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Mama Deb
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Narnia meta (long)

Last night, jonbaker and I saw Narnia.

Visually, it was gorgeous - the New Zealand mountains, the cgi, the lovely old house, the costuming.

The actiing was superb. Like many other people, I have to single out Georgie Henley (Lucy Pevensie), who was, well. Amazing. She was beautiful in a real little girl sort of way, and there was nothing cloying or false about her performance. Lucy is the heart of this story, and this ten year old could carry that burden.

This is someone we need to keep an eye on, I think.

But all four of the young actors were excellent - better, I have to say, than the kids of the Potter movies. And I do think Liam Neeson was a good choice as Aslan's voice - I liked the sense of strength and gentleness he projected, which fit my view of Aslan.

I'm not much for great battles, so I don't have much to say about that, although it was, again, striking.

As for the heart of the matter - a bit of history. I first encountered LWW as an animated special when I was about sixteen. I enjoyed it, but the Christological things felt rather anvilicious. I read the book soon afterwards, and devoured the rest of the series (in the proper order of publication, of course), but the first and the last books were clearly Christian in nature. As I was Jewish (albeit totally secular), it was somewhat off-putting. I t hink I liked the non-Pevensie books best for this reason.

jonbaker, on the other hand, first read the books at the age of eight. Moreover, he was attending an Orthodox Jewish Day School. Even now, he has to have what I consider anvils pointed out to him. To him, it was just a lovely, magical story. Still, he preferred the middle books because they were more fun.

And here I have to say - it's clear that Lewis wanted to write both a lovely, magical story and a Christian allegory, and there is nothing wrong with that. It can be read on both levels, and on other levels, and frankly, it works on both levels. So this is not a criticism. Also, I believe he was aiming at a younger age group than sixteen.

That said - I do believe those elements were either toned down or subverted slightly in the movie. For example, a big plot point is Christmas - "It's always Winter and never Christmas." For Lewis's intended audience, that's a calamity, of course. A hundred years with no Christmas presents? So the giving of the presents means that the long winter is no longer in stasis. Subtextually, of course, Christmas is the Winter Solistice, after which days grow longer and winter can end, so it makes sense that this is the turning point. This is, though, a pagan thing that goes along with the actual roots of Christmas. Beyond that is the symbolism of the Christian roots - it's when J's birth is celebrated, just as the Christmas in the book symbolizes the return of Aslan to Narnia. But this is far down in the sub-subtext.

(I also find it interesting that the gifts are not joy or peace, but weapons and symbols of war, with the only exception being the "comfort" of Lucy's potion. And even that is for the aftermath of war.)

Then we come to the sacrifice. I have something say about the reasoning for the sacrifice, but that'll be later.

In the book, the Stone Table was like a dining room table, with four legs and so on, but made of stone. In the movie, it was clearly an altar. And there are sarcens behind it, and the White Witch wields a blade that, according to Jonathan, was made of meteoric iron. In other words, it was a Druidic sacrifice. It felt like modern law taking over from ancient law, with the Christian subtext rather far down. I don't know if CS Lewis would have approved, but I find it interesting that they did that.

(And the husband who was so good at picking out pagan elements? Still couldn't see the Christian ones.)

The sacrifice itself - why? It was in place of Edmund the Betrayer, of course, but. Leaving out my own religious objections (you can't appoint an agent to do tshuva for you, and a child isn't subject to the law anyway) - Edmund didn't betray anyone. Oh, I know he informed the Witch about Tumnus. He most certainly did that. But I didn't see any malice in that particular thing. He had no idea that the Witch was evil - she was the pretty lady who said she was a Queen and who fed him sweeties at a time when sweeties weren't available. He mentioned his sister and that she'd met with the faun, not knowing he shouldn't do that. Would he have done so anyway? Possibly. We don't know.

And he did not behave well - lying about Narnia (which was a betrayal all by itself, but that wasn't what he would have been punished for) and running away from the Beavers - and only part of that could have been explained by the way his family treated him - but there was still no intent in his informing on Tumnus.

Surely he wouldn't be punished for saying something out of ignorance? But he was. (And if Aslan knew he'd rise again - he was humiliated (cutting off his mane=emasculation) and beaten and caused great pain, and all of these are a sacrifice by itself - it still sort of reduces it. Maybe. I don't know. I do see why that was necessary for Aslan's plan, though. Made the Witch confident enough to attack (with his mane, no less) and gave the Narnian troops something tangible to fight for.

Anyway, if it was betrayal, and Edmund was responsible, he *did* pay. He put himself in danger on the battlefield and lost blood to protect another being - disobeying orders again, but not for his own benefit. He did his atonement there, and for himself.

And as that was my only nit to pick - yes. Excellent movie and one I'm very glad I saw.


I'm glad you liked it. I adored it, but after that I've seen enough comments on the order of "there wasn't any emotional investment, esp from the kids" that I started wondering if I was just imagining things based on loving Narnia. (Which, I might add, I loved as a fantasy and had to have the Christian allegory stuff clobbered over my head much later.)

But re the betrayal-- I don't think the first bit, "betraying" Tumnus, can count as a full betrayal because he doesn't know what he's doing; doesn't know that she's bad, doesn't know that there were rules against fraternizing with humans, doesn't know it was supposed to be secret, etc. If nothing else, his look when Lucy was saying that at least the White Witch didn't know about Tumnus is enough to prove that he didn't know and was rather horrified over it.

(And her comment to Tumnus about how Edmund was the one who turned him in, and for nothing more than sweets, was meant as cruelty to both of them but I don't think was meant as truth, since Edmund didn't even know about the Turkish Delight thing yet, and didn't intentionally turn Tumnus in.)

Running away from the beavers doesn't count as betrayal, I think, nor does running *to* the Witch-- but telling her where the rest of the children are, *does*. As does telling her later where Aslan and the others are gathering, even though that was meant as an attempt to save a life rather than as an attempt to betray.

(It's sort of debatable whether the first act is betrayal, really, depending on whether you define betrayal as conscious or not -- giving secret information to one you know is an enemy is definite betrayal, but giving information that you think is public to someone you think is on your side anyway... -- but it definitely wouldn't make him a traitor, since I think treachery requires conscious intent, either of the secret nature of the information or of the various allegiances or whatever. And she claimed his blood as a traitor.)

Ah, that works - the betrayal was for his brother and sister later, and, yes, she was just being cruel.

Okay. Thank you.

I think the key point is that Edmund returned to the Witch after he had been told what she was and with full intent to "get even" with his siblings, but that's not very clear in the film, and I'm not sure if it was clearer in the book or it has just been too long since I read it.

It was much clearer in the book.

I agree with kattahj here, Edmund did return to the witch after he was made aware of what she was. The point is, the story shows that even people who have made serious mistakes and really messed up their lives, can change their ways and have a fesh start.
I agree with you that it was an excellent movie. Beautiful to look at, and as true to the book as I believe it was possible to be (with a couple of exceptions, like the altar thing and the druidic ritual, but they didn't bother me).

it's clear that Lewis wanted to write both a lovely, magical story and a Christian allegory,

Lewis very clearly and very specifically stated that LWW was not intended to be Christian Allegory. In this case, I will accept him at his word.

The fact of the matter is that his most important writings were Christian in nature, but he did not consider this work to be allegory.

A long-time atheist, Lewis grew strong in his [Christian] faith as an adult. I believe he was so heavily influenced by Christian thought and Christian writing and Christian allegory that it came through in his writing, but I refuse to call him a liar... I do not believe he intentionally set forth to write a Christian allegory. If he had, I'm certain he would have proudly admitted it. After all, he had no embarrassment about his faith and his beliefs. He had a radio program to express his Christian teachings, he gave lectures, he wrote books, his correspondence is very clear about his beliefs. Why would he specifically state that this children's book of all things was not Christian allegory??

How odd, since part of the reason I'd felt hit so hard by the Christological stuff is that I hadn't expected it at all. I knew nothing about the story before I first encountered it, except that I was familiar with the title. If he didn't intend it, then it slipped right past him (which happens. Stories do that.)

I think Lewis is using allegory in a strict literary sense here. In a true allegory, for example, each of the animals and children in Narnia might represent a different abstract attribute. Lewis did recognize and admit the Christian themes, though he maintain they weren't what he first set out to do. In other words, I don't think they were part of his original intent for the story, but I don't think they exactly "slipped past him" either. Lewis was also very attuned to various myths and legends he felt prefigured the Christian narrative, and I see a lot of that in Narnia.