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Mama Deb
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Mama Deb [userpic]
Thoughts on Narnia Part I

Jewish holidays aren't entirely eating, sleeping and going to shul. There are a few hours when there's nothing to do. Oh, one can take walks or visit friends, or even attend a class, and there's the ever-popular naps (see: sleep.) But I like to read. Some prefer not to read secular novels on Shabbat or Yom Tov, but I'm not one of them.

This time around, starting on Yom Kippur, I began reading the complete Chronicles of Narnia, in the proper order of publication, which was also the order in which I originally read them as a teen-ager. Note that, btw. I didn't read these books as a small child. This means I was always somewhat aware of the subtext.

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

Edmund was drugged by the Turkish Delight. Oh, he started out mean and selfish - if he hadn't, I doubt the White Witch would have gotten her claws in - but she put a spell on the Turkish Delight to make it addictive. And then she promised more. So perhaps Edmund would have betrayed his family anyway, but we will never know.

Lewis very carefully throughout the books had brave girls who were not given a chance to do more than shoot arrows. "I do not mean for you to fight. Just to take care of the aftermath or call for help." Although, iirc, Susan only sounded her horn once. (And if she and Lucy had had swords, maybe they wouldn't have been treed.)

The Easter imagery is very strong - the innocent sacrificed which destroys the old laws. From a Jewish perspective - huh. Replacement theology. And we do not believe in vicarious sacrifice. Killing an innocent is murder. If it's voluntary, it's suicide. In neither case would that satisfy the Law.

Also. Aslan is *there*, whereas his father, the Emperor-beyond-the-sea, is unreachable, except through Aslan. Since I believe Gd is quite reachable (especially on Yom Kippur, the day I read this), there's another "huh".

Still, a pretty piece of world building, and Lucy shines, as she should.

And I will always be bothered that the kids grew up in Narnia - reached full adulthood (to the point that Susan was contemplating marriage serioiusly, which was probably why Aslan arranged for them to go home) and then went back to England to do it all over again. Well, not really, as it turned out, but we didn't know that.

Prince Caspian

This is pretty much the King Arthur story, as fully referenced in the following book, as King Peter returns. Interesting that the air in Narnia brings them back mentally to their royalty. Trying to think if there is Christian subtext here. AGain, just seeing Aslan causes pretty much instant conversion if you're at all good. Oh, there is the unthinking trust - if one of the prophets (in this case, Lucy) says something, obey unquestioning or things will not go well.

Also, notice. The Badger smoked. Trumpkin, the Red Dwarf (ha!),the DLF - those two smoked. The Black Dwarf (and the untrustworthy one) doesn't. None of the kids smoked, but the good male adults did.

Voyage of the Dawn-Treader

Ahh, Eustace! Poor guy. Vegetarian parents and a victim of scientific child-rearing, and forced to spend the summer with his weird cousins. And then he's sucked into a ship where he most decidedly doesn't have a good time, even if Edmund and Lucy (treated as a king and queen) do.

And here's the first step in Susan's fate - instead of staying with Professor Kirke, or with the Scrubbs, she goes off with her parents in an attempt to find her a husband or something, since she's poor in school work. And remember,she was told she wasn't to visit Narnia again.

Eustace's repentance is interesting from a Jewish perspective. He's turned into a dragon (and here I hit timeline problems. If you read the part about the time he was a dragon, it seems to last a long time, but the text says it was just. Hmm. Six days. Which doesn't seem long enough, but okay.) He tries to peel off enough skin, but can't until Aslan does it for him and then there's that baptism. What would happen from a Jewish perspective? Aslan would give him sharp enough claws to do it all himself.

And I'm quite bothered that Caspian's bride never, ever gets a name. I'm also bothered that the Dufflepods have to stay in a rather inconvenient form just because it's funny. But I adore Reepicheep. (And, yeah, Caspian should have married Lucy. Ah, well.)

More later.


mamadeb- let me introduce myself- I read your husband's blog occasionally and i believe my fiancee is acquainted with your husband through reshimu.com (where I also blog). I enjoy reading your LJ! Chag Sameach!

Re: hi!

Welcome! I have to admit, I love your username.

I feel this strange affinity to Eustace, because I have a feeling that if I was on a Narnian adventure, I'd be Eustace, all whining because I was wet and hungry and there were pebbles in my shoes. I suck at outdoorsy activities.

And I'm rather fine with Caspian marrying nameless star girl rather than Lucy since I'm brought up on the BBC series. Shallow as it may seem, I can't argue with preferring Gabrielle Anwar to Sophie Wilcox.

The religious stuff is very interesting, but I was way too indoctrinated as a child to be able to contribute anything useful from an outsider's perspective. (From an "insider's" perspective, I can't remember much subtext in PC, but VotDT has Eustace-as-Paul and Caspian "clearing the temple".)

PC was fairly subtext free from my perspective, too. Voyage...ah, Voyage. I don't think of Eustace as Saul of Tarsus (not in my imagery vocabulary, as it were, unless it's blindingly obvious.) Clearing the Temple was the slave market?

I can see that now, but I wouldn't have thought of that at the time - mostly because the moneylenders were aiding people in doing mitzvot, so chasing them out was a terrible thing, whereas destroying a slave market isn't.

When I was in elementary school the last half hour of the day was story time, when the teacher read to the class. Our sixth grade teacher read us two books, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and Wrinkle in Time, half an hour at a time.

The teacher was a devout Christian. The class, however, was mostly Jewish. There were only three or four kids who weren't Jewish in it. The subtext went whoosh right over our heads.

When Aslan died a number of kids were confused. They kept interrupting, or asking questions later, trying to figure out the logic of the thing. Why did he need to die? What the heck was going on there?

To her credit, the teacher didn't evangelize, but she was obviously puzzled about how to explain it without explaining Christianity. It turned into an interesting lesson in comparative religion, with the teacher being extremely careful and obviously uncomfortable, not wanting to raise any objections from parents I suppose.

Sounds like your teacher liked the speculative fiction stories - yay!

Did your teacher manage to get the underlying meaning across? (And could you really feel the horror of "never Christmas? :))

(This was one thing I did get, but I was fourteen at the time.)

We all understood "never Christmas", being immersed in American society.

I think she tried her best to explain the reasoning behind Aslan's self-sacrifice, but nobody grokked it.

IMO, if you stop after The Horse and His Boy or The Silver Chair, you're ahead. The later books have to much retconning and are too heavy-handed for my tastes (and were even as a kid).

Oh,I've finished them all. I'm trying to figure out what I'm going to read this coming yom tov - especially since I always bring a book to Simchat Torah.

I've always considered Dawn Treader the best book of the series. I'm finding your perspective fascinating.

Dawn Treader? Any particular reason? (I like it a lot myself, but I can't say it's my favorite.)

Thank you.

Not sure. I think it's because a few of the scenes have always stayed with me, such as the lion's head in the book of spells, and the island of dreams.

Caspian should TOTALLY have married Lucy.

Yeah - she'd never have been fooled by that snake!