Week Fourteen – The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

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                         Susan Pevensie, my apparent doppelganger

 ‘“But do you really mean, sir,” said Peter, “that there could be other worlds–all over the place, just round the corner–like that?”

“Nothing is more probable,” said the Professor.’

I am very late with “this week’s” post, but that’s what a long weekend and alternate universe Narnia time zones will do to you.

I read The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe with my class sometime in grade school, and followed it up with a viewing of the old BBC version, which was delightful. I read it again when Disney released their movie version eight years ago.

I’m one of those cursed by the need to read a book before taking in the film version, so the release of the Prince Caspian movie a couple years later led to a summer of hammock lounging and Narnia reading as I actually got through all seven stories – the ideal way to spend a warm afternoon. According to the inscription from C.S. Lewis, he wrote the original for Lucy Barfield, saying, “you are already too old for fairy tales, and by the time it is printed and bound you will be older still. But some day you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again.” Apparently for me that was the ripe old age of 19.

What I’m getting at is this book is kind of cheating to include in this project because I’ve already reread it, multiple times and in recent years. I’ve seen two movie versions, one of which I have on DVD and stars my apparent doppelganger (I see a resemblance, but not to the extent of the dozens of people who told me so unsolicited in the weeks after the movie was released).  I could recite the story pretty much by heart and I can’t make any comparison to my original thoughts on it as a child because my memory has been blurred by more recent visitations.

I can tell you that I enjoy it not only for the fairy tale but the language.  It offers such gems as “sharp’s the word,” “I say, Susan!” and “by jove, you’re right.” The children call each other beastly, batty and goose, and I’m always left wondering why we don’t talk like that anymore. Look out friends, I will be using “beastly” much more frequently in the near future.

Of course, with the mid-twentieth century language comes the mid-twentieth century gender roles. Lewis wrote this book immediately following the Second World War, so it’s not surprising that the battlefield was considered a man’s place. Father Christmas bestows a sword and a shield on Peter, while Lucy gets a healing cordial and Susan a horn she can blow for help. Sure they get weapons too, but are specifically told they’re for emergencies, because Santa “does not mean for [them] to fight in the battle.” When trouble arises the girls are dependent on Susan’s horn to call Peter in for the rescue.

Still, Lucy is an admirable role model for young girls. She sticks to her guns, treats people with remarkable kindness and shows an abundance of courage in her desire to rescue Mr. Tumnus. Susan, more willing to succumb to fear, grows up into Queen Susan the Gentle, but after completing this series and knowing her eventual fate, I have a hard time liking her character even in this book. And sorry Susan, but as an archer you’ve got nothing on Katniss.

I find the idea of immortality unappealing, but I do think the Pevensie children get a sweet deal. Two full lives, one living as monarchs in a magical kingdom with fauns and unicorns as friends? Sign me up.

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