steepholm: (tree_face)
According to my mother, who worked at Geoffrey Bles at the time, when C. S. Lewis handed in the MS of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe he regarded it simply as a working title, and asked them to supply a better one. It took some persuading to make him believe that it was already very good. I can see why he was doubtful, but it is good, of course; not least because of its riddling conjunction of three apparently unrelated objects: one adventurous, one supernatural, one resolutely domestic. The unusual rhythm helps too: three amphibrachs. Threes work well in Western culture, anyway - it gives the structure to so many of our jokes and folk tales.

I learned in conversation with my friend Chiho today that in Japan this book is simply called The Lion and the Witch (ライオンと魔女). The wardrobe has disappeared! Presumably this seemed a good idea to whoever translated it, back in the day, but I wish I knew what had gone through their head, and what canons of Japanese taste this version satisfies that the original did not.

I fear for other truncated titles: E. Nesbit's Five Children; Roald Dahl's Charlie and the Chocolate, J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter and the Philosopher, etc. I'm sure you can supply more...
steepholm: (Default)
According to my mother, who worked at Geoffrey Bles at the time, when C. S. Lewis handed in the MS of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe he regarded it simply as a working title, and asked them to supply a better one. It took some persuading to make him believe that it was already very good. I can see why he was doubtful, but it is good, of course; not least because of its riddling conjunction of three apparently unrelated objects: one adventurous, one supernatural, one resolutely domestic. The unusual rhythm helps too: three amphibrachs. Threes work well in Western culture, anyway - it gives the structure to so many of our jokes and folk tales.

I learned in conversation with my friend Chiho today that in Japan this book is simply called The Lion and the Witch (ライオンと魔女). The wardrobe has disappeared! Presumably this seemed a good idea to whoever translated it, back in the day, but I wish I knew what had gone through their head, and what canons of Japanese taste this version satisfies that the original did not.

I fear for other truncated titles: E. Nesbit's Five Children; Roald Dahl's Charlie and the Chocolate, J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter and the Philosopher, etc. I'm sure you can supply more...
steepholm: (tree_face)
A couple of weeks ago they were regularly trailing the Iris Murdoch season on BBC Radio 4, and one line in the trailer ran: "He [perhaps "she"] was the kind of person who lived for others. You could tell the others by their haunted expression." This is of course a mangled quotation from C. S. Lewis (The Screwtape Letters, if memory serves), so what was it doing in a trailer for Murdoch? It's not as if Murdoch didn't come up with some memorable thoughts and lines of her own.

If anyone happened to hear the programme in which it was actually used I'd be interested to know the context, and whether it was misattributed. (I can imagine Murdoch quoting it and then someone assuming it was her own, for example.)

For the record, I'm not sure how well Murdoch knew Lewis, though I believe she gave a paper at the Socratic club during his tenure as President.
steepholm: (Default)
A couple of weeks ago they were regularly trailing the Iris Murdoch season on BBC Radio 4, and one line in the trailer ran: "He [perhaps "she"] was the kind of person who lived for others. You could tell the others by their haunted expression." This is of course a mangled quotation from C. S. Lewis (The Screwtape Letters, if memory serves), so what was it doing in a trailer for Murdoch? It's not as if Murdoch didn't come up with some memorable thoughts and lines of her own.

If anyone happened to hear the programme in which it was actually used I'd be interested to know the context, and whether it was misattributed. (I can imagine Murdoch quoting it and then someone assuming it was her own, for example.)

For the record, I'm not sure how well Murdoch knew Lewis, though I believe she gave a paper at the Socratic club during his tenure as President.
steepholm: (Default)
Dinner yesterday at Linda's house in Königswinter near Bonn, with convivial friends, more great food and a magic show courtesy of her grandson, was extremely enjoyable. But this morning saw us travelling to Cologne airport, whence I flew back to England in a dinky propeller plane. I saw nothing of Cologne itself, alas, due to pressure of time.

At the airport there were many signs for an airline called "Germanwings": apparently it's a subsidiary of Lufthansa that deals with short-haul flights, largely within Germany. I tried to imagine a world in which British Airways had a branch concentrating on domestic travel called "Britischenflügel", but the effort made me dizzy so I soon left off.

I have eaten all too well over the last few days, but I knew I was back in Britain when I got to Birmingham New Street and saw a packet of Ranch Raccoon crisps, flavoured (as one would expect and rightly demand) with "sour cream from Dorset". They actually taste pretty good. I made a pious libation of Tizer, and kissed my native turf.

ranch raccoon

Dulce Domum


Over the course of this trip I've been reading the one major work of C. S. Lewis's that I'd never got round to, Till We Have Faces (1956). I'm not sure why I've not read it before: I've had several people tell me over the years that it was their favourite, starting with my father, and I like reading versions of Eros and Psyche, of which it is one. I suspect a certain orneriness, for all that I told myself I was simply "saving it up". Actually, skewering that kind of self-deception is something CSL does particularly well in this book, having refined the technique in The Screwtape Letters.

Anyway, it is indeed very good, stylistically as well as psychologically. (I've not quite finished it, but I'll try to do that tonight.) Inevitably perhaps I keep being reminded of other CSL books. When Orual visits Pysche in her palace and thinks that the fine wine she is offered is water and the goblet holding it merely cupped hands, it's hard not to be reminded of the dwarfs in the stable in The Last Battle, published the same year. And the whole book has a broad seam of The Great Divorce running through it. The deep understanding of grief and depression that underpins A Grief Observed is foreshadowed here, too.

I was particularly struck by this exchange between Orual and the soldier Bardia, after they see Psyche (Orual's younger sister), who is convinced that she has found her way to another world:

"Bardia," I said, "do you think my sister is mad?"
"[...] The Blessed--mad? Moreover, we've seen her and anyone could tell she was in her right mind." (Till we Have Faces, 1956, Chapter 12)


There's an echo here of that other older sister's concern, for a child similarly convinced:

"We were afraid it mightn't even be lying," said Susan; "we thought there might be something wrong with Lucy."
"Madness, you mean?" said the Professor quite coolly. "Oh, you can make your minds easy about that. One only has to look at her to see that she is not mad." (LWW, 1950, Chapter 5).


It's not so much that Lewis recycles as that he recycles a very implausible idea - that it's possible to tell more or less at a glance whether someone is mad. Did Lewis really believe this? In a way he had to, because that assumption underpins one of his most famous arguments for Christianity:

I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronising nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to. ... Now it seems to me obvious that He was neither a lunatic nor a fiend: and consequently, however strange or terrifying or unlikely it may seem, I have to accept the view that He was and is God. (Mere Christianity, 1952


It seems strange that the man who penetratingly analyses so many kinds of everyday self-deception and delusion should be happy to think of madness in the cartoonishly binary terms of someone either thinking they are a poached egg or else being "obviously" sane, and not feel inclined to probe the question further either in apologetics or in fiction.
steepholm: (Default)
I've occasionally written about misquotations before, but now I've created a tag for the purpose. The internet is such a virulent misquotation vector that I think it may come in handy.

Here are a couple of children's literature-related ones, for my records and possibly your interest. The first I noticed a couple of years ago, the second just today.


  1. Kenneth Grahame claimed in a letter to Teddy Roosevelt that The Wind in the Willows was a sex-free zone. Of course, he didn't use that phrase, but wrote that it was "clean of the clash of sex" - an interesting phrase, I think, but one that is now frequently quoted as "clear of the clash of sex". As far as I've been able to discover, this error goes back to Lois Kuznet's book Kenneth Grahame (1987). That at least is the earliest example I've been able to find. So, it's a pre-internet mistake, but one that now crops up there and everywhere else. (Having said that, I've not seen Grahame's original letter - perhaps Kuznets has - and the difference between 'n' and 'r' can be debatable in some hands. It's just possible I'm maligning her here.)


  2. Now we have C. S. Lewis's dictum from "On Three Ways of Writing for Children" (1952): “I am almost inclined to set it up as a canon that a children's story which is enjoyed only by children is a bad children's story.” Today I saw this rendered in a student essay as “A children's story that can only be enjoyed by children is not a good children's story in the slightest” - which is just horrible. (I don't agree with Lewis as it happens, but still, what a mangling is here!) Google reveals that this version is now rife - it's quoted in 146 sites, and probably by now in books as well.



I don't know what more I can say, but consider this as a warning buoy anchored by a reef, to warn sailors from sweet song of Lorelei Hardy, siren of lazy quotation.
steepholm: (tree_face)
I've occasionally written about misquotations before, but now I've created a tag for the purpose. The internet is such a virulent misquotation vector that I think it may come in handy.

Here are a couple of children's literature-related ones, for my records and possibly your interest. The first I noticed a couple of years ago, the second just today.


  1. Kenneth Grahame claimed in a letter to Teddy Roosevelt that The Wind in the Willows was a sex-free zone. Of course, he didn't use that phrase, but wrote that it was "clean of the clash of sex" - an interesting phrase, I think, but one that is now frequently quoted as "clear of the clash of sex". As far as I've been able to discover, this error goes back to Lois Kuznet's book Kenneth Grahame (1987). That at least is the earliest example I've been able to find. So, it's a pre-internet mistake, but one that now crops up there and everywhere else. (Having said that, I've not seen Grahame's original letter - perhaps Kuznets has - and the difference between 'n' and 'r' can be debatable in some hands. It's just possible I'm maligning her here.)


  2. Now we have C. S. Lewis's dictum from "On Three Ways of Writing for Children" (1952): “I am almost inclined to set it up as a canon that a children's story which is enjoyed only by children is a bad children's story.” Today I saw this rendered in a student essay as “A children's story that can only be enjoyed by children is not a good children's story in the slightest” - which is just horrible. (I don't agree with Lewis as it happens, but still, what a mangling is here!) Google reveals that this version is now rife - it's quoted in 146 sites, and probably by now in books as well.



I don't know what more I can say, but consider this as a warning buoy anchored by a reef, to warn sailors from sweet song of Lorelei Hardy, siren of lazy quotation.
steepholm: (Default)
A few days ago, [personal profile] kalimac wrote an LJ post about Susan's absence from Narnia in The Last Battle (by way of a very pertinent quotation from Holly Black's Doll Bones) emphasizing that what really rankled wasn't her growing sexual maturity but her decision to think of Narnia as a fantasy that she'd outgrown. I agree that this aspect has been relatively neglected, especially post-Pullman; it certainly struck me as the most relevant aspect of her behaviour when I read the book. In fact - and I'm not sure I've seen this mentioned - it's an exact reprise of what Edmund does to Lucy in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, when he pretends that Narnia was just a game that he and Lucy had invented. That is something that Lewis feels so strongly about that he has to forewarn his readers ("And now we come to one of the nastiest things in this story") - something he doesn't even do with the murder of Aslan.

I commented then, and have been thinking about it since, that the horror of this kind of betrayal is easier to understand if you have been a younger/st sibling, as Lewis was. I didn't co-create secondary worlds with my elder brother, but I certainly remember his outgrowing the kind of imaginative play that goes into them, and the bereft feeling that followed. When I read of Susan's denial, that was the string that vibrated. For those siblings who have lived together intensely in secondary worlds the abandonment must feel even keener. Did Warnie lose interest in Boxen before Jack was ready? Did Branwell go to the bad because Charlotte abandoned him in Angria?

I've been asking my students about it this week, and there was definitely more recognition of the pain of being left behind in this way amongst those who have experienced it - though that's hardly surprising. I do suspect, though, as I suggested the other day, that the whole psychodrama might have been been brought to wider attention earlier had Freud not been an eldest child. (Did that fact result in eldest child psychology being seen as normative? I don't know enough about the subject to say, but I suspect it may.) Afterwards, reading of Freud's daughter Anna's intense sibling rivalry with her elder sister Sophie and her subsequent specialization in child psychology, I wondered whether I might have better luck with her. Sure enough, her first paper, an account of her own analysis with her father, turns out to be entitled "Beating Fantasies and Daydreams" (1922).

I thought it an oddly Gradgrindian title, with perhaps more of a smack of the self-help book than I would have expected, but certainly intriguing given the subject of putting aside "childish" fantasies. Having read it I now know that it's actually about fantasies of beating. Cursed ambiguity of the English language! Nevertheless, although the Freuds (père et fille) see the fantasies as being about the father-daughter relationship rather than anything to do with siblings, I'm not so sure. And it's certainly intriguing that the fantasies themselves involve the elaboration of a mediaevalesque secondary world, which Anna goes on to turn into fiction. The final sentence is chilling, especially for fantasy authors:

By renouncing her private pleasure in favor of making an impression on others, the author has accomplished an important developmental step: the transformation of an autistic into a social activity. We could say: she has found the road that leads from her fantasy life back to reality.


Wo Anna war, soll Susan werden, indeed.
steepholm: (Default)
"A myth points, for each reader, to the realm he lives in most. It is a master key; use it on what door you like." (C. S. Lewis)

I buried this quotation deep in the notes of *Four British Fantasists*, but coming across it again now I was struck again by its lapidary wisdom. One of my favourite sayings of Lewis, and not well known.
steepholm: (Default)
"Some of his revisions of the received narrative will interest only devotees of Lewis who are familiar with earlier biographies. Such, for instance, are the claims that it was in 1930 rather than 1929 that Lewis began to believe in God, and that he came to belief in Christ while being driven to Whipsnade zoo by car in 1932, rather than when riding to the zoo in a motorbike sidecar in 1931."
Anthony Kenny, review of Alister McGrath, C. S. Lewis: A Life, in Times Literary Supplement, 21 June 2013


I disagree. This event is utterly central to Lewis's life - and nuances matter, whether we're reading for a Joycean epiphany or for an allegorical meaning more in line with Lewis's own aesthetic. Indeed, the questions raised here provoke me to poetry:

Oh how did you come to Whipsnade Zoo
To see lion and parakeet?
In ’31 or ’32,
Oh how did you come to Whipsnade Zoo
And who was the Driver driving you,
In sidecar or passenger seat?
Oh how did you come to Whipsnade Zoo
To see Lion and parakeet?


The application of a few Significant Capitals (a practice to which CSL himself was far from averse) shows the affair to be more than an anorakish footnote, of interest only to literary researchers who should no doubt "get a proper job". Whipsnade stands revealed as the new convert's Holy Hospital (where "bitter Penance, with an iron Whip, / Was wont him once to dis'ple every day"), the zoo as Langland's Field of Folk. (For the parakeet was a Paraclete, you see.)

No wonder CSL upped and wrote The Pilgrim's Regress with very little further ado.
steepholm: (tree_face)
"Some of his revisions of the received narrative will interest only devotees of Lewis who are familiar with earlier biographies. Such, for instance, are the claims that it was in 1930 rather than 1929 that Lewis began to believe in God, and that he came to belief in Christ while being driven to Whipsnade zoo by car in 1932, rather than when riding to the zoo in a motorbike sidecar in 1931."
Anthony Kenny, review of Alister McGrath, C. S. Lewis: A Life, in Times Literary Supplement, 21 June 2013


I disagree. This event is utterly central to Lewis's life - and nuances matter, whether we're reading for a Joycean epiphany or for an allegorical meaning more in line with Lewis's own aesthetic. Indeed, the questions raised here provoke me to poetry:

Oh how did you come to Whipsnade Zoo
To see lion and parakeet?
In ’31 or ’32,
Oh how did you come to Whipsnade Zoo
And who was the Driver driving you,
In sidecar or passenger seat?
Oh how did you come to Whipsnade Zoo
To see Lion and parakeet?


The application of a few Significant Capitals (a practice to which CSL himself was far from averse) shows the affair to be more than an anorakish footnote, of interest only to literary researchers who should no doubt "get a proper job". Whipsnade stands revealed as the new convert's Holy Hospital (where "bitter Penance, with an iron Whip, / Was wont him once to dis'ple every day"), the zoo as Langland's Field of Folk. (For the parakeet was a Paraclete, you see.)

No wonder CSL upped and wrote The Pilgrim's Regress with very little further ado.
steepholm: (Default)
Having just read Crux Ansata, it was something of a relief to turn to Bernard Shaw's The Adventures of the Black Girl in her Search for God (1932), which I acquired at the same time. Both books were on my aunt Naomi's shelves, from which I was invited to help myself.

scan0004


I'd never heard of this book before, but it's a very striking one, with handsome engravings by John Farleigh. I gather that this allegory (written during a brief sojourn in Africa) caused controversy when it was first published, not least for its use of a black woman as an active, intelligent, no-nonsense quester after truth, but mostly because of the interracial marriage with which it concludes (she ends up with an Irish gardener). Here she is laying about an Old Testament Nobodaddy with her trusty knobkerry:

scan0005


Anyway, it also struck me that Shaw's book, being an allegory in which a protagonist wanders a landscape littered with people offering their own answers (some historical or archetypal, some satirical takes on distinctively modern positions) to questions about God and the meaning of life, may possibly have had some bearing on C. S. Lewis's The Pilgrim's Regress, published the following year. Obviously, Lewis is mostly riffing on John Bunyan, but in tone he comes a lot closer to Shaw at times, although he is leading in a very different direction.
steepholm: (Default)
John is my least favourite Gospel (Jesus comes across too much like a politician, never answering a straight question), but 13:10 is both practical and true: "Jesus saith to him, He that is washed needeth not save to wash his feet, but is clean every whit."

The recent very hot weather, combined with the necessity of marking, have made me more sedentary than usual, so this morning I decided to walk the 8-mile round trip to work. As I mentioned last year, this can be a very pleasant experience if you do it right, and so it was today, but there's no denying that by the time I got back I was pretty hot and bothered. Until, that is, I kicked off my sandals and lowered my plates into a bowl of cold water. Instant, all-over refreshment!

Yes, Jesus was definitely on to something with the foot-washing idea. Actually, the context of the story suggests that having a servant wash one's feet was the kind of thing one might expect to happen at a formal dinner in first-century Judea, and I think it's a custom cafes and restaurants might very usefully revive, at least in summer. What could be blissier than to kick of one's sandals and sit sipping a citron pressé while a willing attendant coolly laves one's every toe? I've never bought a shoe shine or a pedicure, but I would definitely pay a premium for that service.

Incidentally, C. S. Lewis seems to have been struck by this verse too. At any rate, he appears to riff on it in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe:

Lucy looked and saw that Aslan had just breathed on the feet of the stone giant.

"It's all right!" shouted Aslan joyously. "Once the feet are put right, all the rest of him will follow."


Is it a stretch to see that as a Gospel allusion?
steepholm: (Default)
I’m back from the first of my Christmas jaunts, which was a flying visit to my mother, although tomorrow I’ll be packing my spotted hanky and going to London, partly to see [livejournal.com profile] fjm and [livejournal.com profile] chilperic, which I'm very much looking forward to.

Over coffee this morning my mother told me a little about her time working at the publisher Geoffrey Bles from 1949 to 1955, first as a secretary and later as an editor. These notes are a little ill assorted, but I think some of these memories are interesting both as giving an insight into the post-War publishing industry and specifically into C. S. Lewis’s main publisher. (My mother’s tenure there coincided more or less exactly with the publication of the Narnia books.)

Lewis would often appear in the office in a pall of smoke (from his pipe, nothing mephistopholean) to discuss his books – both the Narnia ones and the theological books Bles also published. He and Geoffrey Bles got on very well, and enjoyed chatting in ancient Greek.

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe was just a working title, at first. Lewis asked for better suggestions, and was persuaded that it was fine as was.

I will add, although my mother didn’t mention it today, that Lewis was eventually poached by the Bodley Head when his editor moved there, taking him with her. This was just before the publication of The Magician’s Nephew, and caused great resentment at the Bles offices (directed at her rather than at him). I may have mooted this private theory before, but I believe that this move lies behind the later re-ordering of the books (posthumously dubbed “The Chronicles of Narnia”) so as to make The Magician’s Nephew first in the series, thereby increasing its sales. I’ve no positive evidence for this theory other than my conviction that it’s the sort of thing a publisher might think of, but I feel obliged to promulgate it both because I hate that re-ordering, and by the noble tradition of blood feud.

In those smoggy, pre-Clean Air Act days every room had an open fire, which meant that in winter seven fires burned continually in the Bles offices. The job of maintaining them belonged to Mr Bowesfield, a cross-looking man, who would often bring his “quite large” son Victor to work. Victor had Down’s Syndrome, and would sit cross legged in the window all day, apparently quite content, as publishers and authors milled about him. Once a year Mr and Mrs Bowesfield, who were members of the Dickens society, would dress up as a Dickensian couple and set off in a carriage from Dickens’ house in Doughty Street, which was just two doors down the road. It was quite a sight.

My mother’s immediate boss was Jocelyn Gibb – a man I vaguely remember meeting when she took my brother and me to London one time in about 1969. (He was kind enough to look at some stories we had written - officially I suppose my first professional submission!) When she left to get married, they held an office party, and on running out of booze my mother remembered that she’d seen a case of champagne in Gibb’s office. She suggested they start in on that (Gibb himself being away at the time), and she’d replace it when she got back from honeymoon. Inevitably, when she did get back it turned out to have been the last existing case of some very rare vintage, which Gibb had just bought at enormous expense. She tremblingly confessed, but he laughed until his face was like a wet cloak ill laid up.

Bles was grand, but rather mean with money. They used to have to take the bus to their Christmas lunch: he would ask the conductor for “ten penny ha’pennies”. When he retired, in about 1954, Billy Collins took the firm over. The Collins lunches were far more lavish, with plenty of free booze, to the extent that several of the staff (most of whom were Cockneys of humble origin and not used to getting anything gratis) threw up before they even reached the food. At these meals she would find herself sitting next to Billy Collins, who was a lot of fun, and told her anecdotes about his life (he had an affair with Joy Adamson of Born Free fame – who knew?).
steepholm: (Default)
To a school production of The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe tonight. My daughter was involved in make-up rather than acting, which made it far less nerve-wracking, though it also meant I spent some of last weekend as a practice canvas for the animals of Aslan's army ...

Puppies and Leopards and Facepaint, Oh My! )

Anyway, as I watched I found myself wondering about the book's Turkish connections - of which there are of course precisely two (a mystical number): Edmund's Turkish Delight, and the name Aslan, which is Turkish for "lion". Might this counterpoint be uncoincidental? Might it even be that Aslan was being offered as the true Turkish Delight - as the Lord of/de Light? Perhaps, in fact, each of the seven books in the Narnia series plays subtly on the cuisine of a different nation of the eastern Mediterranean?

Unfortunately I was distracted from this train of thought before I was able to pad it out to book length, by Professor Kirke, who (though otherwise excellent) had forgotten his lines in the interview with Peter and Susan, and taken to responding to whatever they said with - "But that is precisely what makes your sister's story so likely to be true." Which pleased me much.
steepholm: (Default)
To a school production of The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe tonight. My daughter was involved in make-up rather than acting, which made it far less nerve-wracking, though it also meant I spent some of last weekend as a practice canvas for the animals of Aslan's army ...

Puppies and Leopards and Facepaint, Oh My! )

Anyway, as I watched I found myself wondering about the book's Turkish connections - of which there are of course precisely two (a mystical number): Edmund's Turkish Delight, and the name Aslan, which is Turkish for "lion". Might this counterpoint be uncoincidental? Might it even be that Aslan was being offered as the true Turkish Delight - as the Lord of/de Light? Perhaps, in fact, each of the seven books in the Narnia series plays subtly on the cuisine of a different nation of the eastern Mediterranean?

Unfortunately I was distracted from this train of thought before I was able to pad it out to book length, by Professor Kirke, who (though otherwise excellent) had forgotten his lines in the interview with Peter and Susan, and taken to responding to whatever they said with - "But that is precisely what makes your sister's story so likely to be true." Which pleased me much.
steepholm: (Default)
A while ago I posted on The Narnia Code, a documentary based on Michael Ward’s book Planet Narnia. This is a follow-up, taking into account my promise to [livejournal.com profile] chilperic that I would go off and read the actual book. That I have now done.

I’m not going to engage seriously with the main body of Ward’s argument. As I think I said in one of the comments to my earlier post, I don’t find it intrinsically implausible that Lewis might have had a scheme in mind that linked the various Narnian books with the different planets. Astrology is certainly a subject that interested him, and Ward produces a prodigious amount of circumstantial evidence, some of which – such as the idea that Corin and Cor in The Horse and his Boy were inspired by Castor and Pollux – I find quite persuasive. I do think it’s almost impossible to produce a knock-down argument for this sort of thing, though, given the richness of associations that exists for the various planets and their deities. The sheer abundance of material makes it too flexible for certainty.

But let’s concede for the sake of argument that Ward’s case is watertight, and that he has established that Lewis associated each book with a particular planet. The question that follows is: so what? How can he elevate this from being a particularly interesting and lengthy footnote into being “the key” to the whole sequence – as he repeatedly claimed it to be in the documentary? He does so by trying to establish that his theory solves some existing and widely-acknowledged problems. And this is where I seriously part company with him, because to my mind the problems he cites are not problems at all. He sets them out at the start of the book:

1. Why did CSL suddenly turn to writing for children – as a bachelor in his fifties, with no children of his own?

2. How can we explain the obvious flaws of the Narnia chronicles – by which Ward primarily means a) its inconsistencies; b) its being a hodge-podge of different types of mythology and c) its lack of an overall ‘unifying’ theme?

3. Why is it still so popular, given the above flaws?


Let's address these in turn... )

Profile

steepholm: (Default)
steepholm

September 2017

S M T W T F S
     12
3456 789
10 111213141516
17181920212223
24252627282930

Syndicate

RSS Atom

Most Popular Tags

Style Credit

Expand Cut Tags

No cut tags