Narnia: People as Possessions

[Content Note: Slavery, Corporal Punishment]

Narnia Recap: In which Caspian, Lucy, Edmund, Eustace, and Reepicheep are captured by slavers.

Voyage of the Dawn Treader, Chapter 3: The Lone Islands

I have to say that my favorite part of deconstructing is the fan-fixing that goes on in the comments. If you're not reading the comments, you're missing a whole barrel full of fanficcy fun. We've already come to the following tentative fan-conclusions:

1. The picture of the Dawn Treader which pulled the children in to Narnia looks Narnian not by chance but because it was painted by Polly (of the Magician's Nephew) and framed by Professor Digory with the same wood used to make the magical wardrobe.

2. The picture was given to Alberta by Professor Digory. Alberta's relation to Digory is that her sister Helen's boyfriend (John Pevensie) and her own future husband (Harold Scrubb) were students of Professor Digory at university. Alberta met the Professor briefly at his home, when he arranged for her to stumble into Narnia. Alberta, Helen, John, and Harold were intended by Narnia magic to be the four human rulers who would end the 100-year winter, but Alberta refused to eat the White Witch's food (thereby refusing to take Edmund's role) and vowed not to return after being warned away by a Talking Animal (thereby refusing to take Lucy's role). Digory gave her the picture in an attempt either to needle her further or to try to embroil her in Narnia after all; Alberta shut the picture up in the guest room and Narnia had to make do with the next available set of four humans to stay in Digory's house.

3. Alberta's rejection of Narnia informed all her "bad" character traits: she avoids mention of fantasy, and her vegetarianism, socialism, and alternative underwear is a response to the ethics of eating animals once she's met a Talking Animal, as well as an attempt to solve world-hunger after hearing that the White Witch is starving the Narnians with eternal winter. Alberta also invites the Pevensie children to visit out of concern for them after Eustace reported their strange fantasy games and their lingering depression (since Eustace met them either after they'd been booted out the first time, or after Susan and Peter had been permanently exiled).

4. Sometime after Eustace returns from the Dawn Treader and becomes estranged from Alberta, she strikes up a relationship with her niece Susan Pevensie, who dejectedly confides that she dislikes being treated like a child after having once been an adult in Narnia. Alberta helps the girl take an interest in 'dressing older' (with lipsticks and nylons) so that she might be treated at the age she feels comfortable with. Alberta and Susan additionally comfort one another after the railway accident in The Last Battle which takes from them Alberta's sister and son, and Susan's parents and siblings.

5. Meanwhile, in Narnia, it has been speculated that Caspian being able to go off on this trip at all (for an extended period, with no way to communicate with those back home, and with no real expectation of returning since no one else has been able to do so before) is that Trumpkin (a leadership figure for the Old Narnians) and Cornelius (a leadership figure for the New Narnians, as someone with mixed-race parentage who has spent a great deal of time in Telmarine culture) have been effectively wielding power while Caspian was off having adventures and fighting giants, and now that the northern campaign has ended, the adventurous -- and politically dangerous, given his slight of the Duke of Galma's daughter -- boy has been sent off with a number of Telmarine lords, adventurers, and malcontents in order to keep the peace. No Old Narnians -- save Reepicheep -- have volunteered for the journey on the grounds that it's an obvious snipe hunt with a low expected survival rate.

6. And Reepicheep is unusual amongst the Talking Animals because he is long-lived enough to have been prophesied over as a baby by a Dryad before the trees went silent during the occupation of the Telmarines. And this is why Reepicheep has such unusual ideals of honor and chivalry because he grew up in the Golden Age after the Pevensies, rather than during the Telmarine occupation when guerrilla warfare was the name of the survivalist game. (When Aslan told Reepicheep that the Mice had forgotten what they did for him at the Stone Table, he was forgetting that Reepicheep is almost as old as that event. But Aslan gets stuff wrong half the time anyway.)

Now tell me that all that is not awesome. Because I think it so very much is. You are all amazing.



But on to Chapter 3! In which everything is very cozy and nice, and sometimes more than a little confusing. 

   “LAND IN SIGHT,” SHOUTED THE MAN IN the bows.
   Lucy, who had been talking to Rhince on the poop, came pattering down the ladder and raced forward. [...] there, a little way off on the starboard bow, was the nearest of the Lone Islands, Felimath, like a low green hill in the sea, and behind it, further off, the gray slopes of its sister Doorn.
   “Same old Felimath! Same old Doorn,” said Lucy, clapping her hands. “Oh—Edmund, how long it is since you and I saw them last!”

I unexpectedly like this; it reminds me somehow of Marianne in Austen's Sense and Sensibility:

Many were the tears shed by them in their last adieus to a place so much beloved. "Dear, dear Norland!" said Marianne, as she wandered alone before the house, on the last evening of their being there; "when shall I cease to regret you, when learn to feel a home elsewhere! Oh, happy house, could you know what I suffer in now viewing you from this spot, from whence, perhaps, I may view you no more! And you, ye well-known trees! — but you will continue the same. No leaf will decay because we are removed, nor any branch become motionless although we can observe you no longer! No; you will continue the same, unconscious of the pleasure or the regret you occasion, and insensible of any change in those who walk under your shade! But who will remain to enjoy you?"

It's debatable how much we're meant to entirely agree with Marianne here; of the two sisters, I do believe that Elinor is the one who is supposed to be the most 'correct' and Marianne the one who has the most growing and learning and changing to do. But I do think that we are intended to empathize at least with Marianne's sentiment here of missing the soon-to-no-longer-be her home: Norland was her home for a very long time, and now she may never see it again. And even if she does see it again, it will be as a guest rather than as an owner, and those can be two very different things.

In a way, Lucy and Edmund are in a similar position. When they left Narnia, they left without any awareness of when or if they would ever see it again. The people they left behind surely mourned their leaving, but the land itself continued growing and changing and existing, largely unconscious of the absence of the Pevensies. Now Lucy is seeing the Lone Islands again for the first time in ... well, years to Lucy, and centuries to the islands. I can imagine that there would be a number of emotions for her to grapple with: joy, at seeing them again; alienation, at seeing the ways in which the land has changed over the past centuries; regret, that she is now a child queen emeritus instead of the reigning adult queen she once was; sorrow, at the realization that she may be seeing them for the last time; guilt, that she is seeing them here without the presence of Peter and Susan.

Lewis, characteristically, only shows us the joy, but I think it's easy enough to read the rest into Lucy's words if we are so inclined. So I like that. 'Course, then Caspian has to open his mouth:

   “I’ve never understood why they belong to Narnia,” said Caspian. “Did Peter the High King conquer them?”
   “Oh no,” said Edmund. “They were Narnian before our time—in the days of the White Witch.”

Reading Narnia, I stumble on passages like this. Because I honestly cannot tell if exchanges like this are supposed to be world-building, or if they are meant to be character-building, or if they are unintentional slips that provide a bit of a mirror into Lewis' ideals about perfect fantasy worlds. Why would Caspian assume that the Lone Islands are part of Narnia because they were conquered? For that matter, why does he ask how they "belong" to Narnia rather than why they are a "part" of Narnia? The words here baffle me.

I suppose Texas "belongs" to the United States of America in a sense, if you are using "belong" in the same sense that one "belongs" to a religious congregation or "belongs" in a country club. The word "belong" is, after all, a very complex word with a lot of different connotations, and "attached to" and "affiliated with" are both valid meanings of the word. But it is more often used to indicate ownership, and here seems to mean -- especially when paired with the idea of conquering and subduing -- that the Narnian king owns these islands, possibly against the will of the inhabitants, rather than that they joined the Narnian state out of shared ideals or shared lineage.

Why does Caspian seem to assume that these islands weren't populated by Narnian Animals and Fauns and Nymphs who retained their loyalty to the Narnian mainland government? (They don't, in fact, seem to be -- the Lone Islanders appear to be human with no awareness of Talking Animals -- but why should Caspian know that? The Telmarines have apparently never set foot on the Lone Islanders before in all their time as conquerors of Narnia.) Or that the Islanders didn't join Narnia freely in an arrangement that benefited both groups? Are we to understand that those things don't happen in Lewis' fantasy land, or is this an indication that Caspian tends to see things and people as his possessions that "belong" to him rather than as his subjects?

I honestly don't know, but if this is a clever commentary on Caspian viewing people as possessions immediately prior to being made a possession himself, then it's almost a little too subtle given that Caspian will ultimately fix the whole slavery situation by asserting his ownership of the area as forcefully as possible. The sin of possessiveness can't really be fixed by more possessiveness, is what I am saying.

   “I’m sorry we’re not landing on Felimath,” said Lucy. “I’d like to walk there again. It was so lonely—a nice kind of loneliness, and all grass and clover and soft sea air.”
   “I’d love to stretch my legs too,” said Caspian. “I tell you what. Why shouldn’t we go ashore in the boat and send it back, and then we could walk across Felimath and let the Dawn Treader pick us up on the other side?”
   If Caspian had been as experienced then as he became later on in this voyage he would not have made this suggestion; but at the moment it seemed an excellent one.

This is going to be one of those Your Mileage May vary things, but here is today's hot tip for writers: Don't do this. Seriously. Chapter 3 is a whooping 2,860 words, which is actually not very many words at all. You don't need to spend 31 of those words telling us that shit is about to get real. And you especially do not need to tell us how totes awesome Caspian is going to become as a result of this character-building voyage because if we didn't already know that Caspian wasn't going to die in Chapter 3, we do now. ALL MY DRAMATIC TENSION IS GONE.

   “You’ll come, will you?” said Caspian to Eustace, who had come on deck with his hand bandaged.
   “Anything to get off this blasted boat,” said Eustace.
   “Blasted?” said Drinian. “How do you mean?”
   “In a civilized country like where I come from,” said Eustace, “the ships are so big that when you’re inside you wouldn’t know you were at sea at all.”
   “In that case you might just as well stay ashore,” said Caspian.

And I just want to note that I actually like this passage, too. If Lewis had cut all that heavy-handed meanness about Eustace's vegetarianism, and had left off all the bits where Caspian and his Telmarines chortle happily about Eustace's sea-sickness and just done this, everything would have been far more lovely. Because here is a very good example of someone being understandably sulky and arrogant and fairly unlikable (as well as demonstrably wrong, since Eustace was sea-sick on modern English ships), and someone else being realistically brisk in response but without descending into outright rudeness, meanness, or bullying. By letting Eustace be irritating without being Evul Liberal, and by letting Caspian et. al. be irritated without being Conservative Punisher, everything goes down much more smoothly in my opinion.

Of course, Lewis did have to remind us that Eustace's hand is still injured. But at least we weren't treated to an update on Eustace's sore backside.

   The King, the Mouse, the two Pevensies, and Eustace all got into the boat and were pulled to the beach of Felimath. When the boat had left them and was being rowed back they all turned and looked round. They were surprised at how small the Dawn Treader looked.

So, just to be clear: the entire party consists of four children and a largish Mouse. And it's only Caspian's lack of experience that made this plan seem reasonable. All the adult Telmarines on the ship also apparently thought this was a crackerjack plan, or didn't think it was a bad enough idea to warrant speaking up with their opinion. (More raw meat for the fan-fic'ers and their snipe hunt theory, I see. If only Caspian had been captured / killed / etc. properly here and they could have all gone home early.)

   In the green valley to which they were descending six or seven rough-looking men, all armed, were sitting by a tree.
   “Don’t tell them who we are,” said Caspian.
   “And pray, your Majesty, why not?” said Reepicheep who had consented to ride on Lucy’s shoulder.
   “It just occurred to me,” replied Caspian, “that no one here can have heard from Narnia for a long time. It’s just possible they may not still acknowledge our over-lordship. In which case it might not be quite safe to be known as the King.”

No. No, this is not possible. This cannot be the first time this has occurred to Caspian. The whole secondary point of this whole voyage is to reestablish connections between the Narnian mainland and her island territories and allies. As I've argued in an earlier post:

Caspian is supposedly going on this voyage to help his subjects. He wants to rescue the Seven Lost Lords, sure, but Narnia is also well overdue for a survey of its sea territories and reestablishment of relations with its island allies, considering that the Telmarines from the previous several centuries of Narnian occupation were so terrified of the water that the Seven Lost Lords had to hire Galmian sailors and buy a Galmian ship (it's canon; we just haven't gotten to that bit yet) just in order to be properly banished by Miraz. In that light, Caspian stopping for a tournament and a quick-but-failed flirtation is a responsible thing to do -- whether Galma is a Narnian territory or an ally, they needed to meet the new Narnian liege and affirm that Galma's friendship and loyalty to Narnia is secure.

When visiting Galma, or when planning to visit Terebinthia, the question must have come up about how to put their best foot forward as the first official Narnian delegation to visit these countries in years, decades, or even centuries. This simply cannot be the first time someone has pointed out that the Telmarines didn't travel to their island territories (and/or allies) to talk with them or trade with them or maintain control over them for however many hundreds of years.

And, for that matter, if these islands are Narnian territories, why should they recognize the current Telmarine lord as though he were an ancient Narnian king? Yet if the islands chose to be Telmarine allies (and perhaps even loyal to Miraz) during the long occupation of Narnia, will they recognize Caspian the Boy King at all if they think he acquired his throne illegitimately a la the apparent disposal of Miraz and his son on the Coronation Day Massacre?

Indeed, what is the official Narnian party-line for how Caspian came to power to begin with? "The god-lion of legend and the four human children of the ancient Golden Age popped into existence for a day to crown Caspian and magic all the Telmarines away to another realm, before disappearing that night"? Did the Duke of Galma actually believe that story, or did they have to fabricate another one that was less fantastical (if untrue) in order to not seem like liars and frauds?

Caspian must have had to deal with these questions, even before setting out from the mainland, and yet it's brought up here as though it has just occurred to him:

   “We have our swords, Sire,” said Reepicheep.
   “Yes, Reep, I know we have,” said Caspian. “But if it is a question of re-conquering the three islands, I’d prefer to come back with a rather larger army.”

And ... I ... I have no words. Caspian just treats it as obvious that they would come back and reconquer the islands (assuming they were ever conquered in the first place, which we still don't know that they were), should it be the case that the islands no longer want to be affiliated with Narnia after several hundred years of being ignored by the Telmarine interlopers who conquered Narnia.

And I guess we're really lucky, from a morality standpoint, that all objections from the islanders to "belonging" to the Telmarine lord who sailed up that afternoon comes from evil slavers and greedy opportunistic governors. Because if there had been good islanders who didn't want to "belong" to Caspian, I guess we would have just had to kill them all with a rather large army. Que sera, sera.

   Caspian thanked him, though neither he nor the others much liked the look of their new acquaintance, and all of them sat down. But hardly had they raised their cups to their lips when the black-haired man nodded to his companions and, as quick as lightning, all the five visitors found themselves wrapped in strong arms. There was a moment’s struggle but all the advantages were on one side, and soon everyone was disarmed and had their hands tied behind their backs—except Reepicheep, writhing in his captor’s grip and biting furiously.

I want to again point out that everyone in this party is either roughly under the age of fifteen or about the size of a large cat. So, yeah, I imagine the advantages were all on one side. It's just a bit surprising that anyone is, well, surprised by this. As Caspian clearly is, and as Drinian and the adult Telmarines apparently will be since no one thought the boy-king wandering around a foreign country without an armed escort was a good idea.

(And for all the "Caspian learned better later" narration, he actually doesn't; the same cast of characters is captured on the Isle of Voices by pretty much the same surround-and-outnumber tactics. And the children will be left similarly unescorted and unguarded on Deathwater Isle and the Isle of Sleepers. Which is just more evidence that we can't trust the narrator. Obviously.)

   “Coward! Poltroon!” squeaked Reepicheep. “Give me my sword and free my paws if you dare.”
   “Whew!” whistled the slave merchant (for that is what he was). “It can talk! Well I never did. Blowed if I take less than two hundred crescents for him.”

So not only has there been no communication between the Telmarines and the Lone Islands, there's been no communication between the Islanders and the Narnians. And apparently no Narnians chose to emigrate to the islands in the face of Telmarine persecution, despite that being both sensible and possible given all the sea-nymphs and Dolphins and mermaids that inhabited Narnia in the Pevensies' day. And not a single Talking Animal lives on the islands, nor do the Islanders have stories and legends about Talking Animals living back on the mainland. Because this Islander is apparently as befuddled by the idea of a Talking Animal as Eustace is:

   “Is there a British Consul there?” asked Eustace.
   “Is there a which?” said the man.
   But long before Eustace was tired of trying to explain, the slaver simply said, “Well, I’ve had enough of this jabber. The Mouse is a fair treat but this one would talk the hind leg off a donkey. Off we go, mates.”
   Then the four human prisoners were roped together, not cruelly but securely, and made to march down to the shore. Reepicheep was carried. He had stopped biting on a threat of having his mouth tied up, but he had a great deal to say, and Lucy really wondered how any man could bear to have the things said to him which were said to the slave dealer by the Mouse. But the slave dealer, far from objecting, only said “Go on” whenever Reepicheep paused for breath, occasionally adding, “It’s as good as a play,” or, “Blimey, you can’t help almost thinking it knows what it’s saying!” or “Was it one of you what trained it?” This so infuriated Reepicheep that in the end the number of things he thought of saying all at once nearly suffocated him and he became silent.

I mean, it's funny I guess, but it makes no goddamn sense. Telmarines from Prince Caspian and Lone Islanders from Voyage of the Dawn Treader believe in Talking Animals about as much as Eustace does, which is to say not at all. But they live in a world where Talking Animals exist. This isn't our real world, where there are Talking Animals only in stories and even then treated as rather remarkable to the person interacting with them. This is a completely different world where Talking Animals have existed since the dawn of time. In large numbers, even! To the point where they vastly outnumbered the humans, and may even have outnumbered the non-talking animals! I do not understand how it is possible for Telmarines and Lone Islanders to disbelieve Talking Animals as thoroughly as Lewis' English audience would have.

Anyway, I do like the idea of Eustace doggedly explaining his situation to the slavers, on the grounds that it puts me in mind of him completely refusing to let Narnia wrest the framing from him (as well as his personal agency), and being bound and determined to explain his problem patiently to anyone who chooses to listen until someone sets things right. But I don't see how he can explain his situation past a few choice words without letting it slip that Caspian and the others consider themselves royalty.

   “Now, youngsters,” said the slave dealer, “let’s have no fuss and then you’ll have nothing to cry about. All aboard.”

This is not the last time the slave dealer will use this threat -- later he tells Lucy to stop crying and then she "won't have nothing to cry about, see?" -- and it strikes me just how much this sounds like a parent threatening to strike a child. Don't cry or I'll give you something to cry about were actual words that were actually said to me when I was an actual child. And by adults who knew that I knew what was being threatened.

Maybe Lewis added this in an attempt to make the slavery more cozy: the slaver isn't abusing them capriciously, and as long as they keep a stiff upper lip everything will be alright. The framing makes the slaver controllable and predictable, where punishment only occurs in response to stated provocations. But I can't help but reflect that it can also serve to make corporal punishment seem more cruel than its supporters usually present it as being, since there's something terribly wrong with a child-rearing method that sounds perfectly natural and yet utterly sinister coming from an evil slaver.

   At that moment a fine-looking bearded man came out of one of the houses (an inn, I think) and said:

Well, at least we know he's a good person, since he's so fine-looking and not at all like these slavers whom we were told we would not like the look of.

   “How much do you want for that boy?” asked the other, pointing to Caspian.
    “Ah,” said Pug, “I knew your Lordship would pick on the best. No deceiving your Lordship with anything second rate. That boy, now, I’ve taken a fancy to him myself. Got kind of fond of him, I have. I’m that tender-hearted I didn’t ever ought to have taken up this job. Still, to a customer like your Lordship—”
   “Tell me your price, carrion,” said the Lord sternly. “Do you think I want to listen to the rigmarole of your filthy trade?”

And he has no hesitation preventing him from yelling abusive epithets at slave-owners, despite the fact that riling up an abusive person is very likely to end in them taking out their anger on their helpless prisoners. I imagine this fine-looking, sharp-tongued, perfectly-privileged gentleman will get along very well with our golden-haired, white-knight, son-of-privilege Caspian. 

   “A hundred and fifty, then,” said the Lord. “As for you, little maiden, I am sorry I cannot buy you all. Unrope my boy, Pug. And look—treat these others well while they are in your hands or it’ll be the worse for you.”
    The dreadful moment had now come. Caspian was untied and his new master said, “This way, lad,” and Lucy burst into tears and Edmund looked very blank. But Caspian looked over his shoulder and said, “Cheer up. I’m sure it will come all right in the end. So long.”
   “Now, missie,” said Pug. “Don’t you start taking on and spoiling your looks for the market tomorrow. You be a good girl and then you won’t have nothing to cry about, see?”
   [...] Then they were rowed out to the slave-ship and taken below into a long, rather dark place, none too clean, where they found many other unfortunate prisoners; for Pug was of course a pirate and had just returned from cruising among the islands and capturing what he could. The children didn’t meet anyone whom they knew; the prisoners were mostly Galmians and Terebinthians. And there they sat in the straw and wondered what was happening to Caspian and tried to stop Eustace talking as if everyone except himself was to blame.

Where to begin?

I guess I'll start with the what-the-fuckery that is "the children didn't meet anyone whom they knew". Well, I would suppose not given that Lucy and Edmund didn't meet any Telmarines other than Caspian the last time they visited and every Lone Islander they knew from their first visit has now been dead for roughly 1,300 years; and that Eustace has never been to Narnia before in his life; and that Reepicheep is apparently the first Talking Animal to ever be known to the Lone Islanders, let alone to visit them. So it would be very strange indeed if the children had met someone they knew.

I also like the fact that "the children" (i.e., Lucy and Edmund, and presumably Reepicheep is roped into that description) "tried to stop Eustace talking as if everyone except himself was to blame", because as far as I can see Eustace is right. I mean, he did agree to go on the walk in order to get off the ship, but I don't remember anyone telling him that he might be captured by slavers. He may well not even know about the existence of slavery in Narnia, given that he was sick and below deck when we were informed about the pirates in the area.

So the three people with a vast deal more experience with Narnia and its Might Makes Right ways offered to take Eustace on a pleasure trip without informing him that the area was mightily dangerous and that they were foolishly ill-equipped in the event of a scuffle. I rather imagine that Eustace has a legitimate grievance to air. Now, I can also imagine that Lucy and Edmund might not want to hear it right now -- and especially that it might increase their distress in the slave ship and distract them from coming up with a useful plan to escape -- but that doesn't change the fact that I think Eustace has right on his side in this particular event.

And I say that not just because Eustace wasn't warned beforehand about the danger that Lucy and Edmund apparently didn't foresee (since they went on the trip without any concerns for their own safety). This whole situation can also be laid somewhat at Caspian's doorstep because he knew about the pirate ships in the area and saw no real reason to do anything to stop their pirating or to help the people they were capturing and selling into slavery.

Caspian decided that being a king didn't mean protecting people whom he thought were his possessions (courtesy of whichever king conquered the islanders for Caspian in the past) and now the children who were supposed to be under his protection are being abused by those same pirates. And the only real difference in Caspian's mind between the pirates who are preying on the islanders and Caspian himself -- who is planning to come back with a large army to reconquer the islands if necessary -- is that he has an ancient right to his claim of possession based on the fact that his Narnian forebears were conquering the islanders long before these pirates were. Whereas these pirates are just squatters on his property. Big difference.

   Meanwhile Caspian was having a much more interesting time.

An interesting time. Because the only thing Eustance and Lucy and Edmund are suffering from is boredom. More on Caspian's interesting time next week.

97 comments:

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Ana Mardoll said...

*checks older post for failing memory*

Ah. In the Disney PC, Peter steps up and says something like "we're not coming back ... we're not really needed here anymore".

Moving on ... somehow ... there's a door in the air. Tim-Curry-Guy goes through, along with Prunaprismia and Miraz Jr. And I think it's nice that those two were treated as genuinely good people who got sucked into Miraz's evil plans and are anxious to start over. HOPE YOU DON'T DIE ON RAMLET, GUYS. Peter tells the others, "We're not really needed here anymore," because he just wants to get on with this, and who can blame him. Caspian mentions their eventual return and we're treated to a heart-breaking "We're not coming back."

Lucy is correctly aghast at this, and asks Aslan if they're being punished. He says, "Your brother and sister have learned what they can from this world. Now it is time for them to live in their own." Which is still a terrible thing to do to them because you pulled them here, jackface and also you aren't giving them a choice in the matter but again at least Disney tried. And at least it wasn't because God Hates Puberty.

They cut the Theologies about transferring their worship from Aslan to Jesus, although that doesn't really explicitly show up in the books until Dawn Treader anyway.

AnnaLK said...

Sorry for late-to-thread-ness - I just today realised the implications of some of what's in Ana's post, and wanted to share because I think I now have a new favourite headcanon.

CN: magical memory erasure

If Caspian had been as experienced then as he became later on in this voyage he would not have made this suggestion; but at the moment it seemed an excellent one.

Caspian's inexperienced; it's true, but Lucy and Edmund aren't. Or they shouldn't be. They might look like children, but as other people have pointed out, they've got years of experience of being adult kings and queens. So the fact that they also think Caspian's suggestion is "an excellent one" lends more weight to the theory that's already been discussed around here, that they were magically mindwhammied into forgetting Narnia when they left.

But later in Dawn Treader, it'll be implied that the narrator has talked to Lucy about her Narnian experiences, meaning she can't have forgotten everything. So here's what I think: the Narnian-magical-mindwhammy leaves you with a memory of the vague outline of events, but erases all the specifics. The human brain, being what it is, has a tendency to fill in the blanks: for instance, if you're trying to remember what happened at school on a certain day, you're likely to insert some details from your mental model of "what school is like", even if those things didn't actually happen on the day in question. So after the magical-mindwhammy, Lucy's brain starts doing this for Narnia, using her mental model of "what a magical world is like" - which is based on fairytales, fantasy fiction and Arthurian legends. As a result, she ends up remembering a world in which people's appearances reflect their character, in which Arthurian chivalry is the height of morality, in which it's perfectly normal and natural for a king to think of the lands that make up his kingdom as his possessions. And, because the fairytales and legends she'd have access to as a child would be severely bowdlerised, she ends up remembering a world in which everything is cosy. Even slavery. When she meets the author of Narnia, she relays these misremembered stories, and that's what he writes down.

The Chronicles of Narnia have an unreliable narrator. The real Narnia is nothing like what you see in the books.

AnnaLK said...

OH BUT WAIT THERE'S MORE. Because now my brain has this theory, it won't shut up about it.

Suppose for a second that the mindwhammy doesn't always work perfectly, for reasons mysterious and unknown and possibly connected to the deep magic. Maybe it's because she was the only one who didn't want to go past the lamppost, maybe it's down to some aspect of her character that her siblings don't share, maybe it's just a fluke of statistics: whatever the reason, Susan didn't forget the details the way that the other Pevensies did. She remembers everything about Narnia. And she doesn't want to talk about it, thank you very much.

She tried, once. She went to one of their "Friends of Narnia" meetings. She confessed that whenever she had to make a difficult decision, she still imagined herself talking it out with her old friend Sallowpad the Raven. That she'd pictured being able to have those conversations with him for many more years. That, even though she knew he'd been about to retire from the Narnian Parliament, she'd assumed he'd still be around.

There was a long, awkward silence, finally broken by Peter tentatively asking, "what parliament, Su?"

Susan no longer meets with the so-called Friends of Narnia.

depizan said...

I thought the slaves were destined for Calormen? Hence the payments in "crescents".

Caspian was sold to randomly appearing good dude and I could've sworn we get a slave auction that the others are rescued from. Felimath's society really makes little sense as described - at least with the capture and enslavement of Caspian. Capturing people from other islands, or at sea, while evil (at least by my definition) makes sense. Capturing people who land on their island - especially without investigating who they are and how they got there* - makes less sense. (And kind of implies that unattended kids are always at risk of becoming slaves...possibly to their own neighbors, which makes NO sense.)

Though, in a little bit, when Caspian orders slavery outlawed, we will learn that a) they do trade with Calormen - in fact it's their main economy and b) stopping the trade may (will?) lead to war. Both of these factors raise serious questions about whether Caspian's decree will be inacted and whether its actually such a good idea, especially as Caspian isn't sending a navy to protect the island or doing anything else to shield them from the fallout. Making Lewis the only author I've ever read who actually made me question whether a character's outlawing of slavery was the right decision.

*At least I don't remember any such conversation.

depizan said...

I thought the slaves were destined for Calormen? Hence the payments in "crescents".

Caspian was sold to randomly appearing good dude and I could've sworn we get a slave auction that the others are rescued from. Felimath's society really makes little sense as described - at least with the capture and enslavement of Caspian. Capturing people from other islands, or at sea, while evil (at least by my definition) makes sense. Capturing people who land on their island - especially without investigating who they are and how they got there* - makes less sense. (And kind of implies that unattended kids are always at risk of becoming slaves...possibly to their own neighbors, which makes NO sense.)

Though, in a little bit, when Caspian orders slavery outlawed, we will learn that a) they do trade with Calormen - in fact it's their main economy and b) stopping the trade may (will?) lead to war. Both of these factors raise serious questions about whether Caspian's decree will be inacted and whether its actually such a good idea, especially as Caspian isn't sending a navy to protect the island or doing anything else to shield them from the fallout. Making Lewis the only author I've ever read who actually made me question whether a character's outlawing of slavery was the right decision.

*At least I don't remember any such conversation.

Will Wildman said...

That is amazing and terrifying. No wonder the world gets retconned in every book.

Will Wildman said...

That is amazing and terrifying. No wonder the world gets retconned in every book.

Brin Bellway said...

For that matter, why does he ask how they "belong" to Narnia rather than why they are a "part" of Narnia? The words here baffle me.

I suppose Texas "belongs" to the United States of America in a sense


I was thinking more, say, Guam.

“Coward! Poltroon!” squeaked Reepicheep. “Give me my sword and free my paws if you dare.”

Ah, so that's it! For some reason this line is missing from my copy, which makes the "It can talk!" confusingly timed.

That boy, now, I’ve taken a fancy to him myself. Got kind of fond of him, I have.

I don't remember if this sounded as disturbing to me as a child as it does through adult ears (or eyes). Lord Whatever thinks Pug is lying to make Caspian seem more valuable, and that's quite possibly true, but if not...well, what kinds of fancying can one take to a person one first met when kidnapping them not more than a few hours ago?

storiteller said...

Ooh, not reading any of the comments on Battlestar now because of spoilers, but I'll definitely have to come back later...

Will Wildman said...

(BSG spoilers ongoing.)

True, but Daniel was also the creation of Cylons who very much felt that humanity was something to aspire to, and who wanted to minimise the differences, whereas the One-driven Cylons we see through most of the show are the opposite, seeing themselves as an advancement over humanity who shouldn't be bound by the sentimentality of, among other things, fleshy bodies. I don't think there's a canonical answer as to whether the rest of the lines' names are simply the name they were given by their makers, but it's also noted (in The Plan) that the Sixes are vastly superior at differentiating themselves for the express purpose of blending with humans. (Two Fives are shown insisting that they have successfully differentiated themselves because their shirts are different colours, while the Sixes are praised for their creativity.)

And there's additionally the limitation that we mostly have the humans' perspective in BSG, such that I can't recall if all Twos (Twoes?) are individually called Leoben, or if the humans refer to them as Leobens because the only one they met was called Leoben and they didn't know what his number was.

I didn't know this until just now, but the BSG Wiki notes that Natalie isn't referred to by name until after her death, and then only by her first name--the scripts give her a full name of Natalie Faust, and add that she was a plant on the Colonies, posing as a political advocate so she could help coordinate attacks on government leaders.

Will Wildman said...

(I'm figuring this is still on-topic for the discussion in that it regards the naming or failure thereof and associated recognition of female characters who are treated as accessories to male characters, but if there's concern about it, we can bounce to the nearest Open Thread.)

(Minor Battlestar Galactica spoilers continue.)

Nothing that happens could possibly happen without her and yet the most she will ever get is a nickname, a nickname introduced by someone who points out how inappropriate of a nickname it is ("As if you were the only six on Caprica," I think it was.)

The impression I got from BSG was that Cylons only selected names (as humans would understand names) in order to blend with human populations. I'm pretty sure every one of the 12 models has at least one human-named representative at one point, but all of those people are the Cylons who interact with humans. The ones who really get connected to them (like Athena) are the ones who side with humans in the long run; the only strong exception I can think of to this is Boomer, and in that case I think it's interesting because while anti-human Cylons still call her Boomer, she also gets very little respect--One, after all, calls her his 'pet Eight' at one point, and referring to her by her human alias seems more like a marginalisation at that point, a way of constantly reminding her that she went rogue and she's never really seen as a loyal Cylon ever again. (Athena does keep her human alias, but her callsign is more significant, because it's a way of erasing the division and saying "Wevs, human or Cylon, we're all pilots". Though the scene itself is bumpier than that.)

So I'm not sure that 'Caprica Six' is best interpreted as a nickname--it is a distinctly inhuman name, but it struck me as the first rudimentary steps of a uniquely Cylon naming scheme, something that combines their uniformity with the recognition of deeds. She's a Six. Which Six? The one who was on Caprica. There were lots of Sixes on Caprica? This is the one on which everything hinged; the most important Six.*

I don't think we ever find out what human name she was using when she was working Baltar pre-attack, but I also think it would be perfectly legitimate for her to reject that name as a simple mission alias, and to prefer being called Caprica Six as an accolade from her people that she's done something so significant that they've had to build a new facet of their culture just to accommodate her importance.

*There's a sidetrack here about an alien culture in Star Wars that grants progressively greater naming/pronoun privileges (family name, then personal name, then personal pronouns) on a merit system: everyone refers to themselves in the third person, unless they are judged to be such a great figure that if they referred to themselves as 'I' in public everyone could reasonably be expected to know who they are, and not "Well, what makes you such a big deal?"

bekabot said...

"I think that mysteries are always more compelling than the truth revealed behind them. When we believe there's a grand conspiracy, or plan, or secret, or whatever then our mind works overtime trying to come up with what it could be...Clearly whatever the secret is it must be amazing and deep and meaningful. And that leaves one with a sense of awe and wonder...And then when you learn the solution it's like, 'It was Colonel Mustard with the candlestick in the conservatory,' which totally fails to live up to the expectations one had when the mystery was still a mystery."

FWIW, this was the reaction I had to the movie version of "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy" which came out a year or two ago. Apart from having lots of squee-love for "The Spy Who Came In From The Cold" (aimed more at the movie than the book) and also apart from having once seen "The Tailor of Panama", I'm not that familiar with John LeCarre's stuff, so I didn't know how the story ended. I had no idea which one of the Inner Circus Circle was the double agent, and when I found out I was disappointed. It wasn't that I was disappointed in the answer, I was disappointed that there was an answer. Before the unmasking scene the whole plot seemed supercharged with possibility but that wave flattened out with an almighty crash; I thought so, anyway.

Still a fantastic movie, though...

storiteller said...

I'm a fan of X-Files and Lost, so I am well-aware of the consequences of a complete and utter lack of a plan on the part of both characters and the showrunners of a series. My husband actually watched all of Battlestar through and enjoyed it immensely, so I'm not too concerned about it totally crashing and burning. (Even if I kind of liked the end of Lost, it was definitely a disappointment compared to what came before it.)

storiteller said...

I'm a fan of X-Files and Lost, so I am well-aware of the consequences of a complete and utter lack of a plan on the part of both characters and the showrunners of a series. My husband actually watched all of Battlestar through and enjoyed it immensely, so I'm not too concerned about it totally crashing and burning. (Even if I kind of liked the end of Lost, it was definitely a disappointment compared to what came before it.)

storiteller said...

I just started watching Battlestar (literally this week), but I suspect the reason she doesn't get a name is because everything she does after the first episode is from Gaius's point of view. Gaius doesn't see her as a person, so she doesn't even get a name in his mind. First, he sees her as someone to have sex with. Then, he sees her as an inhuman robot. Then, he sees her as a figment of his imagination. (I'm not sure what's next, as I haven't gotten there yet.)

Judging from the level of characterization Battlestar gives all of the female characters so far - the rest of whom have names (and often nicknames) in the first two episodes - I would say this is a thematic choice and a characterization of Gaius rather than a mistake.

depizan said...

Can we have a new rule? Love interests must have names (barring a world in which no one has names or some other highly unlikely extenuating circumstances).

I mean, can you just see the wedding invitation: On this day, the wedding of our glorious King Caspian and Ramandu's Daughter, who no one (no, not even Caspian) has bothered to ask the name of.

depizan said...

Can we have a new rule? Love interests must have names (barring a world in which no one has names or some other highly unlikely extenuating circumstances).

I mean, can you just see the wedding invitation: On this day, the wedding of our glorious King Caspian and Ramandu's Daughter, who no one (no, not even Caspian) has bothered to ask the name of.

Theo Axner said...

Oh, I love that. Brilliant. :D

bekabot said...

"I have more speculation when we get to the temptation of Lucy about why it works for her as temptation."

My own idea is that Lucy, who is unusual in specific ways, is not unusual in others, and that she harbors the notions about what it is to be "the fairest of them all" which are typical for a 10-year-old girl native to her place and time. (Not her place and time in Narnia; her place and time in late-40's/early-50's home-county England.) To Lucy physical beauty signifies power and safety, full stop. It means that the person who has it gets the most attention, the best compliments, and the prettiest things. She isn't old enough, or experienced enough in her current incarnation, to understand the downside. (Although the form her temptation takes should clue her in to some extent.)

Bella in Twilight is a lot like Lucy on this score, in the sense that she has the attitude toward her own and other people's looks that one would expect from a 10-year-old girl — one who hasn't gotten 100% over her Princess phase. Bella never, for one thing, but never, questions the legitimacy of her physical reaction to Edward. (I don't blame her for being overwhelmed but I find it weird that she never seems, up to the time of her vampirization, to be able to notice anything other than that she's overwhelmed. She never steps back, goes meta, and asks herself whether it's really truly true that the fact that Edward is gorgeous means that he's destined to be the sole focus of all her heart and spirit throughout all time and space 4ev-ah.) Bella, too, wants beauty as insurance: as she sees it, when she becomes as beautiful as Edward is, she will at last be safe. Nothing will dare threaten her then. S. Meyer, generously, makes the plot co-operate (up till the point where it doesn't), but then the whole deal with Twilight is that Bella will get what she wants and get it good and hard. Lucy, OTOH, is not so lucky, if you can call it that. The thrust of the Narnia books is that people don't get what they want and have to learn to make do. ("Keep calm and carry on.")

The difference between Bella and Lucy? Either Oscar Wilde or F. Scott Fitzgerald, I don't remember which, said "The worst thing is not getting what you want, but the next worst thing is getting it". FWIW, I think that's a pronouncement which could apply to them both.

Fm said...

Oh dear, the part about Lucy spoiling her looks is so unremittingly awful that I think it's actually retroactively ruined a little piece of my childhood.

CN: Sexual slavery, violence

On the other hand , Lucy seems unaware of the the implications here, given that she still wants to get prettier afterwards!
Could it be that this was intended as a subtle warning that good looks aren't always advantegeous, a warning which Lucy chose to ignore? Or is she simply too innocent to notice?
By the way, Caspians behaviour when his group discovers the men is equally extremely silly. His party has a couple of persons who are good at sword, but phusically weak (Reepicheep, Edmund, Caspian himself). In such a situation the sensible thing were to make the way around the (potentially hostile) group and IF they start to follow Caspians party, draw swords and require to make way, not going on close quarters where they all can be captured with ease.

Ursula L said...

Good points on the colonial language, but I don't think there's any implication that Gumpas was democratically elected to office. Though admittedly it's kind of a mystery how he did get into office given the suggested long lack of contact with Narnia. As has been pointed out repeatedly all of this makes much more sense if the Telmarine sea-aversion was a recent thing, more or less associated with Miraz' reign specifically.

I don't insist that Gumpas was democratically elected, nor suggest that Lewis implied in any way that Gumpas was democratically elected.

Rather, my point is that the way that Gumpas got his job is completely unknown.

But the title of "governor" is one that is at least potentially for a democratically elected post.

The title of Gumpas's replacement is "duke" which is absolutely not a democratically elected post.

And Lewis sees no reason to specify that Gumpas gained his post in some undemoctratic way (such as it being a post that should have been appointed by the Narnian king, but became hereditary when they lost contact with Narnia) but rather simply prefers to have the Narnian king create a hereditary ruler for the territory.

Ursula L said...

Good points on the colonial language, but I don't think there's any implication that Gumpas was democratically elected to office. Though admittedly it's kind of a mystery how he did get into office given the suggested long lack of contact with Narnia. As has been pointed out repeatedly all of this makes much more sense if the Telmarine sea-aversion was a recent thing, more or less associated with Miraz' reign specifically.

I don't insist that Gumpas was democratically elected, nor suggest that Lewis implied in any way that Gumpas was democratically elected.

Rather, my point is that the way that Gumpas got his job is completely unknown.

But the title of "governor" is one that is at least potentially for a democratically elected post.

The title of Gumpas's replacement is "duke" which is absolutely not a democratically elected post.

And Lewis sees no reason to specify that Gumpas gained his post in some undemoctratic way (such as it being a post that should have been appointed by the Narnian king, but became hereditary when they lost contact with Narnia) but rather simply prefers to have the Narnian king create a hereditary ruler for the territory.

Ursula Vernon said...

If we're fan-fixing things as we go, then let me take this opportunity to say that I think Eustace is being really damn clever this whole sequence.

First he tries to establish that he's a member of a sovereign nation, (all the stuff about the British consul) which might be expected to get very angry about its citizens being sold into slavery. This fails, because Narnia.

However, when it's pretty obvious he's going to be sold into slavery no matter what, he moves to plan B.

Eustace's superpower, as the narrator never lets us forget for long, is whining. He whines. He whines a LOT. And while he has no other skills that might be useful in Narnia--he can't fight, he can't sail, he doesn't know the locals---although neither does Caspian, frankly--by god, that boy can whine.

He whines to the slavers, he whines to the other prisoners, he whines up and he whines down. Lewis gave him one skill and he is going to use it to its full effect. While they're all in the slave pit or whatever it is, he whines. The narrator doesn't like this, and I probably wouldn't want to be stuck in an elevator with him, but there are almost certainly guards and there is also a fair chance that at least one of the slaves is trading information for better treatment, and may be reporting in the morning any information learned about the skills/ransom possibilities of the others. Eustace spends the whole time establishing himself as a really useless slave that nobody would want.

And--I'm jumping ahead here, my apologies--it WORKS. Pug complains a few chapters on about how no one wants him. And the narrator is wretchedly smug about this, naturally, but from Eustace's point of view, the whole thing was working out. Pug certainly isn't going to keep dragging him around, and there's a good chance that he'll be let go as not worth the trouble to feed. (Or killed in an alley, but Pug is sufficiently avuncular that this is a risk Eustace may be willing to take.) Once Eustace is booted out of the slave market for undesirability, he knows where the Dawn Treader is going to be, and all he has to do is run to the meeting point, flag down the ship, and get Drinian and the crew to sail to the rescue of his family.

All that's a couple chapters on, but if you consider that Eustace is quite possibly the only one here who actually has a good notion of what slavery may entail---liberal parents, books on foreign cultures, no inherent belief that a magic lion is going to appear and save them---he may be using his one skill to lay the groundwork here to try to save his family members.

Thomas Keyton said...

Although, having said that, I also simultaneously thought the temptation of Lucy is just a sexist collection of "girl" sins: gossip, eavesdropping, and beauty. We never see Lucy engaged in those, not really, except for then.

I think this is the only time we get anything approaching an all-female environment - it's certainly the only place I can remember Narnia passing the Bechdel test. Presumably, under Lewis rules, Lucy is a girl, therefore her "natural" sins are feminine-coded, therefore she can only indulge in them with other girls or women. (Which is probably linked to her being more tomboyish than Susan, in that Susan, being The Worst, has more offscreen opportunities for "girl sins".)

Gah. Trying for consistency just makes it worse.

depizan said...

The thrust of the Narnia books is that people don't get what they want and have to learn to make do.

I'd say it's darker than that. People don't just not get what they want, they get what Aslan/Narnia thinks they need, or, worse, what they deserve. I suspect that message is a lot less creepy to the religious and/or to those who see Aslan/Narnia as rightful powers. (To me, it's pretty much nightmare fuel. I don't want something that thinks it has the right to act as higher power deciding what I deserve and doing it to me!)

depizan said...

The thrust of the Narnia books is that people don't get what they want and have to learn to make do.

I'd say it's darker than that. People don't just not get what they want, they get what Aslan/Narnia thinks they need, or, worse, what they deserve. I suspect that message is a lot less creepy to the religious and/or to those who see Aslan/Narnia as rightful powers. (To me, it's pretty much nightmare fuel. I don't want something that thinks it has the right to act as higher power deciding what I deserve and doing it to me!)

bekabot said...

"God asks Adam
Adam says, 'She did it,' and points.
God asks Eve.
Eve says, 'Snake did it,' points...

...Snake gets no explanation given. That stands out to me. Adam is allowed to explain himself. Eve, when blame is shifted onto her, is allowed to explain herself. Talking snake, when blame is shifted onto him, is cursed without getting a word in edgewise."


Just thought of something — the onus ends up on the snake because the snake has no arms and can't point.

bekabot said...

"God asks Adam
Adam says, 'She did it,' and points.
God asks Eve.
Eve says, 'Snake did it,' points...

...Snake gets no explanation given. That stands out to me. Adam is allowed to explain himself. Eve, when blame is shifted onto her, is allowed to explain herself. Talking snake, when blame is shifted onto him, is cursed without getting a word in edgewise."


Just thought of something — the onus ends up on the snake because the snake has no arms and can't point.

depizan said...

Unfortunately, if you examine it in any detail at all, the apparent logic goes straight out the window. If humans were created beautiful, why aren't all humans beautiful? If beauty is an impediment to holiness and/or a temptation to sin, why is that only true of female beauty? If we're going to be blaming women and their oh so tempting beauty for the sin of lust in other's hearts (as opposed to those others for having said sin or acting on it), why are we not blaming money/mints for the sin of greed, food/farmers for the sin of lust, etc etc? And, no, saying Eve listened to the serpent really doesn't explain anything. Adam ate the fruit, too. (Unless we're going to embrace "But Johnny did it first." as some kind of excuse.)

depizan said...

Unfortunately, if you examine it in any detail at all, the apparent logic goes straight out the window. If humans were created beautiful, why aren't all humans beautiful? If beauty is an impediment to holiness and/or a temptation to sin, why is that only true of female beauty? If we're going to be blaming women and their oh so tempting beauty for the sin of lust in other's hearts (as opposed to those others for having said sin or acting on it), why are we not blaming money/mints for the sin of greed, food/farmers for the sin of lust, etc etc? And, no, saying Eve listened to the serpent really doesn't explain anything. Adam ate the fruit, too. (Unless we're going to embrace "But Johnny did it first." as some kind of excuse.)

depizan said...

When you do fixfic, you do fixfic. I only wish I could like this multiple times.

depizan said...

When you do fixfic, you do fixfic. I only wish I could like this multiple times.

depizan said...

it becomes Word Of God (literal) that being beautiful ... is bad.

So who creates individual people in this religious teaching? Because if God creates everyone and being beautiful is bad, my brain may explode from the WTF. (Not that God punishing people for random genetic chance would be much better, but "I made you beautiful" and "You are bad for being beautiful" is mindfuckery of epic proportions.)

(I should probably note that my objection is to that specific contradiction, not any religion or the practitioners thereof. I'm fairly certain all religions have moments of WTFery somewhere in their texts. Though when people embrace the WTFery and start pointing it at other people, then I do have issues with them.)

depizan said...

it becomes Word Of God (literal) that being beautiful ... is bad.

So who creates individual people in this religious teaching? Because if God creates everyone and being beautiful is bad, my brain may explode from the WTF. (Not that God punishing people for random genetic chance would be much better, but "I made you beautiful" and "You are bad for being beautiful" is mindfuckery of epic proportions.)

(I should probably note that my objection is to that specific contradiction, not any religion or the practitioners thereof. I'm fairly certain all religions have moments of WTFery somewhere in their texts. Though when people embrace the WTFery and start pointing it at other people, then I do have issues with them.)

depizan said...

And, of course, we're not supposed to wonder what it says about Lucy's family or wider society that she has this jealousy of her sister (one that I don't recall in the previous books, but I've only read one of those, and I could just be forgetting). Lucy must overcome temptation, but there's not thought given to the idea that perhaps there's something wrong with a world in which a woman's value is largely based on her looks. (I imagine Lewis wouldn't have been very comfortable examining his own feelings on the matter, much less his society. At least I'm not getting the feeling that he engages in that type of introspection - there's an authoritarian streak to his stuff that would get in the way. See also why no one questions the Old Magic or Aslan's correctness. At least no one we're supposed to agree with.)

depizan said...

And, of course, we're not supposed to wonder what it says about Lucy's family or wider society that she has this jealousy of her sister (one that I don't recall in the previous books, but I've only read one of those, and I could just be forgetting). Lucy must overcome temptation, but there's not thought given to the idea that perhaps there's something wrong with a world in which a woman's value is largely based on her looks. (I imagine Lewis wouldn't have been very comfortable examining his own feelings on the matter, much less his society. At least I'm not getting the feeling that he engages in that type of introspection - there's an authoritarian streak to his stuff that would get in the way. See also why no one questions the Old Magic or Aslan's correctness. At least no one we're supposed to agree with.)

bekabot said...

Hope this will pass the new comment policy...

I'm not sure that Lucy isn't being "taught a lesson" by means of that comment about her salability, her crying, and her looks. It's a lesson which may fly over her head, but which is meant to take root in her heart. (Though I couldn't say whether it's Aslan or Lewis who's teaching it.) Lewis had a thing about women and womens' appearance which worked thusly: women in his books have to at least be pretty in order to be visible, but they'd better not be beautiful, because then they're too visible, in a way which makes unwonted demands on the attention of the harried male. Somehow that's perceived as unsporting in Lewis Land. Deep Magic or some other factor fixes things so that a woman's possession of extraordinary good looks means she's not playing fair. Susan, who sounds as though she is beautiful, is the only Pevensie who ends up as not-a-friend-of-Narnia (presumably damned). The White and Green Witches are both enemies of Aslan, and they're also, incidentally, beautiful women.

Lucy is probably nice-looking, but Susan, if we are to believe the implications of what we read, is the family beauty, and Lucy has already had loads of experience in comparing herself to Susan, to her own detriment. Lucy's temptation, which comes up later, is presented as being a real and terrible temptation to her. (By contrast, there's a pretty widely-read sword-and-sorcery book out there in which a minor deity, or an entity which is about to become one, offers a female warrior the same bribe. She shrugs it off without great effort. Her attention is caught, but only for a moment.) Lucy's attention is also caught, and it's taken for granted that her ensorcelment is going to last life-long. In Lewis Land, it has to, because if Lucy were to escape extreme concern and terror over her appearance, only one person would be left with a neurosis on that subject, and that person would be the author of the book. Can't have that. But the alternative is that Lucy's captivation with her physical self might pose a challenge to her love for Jesus Aslan. Can't have that either. What to do? The solution is to set up some chain of events which will have the effect of teaching Lucy that

1) your appearance is very very important and bears directly upon the question of whether anyone will "take" you, but

2) you must not allow it to occupy your mind too exclusively, my child, because that is ungraceful. And it makes lordly Lions cry.

So, IMO, that's what Lewis did. After all, he later has Lucy pass her test, so she must have been inoculated somehow. I think the inoculation happens here.

bekabot said...

Hope this will pass the new comment policy...

I'm not sure that Lucy isn't being "taught a lesson" by means of that comment about her salability, her crying, and her looks. It's a lesson which may fly over her head, but which is meant to take root in her heart. (Though I couldn't say whether it's Aslan or Lewis who's teaching it.) Lewis had a thing about women and womens' appearance which worked thusly: women in his books have to at least be pretty in order to be visible, but they'd better not be beautiful, because then they're too visible, in a way which makes unwonted demands on the attention of the harried male. Somehow that's perceived as unsporting in Lewis Land. Deep Magic or some other factor fixes things so that a woman's possession of extraordinary good looks means she's not playing fair. Susan, who sounds as though she is beautiful, is the only Pevensie who ends up as not-a-friend-of-Narnia (presumably damned). The White and Green Witches are both enemies of Aslan, and they're also, incidentally, beautiful women.

Lucy is probably nice-looking, but Susan, if we are to believe the implications of what we read, is the family beauty, and Lucy has already had loads of experience in comparing herself to Susan, to her own detriment. Lucy's temptation, which comes up later, is presented as being a real and terrible temptation to her. (By contrast, there's a pretty widely-read sword-and-sorcery book out there in which a minor deity, or an entity which is about to become one, offers a female warrior the same bribe. She shrugs it off without great effort. Her attention is caught, but only for a moment.) Lucy's attention is also caught, and it's taken for granted that her ensorcelment is going to last life-long. In Lewis Land, it has to, because if Lucy were to escape extreme concern and terror over her appearance, only one person would be left with a neurosis on that subject, and that person would be the author of the book. Can't have that. But the alternative is that Lucy's captivation with her physical self might pose a challenge to her love for Jesus Aslan. Can't have that either. What to do? The solution is to set up some chain of events which will have the effect of teaching Lucy that

1) your appearance is very very important and bears directly upon the question of whether anyone will "take" you, but

2) you must not allow it to occupy your mind too exclusively, my child, because that is ungraceful. And it makes lordly Lions cry.

So, IMO, that's what Lewis did. After all, he later has Lucy pass her test, so she must have been inoculated somehow. I think the inoculation happens here.

Barbara said...

Hi! I discovered these deconstructions recently, and am finding them both interesting and thought-provoking. I was wondering if you have read The Skeleton in the Wardrobe: C.S. Lewis's Fantasies, by David Holbrook? The book includes a comparison of Lewis's descriptions of his bullying and abusive schoolmaster with his descriptions of Aslan, particularly in the rushing-at-his-victims practice. Holbrook also notes the lack of forgiveness in the books, and that it never seems possible for one's enemies to change their minds, repent, or be converted - even though Lewis himself was a convert.
I didn't agree with all of Holbrook's arguments, but I think the book would be of interest here.

Barbara said...

Hi! I discovered these deconstructions recently, and am finding them both interesting and thought-provoking. I was wondering if you have read The Skeleton in the Wardrobe: C.S. Lewis's Fantasies, by David Holbrook? The book includes a comparison of Lewis's descriptions of his bullying and abusive schoolmaster with his descriptions of Aslan, particularly in the rushing-at-his-victims practice. Holbrook also notes the lack of forgiveness in the books, and that it never seems possible for one's enemies to change their minds, repent, or be converted - even though Lewis himself was a convert.
I didn't agree with all of Holbrook's arguments, but I think the book would be of interest here.

depizan said...

*googles*

Oh that looks very interesting. I believe I shall inter-library loan a copy. It sounds like a mixed bag, but it also sounds as though Holbrook would fit right in here.

depizan said...

*googles*

Oh that looks very interesting. I believe I shall inter-library loan a copy. It sounds like a mixed bag, but it also sounds as though Holbrook would fit right in here.

muscipula said...

I thought the slaves were destined for Calormen? Hence the payments in "crescents".

Also IIRC the Kings of Narnia have the title "Emperor of the Lone Islands", which is quite curious. They are not Emperors of the Narnian Empire, for one thing, and the Lone Islands do not seem to be treated as a constituent part of Narnia itself. Caspian uses the word "over-lordship": he sees the relationship as feudal, with the Lone Islands as a vassal state, and we later discover they are meant to pay tribute. (And by the way, he would surely have obligations in return in that case, like, I don't know, keeping the seas free of pirates?) It seems to be unique: the northern giants also pay tribute, but Caspian doesn't claim to be Lord of the Giants or anything, and he still puts them outside Narnia's borders as opposed to integrating them into an expanded kingdom. It could be that there used to be an Empire of the Lone Islands, unable to sustain itself as an independent state, which voluntarily ceded the imperial title to Narnia in exchange for its protection; or it is a case of conquest. In any case, it does not seem that the EotLI title could be an independent hereditary one, which happens to be held in the Narnian royal line, since Caspian is not descended from any pre-Witch ruler but still claims the title. Everything points to EotLI being a subsidiary title that belongs to the King of Narnia necessarily.

The only example I know of a King having a subsidiary title of Emperor is in the British rule over India - which by the time of publication of this book had only recently ceased. Those titles would have been completely familiar to contemporary readers. And Caspian, with authorial approval, takes it completely for granted that his imperial title is legitimate and re-conquest would be a good idea. Perhaps it is even for their own good (ugh) as they clearly need enlightened guidance (ugh, ugh) to restore proper cultural values, having been led horribly astray by the influence of not-actually-Islam (ugh times a million). I don't know what Lewis's opinions were of the British Empire, but it's hard for me to imagine him writing about colonies and empires in the 1940s-50s, and it not having some relevance to that topic.

muscipula said...

I thought the slaves were destined for Calormen? Hence the payments in "crescents".

Also IIRC the Kings of Narnia have the title "Emperor of the Lone Islands", which is quite curious. They are not Emperors of the Narnian Empire, for one thing, and the Lone Islands do not seem to be treated as a constituent part of Narnia itself. Caspian uses the word "over-lordship": he sees the relationship as feudal, with the Lone Islands as a vassal state, and we later discover they are meant to pay tribute. (And by the way, he would surely have obligations in return in that case, like, I don't know, keeping the seas free of pirates?) It seems to be unique: the northern giants also pay tribute, but Caspian doesn't claim to be Lord of the Giants or anything, and he still puts them outside Narnia's borders as opposed to integrating them into an expanded kingdom. It could be that there used to be an Empire of the Lone Islands, unable to sustain itself as an independent state, which voluntarily ceded the imperial title to Narnia in exchange for its protection; or it is a case of conquest. In any case, it does not seem that the EotLI title could be an independent hereditary one, which happens to be held in the Narnian royal line, since Caspian is not descended from any pre-Witch ruler but still claims the title. Everything points to EotLI being a subsidiary title that belongs to the King of Narnia necessarily.

The only example I know of a King having a subsidiary title of Emperor is in the British rule over India - which by the time of publication of this book had only recently ceased. Those titles would have been completely familiar to contemporary readers. And Caspian, with authorial approval, takes it completely for granted that his imperial title is legitimate and re-conquest would be a good idea. Perhaps it is even for their own good (ugh) as they clearly need enlightened guidance (ugh, ugh) to restore proper cultural values, having been led horribly astray by the influence of not-actually-Islam (ugh times a million). I don't know what Lewis's opinions were of the British Empire, but it's hard for me to imagine him writing about colonies and empires in the 1940s-50s, and it not having some relevance to that topic.

Theo Axner said...

Here's my try to fanfix the Lone Islands and the conquering Caspian immediately thinks of:

Well played. I don't have the book on hand, but I don't think that even directly contradicts anything in the text. :)

Lots of good points have been made. As for the slaving economy, IIRC it becomes clear in the next chapter that most or all of the slaves are sold off to foreign merchants, Felimath being something of an international trading post. The recent movie, IIRC, showed the island as being terrorized by the slavers, which is clearly not the case in the book.

I have to say I like Pug as a character, with his Faux Affably Evil persona. IMO the much more sinister undertones we can read into his comments and threats as adult only underscores that.

Theo Axner said...

Here's my try to fanfix the Lone Islands and the conquering Caspian immediately thinks of:

Well played. I don't have the book on hand, but I don't think that even directly contradicts anything in the text. :)

Lots of good points have been made. As for the slaving economy, IIRC it becomes clear in the next chapter that most or all of the slaves are sold off to foreign merchants, Felimath being something of an international trading post. The recent movie, IIRC, showed the island as being terrorized by the slavers, which is clearly not the case in the book.

I have to say I like Pug as a character, with his Faux Affably Evil persona. IMO the much more sinister undertones we can read into his comments and threats as adult only underscores that.

Amaryllis said...

I can't remember, how old is Caspian supposed to be by now? He's young certainly, not yet a full-grown man, but could you still call him a child?

Mind you, it was still stupid of him to take three younger kids into unknown territory with only a Mouse as a bodyguard.

I'd forgotten that the slaver was called Pug. I take offense, on behalf of my puppy (he's such a good little Pug!).

“We have our swords, Sire,” said Reepicheep.
“Yes, Reep, I know we have,” said Caspian. “But if it is a question of re-conquering the three islands, I’d prefer to come back with a rather larger army.”

I more or less read that as Caspian's little joke, a warning to Reepicheep that one teenaged King and one Mouse, no matter how valiant, can't take on even this gang of roughnecks, so don't start anything. Of course, Caspian does end up "re-conquering" the island by sheer force of kingliness, or whatever, so maybe he meant it seriously.

Telmarines from Prince Caspian and Lone Islanders from Voyage of the Dawn Treader believe in Talking Animals about as much as Eustace does, which is to say not at all. But they live in a world where Talking Animals exist.
With the Telmarines, wasn't a sort of willed disbelief, in the teeth of the evidence? As for the Lone Islanders, their ignorance seems to me to be evidence for them NOT being a part of Narnia proper. Because I think the Talking Animals are confined to Narnia proper-- Narnia-the-country as opposed to Narnia-the-world. The Calormenes don't recognize Talking Horses when they meet them, and I don't recall any Talking Beasts in the Archenland segments of THAHB either. The Talking Beasts are part of the specialness and sacredness of Narnia-the-country, Narnia as the Garden of Eden and Hill of Calvary of its world, and lesser lands know them not.

depizan said...

If the timeline on the Narnian wiki is right, ( Narnian Timeline ) Caspian is 16 (which could be anything from a kid to an adult depending on the world - and frankly Lewis didn't build the world enough that we can tell), Edmund is 12, Lucy is 10, and Eustace is 9.

depizan said...

If the timeline on the Narnian wiki is right, ( Narnian Timeline ) Caspian is 16 (which could be anything from a kid to an adult depending on the world - and frankly Lewis didn't build the world enough that we can tell), Edmund is 12, Lucy is 10, and Eustace is 9.

Makabit said...

Except that I feel sorry for Anakin, who has been deliberately lied to, manipulated, screwed up and abused by absolutely everyone significant in his life, with a very few possible exceptions. Caspian doesn't inspire any pity in me. He's not even sensitive enough to go bad.

GeniusLemur said...

It just dawned on me who Caspian reminds me of: Anakin Skywalker. There's the same thin trickle of bland characterization, the same huge contrast between how important they're supposed to be and their level of competence, the same expectation we'll root for the insufferable little twit.

And above all, when something bad happens to either one, the reader figures they deserve it for being such a dolt.

Lily said...

Why is Caspian not trying to keep them safe? If he knows that pirates are nearby, he should suggest a safe area for them to...but what do I know, I'm the oldest of four and that's how I'd handle it. It also seems totally unfair that Edmund and Lucy will get kicked out of Narnia a third time with no consideration of their feelings.

Also, off-topic, I love Merlin in The Once and Future King. :D

~Lily~

Makabit said...

Speaking of 'Once and Future King' again, I'm suddenly reminded of a conversation that takes place in there between Arthur and Merlyn, shortly after Arthur has become king. IIRC, Arthur is watching a servant walk below the wall he's standing on, and wonders what would happen if someone dropped a stone on his head from this height. Merlyn does some quick calculations, and says it would kill him.

Arthur says he's never killed anyone like that.

Merlyn tells him, "You are the king. No one can say anything to you if you try."

And there is a silence which is broken by Arthur knocking Merlyn's hat off and then running for the stairs.

Speaking of awkward conversations about power and responsibility that no one ever has with Caspian.

I love White's Merlyn. I especially love that he is fully clued in about Nimue and getting trapped in the cave, and not terribly bothered. I love what White does with the whole story. My one regret is that no one has ever published a version of OAFK which puts things in the order White wanted them in, with the section that was published separately as "The Book of Merlyn" at the end, and all the material about turning Arthur into various animals there, and not at the beginning, as it appears now.

"People are apt to forget that there were several people who were Christians during the Middle Ages, and Lancelot was one of them." How can you not love a book that includes a line like that?

Makabit said...

On a flip side, though, it reminds me of a Tamora Pierce novel, the trilogy with Alanna's daughter. I quite liked it, but there is what I recall as a very WTF scene where she's been kidnapped by pirates--similar scenario--and gets beat up and tangle-haired and a bit smelly perhaps--I don't recall all the details--to protect herself from rape or being sold for sexual purposes--and all I could think was 'sure, that will work. Only women who look really put together after being kidnapped by pirates are in danger of sexual violence'.

Nothing much to do with Narnia or with Harriet Beecher Stowe, but it popped into my head.

Hyaroo said...

On Reepicheep being old enough to have been sung to by Dryads... I first read the Narnian books in their Norwegian translation (naturally, since I am Norwegian... I didn't really start reading books in English for fun until I entered my early teens), and I thought It might interest you to know that in the Norwegian translation of "Prince Caspian," the line "and it was then, though you have long forgotten it, that you began to be Talking Mice" is slightly different:

The Norwegian Aslan says "and it was then you became a Talking Mouse, even if it's so long ago that you have forgotten it." Using the word "you" in singular rather than plural. Which means that in this translation it's more than hinted that Reepicheep actually was one of the mice who gnawed through Aslan's ropes, or at least that he was alive at that point... and that he had actually forgotten the event, possibly because he was very young at the time. (Seems a little weird that nobody had even mentioned it to him, but hey -- it was a thousand years ago, give or take, and in a lifetime that long Reep has probably forgotten more things than most people will ever learn.)

I know translations aren't canon, but I thought it was worth mentioning. ^_^

Hyaroo said...

On Reepicheep being old enough to have been sung to by Dryads... I first read the Narnian books in their Norwegian translation (naturally, since I am Norwegian... I didn't really start reading books in English for fun until I entered my early teens), and I thought It might interest you to know that in the Norwegian translation of "Prince Caspian," the line "and it was then, though you have long forgotten it, that you began to be Talking Mice" is slightly different:

The Norwegian Aslan says "and it was then you became a Talking Mouse, even if it's so long ago that you have forgotten it." Using the word "you" in singular rather than plural. Which means that in this translation it's more than hinted that Reepicheep actually was one of the mice who gnawed through Aslan's ropes, or at least that he was alive at that point... and that he had actually forgotten the event, possibly because he was very young at the time. (Seems a little weird that nobody had even mentioned it to him, but hey -- it was a thousand years ago, give or take, and in a lifetime that long Reep has probably forgotten more things than most people will ever learn.)

I know translations aren't canon, but I thought it was worth mentioning. ^_^

UrsulaVernon said...

I was absolutely think of that at the time!

TheKingleMingle said...

I cannot unimagine that. Eustace shall forever look like Rarity in my mind

TheKingleMingle said...

I cannot unimagine that. Eustace shall forever look like Rarity in my mind

Thomas Keyton said...

Eustace's superpower, as the narrator never lets us forget for long, is whining.

So... it's this? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=csPPqdbcVwM

I think I'm liking him more and more.

Thomas Keyton said...

Eustace's superpower, as the narrator never lets us forget for long, is whining.

So... it's this? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=csPPqdbcVwM

I think I'm liking him more and more.

Timothy (TRiG) said...

I'm reminded of some of the complexities of the British Crown, with places like the Isle of Man, the Channel Islands, and Gibraltar, and various others in a very very complex relationship with the United Kingdom. CGP Grey has a video about it.

TRiG.

GeniusLemur said...

That would be a dangerous game to play, but if the alternative is slavery...

Of course, it would involve Eustace being right, so it'll never fly in Lewis' writings. But it's a lovely thought.

GeniusLemur said...

That would be a dangerous game to play, but if the alternative is slavery...

Of course, it would involve Eustace being right, so it'll never fly in Lewis' writings. But it's a lovely thought.

GeniusLemur said...

Especially if he's, you know, going there

TheKingleMingle said...

"For that matter, why does he ask how they "belong" to Narnia rather than why they are a "part" of Narnia? The words here baffle me."

I think it's because Narnia is used to refer to the land between Cair Paravel and the lamppost, whereas the Lone Islands are a clump of islands not geographically connected to Narnia and with various independent nations in between them. Asking why they are ruled from Narnia given that they are not part of the land known as Narnia.

I always assumed that it was a similar set up to Britain and the Falklands, and in fact thinking about it I suspect Lewis was inspired by this.

J-D said...

'I was thinking more, say, Guam.'

So was I. Or the Pitcairn Islands, which belong to the United Kingdom but are not part of the United Kingdom.

A canonical explanation is provided in _The Last Battle_ , which gives an account of how the Lone Islands became a possession of the Narnian crown when the Narnian King Gale delivered the Lone Islanders from a dragon.

Caspian's attitude that the appropriate response to secession is reconquest may offend against concepts of a right to self-determination, but for good or ill it's what I'd expect as the default response of any government. Governments don't generally recognise a right of secession at will; on the contrary, the default position of governments is respect for what they're pleased to call 'territorial integrity'.

J-D said...

I just want to say that as somebody who was raised by parents and in a milieu where it would have been thought unconscionable to tell a child 'Stop crying or I'll give you something to cry about', and who must have absorbed that attitude unconsciously from an early age, I do find the use of the expression automatically sinister as well as plausible. It doesn't make me think how slavers can be like parents but how parents can be like slavers.

J-D said...

I just want to say that as somebody who was raised by parents and in a milieu where it would have been thought unconscionable to tell a child 'Stop crying or I'll give you something to cry about', and who must have absorbed that attitude unconsciously from an early age, I do find the use of the expression automatically sinister as well as plausible. It doesn't make me think how slavers can be like parents but how parents can be like slavers.

depizan said...

Will is Batman.

Will Wildman said...

I keep telling people that but no one takes me seriously. Possibly because I lack Adam West's solemn camp and Christian Bale's gravel larynx.

Will Wildman said...

I keep telling people that but no one takes me seriously. Possibly because I lack Adam West's solemn camp and Christian Bale's gravel larynx.

J-D said...

I'm a little puzzled by the reference to Galma and Terebinthia as 'island territories (and/or allies)' (that is, of Narnia), because I'm not seeing anything to exclude the possibility that they were neither Narnian territories nor Narnian allies.

J-D said...

I'm a little puzzled by the reference to Galma and Terebinthia as 'island territories (and/or allies)' (that is, of Narnia), because I'm not seeing anything to exclude the possibility that they were neither Narnian territories nor Narnian allies.

Scott P. said...

How am I ignoring Hawaiians? I would assume Hawaiians represent a good chunk of the 1% of Americans who do know how Hawaii became a possession (0.3% of Americans live in Hawaii -- if you add those moving to other states, it's still probably no more than 0.5%).

And yes, Caspian isn't an average Telmarine child, but you were talking explicitly about the average Telmarine child.

GeniusLemur said...

Along similar lines: on QI once, they talked about an English prince (I think) who was being held prisoner during one of their many succession "disputes." He loved to play hide and seek, and was really good at it, regularly evading detection for hours. Finally, he managed to get a hold of someone's keys. Next step: play hide and seek! Because they were so used to the whole rigamorale, he had several precious hours head start before they realized he wasn't there, and successfully escaped.

Makabit said...

BTW, I missed out on saying this before, but I love the idea that Eustace is employing his superior whining capacity to escape slavery. It's a priceless image. Keep your good looks and good teeth and language skills and superior morals, those just get you SOLD. Whining your ass off may get you your freedom!

storiteller said...

Maybe some (or all) of the flaws in Narnia are due to some combination of 3 factors:
1) Lewis didn't like children
2) Lewis didn't like writing for children
3) Lewis had a low opinion of children


I think he believed he liked children, but didn't actually know any or spend time with them. As a result, he looks fondly upon them, but had a rather ill-informed opinion of them that led to a low opinion of their intelligence. He seems to have a similar relationship with women until late in his life, but with less respect and more distaste. From what I know of his biography, he was the perfect stereotype of the Oxford don at the time.

I also suspect he thought his world-building was much better than it was. I suspect that it was better than much of the adventure fiction published at that time, but that's probably not saying much. I know Tolkien hated Narnia, precisely because the world-building is so shoddy.

Photon said...

to restore proper cultural values, having been led horribly astray by the influence of not-actually-Islam (ugh times a million).

Calormen doesn't seem to be a stand in for Islam though. It is based upon oriental culture(s), but what we know about its religion is very distict from Islam. It is more like a very superficial version of Hinduism or ancient Egyptian religion. I guess it simply represents polytheistic "idol-worship" (Tash is Turkish for stone, just like Aslan is Turkish for lion)

I've heard that the reason Lewis introduced the Calormens as villians was that he didn't like the tales from Arabian Nights. (I'm not an expert, but I've heard that european fairy tales are often good vs. evil themed, while oriental fairy tales are often clever/cunning vs ignorant/foolish. Given the overall moral of Narnia, it isn't hard to imagine that Lewis didn't really like the latter.)

GeniusLemur said...

Hm, that makes a lot of sense when you look at the writing. The emphasis on innocence side-by-side with condemning children for acting like, well, children. Forgetting that children are not and can't be major-league butt-kickers. The constant lecturing tone of the narrator. If Lewis was addressing his "seen-and-not-heard innocent" idea of a child, it all makes more sense. Doesn't make it any better, but I can see how it got that way without Lewis realizing it.

Scott P. said...

"While we're at it, how come he doesn't know the answer to this in the first place? Shouldn't a king of Narnia know at least the most cursory history of how which territories became part of his empire? That strikes me as rather elementary knowledge, something the average ten-year-old in his country would probably know."

If you ask most American adults how the Hawaiian Islands became a U.S. possession, I doubt 1 in 100 will be able to tell you.

Scott P. said...

"While we're at it, how come he doesn't know the answer to this in the first place? Shouldn't a king of Narnia know at least the most cursory history of how which territories became part of his empire? That strikes me as rather elementary knowledge, something the average ten-year-old in his country would probably know."

If you ask most American adults how the Hawaiian Islands became a U.S. possession, I doubt 1 in 100 will be able to tell you.

GeniusLemur said...

And again, why not just put Narnia out to pasture and start with a new world? All you lose is the younger Pevenskies and Caspian, who are so poorly and vaguely written that they're no loss. Besides, if you want to do the knight-errant thing, you need a protagonist who has the brains and common sense Aslan gave a turnip.

Anton_Mates said...

Besides, if you want to do the knight-errant thing, you need a protagonist who has the brains and common sense Aslan gave a turnip.

I think you mean a Turnip. Sadly, Aslan smote them with regular-plantiness as punishment for Tashpostasy over a millennium ago. The last Talking Produce vanished from Narnia following Jadis' defeat, when the People of the Toadstools fled down a large green sewer pipe to an unknown realm.

Hyaroo said...

Also, does the crew pray or do ritual to Aslan for protection on their voyage? Seems silly not to invoke the protection of the closest thing you have to a god when you're sailing of into the unknown.

I doubt it. Narnians don't seem to be very big on prayer or rituals, at least from what we see in the books.

...Of course, there is the part back in Ancient Narnian History when Aslan sends Diggory and Polly off on a quest without sending with them any food because they didn't think to ask for it.

"Well, I do think someone might have arranged about our meals," said Digory.
 
"I'm sure Aslan would have, if you'd asked him," said Fledge.
 
"Wouldn't he know without being asked?" said Polly.
 
"I've no doubt he would," said the Horse (still with his mouth full). "But I've a sort of idea he likes to be asked."


Hmmm. So it seems Aslan only helps people if they ask for help? And sticks to his principles even when it's clearly unreasonable of him to do so? ...Waaaaaait a minute. Could this be the reason why he abandons Narnia for such long periods of time, because nobody actually thought to ask for his help?

This is an interesting thought. I don't have the books in front of me here and now, but beyond perhaps a few ominous appearances, does Aslan ever actually give direct aid to anyone unless asked first? Well, he took a very active part in guiding Shasta in The Horse And His Boy, but a lot of this was indirect, and besides Shasta had a Big And Important Destiny, so he may have been a special case... are there any others?

And now I'm wondering, if Aslan as a rule only helps those who ask, is this a deliberate choice on his part, or is he bound by some rules similar to the ones about the Deep Magic?

Now I'm actually starting to envision Aslan as a deity caught in a network of rules and restrictions, who genuinely wants to do good but is hindered by it because he isn't allowed to directly intervene with the mortals unless [unknown number of special circumstances], and tries to make up for it by playing the chessmaster and manipulator, hoping that he can set up events in the right way so that more good than evil will come from it. Hmmmmmmm....

depizan said...

I'm of two minds of the mention of Eustace's bandaged hand - on the one hand, adventure fiction writer/fan here, and it's perfectly normal in that genre to keep characters injuries in mind that way (not that one couldn't argue some sadism/masochism in the genre, mind), on the other hand, it suggests (to me at least) injuries worth noting, which ups the WTF level of Caspian having actually considered allowing a duel between Reepicheep and Eustace.

While we're on the subject of WTFs, there's yet another aspect of the whole capture by slavers business that leaves me boggled. Four kids wander up on the slavers, who are randomly having a picnic. And promptly become merchandise. Wait, what now? The slavers aren't the least bit concerned about whatever adults the kids must surely go with objecting to this plan? Does everyone on Felimath live in constant fear of be captured by the slavers who live there and sell to them? This is not sensible world building.

David Newgreen said...

The rulers of the Ottoman Empire were always primarily reffered to as Sultans, despite also claiming at various times the titles of Caliph, Padishah, Great Khan and Kaisar-i-rum (ie, Caesar of Rome), all of which would seem to trump Sultan when it comes to importance.

I believe it is also traditional to refer to use the titles of Lord of Mann and Duke of Normandy as the British monarch's primary titles within the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands respectively. Feudal titles tend not to follow logical rules.

(Though, yes, I suspect Lewis was thinking of the British Empire and just threw in the titles as a bit of flavor. Alternatively, since the first time we hear the title, it's describing the White Witch, he just wanted to make her sound more impressive to make her more of a threat, and didn't put any thought into it at the time...)

Will Wildman said...

I could understand Caspian assuming the Lone Islands were conquered because he grew up in Telmarine culture where conquest is the normal method of expanding territory and he still defaults to those assumptions, but that would probably clash with his inherent heroism and supposed knowledge (like inexplicably being able to teach the other Telmarines to sail).

More confusing is that he ever knew the Lone Islands were part of Narnia, given that they haven't been visited by a human king in about 1300 years and the Telmarines don't sail. How exactly does one come through a portal into a new land, drive out the Talking Animals, build a castle, and become aware that there are islands hundreds of miles out to sea that used to be part of this same country a millennium earlier? The only explanation I can see is that this is information he picked up more recently from his Old Narnian advisors. (Fanonically, Reepicheep the Infinitely Prolonged would be the best source, and I rather suspect he would embellish the story to include more swordfights.)

Phoenix said...

Why would Caspian assume that the Lone Islands are part of Narnia because they were conquered? For that matter, why does he ask how they "belong" to Narnia rather than why they are a "part" of Narnia? The words here baffle me.

While we're at it, how come he doesn't know the answer to this in the first place? Shouldn't a king of Narnia know at least the most cursory history of how which territories became part of his empire? That strikes me as rather elementary knowledge, something the average ten-year-old in his country would probably know.

Phoenix said...

Why would Caspian assume that the Lone Islands are part of Narnia because they were conquered? For that matter, why does he ask how they "belong" to Narnia rather than why they are a "part" of Narnia? The words here baffle me.

While we're at it, how come he doesn't know the answer to this in the first place? Shouldn't a king of Narnia know at least the most cursory history of how which territories became part of his empire? That strikes me as rather elementary knowledge, something the average ten-year-old in his country would probably know.

Will Wildman said...

That's a good point. I had glossed it in my mind to Aslan saying "Peter and Susan won't be coming back", but I thought that was more of a prophetic thing than an explicit age disqualification. (In the book, it's flatly 'you are too old'; is it like that in the most recent movie?) Weird.

Phoenix said...

Apologies, I meant to italicize that first paragraph to indicate a quote from the post.

Makabit said...

"Now we're banned from Galma, every one,
Banned from Galma just for having a little fun,
We spent a jolly shore-leave there of just three days or four
but Galma doesn't want us anymore..."

Wonder why?

duckbunny said...

I assume that Caspian made such a fool of himself on Galma that they all had to leave in a hurry, plans for sending Caspian home on a Galman ship notwithstanding.

"Now we're banned from Galma, every one,
Banned from Galma just for having a little fun,
We spent a jolly shore-leave there of just three days or four
but Galma doesn't want us anymore..."

Steven Damer said...

A lot of Narnia feels like there is AN OBJECTIVE TRUTH, that everyone (even the bad guys) knows. Caspian is the ruler of the islands because that's just the truth, and everyone knows it. The bad people know it too, they just fight against it, that's what makes them bad. (There's no reason for them to be bad - as objectively bad people, they will lose, but they don't have any choice in the matter)

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