Podcast

236 – Chronicles of Narnia

The Mythcreant Podcast
This week, we were exploring the wardrobe we keep in the studio for some reason, only to discover that it leads to a magical land full of talking animals, mythical creatures, and a lion who seems a little holier than thou if we’re being honest. This all seemed like an excellent reason to talk about Narnia this week, and also possibly we just got done with a reread. Listen as we discuss why these books are still popular after so many decades and why they contain so much troubling content. Plus, does anyone actually like Turkish Delight?

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Opening and closing theme: The Princess Who Saved Herself by Jonathan Coulton. Used with permission.

Show Notes:

The Narnia Books

Narnia Characters

Turkish Delight

Mochi Candy

Marsh-wiggle

Telmarines

Calormen

Unitarian Universalism

Tasha Yar

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Transcript

Generously transcribed by Angelique. Volunteer to transcribe a podcast.

Chris: You’re listening to the Mythcreant podcast with your hosts Oren Ashkenazi, West Matlock, and Chris Winkle.

Oren: Content Notice: This episode contains a discussion of sexual violence and racism in fiction.

[Opening Song]

Chris: You’re listening to the Mythcreant podcast. I’m Chris and with me is

Wes: Wes

Chris: and

Oren: Oren

Chris: And we are three children that a here on this podcast to save the day, even though we were vastly under qualified.

Oren: By golly! I’m very excited. I wonder if we’ll meet any talking animals.

Wes: I’m hungry. What are we doing?

Oren:  No, Wes what you can’t ever question the adventure because then you don’t get to go into lion Heaven.

Wes: But, that lady promised me Turkish Delights if I’d just go with her.

Oren: Oh, that’s fine. Apparently we can forgive that.

Chris: the best opening bit ever. I did not know that was gonna happen. Yeah, so we’re going to talk about Narnia. Oren and I have recently listened to the whole series. Every bit of it. Even the Last Battle.

Oren: We did.

Wes: “Groaning noise*

Chris: And my goal for this podcast is to not spend the entire podcast talking about like the messed up morality. I still want to talk about it. Just try not to talk about it the entire podcast. We’ll also get into storytelling stuff too. which maybe we should start with that then because I think once we go off on on all the weird stuff, it’s gonna…

Oren: Once you give me talking about the racism in this book, I’ll probably never stop.

Wes: Can we start with something really light? That’s really bothered me?

Chris: Yeah. Yeah, let’s do it.

Wes: Was anybody else, besides me, extremely disappointed the first time they are a Turkish delight because I really thought it was going to be better. I don’t think I’ll ever get over that disappointment like reading it in the book and then seeing it on the animated cartoon movie. I was like, well, yeah. That looks like the tastiest thing anyone’s ever had.

Oren: We actually have a kind of candy in Hawaii, where I grew up, so kind of Mochi candy that looks exactly like the stuff that the prop that they use for Turkish delight in the BBC Narnia adaptation. And for a long time, that’s what I thought Turkish delight was. I thought it was just like what mainlanders called Mochi candy. And I had no idea it was this whole other thing and I was like, yeah, it’s pretty good. I like it.

Chris: Mochi is good Turkish Delight not so good.

Wes: No.

Chris: It probably was really good at an era where sweets were actually not very common right, where we didn’t have tons of cheap chocolate candy everywhere and just getting something sugary was a treat so back then it was probably something special and you know, also it might have been different at that time because recipes change. Especially when we’re optimizing for mass production and things like that.

Oren: Also, it tastes better because its flavored with Orientalism.

Wes: Oren, You’re so right.

Chris: *groaning noise* Oh, no.

Oren: Getting the racism angle back in here.

Chris: Lucky, I didn’t like Turkish delight anyway, so you did not just ruin it for me.

Wes: Oh my God.

Chris: Okay. So beyond the disillusionment that many kids have experienced tasting the real Turkish delight for the first time. I think a good place to start this conversation is to talk about characters because one thing is interesting is seeing the way that CS Lewis does actually grow as a writer from the beginning, which a lot of writers don’t, and seeing how he manages the characters is definitely one place where you can see him evolving.

Oren: Yeah, that was actually something I noticed was an interesting pattern over the first four Narnia books. And by the first four, I mean the first four in publishing order, don’t come at me with your prequels as the book one.

Chris: Yeah, don’t do that.

Oren: So, like in book one in Wardrobe, they’ve got the kids who are just kind of around in Narnia and really it feels like nothing they do matters except for Edmund because he’s a traitor. And they’re waiting for Aslan to fix this problem. And so Lewis realize that was a problem and it book two he fixed it. And now the characters are much more active and they do stuff and it’s great, but there are too many characters in book 2, in Prince Caspian. He doesn’t really know what to do with Susan and then Edmund when he’s not a traitor is just kind of redundant with Peter.

Chris: And having four protagonists that’re all together in most of the scenes is just a hard thing to balance this. This is what I talked about when I was giving tips for travel stories, and several of the Narnia books are travel stories. It’s easier to balance more protagonist’s if they’re not in a scene together so that each scene is only highlighting a couple characters, but when he has four kids and they’re like always together or are most of the time he has a lot of trouble in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe just giving them distinctive personalities.

Oren: He really does. Then in book 3, he reduces the number of characters. He gets rid of Susan entirely, more on that later. He just kind of has Edmund become Peter essentially is basically what happens. And then he introduces Eustace, which is certainly not a perfect character but is at least distinct from the other two, right. Then like Lucy is there sort of to be the heart of the group and so that all worked but the characters are still pretty flat and then in book four, he discovered character depth.

Wes: Silver Chair?

Chris: We should probably name these books, right? This is Silver Chair we’re talking about, which is not always labeled by the publisher as book four. In The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe, we have four kids that don’t have much agency. They just don’t have any skills that can be influential. I also wanted to talk about Aslan and his role in the stories, but that also is a problem. Then he has Lucy, who is like super like young and faithful and then we have Edmond who is like the traitor. And then the generic hero goes to Peter and then Susan who knows.

Oren: Susan is around.

Chris: Susan is around. Sometimes she acts, she kind of mother’s them a little bit, like a couple times. Then Prince Caspian, they’re brought all back, all four of them. But this time they remember their lifetime being kings and queens which means they have skills now. They have skills they can use in the story to help resolve the conflict and so that definitely helps but there’s still four of them. Right and now Edmond is no longer a traitor anymore, so we still have that problem with them blurring together and then he started scaling down. When he got down to just three characters, it’s a lot easier time. Because with three…

Oren: It’s just easier to give three characters three separate roles. Adding a fourth one is a lot harder than going from 2 to 3.

Chris: I will also say in the Silver Chair, it is helpful that one of his main characters is not a kid. We have the Marsh Wiggle who is just a great character. And because he’s not a kid, he’s not from our world, he’s just able to be different in very distinctive ways. And so he’s not competing as much with the two kid characters for the same stuff,

Oren: Right? He has his own he has his own schtick and like his own skills. The Silver Chair is definitely the high point of Narnia, as like a series. And it’s also funny because in the BBC adaptations which are all very bad until you get to the Silver Chair, at which point they apparently discovered cinematography. Before then like the first three, which are actually only two because they combined Caspian and Dawn Treader into one movie, they those are like all shot on like a single stationary camera. It has a very like home movie look to it. Then in Silver Chair, they like have multiple camera angles and the camera moves sometimes and it’s amazing. It’s like a movie that was made by a professional studio and not some guy in his backyard.

Chris: Wes, which books do you remember in the series?

Wes: You know, I was thinking about that when you guys pitched it because I haven’t read them in a long time and I remember Wardrobe. I don’t remember the experience of reading it. I know I read it. But I feel like everybody knows the Wardrobe now. It’s kind of hard to not know The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. Other than that like I wish I remembered Silver Chair, Prince Caspian, and Horse and His Boy. That’s another one.

Chris: You don’t want to remember horse and his boy.

Wes: But the thing is I know I read them. I can’t tell you what happened at all. For some reason, the only like I remember quite a lot of is The Voyage of the Dawn… is it Treater or Treader.

Chris: Treader.

Wes: Okay. I remember that one. I really like that one. And then I remember Last Battle because it’s terrible.

*laughter*

Chris: Yeah, I think Voyage of the Dawn Treader is one of the most memorable because it has so much novelty.

Wes: I think that was it for me my thought with that because it’s just the concept was just beyond me as like a kid reading that book. It’s like they don’t know what’s on the other end of the ocean. So they just get a ship and they’re like, let’s go see and I remember thinking, what if we ever do that with like astronauts? What if we just take a spaceship fill it up with supplies, point in one direction and just go into space and see what happens? That was the only equivalent I could think of and it still to this day is pretty cool.

Chris: Yeah, as a person who’s not usually that interested in ships, Voyage of the Dawn Treader, really managed to make the travel aboard a ship feel like fantastical wish-fulfillment. Feel really novel.

Wes: Yeah.

Chris: Right and make it magical. I mean for me, I think the Voyage of the Dawn Treader and the Silver Chair are the sort of high poin,t I would say the best books. Prince Caspian is not bad either, but those for me would be the high point of the series. They’re both travel stories.

Oren: They are both travel stories. They’re both kind of different. I tend to like the Silver Chair more just because I think it has more interesting characters. Like you’re right about Dawn Treader with its boat magic, like this boat is amazing and I want to go on this boat. Sounds really great. I don’t even like boats but that whole thing was really good. The books have a really steady like upward angle until Silver Chair at which point they like immediately fall off a cliff.

Chris: After Silver Chair.

Oren: Right after Silver Chair.

Chris: Another thing, that’s interesting to see the progression is just want to go back to Aslan because having a benevolent God character in your story is not generally advisable.

Wes: Nope.

Chris: It’s just makes it way too hard. The protagonists have to solve problems on their own and so it was definitely interesting to see how Aslan was worked in the stories and like dealing with the kids. CS Lewis also got much better at how he was going to incorporate Aslan. So in the Wardrobe, Aslan really just takes care of all the problems, the kids don’t really have much agency. He just comes in and solves it. Not only that but he’s so powerful that the antagonist, the witch, is just totally underpowered like the whole time. There’s no there’s no even question that she’s going to win.

Oren: You end up cheering for her because she’s having to scheme and plot to try to get anything done.

Chris: Right? So like she’s so clearly the underdog right? She’s an underdog who managed to get by by being clever and resourceful and it’s hard not to cheer for that. It’s so funny because the witch, she’s the big antagonist of the series, but she’s not. Right. It’s like that moment. When you regret killing the antagonist of your first book because they were the best antagonist you were going to come up with.

Wes: That’s a really good point.

Chris: Anyway, going back to Aslan. In the first book, he just solves all the problems. But, by the time we get to Horse and His Boy, I think he feels a lot more like what he’s supposed to, which is Jesus. He feels a lot more like Jesus, frankly, and he’s not taking over the story. So, basically the idea is in Horse and His Boy, he’s more arranging things behind the scenes, right? Like people, the kids are traveling with these horses and they hear these lions in the background and they’re scared and by running away from the lions they run in a certain direction and then they end up meeting each other. Right? So, you don’t really see what Aslan is doing but he has enough involvement that you realize that he’s been watching over them.

Oren: He isn’t like showing up to like kill the bad guy or something, right. He’s in the background.

Chris: But he’s like that, you know, it’s like oh but we have this whole mythos were like, he was there the whole time. You know, you just couldn’t see and we have this one sequence where the main character is walking at night. And here’s like this breathing alongside him that he considers kind of scary but then later it’s revealed “Oh that was, you know Aslan who was walking beside you and you didn’t know it because it was night”. You were walking right along the edge of the cliff and Aslan was actually on the cliff side, and he was keeping you from falling off the cliff by being there. So, it’s a very like in the background but also very protective right which I think is really the best-case scenario when you have a benevolent God character in your story. So that was also interesting to see that kind of evolution of how he managed to handle that character.

Oren: He’s there because it’s very important for the… whatever analogy or allegory Lewis wants but he’s just less intrusive as we get from Prince Caspian to Dawn Treader to Silver Chair, and then into even into Horse and Boy. And then you know, it’s worse again, but whatev.

Wes: The allegory path of the order in which he wrote the books and his like motivation there with Aslan as Jesus/God, right, because The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe is the crucifixion and the resurrection. Then the later stories, you’re write Aslan becomes a behind-the-scenes figure and that’s more like the God is everywhere God’s always watching you. Then finally they get to the people advocating things in the name of God for their own interests. And so I’m just wondering like CS Lewis’ journey writing these books and seeing the world and the Christian faith and things like that. I don’t know. It’s kind of fascinating.

Oren: It sounds like the at the end that his view would have advanced maybe a little bit but, it actually clearly hasn’t. I don’t know, Chris? Do we want to talk about the weirdness at the end of The Last Battle or do we want to go to some other things first?

Chris: Let’s go ahead and talk about some of the elephant in the room, which is a lot of really…

Wes: Yeah, let’s talk about that.

Chris: weird ideas that he has in here and some of them are just surprising and some of them are contradictory and some of them are just plain wrong. So do you want to start us off, Oren?

Oren: Yeah. So for the first five books or maybe six books, I forgot how many… there are six total, right? So for the first five books, there is a constant truth in Narnia that you must do not only whatever Aslan tells you to do, but you must do whatever anyone tells you to do in the name of Aslan because no one would ever lie about Aslan.

Chris: And in particular at the end of Silver Chair. Like they know that the character is telling the truth and that they should help him and it is absolutely critical to the climax of the story. Right just because he names Aslan.

Oren: Right, because he invokes Aslan and even hearing the name Aslan makes like good people act like they took a hit off something real good and then like bad people get scared.

*laughter*

Chris: and that’s consistent throughout the entire series

Oren: Right and then suddenly in book six, now we’re doing a false Aslan story, where the bad guy is like tricking people into thinking Aslan has come back to get them to do stuff. And it’s like wait a minute. Hang on. I thought no one would ever lie in the name of Aslan and for five books that was really important because Lewis needed us to not ever questioned anything regarding Aslan because the moment you do it all immediately falls apart

Chris: To be clear in Prince Caspian, there is a sequence where Lucy sees Aslan, but nobody else none of the other kids do and she’s like Aslan told me to go this way. Right and then we find out that they wouldn’t believe her and so they end up going a different way. And then, Aslan is like no you sinned Lucy because you were supposed to insist or do whatever it took or go off a separate from your friends, separate from your siblings, go off on your own and everybody was supposed to like believed her when she said she saw Aslan and do what she wanted. And in the movie they even have it, so it looks like he’s trying to lead her off a cliff because they realized it was unrealistic to the for the siblings not to believe her. So, the expectation there is you’re supposed to, if Aslan says to just walk off a cliff.

Wes: It’s that leap of faith, right?

Chris: Yeah, right.

Oren: So then suddenly in book six in Last Battle, there’s a false Aslan. It’s like how did this guy not just spontaneously combust? Seems like he probably should have. There’s also like a centaur who’s like,” I don’t know about this. This Aslan is probably not real because the stars haven’t told us that Aslan is going to be here”. And it’s like wait a minute, you’re telling me that all this time, there was a way to get objective proof that Aslan was who he said he was. Can you imagine someone doing that one of the earlier books being like hang on a second Aslan? We gotta go check the stars to see if you are actually Aslan, we can’t just take your word for it, you could be anybody pretending to be Aslan. He would have disemboweled them right on the spot.

Wes: I really now need like a crossover with Narnia and Harry Potter when the Divination class.

Oren: Right?

Wes: Yes. Aslan is coming.

Oren: Right. And it’s like super weird because before that whole “you must always believe in Aslan no matter what” feels like it’s just it’s trying to create a world where you can have like absolute total faith and not have to worry that someone might use that against you because you’re being told not to not to think about things, not to consider the evidence of your senses or what your logic tells you because you would just have to do what lion Jesus says. And then in the last book, it’s suddenly like actually bad guys will use lion Jesus against you. Then you’re like, okay, maybe Lewis has grown maybe he’s realized that absolute faith can be problematic. But no, it’s the opposite anyone who thinks that a false Aslan is reason to be a little more skeptical about Aslan, is an evil atheist who doesn’t get to go to Lion Heaven.

Wes: Yeah.

Oren: It’s just the weirdest. Lewis what has happened

Chris: And you have all these characters who are in the Last Battle who are doing evil things and participating in these evil things because they think Aslan told them to and they’re all sympathetic. And it really felt like he struggled to come up with, okay, but like I do want my protagonist to know that this isn’t the real Aslan. So, how in the world would they know? And basically his answer is Unitarians are terrible. The only way we know is that the thing that is the breaking point is the whole racist analogy with these other people who are both satanists and Muslims.

Oren: Yeah at the same time

Chris: At the same time and they suggest that their God Tash and Aslan are the same which is, you know, a fairly typical Unitarian belief and that is the breaking point. That is the thing that’s unacceptable. Right? It’s not that Aslan is asking for evil things. That he is hurting people, right? None of that. It’s only that Aslan and Tash are the same. That is the thing that you’re supposed to know it’s bad.

Oren: Right because only evil Unitarian atheists would say that there is basically all the same thing, right? It’s like Last Battle collapsed the waveform because like before we have seen these things we were like, okay, that’s all pretty weird Lewis. You have some pretty weird implications in these books, but we could maybe except that those were accidents. You were just trying to tell us cool things about lion Jesus and you didn’t mean the darker implications. Then we found out no, you meant them you meant all of them and that’s what’s happening in Last Battle. And that’s why Last Battle is such a strange book. Like I had such a hard time reading it when I was a kid. I don’t think I even finish it the first time so it’s like why are they suddenly losing I don’t understand. This is not a setting where that happens, right? Very bizarre story to read when I was a kid.

Chris: I think this is a good transition to talking about the extreme racism that is in some of these books. So in earlier books everybody is white, although this is the interesting thing. In Prince Caspian, there’s actually a suggestion that Caspian is not white like he’s not physically described, but you find out that he is descended from a bunch of guys who had took advantage of native women. Who captured and enslaved and raped native women and that’s what he’s descended from. So, that suggests that the whole Telmarines…

Oren: Telmarines

Chris: Telmarines, which is what Caspian is part of are not white, right? But you know, that is something that he’s not it doesn’t seem very clear about but that’s their background. Of course, then he decides undo it because then we see it Caspian again in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. He is very specific about how white Caspian is.

Wes: Oh my God,

Chris: Like he has gold hair. So, now he is described so we can be very clear that he is white.

Oren: Yeah before that, someone probably pointed out to it’s like hey  is Caspian Polynesian? Because you said that like that’s where the Telmarines came from. He was like, oh crap. No, he is the whitest white golden hair in the pale skin, and he’s just so gorgeous.

Chris: But the Telmarines they are definitely not perfect, but they’re also not, like just caricature evil people, right? They’ve done some bad, but it suggests that they can coexist with the Narnians even though they’ve done some bad things. But then when we get to Horse and His Boy. He introduces the Calormens and they are definitely not white. They are dark skinned. They are clearly a stand-in for Muslims and they are definitely bad.

Oren: They are the worst and their Muslimness is very present in how in how evil they are. right, basically they’re just Lewis’s like stereotype of Arab Muslims every Arab Muslim stereotype he could think of the Calormen have. And that’s what makes them bad and evil.

Chris: So, yeah they are the antagonists in Horse and His Boy and then we get into the Last Battle. They are even more antagonistic. They are clearly supposed to be like devil worshippers basically. So yeah, it’s really not great. It’s very very bad

Oren: And it’s worth noting that we do get two Calormen who are not super evil and they are both… in the case of the woman from Horse and Boy, whose name I’ve actually forgotten, she’s not really described much either right? So, we don’t really know what she looks like which sort of allows the reader to imagine that she could be white, even though she’s you know supposed to be from Calorman or Calor or whatever their place is called. And then in Last Battle, there’s some like random Calormen who’s a good guy and, again, we’re not very clear what he’s supposed to look like but he’s described as being like super attractive and nice right?

Chris: It’s really funny when we have a random Calorman and CS Lewis is like this guy’s way hot. Okay CS Lewis, this feels very random. And then we find out this guy is supposed to be like the one moral Calormen in the book who was a secret Christian.

Wes: Of course,

Oren: That’s also the part where you find where we find out that if you do good things in the name of anyone but Aslan, you’re secretly doing them in the name of Aslan. You didn’t even know it and it’s like that also definitely would not have flown in earlier books. That’s just not how it works and it’s just another weird…like what are you doing Lewis?

Chris: And if you do evil in the name of Aslan, you’re not doing it in the name of Aslan, right?

Oren: That’s very convenient

Chris: Not something that actually meshed with the way that this world worked in any other book in the series. So yeah racism. There’s also just a lot of like things that feel like weird. Okay, so one of the weirdest moral things I think is in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, where they arrived at this island and they encounter a bunch of invisible people who are under the thumb of this evil magician who had transformed them against their will. And they have this whole sequence where Lucy sneaks up to see this guys magic book and then the book is like a temptation and it has like spells in it that she has to not cast and some of them seem tempting but they’re all supposed to be bad. For instance, there is a spell that would make her like more beautiful than any mortal but like it’s clear that the result of the spell is to make all of the men in the world, just fight over her and so would cause like a worldwide war as men fight for her hand,

Oren: You know those men they just can’t help themselves

Wes: Can’t help themselves.

Chris: And so she has to like resist temptation and after The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe where we had a witch who is the antagonist. I mean my assumption was that just obviously Aslan has his Divine magic, but just like a person casting spells is probably just bad in this universe. Right, magic is just kind of inherently evil and that’s you know, we’ve got a bad magician and she will be tempted by magic. But, then no because it turns out this magician is a good guy and he transformed a whole group of people against their will but like it’s okay because it’s really better for them that way. They should just want to be monopods. He basically transformed them into something that were there like legs are glued together so that they only have one leg but no, that’s great. They should like being how they are and it was the most bizarre thing because I was so sure that the world worked in a different way, but no magic is apparently just fine

Oren: It furthers that like extreme patriarchal view where it’s like this must be good because the wizard did it even though it doesn’t make sense. If you think about it for like five seconds. It’s obviously bad don’t transform people against their will even if you don’t like them, it’s like a very odd moral lesson to have to tell an adult author, but that’s just like where Lewis’ headspace was apparently

Wes: I guess so.

Chris: And of course we have to evil woman who cast magic in Silver Chair and wardrobe. Now, we do actually get an evil magician though, in The Magician’s Nephew. Luckily evil magic is mostly women, but not exclusively women

Oren: See I love that guy, he’s such a great villain and it’s too bad because like the Magician’s Nephew starts off as what seems like a really creepy like urban fantasy story. Because it’s like this kid who’s like trying to deal with his weird uncle’s magic experiments that are exploitative and bad. And it’s like this is a cool story, I’m way into it. But you’re like this is a Narnia book, this can’t possibly be what the story’s about and no it’s not that’s just the beginning. And it’s like this is a really good beginning for a bad story.

Chris: Yeah. It really feels like The Magician’s Nephew was just oh I have to do this the beginning of the world. Okay, let’s just get this over with it’s very short. It has very little to it that. The Witch is back, but like she’s made to be like a comical figure, which is just sad. You know, like she’s supposed to be the big antagonist of the series but she’s not and we just make fun of her when she goes into the real world.

Oren: Yeah. I felt very bad for the witch in that book.

Chris: And then he has other things like he doesn’t like school, CS Lewis is like anti school.

Oren: He’s very against schools

Chris: At the end of the Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe they make a big deal about that you know, now that the which has been conquered the children are free from going to school.

Oren: Yeah, and that like trend just keeps going he just doesn’t like schools, right?

Chris: It doesn’t end there

Oren: And he’s eventually willing to concede that like, maybe some schools are okay, but not these new schools where they don’t hit kids. Those are bad.

Wes: Well, how else are they going to get their discipline?

Oren: And then of course we’re running out of time here, but we definitely should just mention how horribly the book treats Susan. She doesn’t even get to be there with them at the end because she like wanted to do girl things, so she can’t be there. It’s such a random moment where they’re like, why is it Susan here with us? And it’s like, oh well Susan gave up Narnia because she likes lipstick and nylons.

Chris: I should just clarify that this is in the Last Battle at the very end, you know after the Rapture and everybody’s in like internal paradise

Oren: Right. And it’s just super weird and random because we haven’t seen Susan for like four books at this point. And so suddenly she’s brought back up as like “yeah also Susan’s terrible. We hate Susan”. It’s like where did this come from it be like if at the end of the Next Generation instead of Tasha Yar coming back, they just had a scene where out of nowhere everyone talked about how much they hated Tasha Yar for a few minutes.

Chris: She’s just doesn’t get to go to heaven because she’s like too vain, like it’s definitely very misogynistic, right? All she cares about is looking pretty and likes wearing nylons and putting on lipstick. Right and that’s why she doesn’t get to go to Heaven. Right, because she indulges in things that women indulge in.

Oren: All right, so I think we are just about out of time Chris. Do you want to make me final points about Narnia?

Chris: I’ll just say one more thing. The other thing that’s weird is that CS Lewis genuinely thinks that monarchy is better than democracy.

Oren: Oh, yes. He definitely thinks that

Chris: You know, normally in fantasy glorifying monarchy seems harmless, but like no he genuinely thinks that bureaucrats are bad and democracy is bad and we definitely need Kings because they’re perfect.

Chris: Everyone loves Kings. That’s just how it works.

Wes: Especially lion kings.

Oren: Oooo

Chris: Ooo

Wes: Sorry. I’m done now.

Chris: See now. I need a Lion King Narnia like crossover.

Wes: Oh, no.

Oren: All right. Well, we’re gonna have to call this episode to a close then. For those of you at home. If anything we said piqued your interest you can leave a comment on the website at mythcreants.com. But before we go, I want to thank a few of our patrons. First, is Kathy Ferguson who is a professor of political theory in Star Trek. Second is a Amon Jobber. You can find his stuff on thefantasywarrior.com. And finally, we have Danita Rambo. She lives at theRamboGeeks.com. All right, we’ll talk to you next week.

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Comments

  1. Dvärghundspossen

    I haven’t read the books since I was a kid, but I recall the Susan thing (which still seemed to me to come out of left field!) like this: she became completely engrossed with OUR world, stopped believing in Narnia, came to believe that all their adventures had just been silly childhood fantasies and playing make-believe… so it was like a lack of faith thing. BUT maybe I just imagined it that way in my head, to make sense of it?

    Me and Husband saw Dawn Treader less than a year ago on a hotel TV because it happened to be on (and then we were kind of mesmerized on discovering that Eustace looks EXACTLY like my nephew, but I digress). I remember that stuff about Lucy wanting to be beautiful handled okay, if not very subtle; she was envious of Susan for being the hot girl of the family, but it was something she had to get over because it’s self-destructive and bad for you to be hung up on your looks like that, and eventually she managed to just stop thinking about her looks so much. But that magician who transformed people without their consent “for their own good” – that still came off as completely effed up!

    • Oren Ashkenazi

      Chris and I actually really like the American version of Dawn Treader, and the Lucy/Susan bit was handled pretty well. It’s pitched as Lucy not valuing herself for who she is, and needing to learn that she’s a valid person in her own right.

    • K.A.

      You remembered right about Susan: she wasn’t there because she had stopped believing in Narnia and thus wasn’t in the train wreck that sent everyone else to Narnia heaven. It wasn’t because she liked girly things; it was because she wasn’t dead. It always bugs me that people get it wrong.

  2. Sam Victors

    For the problem of Susan, i read somewhere that Lewis wrote to a fan that Susan’s story isn’t really finished, that he thought of writing a mature and adult version of her story, but never came around to it. Personally, i don’t think the answer can be found in the chronicles, but in one of Lewis’s last books, Till we have Faces, a retelling of Cupid and Psyche told through the eyes of Orual, Psyche’s older ugly sister.

    Susan and Orual have nothing physically in common (Su is pretty and loved, while Orual is ugly and unloved) but they do share several similarities; both have young sisters, both catch a glimpse of the divine (aslan, cupid and venus), both are great queens, and both condescendingly treat their young sisters like children. Although Susan’s problems are vanity and the false concept of maturity, Orual’s are far more complex. She was an unloved and unwanted child due to her ugliness, and desperately wanted love so she mothered Psyche after her mom died in childbirth. But Orual became possessive and secretly envious of Psyche, but she truly hated how the Gods loved Psyche more than she did. Its not until Orual reads her story and realizes how selfish she was.

    In a way, Orual’s redemption could be the answer to Susan’s salvation.

    We may never Susan’s actual fate, but Orual is reunited with Psyche after having a vision of her leading out of the underworld and into a sunlit field. Orual sees her reflection resembling Psyche’s, with a voice whispering into ear “you too are Psyche”, which kind of harkens back to Aslan’s once a king always a king in Narnia speech.

  3. Kalani

    I remember reading the Chronicles of Narnia (well, the first two anyway) in 6th or 7th grade. I thought they were preachy and dumb, but my Christian friend found them amazing. Kind of funny.

  4. Gusty737

    So I’ve been considering creating a setting based on the idea that Calmor underwent an internal cultural split and that the region is separated from Narnia by a non-geographic boundary, because I’d like to avoid the “desert nomad” stereotype. I like Calormarnies but not the “planet of hats” vibes of their stories. Do you think any parts of the Horse & His Boy could be salvaged for a different story? Because I recently found a free article about a fantasy-based cultural diaspora that I’d like to give a Narnian twist to.

  5. Tony

    Regarding Lewis’s attitudes on education, I think one of his own headmasters was abusive enough to eventually be deemed psychologically unfit for the job (in Edwardian times, which is kind of saying something). It seems sad but unsurprising that even as Lewis criticised the educational system, he internalised the notion that children need harsh discipline and criticised later schools for being too lenient.

    Speaking of Lewis’s political views, I also recall that he considered democracy the best political system for our own flawed world but praised the idea of a philosopher-king when envisioning a perfect world. Considering that the setting of Narnia embodies Lewis’s Christian ideals, his glorification of monarchy in that world isn’t surprising.

    And yeah, I agree that Jadis the White Witch is probably Narnia’s best villain (perhaps with Uncle Andrew in second place), but I personally like the queen from The Silver Chair at least as much. She may be a stereotypical evil seductress with an added pinch of straw atheism, but I like her cunning, and the sheer level of mystery about her has always piqued my curiosity (a bit like the unseen monster in the Doctor Who episode “Midnight”).

    • Sam Victors

      For the educational bit, I think Lewis was criticism the Progressive School movement, with their ideas that proved to be unsuccessful. From what I read on TV Tropes, they did not do so well, and “It just goes to prove how radical the pre-1960s 20th century really was in ways we prefer to forget”.

      But on the other hand, there’s also a touch of criticism against traditional English schools. Basically, Experiment House is the worse of two worlds.

    • Oren Ashkenazi

      The Green Witch, for lack of a better term, is certainly notable for being more evenly matched with the hero than Jadis was, since by Silver Chair, Aslan isn’t running around solving problems for them any more.

  6. Julia

    From The Last Battle:

    Did you say he was the lion Jesus?
    No! I said he was the lyin’ Jesus.

  7. Tifa

    Another great podcast! I’m glad you tackled this topic.
    One thing I’d mention is the part in Horse and His Boy where Aslan tears a girl’s back to shreds, and no one calls him out on it because…well, he’s Lion Jesus.That always bothered me, even subconsciously, when I was little.

    • Oren Ashkenazi

      Yeah that was pretty gross. Somehow the justification the book uses just makes things worse.

    • Gusty737

      That scene always brothered me as young methodist, to the point that I almost stopped reading Narnia altogether and tried to switch over to the redwall books. As Methodists the idea is that Christ doesn’t absolve you of personal responsibility, so the idea that the allegorical representation of said person would not only harm someone, but also pre-mediate said harm, seems like a flimsy attempt at self-justification that doesn’t really understand why that action is so bad.

      • Oren Ashkenazi

        That’s a fascinating perspective I never would have considered, given my rather atheist approach to most things. Thanks!

        • Gusty737

          So a Little bit of Methodist nerd trivia: Infancy Gospel of Thomas is treated in the faith as a gospel “Not in Keeping with the Character of Christ”. In said Gnostic Gospel (which claims to detail Jesus’s childhood), the son of god is portrayed as giving life to a clay dove (a feat Gnostics claimed to have actually performed, and which is the basis of the church scene in Full Metal Alchemist), and then cursing a child as a show of power. This was so egregious to the Methodist faithful that they actually banned all Apocrypha in their printed bibles, regardless of whether it was found in the old or new testament. Case in point, if your Methodists get ticked off, they will get ticked off REALLY HARD!

  8. Tifa

    I had a very interesting dream last night. I was in Narnia, except I wasn’t me, I was an elephant. I lead a charge of centaurs into battle against the White Witch’s forces, and had a lot of fun stomping around and making noise. [i wasn’t stomping on anyone.]
    Then the battlefield was suddenly in the basement of my old house. The entire plain somehow fit.
    I wandered off into a dark place where the back door normally would have been, and was confronted with all the beings who had died during the battle, which raises a lot of disturbing questions such as ‘if Narnia is supposed to be Heaven, what happens when you die there?’
    I made it back to the battlefield despite all the dead beings begging me to stay, and then it turned out Lion Jesus–I mean, Aslan, was giving a speech. I didn’t pay any attention to what he was saying, though amusingly, he had Liam Neeson’s voice like in the movie.
    I wanted him to go away, but didn’t do anything because I didn’t want to get roared at.

    Thinking back on when I was younger, once I found out about all the Christian symbolism [if it can even be called just symbolism, since it’s basically text], I felt so conflicted, not least because I really like cats, especially lions, but I couldn’t justify many of Aslan’s actions, and it caused a big gap in my previous enjoyment of the series.

    • Oren Ashkenazi

      Well that sounds like a neat dream if nothing else. You know we never did see enough elephants in Narnia.

      • Tifa

        Oh, yeah, that’s right! A talking elephant really would have been great.

  9. Bunny

    I just read this, laughed out loud for a good five minutes, and now feel the irresistible need to share it. This seems like the best place to do so. Hope someone finds it, dare I say … delightful.

    https://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/cs-lewis-greatest-fiction-convincing-american-kids-that-they-would-like-turkish-delight.amp?__twitter_impression=true

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