Susan and Narnia

C. S. Lewis, his worlds, and his faith.

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Re: Susan and Narnia

Postby johobbit » Apr 05, 2012 12:08 pm

MOD NOTE:

As starkat mentioned on the previous page, this thread has veered way off topic. It's past time to get back to the topic at hand: Susan and Narnia.

Thanks.
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Re: Susan and Narnia

Postby waggawerewolf27 » Apr 05, 2012 6:49 pm

Thank you, johobbit, especially as there is also a thread in Talking about Narnia forum about why people don't like Narnia. The last time I posted here, was because I am getting more and more convinced that people are misreading that particularly infamous passage in LB about Susan. Believe me, C.S. Lewis certainly was not saying in that passage anything like Gaiman's Greta the journalist says in this quote:

Gaiman 2004 p193 wrote:All the other kids go off to Paradise, and Susan can't go. She's no longer a friend of Narnia because she is too fond of lipsticks and nylons and invitations to parties.


Unfortunately, that is the way it is usually taken as this debate has also shown quite convincingly. Even though starkat's statement that "Susan didn't enter Aslan's Country because she walked away from the faith of her childhood and didn't allow it to grow into the faith of an adult", might sound right, in principle at any rate, it isn't right either.

Earlier in LB, Tirian appeared at a meeting of the 7 Friends of Narnia like a guest speaker whose ghost speech writer has left him high and dry. When Tirian passes the stable door he realises he is meeting the same 7 Friends of Narnia he saw at the meeting, no longer dressed in their strange clothes, but nice comfortable ones people could enjoy wearing.

But it is then, not at the meeting, that Tirian realises that Susan is missing. So he asks "Where is Queen Susan?". Peter answers him by saying:"My sister Susan is no longer a friend of Narnia" (LB pp 127-8, my ed) And then Peter concludes this section by saying "Well, don't let's talk about that, now" (ibid) which effectively stops Ed and Lu saying anything more.

I always thought whoa, there has been a family dispute of sorts. Peter does seem unhappy with Susan. But he doesn't say that Susan is no longer a friend of him or his siblings, does he? Was the argument something to do with Narnia, then? Of course it was!

I'm not altogether convinced either that Peter spoke for Edmund and Lucy, who had nothing to say at this stage. However much he was high king and their big brother, Su, Ed and Lu never thought twice about arguing with Peter if they had to. It wasn't till years afterwards that I realised that Edmund and Lucy had both been at the siege of Anvard on Susan's account whilst Peter had been in the North fighting giants. They, not Peter, had to bail out Susan on that occasion.

The next to speak was Eustace (ibid): "...whenever you've tried to get her to talk about Narnia, or do anything about Narnia, she says, 'What wonderful memories you have! Fancy your still thinking about all those funny games we used to play when we were children.'"

Now this at least hints why Susan wasn't at the first meeting. But why would Susan want to discuss old Narnia times with Eustace anyway? Remember how scathing he was about Narnia at the beginning of VDT when he was eavesdropping on Edmund and Lucy? Remember how he made limericks about Narnia, and people getting barmier and barmier? But why would Peter be upset by Susan making such comments to Eustace, which is how I first read it?

Well might Susan say something like that to Eustace just to stop him teasing her, too. Remember also, that Susan liked to be seen as grown up, often patronised her younger siblings, that she had gone to America in VDT, didn't know about Eustace's change of heart and we don't even know if she ever found out about what happened to Prince Caspian, let alone his son Rilian. Though when someone online drew a comparison with what Eustace says in this quote and what he heard from the Queen of Underland at the end of Silver Chair, I did see the point in spades. Didn't LOTGK also accuse Jill, Eustace, Puddleglum and Rilian of playing at games like children, inventing a world better than her own?

However, it wasn't until I read this extract right now that I realised that Eustace was saying that Peter had been trying to get Susan to attend meetings etc, not Eustace, himself. So now we know that not only did Susan not attend that meeting with Tirian, but she wouldn't have attended any meeting Peter called that mentioned Narnia, anyway. So how does Eustace know first hand about what she had been saying to Peter on earlier occasions? Oh yes, Eustace is Susan's cousin, don't forget. Did he want her to meet Jill Pole, his friend from his Silver Chair adventure? Did Susan even want to know about that incident? So if she wasn't attending meetings, how did Susan ever meet Jill? Or did she meet Jill at that end of SC party where Jill wore the Narnian gear? Did Susan, showing off her adult status at that time say something patronising about the standard of dress that schoolgirls like Jill would have? Proving just how keen Susan was in being grown up. Or was there some other social occasion where Jill would have met Susan?

It is also Jill who tells us next: "She's interested in nothing nowadays except nylons and lipstick and invitations.", which hints where Susan has got to whilst the meeting was being held. And this is a real red herring. Yes Susan might be overly wrapped up in dressing her best in the latest fashions in lipstick and stockings for those invitations, but she wouldn't have upset Peter if she had just missed a meeting to attend a party, important or not. There had been parties galore in Narnia. The PC romp through Narnia was one huge party. In Tashbaan the parties had been in Susan's honour as Rabadash's prospective bride. Peter had even put on parties, hastiludes, tournaments and other festivities to entertain Rabadash at Cair Paravel. And at the end of LWW when we learn about Queen Susan the Gentle and her marriage proposals, there is a strong suggestion that Rabadash wasn't the only one seeking Susan's hand in marriage.

Peter is upset, not only because Susan didn't attend that meeting, or any other meeting for that matter, but also because she probably wasn't even interested later in what happened at the meeting at which Tirian appeared. If he had even tried to give her a big brotherly reminder to watch out for Rabadash types at the party she attended instead, that, too, would have gone down like the proverbial lead balloon. And how dare she patronise her elder brother when he was referring quite properly to something Narnian that was not at all childish!

What Polly has to say clinches what Susan has been up to. Now where or when in Narnia or outside of it did Polly meet Susan? Or does that really matter? Polly is the voice of experience in this conversation. We don't know how she spent her life, other than that although she was always friends with Digory, she didn't choose to marry him. Why would she after his sexist outburst in Charn about women, engagements and marriages? By the way, notice how the Professor doesn't say anything? Because after what Professor Digory had to say as a boy in Charn, he really would have been sexist to comment about Susan in any way whatever. Especially if he had been so good as to give the "friend of the bride's family" speech at the wedding. Besides, he knew from LWW that Susan, deep in her heart, still felt those Narnia adventures were barmy and that she had only been giving Lucy the benefit of the doubt.

Susan didn't enter Aslan's Country, because she wasn't at the meeting and so was not involved in any way in the Narnia plans. She didn't enter Aslan's Country, because, unlike Mr & Mrs Pevensie, she wasn't on the train to Bristol. So, to answer Tirian's question, where was Queen Susan?

For all we know, Queen Susan was at Bristol, waiting for her parents to arrive. She might not have known that her siblings were on the train as well, being deep in Bridezilla mode at the time. Like in 'childish' fairy tales, beautiful Queen Susan the Gentle, having finally met her Prince Charming, has gone off to get married and live happily ever after, now she is 21, legally an adult, and can do as she likes, possibly as a Mrs Somebody in Bristol. Which is why 21 just might be the silliest time of one's life, until 18 became the age of majority. Let us hope that Prince Charming, whatever his views on royalty, doesn't turn out to be another Rabadash.

C.S.Lewis wasn't being sexist. Women's libbers would have applauded Polly and C.S.Lewis in the 1970's. Through Polly, the voice of experience, C.S.Lewis was warning girls like Susan, like myself as a young girl, that 'happily ever after', like beauty, doesn't go on forever. Only heaven goes on forever. Oddly enough, the need to warn girls like Susan against being influenced too much by fashion, fairytales and convention, and the need to warn against neglecting girls' educations, in favour of their getting married once they were adults, were exactly the reasons why we needed Women's Lib in the first place.

Leah Betts wrote:And I'm sorry but the way he has Miraz say "You talk like an old woman!" and the way that some characters are excluded from seeing Aslan for being "plump" (both of these are in PC) are sexist and fat-hating (respectively) no matter how you look at it.


Not at all. Those school uniforms that Susan, myself and many others wore in the 1940's and afterwards, in UK & elsewhere did really make us look dumpy, despite rationing during WW2 and the later age of austerity ensuring that nobody actually could be described as 'fat', not even me. :D Typical girls' school clothes in those days were just as dreadful as the attire described in PC, worn compulsorily in Telmarine schools run by the likes of Miss Prizzle, to force conformity on everyone, if nothing else.

These school uniforms consisted of horribly thick black stockings, that snarled and laddered anyway, as stated in PC, to cover calves revealed by heavy serge box-pleated tunics, which sagged halfway down one's calves at the back after a few wears, cut girls' silhouettes in half horizontally, unlike the vertical lines of trousers and long dresses, and were a nightmare to keep clean. And except for Gwendolen, neither Miss Prizzle nor the other girls in her drearily untrue history lesson, in her drearily conformist school, wanted to meet Aslan. No wonder Susan would embrace the glamorous nylon stockings and lipstick advertised so romantically at that time.

There is a real danger in expressing views simply from hearsay, or from second hand sources like Greta the Journalist, whether about Narnia, C.S.Lewis' alleged sexism or whether about Susan and why she wasn't suitably killed for entry into Aslan's country. It is better to go and read the books oneself. Carefully, to show the proper reference to one's quotes and to show exactly where it was written. And to think what C.S.Lewis really meant to convey.
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Re: Susan and Narnia

Postby hansgeorg » Apr 07, 2012 5:27 am

Graymouser wrote:Lucy and Edmund had their extra trip to on VDT- much longer than their experience in PC, which was only a few days (anybody know exactly how long?), plus they could have shared their memories with Eustace, who was closer to them in age.


How long in PC?

Day 1 - arrive at Cair, in evening identify it
Day 2 - rescuing Trumpkin, hearing story - walk
Night - Lucy's vision
Day 3 - walk longer
Night - Lucy meets Aslan
Day 4 - Boys and Trumpkin arrive at Aslan's How
Day 5 - Duel for boys
Days 4 and 5 girls - romp and Battle of Beruna II
Day 6 - cleaning up, start walking back to Cair ...
Day 7/8/9 (hardly likely 10) - back in English clothes - back through the door.

Correct me if I missed a day!
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Re: Susan and Narnia

Postby waggawerewolf27 » Apr 09, 2012 11:03 pm

Events in PC should go something like this: (my corrections in red)

Day 1 - arrive at Cair, in evening identify it
Day 2 - rescuing Trumpkin, hearing story - row boat to GlasswaterNight - Lucy's vision
Day 3 - Hike. Incident with bear. Lucy sees Aslan at cliff's edge. Group runs into Telmarine outpost and retrace their steps. Night - Lucy meets Aslan
Day 4 - Boys and Trumpkin arrive at Aslan's How, Girls depart on Narnia romp.
Day 4-5 - Parleying for boys
Day 5 - Duel for boys and Battle of Beruna II
Days 4 and 5 girls - romp and reunion with boys after Battle of Beruna II
Day 6 - cleaning up ...
Day 7/8/9 (hardly likely 10) - back in English clothes - back through the door.
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Re: Susan and Narnia

Postby hansgeorg » Apr 10, 2012 3:52 am

waggawerewolf27 wrote:She didn't enter Aslan's Country, because, unlike Mr & Mrs Pevensie, she wasn't on the train to Bristol.


Where does it say Mr. and Mrs. Pevensie were?

Presuming the Last Judgement of Narnia to coincide with the Last Judgement of every other world, the last scene is not temporally related to being on the train or not.

Will have to look up. Was the train headed for Bristol? !
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Re: Susan and Narnia

Postby waggawerewolf27 » Apr 10, 2012 5:08 am

hansgeorg wrote:
waggawerewolf27 wrote:She didn't enter Aslan's Country, because, unlike Mr & Mrs Pevensie, she wasn't on the train to Bristol.


Where does it say Mr. and Mrs. Pevensie were?

Presuming the Last Judgement of Narnia to coincide with the Last Judgement of every other world, the last scene is not temporally related to being on the train or not.

Will have to look up. Was the train headed for Bristol? !


Mr & Mrs Pevensie were travelling to Bristol. Peter only found it out that morning when he and Edmund went to London for the rings. Edmund said they would have had to catch the same train that Lucy, Jill, Eustace, Polly and the Professor were catching to meet up with Edmund and Peter.

The book reference not only says that Mr & Mrs Pevensie were travelling to Bristol, but also that it had nothing to do with Narnia.

Check out Last Battle p.130: Peter is telling Jill and Eustace as well as telling Tirian what happened in the train accident, because he and Edmund were on the station platform. Peter says his people, that is to say, Mr & Mrs Pevensie, his, Edmund's and Lucy's parents, were on the same train, although Lucy didn't know about it. Jill asks if they knew about Narnia, and Peter says:

“Oh no, it had nothing to do with Narnia. They were on their way to Bristol. I’d only heard that they were going that morning. But Edmund said they’d be bound to be going on that train.”

This is in the second page of Chapter 13, "How the dwarves refused to be taken in". I notice he never mentions Susan again, as if he is avoiding that subject.

Also there is the reference on the last page of Last Battle to Lucy seeing her parents across from Narnia in England heaven, where they would have gone like others who had died on the train. But I think you know about that reference, since you have drawn my attention to it.

And no, the Last Judgement of Narnia does not co-incide with the Last Judgement here on Earth, since, according to the Nicene Creed, at that time both the quick and the dead will be judged. Narnia as a fictitional world only lasted 49 years from 1900 to 1949, according to Paul F. Foster's timeline. I thought it was 1950, but 49 is 7 squared.
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Re: Susan and Narnia

Postby hansgeorg » Apr 10, 2012 8:35 am

waggawerewolf27 wrote:Also there is the reference on the last page of Last Battle to Lucy seeing her parents across from Narnia in England heaven, where they would have gone like others who had died on the train. But I think you know about that reference, since you have drawn my attention to it.

And no, the Last Judgement of Narnia does not co-incide with the Last Judgement here on Earth, since, according to the Nicene Creed, at that time both the quick and the dead will be judged. Narnia as a fictitional world only lasted 49 years from 1900 to 1949, according to Paul F. Foster's timeline. I thought it was 1950, but 49 is 7 squared.


I knew that on the last page, but had forgotten about them being on the same train. As for Narnian Last Judgement both Quick and Dead were judged. As for it coinciding with ours, that is not quite the same boat as when Narnian Creation "coincides" with life of people alive in England in 1900. You see, between the train crash (1949, as said) and the last judgement seen from the stable door, there is a huge fast forward.

That is if that creation had taken place. As for considering it a fictional world, which is of course true, it makes words like "lasted from 1900 to 1949" meaningless.

In the fiction, Narnia or rather Telmar far West of it gets arriving pirates, who certainly did their piracy in South Seas well before 1900, and Telmarines returning to the Island probably returned to an earlier island than 1941.
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Re: Susan and Narnia

Postby waggawerewolf27 » Apr 11, 2012 6:00 pm

Tell that to the marines. Or the pirates. :D There were pirates and slave traders in the South Seas up until 1904, until the practice was outlawed by the newly formed nation of Australia. The piracy and the slaving continued for much longer elsewhere in the rest of the South Pacific Islands.

The uninhabited islands in the South Seas to which the Telmarines were sent by Aslan were inspired by any of a number of remote islands that are in either the South Atlantic or the South Pacific. They include:

Tristan da Cuhna Everyone is descended from a group of seven females & 8 males who formed the first settlement.

Easter Island which has been depopulated several times.

Pitcairn Islands Famous for being inhabited by the descendants of the Bounty mutineers, and their Tahitian wives. At one point, the entire population was resettled on Norfolk Island, after the former penal colony was dismantled. Norfolk Island is under Australian jurisdiction. Pitcairners are descended from seventeen people who returned there twenty years after the migration to Norfolk Islands.

Juan Fernandez Islands This is the group of islands where Alexander Selkirk, the original Robinson Crusoe, was marooned - the only inhabited island is named after him. This group of islands belongs to Chile, a Spanish-speaking nation.

There are also the Falkland Islands and South Georgia.

There are other possible candidates, including Australia, itself, which was declared Terra Nullius due to the original inhabitants being nomadic hunters, and not farmers. We are still trying to right the destruction wrought on them, much as Caspian had to find a way to integrate the Old and New Narnians.

I note that in PC, Susan doesn't seem to believe in Aslan who said she had been t listening to fears. I think she probably was afraid of being thought of as insane.
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Re: Susan and Narnia

Postby Lady Arwen » Apr 11, 2012 7:54 pm

Another reminder for ya'll to stay on topic. ;) I don't think the islands that the Telmarines might have ended up on has much of a connection with Susan's fate in Narnia. ;)
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Re: Susan and Narnia

Postby Silly Girl » Jul 26, 2016 12:07 pm

Resurrecting quite an old thread...but this question doesn't fit anywhere else:

I read J.K.Rowling's comment about Susan a long time ago, about how Susan didn't return to Narnia because she found sex, which is quite a stupid comment according to me. How does dressing up or wearing lipstick or even growing up equate to having sex? It might mean a hell lot of different things as well..like becoming materialistic. C.S. Lewis says in "Mere Christianity" that he finds sins of flesh to be some of the least of sins, and he despises materialism more than anything. In the case of Susan, I think it was getting caught up with the material world as well as losing faith in Narnia.
But hey ho, there are a lot of people who think Susan didn't make it to Narnia because she found her sexuality because of really poorly thought out remark by Rowling.

Any thoughts on this?
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Re: Susan and Narnia

Postby The Rose-Tree Dryad » Aug 07, 2016 12:36 pm

I've always been baffled by that interview snippet as well, Silly Girl.

If I recall, that article even said that JKR hadn't read all of the books, so I don't know why she felt so comfortable making such claims. Perhaps she just jumped to conclusions about Susan's fall from Narnia because of preconceived notions about Christianity and Christian culture. Sometimes I think people make assumptions because CoN is closely associated with Christianity, so they link it with their (perhaps flawed and/or narrow) understanding of the faith, rather than realizing that Lewis was his own man with his own insights, opinions, and interpretations about Christianity.

It's frustrating, because imprudent statements like that color a lot of people's perceptions about the book series and it's so unnecessary. I have a lot of respect for J.K. Rowling as a storyteller and a humanitarian, but I was really disappointed when I saw that quote. I feel like famous people have a responsibility to be more careful with their words, and it was needless to make such a serious accusation about a fellow author.

Further, in that interview, JKR says that Susan "is lost to Narnia" because she becomes interested in lipstick. We can't know that Susan is lost forever; all we can know is that it was not appropriate for her to enter Aslan's Country at that time because she had become completely consumed with material and superficial things. I feel like that's pretty obvious from a basic reading of the text, so indeed, the whole situation is rather facepalm-inducing.
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Re: Susan and Narnia

Postby Silly Girl » Dec 08, 2016 7:49 pm

Hey Rose-Tree Dryad!
I'm sorry for the late reply; I was having a busy time xD

I agree with you regarding famous people being more careful with their comments as a lot of people, for better or worse, look up to them, and some even take their word for gospel. Anyway, JK has this habit of dissing some of the authors. She even said something about Tolkien which wasn't quite nice. I guess she feels threatened that they are obviously quite superior to her. I see myself losing respect for her with each passing day.

Anyway, I think Lewis took a great risk with the Susan issue. Everyone doesn't end up with a happily ever after in Narnia, unlike so many other stories.
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Re: Susan and Narnia

Postby coracle » Dec 09, 2016 6:04 pm

Anyone who tells the truth, whether in fiction or non fiction, will have opponents commenting unfavourably.
Did you know that Lewis missed out on being a professor at Oxford for many years because of his Christian writings? He was too out there with his faith, which he shared on the radio, in lectures, and in his books.

(Thanks for carefully wording your post)
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Re: Susan and Narnia

Postby Silly Girl » Dec 09, 2016 9:39 pm

I didn't know about it. But it's sad, isn't it? Someone missing out on something because of who they are, irrespective of their credentials. I'm glad he stayed true to himself though.

P.S. I wonder why political correctness never applies to Christians.
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Re: Susan and Narnia

Postby Princess Frances » Jan 10, 2017 11:19 pm

Feminist critics of Lewis have said that using girl-ied up things as symbols of Susan's materialism is sexist. Using feminine markers for a female character isn't sexist. Nor is a girl saying she likes pretty dresses... yet that sort of statement is being removed in reprints of many old children's books.
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Re: Susan and Narnia

Postby waggawerewolf27 » Feb 18, 2017 6:08 pm

Rose-Tree Dryad wrote:It's frustrating, because imprudent statements like that color a lot of people's perceptions about the book series and it's so unnecessary. I have a lot of respect for J.K. Rowling as a storyteller and a humanitarian, but I was really disappointed when I saw that quote. I feel like famous people have a responsibility to be more careful with their words, and it was needless to make such a serious accusation about a fellow author.


Actually I find it curious that JK Rowling's comments about Susan and Narnia are aired more nowadays, whilst the highly similar comments made by JK Rowlings' then more famous and established literary colleagues in UK have fallen by the wayside, in particular, those of Philip Pullman, C.S.Lewis' chief critic, at the time riding high in Fantasy literature. Neil Gaiman, in 2004, even wrote a short story called The problem of Susan, based on Susan Pevensie, those infamous remarks in LB, and the literary perspective of them.

I can see why JK Rowling said what she did, and what could have led to it. Her own series, resumed after a hiatus, in 2003, was under attack in Georgia, where someone or other with a particularly fundamentalist point of view, wanted to ban them. And whilst the films of her first two books had enjoyed phenomenal success, there was no guarantee at that time that the whole series would be able to sustain such momentum. During that time she participated in many interviews, that particular one being the only one in which she said anything negative about the Narnia books. Besides, she'd been sued by a somewhat less famous author who said JKR had plagiarised a term, Muggle, the other author had used in writing.

JK Rowling, in some of her writings, had obviously been influenced to an extent, by reading C.S.Lewis as a child, along with other children's books, including Enid Blyton. She had read VDT to her then 5 year old eldest daughter, or so she admitted in one interview. She had also compared a library to MN's Wood between the worlds in a library week address. It is odd that these remarks remain unrepeated and un-bandied about.

However, her blanket criticism of past British authors, especially Enid Blyton, was that they tended to ignore adolescence, its physical changes and teenaged metamorphosis into adulthood, via tribulations at school, or anywhere else, of "romance", competition, success and failure. My guess is that in that particular interview, mentioning specifically Susan, and the Last Battle, JK Rowling was caught "on the hop" in a situation where the media would have criticized her no matter what she said or did. She could not afford to be too glowing about C.S.Lewis, and it is probably true she didn't even finish The last battle, if she did read it at all, being put off, perhaps, because of the rather catastrophic atmosphere of the book up to that point. Like JKR, herself, in her last book of the Harry Potter series, CS Lewis also "went for the jugular" (JKR's term) in LB. Maybe JKR only remembered that passage because of the warped opinions of her colleagues, who included the likes of Philip Pullman. And authors are expected to be consistent with their own literary viewpoints when writing, when addressing the public, and in interviews.

I was reminded again about this situation quite recently, whilst reading some commentary evaluating The last battle as a book. It is only this year, that I've realised just how misjudged both Susan and C.S.Lewis have been because of this basically anti-Christian attitude to the book. Some of the commentary seems to have been just as "taken in" by the lionskin-wearing donkey, impersonating an angry deity called "Tashlan" as some of the unfortunate attendees at the midnight stable bonfire meetings. But Aslan was never prudish, grasping, unreasonably angry and destructive, unlike how Shift and friends portrayed "Tashlan", nor should our understanding of God and Jesus Christ suggest that He would at all welcome evil, angry and rapacious deeds done in His name.

Susan, herself, probably was just the sort of vain and silly teenaged everygirl, who seems more obsessed with the more mundane delights of growing up, rather than how else she planned to live the rest of her life, and if that sort of life, separate from her childhood family as she knows them, really is going to be sustainable beyond fitting in with her wider society as a whole. Having narrowly avoided being marooned in Tashbaan, where she would have been without her family, if she had chosen to marry Rabadash, she then found herself, again having to live without her entire family and friends, after a particularly nasty train smash, which killed passengers and would-be passengers alike, and whether they knew anything of Narnia or not.
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