statues are living things.

Can that even be possible at this point? Mr. and Mrs. Beaver told them at dinner that the Witch is widely rumored to turn her enemies to stone and they speculated that was the fate of Mr. Tumnus. Edmund, with whom they have spent a day's travel when Aslan's forces moved out from the Stone Table, has actually seen the statue garden, as well as a faun that he thought might be Lucy's friend. I don't really understand how that isn't the first thing Lucy thinks: These are the statues! Mr. Tumnus must be here!

I almost feel like Lucy has forgotten her friend. Which, considering that he was their big reason for not leaving Narnia -- they were on a rescue mission! they had to find Aslan in order to set Mr. Tumnus free! -- this seems a little odd. It almost feels like the author and the narrative had moved on to bigger, more important things and Lucy's mind had been dragged along in the new direction. 

   He was indeed. He had bounded up to the stone lion and breathed on him. Then without waiting a moment he whisked round -- almost as if he had been a cat chasing its tail -- and breathed also on the stone dwarf, which (as you remember) was standing a few feet from the lion with his back to it. [...]
   For a second after Aslan had breathed upon him the stone lion looked just the same. Then a tiny streak of gold began to run along his white marble back -- then it spread -- then the color seemed to lick all over him as the flame licks all over a bit of paper -- then, while his hindquarters were still obviously stone, the lion shook his mane and all the heavy, stone folds rippled into living hair. Then he opened a great red mouth, warm and living, and gave a prodigious yawn. And now his hind legs had come to life. He lifted one of them and scratched himself. Then, having caught sight of Aslan, he went bounding after him and frisking round him whimpering with delight and jumping up to lick his face.

Everyone, say hello to the Comic Relief Lion. And while you're at it, say hello to the Comic Relief Giant:

   "Oh!" said Susan in a different tone. "Look! I wonder -- I mean, is it safe?"
   Lucy looked and saw that Aslan had just breathed on the feet of the stone giant.
   "It's all right!" shouted Aslan joyously. "Once the feet are put right, all the rest of him will follow."

More on them later.

   "Now for the inside of this house!" said Aslan. "Look alive, everyone. Up stairs and down stairs and in my lady's chamber! Leave no corner un-searched. You never know where some poor prisoner may be concealed."

This statement is precisely the sort of thing likely to confuse a child who is not familiar with a certain old nursery rhyme. And while I'm not going to say that C.S. Lewis may be directly responsible for planting the idea for the controversial Neil Gaiman slash-fic pairing Aslan and Jadis, I will say that this framing strikes me as very odd.

I feel as though this chapter marks a major tonal shift in the book -- and the second-to-last chapter of a book may not be the best place to introduce a major tonal shift. Aslan has gone from being stern and solemn and untamed and wildly beautiful to silly and whimsical and kittenish and quoting English fairy tales that seem not, strictly-speaking, to fit in this world. Outside of the Witch's house -- which presumably does have an upstairs, downstairs, and lady's chamber -- how many homes in the Animal world of Narnia are going to fit this layout? The rhyme can't possibly be a Narnian one, it must be from England, and I find it incredibly jarring.

And perhaps I shouldn't complain that Aslan is less off-putting and more accessible now. Haven't I been asking for that all this time? But... I don't actually feel like he's more accessible. Sillier, yes, but he misunderstands Susan's concerns (either deliberately or intentionally) and fails to address them. Not in the same way as he failed to address her concerns about the Deep Magic last time she dared question him, because he didn't growl at her, granted. Yet I see little practical difference between gently mocking someone's question and aggressively reprimanding someone's question -- they both end in the same result that Aslan refuses to answer. It's just... he's a lot sillier about it now.

I'd like to say that some of this deliberate silliness is meant as a distraction that there is a Very Serious Battle going on not too far from this scene. And possibly there's an attempt to minimize the very real distress that would surely result from waking up and realizing that you've been frozen in stone for... how long? The Witch has been reigning for 100 years. Some of these statues may well have been here that long. That Comic Relief Lion? His family may be dead from old age at this point. So maybe the nursery rhymes are meant as an emotional buffer, but it's something of an odd one for me, almost as though we've gone overboard into a comic sketch.

   And into the interior they all rushed and for several minutes the whole of that dark, horrible, fusty old castle echoed with the opening of windows and with everyone's voices crying out at once, "Don't forget the dungeons -- Give us a hand with this door! -- Here's another little winding stair -- Oh! I say. Here's a poor kangaroo. Call Aslan -- Phew! How it smells in here -- Look out for trap-doors -- Up here! There are a whole lot more on the landing!" But the best of all was when Lucy came rushing upstairs shouting out, "Aslan! Aslan! I've found Mr. Tumnus. Oh, do come quick."
   A moment later Lucy and the little Faun were holding each other by both hands and dancing round and round for joy. The little chap was none the worse for having been a statue and was of course very interested in all she had to tell him.

"And then we walked with Mr. and Mrs. Beaver to the Stone Table so that we could ask Aslan to rescue you, and Aslan nearly let Susan get killed but it turned out alright, and then the Witch showed up with Edmund, and Aslan fixed that." I'm going to put that in my Bucket O' Reasons why I think Aslan is the real protagonist of the book and the Pevensies are just decoys.

   And it was then that someone (Tumnus, I think) first said, "But how are we going to get out?" for Aslan had got in by a jump and the gates were still locked.
   "That'll be all right," said Aslan; and then, rising on his hind-legs, he bawled up at the Giant. "Hi! You up there," he roared. "What's your name?"
   "Giant Rumblebuffin, if it please your honor," said the Giant, once more touching his cap.
   "Well then, Giant Rumblebuffin," said Aslan, "just let us out of this, will you?"

And this... just... I don't even know how to deconstruct this. "How are we going to get out?" Seriously? Because the gates are locked, you're worried how to get out? I mean, you only have a giant stomping around the courtyard, and a messiah figure with magic breath that can turn stone to life. I'm sure you'll think of something.

Although this does feed into my theory that Aslan either can't or won't anticipate perfectly sensible questions and answer them before they are asked. Meaning that he is, in my own experience in the business world, a terrible leader. So maybe it's a good thing that he doesn't stick around to rub off on the Pevensie children.

But conveniently, there is a giant in the courtyard and after a lot of ceremony, he manages to break the gates open. And then he asks for a handkerchief, and Lucy offers him one of hers, and a good time is had by all when the giant thinks Lucy is the handkerchief because her relative size to him is... apparently the same as the relative size between me and a small hand-napkin? And the relative size difference between the giant and the actual handkerchief is "only about the same size to him that a saccharine tablet would be to you". I encourage the mathematically inclined among us to work out how tall the giant must be based on this piece of information. And I encourage the economically inclined to then work out how the Narnian economy can sustain whole families of giants.

   "What a nice giant he is!" said Lucy to Mr. Tumnus.
   "Oh yes," replied the Faun. "All the Buffins always were. One of the most respected of all the giant families in Narnia. Not very clever, perhaps (I never knew a giant that was), but an old family. With traditions, you know. If he'd been the other sort she'd never have turned him into stone."

And this just irks me. I've already clamored loud and long about the racism in this book, but as long as it was coming from the mouth of Mr. Beaver, we could kind of chalk it up to ignorance on his part and not a major piece of the world at large. But now we get to learn that our good giant isn't a good giant because he decided to defect from his Always Chaotic Evil race and oppose the Witch. No, he's a good giant because he comes from an old, established, respected, good family of giants. With traditions, you know. Not like those nasty upstart giant families. Nouveau riche and Euro-trash, all of them. Argh.

   "Our day's work is not yet over," he said, "and if the Witch is to be finally defeated before bedtime we must find the battle at once. [...] Those who can't keep up -- that is, children, dwarfs, and small animals -- must ride on the backs of those who can -- that is, lions, centaurs, unicorns, horses, giants and eagles. Those who are good with their noses must come in the front with us lions to smell out where the battle is. Look lively and sort yourselves."

I am not a battle general, and you could fit what I know about war strategy in a matchbox without first taking the matches out, but how does Aslan not know where the battle is? I thought the whole point of his discussions with Peter were to tell him where it would be most advantageous to make his stand. The Witch's army isn't an invading force that must be stopped on the battlefield chosen by fate -- the Witch is coming to kill the human children. The one advantage that Peter and Aslan had was to choose where the stand would be made. After that, it should have been a matter of fortifying their location defensively and sitting tight until the enemy came to them. Right?

Moving past that, while I appreciate that Aslan is pointing out that the Horses can get over themselves and be useful because it's wartime and if the Son of the Emperor can be deigned to be ridden in a time of emergency, then the Horses can too, I have a few concerns about this passage namely: why are the little children and small animals going into battle?

Well, I mean the obvious answer is that the moment Aslan shows up the battle will be over. But that's sort of a bad explanation because then someone might reasonably ask why Aslan didn't go take care of the battle first and then come sort out all the statues. If this whole statue-getting expedition isn't a case of getting reinforcements, then it's very poorly timed. And yet, if it is a matter of getting reinforcements, then yes, the children and small animals and babies jolly well should lag behind a bit. There's a big difference between sending an unarmed Lion into battle and an unarmed House Cat into battle, and there's a reason why the Talking Mice in Prince Caspian walk on their hind legs and fight with swords.

   And with a great deal of bustle and cheering they did. The most pleased of the lot was the other lion who kept running about everywhere pretending to be very busy but really in order to say to everyone he met, "Did you hear what he said? Us Lions. That means him and me. Us Lions. That's what I like about Aslan. No side, no stand-offishness. Us Lions. That meant him and me." At least he went on saying this till Aslan had loaded him up with three dwarfs, one dryad, two rabbits, and a hedgehog. That steadied him a bit.

And I... don't know what to do with this. We already had a lion in the courtyard, we had to in order for Edmund to think it was Aslan and have his moral event horizon moment of drawing on the lion's face with a pencil. But now the Lion is un-stoned and I feel like he was made unhelpfully silly in order to differentiate him from Aslan who is obvious way more regal than that, except for when he's bouncing around ignoring Susan's questions and referring to Jadis as "my lady" because he picked it up from an English nursery rhyme.

Maybe lions are just all really silly and I never realized.

But I still do not understand how the Lion is going to be any use in the upcoming battle if he wades into the thick of things with two rabbits, a hedgehog, and a handful of (presumably) unarmed dwarfs and dryad. I guess either they'll get off and get clear quickly or their bodies will be cannon fodder. I seriously do not see how else this will work.

   When all were ready (it was a big sheepdog who actually helped Aslan most in getting them sorted into their proper order) they set out through the gap in the castle wall. At first the lions and dogs went nosing about in all directions. But then suddenly one great hound picked up the scent and gave a bay. There was no time lost after that. [...]
   Then they came out of the narrow valley and at once she saw the reason. There stood Peter and Edmund and all the rest of Aslan's army fighting desperately against the crowd of horrible creatures whom she had seen last night; only now, in the daylight, they looked even stranger and more evil and more deformed. There also seemed to be far more of them. Peter's army -- which had their backs to her -- looked terribly few. And there were statues dotted all over the battlefield, so apparently the Witch had been using her wand. But she did not seem to be using it now. She was fighting with her stone knife. It was Peter she was fighting -- both of them going at it so hard that Lucy could hardly make out what was happening; she only saw the stone knife and Peter's sword flashing so quickly that they looked like three knives and three swords.

Here is a list of things that I object to in this passage.

I object to the idea that the scenting animals would start cold "nosing about in all directions" from the Witch's gates. Why? Even if Aslan doesn't know the location of the battle, he knows the general direction as a point on a compass. And considering how close the battle ends up being to the house -- they seem to be about a mile off -- there's no reason to scent the battle at all when the ears in the party should be more than up to the task.

I object to the idea that the army is "Aslan's army" at this point. Okay, he may have assembled them and they might be fighting in his name, but Edmund and Peter are leading the army this point as kings. I get that Aslan didn't warn the army that he was dying for Edmund because he didn't want to demoralize them, and I think that's a good thing, but the answer to that was not to be super-mopey all day and then disappear the night before battle. That is going to demoralize people way, way worse than any excuse you could come up with. Seriously. So if Aslan is going to abandon his army without a single word, they're not "his" army anymore. Yes, I can be picky.

I object to the conflation of "evil" and "deformed". I get that C.S. Lewis has this whole Platonic forms thing going on that we already had to listen to with Mr. Beaver's rant on how things that look like other things but aren't those things are evil -- and it made no sense even then because a dwarf doesn't look like a human, a dwarf looks like a dwarf, and that is like saying that Jaguars are evil because they look like Leopard but really aren't and seriously?? -- but I really must draw the line at this whole idea that deformity and evil are somehow linked.

I'm very much aware of the theory that deforming diseases wouldn't be with us if not for the Fall, and I understand that it comes from a good intent when people who hold that theory try to explain that no, it's not that YOU wouldn't exist were it not for the Fall, your DISABILITY wouldn't exist and wouldn't that be lovely? but what that good intentioned person is failing to understand is that it's not as simple as that. I hate my disability, yes, and I would happily get rid of it tomorrow, yes. But to get rid of it in the hypothetical "never was" sense scares the crap out of me because I am who I am today in part because of my experiences and my disability has played a huge part in that framing. So you are suggesting that in a perfect world -- or in your fantasy world -- people like me would not exist, people with my experience would not exist, and I / me / who I am this very moment would not exist because I would be someone completely different. This is not appealing to me.

Also, it doesn't apply to Narnia because the "disability came with the Fall" people are almost always also "death came with the Fall" people and Narnia certainly has death. So when you equate deformed closely with evil, you are unfairly marginalizing the good deformed people, and you're also creating a situation where Not Deformed grants a shield for pretty people like the Witch to masquerade as good because, hey, it's not like she's deformed, right?

And, really, just once it would be nice for the little girl observing the battle to cotton on that the side of Evil has succubi and incubi and vampires and rusalki in addition to orcs and ogres and toadstool people. And that the side of Good has ents and house elves and -- oh yeah -- dwarfs and giants and not Good Dwarfs and Good Giants, just plain ol' regular dwarfs and giants in addition to the dryads and river-gods and big cats.

Hmm. There were probably more things I objected to in that section, but I seem to have gotten side-tracked there a bit.

   "Off my back, children," shouted Aslan. And they both tumbled off. Then with a roar that shook all Narnia from the western lamp-post to the shores of the eastern sea the great beast flung himself upon the White Witch. Lucy saw her face lifted toward him for one second with an expression of terror and amazement. Then Lion and Witch had rolled over together but with the Witch underneath; and at the same moment all war-like creatures whom Aslan had led from the Witch's house rushed madly on the enemy lines, dwarfs with their battleaxes, dogs with teeth, the Giant with his club (and his feet also crushed dozens of the foe), unicorns with their horns, centaurs with swords and hoofs. And Peter's tired army cheered, and the newcomers roared, and the enemy squealed and gibbered till the wood re-echoed with the din of that onset.

Oh. I guess the dwarfs were armed after all. That Lion had a strong back.

So, I mean, I guess we know he's on the side of good. Good back, good person, is what I always say.

And, what? The centaurs had swords? Where were they keeping them? Did the Witch only turn armed people into stone? Is this more fodder for the fanfic that Jadis isn't really an awful person, and only turns people when she absolutely has to? Are the armed stone statues indicative of traitors who took up arms against... Jadis? She is the Emperor's Hangwoman after all, so she may well be second-in-command when the Emperor and Aslan pop out for a few centuries and there are no humans left to be rulers. How many Wild Mass Guesses can we get out of the convenient narrative point that the reinforcements didn't have to stop to pick up weapons?

Anyway, that's the war folks. Next chapter: healing, coronation, a decade-plus reign, and return to England. All in one chapter.


Kit Whitfield said...

This statement is precisely the sort of thing likely to confuse a child who is not familiar with a certain old nursery rhyme.

In fairness to Lewis, I think that a writer of his time and place could reasonably assume that 'Goosey Goosey Gander' would be part of every child's basic nursery rhyme knowledge. It's a pretty familiar rhyme in English; assuming the quote would be confusing would be like assuming it'd confuse a child to quote 'Mary Had A Little Lamb' or 'Ring-a-Ring-a-Roses.'

Mind you, it's also a rhyme that advocates violence against the non-praying, so it's not all roses.

And since I'm being fair to Lewis, I will say that I think the description of the stone lion coming back to life is well-written.

On the other hand, 'Rumblebuffin' is revoltingly twee.

Steph said...

I'm wondering why all of the statues were on Aslan's side? They even say that Jadis never would have turned an evil giant to stone, which sounds a little odd -- none of her evil underlings ever tried to stage a coup? It's like they're not just inherently evil, but inherently minions, which makes it hard to actually class them as 'evil' any more than a dog trained to attack people is 'evil'.

Personally, I wonder if there weren't a couple of evil dwarves in there who looked around, noticed they were surrounded by about five thousand Aslanites, and loudly began proclaiming they'd been turned to stone because they loved Aslan so much, don't you know.

"Yes, I was just out (looking at axe) ... woodcutting... uh, not any of the good trees, though, no, just those bad nasty trees, right, and, uh, and I was singing a happy tune -- no, a HYMN, that's it -- about how great Aslan was and how humans were just super, and then BAM! ... heh heh."

If you think giant families in Narnia are implausible, wait until you get to The Silver Chair, where a barren wasteland is apparently able to support an entire castle full of giants in lavish comfort.

Loquat said...

So, the Witch's house was filled with enemies she'd turned to stone, most of them armed and ready to fight shortly after getting de-stoned? I'd say they were a rebelling army trying to carry out a coup, and she turned them to stone as they were invading her house.

EdinburghEye said...

Is it bad that I'm thinking of puns on the lines of Aslan's Stoned Army to write a Narnified version of Onward Christian Soldiers?

*As-lan's Ston-ed army, marching on the war, With the silly lions, Romping on before..."

Dav said...

Oh! I say. Here's a poor kangaroo.



depizan said...

Is anyone else bothered by the fact that Edmund - the bad kid, and while under the influence of magical food, at that - was more struck by the horror of the garden of stoned creatures than the good kids are? Yes, he drew on the lion (which we see seems to have had no ill effects whatsoever from it), but given the rest of the tone of that passage, I still think that seems more like bravado than evil - he's scared, drugged, and Aslan's name makes him feel bad, so he does something foolish to make himself feel better.

I can excuse Aslan being on a "YAY! I'M NOT DEAD! :D" high, but Lucy and Susan should be horrified. And aren't.

Loquat said...

Ah, but what if Aslan can't defeat the Witch plus her entire army all by himself? The passage shows the destoned army fighting against the Witch's army while Aslan takes on the Witch herself one-on-one; if the destoned army hadn't been there, a substantial chunk of the Witch's army could have refocused their attention on him and possibly killed him (again).

Plus, if we assume they were turned to stone in the process of attacking the Witch's house, it strikes me as a reasonable move to destone them immediately and have them help in the climactic battle, as a way of making them feel needed and shoring up their morale. It'd be much more of a downer for them to be turned to stone just as they thought they were winning, then be thawed out and told the war was won without them. Not to mention the morale effect on Peter's army, seeing their lost comrades show up alive and well to turn the tide of battle.

Orion Anderson said...

I always assumed the important point was that even the children and rabbits deserved to witness Aslan's glorious victory, and thus needed to be brought to the battlefield quickly, not that they were going to deploy the rabbits on the flanks to counteract the witch's lettuce formation.

Steph said...

An army of evil lettuce? Wow, when Jadis threatens that "heads will roll", she means it.

depizan said...

I think it's the tone that throws the actions off, for me. If it had a tone of urgency, then it would be fine (and if people were properly horrified). But without the urgency it doesn't feel like gathering troops, it feels, well, like freeing the prisoners after the war is won.

Nathaniel said...

One thing that seems pretty clear from your comments on this book is that Mr. Lewis did not plan out a series beyond this first book initially. All the world building stuff he does later clashes rather horribly with a lot of things in this book.

Also, from what I remember reading the notion that ugly=evil was actually a theory in vogue in Britain at the time. You can find Ro Dahl of all people endorse this theory explicitly in his book "The Twits."

Dav said...

TW: talk about crushing stuff, including insects and flesh.

Handkerchiefs come in different sizes. The smallest I could find was 6"x6", and then you've got things that can double as sunshades or bandannas, probably 2' square.
Let's assume that the hanky in question is a foot square, or ~ 30 cm. That's a big handkerchief for a child, but we'll err on the low side.

Lucy is eight. Looking at the height-for-age charts from WHO (, Lucy should be about 125 cm tall (~4 ft 1 in) if she's dead on average. (She's probably shorter, given the times and the war and whatnot, but it's close enough.)

30 cm divided by 125 cm is .24. So Lucy's hanky is ~1/4 her height (we did say it was a large handkerchief), which makes the giant about 520 cm, or 17 ft tall. That's the height of this cardboard Gandhi ( if linking doesn't work.

That's big, but not big enough to "crush dozens" underfoot. Especially not if the dozens have swords. (I'm imagining the crushing more like beetles because anything too much bigger is just unbearably horrific. Not that crushing people like beetles isn't horrific, but it's better than the alternative.)

But it's dang big, and Susan is right to be wary, and not just because Aslan has awakened a confused, bumbling, 17 foot tall giant. Stone has a density of 2.7 tons per cubic meter. Now, I'm not sure what the giant's body composition looks like, but let's pretend he's basically a cylinder. My shoulder diameter is somewhere around one third my height, but that's a straight-up guesstimate, since I can't find a yard stick. Let's say .25 again - that's 4 feet across and and about 4 feet at his widest point. Gandhi is thinner, but Rumblebuffin sounds like a roundish sort of name. That makes for a volume of about 6 cubic meters. So when Rumblebuffin is stone, that means he weighs approximately 16 tons, or 32,000 pounds, or around the weight of a dump truck.

Now, when Aslan breathes life into Rumblebuffin's feet, nearly all that weight is going to be pressing down onto the newly formed flesh. Giant bone strength or not, that stone is going to crush the feet, and then, as the center of gravity shifts, that statue is going to come crashing down. It's not like the giant can balance, after all. So imagine a dump truck's worth of concrete, hurtling down amongst the statuary. (Would this kill the giant, or would the giant continue to, er, thaw out, coming to consciousness with horrific wounds inflicted by his "rescuer"? If the stone broke apart in the fall, would the giant be killed instantly, or would there be a few seconds of horrific trauma?

"Once the feet are put right, all the rest of him will follow," my ass.

Theo said...

While I can't disagree about the jarring shift in tone, I gotta say I liked cheerfully careless Aslan and particularly the Comic Relief Lion. :)

It's interesting to notice that unless I remember things completely wrong, the classist language felt toned-down in the Swedish translations of the book I read as a kid. This is probably mostly because literary Swedish doesn't have as obvious 'class dialects' as literary English; there's no immediate equivalent to the stylized working-class speech of, say, Rumblebuffin or the coachman in The Magician's Nephew. So in the Swedish translation the way the characters speak doesn't immediately betray their class in the same way.

Ana Mardoll said...

That was beautiful, thank you, Dav. I'm in such a happy maths place right now, I can't even describe. *wide grin*

Dav said...

My pleasure. I did the sugar tablet stuff on the way home, and that would put him between 60-200 ft tall, depending on what variables you pick. So 17' is best case scenario. Yay?

Also, it's been hours, and I still haven't gotten over the kangaroo. I just keep wandering around, muttering "Oh! I say. Here's a poor kangaroo." in an attempt to figure out what was going on with the world building there. I mean, it's pretty clear a lot of rules are being broken in Narnia, but this posits a marsupial (and heavily implied that it must have been a Kangaroo) that must have been wound into the world by the Old Magic along with Santa Claus, and I just . . . this radically changes things for me. I mean, Narnia is now just a cultural grab-bag of Stuff English Kids Know About. I mean, maybe if Narnia was built from my childhood memories, the Kangaroo would talk like Crocodile Dundee and pick his teeth with a bowie knife, and there would be ROUS's in the swamp and sharks in the ocean and piranhas swimming about under the ice. Because why not! Anything's a go in Narnia!

Or maybe it's a shout-out to other cozy children's tales. "Oh! I say. Here's a poor kangaroo. And here's a bear with a honey pot, and how sad that donkey looks."

I think somehow this is the thing that has broken my brain.

Nathaniel said...

"Oh, I know! You don't like the kangaroo."

"What kangaroo?"

"He's in the back there. Don't worry, I'll get rid of him. I was never completely happy with it anyways. I'll just make it into another Aslan disciple."

"That's the problem. There are 28 of them."

Link for the baffled:

Rikalous said...

Dear unmerciful Emperor, the Lion was conscious while his legs were stone? It's a good thing he didn't try to flex them while they were halfway transformed. I can't imagine good things happening when you try to contract muscles that are half stone.

The Kangaroo must be some explorer or emissary or castaway or exile from the Narnian equivalent of Fourecks, or the descendent of same. Apparently the immigration happened a while back, since everyone knows what a Kangaroo is. The population might have died out due to scarcity, which will be a bit of a blow for the awakened Kangaroo.

Alternatively, all Narnia has are legends of the fabled Kangaroo, and Jadis had a genuine statue of one made for her own amusement. The book never says Aslan actually revives the Kangaroo, does it?

@Kit: Going by the background at the link, it doesn't just advocate violence against the non-praying, but against everyone who doesn't pray in Protestant fashion. Which, by my count, includes everyone on the entire planet less four juvenile aliens. Kind of an odd choice there, Aslan.

EdinburghEye said...

I now very much want SOMEONE to write the version of Winnie the Pooh which takes place in Narnia. After all, there are Talking Beasts, and a Son of Adam to rule them all. It fits.

Nick said...

"And this just irks me."

ME TOO! The thing with the giant being from "an old family with traditions" has always annoyed me, even when I first read this book when I was little. I dunno, maybe it's because I come from a very anti-monarchist family so I've never liked the idea of any kind of aristocracy.

Rikalous said...

You have a problem with his family traditions making him better because your family traditionally doesn't stand for that kind of thing? Hey, wait a minute....

Ana Mardoll said...

it doesn't just advocate violence against the non-praying, but against everyone who doesn't pray in Protestant fashion. Which, by my count, includes everyone on the entire planet less four juvenile aliens. Kind of an odd choice there, Aslan.

Apparently he's not only not a TAME lion, he's also not an internally-consistent-on-the-world-building lion. o.O

Loving the kangaroo fanfic so very very much. You are all so awesome.

Nathaniel said...

It helps when the resident blogmeister gives an example of awesomeness.

Just as a reminder, after this book is done, are you planning to do the rest of the series as well? And if so, in chronological order by publishing date, or where the story comes in the canon?

Ana Mardoll said...

There Will Be A Poll, but I'm definitely game and my personal preference is to keep going.

As far as order, there's not a lot of choice there, I'm afraid -- I pretty much have to go in the order written. It's a combination of "that's how I read them, any other way feels weird" and "but the writing style changes in observable ways over time and cutting up the series obscures that". So Prince Caspian (aka, The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe PART 2!) would be next.

Nathaniel said...

Just going from your memories, which of the books has the most FAIL? I would hazard a guess at the last one, but the Horse and his Boy has got a lot of nasty race stuff that makes it a contenda' too.

Ana Mardoll said...

The Horse and His Boy. Even if you toss out Race Fail, there is Gender Fail there that makes me CAPS LOCKY. Lots of it.

Nathaniel said...

Is that insipid friend of Arvais that she visits for a bit that invites such ire?

Loquat said...

The last one fails hardest overall, IMO, with all the Tash business and the dwarves refusing to be "fooled" by the truth of Aslan's country. The Horse and His Boy has one big ball of Orientalist fail, but otherwise has a halfway decent story and a reasonably cool female lead.

Ana Mardoll said...

If I told you, it'd ruin all the suspense!! :D

OK, it might be unreasonable to expect you to wait a year or more for an answer. ROT13 spoilers:

V unir vffhrf jvgu n Yvba Tbq jub chavfurf n tvey sbe rfpncvat na hajnagrq gbarf-bs-encr-l zneevntr gb n zna guerr gvzrf ure ntr OL OEHGNYYL ZNHYVAT URE nf chavfuzrag sbe fbzrguvat FUR qvqa'g npghnyyl QB (v.r., fur erprvirq gur ynfurf gung fbzrbar RYFR tnir ure qehttrq fynir).

Gung jnf gur cbvag -- nf n puvyq -- ng juvpu V fhqqrayl fynzzrq urnqsvefg vagb n aneengvir jnyy naq *sryg* yvxr V ybirq n frevrf jubfr nhgube ungrq zr naq nalbar jub ybbxrq yvxr zr. Gur Ceboyrz bs Fhfna cnyrf (sbe zr) va pbzcnevfba jvgu gur Ceboyrz bs Nenivf.

Dav said...

Christopher Robin in Narnia would be awesome. As is the suggestion that the Kangaroo is a foreign ambassador. Maybe from the Land of Marmalade.

Elzi said...

Aslan is obviously a Time Lord. It would account for his resurrection and sudden shift in personality.

Rikalous said...

I suppose the Narnians that saw him before and after his resurrection would be either know what's going on or not be very good at telling Lions apart. I wouldn't be surprised if plenty of them *coughMrBeaverTheSpeciesistcough* hadn't ever personally met a Lion before.

Dav said...

"And still not ginger!"

John Magnum said...

Last Battle is annoying to me. Not just because of all the fail, but because curiously little actually happens. Compared to even the other Narnia books, it just felt like barely any events actually occurred.

Steve Morrison said...

If you deconstruct the other books in order of writing, be aware that The Horse and His Boy was actually written before The Silver Chair, although they were published in the reverse order.

Illhousen said...

Perhaps Edmund's drawings is what made the lion so silly?

Bificommander said...

Hmm, you could argue that Aslan needs his tanks and kiters to hold aggro while he soloing the Witch, so that there is a need for the army. But it kinda conflict with the Jesus analogy (at least, based on most mainstream sects I think). The idea that the Messiah needs mortal help, that he can be beaten... I don't think that's a particularly common view of Jesus. And the narrator of this book also can never shut the fuck up about how fearsome and powerfull Aslan is and how he could kill everyone if he wanted to (I'd call God Mode Sue on him, but of course that's rather intentional here). It doesn't explicitly say that Aslan could take everyone on at the same time, but it would suprise me. And from what Ana quoted, it doesn't seem the story ever indicates Aslan needs help. I actually thought that maybe Susan would poor her healing salve on him, but apparently not. Ana is completely right that Aslan is the protagonist, and little the kids do matters. Worse, the narrative took us away from the only two kids that did anything of remote relevance to the plot (act as decoys to lure the Witch away from Aslan's corpse, so she couldn't kill him again before the mice got him loose, then hold on untill Aslan makes it back. On a side note, pretty impressive how quickly Peter apparently mastered that sword of his.), to focus on the girls acting as Aslan's cheerleaders.

On a lighter note: I'd totally bring the Housecats to the battle, on the off-chance this fantasy world functions according to Dungeons and Dragons rules. They'd wipe out half of Janis' army!

For those not in the know, a common joke is that under the rules of D&D a housecat has a better than even chance to kill a civilian in one-on-one combat, even if he's armed. A cat can attack three times per round (2 claws and a bite), the claws of which have a 70% chance to hit the civilian, and all attack deal at least 1 hp of damage, while the civilian only has 4 hp. The civilian has one attack, a 30% chance to hit, and might not even remove the 2 hp the cat has even if he hits.

For fun, I looked up the stats of that housecat and compared him to a 1st level Dwarf warrior, one of their opponents in the Witch's army. This dwarf is armored and armed with a battleaxe and a shield. With this setup the dwarf does have a better than even chance of winning, but it's still a significant risk for him. At 6 hp he can't take many hits, and he still has less than a 50% chance to hit the cat, though the cat has the same problem thanks to all his armor. So yeah, go for it Aslan. Bring your furry terror squads to the battle.

EdinburghEye said...

Sorry about this, but if I wa

EdinburghEye said...

Sorry about this. In response to Ana's Horse and His Boy spoiler:

V nyjnlf gubhtug gung Nenivf jnf chavfurq abg fb zhpu sbe gur fynir tvey orvat juvccrq, ohg orpnhfr fur jnf fb pbzcyrgryl vaqvssrerag gb gur fynir'f cnva. Jura Funfgn fnlf vg qbrfa'g frrz irel snve ba gur fynir, Nenivf (nf V erpnyy) whfg fuehtf gung bss nf havzcbegnag - gur tvey vf bayl n fynir, naq fynirf trg juvccrq, fb gung qbrfa'g znggre.

Juvpu fgehpx zr jura V ernq vg nf univat n pregnva xvaq bs ebhtu whfgvpr - Nenivf xarj rfpncvat gur jnl fur qvq jbhyq zrna nabgure tvey jbhyq or oehgnyyl znhyrq, naq fur qvqa'g pner.

Bs pbhefr sebz n zrgn yriry, gur fynir tvey jub vf juvccrq vf n fnpevsvpr gb Yrjvf'f aneengvir. Va nabgure fgbel, Nenivf jbhyq unir rfpncrq jvgu Uljva naq gur tvey jub'q orra ure pybfrfg pbzcnavba, naq vafgrnq bs n obl naq n tvey rfpncvat Abegu gb serrqbz jvgu gjb Gnyxvat Ubefrf, vg jbhyq unir orra gjb tveyf jub nyernql xarj rnpu bgure irel jryy, jvgu n Gnyxvat Ubefr naq n zhgr uber, jub zrrg hc jvgu n Gnyxvat Ubefr naq uvf obl - vg'f n qvssrerag fgbel, znlor n orggre bar, ohg bar gung ragnvyf perngvat gjb irel qvssrerag srznyr yrnqf naq orpbzrf nobhg gur fynir tvey rfpncvat gb serrqbz va Aneavn (tvira Yrjvf'f nyyrtvrapr gb pynff naq traqre ebyrf, fur'q cebonoyl trg n wbo ng gur Pnfgyr naq trg zneevrq gb gur fgrjneq naq unir ybgf bs onovrf).

EdinburghEye said...

"Christopher Robin in Narnia would be awesome. As is the suggestion that the Kangaroo is a foreign ambassador. Maybe from the Land of Marmalade. "

*nods nods*

Ambassador Kangaroo was caught there when the rebel army attacked the castle, negotiating sewing machine imports, and jadis turned her to stone because the Ambassador said something unfortunately sympathetic to the rebels and Jadis assumed she was an infiltrator.

There have been no sewing machines in Narnia since then, and marmalade has to be smuggled in.

Ana Mardoll said...

Fher, ohg gb zr vg'f nabgure rknzcyr bs Yrjvf abg haqrefgnaqvat ubj uhznaf jbex. Nf n tvey jub vqragvsvrq jvgu Nenivf (orpnhfr zl puvyqubbq phygher jnf pybfre gb gur Pnybezra'f phygher guna Yrjvf jbhyq yvxr gb nqzvg), V erpbtavmrq gung Nenivf jnf oynfr nobhg gur jubyr guvat orpnhfr fur UNQ gb or gb cerfreir ure rzbgvbany furyy.

Ure cneragf gevrq gb fryy ure bss gb or encrq ol n 90-fbzrguvat (vvep) lrne byq cbjreshy zna. Ure bayl zrnaf bs rfpncr raqf va nabgure tvey -- jub unq ab pubvpr ohg gb fcl ba ure -- orvat oehgnyvmrq. V frr Nenivf nf pbcvat jvgu gung ol fuhggvat qbja, nf fur fvzcyl pna'g qrny jvgu vg qverpgyl.

Naq gura Yrjvf unf Nfyna tnyybc va naq znhy gur tvey sbe gnxvat ure yvsr vagb ure bja unaqf naq rfpncvat. Fur'f abg rira znhyrq sbe fbzrguvat fur qvq -- fur'f znhyrq orpnhfr bs fbzrguvat ure sngure pubfr gb qb gb gur fynir. Vs ure sngure pubfra gb K gur fynir, jbhyq Nfyna unir K'q Nenivf?*

* Jurer K vf nal ahzore bs guvatf V qba'g jnag gb gnyx nobhg be pbafvqre.

Ana Mardoll said...

Also, um. Hail great Cthulhu? LOL, my posts look weird. :D

Ana Mardoll said...

Naq, bs pbhefr, gur bgure znwbe ceboyrz vf gung -- ol naq ynetr -- unaqvat bhg chavfuzragf vf abg jung Nfyna qbrf. Ur vagebqhprf gung cbyvpl sbe gur bar naq bayl gvzr jura ur pna ivpvbhfyl nggnpx n oebja tvey sbe gnxvat zrnfherf gb cerirag orvat encrq.

EdinburghEye said...

I see what you mean, and agree as far as that goes.

As a child, I was personally influenced because Aravis reminded me of the more popular girls I knew who would have been equally indifferent to getting me into trouble if it got them out of it. I didn't think of her being brown, but of her as being good-looking, upper-class, and arrogant. As for Aslan not dealing out punishments... I was thinking about Eustace, but then Aslan doesn't actually turn him into a dragon, and though the treatment which turns him into a boy again is pretty brutal, it is surgery, rather than punishment.

I'll stop now. Ai! Ai! Hail Cthulhu!

EdinburghEye said...

I am really charmed that Pguhyuh is ROT13 for Cthulhu.

Ana Mardoll said...

Aw! Pguhyuh sounds so cuddly!

Nathaniel said...

Fher, ohg gb zr vg'f nabgure rknzcyr bs Yrjvf abg haqrefgnaqvat ubj uhznaf jbex. Nf n tvey jub vqragvsvrq jvgu Nenivf (orpnhfr zl puvyqubbq phygher jnf pybfre gb gur Pnybezra'f phygher guna Yrjvf jbhyq yvxr gb nqzvg),

Ernyyl? Jung znxrf lbh fnl gung? Vs lbh qba'g zvaq, jung ertvba/nern qvq lbh tebj hc va naljnlf?

Ana Mardoll said...

Fbhgurea HFNzrevpn Cebgrfgnag Rinatryvpny/Shaqnzragnyvfg* Phygher.

(* Gurer ner fb znal pbasyvpgvat qrsvavgvbaf bs gurfr gjb grezf gung V qb abg xabj juvpu gb npphengryl hfr va zl pnfr.)

Yrjvf frrzf gb erpbtavmr gung gurer ner jnlf naq zrnaf ol juvpu crbcyr pna bccerff gurve puvyqera va gur anzr bs Gnfu. V'z abg fher ur erpbtavmrf gung gur fnzr orunivbe vf cbffvoyr va gur anzr bs Nfyna.


Guvf guernq unf abj tbg zr jbaqrevat ubj Yrjvf jbhyq unir jevggra GUnUO vs bar fvatyr qrgnvy jnf punatrq: vs Nenivf jnf n juvgr Aneavna cevaprff (jul abg? Funfgn vf n juvgr Nepuraynaq cevapr). Vs ure yvsr naq rfpncr jrer hanygrerq, jbhyq Yrjvf unir erpbtavmrq gung fur unf gur evtug gb syrr n encr rira vs ure sngure uhegf n fynir va gur cebprff? VBJ, vf vg Traqre Snvy be Enpr Snvy be obgu ng jbex urer.

Will Wildman said...

I'm confused; haven't we always been pretty free with the Narnia spoilers? Hasn't almost everyone in these discussions read them before, or know enough that they aren't concerned with reveals of future hypothetically-shocking details? Or is the rot13 for the violence?

Ana Mardoll said...

I'm totally random. o.O

I think I put it in ROT13 on the grounds that some of the lurkers might want to wait until we got to THaHB before we started delving into it. But then it did get pretty violent pretty fast, so... yeah.

@Kish, I think so, too, but that's a handwaving that I consider in bad faith if Lewis did hypothetically go that route.

In the "No Slave To Deal With" case it's telling that Shasta doesn't have to deal with the problem by the magic of narrative contrivance -- the Horse doesn't HAVE a guard (despite being an expensive investment).

In the "Feel Sorry For The Slave" case, Aravis should be allowed to mentally not deal with something she ultimately has zero control over, i.e., the status of a single slave in an entire country built on slavery. We only have so many spoons to dish out, and it's not like Lewis had the corner on the market when it came to empathy.

Jenna Moran said...

And great Pguhyuh dreams, and we to balk
Uvf jnxvat, urer, hcba guvf pent:
We have become conjurer, abjurer,
Naq va pvcurevat orpbzr gur rail
Of the humanity we've left behind to vex
Gung ur jubz jr unir pbzr gb urk. Naq jbeqf erirefr, naq terng jvatf flap.

He stirs in dreams. His great wings flap.
Uvf rlrf ner znynpuvgr, ner balk
Pguhyuh of the stones, whom we have come to vex
Bhe jbeqf n juveycbby ehaavat onpx nebhaq uvf pent
Our soul thinned down into a rail
N ubfg jrer jr: abj n fvyire anvy, pheyvat va gbjneqf abguvat, Cthulhu, abjurer.

Stumbling towards nothing, Pguhyuh, your abjurer
Qernzf bs uhznavgl haqribherq: gb flap
The ship of our hopes upon the rail
Bs lbhe urnq, naq fgnir gubfr rlrf bs balk
But keeps it pent
Gung hetr gb frr lbhe uvqrbhfarff erag, yrfg vg lbh vex

Lest you hear our rage; lest it you vex
Naq frg hf fghzoyvat ba gur ebnq gb abjurer
Let us lull you, rather, keep you pent
Bhe qernzf naq lbhef gb snyy va flap.
For who are we, Pguhyuh, to balk
Lbhe ybsgl qernzvat jvgu bhe punyxf? N fhqqra rail

In my heart, a sudden envy rails
Ntnvafg gurl jub arrq abg pnfg gurzfryirf ntnvafg lbhe vex
Against they who need not come to your crag, and balk
Gur tbq Cthulhu, naq or gurernsgre abjurer
Drawn down by the tail of the sestina as great wings flap
Naq abg gb or frra ntnva hcba guvf pent.

You would rot13 us all were you not pent
Naq gur living jbhyq tvir gur dead gurve rail
No more poetry, but only the ivyynvaryyrf to flap
Nobir gur nonaqbarq furyyf bs ynherngrf, naq vex
Some hardy coleopterous abjurer
Srnfgvat ba gurve vaare pnyk naq balk.

Flap, then, Pguhyuh, o great pent
Balk-rlrq ornfg, naq envy:
Vex though it may you, irk gubhtu vg znl lbh, we your abjurer
Nowher lbh, yhyy lbh, fyvc cnfg lbh fvyire-guva naq tyrnzvat naq vagb abjurer

( word pairs found on )

Loquat said...

Is there such a thing as a browser addon that lets you translate ROT13 on the same page/tab? Because this thread clearly needs it. (Not that I could use it while browsing at work, but ah well.)

Regarding Aravis - she's a child of the aristocracy, and as such has a certain amount of power over her family's slaves, and had she followed the expected path of marriage to another aristocrat she would have become the mistress of his house and had the power to order slaves whipped herself. It isn't much of a stretch to think that a child who doesn't care if slaves are mistreated might very well grow into an adult who mistreats slaves, especially slaves she dislikes as Aravis dislikes the girl who was whipped, and feels no guilt.

Obviously, there are no actual slaves in Archenland, where she'll wind up being queen, but she'll still likely hold the power to make the lives of servants and subjects miserable. Someone who shrugs at the abuse of the powerless isn't really an ideal candidate for that kind of position.

Kit Whitfield said...

V guvax Yrjvf vf npghnyyl cerggl xrra ba culfvpny chavfuzrag. Ur pbaqrzaf Rhfgnpr'f fpubby sbe abg hfvat pbecbeny chavfuzrag naq unf Errcvpurrc qrny jvgu vg vafgrnq; gura gurer'f gur jubyr qentba ohfvarff; gura gurer'f gur Nenivf ohfvarff. Nqq gb gung cyragl bs cranapr sbe guvatf yvxr 'fubjvat bss' ba gur rqtr bs n pyvss, naq ur'f onfvpnyyl yvxr n urnqznfgre jub unaqf bhg tenqhngrq chavfuzragf sbe tenqhngrq yriryf bs ehyr-oernxvat.

Ohg ng gur rkgerzr raq, ur'f engure ybivat va uvf qrfpevcgvbaf bs vasyvpgrq cnva, be ng yrnfg, Nfyna-vasyvpgrq cnva.

Gb juvpu V'z vapyvarq gb fnl: Cuvybznfgevk fgevxrf ntnva.

Ana Mardoll said...

@Kit, yeah, good point. That adds a whole dimension of squick to a scene that infuriates me to this day. :/

Ana Mardoll said...

Also, I should throw onto the discussion that a formative childhood experience for me was the acquisition of an ugly shoulder-to-hip scar from a major back surgery. I'd been where Aravis was, in the whole "lying on stomach in searing pain" thing.

The idea of a god inflicting that deliberately and non-consentually on a young girl for being "too bitchy" or otherwise insufficiently sympathetic was triggering for me in a variety of ways.

Thomas Keyton said...

It almost feels like the author and the narrative had moved on to bigger, more important things and Lucy's mind had been dragged along in the new direction.

Maybe it has. Maybe Aslan, being a god, has passions greater than mortals, and his moods are literally infectious. One hopes he’s able to hold it in when he remembers to, since otherwise his pre-death sadness is really damaging to morale.

But the best of all was when Lucy came rushing upstairs shouting out, "Aslan! Aslan! I've found Mr. Tumnus. Oh, do come quick."
Best of all for the Hedgehog twins, who were caught smuggling butter to starving Dwarfs? Best of all for the Stag who was raised by the Dryad after Maugrim killed his parents? Are we still in third-person-omniscient here?

one dryad

Out of curiosity, I wonder what happened to her tree while she was petrified, and what would have happened had it been cut down (and what Aslan would have done in that situation).

I get that C.S. Lewis has this whole Platonic forms thing going on that we already had to listen to with Mr. Beaver's rant on how things that look like other things but aren't those things are evil

I forgot about him the last time it came up, but what about Dr Cornelius from PC? He’s successfully passed for human all his life, and implies that other hybrids have as well.

Makabit said...

"Gandhi is thinner, but Rumblebuffin sounds like a roundish sort of name."

This sentence makes me very, very happy.

I'm now envisioning Giant Gandhi, carefully making his way across the field of battle, being exceedingly careful not to step on any living beings.

@Nathaniel and Ana--I would say that THAHB and TLB are pretty evenly neck-and-neck for Awful.

Makabit said...

I'm actually very fond of Lasaraleen.

Makabit said...

A guy I knew in college played some Lovecraft-based RPG as "Professor Christopher Robin".

Makabit said...

Me too! Seriously, people, so much ROT13!

Makabit said...

V qb guvax gung vs Nenivf jrer Aneavna (naq, V fhccbfr, juvgr, nygubhtu, sbe nyy bs Yrjvf' uhssvat nobhg 'fjneguvarff', juvpu, sbe na Ratyvfuzna bs gung ren, V guvax zrnaf rirelbar jub'f abg sebz Abegurea Rhebcr. V vzntvar gur Pnybezrar ybbxvat yvxr Crefvnaf) gur fgbel jbhyq cynl bhg qvssreragyl. Ure sngure jbhyq or frra nf qrivnag, abg abezngvir, ure znvq jbhyq unir oeniryl urycrq ure rfpncr, naq rvgure tbar jvgu ure, be, jungrire fur fhssrerq nf n erfhyg bs ure npgvbaf jbhyq unir orra frra nf nabgure zbafgebhf npg ba gur cneg bs gur Rivy Qnq.

Loquat said...

Seriously, people, so much ROT13!

(Block of ROT13'd text)


Majromax said...

And I encourage the economically inclined to then work out how the Narnian economy can sustain whole families of giants.

Since Dav took care of just how tall the giant was (summary: 17' if you believe the Lucy-is-a-handkerchief comparison, 60'+ if you believe the saccharine-tablet comparison), I'll take care of the economics.

Let's use the body mass index and basal metabolic rate as order-of-magnitude guesses. This ignores a lot of BMI fail (it scales as height squared, so tall must mean lanky), but it's a decent start.

At 17 feet, a BMI of 22 corresponds to an even 1,300lb. That corresponds to a basal metabolic rate (i.e., calories consumed to do nothing), of about 11,000 calories/day. That's about 7 times my own basal rate, so a 17-foot giant would have to eat about a week's worth of food in a day. An extended family of giants would then eat about as much food as a small hamlet of humans.

At 60 feet, a BMI of 22 tops the scales at 16,250lb (8 tons!). That's definitely into "crushed dozens" territory, but it carries a high, high cost: the basal metabolic rate would be 110,000 calories a day. That's seventy peoples-worth of food. In sensible terms, this giant would have to consume about 150 cups of sugar (75 pounds!) per day simply in order to have the caloric intake to not die; activity would require further intake.

A family of 60-feet giant is simply impossible on a quasi-medieval economy, even with fantastical elements added. Such a giant would clearly be an apex predator, and in the absence of 35-foot prey they would have to spread out far and wide to have anything approaching a reliable food source.

Makabit said...

Well, I didn't want to be the one to de-ROT13 it!

Makabit said...

Perhaps, like blue whales, the giants are eating something not like people food to keep themselves going.

Krill seems unlikely.

Is it possible that there are larger prey or herd animals, and plants, up in Ettinsmoor? I honestly can't remember. In Harfang, in The Silver Chair, they're preparing a feast, but I can't recall if the food is regular sized. The dogs are giant, are they not? Why giant dogs if not giant prey?

I'm also trying to make sense of the sixty-foot giant concept in light of the 'to serve man' bit in Harfang. If we assume that they're sixty feet, I would be the equivalent of a biggish anchovy in comparison, and Jill and Eustace are probably smaller. Two children hardly seem worth the bother of cooking at all for something that size. Unless it's more a ritual--an expression of contempt for the Narnians--why bother?

Loquat said...

I'm basing this recollection in part on the BBC version of the Silver Chair, so some things may be inaccurate. The BBC seemed to make the humans between 6 and 12 Harfang-giant-inches tall - I'm pretty sure Puddleglum was somewhere near as tall as a giant's face. If we take the 12-inch estimate, that puts the Harfang giants around 30-40 feet tall, which isn't quite as unwieldy as 60-foot giants but still puts a lot of pressure on the local ecosystem. It also makes humans a bit more worth eating - humans to 30-foot giants would be something like dormice or songbirds to humans, both creatures that have certainly been cooked fancily and eaten at banquets IRL.

Perhaps Narnia has some avian equivalent of krill?

Ana Mardoll said...

@Majromax, I swoon. That was awesome. I love how mathy you people are.

I, too, thought of blue whales, but I agree that Narnian krill seems unlikely. I like the suggestion that the giants are straining small birds through their teeth at all time, though. *lol-horrified*

EdinburghEye said...

Ana: "The idea of a god inflicting that deliberately and non-consentually on a young girl for being "too bitchy" or otherwise insufficiently sympathetic was triggering for me in a variety of ways. "

Yeah - As an adult, I look at that now and think Yes; It is unspeakable that anyone should inflict that kind of pain on a child. Nor do I think that doing so would in reality have "taught" Aravis that she should care when others are brutally hurt . ("I sort of ran over this girl on her bike. It was the most traumatizing event of my life, and she's trying to make it about her leg. Like my pain meant nothing.")

But oddly enough - given that Aravis is one of Lewis's most-cool female protagonists, I never really identified with her when I was reading the book as a child. I identified with Shasta - the incompetent, bullied, sly child. (And with Lasaraleen, even though she's a total femme and I totally wasn't.) I don't like the Aslan of H&HB much - even when he's a cute little cat. Basically I don't like Aslan of the later books - too much God, not enough Lion.

Ana Mardoll said...

I actually don't think we're supposed to identify with Aravis very much -- she's presented, iirc, as very "bitchy" and mean and rude all the way through. Even the 'happily ever after' says she fought with Shasta so much, they decided to make it official and be married. Not a ringing endorsement, in my mind.

Where I identified with her was largely because my own dysfunctional upbringing left me pretty damaged in the empathy department. Ironically, it took Lewis' Empathy Fail (GOD MAULS GIRLS) to shake me up to the fact that the whole "hate the sin, hate the sinner" environment I was living in would not be kind to ME just because I was buying into it.

'Course, that took years to sink in. But even as a kid that Aravis thing made me very uncomfortable. I think you just Can't Win Patriarchy, despite what Twilight would have us believe. :/

EdinburghEye said...

Moving back to the Wardrobe *sacrifices to Pguhyuh in expiation*

"And, what? The centaurs had swords? Where were they keeping them? "

Katana space.

depizan said...

Is there such a thing as a browser addon that lets you translate ROT13 on the same page/tab? Because this thread clearly needs it

I wish there was something like that that worked on an iPad. My iPad and disqus are barely on speaking terms as it is. Trying to copy stuff over to another tab is a step too far. Which means, I can really only participate when I'm at home. (Even without the rot13, half the time some funky interaction closes the browser when I'm trying to comment. Fie, technology.)

Ana Mardoll said...

Dav, I truly applaud your herculean efforts to make the Giant economy work. :D

Ana Mardoll said...

(I have un-ROT13'd my posts in this thread, since the general impression I'm getting is that people would have preferred it that way. Obviously this doesn't help those already inconvenienced, so I apologize for that.

If you'd like me to un-ROT13 your posts in response to this, I don't mind at all doing the legwork, but I didn't want to use the mod-hat to do that unilaterally without permission. Shoot me an email at or reply in-thread, and I'll get it done in a jiffy.)

Rowen said...

Housecats: It gets even worse if you're playing by 2ed rules where you had to roll for your first level HP, meaning you could start out the game with a 1 HP score.

Aslan Clapping: I wonder if this is meant to say that he walks around on his hind legs, because otherwise, this makes me think of clapping while doing push ups.

I had something else, but can't remember it.

Loquat said...

I always assumed he sat down when he needed to clap. It's a much more dignified posture than standing up on his hind legs (assuming he maintains standard feline proportions), though it still looks kinda like a housecat sitting and batting at a dangly toy.

IMO, all feline species are much, much sillier than humans generally assume.

EdinburghEye said...

I am happy for you to un-ROT13 my comments except where this would remove the Cthulhu jokes. I like Cthulhu jokes.

Majromax said...

But to put this in perspective, an acre of wheat averages around 2400 lbs yield/year, pasture varies widely but might be around 1500 lb/hay/yr, and an acre of beets is ~11,000 lb/year. (Figures from local extension office. Thanks, local extension office!)

Go your extension office, but those are modern numbers that reflect a field properly treated for weeds and pests, fertilized, and irrigated. Narnia is clearly pre-industrialization and pre-Green Revolution, so mediaeval crop yields are going to be more likely.

At the time, yields were a lot less; that listed source gives 4 bushels of grain per bushel of seed (which planted an acre); anther source quotes 5-7, depending on the type of grain. Since a bushel of wheat was about 60lb, that's a yield of about 10% of what you were using for your quotes. (I'd be careful on that beet weight too, since that's not a dry weight like the grains are).

So instead of needing 3 acres under till, our hypothetical giant needs closer to 30. If the giant actually tills the field hirself, rather than graze like an elephant, the the extra labour would almost certainly add significantly to the food requirements.

The first linked source says it took the surplus of about 10 farmers to feed a single townsperson, and that ratio seems about right. With that kind of ratio, we'd be talking about ~750 people to supply a single giant of leisure.

Ana Mardoll said...

(Done, and thanks. :))

Bificommander said...

May I also belatedly note that the sentence ' "Hush," said Susan, "Aslan's doing something." ' sums up this entire story entirely too well. Here's a bunch of children, listen to their story for a bit but not too long: You don't want to miss anything the Jesus figure does.

Dav said...

Oh, that's an excellent point, although you would have giant dung as fertilizer, which might make things a little better. (Thanks for the links, BTW - they will come in useful for a project I'm working up!)

The 10 farmers to 1 townsperson surprises me, honestly - could there really be 50 farmers per town family? Or would that be 50 farm-family members per 5 town-family members?

Hypothetical giant is going to have a heck of a time of it. Poor hypothetical giant.

Timothy (TRiG) said...

There is, of course, the tradition that the ground was cursed after the sin of Adam, and that crop yields would be higher in an unfallen world. Factoring that in might help a little. (Some say the curse applied only to the antediluvian world, but others say the ground is still cursed today. I think. I could be wrong.)


Loquat said...

Do we assume Narnia to be an unfallen world, though? IIRC, part of the point of Magician's Nephew was that the protagonist introduced sin to the world shortly after its creation.

Majromax said...

The 10 farmers to 1 townsperson surprises me, honestly - could there really be 50 farmers per town family? Or would that be 50 farm-family members per 5 town-family members?

If I had to guess, I'd say that would be on the family-members scale. Thinking back to the economics of the middle ages, there simply wasn't that much of a market that peasants participated in. Towns would have been funded through the church and nobility, so I'd imagine that, ultimately, that's where the 10% church tithe + various taxes mostly ended up going.

Hypothetical giant is going to have a heck of a time of it. Poor hypothetical giant.
Oh, totally. And we've even ignored the practicalities of the matter -- just how is our herbivorous hypothetical giant supposed to graze, with hir head in the clouds? And if the giant also tills the fields, the scale difference would be somewhat akin to one of us trying to farm moss in the most efficient possible manner.

There is, of course, the tradition that the ground was cursed after the sin of Adam, and that crop yields would be higher in an unfallen world. Factoring that in might help a little.
Fair point. Perhaps processed food also grows on trees, finally explaining the Beavers' marmalade roll?

Rikalous said...

Given that Narnia has (or at least had) a toffee-tree, I suppose marmalade trees are possible. It's odd to think of Narnia with something I've only seen in Xanth and some of the later Oz stuff, though.

Thomas Keyton said...

IIRC, part of the point of Magician's Nephew was that the protagonist introduced sin to the world shortly after its creation

But neither Digory nor Jadis were Narnian. Sin first came to Narnia from outside, not from the actions of anyone created there - it's added on, rather than integral to the metaphysics (I think).

Loquat said...

just how is our herbivorous hypothetical giant supposed to graze, with hir head in the clouds?

I think this calls for an expansion on the idea of some avian equivalent of krill. Narnia actually has massive swarms of locusts that spawm out of the north on a regular basis and sweep south eating everything in their path. Most Narnian giants live along the northern border, right where the locusts tend to first make contact, so that they get first crack at the enormous mass of high-quality protein flying their way. They used to just inhale the bugs and strain them with their teeth*, like blue whales, but after they picked up tool use they figured out such efficient methods that locusts haven't been seen in any quantity south of giant territory for centuries. Locusts aren't always available, of course, so the giants supplement their diet with whatever edible plants or animals are around, but the locusts provide a substantial amount of the average giant's yearly calorie intake.

*Old-fashioned giants will still do this ceremonially to open the locust season, though they switch to technology for the main locust harvest. The Rumblebuffins in particular have been instumental in keeping the tradition alive.

Makabit said...

Fun fact: Specific varieties of locust are the only kosher insect. This is presumed to be the case because, well, if you've got locusts, you've got other food supply problems, and something's got to give.

Ana Mardoll said...

I did not know that. I find that fact delightfully pragmatic, thank you.

Loquat said...

Interesting that they declared locusts full-on kosher. Islam deals with the same problem by saying that it's okay to eat unclean foods if you're going to starve otherwise, but they're still unclean.

EdinburghEye said...

I think the Torah (though all I know about Torah is what I've read in English commentary on it, plus, er, Yentl) has the same kind of rule: if you're going to die of starvation if you don't eat pork, eat the pork, you're not allowed to kill yourself for a dietary rule. (Or if you need to take the medication, and the medication is in pork gelatine capsules, take the medication - preserving your health comes before eating right.)

You can tell that Christianity has been the religion of ruling powers for sixteen hundred years or so - it doesn't have any such guidelines.

Amaryllis said...

Huh? You mean guidelines as to when a religious law may disregarded for the sake of one's health or other serious reason? Of course it does.

While Christianity doesn't have dietary laws per se, it-- well, some flavors of it -- does have rules prescribing certain periods of fasting or abstinence, although what is meant by "fasting" or "abstaining" has been variously interpreted over the centuries. In any case, "all those who can not comply with the obligation of fasting without undergoing more than ordinary hardship are excused on account of their inability to fulfil the obligation. "

So yeah, if you're starving and you have the opportunity to eat meat on a Friday in Lent, go for it.*

Among other less extreme possibilities for being excused are "the sick, the infirm, convalescents, delicate (read pregnant) women, persons sixty years old and over, those to whom fasting brings loss of sleep or severe headaches..." Not to mention, " wives whose fasting incurs their husband's indignation, children whose fasting arouses a parent's wrath."

(Source: The Catholic Encyclopedia)

Or, consider the Catholic rule about attending Mass on Sunday. There are exceptions for that if one is ill, or if distance from a church or other practical difficulties make attendance unduly burdensome. (Which, in my youth, led to my siblings and me claiming "travelers' exemption!" during every family vacation, even though we stayed in towns with a Catholic church in easy reach. Sometimes, it even worked.)

Christianity may offer plenty of encouragement to deprive oneself in the name of God. But I don't think it would have become such a world-dominant institution if it required its adherents to kill themselves over dietary laws.

* Or, you can always call upon St. Patrick:

Next day said the host, "It's a fast,
And I've nothing to eat but cold mutton.
On Fridays who'd make such repast
Except an unmerciful glutton?"
Said Pat, "Stop this nonsense, I beg.
What you tell me is nothing but gammon."
When the host brought down the lamb's leg,
Pat ordered it turned to a salmon,
-- And the leg most politely complied.

from "Patrick's Arrival," by William Maginn, as sung by Christy Moore

Dav said...

From where I sit as an outsider ex-Baptist, Catholicism seems delightfully flexible. No meat on Fridays because abstinence from delicious stuff is good for the soul, but you're totally free to beer-batter that fresh fish and fry it into a golden mass and get together in a party and eat masses of it with new potatoes and warm bread and coleslaw. Fast, but if it's a problem for you, don't.

It may be very different from the inside, but it *sounds* like a radically different approach from being a Baptist. There's a reason that our family punchline was "because it might lead to dancing." (Although actually my family allowed dancing *and* card playing. We were totally mainstream.)

EdinburghEye said...

"Huh? You mean guidelines as to when a religious law may disregarded for the sake of one's health or other serious reason? Of course it does."

Well, I was thinking of laws in other than dietary areas, for example the Catholic stringency on contraception and abortion and gay marriage and gay adoption and ... well, lots of gay things. This has been a Thing recently where I live.

But that's not connected with food, it's true. Mmm, brie pie.

Amaryllis said...

Oh, I see. But that's the difference between a rule and a moral principle, and again I don't think the social dominance of a religion has all that much to do with it.

The rules are admittedly arbitrary, something like "This is what we choose to do, as a sign of who we are/as a reminder of an ideal we value. " There's nothing inherent to meat or to Fridays that makes it immoral to eat meat on a Friday but acceptable to eat meat on a Saturday. There's nothing immoral about eating at all, but we may choose to forgo food for a specific period, to remind ourselves of those who are hungry, to discipline the appetite, to concentrate mental or financial resources on other things.

That's different from "this action is immoral in itself."

Mind you, I think the Catholic Church is on shaky ground in its interpretations of sexual morality, and Absolutely Wrong in its attempts to impose its sexual mores on other people. But still, they have reasons for what they say that are more than "because we say so."

Mmm, brie pie.

Irina said...

That would mean that any catfight (i.e. between two cats) would be lethal.

Rikalous said...

Unless they both took the penalty to attack rolls to attack with nonlethal damage.

Beroli said...

Guvf guernq unf abj tbg zr jbaqrevat ubj Yrjvf jbhyq unir jevggra GUnUO vs bar fvatyr qrgnvy jnf punatrq: vs Nenivf jnf n juvgr Aneavna cevaprff (jul abg? Funfgn vf n juvgr Nepuraynaq cevapr). Vs ure yvsr naq rfpncr jrer hanygrerq, jbhyq Yrjvf unir erpbtavmrq gung fur unf gur evtug gb syrr n encr rira vs ure sngure uhegf n fynir va gur cebprff? VBJ, vf vg Traqre Snvy be Enpr Snvy be obgu ng jbex urer.
Edited because I misunderstood what you were getting at initially.

I...think Lewis would probably have dodged the issue by rvgure abg univat ure qeht gur fynir, be univat ure or biregyl irel haunccl nobhg gur cebfcrpg bs gur fynir orvat orngra nf n pbafrdhrapr bs ure rfpncr.

But we can only speculate.

Ana Mardoll said...

@Jeannette Ng, I wasn't raised in a Harrowing tradition, so THANK YOU for bringing this up, because no I wouldn't have seen it otherwise. On initial reflection of your post, it seems pretty apt, actually. I must go reflect quietly on this. Thank you!

Screwy Anathema said...

Is there such a thing as a browser addon that lets you translate ROT13 on the same page/tab?

I use LeetKey with Firefox. I map ROT13-the-selected-text to Shift+F2 (for reasons I don't recall, but it works well enough and doesn't seem to conflict with anything else)

Jeannette Ng said...

It hasn't come up in the thread at all so I'm wondering if the allusion to the Harrowing of Hell (i.e. Christ's descent into hell and the saving of all the sinners of the past and arguably future) isn't as obvious an allusion as I've always thought it was.

Admittedly, the Harrowing of Hell isn't very scriptural (only the most vague of references in the bible) and hasn't really been a huge part of modern (especially American Evangelical) Christianity for some time. Equally, the allusion is highly problematic: after all, the resemblance is quite superficial (Aslan journeys into the realm of the Witch and rescues those trapped there) and loses most of the emotional impact of the Harrowing (they're presumably people who resisted her rule rather than forgiven sinners). That said, perhaps that's what Lewis took away from the Harrowing, that it's virtuous Heathens who are being saved (there are medieval illustrations of Jesus leading the Old Testament kings and Adam and Eve out of Hell)? But it still maps on poorly.

On the subject of the weapons, I've always assumed that they simply raided what store of weapons the witch may have. That that isn't there in the text actually surprises me. I have a mental image of Thursday Next and Miss Havisham rushing in to arm them all between the pages now.

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