I was so tall. You were older then.
September 18, 2014 4:10 AM   Subscribe

Can we talk about how much the gossipy young girls who cluster in the schoolyard must feel like children to her? And Susan has forgotten about being a child. She is the blessed, the chosen, the promised. Susan has decades on them, wars, loss and betrayal, victory and growing fields, the trust of her subjects. It was a visceral thing, to have all those lives under her protection and to know that her subjects slept safe, peacefully, on dark nights. Here, on this drab concrete, her people are untouchable, indefensible; her self is vanished, her kingdom gone; she can feel the loss like a wound. She has lost her power, but that trust, that responsibility remains. It circles her ankles, trips her in the school hallways.
Can we talk about Susan Pevensie for a moment? (A followup to this.)
posted by MartinWisse (53 comments total) 52 users marked this as a favorite
 
As the OP notes, this has come up on the Blue before -- what I call 'the rehabilitation of Susan' (or maybe 'rescue' would be more appropriate, as I think CSL very deliberately made her a cautionary tale) -- and other places, and I'm wondering this morning why they resonate with me so much. I want her to be all right, and it's even better that she's awesome, and it's not just me, obviously, as I keep seeing the stories. I wonder if it's because, of all the Pevensies, she's the only one who grew up on Earth, and thus the only one who I can identify with as an adult?
posted by Mogur at 4:32 AM on September 18, 2014 [7 favorites]


This is so nice it makes me want to go back to being a writer. Thanks!
posted by warriorqueen at 5:01 AM on September 18, 2014


I am inordinately upset when creators are unnecessarily cruel to their creations. I try to tell myself, "Shhh, it's OK, they're not real, they're not really hurting". And then another voice counters, "No, but this is BULLSHIT! What narrative purpose does this serve? There was no reason! Now she has to live with this hurt and this mutilation. Forever! For what?! Some author's ego? Some misplaced prudishness? A petty, lazy lack of imagination?"

Fanfic has actually helped a lot on this. Some (admittedly, not much) fanfic is more real to me than the original texts.

Yes, this is a rescue. And I am grateful.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 5:03 AM on September 18, 2014 [20 favorites]


Yes, it's very hard for me to read George R R Martin.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 5:04 AM on September 18, 2014 [6 favorites]


“My brother Peter,” answered Susan shortly and gravely, “is no longer a friend of Narnia.”

“Yes,” said Jill, “and whenever you’ve tried to get him to come and talk about Narnia and do anything about Narnia, he says ‘What wonderful memories you have! Fancy your still thinking about all those funny games we used to play when we were children.’”

“Oh Peter!” said Eustace, “he’s interested in nothing now-a-days except sport and pomade and girls. He always was a jolly sight too keen on being grown-up.”

“Grown-up indeed,” said the Lady Polly. “I wish he would grow up. He wasted all his school time wanting to be the age he is now, and he’ll waste all the rest of his life trying to stay that age. His whole idea is to race on to the silliest time of one’s life as quick as he can and then stop there as long as he can.”
posted by Poppa Bear at 5:11 AM on September 18, 2014 [42 favorites]


That was wonderful. Thanks for posting.
posted by echocollate at 6:25 AM on September 18, 2014


What's odd about that conversation Poppa Bear reverses is that I can't quite imagine Aslan hearing it without rebuking the speakers. Coming out of the mouths of people about to walk into heaven, it's damned uncharitable, whatever Susan is like.

Other than that, I actually think the reversal would work just as well, except that it can't be Peter. It's a box Lewis wrote himself into, really. Peter can't fall from grace, he's cast in the role of the High King. Edmund can't, because he's cast as the redeemed sinner. Lucy can't, because she's the special one. So, if someone has to, Susan gets the undeserved short straw.
posted by tyllwin at 6:32 AM on September 18, 2014 [7 favorites]


Oh, that was lovely. I'm reading The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe for my middle child at the moment. I'm well aware of the many flaws of the Narnia books, but I love them nonetheless. And I've experienced them through the eyes of my oldest, and now through the eyes of my middle child. And I still have one more chance to see them through fresh eyes. Triply blessed...
posted by Harald74 at 6:32 AM on September 18, 2014 [1 favorite]


If you want a good measure of how fucked up C.S. Lewis was in regard to his female characters, I'd advise you to look at the role he imagined for Jill Pole in the climactic battle of the book The Silver Chair:
Jill had very wisely sat down and was keeping quiet; she was saying to herself, “I do hope I don’t faint—or blub—or do anything idiotic.”
If anything, Lewis's regard for the female gender seemed to have devolved since the first two books published in the series, where Susan became an expert archer.

This, of course, is troubling, but what should be even more troubling is the blatant Christian propaganda advanced by the books -- though I concede that it was not considered such at time of publication.

At the end of Voyage of the Dawn Treader, for example, Aslan appears to the children as a lamb, calls himself "the great Bridge-Builder," and when the children cry upon being told they will never return to Narnia he replies:
“[On Earth] I have another name. You must learn to know me by that name. This was the very reason why you were brought to Narnia, that by knowing me here for a little, you may know me better there.”
I'd quote from The Last Battle as well, but there's just too much there; it's basically one big bundle of Christian fan-fiction, with oodles of prejudice and precursors to racism1 and a disturbing fatalism thrown in.

---
  1. The Tash-worshipping Calormenes, of course, "smelling of garlic and onions, their white eyes flashing dreadfully in their brown faces." But also the dwarves, which (here as in Prince Caspian) seem divided between good and evil camps largely by virtue of their red and black hair color, respectively.
posted by The Confessor at 6:54 AM on September 18, 2014 [3 favorites]


This. This is why fanfiction exists. Thanks for the link.
posted by seyirci at 7:17 AM on September 18, 2014 [1 favorite]


what should be even more troubling is the blatant Christian propaganda advanced by the books

Why should that be troubling?
posted by Greg Nog at 7:30 AM on September 18, 2014 [11 favorites]


When I was a kid, what I noticed was that Susan was the only one who escaped the bullshit "everybody dies" ending. My takeaway was something like if you grow up and embrace reality, you might not have to put up with dying horribly on a train platform, and an endlessly recursive hell of sham-Narnia, which was a pretty awful place to be there at the end, anyway.

I understand that I missed the point completely, but I am glad that I did, even if it 'ruined the ending'. Kid me didn't notice the sexism at all, and *my* Susan ended up the only Pevensie worthy of being a role model.
posted by surlyben at 7:30 AM on September 18, 2014 [7 favorites]


I apologize that I wasn't clear enough in relating my concerns.

The propagandistic nature of the series concerns me because the Narnia books are not only fixtures in public school libraries, but are routinely assigned to elementary school children for reading.

I was assigned The Magician's Nephew in grade school, for example, by a teacher who moonlit as a church pastor.

I don't think that was a coincidence.
posted by The Confessor at 7:43 AM on September 18, 2014 [5 favorites]


Last night, a couple of hours after I fell asleep, I got a text message from my stalker. "Can you talk to me now?" It has been fully three years since I have replied to anything that she has written, since I instructed her never to contact me again, but she still tries to get me to talk to her a couple of times a month.

Everyone feels bad for Susan, but I think that Susan was probably the lucky one. In that final email that I sent, I wrote, "This doesn't feel healthy. This doesn't feel safe." I imagine that that's how Susan felt when she began setting boundaries. It must have been an anxious feeling, never knowing when you were going to be swept away by a not-tame lion (who wanted you to fight his wars and never asked how your parents were doing or anything about your life). So Susan built a life for herself and she defended it, even in the face of disdain from her family. They were Narnia's, and when Narnia wanted them, it killed them all.

There's a disdain for adulthood and boundaries that Lewis had, that my stalker has, that comes out in the judgment of those dead, train-mangled Pevensie kids. They can enjoy their disdain; I'll enjoy my life, and so will Susan.
posted by Parasite Unseen at 7:46 AM on September 18, 2014 [30 favorites]


tyllwin, in Judeo-Christian narrative, having the "best boy" be the one who stops getting it and decides there is something else better has a long, long history. I think it would have been sad, but having Peter "grow up" into seeking value in the World of Adult Human Beings would have been, conceptually, absolutely sensible.

AND

If you'll look at my genderflipped quote, you'll notice that "Peter" isn't being damned; he's chosen something else to love and value that isn't Narnia; I would argue that is because Peter's adult world fundamentally rests on fakery and Narnia is "real", and I'd argue the same for Susan. And in either case, all either needs to do is to "grow up", back into a person who values what Narnia represents.

If you're still upset with the way that Lewis writes Susan, please (please please) look into Mark Studdock in That Hideous Strength. Mark, who Lewis wrote to pillory himself, is guilty (I would, again, argue) of the same misdirected focus as Susan. Much more space is devoted to the subject there.
posted by Poppa Bear at 7:48 AM on September 18, 2014


This is quite nice writing, but as a rescue it's only fixing an imaginary problem. Susan is a good character, and it's too bad Lewis died before he could write his Susan book so people didn't believe that she was some sexist trope. He saw himself in her as well as good friends of his (mostly male, I would imagine) -- people who were caught in our world between joviality and saturninity. If he was condemning Susan, she would have died on the train platform but not shown up in Narnia.
posted by michaelh at 7:50 AM on September 18, 2014 [7 favorites]


...Susan is a good character, and it's too bad Lewis died before he could write his Susan book so people didn't believe that she was some sexist trope. He saw himself in her as well as good friends of his (mostly male, I would imagine) -- people who were caught in our world between joviality and saturninity. If he was condemning Susan, she would have died on the train platform but not shown up in Narnia.
posted by michaelh at 10:50 AM on September 18


Firstly, thank you for this, you said it better than I could.

And secondly: Lewis had a book about Susan planned?! Tell me more!
posted by magstheaxe at 8:04 AM on September 18, 2014 [1 favorite]


If you want a good measure of how fucked up C.S. Lewis was in regard to his female characters, I'd advise you to look at the role he imagined for Jill Pole in the climactic battle of the book The Silver Chair ... If anything, Lewis's regard for the female gender seemed to have devolved since the first two books published in the series, where Susan became an expert archer.

Actually, Jill is a far more interesting and complicated character than most of the other girls in the series. She screws up badly, tries to fix things, and screws up again. She's a bit selfish and snappish, and believably cowardly for a contemporary English girl thrown into dangerous situations. But she grows and changes, finds the strength and skill to fool the Giants and help their escape, and when they come back to Narnia in the final book, she has actively trained in wilderness survival and archery. She participates in the fights in that book fully.

Lewis scholars have noted that Jill, arguably the most well-rounded character in the series, was created only after Lewis married.
posted by suelac at 8:04 AM on September 18, 2014 [23 favorites]


There are a lot of comments in this and the previous thread about the sexism and misogyny of the Narnia stories which I can fully understand and see the truth of now, as an adult.

However, like some commenters in the previous thread, as a child my response to the Susan story was to find validation in not being interested in make-up etc and for my child-self, Narnia was a place where girls could have adventures, and be tough and resilient and even drive the action forward. For me, the Narnia books were full of girls who were not doormats and who took command without being called bossy (something child-me was frequently accused of being). Partly for this reason, my favourite, which I read over and over (and which I'm very sad that I feel unable - because of the racism and orientalism - to read to my own daughter) was The Horse and His Boy. Aravis was by far the wiser and braver of the two protagonists and she was unashamedly seeking to shape her own destiny. And in The Silver Chair (my second favourite), it was Jill who got them out of the giants' castle by playing up to their stereotypes of little girls.

So, while Lewis clearly had some pretty sexist attitudes (I'm unclear if they were particularly so, or if he was simply unable to transcend the prejudices of his time), to my mind the idea that all his female characters were ciphers or the victims of misogyny is not quite right.

More broadly, what I think my experience and that of many other commentators shows, is that children can and often do find what they need in even the most reactionary stories. And in fact on that basis, I might risk The Horse and His Boy after all.
posted by melisande at 8:19 AM on September 18, 2014 [10 favorites]


Ha - suelac - that's a much fuller and better explanation of what I liked about Jill Pole
posted by melisande at 8:21 AM on September 18, 2014


The "no longer a Friend of Narnia" scene is really interesting, because the most damning statements are made by people who don't know Susan that well. It's Polly, Eustace, and Jill who comment on her boy-chasing, lipstick-wearing ways. Peter, Lucy, and Edmund are silent, after Peter's initial statement.

Consider the source. Which is why I ended up writing this very short story.
posted by suelac at 8:26 AM on September 18, 2014 [13 favorites]


If you're still upset with the way that Lewis writes Susan

Oh, I'm not, so much. I've always said that Lewis never suggests that Susan is damned: only that her door into heaven cannot be through Narnia. In Lewis' books, it's hard to end up damned. It's volitional. You mention That Hideous Strength and I'm reminded of the way that even an evil character like Frost has to cling tenaciously to damnation as he dies. If I thought Lewis actually meant that Susan was damned, it would seriously wound my regard for him.

What bothers me is the writing of the others. Their casual ease with it. To be fair, they don't know they're about to step over into heaven, I suppose, but Lewis knows it.
posted by tyllwin at 8:31 AM on September 18, 2014


The Problem of Susan is complicated, frankly. So many things factor into it:

-- Lewis' thing about adult women, and how he portrayed them often as rapacious predators, and sex as a tarnishing of childhood innocence.
-- The religious content of the stories, and the Catholic attitude towards sex, that compounds the problem.
-- The structure of the plot, in which Susan becomes an adult woman who has been courted (and possibly had love affairs of some sort), before being regressed to a young teen with all those memories, losing sexual and political agency.
-- Social attitudes about overt performances of femininity being considered frivolous and petty. This is reinforced by statements in the text by other characters (although not by the narrator, fwiw).
-- The end of the series, in which the horrifying death of most of the main characters in a train crash, and the destruction of Narnia itself, is presented as a joyful thing.

There's a lot going on there, and they all get twisted together, in a way that makes it really hard to parse out what's Lewis, what's the text say independent of Lewis' intent, and what's the social context in which the story is being read.

I love Susan, but it's sometimes surprising to me just how much energy is spent among Narnia fans, wrestling with the Problem of Susan. She gets more electrons from commenters than most of the other characters put together, even though she gets less screen time than any of the Pevensies, or Jill and Eustace.
posted by suelac at 8:49 AM on September 18, 2014 [10 favorites]


Just want to say that Till We Have Faces is by far Lewis's best fantasy novel. It's a re-telling of the myth of Cupid and Psyche from the perspective of one of Psyche's sisters who convinced Psyche to suspect that Cupid was actually a monster. It has a pretty great female protagonist. It still contains Christian allegory, but far more introspective than triumphalist or apologetic. It's a meditation on the hiddenness of God and the problem of evil (among many other things).

I'd particularly recommend it to any fan of Gene Wolfe's Soldier of Arete.
posted by straight at 9:04 AM on September 18, 2014 [2 favorites]


I was always Tolkien over Lewis, but this made Narnia interesting.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 9:07 AM on September 18, 2014


Which is why I ended up writing this very short story.

Thank you for sharing that.
posted by immlass at 9:14 AM on September 18, 2014 [1 favorite]


*sniff* should not have read that right before a meeting! Thanks for posting.

The rehabilitation of susan is a topic I can't read enough of. I think one of the unmentioned aspects of it is how incredibly resonant the Susan!Rehabilitated character is - she does what she does out of a sense of loss, of having her world of fantasy torn away.

Which is exactly what happens to me when i finish binging a TV show, a webcomic, a series of novels. That world, where I had power, where I understood everything, where I had emotions and relationships and friends and enemies, gone forever.
posted by rebent at 9:22 AM on September 18, 2014 [3 favorites]


That's fantastic, loved Narnia as a kid, didn't even know about the Jesus stuff when I was 7; when I read them later, after learning of it, it didn't affect my enjoyment of the books at all.

Loved suelac's short short story, really added depth to the scene and almost made me tear up.
posted by marienbad at 9:49 AM on September 18, 2014


This, of course, is troubling, but what should be even more troubling is the blatant Christian propaganda advanced by the books -- though I concede that it was not considered such at time of publication.

Worth noting that CS Lewis was an atheist, which was one of the things that made his close friendship with Tolkien a bit peculiar, as the latter was a devout Catholic.

Then again, not many elementary students (except me and my best friend, apparently) read The Silmarillion.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 10:03 AM on September 18, 2014


This story actually reminds me of the letters of Mother Teresa that were published a few years ago. She had some sort of ecstatic vision or experience of God's presence and voice and then spent 50 years feeling abandoned and depressed.

Theologians talk about the problem of the "hiddenness of God" (If God exists, why isn't his existence obvious to everyone?), and I've wondered if maybe God's presence would just be too overwhelming this side of death. Many people who've had some sort of spiritual experience describe it as overwhelming joy followed by overwhelming loss and abandonment.
posted by straight at 10:09 AM on September 18, 2014 [7 favorites]


I love this so much. I read and reread those books as a kid. I loved the adventure but was also a very girly girl. As soon as I understood the Susan parts I really felt judged by Lewis ... the message was only certain kinds of girls (the ones not like me) could be brave and tough and admirable and have adventures, and the rest were useless. Not true, and it makes me happy that Susan is getting her due now.
posted by Cocodrillo at 10:10 AM on September 18, 2014


Worth noting that CS Lewis was an atheist, which was one of the things that made his close friendship with Tolkien a bit peculiar, as the latter was a devout Catholic.

??

CS Lewis was an atheist as a young man, but wrote all the novels he's well known for after converting to Anglicanism (Tolkien was instrumental in the conversion from atheism.) Besides the explicit Christian themes in his fiction, hi best know nonfiction works are Christian apologetics.
posted by heyforfour at 10:12 AM on September 18, 2014 [10 favorites]


I'm was pretty sure that CS Lewis was an atheist until he became an uber-catholic, but the google reveals a lot of articles titled "why didn't CSL convert to catholicism"?

At any rate, the series was read to me by nuns, and as an adult the religious metaphor is so painfully obvious.

Narnia, where it's always winter and never Christmas, until the son of the king come, dies, and rises again.
posted by Measured Out my Life in Coffeespoons at 10:13 AM on September 18, 2014


Oops. I had been under the distinct impression that Narnia was fleshed out long before said conversion, as part and parcel of the Inklings' desire for an English mythology.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 10:17 AM on September 18, 2014


Worth noting that CS Lewis was an atheist, which was one of the things that made his close friendship with Tolkien a bit peculiar, as the latter was a devout Catholic.

I have friends who are very religious and I am an atheist. Is this weird? It never struck me as odd that my friends would not share my religious feelings.
posted by jeather at 10:20 AM on September 18, 2014


They were also pretty opposite personalities in many ways; Lewis was rather bulky where Tolkien was slight, loud and booming where Tolkien was quieter and more diffident, etc.

Straying far afield though. My fault, sorry.

Personally I always liked Susan, because archery is badass. And I'm not sure we can harangue Lewis too much for sexist attitudes in his works; those attitudes were pretty prevalent in his day. Not saying he should get a pass on them, exactly, but contemporaneously they were normal.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 10:24 AM on September 18, 2014


It's been a very long time since I've read these books, but as I child I only thought Susan had grown up. Didn't read anything further into that. I seem to recall it was very difficult for adults to get to Narnia. Did Lucy also get treated poorly? I know Edmund was a little shithead for the bulk of the series.
posted by Hoopo at 10:36 AM on September 18, 2014 [1 favorite]


The propagandistic nature of the series concerns me because the Narnia books are not only fixtures in public school libraries, but are routinely assigned to elementary school children for reading.

FWIW, our fourth grade teacher read The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe to us and required us to read another book in the series, but did not push or even point out the allegory at all. As a non-Christian kid, it totally flew over my head, and I didn't learn the series was a Christian allegory until middle school. So it's totally possible to teach the series to kids without addressing the Christianity aspect.

That said, the Christian allegory going over my head is 100% the reason I found The Last Battle to be a horrible, traumatizing ending for the series. I felt so betrayed by that ending! I might have been less so if I had known it was meant to be an allegory, though once I realized what Lewis had done to Susan, I was furious about it. I haven't stopped being furious about it, to be honest. It's just now I'm furious in different ways and for different reasons.

I take serious issue with Lewis killing most of the Pevensies off and expecting us to see it as a "happy" ending because they're happy in heaven. I think that demeans the value of their faith and what the Pevensies learned and did in Narnia. It stinks too much of that mindset that life on this Earth is just some sort of practice run and waiting period until you can get to Heaven, like nothing here matters, so long as you're saved.

I've frankly replaced CS Lewis's version of events with fanfiction author rthstewart's, who posits that the Pevensies are returned to England because they have work to do there. Rthstewart's Pevensies have basically asked themselves WWJD (or WWAD, whatever), and decided the answer is "help win WWII and fight against injustice however we can." (This includes Susan essentially lying her way into becoming a spy, which is awesome, as you can imagine.)
posted by yasaman at 11:11 AM on September 18, 2014 [6 favorites]


As a non-Christian kid, it totally flew over my head, and I didn't learn the series was a Christian allegory until middle school. So it's totally possible to teach the series to kids without addressing the Christianity aspect.

Same, although we were "Christian" in the sense we celebrated Christmas and Easter by getting presents and eating chocolate and eating turkey. So even the Santa part didn't seem weird to me, and if we're being honest, the idea Christmas is about celebrating the birth of Christ for most people is kinda suspect. We got freaking pine trees in our living rooms and tons of gifts to children from a strange man who sneaks into your house at night because Jesus? Makes about as much sense as Santa in Narnia.
posted by Hoopo at 11:44 AM on September 18, 2014


Narnia made me a pagan. Which probably isn't what Lewis had in mind, but come on. Dryads and naiads, Bacchus, Pan, Pomona, these old fertility gods.... total pagan playland.

I still choose to think of it that way. And yasaman, I know the person behind rthstewart; she's as good a friend as a writer. I've passed along a note to have a look at this thread.
posted by cmyk at 12:08 PM on September 18, 2014 [1 favorite]


I loved the series as a kid, LOVED. And it makes perfect sense that I did. I was an agnostic kid, never believed in God or Santa Claus, but I was raised in proximity to a lazy offering of Protestantism, and certainly indoctrinated in values that were meant to have been derived from The New Testament (empathy and patience and hard work). But the body of christ and all? Corny. Never bought it.

I know I grokked that the books were Christian allegories, by Dawn Treader at least, but they never seemed laser-focused on that content, but rich with other character-based adventures, and lovely language, etc. that the mix that seemed... realistic. Real life was also sprinkled with unfulfilled hints and warnings about deep, meaningful incomprehensible truths that didn't really match the world they existed in, but were nonetheless intriguing food for thought.

So, I recall reading that Susan was "no longer a friend of Narnia," and thinking "what the shit?" but also not worrying about it. Not making a hangup of it. And I think that's because, to me at least, CS Lewis is a great storyteller, and I am content not knowing the truth of that thing, or most things, while the big story is still unfolding. Lewis gets some credit for exercising and fostering that attitude in me.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 12:33 PM on September 18, 2014 [1 favorite]


suelac

I think you're overstating the positivity of Lewis's rendering of the Jill Pole character, but I can only refer once again to the book's climactic battle, in which the heroic (male) characters are fighting against the final-boss-serpent-form of the Lady of the Green Kirtle. Regardless of any agency Jill possessed earlier in the book, the only role Lewis saw for her in that fight was to sit down and try not to cry.

And even if I were to concede Jill as an overall positive portrayal, she is but one of a few among a sea of negatives. To illustrate, I will refer to another female character in the same book: the Head of the Experiment House.
And then the Head (who was, by the way, a woman) came running out to see what was happening. And when she saw [...] she had hysterics and went back to the house and began ringing up the police. [...] When the police arrived and found no lion, no broken wall, and no convicts, and the Head behaving like a lunatic, there was an inquiry into the whole thing. [...] After that, the Head’s friends saw that the Head was no use as a Head, so they got her made an Inspector to interfere with other Heads. And when they found she wasn’t much good even at that, they got her into Parliament where she lived happily ever after.
Now isn't that just hysterical?

(As a side note, if you read the context of that abbreviated passage with a mature eye you will find a gleeful meanspiritedness that rivals Roald Dahl at his most indulgent.)

In C.S. Lewis's Narnia, a female character that wields power, particularly if that power does not closely derive from an associated male, is either evil (like Jadis or the Green Lady) or an incompetent. The exceptions, if any are to be found, are few and far between.

Finally, if you were suggesting that Jill Pole was an example of a continuing evolution in Lewis's characterization of women, recall that The Last Battle, with its gigantic fuck-off to Susan, was written two years later.
posted by The Confessor at 2:00 PM on September 18, 2014 [2 favorites]


You pore over notes, not pour.
posted by rikschell at 2:44 PM on September 18, 2014 [3 favorites]


Narnia made me a pagan. Which probably isn't what Lewis had in mind, but come on. Dryads and naiads, Bacchus, Pan, Pomona, these old fertility gods.... total pagan playland.

He kind of did, though. He was heavily influenced by romantic visions of pagan mythology. I wouldn't assume he would be displeased unless you're a very dull pagan (the kind Chesterton mocked endlessly.)

-- Lewis' thing about adult women, and how he portrayed them often as rapacious predators, and sex as a tarnishing of childhood innocence.

Mrs. Bultitude is certainly a predator, but would disagree that she is tarnished by sex.
posted by michaelh at 3:28 PM on September 18, 2014 [2 favorites]


I know Edmund was a little shithead for the bulk of the series.

What no? Part of the first book maybe. Then he's all reformed and princely.
posted by Squeak Attack at 3:52 PM on September 18, 2014


I'm also kind of torn about the focus Susan gets currently, where epic stories about her post-Narnia life are full of awesomeness and struggle and triumph. I really like them, or many of them, anyway. They're very feel-good. But some of them seem determined to idealize her to an extent that it just feels strange - a list of "and then she was sad but awesome here and stood up to bullies and dated who she felt like and was sensible about sex and it was awesome and everybody loved her and then she went there and stood up for the poor and downtrodden and it was awesome and everybody loved her." I guess those look too much like wish fulfillment stuff, which is fine in fanfic (god knows I've written my own types) but which doesn't always satisfy. Although one of them did seem like they were turning her into the Good Mitford Sister, which I didn't mind.

But at the same time, I was another one of those not-very-girly girls who felt vindicated about the whole business - if you didn't have to focus on nylons and lipstick and boys, maybe it meant I wasn't a failure despite all these things being mysteries to me. And worse, I had lost friends to those things, so it felt really personal when I was being ignored because I wasn't interested in the right stuff, and having people say that maybe it wasn't the natural order of the universe made me feel good. Additionally, I never read it as Susan being damned, so there was no horror about what the author had done to her.
posted by PussKillian at 6:02 PM on September 18, 2014 [2 favorites]


I was another one of those not-very-girly girls who felt vindicated about the whole business

I used to be one of those too, and that part of The Last Battle struck me as wish-fulfillment for the "cool not-girly girls" with much more dire consequences than unpopularity for Susan.* I've only started to look for the company of women in recent years, and it was partly due to literature/social mores like this that made me look down on girly-girls.

*There is always the charitable interpretation that Susan gets hip to Aslan-Jesus before dying, but that passage is written in such petty and final tones.
posted by ntartifex at 7:23 PM on September 18, 2014 [2 favorites]


Lewis was an Anglican and never converted to Roman Catholicism, which was a strain on his friendship with Tolkien.
posted by straight at 10:26 PM on September 18, 2014


I don't really get why people get so upset about Lewis using Christianity as his mythos for the Narnia books. Do people who feel that way have similar qualms about the King Arthur stories?
posted by straight at 10:33 PM on September 18, 2014


The authors of The Matter of Britain weren't trying to introduce children to Christian theology. I'm pretty sure that the same people who object to those elements of the Narnia series also object to the Left Behind series, which is a far more egregious example of that sort of thing.
posted by Joe in Australia at 11:05 PM on September 18, 2014


I really enjoyed that. Thanks for posting.
posted by davidjmcgee at 3:28 PM on September 19, 2014


Part of the first book maybe. Then he's all reformed and princely

Like I said it's been a long time. I seem to recall him being the weak one who gets tempted/manipulated throughout
posted by Hoopo at 9:40 PM on September 20, 2014


You're might be confusing Edmund with Eustace (and/or Digory and/or Shasta).
posted by straight at 2:01 PM on September 22, 2014


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