Narnia: Jerkass Gods

Content Note: Religious Differences, Warfare

Narnia Recap: Lucy has seen Aslan and believes he wants the children to go up the gorge; none of the others have seen Aslan and they decide to go down the gorge.

Prince Caspian, Chapter 10: The Return of the Lion

The title, you will note, is a TV Trope.

And it's time to point out a few obvious things.

First, I am not a Christian. I used to be, for almost two decades of my life, and I was as devoted and passionate as you could imagine and read the Bible cover-to-cover many times and struggled with the difficult bits, but I was a Christian, through and through. Now I'm not, largely because the community I was in pushed me away for a lot of really complicated reasons and it ultimately turned out that another religion "fit" me better. So while I do feel that I have the requisite experience to speak on some Christian topics, it should be noted for the record that I am not one.

Second, I do not have a problem with anyone believing whatever they want to believe. Seriously, I am all about the religious pluralism. So absolutely none of this post is about your religion and how you are awful for having it or sharing in it. I want that to be crystal clear. (Nor is this about Lewis being awful in any way.)

Third, what I do have a problem with, is fictional characters -- whether they be ineffable deities or not -- who behave in ways that I, personally, find to be nasty and insupportable. Even if this bad behavior is designed to make some kind of deep theological point. Possibly especially then, because it seems to me like the bad behavior is going to seriously undermine the deep theological point.

Fourth, as a reader, I take some small exception to an author deliberately slogging around for three chapters in order to get to said deep theological point, particularly when the theological point isn't explained or supported in text very well and is just supposed to be self-evident. And as an author, I take some issue with gods showing up in text to faff about without moving the plot along because there are deep theological points to be made. THIS IS A VERY SUBJECTIVE POSITION FOR ME TO TAKE.

'K. Got all that said, let's plunge in.

   TO KEEP ALONG THE EDGE OF THE gorge was not so easy as it had looked. Before they had gone many yards they were confronted with young fir woods growing on the very edge, and after they had tried to go through these, stooping and pushing for about ten minutes, they realized that, in there, it would take them an hour to do half a mile. So they came back and out again and decided to go round the fir wood. This took them much farther to their right than they wanted to go, far out of sight of the cliffs and out of sound of the river, till they began to be afraid they had lost it altogether. Nobody knew the time, but it was getting to the hottest part of the day.

So, just to recap, we were at Point X, the point at which Lucy observed Aslan and no one else did. And at Point X there were two options for continuing on: they could go Up or they could go Down. Lucy believed that Aslan wanted them to go Up, but Trumpkin argued for Down. The two youngest children -- Lucy and Edmund -- voted for belief in the ineffable and unseen, while the two oldest children -- Peter and Susan -- voted with their logic and brains to take the route that seemed the most sensible at the time.

And there's another dimension here that, frustratingly, is not explored in the text. Susan and Peter did not see Aslan. The text may or may not later imply that it's their fault for a lack of faith, or a side-effect of their advanced age and lack of innocence. But never before has faith or age been a determining factor in whether or not Aslan is visible: in LWW, he simply was, as solid and as visible as everyone else the Pevensies interacted with. The children have no frame of reference for an invisible Aslan.

The argument that Edmund makes in-text is that Lucy was right once before, when she was right about the Wardrobe and the existence of Narnia, so shouldn't they give her a free pass on this one? And there's a certain kind of logic there, if we were talking about Lucy discovering a new world in a nearby tree stump. But -- and here is what makes me an unbeliever in Narnian terms, I suppose -- I don't think that being right about a magical world that one time means that Lucy deserves some kind of free pass for the rest of her life when it comes to impossible things. ('Course I didn't think she deserved it in LWW for being a model of truthiness, either, so... yeah.)

But beyond that, if I were Susan or Peter, I think I would want to understand why Aslan wouldn't show himself to me. They are a King and a Queen of Narnia, after all, once and always. They were crowned by Aslan and had as close a relationship with the "wild lion" as seemingly anyone could have in Narnia. Are they so far off the mark to expect that if Aslan were there, he'd do them the personal and professional courtesy of being visible? This is like having a parent only appear to one child -- the favorite -- and expecting the other children to grapple with the fact that either the favorite is wrong (being dehydrated, starving, concussed, and sleepless) or the parent really doesn't love the others as much as zie does the favorite.

So Peter and Susan have strong psychological reasons for not accepting at face-value Lucy's sudden Aslan-dowsing abilities, no matter how many pointed sticks she has at her beck and call. But psychology is for liberals (who probably don't even spank their children!) and for people who think Edmund didn't deserve all the narrative pile-on in LWW, so let's plow on.

   As they went on, the Rush began to fall more and more steeply. Their journey became more and more of a climb and less and less of a walk -- in places even a dangerous climb over slippery rock with a nasty drop into dark chasms, and the river roaring angrily at the bottom. [...]
   The boys and the Dwarf were now in favor of lighting a fire and cooking their bear-meat. Susan didn't want this; she only wanted, as she said, "to get on and finish it and get out of these beastly woods." Lucy was far too tired and miserable to have any opinion about anything. But as there was no dry wood to be had, it mattered very little what anyone thought. The boys began to wonder if raw meat was really as nasty as they had always been told. Trumpkin assured them it was.

And then they walk and walk and walk and walk and walk. There are pages of walking. And I don't want to quote it all because I do try to be cool about the whole Fair Use copyright thing and keep the percentage of quoted text to a minimum, but take it from me that there is walking for a very very long time. This is important because the party is covering what is apparently miles and miles of ground but when the way eventually becomes impassable, there will be no other option than to backtrack to Point X and go Up. I feel like I'm in a text adventure game here. 

   "By Jove," said Edmund. "We fought the Battle of Beruna just where that town is!"
   This cheered the boys more than anything. You can't help feeling stronger when you look at a place where you won a glorious victory not to mention a kingdom, hundreds of years ago. 

I, er, can't argue with this because I'm not sure anyone has ever looked at a place where they "won a glorious victory ... hundreds of years ago". In the ongoing tide of Lewis telling us what makes people feel how, I'm at an impasse here, so well played. But! I'm pretty sure that I, personally, wouldn't feel cheery looking on a place where my friends died and my enemies perished. Did I mention I'm a liberal?  

   Then -- all at once -- whizz, and a sound rather like the stroke of a woodpecker. The children were still wondering where (ages ago) they had heard a sound just like that and why they disliked it so, when Trumpkin shouted, "Down," at the same moment forcing Lucy (who happened to be next to him) flat down into the bracken. Peter, who had been looking up to see if he could spot a squirrel, had seen what it was -- a long cruel arrow had sunk into a tree trunk just above his head. As he pulled Susan down and dropped himself, another came rasping over his shoulder and struck the ground at his side. [...]

Wait, what? Susan the Archer, Susan who takes archery classes in the Real World because she loves Narnia so much, Susan who knows archery better than anyone else, that Susan needs Peter to pull her down to cover because she doesn't instinctively duck when she hears the tell-tale sound of an arrow whizz-and-thunk?

   It was heart-breaking work -- all uphill again, back over the ground they had already traveled. [...]
   "I ought to have my head smacked for bringing us this way at all," said Peter.
   "On the contrary, your Majesty," said the Dwarf. "For one thing it wasn't you, it was your royal brother, King Edmund, who first suggested going by Glasswater." [...]
   "And for another," continued Trumpkin, "if we'd gone my way, we'd have walked straight into that new outpost, most likely; or at least had just the same trouble avoiding it. I think this Glasswater route has turned out for the best."

Here's an interesting juxtaposition: it's not Peter's fault for taking this route because Edmund suggested it, but it's a good thing Peter took this route because Trumpkin's idea was worse. I, uhm, go Peter?

   "I suppose we'll have to go right up the gorge again now," said Lucy.
   "Lu, you're a hero," said Peter. "That's the nearest you've got today to saying I told you so. Let's get on."

We've already discussed this, but let's talk about it some more.

There's someone else in the party who didn't think this route was liable to pan out, though she thought so even before Lucy, and that's Susan. But Susan brought up her opinion more than once, and used an insufficiently sweet tone of voice, and thus was termed a "nag" and "rotten". Lucy, on the other hand, is meek and mild and so is "a hero".

And I want to underscore that the Patriarchy is set up so that girls cannot win. Later in this same chapter, Aslan will chide Lucy for being so meek and mild and will flat-out order her to give the others an ultimatum: they can either come with her right away or she will go by herself. And this would, if it weren't sanctioned by God Himself, be rotten, nagging behavior if someone like Susan were doing it. But supposedly Lucy was supposed to do this very thing way back in the last chapter, even without the open God sanctions.

So, basically, if you're a girl reading this -- as I once was -- you learned that disagreeing with male authority figures made you a rotten wet-blanket nag and that all disagreement has to be voiced meekly and mildly in order to be heroic except if God wants you to do otherwise in which case you should be as stubborn and unyielding to group consensus as possible. And there was, of course, always the chance that you could get these things wrong from lack of faith or being too old.

And this is why growing up female in the church community I grew up in left me a timid nervous wreck.

   Lucy woke out of the deepest sleep you can imagine, with the feeling that the voice she liked best in the world had been calling her name. She thought at first it was her father's voice, but that did not seem quite right. Then she thought it was Peter's voice, but that did not seem to fit either. [...]   
   "Lucy," came the call again, neither her father's voice nor Peter's. She sat up, trembling with excitement but not with fear. The moon was so bright that the whole forest landscape around her was almost as clear as day, though it looked wilder. Behind her was the fir wood; away to her right the jagged cliff-tops on the far side of the gorge; straight ahead, open grass to where a glade of trees began about a bow-shot away. Lucy looked very hard at the trees of that glade. [...]
   A circle of grass, smooth as a lawn, met her eyes, with dark trees dancing all round it. And then -- oh joy! For he was there: the huge Lion, shining white in the moonlight, with his huge black shadow underneath him. [...]
   "Aslan, Aslan. Dear Aslan," sobbed Lucy. "At last."
   The great beast rolled over on his side so that Lucy fell, half sitting and half lying between his front paws. He bent forward and just touched her nose with his tongue. His warm breath came all round her. She gazed up into the large wise face.
   "Welcome, child," he said.
   "Aslan," said Lucy, "you're bigger."
   "That is because you are older, little one," answered he.
   "Not because you are?"
   "I am not. But every year you grow, you will find me bigger."
   For a time she was so happy that she did not want to speak. But Aslan spoke.
   "Lucy," he said, "we must not lie here for long. You have work in hand, and much time has been lost today."
   "Yes, wasn't it a shame?" said Lucy. "I saw you all right. They wouldn't believe me. They're all so -- "
   From somewhere deep inside Aslan's body there came the faintest suggestion of a growl.

As a Good Girl, I also learned that I wasn't to express my frustration with other people, people who wouldn't listen to me when I was right, people who talked down to me or acted like I was a fool. I learned I wasn't to share those thoughts even in private with God because the god I was raised to believe didn't brook negativity like that. Venting was forbidden, pressure valves were not allowed, and God wasn't there to be my best friend and let me release any steam under my collar. And since God knew your every thought, I couldn't even indulge in frustration in the privacy of my brain because that would make god growl at me.

   "I'm sorry," said Lucy, who understood some of his moods. "I didn't mean to start slanging the others. But it wasn't my fault anyway, was it?"
   The Lion looked straight into her eyes.
   "Oh, Aslan," said Lucy. "You don't mean it was? How could I -- I couldn't have left the others and come up to you alone, how could I? Don't look at me like that … oh well, I suppose I could. Yes, and it wouldn't have been alone, I know, not if I was with you. But what would have been the good?"
   Aslan said nothing.
   "You mean," said Lucy rather faintly, "that it would have turned out all right -- somehow? But how? Please, Aslan! Am I not to know?"
   "To know what would have happened, child?" said Aslan. "No. Nobody is ever told that."

And gods but my heart goes out to Lucy. Because at least if she had some kind of explanation for how going off on her own would have worked out alright in the end, then she could use that information to inform her decisions in the future. But information and logic don't -- or, rather, shouldn't -- inform decisions in Narnia, because that's the kind of thinking that leads children Down the gorge. Good Girls make decisions based on their emotional gut and magical insight, and yet... and yet... nowhere in the last chapter did we get the impression that going off on her own even crossed Lucy's mind.

It feels like she's been set up to fail in so many ways. First, Aslan appears only to her. Then he says nothing, and offers her no guidance -- he just looks at her in a way that makes her think he wants them to go up the gorge. He doesn't say whether the act is time-sensitive or if he wants her to come alone if she can't convince the others. He just stands there, and the onus is on this child -- who isn't more than, what, nine years old? -- to intuit all this. And when she tries to gather empirical evidence and learn and understand where she went wrong, she's just told that she did wrong and that's all she'll ever get to know.

I QUESTION YOUR TEACHING METHODOLOGY, ASLAN.

   "But anyone can find out what will happen," said Aslan. "If you go back to the others now, and wake them up; and tell them you have seen me again; and that you must all get up at once and follow me -- what will happen? There is only one way of finding out."
   "Do you mean that is what you want me to do?" gasped Lucy.
   "Yes, little one," said Aslan.
   "Will the others see you too?" asked Lucy.
   "Certainly not at first," said Aslan. "Later on, it depends."
   "But they won't believe me!" said Lucy.
   "It doesn't matter," said Aslan.
   "Oh dear, oh dear," said Lucy. "And I was so pleased at finding you again. And I thought you'd let me stay. And I thought you'd come roaring in and frighten all the enemies away -- like last time. And now everything is going to be horrid."
   "It is hard for you, little one," said Aslan. "But things never happen the same way twice. It has been hard for us all in Narnia before now."

"Well, I mean, not hard for me, personally. I've been sort of sad and all about the whole genocide thing, but not enough to do anything about it. I keep meaning to, though. It's on my list. But it's been hard for a lot of other people. Most of whom are now dead even though I could have helped saved them. What were we talking about?"

   "Now, child," said Aslan, when they had left the trees behind them, "I will wait here. Go and wake the others and tell them to follow. If they will not, then you at least must follow me alone."
   It is a terrible thing to have to wake four people, all older than yourself and all very tired, for the purpose of telling them something they probably won't believe and making them do something they certainly won't like. "I mustn't think about it, I must just do it," thought Lucy.
   She went to Peter first and shook him. "Peter," she whispered in his ear, "wake up. Quick. Aslan is here. He says we've got to follow him at once."
   "Certainly, Lu. Whatever you like," said Peter unexpectedly. This was encouraging, but as Peter instantly rolled round and went to sleep again it wasn't much use.
   Then she tried Susan. Susan did really wake up, but only to say in her most annoying grownup voice, "You've been dreaming, Lucy. Go to sleep again."
   She tackled Edmund next. It was very difficult to wake him, but when at last she had done it he was really awake and sat up. [...] She said it all over again. This was one of the worst parts of her job, for each time she said it, it sounded less convincing.
   "Aslan!" said Edmund, jumping up. "Hurray! Where?" [...] Edmund stared hard for a while and then said, "No. There's nothing there. You've got dazzled and muddled with the moonlight. One does, you know. I thought I saw something for a moment myself. It's only an optical what-do-you-call-it."
   "I can see him all the time," said Lucy. "He's looking straight at us."
   "Then why can't I see him?"
   "He said you mightn't be able to."
   "Why?"
   "I don't know. That's what he said."
   "Oh, bother it all," said Edmund. "I do wish you wouldn't keep on seeing things. But I suppose we'll have to wake the others."

This situation? Is not fair.

It's not fair to Lucy, to put her in the position of having to be a divisive element in the family: You will do things my way or I will leave. It's not fair to Edmund, placing him in a position where he can't see the person he wants most in the world to see. It's not fair to Peter and Susan, putting them in a place where they are forced to either obey the whims of their little sister or watch her walk off into the night alone. It's not fair to the entire rest of Narnia where people and Animals and Dwarves are dying nightly as Miraz builds more fortresses and roots out more Old Narnians for the slaughter while Aslan faffs about making Deep Philosophical Points for English children. 

But this isn't meant to be literal, perhaps. This is meant to be a Deep Philosophical Point. A point about what, though, I don't know. The only point I can see here is that when you don't know the right thing to do (or even when you think you do know, but someone with More Faith disagrees), you should set aside your own beliefs and knowledge to follow the decisions being made for you by the person with More Faith. And if you are that person of More Faith, it is your absolute duty to be a divisive factor in your family or group -- Aslan wants you to say Either we all do it my way or just I do it my way, but my way will be done. 

That's... not a Deep Theological Point I can really get behind. I think everyone should do what feels right for them, absolutely, but the laying down of the ultimatums in a group situation like this makes me incredibly uncomfortable.

And what's more, in this case it's not even necessary. The children have already agreed to go up the gorge, they're just trying to get some sleep first. So this "wake up your siblings and tell them they must go NOW" situation is just added theological testing for the sake of testing, it seems. And, of course, to underscore to Lucy that she did it all wrong yesterday by choosing not to abandon her family. It just seems unnecessary to me as a literary addition and cruel to me from the point of view of Aslan.

But your mileage may vary. And that's okay.

119 comments:

Brin Bellway said...

I don't think that being right about a magical world that one time means that Lucy deserves some kind of free pass for the rest of her life when it comes to impossible things.

Just because cameleopards are real doesn't means invisible lions are.

Their journey became more and more of a climb and less and less of a walk [...] Lucy was far too tired and miserable to have any opinion about anything.

Not to mention dealing with the feelings of inferiority from being by far the worst hill-climber in the group. (Maybe I'm projecting.)

But it wasn't my fault anyway, was it?"
The Lion looked straight into her eyes.
"Oh, Aslan," said Lucy. "You don't mean it was? How could I -- I couldn't have left the others and come up to you alone, how could I?


My authority figures told me I'd made the right decision when I followed my fellow Guides down the wrong path having failed to convince them to take the right one. They agreed with me that it was a better option than heading off into the (urban, in this case) wilderness on my own. Aslan disagreeing with this only makes me distrust him.

Lucy buried her head in his mane to hide from his face. But there must have been magic in his mane. She could feel lion-strength going into her. Quite suddenly she sat up.

...and now I have "Rabbit Heart" stuck in my head. "I must becooome a lion-hearted gi-irl, ready for a fi-ight..."

(The sentences in the quoted paragraph seem weirdly choppy to me.)

TheDarkArtist said...

Aslan is such a dipshit. Much like the God of the Left Behind series, it makes a person wonder why the fart they should worship such a being. He's arbitrary, he seems to enjoy suffering for suffering's sake, and the fact that he either is a lion growling at a 9-year-old because she's frustrated with her siblings, or an infinitely infinite being in the shape of a lion growling at a 9-year-old is just ... sick.

I'm 29, and I would be terrified if I was near a lion and it started growling. Even if it was shot up full of tranquilizers. That's just survival instinct. The worse point: if Aslan wasn't seriously threatening bodily harm to Lucy, why would he growl at her? I'm not in the Aslan fan club. More like ASSlan, right? Okay, I'll never say that again.

Two things strike me about the Deep Theological Point: one is that it's a shallow and arbitrary gesture on Aslan's part. The second is that it strikes me as being only tangentially related to the theological points that Aslan is trying to illustrate from the Bible (being more devoted to Christ than to your family or your life, and a dash of not saying cruel words about your brothers and sisters).

If Aslan was really supposed to be Lion-Jesus, why not appear to all of them in a dream and offer them some respite after a day of folly? Why not offer them some love and consolation? Even a human being who isn't an asshole can do that, and Aslan can't manage it? One can hardly blame Susan for not believing/repressing the memory of Narnia.

Actually, as a third point, it seems like not only a shallow and arbitrary thing to do, but just pointless to begin with. The Pevensies are actively doing God's work on Narnia. They're spreading the Gospel of Aslan, trying to defeat the Narnian equivalent of Babylon. Aslan's going to dump on them just because they didn't follow a psychic vision that he sent to a tired, probably relatively scared, child? Weird.

Honestly, the whole growling thing is what really disgusts me about this week's chapter. I just can't get behind the idea that a God would threaten a little girl because of her thoughts of frustration. It's an perfect illustration of the complaints that many non-Christians have of the Christian God.

"Problem of Evil? Pfft, I'm a goddamned lion little girl. Now go wake your siblings up, and if they don't like the fact that I'm invisible, too bad."

Ana Mardoll said...

More like ASSlan, right?

LOL. *dies from exposure to bad puns*

Steve Morrison said...

More like ASSlan, right?
The worst is, that really was how Lewis pronounced "Aslan", according to Ford's Companion to Narnia. (Note 2 to the article on "Aslan's Name")

Lunch Meat said...

Random thought that is certainly not what Lewis intended, but possibly makes sense: What if Aslan can't be seen by those who don't believe very strongly, and not only that, but can't even interact with them in any way? And the more people believe, the more they see him--so once Lucy sees what she thinks is him and really believes it, he can talk to her, but if someone sees him and then convinces themself that they don't, then they won't be able to see him later.

Then it wouldn't be his fault he hasn't saved the Narnians yet, because they stopped believing in him strongly enough. Even the people who believe in him don't see him because no one else can see him, so they convince themselves that it's a trick of the light or they're hallucinating. Then Aslan could believably say "it's been hard for us in Narnia" because he's been wandering around invisible for upwards of a thousand years, unable to get anyone's attention.

Ana Mardoll said...

I think that may well have been Lewis' point, though I can't claim to know, but it's not internally consistent since it will be later contradicted by Aslan introducing himself to Trumpkin the non-believer by literally pouncing on him.

Lunch Meat said...

Well, I think Lewis might have intended that Aslan was appearing invisible to "test" their faith, or to encourage them to have more faith, and it's a moral failing of the children that they didn't have enough faith--at least that's consistent with the teachings of the religious tradition I was raised in. What I'm suggesting is subtly different--that Aslan's power over or with someone is directly related to the amount of belief they have in him, and belief isn't moral but just a thing that is necessary to make Aslan appear.

I don't have an answer about Trumpkin, though. But in some ways it makes Aslan seem more sympathetic, if weaker.

(Obviously your interpretation is not wrong and the pitfalls of what Lewis is saying are definitely there, I'm not trying to argue with that. I just like ret-cons.)

LaylaV said...

I may be misremembering (or, more accurately, may have completely misunderstood when I was watching the movie) but I thought that, in the movie, Lucy did put her foot down, and the rest of the Pevensies did follow Lucy and went up the gorge.

It stuck in my head at the time because of this exchange from the book which Ana already quoted:

[Lucy says] . . . what would have been the good [of following Aslan on her own]?"
Aslan said nothing.
"You mean," said Lucy rather faintly, "that it would have turned out all right -- somehow? But how? Please, Aslan! Am I not to know?"
"To know what would have happened, child?" said Aslan. "No. Nobody is ever told that."

Which means (perhaps only in my own mind) that the movie is that "what would have happened if Lucy had..."

Given the complete disaster that followed (which, I know, is much due to the difference between movie!Peter and book!Peter), it seems to me that perhaps Lucy was not entirely wrong in her choice, despite Aslan's disapproval.

JenL said...

Then it wouldn't be his fault he hasn't saved the Narnians yet, because they stopped believing in him strongly enough. Even the people who believe in him don't see him because no one else can see him, so they convince themselves that it's a trick of the light or they're hallucinating. Then Aslan could believably say "it's been hard for us in Narnia" because he's been wandering around invisible for upwards of a thousand years, unable to get anyone's attention.
Of course, all that requires that he left Narnia (or at least stopped interacting with folks) for long enough that he returned to find that nobody then living had personal interactions with him. Because if he came back when even a few great-grandparents were still alive, he could have gone to them, had them "introduce" him to the littles, and soon had a crop of young adults who'd known him for a few years.

I, er, can't argue with this because I'm not sure anyone has ever looked at a place where they "won a glorious victory ... hundreds of years ago". In the ongoing tide of Lewis telling us what makes people feel how, I'm at an impasse here, so well played. But! I'm pretty sure that I, personally, wouldn't feel cheery looking on a place where my friends died and my enemies perished. Did I mention I'm a liberal?
Not to mention the visible reminder that even the friends that survived that battle are now long dead.

Then -- all at once -- whizz, and a sound rather like the stroke of a woodpecker. The children were still wondering where (ages ago) they had heard a sound just like that and why they disliked it so, when Trumpkin shouted, "Down," at the same moment forcing Lucy (who happened to be next to him) flat down into the bracken. Peter, who had been looking up to see if he could spot a squirrel, had seen what it was -- a long cruel arrow had sunk into a tree trunk just above his head. As he pulled Susan down and dropped himself, another came rasping over his shoulder and struck the ground at his side. [...]
Didn't we get an archery match just a few chapters back? Or are we supposed to believe that an arrow sounds *that* different depending on whether you're near the archer or the target? Well, I suppose the twang of the bow could at least partly cover the sound of the arrow... But still, they've all been near archery lately. Although I guess I can understand why Trumpkin took so long to react that the children were "still" wondering what the noise was - he didn't think it was necessary to yell, until he realized the kids were clueless.

Ana Mardoll said...

One presumes that the movie adaptationists wisely assumed that three full chapters of zero plot advancement whatsoever in order to make a deep theological point that pretty much no one will get because the only available options have consistency holes large enough to drop cows through was not worth trying to jam into the film. ;)

depizan said...

Not only does Aslan's game not make any sense, but it seems to suggest that what happens in Narnia is only important when English School Children are involved. He's not playing hide and seek with Caspian, after all. Or anyone at Caspian's war camp. Is this part of the Deep Magic? "Aslan may only interfere if there are British subjects about, preferably ones under the age of eighteen." If so, I'd suggest opening a Narnian travel agency post haste.

Actually, between the poor reaction to the arrows (despite archery a few chapters earlier) and Aslan's assery, I'm suddenly put in mind of D&D.

DM: You've reached the bottom of the ravine, near an old battle site. Everyone roll me listen checks.
Lucy/Edmund/Susan: 1
Peter: 5
DM: Seriously? There are strange whhhht noises and Peter, you notice an arrow suddenly sprout from a tree. Initiative, everybody.
Lucy/Edmund/Susan: 1
Peter: All right! 10!
DM: *facepalm* You guys seriously need new dice. Trumpkin shouts "Down!" and pulls Lucy and Edmund* with him.
Peter: I tackle Susan!


Later

DM: I need you guys to roll me a Wisdom check **.
Peter: But we're asleep.
DM: I know.
Peter/Edmund/Susan: 1
Lucy: 10
DM: Seriously? Fine. Lucy, you feel like you're being called. You wake up in the bright moonlight and feel an urge to walk out of camp. It feels benevolent. Better than benevolent.
Edmund: Don't trust it!
DM: You're asleep. *glare*
Lucy: ... I... guess I follow it.
DM: You find Aslan waiting for you.
Peter/Edmund/Susan: Seriously?
Lucy: Aslan!


*The actual narrative seems to have forgotten Edmund, at least from the quote, so I put him back.
** I'm not actually sure what one would roll for "hearing God calling while you sleep" but that seems close enough.

Ana Mardoll said...

My brain wants to subscribe to your brain's RSS feed. This made me laugh so hard.

Good call on only the GIRLS needing rescue/tackling. Presumably Edmund's Y chromosome kicked in and he rescued himself. *facepalm*

TheDarkArtist said...

I think my Y chromosome is defective, because I would have gotten a face full of arrow in that situation. Probably a face with a really goofy, confused expression on it.

Ana Mardoll said...

Well, maybe if we dig out some pre-rolled dice it'll all be alright... ;)

depizan said...

When I reread that bit in order to D&Dify it, I was all "where'd Edmund go?" I couldn't decide if he'd been left out because obviously he was capable of avoiding arrows himself (being a guy and all) or because the narrative still wants to ignore him whenever it can.

redcrow said...

Narnia Darths&Droids style? Want. So much.

Amaryllis said...

This is another of those times when "Narnia as Christian allegory" doesn't really work. Because, well, nobody has seen Jesus in the flesh since he ascended into heaven. It's not like he's still around, physically, to be either seen or not seen with the physical eyes of everybody around.

There are those who claim to have seen him, or his mother, or his friends. But no Christian is morally obliged to believe in those visions, or follow those visionaries. One is expected to judge the validity of such claims by their content, and there's not much content to Lucy's vision, is there? Even "go up instead of down" is Lucy's interpretation, not clear command.

And even if the visionary says nothing questionable, again, private revelation is private revelation. It's not obligatory to abandon one's own judgment because of it, and a good thing too.

On the other hand, maybe you could say that the visionary is not expected to abandon her own judgment either. Doesn't she have the right to know what she knows?

Presumably the question is what to do when God doesn't seem to be around. When he seems to be speaking to some people and not others. When people are suffering and God is conspicuous by his absence. What then?

This chapter is not a very convincing reply to those questions.

But I can't hate it entirely, because it's got the dancing trees in it.

Ana Mardoll said...

This, so much. It's like the analogy is getting in the way of the reality as (I assume) the author saw it.

It's very perplexing to me what the take-away is supposed to be.

In some ways, this whole book feels like it was hastily written by someone who hadn't quite found their groove.

Ana Mardoll said...

Also,

Even "go up instead of down" is Lucy's interpretation, not clear command.

Good point. He could have just as easily been blocking the way Up as a sure sign that they were meant to go Down.

Timothy (TRiG) said...

This chapter has always annoyed me. The message I took from it was growing up is bad. Gah! The message you take from it is somewhat more complex. I like your analysis.

TRiG.

muscipula said...

We get a bit of that in The Last Battle (dwarves in the stable) and The Silver Chair (the dialogue about the play-world and the real-world). This could be the same kind of thing. It's also established at the beginning of The Silver Chair that people don't call for Aslan truly spontaneously - he takes the first move by inspiring them to call on him, and once they've done that, everything else follows. If we put that together then I suppose we get an Aslan who can't or won't manifest himself "fully" in the first instance, but has to gently lead people through a series of stronger and stronger appearances, starting with the barely-visible glimpse through the trees, or a dreamlike vision, eventually ending up with everybody romping about in the sun. Whether it's Aslan choosing to do this, or whether he's constrained by the nature of other people's minds, is maybe a false dichotomy, and it's simply a law of Narnian nature that things work that way.

WingedBeast said...

It's worth noting that Aslan's limited viewability suddenly happening does mirror how, in the bible, God started out perfectly visible, then gradually became less and less viewable unto the point where nobody could view him at all, not even possible.

And yet, total, one might even say blind, obedience is still (at least in the vast majority of the cases where Christianity is presented to me) shown to be a virtue.

All in all, this version of Christianity put into the form a something with four legs, fur, and a snout just makes me wonder if both the bible and the tales of Narnia would have much better morals if someone would have just bapped God on the nose with a rolled up newspaper.

Theo Axner said...

Amaryllis summed it up for me too. As straight Christian (or whatever) allegory this section falls flat and just doesn't work. And still... I think Lucy's scene with Aslan does capture something of what it's like to argue and struggle with your conscience. I know I've had some internal dialogues that were not a million miles from that.

The big difference of course being that it isn't really a moral question being discussed here.

Theo Axner said...

Amaryllis summed it up for me too. As straight Christian (or whatever) allegory this section falls flat and just doesn't work. And still... I think Lucy's scene with Aslan does capture something of what it's like to argue and struggle with your conscience. I know I've had some internal dialogues that were not a million miles from that.

The big difference of course being that it isn't really a moral question being discussed here.

Bificommander said...

My feeling of this Deep Theological Point is the same as his hammering of the Trilema in LWW or the Pascal's wager: It seems written by someone who didn't think that people with other beliefs than his would try to convince people to believe them. If I need to follow Christians who assure me they can feel the touch of God, even though I can't, why shouldn't I follow the muslim who claims the same thing? If I must either reject everything Jesus has said or acknowledge he's right, what do I need to do with Budha? If I just need to make a cold, calculated decision to follow a religion because I can potentially gain something and allegedly lose nothing if I'm wrong, why should I take a restrictive religion that prohibits me from doing things I like, when I can just shop around for the religion that requires the least behavior modification for me yet demands I be a follower of them to get my pie in the sky when I die?

Smilodon said...

Content note: Deathbed conversion

My question for Pascal - if Christianity works the way I've heard it described, why would I convert before I'm on my deathbed? I get one "get out of sins free card" when I'm baptised, surely I should save that til after I'm done sinning? If I do that, I can actually double up - during my lifetime, follow the path of a religion that demands works not faith, and then right before I go, get any Christian sins erased, and have my shot at two heavens.

Ana Mardoll said...

TW: Death, Hell, Murder

I actually can answer that one, and it's The Hypothetical Bus, or the idea that not everyone dies with advance notice.

A major problem, actually, with the version of Christianity I grew up with was that ANY sin sent you to Hell, and there was no purgatory or baptism exceptions.

The best thing someone could do for you (I actually once heard a religion professor at our church acknowledge thus) was to murder you right after you came to Christ, to make sure you didn't accidentally die later with an umconfessed sin.

Practically speaking, this meant that I - and others - went around with a literally constant mental prayer of "I'm sorry, Jesus, whatever I've done, even if I can't remember, please forgive me" for every waking moment.

Note: There are versions of Christianity other than the one I grew up with.

Maartje said...

TW: Death, Hell, Murder

That's horrifyingly logical. I'm glad people didn't en masse decide to make a practice out of that idea - I assume 'murdering someone to get them to heaven' is a sin that can be confessed and forgiven too?

Lonespark said...

I'm pretty sure that I, personally, wouldn't feel cheery looking on a place where my friends died and my enemies perished. Did I mention I'm a liberal?

Well, I might, except...what they're looking it isn't evidence of how that battle was Totoally Worth It, IMO, so, no.

Ana Mardoll said...

I completely agree that a lot of it seems born from a non-thorough-exposure to alternative religions.

I believe the usual explanation -- and the one we'll see in The Last Battle -- is that if you were a REALLY good person but just happened to be a member of the wrong religion, well, you were secretly worshiping Aslan all that time and just didn't realize it.

I don't need to waste internet ink here on why that is such an incredibly patronizing thing to say, but I will note that saying this to polytheists -- who, almost by definition are accustomed to working with multiple gods and telling the differences between them -- is even more likely than usual to result in being given the stink eye.

Lonespark said...

it's not Peter's fault for taking this route because Edmund suggested it, but it's a good thing Peter took this route because Trumpkin's idea was worse.

Check for Romney campaign staffers in the brush?

Ana Mardoll said...

TW: Death, Hell, Murder

I *think* the religion professor explained that we don't do that because the executioner probably wouldn't properly repent, thinking that zie had done God's work. Plus, if the goal of the church is to gain more recruits to go out and convert MORE people, killing off new recruits is bad for business. God has work for them here on earth and will take them in His own time, etc.

Which kind of meant that your personal salvation was your own problem to maintain, and you should get to Heaven via Bootstraps. Hence the internal monologue.

Ana Mardoll said...

And all this brings up a bit of a cop-out on Lewis' part: if Susan had been on The Train What Crashed, not because she wanted to help Narnia but because she thought she might go with her siblings anyway and pick up some new lipsticks and nylons... what would happen to her? Is there a Hell in Chronicles of Narnia? Where did Sheiky McSheikson go when he died? Etc.

Illhousen said...

TW: Suicide

Oh, but people did. Or so I've heard. Take it with a grant of salt, but from what I've heard initially suicide wasn't perceived as sin. It's when many people whose life was too hard compared to promise of heaven decided to take matters in their hands and get their prise a little bit earlier the church proclaimed that taking your own life is a sin.

Illhousen said...

This chapter as D&D session.
It... makes surprising amount of sense.
It would've went something like this:

Party tries to decide where to go.
Someone rolls a Knowledge (Narnia) check with heavy penalty because of thousand years absence.
Fails.
Lucy, having a class feature "Sensitive to Unseen", gets another roll to get a message from Aslan.
She succeed but, since for once players decided to not metagame, she wasn't able to convince them to go up.
So they go the wrong path and DM throws in a random battle encounter which proceed as depizan described.
The only thing that doesn't make much sense is second appearance of Aslan. Since by then party agreed to go back on right path.
I guess DM just realized there is a timeline problem, and if party gets their sleep, there logically will be a Bad End with Caspian dead or something, so he quickly come with a reason to harry instead of tweaking the timeline.

Ana Mardoll said...

I suddenly feel sorry for Susan's player.

Edmund: I don't *care* what the NPC says, Lucy sensed something and we should go up.

Susan: That's *player* knowledge. My *character* is a rational, sensible, True Neutral who relies on logic to get her through the day. You haven't made a rational case for going up and the NPC has made a rational case for going down, so my character is going to vote down.

*groans*

Smilodon said...

Content Note: the evangelical God and associated baggage

I spent a plane ride next to an evangelical couple at one point. They spent the plane ride trying to save me. (They had peanut M&Ms, and I considered it a fair trade to listen politely in return for unlimited access to chocolate.) The mother was prepping for her homeschooling lesson (her children were fairly young), so we talked a bit about teaching kids.

She said that her kids often say when they wake up that they're going to be perfect all day for Jesus. But of course they're children, and by lunchtime they're fighting, and she asks them "What about your promise to Jesus? You can't even be good for one day!" I didn't express it, but I was absolutely horrified. Kids fighting with their siblings is NORMAL. It's not a great thing, but it's a thing, and it's part of being a kid. It's one thing to try to scare me with all the things I do wrong on a daily basis - I'm an adult, and if I really didn't want to chat, I'd put in my headphones. To instill a sense of permenant inadequacy, and fear, in a 6 year old?

Anyway, the idea that people go around praying "Forgive me cause I've probably done something even if I don't remember what" made me think of that story.

Will Wildman said...

If I had the screencapping and photomanipulation skills, I would start scripting Witches & Wardrobes at this exact instant.

muscipula said...

I think they go into Aslan's shadow and are never seen again. I think the following part of Last Battle ("further up and further in") is based on The Great Divorce. For those who haven't read it, it's a journey through the afterlife starting in "the grey city" and then escaping through a natural paradise that is the way to Heaven. As they go, the world around them gets more and more real and solid, as in the Last Battle where they're told that they're now entering the real world. Anyone could make the journey; for those stuck in the city, it's Hell, and for those who escaped, it's retconned to have been Purgatory. So that's a hopeful message, and we know in Narnia that we're not told other people's stories, so maybe the ones who went into the shadow are also tramping their way to Aslan's country, just a bit further behind (or at least I'd like to think so).

But another part of the Great Divorce is where Lewis tackles the question - how can we be happy in Heaven if our loved ones are in Hell? His answer is essentially that we will be magically made to forget or not care about them, which for me is an absolutely horrifying and inhumane prospect. It's also a question relevant to Lucy - she's meant to go off with Aslan, leaving her family and Trumpkin behind, not knowing what will happen to them.

Actually, it just struck me that this is the opposite of their first meeting with Aslan in LWW. Then, he wanted to know why only three of them had come, and where Edmund was - the Aslan of this chapter would have wanted them to come alone, once they had been called, and not to worry about Edmund.

Brin Bellway said...

Possibly you could team up with someone who has the picture-making skills but no script? (Not me, I don't have the skills either.)

Ursula L said...

Wait, what? Susan the Archer, Susan who takes archery classes in the Real World because she loves Narnia so much, Susan who knows archery better than anyone else, that Susan needs Peter to pull her down to cover because she doesn't instinctively duck when she hears the tell-tale sound of an arrow whizz-and-thunk?

I suppose this would depend on the way in which she was trained.

When studying archery at home in England, Susan would be taught to be accurate at hitting targets, mostly stationary, but occasionally moving. Such training would not include consideration of what to do when being shot at, because it would be training for sport and perhaps hunting, not battle.

In that context, you don't want to duck and hide if someone is shooting in your general direction, you want to shout that you're there, and let them know to stop shooting. Because they aren't trying or wanting to hit you, and they'll stop if they realize they're shooting at a person. If you take cover, you become a moving thing in the brush, possibly considered a prey animal and target. The shooter can't tell that your a person rather than a deer if you are trying to hide.

Hence many hunters wearing safety-orange clothing, to be identifiable as human during deer season. Even if it means that the deer may see them and run before they can shoot. You don't want to be one of the seven hunters.

http://www.lyricstime.com/tom-lehrer-the-hunting-song-lyrics.html

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iATzgXyhYRs

***

And if she studied archery from military experts while a queen in Narnia, the training might not include "duck and hide if you're being shot at."

A significant part of any training for combat is trying to get people to set aside their interest in self-preservation, so that they'll keep on fighting, for the sake of the group, even if their personal best interest would be served by taking cover or running to safety.

If Susan ever fought alongside the archers in the Narnian army, then her training would be to keep shooting even as enemy arrows were flying. You can't have your army run and hide the moment things get dangerous to everyone on an individual level. And Susan, as queen and a leader, would have the responsibility to set an example and keep fighting, not running away and leading half the army with her. Particularly with Lewis's idealization of how monarchs should be leaders in battle.

Susan is the best archer in the group. If someone is shooting at them, it's her responsibility to locate the threat and shoot back. And she can't do that face down on the ground.

What we see is Peter's, and Lewis's, misogynistic idea of chivalry (men should protect women, women can't fight back) interfering with Susan's ability to use her skills to protect the group.

And Peter, as the military leader of the group, shouldn't merely be ducking and pulling Susan down. He should be assessing the situation, considering the best defense and potential for counterattack, and the best uses of the very limited military resources he has available. Such as trusting Susan, an trained archer, to use her skills to evaluate the situation and take out the threat if possible.

***

There is a missing scene to be written by someone who is a better fiction writer than I am, of Susan confronting Peter, after the fact, for interfering with her ability to do her job as the primary archer in the group, and to get over himself already, because she's a queen and a warrior and a skilled archer who has both ability and responsibility.

Ana Mardoll said...

Just to clarify, it's stated in Horse and His Boy that Susan is *not* a combat archer and doesn't go into battle with the siblings. FWIW.

redcrow said...

I'd even be okay with text-only version, to be honest.

Ursula L said...

Just to clarify, it's stated in Horse and His Boy that Susan is *not* a combat archer and doesn't go into battle with the siblings. FWIW.

Fair enough.

I'm pretty agnostic on whether Narnia stories written later retcon the earlier stories. It's pretty clear that Lewis didn't write the series with any sort of ongoing story arc or characterization planned from the beginning. But it's also pretty clear that he thought that his latter-written characterization was consistent with what he wrote earlier.

So if Susan never was a military archer in Narnia, but only shot for sport and hunting, she's solidly in the first part of my analysis. Her experience will be that if someone is shooting near her, it is someone being careless at target practice or another hunter in the hunting party mistaking her for Bambi. Safety lies in being visible and noisy, clearly human. Not in taking cover so that you can be mistaken for an animal moving in the brush.

***

Susan would train to take cover if shot at only if she'd taken on a military role where that was appropriate. Such as being a sort of archery-sniper in the Narnian army. Going off alone, finding cover, and shooting at the enemy (particularly enemy leaders) from a concealed position.

And even if Lewis had let Susan fight in battle for Narnia as a queen, I doubt he'd make her a sniper, hiding and shooting without being seen. For Lewis, honor seems to lie in open combat, and being a sniper and hiding while attacking would seem cowardly.

Dragoness Eclectic said...

On the other hand... Hindu mysticism, for example, considers all dieties to be aspects of the Brahmana, the One (not to be confused with the god Brahma). Is there a significant difference between the One of Hinduism and the One God of the "Peoples of the Book"? (A much more poetic term than the clunky not-quite-portmanteau of "Judaeo-Christian-Moslem"...)

Ana Mardoll said...

There are Wiccans who believe that as well. However, telling a strict polytheist that they're not REALLY interacting with distinct people but rather different pieces of the same Divine is considered extremely rude, because it's putting your interpretation on their experience and attempting to override their interpretation of the same.

Ursula L said...

Hindu mysticism, for example, considers all dieties to be aspects of the Brahmana, the One (not to be confused with the god Brahma). Is there a significant difference between the One of Hinduism and the One God of the "Peoples of the Book"?

In my experience, with an Indian but not Hindu mother, and growing up with considerable connections to the Indian-American community and knowing many Hindus of various levels of devotion, there is a considerable difference.

Christians tend to think in terms of monotheism, with Father, Son and Holy Ghost being various parts/aspects of one god. Devotion is pretty clearly focused on one God.

Hindus tend to think in terms of polytheism. With the "One" of Hinduism being the way in which many gods are related t o each other. Devotion is to the god or gods you choose, with other gods being real, but not your preferred focus.

Hindus who care deeply about the nuances of how all the gods and goddesses are related and parts of One God are in the same sort of position as Christians who care deeply about distinctions like "begotten not made." Theology geeks. Mystics. Certainly they're genuinely devout, I'm not trying to disparage anyone's faith here.

In my experience, Hindus tend to pull out the concept of all the gods being part of the One God in the context of discussing theology with monotheists, more than they focus on it in contexts where they aren't conversing with monotheists. Because it is an interesting way to talk about the differences and similarities of different faiths and to find common ground with monotheistic friends and acquaintances.

***

And also because there is often a cultural context where the assumption is that there is only one god, and monotheists have it right, and polytheists have it wrong. And there can be status and respect on the line. So being able to make a plausible argument that your faith counts as "monotheism" has status consequences.

It's worth remembering that Hinduism is very much a part of and product of the culture of India. It's an ancient religion. And it is an ancient religion in a place that had considerable influence from monotheistic outsiders, conquerors and imperial powers. Generations where significant parts of India were ruled first by Muslim conquerors such as the Mughals, and then Christian conquerors in the form of the British Raj.

***

One thing I've noticed is that westerners, people who grew up in a culture shaped by Christianity, and who convert to Hinduism, tend to place more emphasis on how all the gods are aspects of One God than people who are culturally Indian and grew up as Hindu tend to do.

Which is okay, in a Hindu context. Hinduism is not a monolith. There are a lot of variations in practice and belief, variations related to region, class and caste.

(Another thing I've noticed, westerners who convert to Hinduism always focus on the high-status faith of the Brahman caste. No one converts and decides that their place in Hinduism is following the practices and joining the ranks of Untouchables. And while discrimination based on caste is forbidden in Indian law, it still has some significant influences in Indian culture and in Hindu theology.)

***

If you ask a Christian "what do Christians believe" they'll tend to give you an answer that is "what I, as a Christian, believe." You won't find a Catholic starting their answer to that question with a discussion of Amish theology, or vice-versa.

Similarly, if you ask a Hindu what Hindus believe, their answer will start with explaining what they believe.

So when asking such questions, you can't just accept someone's answer at face value for being about the beliefs of everyone who claims to be part of their faith. You need to look at who and what they are, and how they relate to the larger context of the culture of people who follow the same faith.

Ana Mardoll said...

I would imagine it's a touchy subject. A privileged westerner converting to an Untouchable might face charges of appropriation.

Ursula L said...

I would imagine it's a touchy subject. A privileged westerner converting to an Untouchable might face charges of appropriation.

Given the history of imperialism, appropriation is an issue either way.

In my experience, Indian Hindus tended to think of western converts as a little bit of a joke.

Of course a western convert would claim the highest-status of being part of the priestly caste, and all the associated privilege. It goes hand-in-hand with the arrogance of imperialism. Of westerners, like the British, thinking they had the right to rule over "inferior races." Of being privileged and unable to imagine being anywhere but the top of the social ladder.

As I mentioned above, western converts to Hinduism tend to focus more on the "oneness" of the gods/goddesses than culturally Indian Hindus do. Western converts also tend to ignore or downplay caste, compared to how the concept of caste fits into modern Indian Hindu culture. It's an interesting interplay between different cultures, expressed in theology and religious custom.

For example, a middle-class western convert may well follow the practices of the priestly caste in worship, but also not think twice about cleaning their own toilet. Which gets into a whole host of issues around work that is "clean" or "unclean", and what sorts of people do what sorts of work, and why various people are expected to take on various pleasant or unpleasant tasks.

Will Wildman said...

Given the problems with calling something 'Judeo-Christian', let alone trying to include Islam in there, the best term I've found for referring to that possibly-shared god is 'the God of Abraham' (or Ibrahim or whichever transliteration you prefer).

But more to the point, in my experience many monotheists don't care for the claim that 'all of the monotheistic gods are basically the same god interpreted in different ways', and I am empathetic to that view. For one, there's the whole imposing-your-interpretation-on-someone-else's-belief-system that Ana describes, but for another I'm not sure it's logically valid.

There is only one Queen of Canada. If someone says the Queen of Canada is Elizabeth II and I say the Queen of Canada is Mary-Louise Parker, is it a meaningful statement to say that we both believe in the same Queen of Canada but my interpretation of her nature is mistaken? It seems like that way lies tautology.

---

Tangential: I was recently introduced to a tabletop RPG called 'All Flesh Must Be Eaten'. It's allowed in certain settings for characters to begin gaining spiritual powers that allow them to perform miracles. I was rather vexed when the game first stated 'these powers are only appearing among religious people, but are not restricted by religion' and then went on to say 'people are starting to think that all the monotheistic religions are actually worshipping one True God'. To hell with you, sourcebooks. Voodoo got us into zombies and vodou will get us out of zombies.

Ana Mardoll said...

Stepping in to gently remind everyone that there are rules about generalizing groups of people on this board. Not all westerners choose a privileged caste on conversion and not all westerners hold imperialistic notions or are born with privilege. Please do not invisible these people with sweeping generalizations on this board. Thank you.

Please also attempt to discuss religion without calling people "a joke" because of their combination of religion and birthplace. This is not up for discussion, even as a shared point of view.

Lastly please recall that I have stated that people stick to their own opinions here, and not share others. Appropriation can happen that way, even with the best of intentions. (Example, just because I'm disabled doesn't mean I want to be drawn into my friend's debate as her "disabled friend who thinks X".)

Thank you.

Amaryllis said...

Peter is first in terms of political authority. Lucy is first in terms of spiritual authority. In "real life," in the actions of the group, Peter has the real and controlling authority. But Lucy is correct.

So did anyone else immediately think of "The Bishops' Fortnight for Freedom" vs. "Nuns on the Bus"?

And if you're less powerful, younger, female, or both, you may recognize that they're wrong. But you still have to go along, and eventually, you'll get your "I told you so" moment.
Unfortunately, you'll probably be too dead to enjoy it, when they declare you a saint while pulling the same old shit on the next generation.

What, me bitter?

EdinburghEye said...

I think that the plot and structuring of a lot of Narnia is a direct result of C.S.Lewis thinking that "fairy story" was "breathing a lie through silver".

To which J.R.R. Tolkien made possibly the finest poetical retort ever:

"Dear Sir," I said - "Although now long estranged,
Man is not wholly lost nor wholly changed.
Dis-graced he may be, yet is not de-throned,
and keeps the rags of lordship once he owned:
Man, Subcreator, the refracted Light
through whom is splintered from a single White
to many hues, and endlessly combined
in living shapes that move from mind to mind.
Though all the crannies of the world we filled
with Elves and Goblins, though we dared to build
Gods and their houses out of dark and light,
and sowed the seed of dragons - 'twas our right
(used or misused). That right has not decayed:
we make still by the law in which we're made."

Dorothy L. Sayers said that Christian friends of hers used to ask her "when Lord Peter Wimsey would become a Christian", because he was such an intelligent, amiable, well-informed man that they were sure that Sayers would eventually have him convert. All Sayers could tell them was that Wimsey would never become a Christian: it just wasn't in character, though naturally he would, when at home, go to church and when requested read the Lesson.

Tolkien and Sayers were both confident that their Makings need not try to convert people to Christianity: Lewis was... really not.

Steve Morrison said...

But the "lies breathed through silver" exchange took place before Lewis converted to Christianity, and years before he wrote PC.

depizan said...

I've no problem with Susan not having been trained to take cover when arrows are flying. I have a huge problem with Susan not recognizing the sound of arrows. Hell, given that there was archery a few chapters ago, "Then -- all at once -- whizz, and a sound rather like the stroke of a woodpecker. The children were still wondering where (ages ago) they had heard a sound just like that and why they disliked it so," makes no sense at all. The only possible explanation is that their players botched some important rolls there. (Or the author had a rather unfortunate memory lapse.)

Lily said...

Content note: fear of the evangelical God

I used to be really terrified of God and I think my church was very much Say The Magic Words with regard to salvation. I spent many, many years believing I was a hypocrite because I was Doing Christianity Wrong. I was twelve or so. Aslan's behavior here kind of reminds me of God during the plagues of Egypt, in that he seems to be unfairly punishing Lucy in the way that God punished ALL the Egyptians. Or something. I watched Prince of Egypt recently and realized the plagues are just really unfair. I also don't get the point in God saying, "I'll make the pharoh stubborn. Repeatedly." Does this bother anyone else?

~Lily~

depizan said...

Yeah, that's high on the WTF scale, all right. I'm not sure what people are supposed to get from that story. (Or they're not supposed to notice that part. "Don't mind the man behind the curtain!")

Lily said...

Content note: death

I think it was the death of the firstborn that really, really bothered me, even as a kid. (Heck, the plagues scene in The Prince of Egypt scared me when I saw it in the cinema.) I can kind of see the logic behind killing the pharoh's firstborn, but all of Egypt? That's just not right.

~Lily~

depizan said...

That is the worst, though all of the plagues are really unfair. Punishing an entire country for the ruler's decision just doesn't seem, well, godly to me. It's so petty. And when you consider that God is keeping the pharoh from changing his mind, it just doesn't make any sense at all. But the Old Testament is full of God being horrible and things not making sense. Or so it always seemed to me.

But then, I'm not Christian. Perhaps there are interpretations that make it all make sense. Perhaps some of the horrible stuff isn't supposed to be taken literally - it's allegory or myth. Though, I'm still hazy on a less awful interpretation, beyond that the focus wasn't supposed to be on the Egyptians. (Though why throw in the lines about God hardening the pharoh's heart? WTF, ancient writer of the bible, WTF?)

Anton_Mates said...

But Susan brought up her opinion more than once, and used an insufficiently sweet tone of voice, and thus was termed a "nag" and "rotten". Lucy, on the other hand, is meek and mild and so is "a hero".

Assuming Lucy even is being meek and mild. I have a feeling that if Susan said "I suppose we'll have to go right up the gorge again now," everyone in the book would interpret it as snarkiness and passive aggression. But no one suspects that of Lucy because she's a wide-eyed innocent and all.

EdinburghEye said...

But the "lies breathed through silver" exchange took place before Lewis converted to Christianity, and years before he wrote PC.

Yes. But I've read a lot of Lewis's non-fiction essays post-conversion, and I don't think he ever quite got over it.

Ymfon said...

I really like your Theology of Meta-Lucy; the chapter makes a lot more sense this way.

Will Wildman said...

(Though why throw in the lines about God hardening the pharoh's heart? WTF, ancient writer of the bible, WTF?)

I have heard it claimed that this is a problem of idioms, such that at the time of writing, there wasn't really considered to be a difference between saying "This thing happened" or "God caused this thing to happen", without necessarily implying that the latter was All Part Of The Plan. In that reading, it's not supposed to be saying that God was totally hands-off people's brains but then specifically intervened to prevent the Pharaoh from changing his mind; but that God did stuff and the Pharaoh rejected it and God let that happen instead of influencing his mind directly, which is all summarised as "God hardened his heart".

Which seems fair - we still talk like that to a degree - though it doesn't address the whole 'kill all the firstborns, that is a proportional response' thing. (If it's supposed to be saying that the whole free population is culpable if they allow slavery, that's one thing, but given that it's also demonstrating God's ability to perform very precise and wide-reaching feats, it seems like 'Power Word Shield on the Hebrews and let them march out of town' would have been a much better first move.)

Ana Mardoll said...

I should let one of the actual Jewish persons on the board address this, but since I am moderator and since it's not my place to tell people how to spend their spoons, I'll try to take a bat at it.

It's my understanding that the Christian view of "mean Old Testament God" is not universally shared by all people, such as Jewish people, who look to the Old Testament as a valuable document. Some of this matters in the interpretation: if you don't believe that the story of Pharaoh and the Plague is *history* but rather see it as sort of a tribal "where we came from" religion then the story doesn't tell us about God, but rather it tells us what early Jewish people wrote about God. Which is not the same thing by far.

The fundamentalist / evangelical Christian viewpoint that everything in the Bible should be taken as literal history is not shared by all religionists who look to those writings. But this is something that someone else could speak to with far more clarity than I, if they have the spoons and are willing.

depizan said...

The fundamentalist / evangelical Christian viewpoint that everything in the Bible should be taken as literal history is not shared by all religionists who look to those writings.

That's very true. It really is the literal interpretation that makes the Old Testament look bad - at least to an outsider. Though, for all I know, there are ways of squaring God as decent sort with the literal interpretation version, too.

And, to continue on from Will, what with translations and changes of speach and all, it's entirely possible that if one could take a time machine and a universal translator and introduce the modern bible to someone from the time that various passages were written down, they might well respond with "WTF? That's not how the story's supposed to go!"

Ana Mardoll said...

Indeed. (I'd love to see that, by the way. Alas, for the time machines that do not exist.)

I liked the music in The Prince of Egypt and, if we *must* have a movie on the topic, I much prefer it to Heston's Ten Commandments which has problems like whoa, but I have a feeling that the movie was written for a Christian audience more than a Jewish audience. I can't really confirm that feeling (not sure how one would confirm or deny that position), but I can't shake it.

And I really hate how in both movies the Egyptian clothing seems more Other / Feminine (short skirts, heavy jewelry, lots of skin showing) than Moses' shepherd clothing, which tends to look more Default / Masculine (long robes, heavy beards, very little skin showing).

Brin Bellway said...

TW: death

Before learning about the plagues, I'd never really thought about dying long enough to be afraid of it. The plagues told me that sometimes people die for no real reason, merely from meeting completely arbitrary qualifications that I met. (I don't think I'd have reacted nearly so badly if I'd had an older sibling to use as a shield.)

My parents, scrambling for some way of reassuring me, tried to tell me I didn't actually meet the qualifications. In that place I'd have been one of the ones with sacrificial goats' blood on the doorway, and anyway the silver lining of sexism is that girls aren't worth killing, so if anyone's going to die it'll be Brother (which isn't nearly so visceral at that age). I couldn't quite believe them.

After a couple long years, the terror eventually subsided into a mild background worry. Still, that mild worry wasn't there before. I doubt I'll ever fully recover.

Will Wildman said...

And I really hate how in both movies the Egyptian clothing seems more Other / Feminine (short skirts, heavy jewelry, lots of skin showing) than Moses' shepherd clothing, which tends to look more Default / Masculine (long robes, heavy beards, very little skin showing).

Isn't that because our current culture has more influence from traditions in common with Hebrews than with Egyptians? I'm not an expert, but what I have seen/do know of ancient Egyptian and ancient Hebrew dress suggests that those are reasonably accurate. Anything othering in that case would be a result of how our current culture views other traditions, not from intentional misrepresentation.

Smilodon said...

It's been a long time since I was particularly religious, and I don't remember exactly how we dealt with that passage in Study Group. But I remember the discussion centred around making sense of a very troubling passage, and to me that context matters too. There's a world of difference between saying "God made the Egyptians suffer WOO" and "How can we reconcile the God who told Jonah that he wasn't empathetic enough with a God who would harden the Pharoh's heart? What parts of the story are missing from the version that is being presented in the Torah that could help us to better understand this?" That question drives a lot of how I was taught to look at the Torah. Even if you believe that the Torah is literally true, you don't have to believe that it's complete.

I've been to seders from several different demoninations of Judism. One constant in the seder is taking a drop of wine out of your wine glass ten times as the ten plagues are recited. My favourite explaination for this goes as follows (taken from a Jewish Humanist Haggadah from the internet, the version in the Haggadah I grew up using was different, since I wasn't a Huminist, but had the same basic idea):

"A full cup of wine symbolizes complete happiness. The triumph of Passover is diminished by the sacrifice of many human lives when ten plagues were visited upon the people of Egypt. In the ancient story, the plagues that befell the Egyptians resulted from the decisions of tyrants, but the greatest suffering occurred among those who had no choice but to follow. It is fitting that we mourn their loss of life, and express our sorrow over their suffering. For as Jews and as Humanists we cannot take joy in the suffering of others. Therefore, let us diminish the wine in our cups as we recall the ten plagues that befell the Egyptian people."

Smilodon said...

I feel awkward quoting without a link, so here it is. I don't think I got any viruses when I opened the document, but be warned it does download a word file onto your computer.
www.eszter.com/Haggadah.doc

Ana Mardoll said...

Possibly, but it's my understanding that a lot of scholars and historians don't agree when the Exodus happened or if it even did at all, so there's a lot of contention over the Wheres and Whens. If the filmmakers are asserting "they wore that stuff there-and-then", then they're attaching a historical space-time location for their story. And it strikes me as convenient that a story with few-to-no physical descriptions that may have happened in any number of Whens lines up so nicely with our stereotypes of what Good Guys and Bad Guys look like.

*shrug* Maybe it's all perfectly innocent. But it just strikes me as convenient.

Dragoness Eclectic said...

And I really hate how in both movies the Egyptian clothing seems more Other / Feminine (short skirts, heavy jewelry, lots of skin showing) than Moses' shepherd clothing, which tends to look more Default / Masculine (long robes, heavy beards, very little skin showing).

Er, what? That's classical Egyptian garb vs. classical Bedouin/pastoral desert nomad garb.. reasonably historical. Egyptians lived along the Nile, where both the temperature and humidity are fairly high, and thus went for light/minimal clothing. Wealth and marks of royal favor were displayed in the form of jewelry. The desert nomads lived out in the desert and scrub country, where it's not humid, and went for all-over coverage clothing that protects you from the sun. The Persians who came from dry mountain country also tended to dress like that.

Ana Mardoll said...

And all the Hebrew slaves -- from the farmhands to the pyramid builders to the house slaves -- all dressed like desert nomads despite also living along the humid Nile? This is a genuine question; I honestly don't know. I just know that in PoE, all the Hebrews come dressed like Moses, despite having lived in Egypt for several generations.

But, as above, maybe it's a coincidence. I'm just tired of villains being played up as girly. Men can wear makeup and show skin and wear jewelry and still be manly and desirable, but movies with Egyptian villains seem to forget that.

Dragoness Eclectic said...

Except if the Exodus happened, it's explicitly set in Egypt, and basic Egyptian fashions didn't change too much until the Christian era, or later. Now, both movies setting the Exodus during the reign of Ramses the Great is an old tradition, and not anything like historical, because no one has convincingly pinned down the date of the Exodus. Personally, I agree with Josephus in setting Exodus during the Expulsion of the Hyksos--perhaps Exodus is the Hyksos point-of-view while the Expulsion is definitely the Egyptian (specifically, the Theban) POV.

That would, however, set it quite a bit earlier than Rameses II. I do enjoy Heston's "The Ten Commandments", having watched it again recently, and noting the amount of accurate-for-the-time scene-setting and costuming that was done. DeMille and his crew really did a good job of setting the movie in the time of Rameses II.

hf said...

Well trivially, our Torah combines two or three different versions of the story. If your person of the past only knew one version, they wouldn't know what to make of the mangled mixed redaction.

You may have seen the suggestion that the (seemingly older) J Text describes a little boy deity who grows into his full power during the early part of Exodus. To my modern eyes this makes for a better story. It also paints God's actions as 'The best he could think to do at the time, given his weird upbringing,' rather than, 'A logical necessity according to Goodness Itself.' And it means YHVH needed to prove himself to the Israelites, who remembered him throwing a fit and almost drowning everyone when he couldn't stop the older deities from literally f*cking up his experiment. The Hebrews' grumbling makes more sense; to some degree so does his show of power.

Ana Mardoll said...

*sigh* I am not trying to get into a fight over this. However, I do not think it is unreasonable to point out that the Hebrews *in the actual story* are depicted as having Egyptian beliefs, Egyptian culture, and Egyptian attitudes because they've been immersed in Egypt for so long. (This is a major point of the Pentateuch. And it's why they make an Egyptian-flavored god the minute Moses isn't looking.)

So I do not think it is that much of a stretch to assume that they might also use Egyptian makeup, Egyptian clothing, and Egyptian jewelry. (Especially when *in the actual story* they receive jewelry as a parting please-don't-kill-the-rest-of-our-kids present.) Except in movie adaptations of the same, they don't -- and I believe it's partly because of American attitudes about makeup, jewelry, and skin-showing clothing being unmanly.

Since all this is moot in the sense that (a) the story doesn't describe clothing and (b) no one can prove the Exodus happened in the first place, I'm not going to continue to justify my opinion on this subject. Others can have at it; this is a YMMV subject if I ever saw one.

Orion Anderson said...

Biblical critics who subscribe to the Documentary Hypothesis believe that the "ten plagues" narrative we find in exodus is actually 2 different stories smooshed together in a way that makes the result horrible in a way neither original version was. I can go into the justification for this reading in more detail if people want, but the short version is that 4 or 5 of the "10 plagues" are described twice, with slightly differnet results and different people acting. The idea is to separate those out into two threads and then see which clump the ones that appear once are. I don't actually have access to an official interpretion right now, but I've just re-read Exodus and this is how I would do it:

The 7 Plagues
1: Moses strikes the Nile and turns it into blood, killing all the fish and rendering the water undrinkable
2: God sends frogs. When Pharaoh allows the Israelites to make sacrifices, Moses prays and god remove the frogs.
3: God sends flies, which "ruin the land" When Pharaoh allows the israelites a 3-day vacation to pray in the wilderness, Moses prays and god removes them.
4: Moses gives Pharaoh a release date, failure to comply punishable by the death of all livestock. God kills all the livestock.
5: Gods sends a terrible hailstorm. Pharaoh promises to release the Israelites, so Moses calls it off. Then Pharaoh is all "Psych! I can't believe you fell for that."
6: Moses waves his staff, and god sends a plague of locusts, which destroys all the plants.
7: God kills all the egyptian firstborn

The 7 Signs

1: Aaron turns his staff into a snake; Egyptian mages make a snake too, but Aaron's snake eats it
2: Aaron waves his staff and turns ALL the water in Egypt into blood, but Egpytian mages do the same thing
3: Aaron waves his staff and summons frogs, but so do the Egyptian mages
4: Aaron strikes the ground and turns the dust into gnats. The Egyptian mages try to copy him, but fail.
5: Moses throws dust in the air, afflicting everyone with boils; the Egpytian mages call in sick
6: Moses waves his hands and makes it dark for 3 days
7: God mind-whammys the Egyptians into giving their money to the Israelites, then sends a Destroyer to kill the firstborn of every house not protected with lamb's blood.

In the Seven Plagues story, God always warns Moses of the coming plague. Moses goes to Pharaoh and tells him this will happen unless Pharaoh lets them go. God systematically amps up his threats, destroying first fish, then livestock, then vegetation, and finally humans. Pharaoh is an evil jerk who just wants to keep exploiting Israelite labor, and hopes that incremental compromises of religious freedom will let him keep on oppressing.

In the Seven Signs stories, Aaron and Moses are trying to demonstrate god's power. They go head to head with Egypt's best and brightest and demonstrate the superiority of their own power. Their acts are described as "signs" and are not explicitly described as having actually hurt anyone. (Until the death plague). God repeatedly hardens Pharaoh's heart in order to allow the show to go on until he feels the point has been made.

Dragoness Eclectic said...

Thank you. I've always had a problem with the "God hardened his heart" thing. The more I've learned about ancient Egyptian mythology and magic symbolism, the more obvious it is that the Ten Plagues of the Exodus narrative are a direct attack on the gods and magic of Egypt. Moses wields the snake staff of a skilled magician, and explicitly overcomes the Pharoah's best magicians (and his staff eats their snake staves, which has to mean something). Each of the Ten Plagues seems to be deliberately stepping all over the area of influence of some god or other, (frogs, for example, are the symbol of one of the major gods of the Nile river), demonstrating that sacrifices to the gods of Egypt will not save Pharaoh from the wrath of the God of Abraham. (i.e., my God is more powerful than your gods). I suspect the last plague was explicitly aimed at Pharoah and his religious/mythic power--Pharoah is the living incarnation of Horus, the first-born son of Osiris. (Pharoah was also titled 'Son of Ra').

Exodus is a very powerful story that we, a few thousand years removed, don't fully understand. It's a story of liberation from slavery, but I also see a narrative of the coming/return of Yahweh to the people of Israel and his defeat of the gods of Egypt.

Will Wildman said...

Sources I'm seeing (which could be wrong, of course) are suggesting that Egyptian clothing styles actually didn't vary by a whole lot for some thousands of years, at least not in the broad terms of bare skin and what we might consider femininity of style. And in the case of the stuff the Hebrews were shown wearing, I think we can still pretty easily find people wearing those types of clothes in order to work outside in those sorts of climates even today. So I'm not sure how specific they're being about time period.

So again I suspect that the causality goes the other way - it's not that the Egyptians have been not-so-coincidentally dressed to get the reaction of other/feminine/villain, but that roughly-accurate ancient Egyptian dress has been exoticised so much in our culture already and placed in othering or villainous contexts so often that when it's shown even in a context where it's actually appropriate, it's bearing the weight of all of those negative connotations. It's not that they dressed the Egyptians that way to make them look like villains, but that villains have been frequently designed in ways that make them look Egyptian-ish.

Regarding the jewelry, I would hypothesise that it's a matter of sympathy - it's hard enough keeping Moses looking like the good guy while he's invoking divine powers to torment nations, but then having all of his people march out of there covered in gold is going to seriously undercut their apparent role as the underdog. (If it was about jewelry being girly, then we might at least expect to see some of the women wearing it.)

All of this stuff is deeply problematic, but it's a sectarian telling of a probably-ahistorical event that glosses entire ethnic groups as good or evil - groups that already each have a substantial history in modern culture of being generalised as being all good or all evil. I think we hit 'problematic' a looong time before they got to the precise historical accuracy of the Egyptian aristocrats' style of dress.

Ana Mardoll said...

Regarding the jewelry, I would hypothesise that it's a matter of sympathy - it's hard enough keeping Moses looking like the good guy while he's invoking divine powers to torment nations, but then having all of his people march out of there covered in gold is going to seriously undercut their apparent role as the underdog.

A very valid point, but it doesn't make me less annoyed with American adaptations, as you aptly note. *grins*

If a story is worth telling, it's worth telling with nuance. I remain frustrated that American movie-makers do not seem to share my opinion. *sigh*

Dragoness Eclectic said...

I've also seen the claim that many of the Ten Plagues could be explained by certain natural phenomenon (Thera eruption, red tide, etc), which does not surprise me. The signs & miracles are in the timing.

Dragoness Eclectic said...

Ahem, regarding the actual topic of Ana's post... (recalls her mind from ancient Egypt).

Why did I not notice all this stuff back when I last re-read Narnia? (Not that long ago, either). Aslan's "you must have Faith" lesson is particularly annoying; Lucy is supposed to defy her siblings and follow her visions, except when she isn't. (See "Voyage of the Dawn Treader", where Lucy is "tempted" by magic to do things that I didn't realize were sinful, like finding out what others really think of you or prettying herself up a bit. Lucy going her own way there was supposedly bad).

Will Wildman said...

I have no desire to fight with anyone - I'm just sharing stuff as I find it - but there is apparently some tradition on the matter of Hebrew integration into Egyptian culture, which states that the three things the Hebrews in Egypt did not change were their names, language, and clothing. Exactly how much historicity backs this up is maybe less clear. A rabbi blogged about it here, and <a href="http://adderabbi.blogspot.ca/2007/01/manufactured-midrash-name-speech-garb_12.html>the following post is good too</a>.

Ana Mardoll said...

I don't know about you, but for me Prince Caspian (the book, not the character) puts me in this weird trance and very little of it commits to memory, possibly because it's so insubstantial? I've read the book twice already for this deconstruction effort and I *still* had to triple-check that none of this is every adequately explained later. Peter and Susan just walk up and assert that an off-text conversation they had with Aslan cleared everything up.

Very little of this book is memorable for me in the way that LWW, DT, SC, HaHB, and MN is. Mind you, I feel the same about Last Battle, though -- that book is like a memory sieve.

Must ponder this.

Orion Anderson said...

Dragoness-- I had never considered the parallels to the symbols of the Egyptian gods before, that's really cool. I think that is very much a theme of the Seven Signs story.

Ana Mardoll said...

Interesting -- I'd not heard that before. I have a book around here by a Jewish archeology duo that, well, I remember it asserting otherwise. I usually have a good memory for these things but it's been a few years and I guess the archeologist duo could be wrong. I'll have to re-read it, I guess. And these posts. Thank you.

I'm glad you shared, as I'm always willing to learn. (I always worry that my LOOONG comments extrapolating what I meant by my short, flippant comments sound tetchy. I worry about that a LOT.)

I'm more than happy to chalk the Unfortunate Implications to coming from the other direction: that the Hebrews weren't deliberately masculinized for the movie so much as the traditional Hebrew garb has been treated to 2,000-ish years of Western masculinization over Egyptian alternatives. :)

Will Wildman said...

I only know the movies, but while I can recall LWW pretty easily, I can't piece together PC nearly as well.

LWW: war, train, house, wardrobe, professor, witch, beavers, running, Santa, wolves, GodLion, wolves, sacrifice, war, resurrection, war, de-stoning, war, Edmund is awesome, crowning, ending.

PC: train, beach, ruins... some things... noncanonical battle goes badly... some other things... only Lucy can see Aslan... Eddie Izzard... trees, river god, Telmarines are Spanish, noncanonical romantic subplot, Susan and Peter won't be in the sequel, Regina Spektor.

Incidentally, that was the first time I ever heard Regina Spektor's music. So that was a nice discovery.

Ana Mardoll said...

And now you have me thinking about "A Connecticut in King Arthur's Court" which I enjoyed in adaptation form as a child, but have been struggling to re-read as an adult. The main character has the history of all solar eclipses memorized and can trot that knowledge out on command.

Yes, it's satire, but did Mark Twain *expect* me to go BUH at that? I'm not sure. Twain, you are too willy by far.

Dragoness Eclectic said...

You don't sound "tetchy" to me; but I try not to be one of those people who takes disagreement as a personal attack ;-). Sometimes I fail, but I do try. I like to think of honest disagreement as an opportunity to learn from each other: what do you see that I do not, and vice versa?

Good point about this being an issue with the movie makers, and why weren't the Hebrews dressed as Egyptians? Of course, I think ancient Egyptians were really neat, and so did most Americans at various periods (see Egyptian Revival and Tutankhamun), so it's not really making the "enemy" unmanly--it was about making the Egyptians Egyptian.

Why weren't the Hebrews shown dressed like Egyptians? Exodus does say that the Hebrews were aliens in Egypt, and there were many foreign groups that settled in Egypt and kept their own customs and fashions. (e.g. Egyptologists have found the remains of Nubian towns deep inside Egypt, complete with cemetaries, where the dead were buried according to Nubian customs, with Nubian-style grave goods, and not Egyptian). Egyptian records note the presence of "bedu" (aka Bedouin nomads) groups raiding, trading, and settling in as herders at various periods. The movie-makers may have interpreted the Hebrews as one of those groups of "alien residents" who kept their own customs and dress.

For myself, personally, I'm inclined to agree with your point of view. Goshen, where the Hebrews settled, is traditionally in Lower Egypt, aka the Nile Delta, which is the most humid part of the Nile valley. I would not want to wear woolen robes there, and I would expect the Hebrews to pick up the more comfortable linen kilts. OTOH, if their wealth is in the form of sheep and cattle, they might wear light woolen robes because they have lots of wool. It is clear to me from the description of the portable tent sanctuary in Leviticus and the design of the Ark itself that Egyptian religious influence is signficant--the portable sanctuary is an Egyptian temple in tent form, and the Ark is an Egyptian portable shrine without an idol. (It does have the two winged protective dieties in the form of "cherubs").

The later temple of Solomon, of course, owes more of its design to Canaanite and Babylonian influences.

Ana Mardoll said...

Oh, good. You are also formally invited to come live in my home and be Tone Police for my family, because we have Tone Issues. :D

I'm glad I made more sense in my longer follow-up post. Although in light of what Will has brought up -- if there's a religious tradition that the Hebrews maintained their nomadic garb -- then it's just shy of possible that the filmmakers were trying to be respectful of that tradition. I've always tended to focus on the "history" of things (see, evangelical Christian raising with emphasis on literalism) and I hadn't realized there was a religious tradition in that vein. Since Exodus is as much (if not more) a religious story than a historical one, that would sort of make sense.

And I can still be grumpy about the Unfortunate Implications even if they're coming from the other direction. And at the end of the day, that's enough to make me happy. LOL.

Dragoness Eclectic said...

I had to re-read "Connecticut Yankee" as an adult to realize it was, among other things, a virulent anti-Jim Crow polemic. Pay attention to where Twain demolishes the arguments against allowing peasants to vote--those arguments were the same ones used against ex-slaves being allowed to vote. (And they are *still* used against the oppressed by the privileged--"those people just aren't ready for democracy", etc).

Ana Mardoll said...

I would expect the Hebrews to pick up the more comfortable linen kilts

I recollect that there's a line in all the "rules for priests" about wearing underwear so god doesn't have to see your naughty bits. Hang on.

Dragoness Eclectic said...

Ah, so recent tradition has it that the Hebrews were one of the resident alien groups in Egypt? That also makes sense, as we know that the bedu/Bedouins did not Egyptianize, and the Hebrews seem to have been a sub-group of that bunch.

Ana Mardoll said...

The edition I'm reading right now has a REALLY GOOD opening essay and the author asserts that it wasn't properly viewed as a parody when it was initially published. Which just makes it all the funnier really. (Well, and sad.)

It can't be easy, writing good satire.

Brin Bellway said...

The main character has the history of all solar eclipses memorized and can trot that knowledge out on command.

Yes, it's satire, but did Mark Twain *expect* me to go BUH at that? I'm not sure.


I figured he was like one of those people who memorise train schedules for fun, only with eclipses.

Ana Mardoll said...

I wonder how many there are to memorize. Total eclipses, I mean. I'm sure I could google it.

depizan said...

I hate to leave a reply that just says: "Fascinating!" But that's really interesting to know.

Lily said...

I was raised to take it all as fact, so church was often not much of a comfort.

~Lily~

Steve Morrison said...

I don't know about you, but for me Prince Caspian (the book, not the character) puts me in this weird trance and very little of it commits to memory, possibly because it's so insubstantial?
AIUI, Prince Caspian is the least popular Narnia book even among fans of the series. It's sort of the Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets of Narnia!

Ana Mardoll said...

Both second books, no? I believe someone noted that when I earlier said that Book 2 was a little late to be fumbling for Lewis' stride.

Coincidence?

We need more anecdata. Any other long series where Book 2 bites the most?

Snoof said...

In my experience, the second book in a fantasy trilogy is usually the weakest. I suspect it's structural: the first book establishes the setting, but needs to be readable in its own right so people are willing to keep going, the third book caps off the series and completes off all the plot threads, but the second often has difficulties. It can't go for a big climax, because that'll steal the third book's thunder so it often just hangs there uncertainly, setting up plotlines and not resolving anything in particular.

Off the top of my head, trilogies which suffer from this include the Mistborn series, the Lord of the Rings movies, the various David Eddings trilogies, Dave Duncan's The Great Game, and at least some of Robin Hobb's trilogies.

On a related note, I'm curious - Rothfuss' Name of the Wind didn't really hold my attention enough to read Wise Man's Fear. How does it compare? Does it have Second Book In The Fantasy Trilogy Syndrome? (Though it may be difficult to tell before the finale is released.)

Dash1 said...

In addition to the points made by others about Egyptian dress being in fact the sort of thing we in our culture think of as feminine (our problem, not that of the ancient Egyptians, in my view), I'm guessing that some of what is going on is the American film-makers playing movie-clothing semiotics. If they showed the Hebrews dressed like Egyptians, the American movie-goer couldn't tell them apart at a glance, so the movie-Hebrews have to dress like our conventional idea of Hebrews (robes! beards!), which is of course consistent, as has been noted, with the dress of the kind of desert-dwellers the Hebrews later became.

It's similar to the way movies show a group of soldiers, one of whom is marked as the crusty tough guy partially by the fact that he's got stubble. As if that were permissible in a military context.

Rikalous said...

I've run across a quote to the effect of "An author has their whole life to write their first book, and a year to write their second." The many authors in the community will be better able to assess its accuracy then I could. As far as it is accurate, the second book syndrome might be due to it being the first book the writer produces without mulling over for years, and with the third on they're more used to coming up with a decent story in a relatively short amount of time.

Ana Mardoll said...

Ah! Or how the main characters never wear helmets or face masks if the movie can at all avoid it. That's a bit of a pet peeve.

(Also, perhaps unrelatedly, women-sword-dancers with uber-long, free-flowing hair. Gah. Most recent offender being the Scorpion King 3 trailer.)

Ana Mardoll said...

Which is interesting, because I always liked Empire Strikes Back the best, for some reason.

And I like book 2 of The Hunger Games. So it is doable, at least for me.

But I like this point, and the one about time crunches that Rikalous pointed out.

Dash1 said...

Your comment just sent me to check out that trailer. Oh. My. Gawd! Seriously! With the hair. It looks like the two women pause for a shampoo commercial (Look how my hair flows in a tangle-free, glowing, mass when I twirl around!) right in the middle of the sword fight.

(Or maybe there's a code of honor, similar to the old dueling rule that if your opponent dropped his sword, you gave it back to him with a courtly bow: sword-dancers, as a matter of honor, wait until the opponent's hair has stopped swirling before delivering the next attack.)

Ana Mardoll said...

LOL!

SD1: You ready to continue? You good?

SD2: Yeah, thanks. No. No, wait. Hang a bit. *spits* *sputters* *waves hand in front of face* There we go. Had a piece stuck to my lips.

SD1: Oh, I hate that.

Dash1 said...

OK, now that I've stopped laughing, I gotta try my hand at this.

SD2: OK, ready! No--wait!

SD1: What?

SD2: You've got a strand stuck in your shoulder-plate.

SD1: [looks down at shoulder plate] Where?

SD2: Right there, towards the back.

SD1: OK, hold on. [twists around, trying to see back of own shoulder-plate]

SD2: Here, let me.

[SD1 turns around; SD2 starts trying to extract a large strand that has gotten badly twisted in the hinge of the shoulder-plate]

SD1: Ow!

SD2: Sorry! Did that pull?

SD1: Yeah. Just a little.

SD2: Sorry. Y'know, I keep wondering if the hair is worth it. I mean, I love the long-and-loose look, but there's something to be said for just letting your hair go with its natural oils until it clumps up and stays close to your head.

SD1: Yeah, but then you start looking like that guy, what was his name?--oh yeah, Aragorn. Friend of mine dated him for a while once, so I didn't want to say anything, but seriously, nobody but an elf could stand to get within 50 feet of him until he'd had a good wash! My friend kept giving him man-spa for Valentine's Day, but he never took the hint.

SD2: Oh Gawd! Yeah, I remember. You'd think someone would have introduced him to hair-care products... OK, got it. You're good to go now.

SD1: Thanks! OK, where were we?

SD2: Um, second riposte, I think.

SD1: OK, your parry. On three.

SD1 and SD2 in chorus: One! Two! --

[Meanwhile, outside, the Scorpion King has paused in his battle, saying "Hold it a second. My hair just got caught in my earring. Hoops! I don't know why I don't just go for studs." and his opponent, the ninja, replies, "Preach it, brother! That's one reason I like these hoodie things. You can't see as well, but at least you can skip the accessories. Saves time, if nothing else."]

Ana Mardoll said...

LOL LOL LOL.

And earrings! Those hoops really are so hazardous! Yay for practical ninjas!

Will Wildman said...

That seems very likely to me, even with my very limited experience. I've won NaNoWriMo twice now, once with a story that I had been planning for 4-7 years and once with a story I'd been planning for a couple of weeks. There were a lot of things flowing better in writing the second one, but the improvements were technical, not artistic, and in many ways the second one is just nowhere near as good. It's tough to be sure what it'd be like if I were writing a trilogy, but by the sound of things it's extremely common for authors to get the beginning and ending of the story first and then work out the bits in-between more slowly, so if the plot quality were going to fall down anywhere, that'd be it. (When you get to the third one, you've got to wrap up everything that's come before it, and nothing drives a scene quite like characters who know exactly what they're after.)

Will Wildman said...

Catching Fire is good, but is it better than either of the other two? I think it does run into problems of having a not-quite substantial climax - shocking things happen, but they're more plot twist than resolution. THG itself feels like the end of a book, and it would have been weird if it were made into a single volume with CF, but CF and Mockingjay could more easily have been one long book, to my mind.

Ana Mardoll said...

I dunno, for me. I really like CF. More than MJ, maybe. Mind you, District 13 makes me really anxious, so there's that. But I really like Arena 2, and I LOVE the tribute interviews in that book.

Will Wildman said...

Granted, CF has a lot going for it - it features both Cinna and Finnick, for example, though never in the same scene (omg, is there fanfic of that?).

Then again, I disagree on a variety of other examples of supposedly-weaker sequels (Well of Ascension, Chamber of Secrets, The Two Towers).

JenL said...

Lucy is supposed to defy her siblings and follow her visions, except when she isn't. (See "Voyage of the Dawn Treader", where Lucy is "tempted" by magic to do things that I didn't realize were sinful, like finding out what others really think of you or prettying herself up a bit. Lucy going her own way there was supposedly bad).

I'm pretty sure Lewis would say there's a clear distinction between a) "do whatever is necessary to follow Aslan, including defying the others if necessary" and b) "do what *you* think is right" or "do what you want to".

And of course he had to make Lucy's self-directed actions be selfish ("what do people think of *me*"). Because after all she's seen and done in Narnia, she's still just a girl - she couldn't use her own initiative to do something helpful for the others...

Dragoness Eclectic said...

That one may also be a carry-over from Egyptian religion: ancient Egyptian priests dressed in linen, as wool was considered "unclean" and forbidden for priestly wear. They also considered pork taboo.

Redwood Rhiadra said...

Or if they *do* wear masks/helmets, they are color coded or otherwise individually customized (e.g. Power Rangers.)

depizan said...

Which is interesting, because I always liked Empire Strikes Back the best, for some reason.

I have nothing useful to add, except "Me, too!" Which is weird, because it's the darkest, and as everyone around here has probably noticed, I'm not that big on dark. On the other hand, it does have a fair amount of humor, still. And Han and Lando top my list of favorite (movie) Star Wars characters. (Given that the rest of the list is Chewie and R2 and they also get some good scenes in the movie... Perhaps it's not so weird.)

Lady Viridis said...

TW: Death, Infanticide, Suicide, Hell


Actually, some people *did* make a practice out of it. This is from This American Life's "Loopholes" episode: In the 17th and 18th centuries there were a fair amount of people (often young women) either trapped in bad marriages/depressed/other horrific situations, and they thought about suicide. However, according to a lot of Christian theology, committing suicide sends you to hell, no question. So what some people did was to find a baby or child, kidnap it, and murder it, then immediately confess the crime and repent before they were executed. The idea being that because it was a baby, it wouldn't have any sin yet and the soul would immediately go back to Heaven and be reborn. The murderer, by confessing and repenting their sin, would also go to Heaven when they were executed. So they would have committed suicide, but in a roundabout way that still got them to Heaven.

The church caught on to this fairly quickly and changed the rules-- I think by not executing these criminals, or something, but yeah, it's exactly the kind of straightforward logic that's completely horrifying in its implications.

Paul A. said...

Just to note: The chapters following this one don't appear on the Index Post. (Neither, for some reason, does Chapter 7.)

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