Narnia: The London Job

[Narnia Content Note: Ableist Language, Animal Cruelty]

Narnia Recap: Digory and Polly have returned home, but have accidentally brought Queen Jadis with them. She has ordered Uncle Andrew to procure means of transportation so she can begin her world conquest.

The Magician's Nephew, Chapter 7: What Happened at the Front Door

When we last left off, Digory was sitting around at home and wondering what Polly was doing. There doesn't seem to be anything physical keeping him from going next door and knocking to ask (except that he would have to leave his post of watching to see if Jadis comes back for no readily imaginable reason--which she will, again for no readily imaginable reason), but the narrator knows that Polly is grounded and that wouldn't work.

   He wondered about this a good deal as the first slow half-hour ticked on. But you need not wonder, for I am going to tell you. She had got home late for her dinner, with her shoes and stockings very wet. And when they asked her where she had been and what on earth she had been doing, she said she had been out with Digory Kirke. Under further questioning she said she had got her feet wet in a pool of water, and that the pool was in a wood. Asked where the wood was, she said she didn’t know. Asked if it was in one of the parks, she said truthfully enough that she supposed it might be a sort of park. From all of this Polly’s mother got the idea that Polly had gone off, without telling anyone, to some part of London she didn’t know, and gone into a strange park and amused herself jumping into puddles. As a result she was told that she had been very naughty indeed and that she wouldn’t be allowed to play with “that Kirke boy” any more if anything of the sort ever happened again. Then she was given dinner with all the nice parts left out and sent to bed for two solid hours. It was a thing that happened to one quite often in those days.

What time is it, anyway? Digory is eating his lunch while Polly is being fed her dinner; I know some people set dinner relatively early but I've never heard of it being synonymous with lunch.

   So while Digory was staring out of the dining-room window, Polly was lying in bed, and both were thinking how terribly slowly the time could go. I think, myself, I would rather have been in Polly’s position. She had only to wait for the end of her two hours: but every few minutes Digory would hear a cab or a baker’s van or a butcher’s boy coming round the corner and think “Here she comes,” and then find it wasn’t. And in between these false alarms, for what seemed hours and hours, the clock ticked on and one big fly—high up and far out of reach—buzzed against the window. It was one of those houses that get very quiet and dull in the afternoon and always seem to smell of mutton.

Terribly amused that Lewis thinks it would be preferable to be a girl without agency than to be a boy who chooses not to use his. Meanwhile, Digory overhears something that will be Important as the plot shuffles him around.

   A lady called with some grapes for Digory’s Mother [...] “What lovely grapes!” came Aunt Letty’s voice. “I’m sure if anything could do her good these would. But poor, dear little Mabel! I’m afraid it would need fruit from the land of youth to help her now. Nothing in this world will do much.” [...] But suddenly it flashed upon his mind that he now knew (even if Aunt Letty didn’t) that there really were other worlds and that he himself had been in one of them. At that rate there might be a real Land of Youth somewhere. There might be almost anything. There might be fruit in some other world that would really cure his mother! [...] His hand was already going into the pocket where he kept the yellow ring, when all at once he heard a sound of galloping.

Jadis is back! Or, rather, she is rampaging through the streets and miraculously it is in front of Digory's house that things are going to come to a sudden head. WHY? This bugs me so much more than it probably ought to, but it's just so random and contrived that you can see the author's fingers all over everything.

   “Hullo! What’s that?” thought Digory. “Fire-engine? I wonder what house is on fire. Great Scott, it’s coming here. Why, it’s Her.”
   First came the hansom. There was no one in the driver’s seat. On the roof—not sitting, but standing on the roof—swaying with superb balance as it came at full speed round the corner with one wheel in the air—was Jadis the Queen of Queens and the Terror of Charn. Her teeth were bared, her eyes shone like fire, and her long hair streamed out behind her like a comet’s tail. She was flogging the horse without mercy. Its nostrils were wide and red and its sides were spotted with foam. It galloped madly up to the front door, missing the lamp-post by an inch, and then reared up on its hind legs. The hansom crashed into the lamp-post and shattered into several pieces. The Witch, with a magnificent jump, had sprung clear just in time and landed on the horse’s back. She settled herself astride and leaned forward, whispering things in its ear. They must have been things meant not to quiet it but to madden it. It was on its hind legs again in a moment, and its neigh was like a scream; it was all hoofs and teeth and eyes and tossing mane. Only a splendid rider could have stayed on its back.
   Before Digory had recovered his breath a good many other things began to happen. A second hansom dashed up close behind the first: out of it there jumped a fat man in a frock-coat and a policeman. Then came a third hansom with two more policemen in it. After it, came about twenty people (mostly errand boys) on bicycles, all ringing their bells and letting out cheers and cat-calls. Last of all came a crowd of people on foot: all very hot with running, but obviously enjoying themselves. Windows shot up in all the houses of that street and a housemaid or a butler appeared at every front door. They wanted to see the fun.

There's a lot going on here so I'm going to summarize the positions of our main cast.

Polly: at home in bed and unable to witness any of this scene.

Digory: at the house window watching. Soon he will join the crowd of onlookers.

Uncle Andrew: inside the wrecked hansom cab. The crowd members will pull him out. He seems to be drunk or silly.

Jadis: on top of the hansom horse after she (miraculously, contrivedly) crashed in front of Digory's house.

   “That’s the woman, that’s the woman,” cried the fat man, pointing at Jadis. “Do your duty, Constable. Hundreds and thousands of pounds’ worth she’s taken out of my shop. Look at that rope of pearls round her neck. That’s mine. And she’s given me a black eye too, what’s more.”

Apparently Jadis' plan for conquering this world without her powers was to take a hansom cab to a jewelry store, whereupon she donned as many jewels as she could, punched the store-owner with her bare fists (?!), and ran out like a common thief on the lam. Presumably the cabbie (who seems to arrive later on foot??) refused to drive Jadis from the scene of the crime, so she--I guess?--pushed him off the driver's seat and chose to take over driving from the roof rather than from the seat. For...reasons?

I can't say I'm very impressed by this plan! Jadis is vain, yes, and wanted trappings of wealthy and beauty in order that the rulers of this world would take her seriously, so I can just understand Andrew directing the cab to a jewelry store--he would have wanted to impress her with the pretty shinyies and maybe buy her a little mood ring to charm the pretty girl. And I can certainly imagine Jadis trying on jewels and then refusing to give them back, sure; she thinks she's entitled to whatever she wants. But assaulting the store-owner with her bare hands? Riding away like a coward and thief? Jadis is a queen who needs to always be in calm control of the situation; she's proud of wiping out her entire world with an emotionless quip. Lewis is writing her like a frustrated child in a hysterical tantrum and lashing out at everything indiscriminately.

The policemen turn on Uncle Andrew and decide to question him first as the nearest man. There is a "comedic" moment where Andrew can't speak clearly because his hat has been smushed down his head and over his face, and multiple policemen are needed in order to force the hat back up.

   “Thank you, thank you,” said Uncle Andrew in a faint voice. “Thank you. Dear me, I’m terribly shaken. If someone could give me a small glass of brandy—”
   “Now you attend to me, if you please,” said the policeman, taking out a very large note book and a very small pencil. “Are you in charge of that there young woman?”
   “Look out!” called several voices, and the policeman jumped a step backward just in time. The horse had aimed a kick at him which would probably have killed him. Then the Witch wheeled the horse round so that she faced the crowd and its hind-legs were on the footpath. She had a long, bright knife in her hand and had been busily cutting the horse free from the wreck of the hansom.

Yes, clearly Uncle Andrew is the person to restrain and question in this situation. [/sarcasm] I can't tell if this is actually meant to be some sort of commentary on police misogyny (they want a man to talk to instead of the woman) or just more comedic adult silliness for this already overly-silly scene. Meanwhile, Digory has decided to try to Do Something and is easing towards Jadis and the horse. However, he isn't able to act fast enough before the author notices him and interposes a new character to prevent Digory from showing any dangerous agency.

   A red-faced man in a bowler hat had now shouldered his way to the front of the crowd.
   “Hi! P’leeceman,” he said, “that’s my ’orse what she’s sitting on, same as it’s my cab what she’s made matchwood of.”
   “One at a time, please, one at a time,” said the policeman.
   “But there ain’t no time,” said the Cabby. “I know that ’orse better’n you do. ‘Tain’t an ordinary ’orse. ‘Is father was a hofficer’s charger in the cavalry, ’e was. And if the young woman goes on hexcitin’ ’im, there’ll be murder done. ’Ere, let me get at him.”
   The policeman was only too glad to have a good reason for standing further away from the horse. The Cabby took a step nearer, looked up at Jadis, and said in a not unkindly voice:
   “Now, Missie, let me get at ’is ’ead, and just you get off. You’re a Lidy, and you don’t want all these roughs going for you, do you? You want to go ’ome and ’ave a nice cup of tea and a lay down quiet like; then you’ll feel ever so much better.” At the same time he stretched out his hand toward the horse’s head with the words, “Steady, Strawberry, old boy. Steady now.”

I earlier speculated that Jadis shoved the cab-driver from his seat in order to take charge, but really it does feel like the cabbie didn't exist until this moment. How long was this chase from the jewelry store? It was long enough for the jeweler to flag down TWO police hansoms, hop inside the first, and close the distance between Jadis' cab (even with its obvious head start!) and the police in order for them to arrive rapidly after her accidental crash. That seems like a long chase sequence! The cabbie was able to cross all that area on foot in a matter of a few lines of dialog and he's not even out of breath. (Well, the "red-faced" description might indicate exertion.) That's pretty darn impressive.

Then you have his attitude which is frankly astounding to me. Obviously he's being sweet to Jadis in order to show us that he's Good At Heart (and, spoilers, this guy is going to be the next-and-first king of Narnia because he's just that damn good at heart) but why is he treating this woman like a delicate damsel? That's above and beyond the basic demands of politeness! Best we can tell she stole his cab (possibly by performing violence on his body!), whipped his horse into a lather, jumped on the horse, and then violently cut the harness away from the horse--and I can't imagine she was being particularly careful for the horse's health as she did so.

[Animal Harm/Death] I don't know if many of you follow Nicole Cliffe on Twitter, but I love her so much. (And she helped us find our top surgeon, for which I will forever be grateful.) She has a story about a horse and the Queen of England that if you know, you KNOW, and if you don't, I won't be able to do it justice. But the short version is that Nicole had a friend who rode horses and once swiftly severed a lifelong friendship when that friend made a careless accident that mortally wounded one of her horses. And I don't blame her! If someone carelessly killed one of my cats, we would not be friends anymore!

Here you have this cabbie who genuinely cares about his horse, not to mention that both the horse and the cab are his only means of earning money so he can feed himself and his wife. Jadis has just wrecked his cab--and god knows but I doubt he's insured or that the payoff will be anywhere enough to cover a new cab and lost fares while he sorts this out--and terrorized his horse. She's whipped the horse, jumped on the horse, whispered it into a frothing lather, cut its harness off, and is doing nothing to keep the horse from kicking someone to death--an event which, if it occurs, may end lethally for the horse depending on the local laws regarding dangerous animals. And this guy is treating her like a porcelain doll. Sigh.

Someone is going to point out that this could be a smart tactic and nothing more; a sort of "gentling" tactic to be used on a wild woman even as he tries to gentle the wild horse. Maybe. It's certainly what I would try, at least until I got the woman off my damn horse. But I don't think we're meant to see this as clever deception; King Frank (I had to look so hard to find his name in the text, lolsob) is characterized as being a soft-spoken, slow-talking, truth-telling, country-folk sort of stereotype that Lewis and Aslan approve of (unless and until these traits are embodied in a character they don't like, then they're feminine-lilting, slow-witted, rudely-blunt, provincial bumpkins).

Anyway, all this gentle speaking--whether deception or sincere--does nothing to calm Jadis.

   Then for the first time the Witch spoke. “Dog!” came her cold, clear voice, ringing loud above all the other noises. “Dog, unhand our royal charger. We are the Empress Jadis.”

That's the end of the chapter and, no, I don't understand why. It doesn't make sense to break the scene here, but we are.

*Author's Note: The title is a weak reference to The Italian Job, a wonderful movie about thievery and car chases. After ten years of doing these posts, I'm running dry on clever titles.

Animation: Gender Eyeshadow

From Twitter: A thread in which I catalog "gender eyeshadow" examples as used in animated media.

I don't know why TERFs are always asking me to "define woman"; for years, cartoons have made it very clear to me that women are the folks with purple eyeshadow. Easy! [/joke]

- The sexy fish from Fantasia

- Lola Bunny from Space Jam

- Jessica Rabbit from Who Framed Roger Rabbit

- Yzma from Emperor's New Groove

I mean.

April Newsletter (2021)

I'm sorry that this newsletter is late, and that it's going to be such a short one.

[Medical Stuff]

I went in for gallbladder removal surgery last Monday in what was supposed to be a routine procedure: a couple little laparoscopic scars no longer than an inch, and I'd go home that night. Kissmate already had the same surgery a couple weeks before, so it was just a repeat of what we already knew. Easy-peasy.

Instead, we ended up with some major weird complications. My gallbladder was apparently covered in little gangrene spots and falling apart to the touch. The surgeon eventually just had to cut me open a full six-inches and pull everything out the old-fashioned way. Now I have a groovy long scar full of staples (25!) and I sleep 20 hours a day.

[/Medical Stuff]

I do have posts to post, but the tricky thing is being awake enough to post them and also upright: these two things are very hard to do right now. The good news is that I'm not really in very much pain; I'm just very tired all the time. That's supposed to be my body healing.

I promise that posts will return soon and I'm so sorry for this unexpected delay. I feel just awful about it, and I will get better as fast as I can.