Narnia: Going To Texas

[Content Note: Genocide, Racism, Hate Crimes]

Narnia Recap: The Telmarines have surrendered to the Narnias. Also note: This is the last chapter of Prince Caspian and the last post on the book proper, before we move on to the BBC rendition and the Disney movie.

Prince Caspian, Chapter 15: Aslan Makes a Door In The Air

   Next day messengers (who were chiefly squirrels and birds) were sent all over the country with a proclamation to the scattered Telmarines -- including, of course, the prisoners in Beruna. They were told that Caspian was now King and that Narnia would henceforth belong to the Talking Beasts and the Dwarfs and Dryads and Fauns and other creatures quite as much as to the men. Any who chose to stay under the new conditions might do so; but for those who did not like the idea, Aslan would provide another home.

The Telmarines have been beaten, and Narnia again belongs to the Narnians. But what are we going to do with the Telmarines?

This isn't an academic question, and a lot is riding on the answer. The Telmarine army is not tiny, and remains largely intact since they weren't beaten in battle so much as surrendered as soon as they found they could not outrun the trees. Furthermore, assuming that Miraz' son is still alive (though as far as I can see, neither the baby nor the mother are mentioned in this chapter, and have apparently gone back to the plot-ether from whence they emerged, and more on that in a minute), he could very easily become a focus for any opposition forces (like the corrupt advisers and generals who conspired to murder Miraz) looking to overthrow Caspian.

Casting an eye beyond the army and the castle residents, there's the genuine threat of civil unrest. The Narnians' numbers have been so decimated by 300 years of genocide that it was lately possible to pretend they never even existed. Even if the Telmarines haven't been reproductively fruitful on the whole (and there's nothing to suggest that they have not), they almost certainly vastly outnumber the remaining Narnians, and would be well-placed to carry out all kinds of racially motivated violence against their new neighbors when they emerge from their hiding places and try to live above-ground and out in the open as free peoples.

These threats of political intrigue, military coups, and civil unrest have to be neutralized if we're going to have a neat and tidy ending. It's not surprising to me, therefore, that Aslan (and Lewis) would hit upon the idea of voting all the Telmarines off the island. Emigration is a more realistic solution than having everyone suddenly willing to play nice; it's a neater solution than leaving young Prince Caspian with a deeply divided country on the precipice of civil war; and it's a cleaner solution than dragging out the guillotines and showing the defeated Telmarines what genocide looks like from the other end of the sword.

It's also a relatively realistic solution. Historically, emigration has been suggested both by the powerful and the powerless as a viable response to unsafety or dissatisfaction under a given regime. From the point of view of those satisfied with the regime, emigration allows all those "complainers" to exit the country and leave behind valuable resources such as land and goods. This "if you don't like America, then git out" mentality has historically been employed to the extremes of forceful deportation. From the point of view of those dissatisfied with the regime, emigration may still sometimes be viewed as a good thing since they can move either to a space more pleasing to them, or be involved in the creation of a new safe space entirely. This can be seen in the historical emigration of the Puritans, of the Randian rallying-cry of "Who is John Galt?", in the Davy Crockett quip that his constituents could "go to hell, and [he] would go to Texas".

   Some of them, chiefly the young ones, had, like Caspian, heard stories of the Old Days and were delighted that they had come back. They were already making friends with the creatures. These all decided to stay in Narnia. But most of the older men, especially those who had been important under Miraz, were sulky and had no wish to live in a country where they could not rule the roost. "Live here with a lot of blooming performing animals! No fear," they said. "And ghosts too," some added with a shudder. "That's what those there Dryads really are. It's not canny." They were also suspicious. "I don't trust ‘em," they said. "Not with that awful Lion and all. He won't keep his claws off us long, you'll see." But then they were equally suspicious of his offer to give them a new home. "Take us off to his den and eat us one by one most likely," they muttered. And the more they talked to one another the sulkier and more suspicious they became. But on the appointed day more than half of them turned up.

But it's disappointing to me that this issue of emigration has been approached from this angle.

For starters, we have something approaching ageism here. The young Telmarines are presented as largely open-minded, while the older Telmarines are mostly racist. I realize that this is a children's novel slash instruction manual, but despite the presumed good intentions I reserve the right to be irked by this. Thanks to my Conservative Christan Childhood (CCC), I was an inordinately prejudiced child in many ways, and it took years of experience to jar me out of the thought patterns that had been drilled into me by my culture, so I find the generalization here (Youth is Good; Age is Bad) inaccurate. It is also completely unnecessary: there was no need for this age-division any more than there was for color-coded dwarves (Red is Good; Black is Bad). Lewis could have taken out the words "chiefly the young ones" and "most of the older men" from the preceding paragraph -- nine little words! -- and had the same concepts but minus the generalizations along age lines.

Secondly, it's more than passingly convenient that the Telmarines who are implied to make up the vast majority of the emigrants are painted with a ridiculously broad brush: they are superstitious, foolish, and racist, and are described with deeply prejudicial words like "sulky" and "suspicious" and "shudder" and "muttered". But hang on to this thought, because we'll get there in a moment. Let's keep pressing forward.

   "You came into Narnia out of Telmar," said Aslan. "But you came into Telmar from another place. You do not belong to this world at all. You came hither, certain generations ago, out of that same world to which the High King Peter belongs." [...]
   "You, Sir Caspian," said Aslan, "might have known that you could be no true King of Narnia unless, like the Kings of old, you were a son of Adam and came from the world of Adam's sons. And so you are. Many years ago in that world, in a deep sea of that world which is called the South Sea, a shipload of pirates was driven by storm on an island. And there they did as pirates would: killed the natives and took the native women for wives, and made palm wine, and drank and were drunk, and lay in the shade of the palm trees, and woke up and quarreled, and sometimes killed one another. And in one of these frays six were put to flight by the rest and fled with their women into the center of the island and up a mountain, and went, as they thought, into a cave to hide. But it was one of the magical places of that world, one of the chinks or chasms between that world and this. [...]
   "And now," said Aslan, "you men and women of Telmar, will you go back to that island in the world of men from which your fathers first came? It is no bad place. The race of those pirates who first found it has died out, and it is without inhabitants. There are good wells of fresh water, and fruitful soil, and timber for building, and fish in the lagoons; and the other men of that world have not yet discovered it. The chasm is open for your return; but this I must warn you, that once you have gone through, it will close behind you forever. There will be no more commerce between the worlds by that door."

Please do not get me started on the "took the native women for wives" euphemism. I leave that to you dear readers in the comments because if I get started on that, we will never get through this chapter.

The island, which we shall call Ramlet (and isn't that amusing given the Elizabethan play which inspired this novel?), is empty. This is convenient, and reflects the Platonic Ideal of the emigration gambit. When moving to a new area and setting up your new safe space, it's so much easier when there aren't any natives around that need dislodging. Note, too, that the old inhabitants died out by providence. Then note that a number of Christians believed -- and some still do because I have met some -- that God used smallpox to kill the Native Americans to make room for his chosen people the Europeans. Now ask yourself how much you trust Aslan and the Emperor to not do exactly that.

A Telmarine steps forward to be the first to go through, and Aslan blesses him with a good future on the grounds that he spoke up first. I think this is supposed to be a reward for being brave and good-hearted and trusting, but please note that for all we know this guy is a horrible mass murderer who decided he had nothing to lose because the Telmarines were going to execute him anyway. (Possibly there is a spin-off opportunity here for a Narnia-inspired horror movie. The Ramlet lagoon would feature heavily in the promos, as it would provide the all-important hint at female nudity that American horror movies require by law, but without having to actually commit to anything, thus retaining that critical PG-13 rating.)

After he disappears through the "doorway", the Telmarines grumble that the doorway could be lethal, and the Pevensies step forward to act as a demonstration. We don't get to see anything after that, but the implication is that this is taken very seriously by all the Telmarines rather than assuming that the four children are sacrificial victims picked by the evil lion in order to trick them all into a bloodless suicide. We'll come back to the Pevensies in a moment, but I'd like to talk a little more about our emigrants.

I noted two things above that I said to hang on to: One, there is no mention of what happens to Miraz Jr. and his mother; and Two, the emigrant group simply cannot be 100% composed of racists, though that fact has been seriously glossed over. I held onto those things until now because I think it matters in terms of talking about what happens after the Pevensies leave and the book ends.

After the Pevensies leave, we are given to understand that a large number of Telmarines leave for Ramlet -- possibly more than half of the Telmar population, given how deeply racism and fear-of-the-other is entrenched in their society. The text makes most of these people out to be racist assholes who are positively champing at the bit to leave, but I have a hard time believing that can be so. I do accept that the Racist Asshole group would be heavily represented within the Emigrant group, but I do not think they comprise the entire group. Here is a highly stylized Venn diagram of what I mean:

Racist Assholes are going to chose, on an individual basis, whether to emigrate or stay as a habitant in Narnia. The text implicitly suggests that many of them do stay in Narnia with the line way up there about "more than half of [the dissatisfied] turned up". Presumably the remainder stayed behind, either because they weren't dissatisfied enough to leave or because they are intent on retaking Narnia. But the ones who choose to leave Narnia can't be the entirety of the emigrants because this situation is so much more complicated than that.

We aren't told the text of the message relayed by the birds and squirrels, only the summary, but there is no mention that the Telmarines who choose to stay behind will be allowed to keep their life, their liberty, or their property. We, the readers, feel relatively sure that they will because our heroes are the Good Guys, but how could the Telmarines know that? The majority of them have never seen or even heard of a Narnian, and the point was made in the last chapter that they're taught a version of history sanctioned by the Telmarine ruling class which is a complete fabrication. Way back in Chapter 4, it was hinted that young Prince Caspian had been hitherto taught that Narnia was empty when the Telmarines arrived, and indeed the Telmarines are so ignorant of their history that when they think Aslan intends to send them back to Telmar, they say "We don’t remember Telmar. We don’t know where it is. We don’t know what it is like."

There should be a non-negligible number of Telmarines who are simply concerned that they won't be treated fairly under the new regime of fantastical creatures they've never seen and don't know are the rightful owners of the land. Even if they did know Narnian history, they might understandably fixate on the fact that the last time the Narnians won a victory with the aid of Aslan, the newly installed child-rulers immediately embarked on a campaign to kill everyone associated with the old regime. (And that the four ancient Golden Age rulers before them had a very strong policy against human-fantastical hybrids thanks to those two very racist Beavers they had on staff, which means that those of mixed Narnian-Telmarine blood may be equally in danger from their new overlords.)

But beyond the people who are Racist Assholes and the people who Fear The Other, there are going to be emigrants who leave Narnia simply because they can't bear to see their loved ones go without them. And there will be habitants who do choose to stay for the wonderful fantastic new Narnia but who deeply miss the ones who left.

Probably C.S. Lewis would be alright with that. Possibly he would say it was The Whole Point, and that this emigration gambit has a deeper theological meaning than just a motivation to wrap everything up neatly. (Though if that were the case, he could have made it explicit rather than so deeply implicit that I'm pretty much fanficcing at this point.) Perhaps he would point to Luke, Chapter 12, where Jesus is said to state:

  Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division. From now on there will be five in one family divided against each other, three against two and two against three. They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.

The Telmarines aren't divided in the sense of fighting under one roof, of course, but they are divided physically, in space and time, this once and for all eternity. Those Telmarines who leave shall never again return. The Telmarines who stay will never again see those who left; indeed, they won't even glimpse them arriving safely on the other side. There's no way this will divide cleanly. It's simply not possible that the Telmarines have been living in little isolated clans, and that each clan will choose as a whole whether to stay or go. Families and friends will be sundered forever. The "doorway" around which the Telmarines have crowded curiously should be a sight of tears and anguish and wailing as people make last-ditch attempts to change the minds of their loved ones.

There is a thought pattern which is in vogue among a few rare-but-vocal liberals, and it goes thusly: Whenever a red state like Texas does something particularly damaging to its people (like defund Planned Parenthood) these people like to fantasize about dividing the nation into two, and letting the red states go off and do whatever damaging things they take it in mind to do. When the people living in these states point out how horrible such a division would be for the people living in the red states, the flip answer is that they can always emigrate to a nice blue state. Easy!

As a Texan, this answer invariably frustrates me. It frustrates me for being intensely, damagingly ableist, classist, and clueless, but it also frustrates me because it is fundamentally dismissive. I don't want to leave Texas -- and I don't want to hand it over to people with hateful agendas -- because it is my home. I was raised here. I have lived here most of my life. Meaningful possessions that I cannot move (like my house!) are here; memories that I want to savor and relive are here. My family is here, and would not unanimously agree to leave in this hypothetical scenario. My job is here. My life is here. I have a connection to Texas that is something special and rare for me -- a connection that I simply would not have elsewhere.

I don't rightly own the land I live on in the Narnian sense of the word. God didn't cause my ancestors to spontaneously bubble out from the Texas soil. To paraphrase Wikipedia directly, "Spanish conquerors first arrived in the region now known as Texas in 1519, finding the region populated by various Native American tribes. During the period from 1519 to 1848, all or parts of Texas were claimed by six countries: France, Spain, Mexico, the Republic of Texas, the Confederate States of America, and the United States of America." Though Texan history is taught here in schools, it is frequently taught badly (though not yet to Mirazian levels of inaccuracy), and our monuments and memorials do not much fill in those gaps. (I have stood in the Alamo and wept at the loss of life, while still being deeply and utterly frustrated at how one-sided the tour guide presentation is.) But even so, this place is my home. I wouldn't want to leave my home just because a legion of fantastical armed-to-the-teeth ghosts suddenly swept in and gave me notice; and I would deeply mourn those of my family who did decide to leave forever in that scenario.

I said earlier that the emigration of Telmarines makes sense to me, that it's cleaner and easier and safer than allowing the Telmarines to stay where they are and foment revolution. But is it really neater in the long-run? When I try to imagine this scene from the point of view of the Telmarines, when I take into account their complete ignorance -- underscored at least three times in text -- and the army standing in the background, glowering at the cowed and superstitious Telmarines, and when I imagine the wails of the children and the parents and the grandparents as families are separated forever, never to see or even hear from one another again... I just don't know.

What is the likelihood that the remaining Telmarines will look back on this day in bitterness? The day when half of their population disappeared -- sons and daughters and mothers and fathers -- and no one can ever really be certain that they weren't all killed, that they weren't dumped into the ocean, or that the supposed island of Ramlet wasn't a fiction, or a deadly trap. I'm reminded, belatedly here, of Fred Clark's deconstruction of Left Behind and of his point that families members who are Gone Forever are not, functionally speaking, much different from Dead. Will the Telmarines, now Honorary Narnians, look back on the beginning of King Caspian the Tenth's reign as something bright and glorious, or will they call this the Coronation Day Massacre?

We the readers -- like the Narnians -- do not get to know what ultimately happens to the Telmarines. We don't get to peek in on Caspian's aunt Prunaprismia nor his little cousin Miraz Jr. For all Aslan's description of Ramlet as an island paradise capable of supporting a whole squadron of Swiss Family Robinsons and Robinson Crusoes, the place is utterly primitive. There are no tools, no medicines, no seed crops, no domesticated animals, nothing that the Telmarines -- who are not presented in the novel as a hunter-gatherer culture -- would need in order to recreate their daily lives or even ensure that they are sheltered, healthy, and well-fed. Assuming that this is a "today only" offer, how many of the Telmarines came to the mysterious gathering with bags packed, tools at hand, and belongings at the ready? How many of them will have the chance to retrieve these things before they leave?

I can see why the emigration is a good deal for the native Narnians. Half the population is cleared out, but their homes and their belongings are left behind for the Narnians to easily absorb. Assuming the remaining Telmarines get past their deep emotional wounds from losing half their friends and family, society can continue unchanged, only with half of its members effectively transmogrified into fantastical creatures.

But as a deal for Narnia as a whole, as a deal for both Narnians and the habitant Telmarines, I can't help but think that Aslan's emigration plan may be terribly short-sighted and deeply damaging to the soul of the country. And as a deal for the emigrating Telmarines, I worry that the very young and the very old, the women and the disabled, the weaker members of society who aren't Burly First Guy of the Order of Robinson Crusoe, that these members of society may fare very badly indeed on Ramlet, the Island of Many Unexplained Deaths.

Let's talk about the Pevensies, or we'll be here all night.

   "Come on," said Peter suddenly to Edmund and Lucy. "Our time's up."
   "What do you mean?" said Edmund.
   "This way," said Susan, who seemed to know all about it. "Back into the trees. We've got to change."
   "Change what?" asked Lucy.
   "Our clothes, of course," said Susan. "Nice fools we'd look on the platform of an English station in these."
   "But our other things are at Caspian's castle," said Edmund.
   "No, they're not," said Peter, still leading the way into the thickest wood. "They're all here. They were brought down in bundles this morning. It's all arranged."
   "Was that what Aslan was talking to you and Susan about this morning?" asked Lucy.
   "Yes -- that and other things," said Peter, his face very solemn. "I can't tell it to you all. There were things he wanted to say to Su and me because we're not coming back to Narnia."
   "Never?" cried Edmund and Lucy in dismay.
   "Oh, you two are," answered Peter. "At least, from what he said, I'm pretty sure he means you to get back some day. But not Su and me. He says we're getting too old."
   "Oh, Peter," said Lucy. "What awful bad luck. Can you bear it?"
   "Well, I think I can," said Peter. "It's all rather different from what I thought. You'll understand when it comes to your last time. But, quick, here are our things."

I'm deeply sorry that we don't get to see this conversation between Peter and Susan and Aslan. I'm sorry that we don't even get a coherent summary of it, really, because Peter "can't tell it to [us] all". (Is this a reference to gnosis? An authorial cop-out? Something else?) And then there's the Puberty Rule in play: that Peter and Susan can't come back again to Narnia because they're "too old", that "once you start growing hair around your naughty bits, God doesn't want you anymore." Possibly it's an age of accountability thing. Possibly it's the idea that puberty wreaks havoc on the ability to see and sense fantastical things (fairies, unicorns, etc.). Possibly it reflects an authorial uncomfortableness with older and/or sexually aware protagonists. Possibly it just reflects that Lewis was getting tired of carrying around four protagonists when two or three would do the trick just as well.

But whatever the reason, we don't get an answer. I'm not sure the Pevensies get an answer. Peter seems pretty chill about it all, but Susan doesn't say a word about the Aslan conversation. And I'll note that in the Disney movie -- which is wonderfully sympathetic to Susan, in my opinion -- this whole scene is played out with her being brisk, practical, and obviously devastated. That gathering of their things up there? That's Susan accepting the inevitable and getting out of Dodge before she breaks down grieving. That's someone in mourning trying to rush through the motions of whatever they have to do so that they can hurry up and find a nice private place to fall to pieces. At least, that's how I read it and it seems as good a reason as any. Certainly Lewis doesn't seem interested in telling us how she takes it; we won't ever hear directly from Susan again and we'll only briefly see and hear of her through the viewpoints and judgments and biases of others. (Caveat: We will get a cameo of her in The Horse and His Boy, but ... well, we'll get there. We'll get there in time.)

Since this is pretty much the last we'll see of Susan, I'll take a moment to recommend here author-and-filker Seanan McGuire's "Wicked Girls" which calls out Susan specifically and never fails to bring tears to my eyes. (The CD is here and it's the most exquisitely melancholy and yet fiercely independent song I think I've ever heard. I recommend it.)

Susan and Lucy were queens, and they ruled well and proudly.
They honored their land and their lord, rang the bells long and loudly.
They never once asked to go back to their lives
To be children and chattel and mothers and wives,
But the land cast them out in a lesson that only one learned;
And one queen said 'I am not a toy', and she never returned.

At the end of the day, Susan really doesn't have a choice whether or not she returns to Narnia. For all the ink that is spilled over what she could have done to remain a "Friend of Narnia", or what she could do after The Last Battle to once again become a Friend of Narnia, ultimately it was never really up to her. She may have turned away from a willingness to return, but it was always entirely up to Aslan whether or not she would come. He pulled her into Narnia over her objections at the train station, and he is pushing her out again at the doorway in the air because he needs her to serve as an object-lesson in order to remove all those nasty Telmarines that are cluttering up his country. And years from now, despite having told them that they're "not coming back to Narnia", he yanks the Pevensies back again, and permanently, to New / Real / Platonic Narnia. And like all the moves to and from Narnia there is no communication, no consent, no consideration for the desires and feelings of the people involved.

Friends of Narnia, it seems, do not question the will of Aslan, and do not get uppity about being summoned and dismissed at his will without explanation. Friends of Narnia do not get so attached to things and people, either in Narnia or in England, such that these movements in space and time are things that cause them undue or burdensome concern: their friends will be back in Narnia/England when they return or -- if 1,300 years accidentally pass and everyone dies -- they'll make new ones. Friends of Narnia know not to get bogged down in little details like that. Friend of Narnia are, like the Telmarine emigrants and Telmarine habitants, good little pawns on the chessboard who don't mind being moved from setting to setting, never to see again the people they've left behind (or is it Left Behind?). The club requires a dedication to detachment that strikes me as almost inhuman, and which seems to me deeply disturbing.

I still don't think that Susan's ending in The Last Battle is a good one. But I'm not sure that her alternate hypothetical life as a Friend of Narnia is any better. Being left behind bereft of friends and family and loved ones seems pretty damn bad to me. But having to live a life without attachments because Aslan may take them all away at any time -- not just one or two or three lost to death but all of them, without warning or closure -- just like he took away Mr. Tumnus and the Beavers and Trumpkin and Trufflehunter and Prince Caspian and everyone else? Seems infinitely worse.


Dmabs said...

a or b you have NOTHING TO DO WITH CRITICAL THINKING join the socialist faith

how about you keep this one up as a TESTIMONY FOR THE TRUTH

rich millionaires with their heads up the arses

I think this qualifies as a DOS attack... for RATS IN A TRAP

you can thank RANDI



0 min 33 sec - Randi in the RED SHIRT - signifying the *bl..dy deed* that is about to happen

1min 18 sec - Banachek talks about respect for the claimant and then they mock "these kind" of people in the final part

3 min 20 sec - the test of the power bracelet that increases a person's energy and balance. Notice our challenge is all about POWER & BALANCE, proving the existence of a HIGHER POWER

5 min 15 sec TEST BEGINS. Skeptics one by one stand in CRUCIFIXION POSE

1 hr 10 min 21 sec Test is ended in failure

1 hr 10 min 30 sec request is made to make change in the PROTOCOL

1 hr 10 min 51 sec Applause is made by all those who wanted him to fail from the very beginning

1 hr 25 min 39 sec Now they talk about the Nightline clip that was filmed in Manhattan, also the scene of the 9/11 event

1hr 28 min 42 sec - They talk about make-shift tests. They think that because no one can win the prize that psychic phenomena does not exist

1 hr 29 min 45 sec Banachek says "the majority of *these* people.'" A contemptuous reference that occurs repeatedly

1 hr 31 min 53 sec The reference to envelopes. Remember the 911 in Angel's envelope!

1 hr 37 min 11 sec Swiss says he is not worried about a paranormal event happening. Little does he know what is actually taking place

1 hr 39 min 50 sec The mocking of SPIRITS!

1 hr 40 min 27 sec Reference made to the TERROR of witnessing a supernatural event, i.e, the blood leaving the face

1 hr 41 min 15 sec Reference to "these people"

1 hr 41 min 40 sec Belief in the supernatural is claimed to be a psychological defence mechanism to cope with reality. Swiss talks about how desperate the psychics become when debunked. Little does he know what is happening to the skeptics!


which WORLD-VIEW will not exist, sh*thead?


5000 whining atheists vs the Great Prophet

how the divine pen of Michel Nostradamus crushed the international atheist movement

one applicant right here...

get the POINT, Randi....


for lies on top of lies

do you think you can threaten my right to FREE SPEECH?

what if I told you that I am not who you think I am….

Not Dennis Markuze - but a FAN!

you're not the center of the universe!


a dishonest liar




a vitally important essay dealing with the new age of madness that poses as ENLIGHTENMENT!

they speak for those who cannot speak...


outside the doors of the Loto Quebec Building



Thomas Keyton said...

You do not belong to this world at all.

But the rightful monarchs do? And what about the Calormenes and Archenlanders, and the Lone Islanders, and anyone still in Telmar*? Could Aslan just show up one day and say, "this isn't actually your country despite you and your ancestors having lived here since time immemorial and I want you out"**? Also, with the Dwarfs being referred to as Sons of Earth***, shouldn't this name be an Aslan-acknowledged valid claim to the place?****

I was about to wonder at their lack of contact with Telmar, but then I checked the map and there are all the mountains in the world in the way, which got me thinking about how much Narnia resembles Mordor, being surrounded by mountains in almost exactly the same way. If I had any confidence in my writing, there would be fanfic about Jadis the White coming in to liberate the slaves of Aslannatar.

*Also, Telmar was populated by six men and an unspecified number of women? Does anyone here better versed in genetic diversity know how plausible that is?

**And yes, this is complicated by the possibility that their ancestors also wiped out the native inhabitants. But still.

***Thank the gods for Terry Pratchett.

****And it also makes me wonder at the distinction between "Son of Earth" and "Son of Adam" - Lewis of all people must have known what "Adam" meant.

GeniusLemur said...

Or maybe they built SCHOOLS. That would do it.

Ana Mardoll said...

Chiming in on the Fairy Tales discussion, I don't know what Lewis thought or didn't think, but the idea that fairy tales aren't just for children is not a new one. There is a *very* long history of tension between the "fairy tales are for children!" crowd and the "fairy tales are for adults!" crowd, with people from both sides existing pretty much for as long as fairy tales themselves have existed.

I have a very fond memory of sitting in a history of oral literature class and hearing the teacher explain that some literary historians believe that the number of "similar but slightly different" fairy tales out there may have less to do with Jungian themes and more to do with having a version for the children and another for the adults -- Red Riding Hood stripping, Sleeping Beauty waking in labor, etc. -- which later were assumed by some historians to have different roots because of the differences in the stories. (Because once an oral story is told, people always preserve it perfectly as gospel!)

(Note on a pet peeve: Please remember to always raise one eyebrow when someone pulls out the old "The Original tales were sexier!" canard. Most of the tales have legitimately old sexy versions, yes. That those versions were The Original is almost impossible to prove in most cases. Probably the original Original doesn't even exist anymore in many cases and ALL the versions we have left are derivatives.)

A tale held up for discussion in this class was Red Riding Hood. There's an apparently very early version of the story that's really only a few sentences long: Red went to her grandmother's house and was eaten along the way by a wolf. THE END. It appears to have been less of a moral tale and more of a "shit happens" story. Later when details were added about Red getting into bed with grandmother, there are versions in which Red takes off her clothes between each "Grandmother what great X you have" line, and at least one of these versions was apparently told as a striptease for adult audiences.

Tragically, the teacher failed to mention if there was a line in there about a big You Know What, but knowing human nature, I hold as a matter of belief that somewhere, someone told the story that way.

hf said...

I always assumed it was over the sea, them being descended from pirates and all - but clearly that doesn't fit their fear of water. And the maps have a "Telmar river" coming from the other direction.

Anton_Mates said...

The Narnia timeline says that the original inhabitants of Telmar "behaved very wickedly" and Aslan turned them back into non-talking animals in the year 302.

Well, gosh, it's a good thing the new inhabitants of Telmar didn't behave very wickedly, otherwise Aslan would have been obliged to punish them instead of granting them several centuries of conquest and domination. Dodged a bullet there.

Lonespark said...

Wasn't mixing things up Tolkien's problem with the Narnia books? Maybe not so much fairy tales and theology, but classical mythology and Santa Claus and the like?

This is one of my big problems with it. But depending on what you consider mixing, Tolkien did it too. The myths and tales he was drawing from had a few geographically/temporally similar sources, but he kind of put the names and plots in a blender. And he mixed up the tone, too, but more smoothly, IMO.

Fm said...

The problem with Narnia is not mixing up the tone. The problem is mixing up incompatible (rather than simplxy differently-backgrounded) elements.. Tolkien created a We only see some parts of it, but it is absolutely certain that other parts exist and are just as "real", and that in parts where we don't see things also happen. In narnia, one often gets the impression that everything not happening to a few protagosnists is just decoration. Three hundred years of oppression? Just a footnote, important is only how thids relates to Caspian. We don't learn anything about the telmarine Court, except there is a intrigue to dispose Miraz. The schools seem to come to life just a few minutes before Aslan and Bachus' group meet them. This all makes Narnia stories slightly unrealistic, as if painted only on one side.

GeniusLemur said...

Just how much of that time was he actually working on it? It's very strange that anyone could work on a novel for 9 years and still come up with something that sloppy.

Steve Morrison said...

My reference says he started writing it in 1939, had left off by the next year, then resumed work in 1948 and finished in 1949.

Naomi said...

Ana, have you read "The Girl of Fire and Thorns" and "Crown of Embers"? One of the many things I like about the series is that the protagonist Elisa is a stepmother who works to form a bond with her stepson and views him as essentially her child. (She's also fat; she slims down some and gets a lot more physically fit after a forced march across a desert but it's made clear that she's still fat, and she continues to provide these lush, loving descriptions of the foods that she loves.)

It's YA. Really good.

Cynicism Follows said...

I don't really have anything to add on the decon front, but I want to thank you for reccing "Wicked Girls". It reminds me of your decon on "A Woman's Right to be Selfish" and they're both ringing really true to me at the moment, giving me validation for some really difficult decisions I've had to make lately.

Actually, I do have one Narnia related comment, which is that I really liked the final thoughts on Susan, regarding the benefits of NOT being a "Friend of Narnia". When I was little and first started reading the Narnia books I remember identifying with Lucy, as the younger, cute but not beautiful, "plucky" sister. But by the time I got to "The Last Battle" I really felt for Susan, my affection for her character pretty much running directly opposite to Lewis', and the end of her story was one of the many things that caused me to break into loud rants to my father at random moments for a couple of months after I finished the series.

What was my point? Oh, yeah, I kind of like to think of Susan tricking Lewis and actually getting the best possible deal for herself without his noticing.

Isator Levi said...

Darn it, I missed all of this!

That's what I get for spending the last two days on an Adventure Time binge to catch up on season 4*.

Hmmm, maybe I'll have something to say for it tomorrow.

Key subjects are that relocation and descent from people who accidentally stumbled into the place.


Oh! Wait, there was something I thought about upon it being mentioned, that I don't think has been analysed yet:

The ancestors of the Telmarines just -had- to be pirates and genocidal conquerers, didn't they? Because there's no way a culture like that could have come from any other roots or drives, could it? Telmarine conquerers can't be the result of things like unstable central authorities that try to incentivize their dominion by expanding the territories of their subjects and vassals, or acquiring exhausted natural resources, or even just naturally developed land greed.

Likewise, no good, honest working class people came through, accidentally or otherwise, and decided to make the best of an honest living for themselves in their new situation, and developed into that state.

Nope, Telmarines can only have a problematic culture if they're descended from career criminals.

Isator Levi said...

* I regret nothing!!

Ana Mardoll said...

Absolutely true. Sometimes, however, a particular collector / reteller (*cough* the Grimms) can be shown to have deliberately bowdlerised, and to have influenced the version popular today.

Yep. IIRC, they had 12 editions, each one more edited than the last. My least favorite change they were responsible for was making all the Evil Mothers into Evil Step-Mothers. As a step-mother, I take issue with that. ;)

Lonespark said...

My least favorite change they were responsible for was making all the Evil Mothers into Evil Step-Mothers.

Yeah, this.

depizan said...

I find myself suddenly very curious as to how the Telmarines conquered Narnia in the first place.

hf said...

Sort of. But I've said before that if the series started and ended with Prince Caspian I don't think we'd still be talking about Narnia. I stand by that.

Steve Morrison said...

His goddaughter, Lucy Barfield. She was four years old when he started the book, but thirteen when he finished and published it. A horrible thought just occurred to me – could that have been the reason he kicked Susan out of Narnia in the last book? Presumably he wouldn’t have done it to Lucy, even if it were a metaphor for what had happened to the real Lucy.

rikalous said...

In my copy of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (which sadly is not present for me to get the exact wording) there was a forward or preface or similar where he indicated he wrote the book for some young girl whose identity I can't remember. By the time he finished the book she had outgrown fairy tales, but he held out hope she would grow back into them. It's similar to his quote about how part of growing up is not being concerned about seeming childish when you do things like read fairy tales. I have no idea how that ties into the age thing here, but there it is.

redcrow said...

At least once I came across the mention of a storyteller creating intentionally crude and vulgar versions of old legends/folktales specifically "for the strangers" (for oppressors, in that case). He explained that they didn't deserve the real stories, so they got caricaturised versions.
I don't know how widespread that might be, but, well, there's another possibility.

redcrow said...

>>>*it is my home*. I was raised here. I have lived here most of my life. Meaningful possessions that I cannot move (like my house!) are here; memories that I want to savor and relive are here. My family is here, and would not unanimously agree to leave in this hypothetical scenario. My job is here. My *life* is here.


It's so frustrating to go to our main LGBT-site and see all those comments saying that leaving Russia is the most reasonable, sensible thing a non-straight person can - and, indeed, should - do. Because I won't be able to survive abroad. I simply won't.

Thomas Keyton said...

Why wouldn't they have maintained ties to the homeland? That's the way it generally worked on Earth, after all.

Narnia is surrounded by mountains. Unless they maintained communication routes via the southern pass into Archenland and through Calormen, it looks very difficult for non-magic-using Medieval-ish technology-having people to get from Narnia to Telmar (or vice versa, for that matter).

depizan said...

Archenland, Calormen, Telmar, and the Lone Islands are all exclusively human.

Wait a minute here. Are all of these countries populated by people who wandered in through Aslan's open door?

Which suddenly reminds me, how can the Telmarines not remember Telmar or have any idea where it is? How long were they supposed to have been Narnian conquerors again? Why wouldn't they have maintained ties to the homeland? That's the way it generally worked on Earth, after all. Of course that usually left the conquered land subject to the homeland's rule and that doesn't seem to have been the case. But even if the conquerors had had a revolution against Telmar at some point... which would make it likely they'd have stopped calling themselves Telmarines, rather as Americans don't call themselves British... surely they wouldn't have completely lost their homeland.

What the heck is going on in this world???

Marcus said...

> Most of the tales have legitimately old sexy versions, yes. That those versions were The Original is almost impossible to prove in most cases. Probably the original Original doesn't even exist anymore in many cases and ALL the versions we have left are derivatives.

Absolutely true. Sometimes, however, a particular collector / reteller (*cough* the Grimms) can be shown to have deliberately bowdlerised, and to have influenced the version popular today.

What I find particularly annoying is the assumption that a sexier and / or gorier version must be the "original" even when it first shows up centuries into the tale's known history (e.g. the version of RRH featuring cannibalism, not recorded until 1880).

depizan said...

Actually, yes. Things can be popular and beloved _and_ a complete mess. *said the Star Wars fan* That doesn't mean there's something wrong with loving them or that they can't also be good, depending on what aspects one's focusing on.

Edited to add: Drooled out was too harsh of me, but a lot of the bizarre inconsistencies and thrown in bits really give me the impression that Lewis just kind of sat down at the typewriter and wrote each story without regard to previous stories and without much consideration of whether everything he threw in really fit what he was going for. (Rather like Lucas, really.)

Ana Mardoll said...

That pretty much was my reaction to "Wicked Girls", too. I love the song, though I don't recognize all the literary allusions in the last verse:

Mandy's a pirate, and Mia weaves silk shrouds for faeries,
And Deborah will pour you red wine pressed from sweet poisoned berries.
Kate poses riddles and Mary plays tricks,
While Kaia builds towers from brambles and sticks,
And the rules that we live by are simple and clear:
Be wicked and lovely and don't live in fear.

I welcome people weighing in with the books in question, as they all sound awesome.

Tikiera said...

That verse is the real people verse. Those are people she knows. Mia, for example, is the person who makes Chimera Fancies - necklaces made from bits of old fairy tales.

etv13 said...

If Lewis had really just "drooled out a story" do you really think we'd be reading it and deconstructing it and all that sixty years later? It's really easy to be dismissive and critical here, but, you know, when I was a kid, the allegory sailed right over my head, and I thought these were really great stories, and hunted all over the tropical island I happened to live on at the time (Oahu) for the next one, and the next. The Silver Chair was one of the first books I ever bought for myself in hardcover. I think it's important not to lose sight of the immense attraction these books have had for thousands, if not millions, of people over the more than half-a-century since they were published. It's good to look at them critically, but "drooled out" and other phrases that suggest that Lewis was just an incompetent storyteller and writer equivalent to some of the self-published crap you see in e-books is really unfair to Lewis and his readers.

Ana Mardoll said...

People are allowed to have subjective opinions of texts considered here. Not liking a book or not considering it to be well written, even a widely popular book, is not some kind of slur on the people who do like that book.

Please do not audit the subjective reactions that people have to the literature considered here, whether we're talking Narnia or Twilight. In return, you have a space here to offer your reactions without fear of audit.

depizan said...

And while the first is quite understandable, the second is unacceptable. I write by the seat of my pants a lot, so do many writers. But you're supposed to clean up the story before you publish it! (Or post it on the web or whatever.) You don't just drool out a story and hand it in.

Steve Morrison said...

OTOH Lewis did not buy into the "silly rabbit, fantasy is for kids!" attitude. I'll have more time tomorrow to look up quotes; but he wrote essays like "On Juvenile Tastes" and "Three Ways of Writing for Children" where he strongly debunked the whole notion, much as Tolkien did in "On Fairy Stories".

Steve Morrison said...

The Narnia timeline says that the original inhabitants of Telmar "behaved very wickedly" and Aslan turned them back into non-talking animals in the year 302. (Google should turn up several online copies of the Timeline, which was written by Lewis himself and so is arguably canon.)

depizan said...

The timeline just raises more questions!

Amaryllis said...

Why would the younger Telmarines be friendlier toward the Old Narnians than their elders are?

I wonder if this is related to the idea that fantasy and magic are for children. When Lewis was writing these books, it was kind of assumed that all children like fairy tales, but that no adult would waste his time on any book with magic in it. It was a very different literary world, pre-Tolkien.

So maybe the "younger Telmarines" are supposed to be close enough to their childhood to remember that half-hope that magic could be real and that the world is alive with marvels and wonders. Whereas an older person, having taught himself that magic isn't real and that the world is only what it looks like in prose, might be angry or frightened to have to unlearn that lesson.

Loquat said...

Well, the 6 pirates + however many islander women didn't fall into Narnia proper, they fell into someplace else called Telmar, which for some reason didn't have any talking animals or people. In fact, of all the countries we're eventually told about, only Narnia proper has any significant non-human population; Archenland, Calormen, Telmar, and the Lone Islands are all exclusively human.

Also, with regard to the long-term viability of a population with (presumably) a dozen or so founders - Pitcairn Island was apparently settled in 1790 by maybe 20 people, mutineers from the Bounty and companions they'd picked up in Tahiti, and it's apparently the most inbred place on the planet, but they still manage to produce children. (Not that it's a terribly viable place, with people constantly emigrating to New Zealand and England and wherever else, but much of that is presumably due to the island's small size and inability to support more than a couple hundred people.) Lewis may even have been inspired by stories of the place when he was trying to come up with an origin story for the Telmarines.

Fm said...

Regarding the Puberty Rule: there is a short, and somewhat funny fanfic here (TW: light teenage sexuality) :
Somehow i found it fitting.

GeniusLemur said...

I think Lewis had no idea what the plot was or what the story was about when he started writing. And when he finished.

Lonespark said...

Small Gods fan fist bump!

OMG I was so excited that The Promise was coming out, but I haven't read any of it yet.

If they want to be worshipped, it's because they have pretty high opinions of themselves and they've got enough power to make life very hard for anyone who dares to disrespect them.

Weeeell...that's definitely not why I worship them. I think there's a lot to be said for acknowledging/nurturing connections with powers and forces and beings that shape the world and one's culture and/or ancestry. If you're into that.

GeniusLemur said...

And as the Pevenskies leave, I have to wonder: why were they here at all? We have our young, innocent (or "innocent") observer already: his name's Caspian. And for all the fuss Lewis makes about them, that's all the Pevenskies are. It seems counterproductive to go to all the trouble of lugging around 4 protagonists worth of dramatic dead weight.

I think Peter and Susan not coming back is just Lewis realizing he has too many characters to juggle, and getting rid of a couple with his usual storytelling grace.

Lonespark said...

The thing about getting too old for Narnia...
I could work for me. Rites of passage, and having different perceptions and powers and duties and so forth at different points in life, those things work for me. Even the idea that you don't mourn the lost friends could work. Those are fairy tale kinds of rules. Tangle with the supernatural and become slightly inhuman. But it doesn't work because of how the human-ness and parochial coziness is emphasized.

Ana Mardoll said...

But King Arthur!

But...yeah. I think it would have been a stronger book without the Pevensies. But then, I also think that about excluding Aslan, cutting out the chapter with Bacchus et al destroying school children, all the theologies re: shadowcat-in-the-woods, and the bits with Miraz's dastardly advisers.

Josh G. said...

I think GeniusLemur hits the nail on the head. This story could have been, and probably should have been, written without including the Pevensies at all! They seem to be thrown in simply because they were there in the previous book. What do they actually *do* of any significance that couldn't have been done by one of the book's main characters? Wouldn't it have been quite a bit more meaningful if Caspian himself had fought Miraz, rather than Peter showing up to do it for him?

Susan Beckhardt said...

With regard to the issues of ineffability and so on, this is why I've always preferred the Greek gods and Norse gods--they're always doing stupid things and causing trouble, both for themselves and for us mere mortals, but nobody says that they're meant to be held up as examples of perfect goodness. If they want to be worshipped, it's because they have pretty high opinions of themselves and they've got enough power to make life very hard for anyone who dares to disrespect them. That's certainly problematic, but at least it's honest and no one is twisting the situation around to make it seem as if the gods' temper tantrums are actually their way of loving us.

This is why Small Gods is one of my favorite books of Terry Pratchett.

Marie Brennan said...

The thing that always gets me about the "we're too old" justification for not coming back is . . . didn't they grow up to full adulthood in Narnia on their previous trip? Was that just an oversight on Aslan's part, or what?

GeniusLemur said...

You're right, and I think that's another example of Lewis being careless. He added a god who's you know, standing right there, and treated him like the distant, everywhere and nowhere God of Christianity.

depizan said...

I know there are other Avatar: the Last Airbender fans here. Is anyone else reading "The Promise"? (Three part - I think - graphic novel series set shortly after the series.) It deals with the question of remaining conquerors in a formerly conquered land in a whole lot more depth and with a whole lot more thought than Lewis. (With, since it's all humans, the added wrinkle of mixed marriages and such as well.)

I really get the impression that Lewis isn't interested in characters as people, at all, just as chess pieces. It's kind of creepy and it makes for a really emotionally empty story. No wonder I found Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe bleh when I read it as a kid. Why should I care? The author doesn't seem to.

GeniusLemur said...

I think maybe the thing with Aslan is that he's supposed to be Godlike: unpredictable to human eyes, because he's wiser and more farsighted and more powerful than anyone else. Unfortunately, Lewis was certainly careless and probably far less wise than he thought, and blew it big time.

Aspermoth said...

Wow. Aslan... Aslan really kinda sucks, doesn't he? I mean, wow. Sorry, this isn't very coherent, but... I never realised when I was a kid just how much Aslan sucks. Because he sucks a lot.

Naomi said...

The last verse isn't literary allusions but real-life friends of Seanan, I think. When she performs it she often swaps in names of people who are present. There's a YouTube video where it's "{name} signs tricks" and it's the name of the person doing ASL interpreting for the concert.

I really, really, really love that song. (The literary allusion that a lot of people miss is Jane -- she doesn't get a verse, but this is Jane from Mary Poppins.) Also, Seanan once composed a whole load of additional verses in her LJ:

Ana Mardoll said...

The last verse isn't literary allusions

Ah, that's a shame. I was figuring that there were some really good books out there that I had just missed.

Naomi said...

Something that never occurred to me to wonder when I was a kid:

Are these medieval Telmarines seriously being dumped onto an abandoned island in the South Pacific (okay, Aslan doesn't specify, but that's how I always imagined it) during the middle of the Second World War?

Even if the island is somewhere away from the middle of the war zone, you're scooping up a bunch of people who are used to bows and arrows and occasional forbidden magic and sending them to 1940. Their quiet, uninhabited island is surely not going to stay isolated for long...

Naomi said...

Oh wait, and ANOTHER load of verses here (she took audience requests):

Brin Bellway said...

A Telmarine steps forward to be the first to go through, and Aslan blesses him with a good future on the grounds that he spoke up first.

And I'd probably believe that if a: I hadn't just been wondering why Aslan would dump a bunch of people born and raised in Narnia onto a Terran island* when he's seemed to want to keep Narnia-to-Earth contamination small-scale, and b: the Telmarine wasn't then described as looking "as if he were trying to remember something". Put those two together and you start getting disturbing ideas.

*Where the Terrans will inevitably find them, probably soon enough for there to be some first-generation immigrants left.

Lonespark said...

Oh, are they references? I thought they were just made up names. Huh.

Lonespark said...

That Seanan McGuire song is something I didn't know my life needed, but it does. It's the second thing that made me cry joyful-ish tears this morning. The other one's this video:
Delta Rae - Dance in the Graveyards:

Fm said...

Regarding ages, Lewis is inconsistent on this, too. In VDT (I hope it doesn't come as spoiler) , Lucy is also barred from returning to Narnia, even though she is still 2 years younger than Susan at the geninning.It is more like "enough of this wonderful world, now go and apply it on Earth". In this case the problem of Susan would be not that she abandoned Narnia, but that she applied the wrong things (her flirting skills)
That said, the whole idea has merit. Children ususally have this enigmatic "sense of wonder", the ability to stare at Bachus and nymphs with interest and awe instead of fear and lust, and for whom a "wild party" does not mean "an orgy". For children, fairy tales are "real" in a way they cannot be real to adults: children may not 100% believe that faeries are real, but they don't dismiss them either, magic is real and irreal at the same time. On the street, mundane laws apply, but on another...let's say "plane", people still can fly. Narnia operates on fairy-tale-logic, and people ntoo old to have this logic should not be there. This is probably the reason younger Telmarines can stay (presumably by living with Animals they somehow won't loose this logic) while older ones must leave.
Ironically, this fairy-tale logic may be the reason why Lewis' stories are so prone to deconstruction: they only work if you are in both planes simultaneously, i.e. that you think of Narnia as both a real place and a product of the Pevensie's imagination. When you reduce Narnia to any of them, the story breaks down. This differentiates Lewis from Tolkien's Middle-Earth, which is a reality in its own right, with its own laws, story and explanations. Narnia stories were written about children, for children with this "sense of wonder" and this precisely the dichotomy between Lucy and Susan. Quite possible that this was also thought as a lesson to real Lucy ;).

Loquat said...

The map of Narnia on Wikipedia shows Narnia proper on the east coast, Calormen to the south, and Telmar way off to the west with a ginormous mountain range between it and Narnia. The mountain range is apparently impassable, at least as far as large groups of soldiers/colonists/refugees are concerned, which means the Telmarines probably had to come through Calormen and Archenland, both long-settled and civilized human nations. The scenario that makes the most sense to me is if some major disaster - famine, drought, what-have-you - struck Telmar, causing most of the survivors to flee to Calormen, only to find that Calormen really didn't want them, and Archenland didn't want them either, but someone along the way had the bright idea that, hey - there was this country up north called Narnia that didn't really have any humans, so maybe the refugees should go settle it?

Obviously, this idea requires Calormen and Archenland to either (a) not realize Narnia has non-human inhabitants, or (b) not care about what happens to them. But while the Calormenes are generally painted as both evil and uncomprehending of what makes Narnia special, the Archenlanders were supposed to be the "good" humans, and allied with Narnia - though of course we only see them in The Horse and His Boy , set during the Pevensies' reign, and have no idea what social and political changes they may have gone through in intervening centuries.

muscipula said...

I kind of like to think of Susan tricking Lewis and actually getting the best possible deal for herself without his noticing.

In my personal canon...
Narnia is, of course, a True Story that really happened. Susan Pevensie told it to C. S. Lewis when she was a student at Oxford. At that time, she was the last survivor of her family - The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe was published in 1950, and the events of The Last Battle took place in 1949, when Susan was 21. Unfortunately, Lewis muddled things up a bit in his account. A series of rows between Susan and Lewis resulted in her cutting off contact with him, and him having to invent large chunks of The Last Battle, meanwhile getting in his own swipe at her. The Chronicles account is essentially correct in terms of the sequence of events, but Lewis's editorial comments are a bit suspect.

BaseDeltaZero said...

developing advanced technology... or preferring the city to the country.

That's... quite possibly it. Animals do seem to have some kind of opposable thumbs... somehow, so it's not improbable that they could develop technology. On the other hand, Aslan seemed to want Narnians to be almost 'wild' in their demeanor, or at most pastoral. I mean, as far as we know, Cair Paravel is the only major Narnian settlement. There are like... four villages we see, and they're all built by the Telmarines. Animals, spirits, whatnot... they're all pretty primitive. And that's the way they're meant to be. Even the Beavers live in a burrow (not a lodge, for some reason...) off by themselves... with a sewing machine(?), somehow. One could say 'well, beavers are territorial, they probably wouldn't live too close together.'... but what about the Prarie Dogs or Meerkats? (Wolves and Dogs, of course, but we already know that wolves are EVIL). Perhaps some Animals (or whatever) *did* get together and start building settlements, even advancing technologically... that sewing machine had to come from somewhere after all.
But that's not the plan. Narnia is supposed to be a cozy semi-wilderness, and a cozy semi-wilderness it shall be. That's why they were all turned into non-sapient animals instead of just being vaporized off the planet - as a final 'ironic punishment' for using their intelligence too much instead of living the simple lives Aslan wanted...

Of course, Aslan didn't give a damn about what the Calormenes or Telmarines did, because they weren't Animals, and could urbanize all they wanted. Or, perhaps with Aslan being steward of Narnians, he did not have authority over them. 'Course, that theory also explains the whole thing in the first place...

This may also be related to the fact that there are no Ants or Bees... the urbanization would be rapid and universal.

rikalous said...

with a sewing machine(?), somehowMy theory is that the sewing machine was a gift from Father Christmas shortly before Jadis ascended and lovingly maintained by generations of beavers during the long winter.

depizan said...

Disqus (the thingy that handles commenting here) frequently has snits and decides it hates everyone.

Anyway, yeah, I've got nothing against people who don't plan out their stories (I certainly can't do the planning out thing without killing my interest in the story) - the problem for me came in when Lewis decided to mix theology and fairy tales. I wouldn't feel so frustrated with his...casual...way of building stories if he had simply been telling stories. (And perhaps I should just consider them stories anyway.) But - which is funny considering I'm not religious - his conflating Aslan with Jesus leads to me sitting over here going "Wait, what are you saying now!? Do you realize what stance you're having your Jesus analogue take!?"

Granted I do a fair amount of headdesking any time an author fails to realize the implications of their good guys actions. Which is fairly frequently.

etv13 said...

Wasn't mixing things up Tolkien's problem with the Narnia books? Maybe not so much fairy tales and theology, but classical mythology and Santa Claus and the like? (But maybe theology, too.) As I said, the theological allegory sailed right over my head when I was a kid, and I had stopped being religious by the time it was pointed out to me (and then I was like, this is so glaringly obvious, how could I possibly have missed it, but from what I read online, I'm not alone), and by then it didn't really bother me.

I wonder how many works can hold up to the kind of close critical scrutiny that is being applied to the Narnia books here. I doubt it's all that many, especially when we start applying 21st century values to 20th-century and earlier works.

Dragoness Eclectic said...

Heh. I'd like to note that the two most revered patriarchs of the Old Testament both argued *successfully* with God about His proposed course of action, objecting to it as overkill.

Lily said...

The reason I can't read Chronicles of Narnia is partly because of Lewis's writing and partly because what happens to Susan is just inhumane. (I only read The Magician's Nephew because I liked the radio drama as a kid, tried Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe and gave up.) I can't read them without feeling funny about it. Mostly because I know what happens to Susan and was raised in a conservative Christian home.


Steve Morrison said...

Well, gosh, it's a good thing the new inhabitants of Telmar didn't behave very wickedly, otherwise Aslan would have been obliged to punish them instead of granting them several centuries of conquest and domination. Dodged a bullet there.Well, the original Telmarines must have done something really bad, such as liking modern art, developing advanced technology, being non-smokers and non-drinkers, or preferring the city to the country.

etv13 said...

I had technical difficulties with the "reply" function, but this is mostly to depizan at 10:19:
My objection was mostly to "drooled out." I think we agree that things can be a mess, and still be worthwhile and beloved. I'm thinking a little bit here about Lewis's response to T.S. Eliot's characterization of Hamlet as "an artistic failure." Hamlet is in many ways a mess, but I think that's partly why it's so resonant and haunting and appealing, too. Romeo and Juliet is beautiful and moving even though it makes no sense at all that a girl who has the nerve and/or the passion to marry her hereditary enemy and sleep with him under her parents' roof doesn't just go with him into exile in Mantua, or that Friar Lawrence wouldn't rather send her there than try the ridiculous ploy with the potion. Being in some ways fairly describable as "a mess" or as being full of plot holes is not inconsistent with great artistic value.

Also, I think there are some writers -- my impression is that Tolkien was one of them -- who plan things out carefully and have maps and charts and timelines and genealogies as underpinnings for their works, and some writers who revise obsessively, and others who are . . . I don't want to say "more intuitive" in a way that implies a value judgment. Maybe I'll just say I agree with your impression that Lewis sat down and wrote his Narnia stories without worrying too much about whether they worked together, what effect they had on each other, etc. I doubt very much that he had thought through The Last Battle or even The Voyage of the Dawn Treader at the time he wrote Prince Caspian. Maybe you know better than I do whether The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe was intended to be the start of a series, or a one-off which gave rise to a set of sequels, like Patrick O'Brian's Master and Commander. There's value in all of these approaches, although I have to say that while I raced through The Lord of the Rings once with great enjoyment, I've never felt any particular desire to re-read them, while I read the Narnia books (some of them, anyway) over and over again.

Star Wars: I went to the first one, back in 1977, with great reluctance, after being promised by my then-boyfriend that it wasn't actually a gory war movie, and what sold me on it immediately was the John Williams music and that narrative crawl at the beginning. It seemed like an old-fashioned movie in the best kind of way, even though it was actually something new. Watching those movies now, I feel the justice of Harrison Ford's saying (I paraphrase from memory here) "You can type this shit, George, but you sure can't say it," but then I really loved it. I saw it seven times in theaters, at a time when a movie ticket for the first-run big-screen theater where it was playing was $4, and the minimum wage I earned restocking the salad bar at Carl's Jr. was $2.35. So I am with you on the Star Wars thing, except that if you mean Episodes 1 and 2, I have never seen them. I was persuaded to see Episode 3 by the same guy who got me to the first one, but I can't say I thought much of it.

I've kind of lost sight of my point here, and my computer, or the site, or something, is making it nearly impossible to scroll back to the beginning of this comment and see what I've already written, but I think I've said what I wanted to say, and that when we get away from 'drooled out,' we're really not that far apart. Maybe even in agreement.

Asha said...

The part about ageism really gets to me, especially as it pertains to being a good person. In my own life, I've had to recognize that when I was a kid, with my narrow and very RTC mindset, a lot of my attitudes were racist and harmful towards others. Growing out of that has been the work of years, and even now I'm still a lot more conservative than some of my more liberal friends. I do think I am a more open minded and compassionate person than I used to be as a child. So thank you for pointing that part out.

As to person vs polytheist... I find it amusing that an RTC would first freak out at the idea of God ever asking someone to do wrong, but even if God did, they would still have to do it because Abraham and Isaac. But then they never teach the parts of the bible where God does have them do evil in Sunday School. I remember reading those parts and just being shocked. And those moments were the ones that started me questioning and becoming a more informed person, if not a better one.

GeniusLemur said...

Plus, a grand total of twelve people went through the "chink," and they weren't assimilated into the Narnian culture, yet they were unopposed as they multiplied until they were able to subjugate Narnia and genocide the old Narnians. How exactly does that work?

I think that's one of the basic differences between Lewis and Tolkien. Tolkien knows who put that statue there a thousand years ago, and why. Lewis just handwaves anything that happened more than five minutes ago. And he handwaves an awful lot that's happening now.

depizan said...

In fact, there's so much flapping at present, he might take off.

Ana Mardoll said...

But in this case? Where a bunch of genocidal rapist pirates stumble into Narnia, and end up committing far bigger genocides? Yeah, that just kind of happened. In the third person.

... o.O

I hadn't even noticed that. Yeah, that's ... yeah.

I have to go sit quietly and savor the irony of that. Thank you.

depizan said...

I'm rather stunned by the Grade A WTFery of that, too.

I guess Aslan left the door open when he went out for tea for a few centuries. Why are we on his side again?

Hyaroo said...

Adding to the Small Gods love here; it's probably one of my favorite Discworld books -- in the Top Five, certainly; despite having none of my favorite Discworld characters and (pretty rarely for Pratchett) no major female characters.

What I love most about it (apart from the very interesting look at the nature of religion and of gods on the Disc) is that in this story it's the god who undergoes the bulk of the character development. While the Great God Om does make some interesting observation on the folly of humans, it's still thanks to the faith of the "lowly" human Brutha that Om eventually realizes that he's been a bit of an asshole and changes for the better.

I was actually introduced to Narnia through the BBC TV series, and so I tend to have a softer spot for Aslan than I might otherwise have, because I really liked Aslan in the TV series. I think it had something to do with his calmer and, well, milder nature; this wasn't an Aslan who roared and intimidated people like a bully, or made the narrator wax poetic of how totally-scary-yet-so-awesome he was. This was an Aslan who would lend a sympathetic ear, whom you could tell your troubles to, and he'd understand -- and while he was big on letting people handle their own problems, he would give you the strength and comfort you needed to carry on.

That is, that was how I saw Aslan in the TV series until it reached the "Silver Chair" story, where even Ronald Pickup's gentle voice couldn't disguise what an utter jerk Aslan was being. I remember being completely flabbergasted by the scene where he first talks to Jill; it seemed to be to be severely out of character for him to frighten an upset little girl who thought she'd just seen her friend fall to his death because of her (yeah, the audience knew Eustace was safe, but Jill didn't) and whose main crime had been a carelessness which she already regretted. It wasn't until I read the books some years later that I realized that no, this was perfectly in character for Aslan. I guess there was only so much the BBC crew could do with the material for that particular scene.

Tigerpetals said...

I don't think it would be a flaw to have a perfectly written ineffable God just because some people wouldn't like it. I don't see the problem (completely unrelated to my concept of god, because I don't believe in any).

Ana Mardoll said...

I was unclear, sorry. It's only a problem if the book is intended by the author as capital-T Truth. If liking Aslan (Aslan shivers! MUFASA!) is supposed to be a prerequisite of a Good Person. etc.

If just a story, no problem, as you say. :)

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