Narnia: And The Horse You Rode In On

[Narnia Content Note: Genocide, Religious Abuse, Chivalry, Racism, Slavery]
Content Note: Body Transformation]

Narnia Recap: Lucy has cast the spell to make things visible and will now spend time with the Magician Coriakin.

Voyage of the Dawn Treader, Chapter 11: The Dufflepuds Made Happy


There are times when it's difficult to deconstruct a text, and this is one of those times. I've been looking over this chapter every couple of days for the last week, and I still don't know what to say about it that hasn't been said already. It's awful and nasty and ugly stuff, and I don't know how to get through it but to barrel through. Let's hold our noses and plunge in.

   “When will the spell work?” asked Lucy. “Will the Duffers be visible again at once?”
   “Oh yes, they’re visible now. But they’re probably all asleep still; they always take a rest in the middle of the day.”
   “And now that they’re visible, are you going to let them off being ugly? Will you make them as they were before?”
   “Well, that’s rather a delicate question,” said the Magician. “You see, it’s only they who think they were so nice to look at before. They say they’ve been uglified, but that isn’t what I called it. Many people might say the change was for the better.”
   “Are they awfully conceited?”

I... no. What? NO.

There is no universe, no universe, in which that question naturally flows from what was said there. There sure as hell is no universe in which that question flows from Queen Lucy the Valiant. Lewis is asking us to accept, on the words of a star-man, that the bodily autonomy and self-determination of an entire race of people is nothing more than mere vanity simply because a star-man says he likes them better this way. (But not so much better, obviously, that he chooses to shed his own shape and join them in theirs.)

The only natural questions here are cagey ones soliciting more information ("What makes you say that?") or social justice ones which immediately call this out for the bullshit it is ("What gives you the right to make that decision for them?"). It is in no way natural to just immediately accept this framing and go along with it ("Oh, I see! So they're pretty vain, huh?"). Even if someone were inclined to assume perfect good faith on Coriakin's part, the result is more confusion than acceptance ("I'm sorry; I don't understand."). Not this wholesale, totally-accepting, Nothing To See Here Move Along, headlong rush to condemn the Dufflepuds.

And he is additionally asking us to accept that Lucy--Lucy who has fought battles to save Narnians from the White Witch and who has run with gods and monsters to save Narnians from the Telmarines and who has experienced slavery alongside the people of the Lone Islands, that Lucy, the Lucy who talked back to Saint Nick and told him that she was sure she'd be brave enough to fight regardless of whatever dreck he thought--just shrugged up her shoulders and accepted Coriakin's assessment of the situation because there's a kyriarch in the room and therefore that's all that should matter.

Furthermore, Lewis is trying to sneakily tie this in to his Fairest lesson in the last chapter; Lucy has "learned" her lesson that wanting to be pretty is Sinful, so now Lucy dutifully accepts that the Dufflepuds are wrong and sinful for not accepting this "improvement" that their god-appointed master has bestowed on them. And once again we are reminded that in this religious allegory, it is terrifyingly easy to insert various non-Protestant Christian groups into the role of the Dufflepuds here and realize that Protestant Christians very frequently did (and do) marginalize other religious groups by trying to control their dress, hairstyle, beard-style, and how they walk, talk, and act.

To a certain extent, I don't really think that it matters if Lewis intended the Dufflepuds to be Irish Catholics or Jewish people or atheists or just something 'silly' he dreamed up and stuck into his book. I don't mean that it's not a valuable topic for discussion--I think it is--but I do mean that at the end of the day, this is a story about a person that is privileged in every possible way (looks like Lewis + shares Lewis' culturally dominant religion) oppressing in some of the worst possible ways a group that is marginalized in just about every possible category (race and religion really only scratching the surface).

And Lewis is both saying that anyone unsatisfied with their marginalization is nothing more than Dangerously Vain (for the Magic Book showed us that vanity isn't just sinful, it's dangerous and inextricably linked with bad intentions) and that his religion not only approves of this state of affairs, it orchestrated it. Coriakin is there because god specifically put him there. And god just checked in five minutes ago to give him an attaboy. In my opinion, there's no way to slice that to be even remotely progressive. I don't even know how to slice it such that it isn't blatant hate speech against people who aren't C.S. Lewis and don't share his axes of privilege (i.e., Lucy et. al.).

   “They are. Or at least the Chief Duffer is, and he’s taught all the rest to be. They always believe every word he says.”
   “We’d noticed that,” said Lucy.
   “Yes—we’d get on better without him, in a way. Of course I could turn him into something else, or even put a spell on him which would make them not believe a word he said. But I don’t like to do that. It’s better for them to admire him than to admire nobody.”
   “Don’t they admire you?” asked Lucy.
   “Oh, not me,” said the Magician. “They wouldn’t admire me.”

I don't really know what to say to this except that it seems obvious to me that the fact that Coriakin hasn't turned the Chief into "something else" (i.e., "something worse", and it's telling how very hard Lewis is trying in this chapter to maintain the veil-of-cozy) is supposed to be taken as proof of his goodness. Sure.

And, really, this is how victim-blaming and kyriarchal sympathizing works. The Dufflepuds are annoying. (Just as Eustace was/is annoying and Edward was annoying in turn.) So we, the reader, are tempted by the author to write off their punishment as something they deserved. Or, at the very least, no real tragedy. And this can be accomplished very easily by subtly reminding the reader that these characters aren't real.

That's not necessarily a bad thing. (Many of us, I'm sure, know some fictional character they would gladly consign to the bottom of a very deep well.) But the problem arises when it's all too easy to de-personify actual people in real life and apply that same (wrong) logic to them: they are annoying / irritating / difficult-to-sympathize-with, therefore they had it coming.

The sort of feminism I live by requires me to refocus from that logic we're taught as children and instead point out that non-consensual boundary transgression is not okay. And to see that Coriakin had a choice to do what he did, and he did it anyway. Not for some greater good (though I'd be hard-pressed to know what greater good could ever justify what he has done), but because he thought the Dufflepuds were irksome. If we turn around and justify those actions under that same mentality--they're annoying, no great loss--then we are blaming victims and treating their victimizers as though they didn't make a horrific choice to victimize someone.

It's may be easier to see with the Dufflepuds, but it's important to point out, not the least because it's somehow so much easier for people not to notice (by choice or otherwise) when it's "bitchy" and "uppity" women of color like Aravis.

   “What was it you uglified them for—I mean, what they call uglified?”
   “Well, they wouldn’t do what they were told. Their work is to mind the garden and raise food—not for me, as they imagine, but for themselves. They wouldn’t do it at all if I didn’t make them. And of course for a garden you want water. There is a beautiful spring about half a mile away up the hill. And from that spring there flows a stream which comes right past the garden. All I asked them to do was to take their water from the stream instead of trudging up to the spring with their buckets two or three times a day and tiring themselves out besides spilling half of it on the way back. But they wouldn’t see it. In the end they refused point blank.”

I don't know what to say about this that hasn't already been said, by more people than I can keep track of:

--Coriakin could easily have installed an irrigation system instead.
--The transformation didn't make it easier to transport water.
--There's no indication that Coriakin tried to explain his ideas to the Dufflepuds instead of issuing orders.
--There are valid religious and sanitary reasons to do what the Dufflepuds did.
--Everything about the island indicates that this wasn't a life-or-death sustenance issue.
--Everything about the island indicates that the Dufflepuds have an excess of labor. 
--Everything about the island indicates that the Dufflepuds are supporting Coriakin, not vice versa.
--Coriakin seems to be using them as slave labor, which may imply deliberate civil disobedience.

Anyway, Lucy is in full-on "admire the kyriarch because she's been taken over by the author" mode, so she continues to fawn on Coriakin: 

   “Are they as stupid as all that?” asked Lucy.
   The Magician sighed. “You wouldn’t believe the troubles I’ve had with them. A few months ago they were all for washing up the plates and knives before dinner: they said it saved time afterward. I’ve caught them planting boiled potatoes to save cooking them when they were dug up. One day the cat got into the dairy and twenty of them were at work moving all the milk out; no one thought of moving the cat. But I see you’ve finished. Let’s go and look at the Duffers now they can be looked at.”

I've already said this before, but I'll say it again: this is exactly the sort of civil disobedience that slaves will engage in so as to undermine their destructive masters. I do not believe that Lewis could have been wholly ignorant of this phenomenon. Which means that either he conveniently "forgot" it when he was crafting his slave population or he chose to misrepresent a relatively well-known phenomena in order to pretend that his fictional slave population really was that "stupid". Everything about that choice (either to forget or misrepresent) is odious to me.

   [...] here, when they had come to the window, the Magician said, “There. There are your Duffers.”
   “I don’t see anybody,” said Lucy. “And what are those mushroom things?”
   The things she pointed at were dotted all over the level grass. They were certainly very like mushrooms, but far too big—the stalks about three feet high and the umbrellas about the same length from edge to edge. When she looked carefully she noticed too that the stalks joined the umbrellas not in the middle but at one side which gave an unbalanced look to them. And there was something—a sort of little bundle—lying on the grass at the foot of each stalk. In fact the longer she gazed at them the less like mushrooms they appeared. The umbrella part was not really round as she had thought at first. It was longer than it was broad, and it widened at one end. There were a great many of them, fifty or more.
   The clock struck three.
   Instantly a most extraordinary thing happened. Each of the “mushrooms” suddenly turned upside-down. The little bundles which had lain at the bottom of the stalks were heads and bodies. The stalks themselves were legs. But not two legs to each body. Each body had a single thick leg right under it (not to one side like the leg of a one-legged man) and at the end of it, a single enormous foot—a broad-toed foot with the toes curling up a little so that it looked rather like a small canoe. She saw in a moment why they had looked like mushrooms. They had been lying flat on their backs each with its single leg straight up in the air and its enormous foot spread out above it. She learned afterward that this was their ordinary way of resting; for the foot kept off both rain and sun and for a Monopod to lie under its own foot is almost as good as being in a tent.

I want to point out something here. The Dufflepuds aren't described by their own words; we never hear what words they would use if asked to convey their description. That is a huge problem, that we only see what the Dufflepuds look like through privileged eyes, and that it is People Like Lewis (white, privileged, British, etc.) who have the definitive word on how the Dufflepuds are viewed by the reader. I have zero doubt that were the Dufflepuds allowed to describe themselves, these are not the words they would use.

Additionally, please note how much of these paragraphs are devoted to de-personifying the Dufflepuds by comparing them to things. They are mushrooms, they have stalks, they are umbrellas, they are bundles. Even once they are ostensibly people, their feet are still likened to tents even though this is a patently absurd comparison. (The value of a tent is as a wind-breaker and a blocker of things which the wind would otherwise drive into you, whether it be sand, dirt, snow, rain, or other elements.) It is abundantly clear that "umbrella" would have been a better comparison here, but Lewis had already used that and de-personifying requires a constant barrage of reminders that the people in question are objects rather than people.

The Dufflepuds are also situated in a way which would seem to make them more like animals than people. Despite having a house/tower right there which they apparently take their evening meals in (and sleep in??), they are sleeping on the ground without any kind of blanket or covering or shelter beyond what is provided by their own bodies, and in a large clustered group. There is no description of clothing or adornments or anything that could differentiate one person from another. There are no descriptions of smaller clusters of families or familial groups sheltering children. Despite the fact that Coriakin has claimed that the Dufflepuds tend "the garden", there is no mention of tools. There is no detail to indicate that the Dufflepuds have any personality beyond The Chief (who has no name) and a literal Chorus of undifferentiated voices. For all that we're given here, the Dufflepuds might as well be cows or a herd of (non-talking) animals.

   “Oh, the funnies, the funnies,” cried Lucy, bursting into laughter. “Did you make them like that?”
   “Yes, yes. I made the Duffers into Monopods,” said the Magician. He too was laughing till the tears ran down his cheeks.


Off is the general direction in which I wish you would fuck. @
Yup. Seems like you have a case of shut the fuck up. @
Oh, gosh. Where do I start? Well, first of all, fuck you. @
You are cordially invited to go fuck yourself. @
Let's play the fuck off game. You go first. @
As you can clearly see here, fuck you. @
You put the "You" in Fuck You. @
Yes, that's correct. And the horse you rode in on. @

-f-f-f-f-f-f-FUCK YOU.

   It was worth watching. Of course these little one-footed men couldn’t walk or run as we do. They got about by jumping, like fleas or frogs. And what jumps they made!—as if each big foot were a mass of springs. And with what a bounce they came down; that was what made the thumping noise which had so puzzled Lucy yesterday. 

They're frogs! They're fleas! They're springs! They're bouncey castles! They're literally ANYTHING EXCEPT PEOPLE! 

   “She caught the old man napping, that little girl did,” said the Chief Monopod. “We’ve beaten him this time.”   “Just what we were going to say ourselves,” chimed the chorus. “You’re going stronger than ever today, Chief. Keep it up, keep it up.”
   “But do they dare to talk about you like that?” said Lucy. “They seemed to be so afraid of you yesterday. Don’t they know you might be listening?”
   “That’s one of the funny things about the Duffers,” said the Magician. “One minute they talk as if I ran everything and overheard everything and was extremely dangerous. The next moment they think they can take me in by tricks that a baby would see through—bless them!”

Or, you know, their lives are so miserable that they either figure it can't get worse or they're actively trying to convince the Magician to kill them and release them from their torment. Gallows humor. If you don't laugh, you'll cry. These are known phenomena.

But all that is so much fluff because this passage is really about how marginalized people should be frightened of their stronger, more powerful "betters" except that they don't have a real reason to be afraid because of course their privileged "betters" wouldn't give in to base tempers (except when transforming everyone in a community over a water dispute, which is totally reasonable and not petty at all) and have only their health in mind, but that's only because their "betters" are Good People who deserve Cookies, and the marginalized people really should recognize that and be appropriately grateful.

Unlike these ungrateful asshole Dufflepuds, obvs.

   “Will they have to be turned back into their proper shapes?” asked Lucy. “Oh, I do hope it wouldn’t be unkind to leave them as they are. Do they really mind very much? They seem pretty happy. I say—look at that jump. What were they like before?”
   “Common little dwarfs,” said he. “Nothing like so nice as the sort you have in Narnia.”
   “It would be a pity to change them back,” said Lucy. “They’re so funny: and they’re rather nice. Do you think it would make any difference if I told them that?”
   “I’m sure it would—if you could get it into their heads.”
   “Will you come with me and try?”
   “No, no. You’ll get on far better without me.”

How many times do you have to say "What the Fuck?" before it becomes your catchphrase? @

I have nothing but contempt and rage.

   “Thanks awfully for the lunch,” said Lucy and turned quickly away. She ran down the stairs which she had come up so nervously that morning and cannoned into Edmund at the bottom. All the others were there with him waiting, and Lucy’s conscience smote her when she saw their anxious faces and realized how long she had forgotten them.
   “It’s all right,” she shouted. “Everything’s all right. The Magician’s a brick—and I’ve seen Him—Aslan.”


   After that she went from them like the wind and out into the garden. Here the earth was shaking with the jumps and the air ringing with the shouts of the Monopods. Both were redoubled when they caught sight of her.
   “Here she comes, here she comes,” they cried. “Three cheers for the little girl. Ah! She put it across the old gentleman properly, she did.”
   “And we’re extremely regrettable,” said the Chief Monopod, “that we can’t give you the pleasure of seeing us as we were before we were uglified, for you wouldn’t believe the difference, and that’s the truth, for there’s no denying we’re mortal ugly now, so we won’t deceive you.”
   [...] “But I don’t think you are at all,” said Lucy, shouting to make herself heard. “I think you look very nice.”

Then there's a lot of polite agreeful argument back-and-forth which is intended to illustrate that the Dufflepuds are all stupid silly fools, and it would probably never occur to someone like C.S. Lewis that it sounds a lot like someone marginalized choosing to "agree" with a more privileged person but in a manner that subtly indicates disagreement with what is being said, and which is done that way because they have genuine concerns about politeness, retaliation, tone, and various other things that privileged people generally don't need to worry about.

Like "agreeing in a disagreeful way" and "disagreeing in an agreeful way" are both things that I have to do a lot as a woman. Just saying.

   “You’re enough to drive anyone mad,” said Lucy, and gave it up. But the Monopods seemed perfectly contented, and she decided that on the whole the conversation had been a success.And before everyone went to bed that evening something else happened which made them even more satisfied with their one-legged condition. [...] When they reached the bay, Reepicheep had a brilliant idea. He had his little coracle lowered and paddled himself about in it till the Monopods were thoroughly interested. He then stood up in it and said, “Worthy and intelligent Monopods, you do not need boats. Each of you has a foot that will do instead. Just jump as lightly as you can on the water and see what happens.”

And that was why we burned a village down: So Reepicheep would have a boat (which will have one other use) and the Dufflepuds could be made to be "satisfied" with their body transformation. Because who needs to make a boat for hirself when instead you could have your body shaped by dark magics against your will and consent etc.

   And they had races, and bottles of wine were lowered down to them from the ship as prizes, and the sailors stood leaning over the ship’s sides and laughed till their own sides ached.

I... you... NO.

I literally have nothing left for this chapter. Either you are there with me and find this horrific and disgusting and terrible, or you aren't. Either way, anything I have left to say will belabor the point in a way that won't help anyone. So I'm going to switch to mechanical details.

   The Duffers were also very pleased with their new name of Monopods, which seemed to them a magnificent name though they never got it right. “That’s what we are,” they bellowed. “Moneypuds, Pomonods, Poddymons. Just what it was on the tips of our tongue to call ourselves.” But they soon got it mixed up with their old name of Duffers and finally settled down to calling themselves the Dufflepuds; and that is what they will probably be called for centuries.

The correct name for a person is what they say it is. In case you've been wondering why I've been using that term all along while the text has been calling them "Duffers".

   That evening all the Narnians dined upstairs with the Magician, and Lucy noticed how different the whole top floor looked now that she was no longer afraid of it. The mysterious signs on the doors were still mysterious but now looked as if they had kind and cheerful meanings, and even the bearded mirror now seemed funny rather than frightening.

This establishes that Coriakin is not genuinely scary after all (just in case there were any doubts) and that Lucy was in the wrong (sinful) state of mind when she climbed the stairs this morning, and thus any beautifying and eavesdropping impulses she had came from a Wrong Mind and were therefore Wrong Actions, as opposed to, say, eavesdropping by Aslan or Peter Pevensie which always came from a Good Mind and were therefore Good Actions.

   At dinner everyone had by magic what everyone liked best to eat and drink, and after dinner the Magician did a very useful and beautiful piece of magic. He laid two blank sheets of parchment on the table and asked Drinian to give him an exact account of their voyage up to date: and as Drinian spoke, everything he described came out on the parchment in fine clear lines till at last each sheet was a splendid map 
   [...] They were the first maps ever made of those seas and better than any that have been made since without magic. For on these, though the towns and mountains looked at first just as they would on an ordinary map, when the Magician lent them a magnifying glass you saw that they were perfect little pictures of the real things, so that you could see the very castle and slave market and streets in Narrowhaven, all very clear though very distant, like things seen through the wrong end of a telescope. The only drawback was that the coastline of most of the islands was incomplete, for the map showed only what Drinian had seen with his own eyes. 

I do like how incomplete maps are The Best Maps Of Those Seas Ever because you can see streets on land. Because obviously when you are on the sea, you need to see streets down to the individual brick, but shit like shore lines and relative depth and whatnot is optional. Obviously.

   When they were finished the Magician kept one himself and presented the other to Caspian: it still hangs in his Chamber of Instruments at Cair Paravel. 

WHY DOES HE NEED ONE, THERE IS ZERO INDICATION THAT HE WILL EVER LEAVE THIS ISLAND YOU KNOW WHAT I DON'T CARE. I'm sure he just keeps it to look at every so often in order to remind himself of how awesome he is.

   But the Magician could tell them nothing about seas or lands further east. 

It's not like he had a star's eye view for however many centuries or whatever.

   He did, however, tell them that about seven years before a Narnian ship had put in at his waters and that she had on board the Lords Revilian, Argoz, Mavramorn and Rhoop: so they judged that the golden man they had seen lying in Deathwater must be the Lord Restimar.

Despite the fact that everything about the Golden Person argued for a time period well before the Telmarine invasion, but we're on a schedule.

Also, hey, Lewis d'ya wanna tell us about how the Dufflepuds were doing seven years ago when the Telmarines pulled in to port? No, because fuck you for thinking about them when you're supposed to be focusing on Gold Boy Caspian and his golden adventures of goldeness. I mean really. Geez.

   Next day, the Magician magically mended the stern of the Dawn Treader where it had been damaged by the Sea Serpent and loaded her with useful gifts. There was a most friendly parting, and when she sailed, two hours after noon, all the Dufflepuds paddled out with her to the harbor mouth, and cheered until she was out of sound of their cheering.

We're now done with this horrible, hateful chapter and I shall never again remember why I liked VoDT the most as a child. I want to sob until I have no tears left and then pour all the tears on C.S. Lewis' grave and then light them on fire. BECAUSE MY TEARS ARE FLAMMABLE.


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