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The Lion, The Witch, And Disney.
May 8, 2005 4:38 AM   Subscribe

The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe (link to trailer) is due out from Disney on December 9, 2005. The book by CS Lewis has already been made into a movie by the BBC, however, the old films can not match the epic promised by director Andrew Adamson. (Previously discussed here.)
posted by grapefruitmoon (79 comments total)

 
Curious. I fondly recall an animated version as being superior to the BBC's adaptation, which had rather annoying child actors. However, the animated version listed at imdb doesn't seem to fit as I remember the wonderful Arthur Lowe voicing Mr. Beaver, yet there's no mention of this on his imdb entry, either. These guys have similar recollections, by the looks, but make reference to "only one" animated version. Is it possible the same film was given two different voice tracks, one for America and one for the UK?
posted by nthdegx at 4:52 AM on May 8, 2005


"Interestingly there are 2 versions; one with the voices of english actors(such as Arthur Lowe, Sheila Hancock and Leslie Phillips), and the other voiced by American actors."

I guess that nails it...
posted by nthdegx at 4:53 AM on May 8, 2005


Drat ... if this was last week, I'd have been able to supply links to an mp3 Radio version.
posted by RavinDave at 5:37 AM on May 8, 2005


Nice trailer. Looks well-made, if a bit too LOTR. I read the book ages ago and may have to dig it out if I go see this.
posted by zardoz at 6:04 AM on May 8, 2005


oh! I'm a massive-huge Chronicals of Narnia fan and a major-major-huge Tilda Swinton fan (and a mighty-big Rupert Everett fan), so this is my kinda dealie.
posted by taz at 6:32 AM on May 8, 2005


If it looks a bit LOTR, zardoz, that's probably because the WETA Workshop, which did the art production for LOTR, is also doing the art production for Narnia.
posted by Mercaptan at 6:54 AM on May 8, 2005


Thanks for posting these. I'm emabarassed to say I've never read this but you've provided some nice resources.
posted by gleenyc at 6:58 AM on May 8, 2005


Philip "His Dark Materials" Pullman will not be pleased. Especially since his own movie project is running into various snags, including loss of its director.

P.S. since Pullman's project is being done by New Line Cinema, there's a good chance it too will look a bit LOTR. (Unless it looks a bit Austin Powers.)
posted by jfuller at 7:06 AM on May 8, 2005


Nice trailer. Looks well-made, if a bit too LOTR.

My first reaction was it looked a bit too Harry Potter (the first ones) - i.e., if you've read the books, it'll work okay... I have to admit I almost cried watching lucy open the door, even though it was way too overwrought. I just remember how much I loved those books as a kid. It doesn't look like the movie itself has all that much of a soul, though. It's relying on what you bring to it from your childhood.
posted by mdn at 7:21 AM on May 8, 2005


I remember watching the series on bbc religiously every sunday, watched it again recently and it was a completely different experience, I thought that lion was real!
It was funny for all the terrible acting and 'special effects' but those kids just made it too painful to sit through
posted by quantumonkey at 7:21 AM on May 8, 2005


If it looks a bit LOTR, zardoz, that's probably because the WETA Workshop, which did the art production for LOTR, is also doing the art production for Narnia.

They've also done concept art for a live action Neon Genesis Evangelion, a film I sincerely hope never gets made, though their sketches are interesting.
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 7:58 AM on May 8, 2005


By the way, have we had a link on Mefi to Gaiman and McKean's Mirrormask film yet?
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 8:14 AM on May 8, 2005


I remember the animated version and, as a kid, it made me ball my eyes out.

Gotta say -- derail -- that I wasn't pleased by the Disneyification of Hitchhiker's, but not sure how much they could ruin here. It's that good, Christian martyrdom kind of violence, dontcha know. (hmm... Mel Gibson's Narnia...)
posted by dreamsign at 8:27 AM on May 8, 2005


They've also done concept art for a live action Neon Genesis Evangelion, a film I sincerely hope never gets made, though their sketches are interesting.

Yeah I can imagine the pitch for that... "It's like Harry Potter with giant robots." Ahem. (Well at least they're not adapting Negima). I was just thinking about that now because I was wondering what would happen when Hollywood runs out of British children's adventure novels. Though the production sketches make it look like all the pilots are in there twenties, but besides that the robots look exactly like they do in the series.
posted by bobo123 at 8:27 AM on May 8, 2005


I just remember how much I loved those books as a kid. It doesn't look like the movie itself has all that much of a soul, though. It's relying on what you bring to it from your childhood.

Yeah, seems it'll be all action and low on plot, but trailers always look that way so I wouldn't be too worried yet.
posted by Mercaptan at 8:33 AM on May 8, 2005


'That Hideous Strength' would make a much better movie.
posted by koeselitz at 8:44 AM on May 8, 2005


(hmm... Mel Gibson's Narnia...)
3 hours of the Witch torturing Aslan to death? Fun for the whole family.

So was I the only psycho kid who repeatedly wandered into her closet "accidently" after reading the books?
posted by bibliowench at 8:45 AM on May 8, 2005


Direct link to high-res Quicktime trailer.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 8:52 AM on May 8, 2005


Seems over-dramatic. What's with that damn music with the anxious choir nowadays?
posted by bitpart at 9:15 AM on May 8, 2005


What's with that damn music with the anxious choir nowadays?

It's the We Died Tragically Children's Choir, of course.
posted by Mercaptan at 9:44 AM on May 8, 2005


Heh. I've just started my five year old daughter on the talking books version of the Narnia series (unfortunately put out by Focus on the Family, bleah!) & she too has developed a strange fascination with her own wardrobe. This will likely make it even harder to keep tidy.
posted by stinkycheese at 10:25 AM on May 8, 2005


Heh. I've just started my five year old daughter on the talking books version of the Narnia series (unfortunately put out by Focus on the Family, bleah!) & she too has developed a strange fascination with her own wardrobe.

Careful, stinkycheese. If my experience is anything to go by, she will spend the rest of her life looking for that door in various metaphorical (art and literature) and literal (drugs and music) ways....

Not that I'm complaining, of course.
posted by jokeefe at 10:49 AM on May 8, 2005


It's being bankrolled by Philip Anschutz, the Christian billionaire. I'm afraid that if The Lion, The Witch, & the Wardrobe is a giant hit (which I'm certain it will be), and the rest of the 7-part series is just as lucrative, that by the time we get to, say, A Horse and His Boy, it will be a giant Christian vs. Muslim Narnian vs. Calormene hatefest.
posted by grrarrgh00 at 11:18 AM on May 8, 2005


What's with that damn music with the anxious choir nowadays?

This particular trend started with Williams' pastiche of Orff's Carmina Burana in "The Phantom Menace", I think. It's getting tiresome. I would love to see one of these epic effects blockbusters try something really original with the music: a total departure from the norm would be refreshing and powerful. I'm thinking of something like the Akira soundtrack. Bizarre, but very effective.
posted by mr_roboto at 11:20 AM on May 8, 2005


Williams' pastiche of Orff's Carmina Burana

Puhleeze. Carmina Burana (specifically O Fortuna) has been used since at least the early 1980s. See: Excalibur
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 11:27 AM on May 8, 2005


Civil_Disobedient , I was going to say the same thing, although I have noticed that it's only within about the last ten years or so that every. single. historical-action-epic movie trailer seems to use some sort of O Fortuna knockoff. It's probably all the same guy knocking out variations.
posted by Ty Webb at 11:34 AM on May 8, 2005


...it's only within about the last ten years or so every. single. historical-action-epic movie trailer seems to use some sort of O Fortuna knockoff....

Yeah, that's what I meant. Orff's been used here and there for a long time, but it's been ubiquitous lately.
posted by mr_roboto at 11:41 AM on May 8, 2005


grrarrgh00: "It's being bankrolled by Philip Anschutz, the Christian billionaire. I'm afraid that if The Lion, The Witch, & the Wardrobe is a giant hit (which I'm certain it will be), and the rest of the 7-part series is just as lucrative, that by the time we get to, say, A Horse and His Boy, it will be a giant Christian vs. Muslim Narnian vs. Calormene hatefest."

...which would be interesting, considering that C. S. Lewis was a more difficult thinker than most Christians realize. By the time we got to the last book, where Aslan forgives Calormenes and much 'worse' with a "well, you thought you were doing what was right, and that's what counts for me," people would start wondering...
posted by koeselitz at 11:42 AM on May 8, 2005


I completely agree, koeselitz. I admire the theological sophistication Lewis did have, even as sections of A Horse and His Boy ring very racist in their occasional conflation of "swarthy" with "evil." I'll never forget being a little child, growing up in a Christian school, and finding out that the little Calormene boy got to go to heaven, too, even though he served Tash, because he was doing good. Which meant all my Muslim and Jewish and atheist friends who did good also got to go to heaven.
posted by grrarrgh00 at 11:49 AM on May 8, 2005


hm, it'll be interesting to see what the christian angle means to people. Having grown up in a secular household, the christian references were never really there for me (and I was disappointed at the time at what seemed to me a tacked-on happy-ending-for-kids with Aslan's resurrection - I thought his sacrifice was really meaningful, and then to "make everything happy again" just seemed fake, as if we kids couldn't handle the depth of what he'd done).

But anyway, if the books are meant to illustrate the christian beliefs, and the books are fantasy, doesn't that imply that christianity is fantasy? Sure, within the context of the books you believe it, but then you finish the book and come back to the real world. I love art and poetry and metaphor and fantasy; that's why books about magical worlds appealed to me. But I didn't confuse them with reality...
posted by mdn at 11:55 AM on May 8, 2005


Which meant all my Muslim and Jewish and atheist friends who did good also got to go to heaven.

Susan stops believing and is very specifically excluded from being among the saved in The Last Battle, IIRC.
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 12:01 PM on May 8, 2005


grrarrgh00: If I recall correctly, there's even a bit in Mere Christianity where Lewis says something like "a Buddhist, if he's really a Buddhist, can be saved. But let's move on..."

Sadly, I somehow doubt that such subtlety will make it into these films. 'Tis a pity; C. S. Lewis is the best teacher we Christians have had in centuries.

On preview:

mdn: "if the books are meant to illustrate the christian beliefs, and the books are fantasy, doesn't that imply that christianity is fantasy? Sure, within the context of the books you believe it, but then you finish the book and come back to the real world. I love art and poetry and metaphor and fantasy; that's why books about magical worlds appealed to me. But I didn't confuse them with reality..."

C. S. Lewis believed that the intellect sees the truth more clearly than the senses. As such, he took his task to be to educate people's souls by helping them understand the reality that the touched without knowing it. I believe he would say: if you feel something while reading those books, if the mean anything to you, it's because you see, if only in a glimpse, the reality which they're meant to reflect. He felt very strongly that symbolism and imagery could point to reality much better than 'bare facts.'
posted by koeselitz at 12:07 PM on May 8, 2005


As A Wrinkle in Time made me fall in love with sci-fi at a very early age, so too did The Chronicles of Narnia make me fall in love with fantasy.

I still don't know what Turkish Delight is though.
posted by WolfDaddy at 12:14 PM on May 8, 2005


Carmina Burana was of course, originally, a Medieval text, a collection of poems and songs by Goliards, students who lampooned and satirized the Church. The lampooning of the modern day Church (corporations) use of the Carmina Burana in movies is appropriate.
posted by stbalbach at 12:28 PM on May 8, 2005


WolfDaddy : Turkish Delight is a type of candy.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 12:40 PM on May 8, 2005


I hope the wardrobe doesn't have huge shining lights in the final version - It was just a regular wardrobe, all alone in the room. And Lucy gets in, and feels fur coats, and pushes back farther, and then slowly realises she sees a faint light, and the furs have become firs - the darkness and the simplicity of it is so much more wonderous than anything more dramatic. The book always has that more quiet sense - after all, the first thing she does upon meeting a non-human is go to his house for tea. I loved the domesticality of the fantasy. Beavers talk, but they still live in beaver houses, albeit with better dishes.

Turkish Delight on Earth is never quite as good as it was in the book.
posted by jb at 12:45 PM on May 8, 2005


Thanks a lot for the direct link, civil_disobedient. I wasn't about to download some AOL Player plugin to watch this thing.

And Pinkstainlesstail I share your view on Evangelion. It's brilliant and terrifying.... but finished.

And I think in the allegory Turkish Delight represents sin. That's why it's so "damned" delicious.
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 12:47 PM on May 8, 2005


I remember that animated version - but I thought I remembered it, well, less cartoony than that 1979 movie. I do remember Lucy being blond, but not much more; I was six or seven, in the early 1980s.
posted by jb at 12:47 PM on May 8, 2005


koeselitz, I actually am familiar these days with CS Lewis's ideas on religion; I just thought it worth pointing out that loving the stories doesn't necessitate any kind of religious interpretation. I am actually writing a paper on the reality of the intellected world right now, so I'm not really up for arguing about it, but suffice to say, I've given it plenty of thought, and I don't believe being is separable from matter.
posted by mdn at 12:51 PM on May 8, 2005


For a poor man's Turkish Delight, have a Big Turk. (shudder)

My system can take one every six months, tops.
posted by dreamsign at 12:53 PM on May 8, 2005


Does anyone else read the logo (visually) as "NARNDA"?

A lot of the CG is very video-gamey, which is a shame because I'm sure the inevitable video game tie-in will be total crap.
posted by kevspace at 12:56 PM on May 8, 2005


Koeselitz I do agree that C.S. Lewis was a gift to Christianity but I must add Thomas Merton to your list of bests. I would be so much more impressed with Christians if their philosophers were of minds like Jesus, Merton, & Lewis rather than the Dobsons & Augustines who seem to dominate mainstream Christian thought. I find mainstream Christianity appalling for just this reason. It will be interesting to see whether Narnia produces additional movies & whether or not they will be damaged beyond hope by becoming vehicles of Dobson & his depraved ilk. It would be so tragic to have C.S. Lewis's beautiful work turned into a justification of a world view so at odds with the work itself. Perhaps I'm simply too emtionally connected to it given the joy and wonder it brought to my daughter.

Stinkycheese why not read it to her?
posted by filchyboy at 12:58 PM on May 8, 2005


I recently took a running start on rereading the whole series, but ran out of steam in book 6 or 7, as, it seemed to me, had Lewis.

It was interesting to realize that certain images from the later books in the series had been transplanted in my memory into the works of Madeleine L'Engle. It was also interesting that in one of the books you can see Lewis borrowing from authirs such as Lem in developing his metaphorical exploration of demons and evil as aliens, in a science fiction sense.

I will eventually reread the Perelandra trilogy as a result.

Another thing that struck me as I read the books was the clarity of Lewis' competitive debt to JRRT in the first book, and his increasing adoption of and appreciation for surrealist stage sets instead of the by-now-hackkneyed super-detailed alternate world technique of subsequent postwar fantasy.
posted by mwhybark at 1:12 PM on May 8, 2005


I always read it as Susan simply not being involved with Narnia at the time, therefore not being on the train that wrecked and killed everybody, therefore not technically being dead yet. They didn't paint a particularly good picture of Susan there, but I didn't think it was a "tortured in hell for all eternity" thing, just a not dead yet thing. Maybe CS Lewis cleared that up later in a letter I haven't read though.

On the story-as-fantasy angle, I think C.S. Lewis had a discussion with Tolkien in which he asks whether myths and legends are really anything other than lies told with a silver tongue, and Tolkien gives this very eloquent response defending story telling as something very close to divine. It's really worth a read, wherever it is.
posted by SomeOneElse at 1:20 PM on May 8, 2005


mwhybark: "It was also interesting that in one of the books you can see Lewis borrowing from auth[o]rs such as Lem in developing his metaphorical exploration of demons and evil as aliens, in a science fiction sense."

I don't think that's possible. The last book, "The Last Battle," was published in 1956, and so far as I can tell over here, the first translation of Lem into English happened around 1970. I don't know if Lewis knew Polish; I suppose it's possible. But, in cases where he sounds sci-fi-ish, my experience is that he's almost always the innovator rather than the borrower; very little sci-fi stuff was around by his time, and the genre hadn't really taken off yet.

"I will eventually reread the Perelandra trilogy as a result."

Worth doing. But may I recommend "Till We Have Faces?" It's his best book by far, in my opinion, not least because its meaning is pretty difficult to fathom. There's not any Christianity in it at all, so far as I can tell; but it's a pretty serious metaphysical discussion, and a great story to boot.

mdn: "I am actually writing a paper on the reality of the intellected world right now, so I'm not really up for arguing about it, but suffice to say, I've given it plenty of thought, and I don't believe being is separable from matter."

Very interesting. Neither do I, and neither did Lewis, I don't believe, at least in some major senses. This is also the doctrine of Thomas Aquinas. But I don't want to distract you too much from that paper. I just finished my last paper of the year myself, and I know how it can be.

Finally, for anybody who's interested, I found this really neat essay on Tolkein on the IslamOnline web site while searching around.
posted by koeselitz at 1:52 PM on May 8, 2005


I always read it as Susan simply not being involved with Narnia at the time, therefore not being on the train that wrecked and killed everybody, therefore not technically being dead yet. They didn't paint a particularly good picture of Susan there, but I didn't think it was a "tortured in hell for all eternity" thing, just a not dead yet thing. Maybe CS Lewis cleared that up later in a letter I haven't read though.

Interesting. I was remembering the end of The Last Battle as being not just the end of Narnia but the end of our world as well. I forgot about the train wreck bit.
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 1:59 PM on May 8, 2005


filchyboy: My wife & I both work in libraries so we are certainly not opposed to reading to our children. But she's not about to sit still for a book with so few pictures right now (she's technically turning five in a week) & we've found over the last year or so that she *loves* talking books.

She got hooked with Tim Curry's excellent readings of the Lemony Snicket books - better than reading the written word, believe me - and, after going through The Worst Witch & most of Dahl's stuff - I though Narnia might be a good pick. She's asking for Harry Potter now as well.

Listening to trained English actors helps her elocution and helps her imagination-building as well. I think it's fantastic. When she actually starts reading books herself, I certainly expect she'll read all these again herself. It's an "also" as opposed to "instead of".

And we do read to her as well. Just shorter books with more pictures, that's all. Her little brother enjoys those too!
posted by stinkycheese at 2:02 PM on May 8, 2005


Til We Have Faces is brilliant - I second the reccomendation.

Actually, I tend to ignore The Last Battle - it's my least favorite by far. Too much full of nasty retribution - actually, just like the Book of Revelations it was based on. Which I also happily ignore.

There is a cheap middle eastern shop across from me, which sells lovely turkish delight, with nuts in it.
posted by jb at 2:49 PM on May 8, 2005


I hate this book with a passion. Primarily because it attempt to "sell" the story of Christianity, without saying so in so many words. "Here, lets make Christ a Lion, and fool all the children, making them more receptive to the story of Christ". Religious dishonesty at its worst...
posted by Windopaene at 2:59 PM on May 8, 2005


Lewis is problematic for me, as an agnostic. I grew up loving the Narnia books, having read them at an age when the sexism and religious symbolism went far over my head. Even then the racism bothered me, though.

Now I'm not sure I ever want to read the books again or see this movie -- I have very happy, distant memories of truly loving those stories, and I don't think I ever want to look at them too hard as an adult who has a really hard time with religious propaganda.

Tricksy Lewis. Insidious.
posted by gurple at 3:01 PM on May 8, 2005


Lewis is problematic for me, as an agnostic. I grew up loving the Narnia books, having read them at an age when the sexism and religious symbolism went far over my head. Even then the racism bothered me, though.

Lewis is problematic for me full stop. I think The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe is the stand-out in an otherwise dull series of books.
posted by nthdegx at 3:17 PM on May 8, 2005


It's a very long time since I read them, but I vaguely recall Aslan saying in the (generally unpleasant and unpalatable) The Last Battle something along the lines of "Everyone who does good, though he does it in the name of Tash, serves me. Likewise everyone who does evil, though he does it in my name, is really a servant of Tash." That's not too bad, really. Would that most Christians thought that way.
posted by George_Spiggott at 4:08 PM on May 8, 2005


I think it is disingenuous to be repulsed by C. S. Lewis 'propaganda to children'. Lewis felt something by Christianity, something real, that impacted his life, that made him love, very much so in a deep and personal way, the Christ. He believed that part of the goal of Christianity was not only to make people Christians, but Christians into better people. In fact, reading the screwtape letters, there is very little difference of whether one meets the Father Above or the Father below in their nomenclature of where and how often they go to church. Rather it is their heart that is judge, whether they have been charitable, and not just unselfish, whether they have loved, or merely not hated. And these things aren't just to get you into the good seats in the afterlife, rather these were things that Lewis thought made people better, made lives more full of living and worth. Though I am not Christian myself, I can feel assured that was what he tried to get across. He created a myth that would allow a child to peak into how he felt about the Christ story, that it wasn't musty and boring about who begets who, but rather dynamic and personal, beautiful and piercing, full of tears and triumphs and hope with out number. I doubt very much that he was thinking 'Heh heh heh, now I got them!'. And if one uses religion to make lives better and worth living, can even an atheist say that is a wrong. (which was a theme of The Silver Chair, a deliberate belief in something that may not be fact, because it is True whether it happened or not, and you would rather believe that which you love than live in a reality that is devoid of it.)

Bah.
posted by Lord Chancellor at 4:45 PM on May 8, 2005


Wow, I feel like a Christian apologist's apologist. And capitalize and italicize The Screwtape Letters.
posted by Lord Chancellor at 4:47 PM on May 8, 2005


As an ex-Christian who still appreciates and respects Lewis, I applaud you, Lord Chancellor.
posted by NickDouglas at 5:37 PM on May 8, 2005


I think it is disingenuous to be repulsed by C. S. Lewis 'propaganda to children'.

As an ex-X'ian myself, I'm not exactly repulsed, but I understand the impulse for those who have it.

He created a myth that would allow a child to peak into how he felt about the Christ story

Well yes, so I guess it's really a matter of how twisted you find that story. I can't think of another group whose members wear a symbol of their tortured, executed prophet around their necks. Let's make a story so that children can understand their point of view.

When I think back on the Aslan-torture sequence -- and how awful I felt -- I am reminded that I just didn't have the tools to evaluate outright manipulation at that age. Contrast with, say, Saving Private Ryan (or anything else from Spielberg -- can he do something other than obvious manipulation?) -- but then I couldn't have seen that as a child, could I? Age restriction. Now compare that with, say, E.T., and I think this would be like having a scene where those eager scientists finally get their way and torture and dissect the poor little candy muncher. He's on the rack going "ow". Oh but he comes back to life, so if you can get through the nasty bit you're ok. Suitable for children.

I think like a lot of adults, I have a sentimental attachment which tends to override the critical faculties (and I think that's exactly what Lewis wanted). And like the Gibson zealot-fest, people seem awfully eager to make exceptions for anything "telling a *very important* story".
posted by dreamsign at 5:58 PM on May 8, 2005


Well, on that level, you could accuse all writers of stories of manipulation, whether they want you to feel entertained, sad, think about something in a different way, or understand their feelings on a subject. The very act of writing is outright manipulation, or as the sentiment is 'writers are liars' which they are indeed. Le Guin even deals with the real point of sci-fi in the introduction to Left Hand of Darkness that sci-fi isn't about science or the future at all, that the writer is lying to you, to show you something factually false, but they feel is still Real. I find no flaw in that. I remember once where Eleanor Marx was writing that one time her father Karl told the Christ story, but in a different way reflecting where the rich man killed a carpenter, and that all the wrongs of Christianity could be forgive for "it taught us to worship a child". Well, I figure that if Karl Marx can disagree with something yet still draw from it a reflection of truth, perhaps I can to.

So, yeah, he manipulates. Who doesn't? I certainly wouldn't stop my children from reading him, even if they somehow turn into Christians - if they find Truth with in a story of tortured lion who takes a traitor's stead, I can deal with that.

And in the end, what's wrong with someone understanding the Chrisitan point of view? For seeing what someone else finds in it?
posted by Lord Chancellor at 6:18 PM on May 8, 2005


Please...

He takes the story of Christ, changes Christ into a Lion, adds in a bunch of "bad people", the Witch, a bunch of inquisitive children, and voila! Instant Children's Classic!

He does not just manipulate. He deceives.
posted by Windopaene at 7:12 PM on May 8, 2005


*exasperated*

How does he deceive?
posted by Lord Chancellor at 7:22 PM on May 8, 2005


In all seriousness - tLtWatW was about Christianity?
*blink*

I read all the books and, looking back, I guess I can see it. But it went completely over my head. Completely. Neat story, though IIRC he lost the plot a bit in the later books.
posted by coriolisdave at 7:30 PM on May 8, 2005


The very act of writing is outright manipulation

Oh please. There are a thousand thousand ways to tell a tale. Some are what might be considered "sophisticated" in that one, righteous perspective isn't loaded but rather the reader is invited to choose a perspective with both good and bad on offer. Now, fantasy is notorious for white hat/black hat writing, and so (sorry to offend) is often perfect for children. If I want to write a crap story where I want the reader to HATE the antagonist, what can I do?

- have the character injure the innocent, especially children
- have the character delight in others' suffering
- have the character act in an overtly racist/hateful way
- have other, admirable characters despise the character

It's really quite easy. It's also melodrama and bad writing, but whatever floats your boat. It does get you hating the character providing you buy in. Pick up any good writing guide or start critically analyzing genre fiction and you're going to see a world of difference between overtly manipulative fiction and stories that offer the reader a perspective. And the number one rule is to tell an entertaining story. In that sense, I think Narnia passes -- but mainly, I think, for children, for the sentimental who read it/saw it first as a child, and for the already converted. When most writers attempt to tell a moral and use the story as a tool, the attempt tends to come off far clumsier and draw scorn from readers.
posted by dreamsign at 8:20 PM on May 8, 2005


I'm having a hard time remembering, but where was the Christianity allegory in, say, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader? Seems to me the first and last books were the most heavy-handed with it, the rest of them I didn't really feel there was anything too sneaking going on.

Most horrifying: I almost re-bought the entire series about 10 years ago and was shocked to learn that at least one publisher was putting them out in "chronological" order, so that The Magician's Nephew was actually the first book in the Chronicles. Talk about spoilers! I was so shook up I ended up not buying the books after all.
posted by WolfDaddy at 8:22 PM on May 8, 2005


Ok, if you seriously think that Lewis was hoping that your sentimentalism would allow his stories to survive to convert another generation of children you are seriously paranoid.

Tolkien and Lewis loved mythology, they loved storytelling and they passionately believed that "good" storytelling told some of their God's story along with it.

I think the reason he doesn't mention Christ specifically in the Narnia chronicles is that he wants to try and tell a story on his own. He certainly will tie it back to Christianity, but he doesn't want to be shackled by forcing his interpretation to mingle perfectly with people's own existing ideas about Christianity.

He's not trying to deceive you though, although I believe he was concerned that storytelling had that ability, there's just not a way to look at this and think he had a sinister motive. It doesn't make sense. The Gibson parallel isn't fair.

Children are going to be raised all sorts of different ways. Some Christian parents will try to teach their children Christian values. Don't begrudge them a fairly eloquent voice and call it subversive and evil. Yes, it's a Christian story. No it shouldn't be in public schools, and it shouldn't be called what it isn't. But still within those bounds people have to be free to write and think like this. He made up a story and he was honest about what he believes. He's not trying to trick you, (although this whole conversation reminds me of Lucy trying to convince the Dwarves to come out of the stable (in-joke) (don't hit)).

I used to really prefer The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, but I don't think there's any deep reason. I reread it and it didn't seem to say anything all that special. I just loved the fantasy lands, especially the bit about the island where dreams come true. And I think Reepicheep is my all time favorite character from those books.
posted by SomeOneElse at 8:25 PM on May 8, 2005


It's called Christian allegory, you douchebags. Really, as an atheist, I see nothing wrong with it. It's not a recruitment film.

What's wrong with this movie, however: Bringing another beloved children's book to the screen as an overblown CGI epic. Is there anything computers can't ruin?
posted by fungible at 8:26 PM on May 8, 2005


I would disagree with the number one rule is to entertain - I read a few books and a share of movies that are somewhat harrowing experiences and I certainly wouldn't repeat them for fun or entertainment. But they might be such a craft as necessary so that I may see what the author or the director want me to see.

Well, yes, they are written for children, and they did their job damn well if the nostalgia still binds us. And even as I child I remember being wistful about all of it. Along with A Wrinkle in Time they helped shaped how I thought, so whether you think Lewis was manipulating my brain or not, it still helped me see something I might not have otherwise. How can that be a bad thing? Would it be better if Lewis did not want children to understand what he saw?

(Now, of course, I'm not saying that some books are poorer for the heavy-handedness of the writer. This is more a issue of effective storytelling than anything else though. I still believe that you can speak your mind to try to make people understand what you want them to think or feel [sometimes as simple as feeling entertained, I admit] and not be manipulative. Difference from say screaming at you to get me a glass of water and just asking you for it. Both are manipulative in the since making you do what I want you to do, but one is very overt, the other more beneficial to both you and me a bit more subtle, I would imagine.)

On preview: Yeah, I hate it when the publishers reorder them; talk about killing the surprises and explanations. The whole lamppost thing loses its effect if you knew why it was there in the beginning.
posted by Lord Chancellor at 8:40 PM on May 8, 2005


To clarify: I said that Lewis' writing was overtly manipulative -- and I think it is. I didn't say that I thought he had sinister motives. Nothing that I've read about the man has led me to believe that. As for the parallel to Gibson, I was talking about heavy-handedness, not motive. (I'm not sure I'd classify POTC as "sinister" in motive, either)

I think the "#1 rule is to entertain" idea is true insofar as stories with morals need to be entertaining -- but harrowing, terrifying -- these are forms of entertainment, too. As I said, I think that Narnia works as a story, though mainly just TLTWATW, and not so much the others. And yes, the re-ordering is mind-boggingly stupid.
posted by dreamsign at 9:17 PM on May 8, 2005


I was raised atheist/agnostic. I read all of the Narnia books when I was 11 and loved them. I had absolutely no idea that they had anything to do with Christianity at the time. I can now see them as being allegorical, but not propaganda so much. They certainly did nothing to convert me to Christianity. I did want to find Narnia, though.
posted by apis mellifera at 9:29 PM on May 8, 2005


I think the antisinister point goes to what Windopaene said. Some have said religion is mankind's allegory for self-discovery, most of us just don't realize it. And then other's make allegories for religion so that we may understand that.

Hmmm, I remember seeing Requiem for a Dream once. I don't think I really desire to ever see it again, though I am glad I saw it once. Some things aren't just to delight our senses.

Perhaps Lewis is too heavy-handed if he was writing for us. But he isn't, and making it too subtle makes it lose its effectiveness for children. I believe Lewis's adult writings speak from himself, and one must always write for their intended audience. (Not to say children are lower per se, but rather they are different from adults in their sophistication by and large.)

I don't think manipulation is necessarily wrong, though we can hope it is done by good people and for good reasons. Indeed I think manipulation, whether from friend, or family, or random stranger, is unavoidable and warranted.
posted by Lord Chancellor at 9:45 PM on May 8, 2005


Maybe I just like heavy-handed authors. I enjoy Chuck Palahniuk books, even though each one trots out the same "destroy yourself to find yourself" message. To tell the truth, most good books have a message, and any English major can point out just how manipulative they are. The contemporary scholar should avoid the arrogance of claiming all Christians were deluded fools who overlooked clear defenses of atheistic materialism -- most of these defenses have only been developed and confirmed in the last half-decade. The same goes for racial and socioeconomic viewpoints -- I do believe the knowledge we have now holds us to a higher standard than those who preceded us.
posted by NickDouglas at 10:05 PM on May 8, 2005


WolfDaddy >>> Most horrifying: I almost re-bought the entire series about 10 years ago and was shocked to learn that at least one publisher was putting them out in "chronological" order, so that The Magician's Nephew was actually the first book in the Chronicles. Talk about spoilers! I was so shook up I ended up not buying the books after all.

As far as I know, they've always been released like that. Certainly the copy of the series I had as a kid (mid 80's), which had been my older sister's (late 70's) first was in the proper order. I think it's just that TLTWATW stands on its own as a complete story so much better than any of the other books that it became the popular one. TMN is so very obviously a prequel, just setting up the universe, introducing the backstory of Jadis, and the lamp-post, and so on, that it can't stand on its own the way TLTWATW does. Even Dawntreader requires too much backstory. A Horse And His Boy almost works on its own, but there's a rather heavy-handed deus ex machina at the end, if my rather hung-over memory serves, which requires some understanding of the backstory as well.

As for the Christian allegory aspect... so what? The books can--and should be read on several levels anyway. They function beautifully as fantasy fiction in any case. The allegorical nature merely adds a layer of meaning. Or do you want to throw out large chunks of Tolkien's writings as well? The Silmarillion is largely an extremely poetic retelling of Genesis, after all. Side note: I only just recently noticed that a lot of the material for the Silmarillion was collated by Guy Gavriel Kay, which made me very happy, in all sorts of ways.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 10:55 PM on May 8, 2005


I'm surprised at the ill-will towards Lewis or at least Narnia. Lion is the first book I really remember reading. I'll always think fondly of the series. As a child I didn't pick up on the Christianity aspect; they were just good reads. If the Christianity is bothersome, well don't see the movie!
posted by 6550 at 11:55 PM on May 8, 2005


dirtynumbangelboy -- the Chronicles used to be ordered in the sequence they were originally published; personally I can't imagine reading them any other way. Lion is always treated as the first story not because it's the popular one but because that's how the books were released. It also makes far more sense as a first book because of the way Narnia is introduced. It's wonderful to come upon TMN in the original sequence and find out at long last where the wardrobe came from , for example. I can't help but feel that those who read them in chronological, rather than published order are missing something, and while Lewis later recommends this order I think, frankly, that he's wrong and that the experience suffers by this sequence. However, it's impossible for a single person to read them for the first time in both orders for a direct subjective comparison so it's a hard thesis to test. See here for a direct discussion of the matter, which while acknowledging Lewis' later statement and remaining fairly neutral on which is "correct" presents what to my mind are the strongest arguments for reading in the published order.
posted by George_Spiggott at 12:30 AM on May 9, 2005


I'm not worried about manipulation -- I just don't like them as books go.
posted by nthdegx at 2:42 AM on May 9, 2005


coriolisdave : " I read all the books and, looking back, I guess I can see it. But it went completely over my head. Completely."

Ditto. TLTWTW doesn't deceive kids with hidden allegory, because the allegory is so above their heads that there's nothing to be deceived by. Saying that he's deceiving or manipulating kids is like saying that taking pornographic photos, then photoshopping clothes onto them, then using image manipulation software to move their bodies into normal positions, finally replacing their heads and unnatural bodily proportions with those of regular folks, and showing the kids only the end result is exposing them to pornography.
posted by Bugbread at 5:38 AM on May 9, 2005


koeselitz, aquinas was surely an aristotelian, but I'm a little surprised you'd say that of Lewis given his discussions of soul traveling and such in mere christianity... although I suppose he does say it's all allegorical. Honestly I'm not that familiar with his views, and it seems entirely possible to me that he himself never worked out the details - something I think is true of a great many religious people, actually. They feel something, but how it relates to reality isn't exactly clear.

dreamsign, funny you thought the torture was the worst part, where I remember finding that meaningful but being annoyed by the resurrection which I frankly did not find believable, and which made the whole torture thing seem meaningless anyway. If he knew all along he was indestructible, then of course he can deal with it, anyone could. Totally different from socrates accepting the hemlock.

re: christian references in general, I'm another one who never knew that when I read them in 5th grade, and who doesn't feel the stories are diminished now that I know. The christian mythology is rich and often quite beautiful. It's just not literally related to anything! But Paradise Lost is a great book, too. That has utterly no relation to what I think about evolution - milton is poetry, not science. No need to confuse them.

re: the order, I read them in the early-mid 80's, too, and I read them in the order they were released, ie, Lion was definitely first. My memory of the set I had had that curvy font that looks kinda 60sish, so maybe it was my mom's set or something... but they were a set, and they were numbered, and the prequel stuff all came later. As it should be. I absolutely agree that it's more meaningful to find out the backstory later. And the first connection to Narnia has to be a surprise... I mean, how could it be as exciting if you already know where they're going to go? The whole magic of that is the boring old english countryside and a random door that leads... somewhere...

I also agree with whoever said above that it's sad we keep CGIing all these stories. This stuff is so fantastic when it's all in your own mind. I always feel bad for people who were introduced to charlie & the chocolate factory thru the movie, eg (which I didn't see until my mid-20s, though Roald Dahl was among my favorite childhood authors).
posted by mdn at 8:32 AM on May 9, 2005


If we throw any Christian stories out, we'll have to start with Paradise Lost. And I don't think I'm ready to give up one of the English language's most beautiful stories.
posted by NickDouglas at 10:47 AM on May 9, 2005


The CGI is really beginning to annoy me. That was one of the joys of LOTR; Peter Jackson insisted on actual film being shot of actual physical objects as often as possible. Rampant use of CGI is just too detectable.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 11:39 AM on May 9, 2005


mdn: please argue on, I am eager to hear what you would say, Koeselitz ask's for it everyday!

I'm too late
posted by Viomeda at 1:44 PM on May 10, 2005


No need to have the Focus on the Family versions of the audio books, as there is always the BBC full cast recordings.
posted by TrinityB5 at 9:50 AM on May 11, 2005


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