why do people hate narnia?

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Re: why do people hate narnia?

Postby aragorn2 » Dec 17, 2012 8:48 am

Ronny said
But really, what can one expect from a rebel? A malcontent who usurps the throne from an experienced, efficient Queen based on hokey prophecies and 'birth right'?
I respect and admire Jadis far, far more than I ever did Aslan. She protected Narnia from the foreign hordes who would have invaded were it not for her magic.
Aslan? Oh, he strolls in, causes chaos and then saunters off when it is convenient
.


Excuse me, but Aslan created Narnia and you could make the argument that he created Charn too. Jadis was the one who usurped power from the rightful rulers put in place by Aslan at the beginning of time, murdering dozens(at least but probably more) for no other reason then to satisfy her lust for power at the expense her subjects. She was a foreign horde.

And it's a logical impossibility for a creator to be a rebel. Who is there to rebel against?

Have you read The Magician's Nephew? It answers just about all of your questions.
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Re: why do people hate narnia?

Postby waggawerewolf27 » Dec 17, 2012 1:27 pm

Ronny wrote:Who was Aslan to administer the punishment?....
Filthy little insurrectionist who sees fit to unseat the rightful monarch of Narnia in favour of a bunch of children....
But that's fine, that's okay, because the kids are the right race.
And he does it again with the Telmarines, stirring revolt against them, playing with the lives of others, turning up when it suits him instead of when he's actually needed.

He's horrible, he is truly detestable.

God bless Jadis, that's all I can say, God save the Queen!


It sounds like you have tucked into far too many of those Turkish Delight flavoured Tim Tams lately. :D In Magician's Nephew we learn that Jadis came from a long line of sovereigns who started out good but ended up utterly corrupted, until Jadis would rather destroy her own world than accept defeat. Having been woken by Digory, she uses Digory and Polly to escape the imminent destruction of her own world. You see what Jadis might be like in London: a thief and a rabble-rouser. London, at the time, would have had its own sovereign, Queen Victoria, though she was about to die after a long reign of more than sixty years.

Jadis doesn't belong in Narnia, but gets there because of Digory, in particular. The innocent Frank the cabbie becomes king of Narnia, appointed by Aslan, himself, who insists that only a human could be the true ruler of Narnia. Aslan got Digory to set up a protection against Jadis, who had lawlessly eaten one of the golden apples that give eternal life and so eventually took over Narnia when the protection had reached its limits. So how is the inhuman and unhuman Jadis the real ruler of Narnia?

You have a fair point about the Telmarines, who were human and therefore legitimate sovereigns, though not necessarily good sovereigns. But Miraz, who was particularly anti-Old Narnian, was not a legitimate king. He had usurped the Narnian throne by murdering his elder brother plus others who mysteriously died. He was using Caspian's minority to claim firstly the regency, then his own right to rule, until his own son was born, and Caspian could then be disposed of. It was when Caspian's army appealed for help with Susan's magic horn that Aslan arrived in Narnia to set things to rights.

You also have a fair point about Minotaurs, who, if still around in Caspian's day, did not need to be still one of the White Witch's mob, a point both PC & VDT films make. And what about Aslan's right to punish? You notice that the point about Narnia was that it enjoyed freedom from slavery. People could work as needed, but weren't compelled to do anything. First Jadis, then Miraz and lastly Shift brought compulsion and gradual slavery into Narnia. Aravis was a scion of a society which routinely used compulsion - slavery. And in making her escape from the slavery of marriage to Ahoshta, she mistreated her own enslaved maid.

I love the idea of Aslan, a being who will have no truck with slavery, compulsion etc. I think Aslan had every right to chastise Aravis to get her to understand exactly what she did. To be the person she could be, she needed to remember to treat others as she would like to be treated herself.
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Re: why do people hate narnia?

Postby King_Erlian » Dec 19, 2012 6:23 am

Why do people "hate" Narnia?

Most of the people I know think that The Chronicles of Narnia = The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe. I took the DVD of Prince Caspian round to a friend's to watch one day, and he was surprised that, not only did a film sequel to LWW exist, but also it was based on a genuine C.S. Lewis novel; he thought that it must have been made up by Hollywood writers to cash in on the success of the first film. So, my theory as to why people hate Narnia is because, for whatever reason (usually "too juvenile"), they hated LWW and they don't realise that there are six other books. One of the strengths of the Narnia series is the variety there is across the books; if you don't like one for some reason, there's still a good chance you'll like one of the others. But people don't read nearly as much as they used to, and until someone makes decent films of all seven, they'll still get stuck on LWW.
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Re: why do people hate narnia?

Postby Aravis Narnia » Jan 04, 2013 4:36 pm

I am guessing they either dislike fantasy or dislike Christianity.

But the ones I have run into are mainly not interested in fantasy. One disliked the fauns. Another one disliked Eustace- and did not really make the connection when watching the LWW movie.
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Re: why do people hate narnia?

Postby PhelanVelvel » Jan 28, 2013 9:01 pm

Well, Narnia-obsessed though I am, I know why people sometimes hate Narnia before they give it a chance.

I must say, I am an atheist and I most certainly love Narnia more than anyone I know in real life. I am what one would call a Narnia fanatic, reading the books over and over and over since I was a child. I understand the religious overtones, comparisons, metaphors, whatever you want to call them, I simply don't believe they have any real, physical bearing in our own world.

Having spoken to other non-religious people about Narnia, it seems that there are some deterrents:

1.) It can be taken as religious propaganda meant to indoctrinate children. Some people think this is okay, but I do not. I'm not saying Lewis necessarily wanted to brainwash, but I don't think it's out of line with saying that he wouldn't have been upset if, as a consequence of reading Narnia, children wanted to follow Christianity. This is a bit much for some people, and even keeps them from reading the books. It is one thing to be inspired by your own spirituality and write it to convey your ideas to others, it is another to put it into a book for children. For, as we all know, children can be very impressionable and don't always question things the way adults do. Therefore, I am one of those who don't think it's right for anyone to try and get a child to follow any religious path. I just happen to put that aside for my love of the books.

2.) It can be (but is not always, I'm not saying that) VERY hard to have any kind of neutral discussion with someone about the books who is also a Christian. Sometimes, people allow their bias to get in the way and they only see it from a religious point of view rather than a literary point of view. One can quite easily talk about what Lewis intended, what the themes are, and so on, without actually espousing them. But it's hard when you want to discuss something with an open mind and someone is at the same time saying that it MUST be one particular way because Christianity says so and Lewis was a Christian man. It's just not very fun. I enjoy the books in spite of their religious inspiration, not because of. The themes of morality in Narnia can, for the most part (there are exceptions and I reconcile them individually), be interpreted as the morality any human being may choose to live by, not just those who follow Christianity. Aslan's kindness and bravery can resonate with anyone, not just those who see him as Jesus. But I have seen some Narnia fans contend that the books are lesser, even meaningless, if you don't embrace their religious connotations. I acknowledge them, but to say that I love Narnia less because I don't share in Lewis' religion is really rather audacious.

3.) Some people just want to use Narnia to get kids to follow their religion, i.e. Christianity. It is underhanded to take a beautiful story with moral lessons and engaging characters fit for a person of ANY spiritual or cultural background and use it as a weapon of proselytisation.

4.) Lewis implies some very controversial things in the books, and, like any book "from another time", the racist/xenophobic attitudes (which manifest via the depiction of Caloremenes) is enough to put certain people off of liking the book.

Personally, I find a way to enjoy the books within the context of the Narnian universe and in my own experience of Narnia, when I'm reading it, unless I'm choosing to partake in a discussion of some sort, I put Lewis' religion/personal beliefs/possible prejudices aside and just read it as a fantasy.
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Re: why do people hate narnia?

Postby Aslanisthebest » Jan 29, 2013 2:01 pm

I enjoyed reading your post, PhelanVevel. Welcome to Narniaweb, by the way!

I'm a Christian. I enjoy the Narnia series for their literary appeal, and it is true, yes, they appeal to me additionally because of why they were written. Lewis thought, "What if the Son of Man went to a different world, as He did ours? How would he act?" The concept itself is interesting, to me, and I enjoy reading that take. I don't feel like Lewis' intentions were, "Now, how can I indoctrinate children?"
To me, Aslan is one of the most deep fictional representations of Christ. That said, I do know of people who are not Christians who do enjoy the Narnia series. I think it's just based on what you're reading it for. I know many people who assume it's Pilgrim's Progress (a book I do like), when in fact, the motives and intentions are not the same. I think the Narnia books can be enjoyed very differently, if you understand what I mean. I embrace all the layers the book delves into and enjoy them... to enjoy them, loving all their rich, intricate aspects.
As for the cultural aspect, reading HHB (which is my favourite), I did see how some things could be perceived as such. (I think it's worth mentioning that I'm Indian, so I'm familiar with culture close to the Calormenes'.) However, I don't think that it was intentional prejudice. I think that Lewis even highlighted some beauties of that culture, by showing Aravis' skill for storytelling, for example. That said, there are a couple things said by characters (may or may not have been a reflection of Lewis' attitudes) that are less than savory. I think this aspect specifically is where the Tolkien and Lewis thing comes up - Tolkien had the benefit of spending his life on LotR, so he matured a lot and went through many, many phases of life while writing his works and hence, had the benefit of avoiding a lot of mistakes. On the other hand, Lewis wrote Narnia in mostly one phase of life.
Not that that makes Narnia any less - in fact, I do like Narnia better out of the two when forced to choose - but I do think that Tolkien had the benefit of reflecting many years' maturity into his work. (This is pertaining to the cultural thing; I don't agree with Tolkien's assessment of Narnia when Lewis read it to him for the first time. :P )
Though they are less than perfect in some aspects, my love for the Narnia books, though, does not change. :)

I don't think I've posted in this thread before: I think the main reason my friends don't like Narnia is because they think it's childish and they don't like that romance isn't the leading plot in the books. Others, like on the internet and stuff, have different reasons, but that's mostly the reasons I encounter. :-??
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Re: why do people hate narnia?

Postby PhelanVelvel » Jan 29, 2013 5:27 pm

Thanks for the welcome, Aslanisthebest. :] I don't think that Lewis necessarily had the intention to indoctrinate, either. (I just say it that way because I can't know for absolutely certain). To me, he actually seemed like a pretty nice guy, and I found it especially admirable that he put certain things into his books, like Emeth being accepted into Aslan's Country. There are people who get downright indignant over that, saying that no matter how kind, honest, or selfless Emeth was, he should not have been "allowed" in because he didn't happen to luck out and be instructed to love Aslan from birth. Well, I'm glad Lewis wasn't so heartless.

That's why it is all the more insulting when people use these wonderful books as a weapon. :[ And I have seen people use them as such, sadly. But, as I said, I do not believe in instructing children in religious obedience, so whenever I see someone saying that they like Narnia because it helps keep their children's faith strong, I wince. That's a narrow-minded reason to like these brilliant books. Why not like them because they teach powerful lessons, for their writing, for their characters, etc.? Why like them because they keep a child's beliefs close enough to your own for it to please you? Every individual has the right to choose his or her own personal beliefs, and children's books shouldn't be used to keep them believing what their parents want them to believe. If they want to have those spiritual beliefs, they will have them. It's not worth believing something if you're forced to or brainwashed to.

Of course, I do uphold what I just said--that everyone is entitled to their own personal beliefs. And if Narnia means something to someone because of its Christian themes, that is their own experience, and I won't talk down on it. My experience is without religion, and I still cry at multiple points during the stories! Really, the most important thing to me in these books is just the struggle between good and evil. In fact, in the Dawn Treader scene where Aslan tells Lucy she'll come to know him by another name in our world, though I consciously understood Lewis intended this as Jesus, it spoke to my heart in a different way. I felt that Aslan could be saying his name in our world was something like "goodness", or "altruism", or "selflessness", or something like that. That in Narnia, he was tangible, but in our world, he is an idea, an embodiment of all things good. Naturally I know that Lewis didn't intend it as such, but I consider that Aslan's way of speaking to me, an atheist. Like I said, good vs. evil transcends religious boundaries, which is why it can be appealing to so many different types of people.

You're probably right about Tolkien's maturity in comparison to Lewis'. And I understand that Lewis was human, humans have flaws, and so did many other great authors. I rolled my eyes whenever that "fair-haired, fair-skinned" stuff came up in the Chronicles of Narnia, but I don't let it bother me. Though I did feel like, what's wrong with me for having dark hair?! :P The Horse and His Boy was just a phenomenal book, and I appreciated it all the more for having that fantasy infusion of cultures from those regions of the world. It's just a shame that Calormen had to be painted as such a decidedly evil place, because as we saw with Aravis, not every PERSON there was evil.
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Re: why do people hate narnia?

Postby Aslanisthebest » Jan 29, 2013 8:16 pm

We're glad to have you! Thanks for writing back!

I agree about the Emeth thing. I won't go on and on about Emeth as I have a tendency of doing as I'd get badly off topic, but when paralleling his situation to what Lewis might have meant in relation to our world: I believe that Christ is the way to what is mentioned in the Bible, and yet I know completely that God has the wisdom to do whatever He wants with His world and allow whomever He wants into His heaven. My belief is that my concern should be where I am first and foremost as He convicts me.

Indeed, we do differ on certain points that you mentioned in your second paragraph. (and I'm open to discussing them if you ever want to! :) ) But I agree with your point that using the Narnia books as a weapon is not an exactly legitimate action. They are deeper than a mere weapon.

Thank-you for sharing your third paragraph! I really appreciated reading what you said and shared.
Everyone is entitled to their beliefs, to enjoy what they do for what they do, indeed. For me, many times the Christian connotations are what deeply move me. Aslan and Shasta's relationship is a major reason why HHB is my favourite; I identify with Shasta so much, and I find his relationship with Aslan so similar to mine with Christ.

Thanks! Yeah, like you said - Lewis was human and had his flaws. I don't hold a grudge against him for that particular aspect (he doesn't exactly seem like that sort of person), and I presume that he matured later on, many years after he had written the Narnia series. I don't really remember specific things, but at my last reread, I noticed a few things, and yeah, like you said, I didn't let them bother me either. I enjoyed HHB for the different cultures explored, too. :)
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Re: why do people hate narnia?

Postby waggawerewolf27 » Jan 30, 2013 12:16 am

It is really nice to see both of you participating in this thread, where I've posted a good deal, I'm afaid. I hope you don't mind. :)

I'd agree with much of what has been said, especially about the religious propaganda. Ironically this was never a problem when I was young, when I first read the books in the 1950's. It didn't seem to be until the 1980's or 1990's and thanks to Phillip Pullman, who wrote his anti-Narnia trilogy (Golden Compass, Subtle knife and Amber Spyglass) that C.S.Lewis books were considered religious propaganda. Before that point, the Chronicles of Narnia were considered by and large just another fantasy series about the struggle between good and evil.

I'm afraid that the Narnia chronicles have been very much caught up with a Darwinist ( a term which is an insult to Darwin, by the way), anti Christian anything and related political controversies on the one hand, and an equal and opposite reaction from their Christian antagonists on the other side. If you want to know my reasoning you would need to pm me as political discussions are not welcome on this board.

PhelanVelvet wrote:4.) Lewis implies some very controversial things in the books, and, like any book "from another time", the racist/xenophobic attitudes (which manifest via the depiction of Caloremenes) is enough to put certain people off of liking the book.


It depends on what you consider racist and xenophobic. It should say much that C.S.Lewis allows Emeth to enter Paradise because of his loyalty to his ethical code and determination to do what he believed was the right thing to do. As against Rishda Tarkaan who, under the auspices of the Tisroc, was more interested in the profit motive for hinself. Also, it is significant that Aravis decided to leave Calormen because she couldn't stand the injustice and exploitation of that society as C.S.Lewis depicted.

AslanistheBest wrote:As for the cultural aspect, reading HHB (which is my favourite), I did see how some things could be perceived as such. (I think it's worth mentioning that I'm Indian, so I'm familiar with culture close to the Calormenes'.) However, I don't think that it was intentional prejudice. I think that Lewis even highlighted some beauties of that culture, by showing Aravis' skill for storytelling, for example. That said, there are a couple things said by characters (may or may not have been a reflection of Lewis' attitudes) that are less than savory.


Do you know, I've more than an inkling that maybe if C.S.Lewis had portrayed Calormen otherwise than he did, he would have been considerably more offensive than he was to the primarily English-speaking readers he wrote for. Where in the world do you have only one traffic law: that those who are less important should get out of the road of those more important? Is that really only a feature of India, Arabia or Ottoman Turkey? Somehow I think not. Plenty of other places, some of them European, might say the same. Could it be that particular traffic rule at times is just as applicable to uptown New York, Paris or Old Sydney Town?

And Aravis' arranged marriage..... Or Shasta being sold into slavery....These are the most despicable issues of Calormen. That they had a corrupt and greedy leader who was more interested in enjoying himself than in good government and seeing that everyone was fairly treated. Calormen wasn't racist because the people had dark hair or dark complexions, and so I agree with you that C.S.Lewis did not mean to be racist. He wanted to make Shasta distinctive so that several people in the story could pick him out, confuse him with someone else and eventually enable him to be recognised for who he was. By the way, whatever their antecedents, slavetraders Pug and co in VDT weren't Calormene.

It is interesting that both you and PhelanVelvet compare Tolkien and C.S.Lewis, who were friends and founding members of their Inkling group. I disagree that Tolkien was 'more mature'. I think he was more pernickety a writer, a polymath who studied and understood some fairly obscure languages from Ancient Anglo-Saxon, right through Latin, German etc to Finnish, which, it seems, he used as a base for his 'Elvish'.

Whereas Lewis had no such skill with Non-English speaking languages, though he had mastered Latin. In one of his letters he confessed how hard he found it to learn German. Apparently Lewis and Tolkien had a disagreement over fairytales and whether or not they should be watered down for children's consumption. Tolkien said no, and preferred to write at an adult level. Even The Hobbit is too long to be an easy book for primary school children to read. I agree that Lewis threw together his Narnia septet in a relatively short time, with considerably less thought and planning and that it shows. Tolkien didn't like the Narnian stories, but it is amazing how popular they became, nonetheless.

Tolkien, whose works have endured somewhat less scrutiny than those of Lewis, felt that Lewis threw his works together, with bits of this and that. Whereas Tolkien created a whole world separate from the real one. By contrast, Lewis' four Pevensie children, their friends, relatives and fellow Narnia visitors are very much part of this world. Which happens to be England during the WW2 evacuations and subsequently. Since Lewis died in 1963, I don't think it is fair to judge him by civil rights movements which had not taken place prior to his death.

What Tolkien and Lewis do share is that they are very influenced by history, especially their own. WW2 was a horrific occurrence, the ripples of which are still with us to this day. I doubt that even in 1962, that relatively unaffected people knew just how terrible that war had been, and about man's inhumanity to man. There can be no doubt about how WW2 influenced the siege of Minas Tirith, or the concept of Nazgul and Orcs. But if Tolkien's works were to be as thoroughly examined as C.S.Lewis' Narnia, would he, too, be accused of racism? Those Riders of Rohan? The King and his people who would not help Isildur? Or the people who guided Theoden's riders through a forest to Minas Tirith? What about the Easterlings or Southrons who flocked to the support of Sauron? Were they all bad?

And if there was any event that inspired both writers other than those they actually lived in, wouldn't it have been the Polish king Jan III Sobieski's 1683 relief of Vienna which had been besieged by the Ottoman Turks of Kara Mustafa Pasha under the auspices of the Ottoman Sultan Mehmed IV? This was the biggest cavalry charge in history.
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Re: why do people hate narnia?

Postby PhelanVelvel » Jan 30, 2013 1:43 am

Well, I can say with all certainty that you are much better-versed at history than I am. :] While I personally did not find the whole Calormen thing as racist, per se, even as a child it was confusing to me that he always had to note that fair skin and fair hair were synonymous with goodness. Or, at least, it really seemed as though he was trying to imply it. I would have to find specific instances to cite for you, but that is the vibe I got. Sometimes it even seemed like he changed people's hair colours just to be able to say they had fair hair. Pauline Baynes illustrated Lucy as having dark hair in LWW, PC, and VDT, but in The Last Battle, the "fair-haired girl" he describes at the meeting of the seven friends of Narnia is Lucy. Because he says that there is an older woman, older man, two young men, a fair-haired girl, and a boy and a girl younger than that. Well, the fair-haired girl could only be Lucy. In fact, in HHB she is also described as fair-haired, when she's mounted and holding her bow before the battle that's supposed to take place.

And I know he never explicitly said that Lucy had dark hair, but Pauline Baynes was always so meticulous about following the books that it strikes me as strange Lucy would have had fair hair all that time without me realising it. She had dark hair in the illustrations in LWW...why did he HAVE to indicate her hair was blonde later after we already saw her in brunette/black pigtails throughout the entire first book? If he didn't like it then, couldn't he have asked her to change it? And what is it with Caspian's hair turning blonde in VDT in the illustrations as well as text, but it was dark in PC illustrations? Once again, he HAD to basically be like "The illustrations from the book before this were wrong." Couldn't he have just TOLD her he didn't want that?! Or was Caspian's dark hair a symbol of his oppression and that's why it's gone in VDT?

I just don't get his fascination with blonde hair! Were all the characters blonde and Pauline Baynes just arbitrarily chose to do some in darker colours for variety? It could just be what Lewis fancied, I suppose. I know that in HHB it's a way to show that Shasta is an outsider and stuff, but the way it was done, the way Anradin calls the Narnians "beautiful but accursed" (as if their particular features, whiteness and blondness, make them beautiful and Anradin is jealous), just stuck out to me as somewhat prejudiced. Why didn't he just call them accursed, or even insult their white skin? Seems to me reminiscent of something you see today, sometimes people of one race wanting to emulate characteristics of another, even if there is some contempt by the emulator toward the emulated. And even as a child I could not help noticing that Nikabrik and Griffle, both black-haired dwarfs, end up being traitors! I'm telling you, he has it out for us dark-haired people! Between that, and wolves being enemies in LWW as well as the mention of a traitor wolf in The Last Battle, this dark-haired wolf therian felt very bewildered!
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Re: why do people hate narnia?

Postby waggawerewolf27 » Jan 30, 2013 4:31 am

PhelanVelvet wrote: he never explicitly said that Lucy had dark hair, but Pauline Baynes was always so meticulous about following the books that it strikes me as strange Lucy would have had fair hair all that time without me realising it. She had dark hair in the illustrations in LWW...why did he HAVE to indicate her hair was blonde later after we already saw her in brunette/black pigtails throughout the entire first book?


Well, I presume that even in Narnia they can dye hair, or plenty of sunshine might bleach hair that was a dark blonde or a mousy brown to begin with. ;) Especially when all the fair-haired people are supposed to be teenagers or young adults. And especially as Anradin liked to dye his beard (his beard!! :-o ?) crimson.

Alternatively Lucy might have been made fair-haired as the chronicles develop to match Aslan's tawny lion colours, or perhaps because her name was Lucy, which means light. And exactly which shade of fair hair? Our ginger headed Prince Harry was described in one report as a strawberry-blonde scamp. /:) Whilst I have white hair now, like Caspian in SC.

That, by the way, is another difference between Tolkien and Lewis, since the latter had those Pauline Baynes illustrations, and LOTR, being an adult work of fiction, didn't have any illustrations apart from maps etc. I agree with you that Pauline Baynes' illustrations go against the script, sometimes. Caspian might have been golden-haired in VDT, like Ramandu's daughter. But Queen Susan The Gentle had dark hair going nearly to her ankles at the end of LWW. And Caspian, himself, was white with old age by SC. I also expect that the fantasy grown-up Lucy of Narnia did get to look almost as good as her sister in both the ending to LWW and in HHB as well as in LB.

And just another thought. What colour hair did the following people have? The White Witch - definitely evil - and definitely a white complexion. Some of her Charn ancestors, not necessarily the good ones? I remember a particulary mean-looking fair-headed queen in the Hall of Statues line-up. The lady of the green kirtle is definitely depicted as fair-haired and no, I didn't think she was very good. Thank goodness Aravis and Emeth as true-blue Calormenes definitely were not blonde or fair-complexioned heroes.

Historically, I agree that fair-hair was held in more esteem around WW2 by some people whom authors might be discrete enough to anticipate their book banning and burning. ;) By the end of WW2 people were aware also that owning fair hair could save people's lives, literally. Even in the fifties there was a movie called Gentlemen prefer Blondes. I'm not sure that either Lewis or Tolkien had evaded that sort of prejudice entirely. But it isn't true that the fair-headed Narnians were altogether good and the dark-headed Narnian or Calormene characters were altogether bad.
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Re: why do people hate narnia?

Postby Varnafinde » Jan 30, 2013 5:24 pm

waggawerewolf27 wrote:That, by the way, is another difference between Tolkien and Lewis, since the latter had those Pauline Baynes illustrations, and LOTR, being an adult work of fiction, didn't have any illustrations apart from maps etc. I agree with you that Pauline Baynes' illustrations go against the script, sometimes. Caspian might have been golden-haired in VDT, like Ramandu's daughter. But Queen Susan The Gentle had dark hair going nearly to her ankles at the end of LWW. And Caspian, himself, was white with old age by SC. I also expect that the fantasy grown-up Lucy of Narnia did get to look almost as good as her sister in both the ending to LWW and in HHB as well as in LB.


If there had been illustrations in LotR, the way there was in the Narnian Chronicles, those would have been by Pauline Baynes as well. She made a map of Middle-earth, published as a poster, and she illustrated Farmer Giles of Ham and also some other of Tolkien's books. I seem to remember that there had been a question of her illustrating LotR as well, but it was decided that it would be too expensive to publish it with illustrations.

But since Lewis' friend was so pleased with her work, Lewis decided to consider her for his books, too.

In Lucy's case, Pauline Baynes does indeed go against the text. Susan had long, dark hair at the end of LWW, yes,

But as for Lucy, she was always gay and golden-haired, and all princes in those parts desired her to be their Queen


The emphasizing of the Narnians' fair hair in Calormen I guess is done to point out their Northernness as much as anything else. I'm Norwegian, and we're supposed to be blonde Vikings, aren't we?* The Northern "barbarians", as the Calormenes often named the Narnians, would be seen a bit similar. The Calormenes wouldn't necessary see someone "fair-haired" as "fairer", more beautiful, than someone dark-haired.
Rabadash chose the dark-haired Susan ...

So I think there's less racism in Lewis' books than some people think. But those that interpret it as racism, may of course hate the books because of that.

*I'm dark-haired, btw ;)
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Re: why do people hate narnia?

Postby PhelanVelvel » Jan 30, 2013 8:41 pm

Ahhh, I didn't see that "golden-haired" mention in LWW, you are correct! In that case, I blame Pauline. XD Don't get me wrong, I don't think that Lewis was racist in the sense that he was hateful, I just think he had some prejudices which he may have not even realised, and that probably has to do with the time he lived in. I love the characterisation of Calormen, but it suggests that sort of 19th century European tendency to lump all the "Eastern" cultures together, and paint them as strange and exotic. I know he lived in the 20th century, so I don't know, maybe that carried over or he got the inspiration from books written in the Victorian era. I'm not saying it made for a bad result, but I think he may have had that mindset. I didn't take a great deal of offence to the fair hair thing, but I couldn't really help noticing that Nikabrik was bad and had black hair, and then of course Trumpkin was good and had red hair. Griffle was bad and had black hair, Poggin was good and had red hair. Just things like that, they didn't seem like coincidence, they seemed a deliberate juxtaposition.
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Re: why do people hate narnia?

Postby Aslanisthebest » Jan 30, 2013 10:15 pm

Hmm, yes, I don't think Lewis was out to get dark haired people. Sure, he might have been influenced by what was around him but I don't think, by principle, that fair-haired Narnians = good and dark-haired Narnians = bad. (you presented many examples, wagga) I definitely do not think that Lewis was trying to propagate anything. The things I noticed in HHB were not so much the hair, but other minor things here and there, where I understood a little of what PhelanVelvel said. (I'll have to reread the books to give the details of what those are)

Varnafinde wrote:So I think there's less racism in Lewis' books than some people think.
That's what I think, too. I don't feel uncomfortable reading them at all, and I feel like the characters are unique people with relatable character development. That one reason for what I enjoy the books for.
Wagga, I appreciated your point of view. Thank-you for sharing it.
It didn't seem to be until the 1980's or 1990's and thanks to Phillip Pullman, who wrote his anti-Narnia trilogy (Golden Compass, Subtle knife and Amber Spyglass) that C.S.Lewis books were considered religious propaganda. Before that point, the Chronicles of Narnia were considered by and large just another fantasy series about the struggle between good and evil.
Huh, interesting. I never considered that.

Do you know, I've more than an inkling that maybe if C.S.Lewis had portrayed Calormen otherwise than he did, he would have been considerably more offensive than he was to the primarily English-speaking readers he wrote for. Where in the world do you have only one traffic law: that those who are less important should get out of the road of those more important? Is that really only a feature of India, Arabia or Ottoman Turkey? Somehow I think not. Plenty of other places, some of them European, might say the same. Could it be that particular traffic rule at times is just as applicable to uptown New York, Paris or Old Sydney Town?
Thank-you for saying that. When I was referring to Calormen, I wasn't talking about the systems such as the ones you mentioned above. (like you said, Aravis left for many reasons) I more meant the way some things were initially portrayed, not necessarily the evils portrayed. Exactly like you said, evils are the same in every country. Prejudice is in every society, though the objects of it and reasons to justify it differ. I believe that and thank you for explaining it very concisely. I was mostly addressing how the overall culture of the Calormenes was portrayed, and many things about it, I feel, were done well (like Aravis' storytelling, like I had mentioned above) and certain dress and grandeur. (Lasarleen's entourage, etc) And I think that Lewis depicted Emeth very poignantly, as well.
Yes, as far as slave trade and prejudice went; indeed, that penetrated and applies to every society. The White Witch, Miraz, Tash - they are some of the most active oppressors. I don't think that villainy was exclusive to any one group in Narnia.

I disagree that Tolkien was 'more mature'.
[...]

Tolkien, whose works have endured somewhat less scrutiny than those of Lewis, felt that Lewis threw his works together, with bits of this and that. Whereas Tolkien created a whole world separate from the real one. By contrast, Lewis' four Pevensie children, their friends, relatives and fellow Narnia visitors are very much part of this world. Which happens to be England during the WW2 evacuations and subsequently. Since Lewis died in 1963, I don't think it is fair to judge him by civil rights movements which had not taken place prior to his death.

I think, in your post, you expanded on why I expressed the "maturity" thing about Tolkien. I admit I said that as a hypothesis of mine with very little intentional research but based on some things I had seen here and there; it was mostly that Tolkien spent his whole life on certain things and also, lived into the 70's (where as Lewis died in 1963), and so I think Tolkien was able to avoid some mistakes that, not only Lewis, but also many writers of that period fell to. I should note that I am no Tolkien expert (haven't even read the whole LotR. :ymblushing: ) I should have stated that before saying the maturity thing. Like I said, when forced to choose between Tolkien and Lewis, I do choose Lewis.
Ah, that is another good point - Lewis used the real world, where as Tolkien created his own world (offering considerably more flexibility) and also what you mentioned about living through the civil rights.
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Re: why do people hate narnia?

Postby waggawerewolf27 » Jan 31, 2013 10:13 pm

Thank you for your lovely post, AslanistheBest. :)

PhelanVelvel wrote: It could just be what Lewis fancied, I suppose. I know that in HHB it's a way to show that Shasta is an outsider and stuff, but the way it was done, the way Anradin calls the Narnians "beautiful but accursed" (as if their particular features, whiteness and blondness, make them beautiful and Anradin is jealous), just stuck out to me as somewhat prejudiced. Why didn't he just call them accursed, or even insult their white skin?


Anradin was the guy who dyed his beard crimson, a particularly unsuitable shade of red for human use. I could get away with a blue-rinse, being of that age group, but if I went down the road with hair coloured green or purple I'd look a bit unusual, too. I doubt that Anradin would comment about white skin unless the white skin was really out of the ordinary, as with the White Witch. On the other hand, C.S.Lewis does comment about the Duke of Galma's daughter having freckles and a squint and also about Caspian's Aunt Prunaprismia who had ginger hair. Not to mention a ginger cat that misbehaves in Last Battle.

Varnafinde wrote:The emphasizing of the Narnians' fair hair in Calormen I guess is done to point out their Northernness as much as anything else. I'm Norwegian, and we're supposed to be blonde Vikings, aren't we?* The Northern "barbarians", as the Calormenes often named the Narnians, would be seen a bit similar


Yes you are absolutely right. And those Vikings were considered barbarians when post Roman Britain became "England", back before 1066, Hastings and the battle of Stamford Bridge, weren't they? :D But I'd better get back to the books. :ymblushing:

What made the Narnians beautiful, in my opinion, was living naturally and without too much worry. That is also why the Calormenes regarded them as 'accursed', since, like many first peoples, they did not have the 'advantages' of a highly bureaucratic, militaristic, competitive and hierarchical sort of society like Calormen.

Oddly enough, in 1788 and subsequently, Watkin Tench, a British officer who explored the Sydney area, was wont to say similar things in his diary about the local Dharuk people. For instance, he said he saw no evidence that they had laws or religious beliefs, and yet Aboriginal groups like the Dharuks most definitely did have laws and religious beliefs. Instead of using pen and paper, they shared that sort of information around by dreamtime stories and rock paintings. Apparently the Dharuk idea of tribal lands, land use and fishing permits were starkly different from those of the white people who settled in 1788. And so Aboriginal and British people got off to a bad start when British people thought it was okay to poach game without so much as an if you please to native elders, and without sharing the proceeds with the Dharuks, which was their tribal law.

That is one reason why I think that if C.S.Lewis had made Calormene society a highly Europeanised culture, HHB would be somewhat more uncomfortable reading than it seems to have been to modern day literary critics.

PhelanVelvel wrote:And even as a child I could not help noticing that Nikabrik and Griffle, both black-haired dwarfs, end up being traitors! I'm telling you, he has it out for us dark-haired people! Between that, and wolves being enemies in LWW as well as the mention of a traitor wolf in The Last Battle, this dark-haired wolf therian felt very bewildered!


I was watching a program about Wales, which has a strong and long-standing connection with mining, especially of coal. It interested us, since that is also my husband's Scottish family background. Not unlike those Narnian dwarves. There was also a similar breakdown between the more extremist 'black' coal-mining Welsh and the more rural 'red' Welsh. The so-called 'black' dwarves said they were well-treated under the White Witch who would find them very useful indeed. Any state would. Hence her preference for these undeniably hard-working dwarves. After the White Witch was overthrown they were no different from any other dwarves. Are we told what sort of dwarves Rogin, Duffle and Bricklethumb were in HHB? When Caspian met Nikabrik the latter was embittered by years of ill-treatment, hiding from the Telmarines and Miraz, in particular.

And so, when his hopes in Caspian didn't materialise immediately, he turned to the sort of people who hung about with the White Witch, seeing her as a real power. Caspian, Dr Cornelius, himself a half-dwarf, and Trumpkin were horrified by this, as unlike Nikabrik, they could see that exchanging Miraz's tyranny for that of the White Witch was no solution. That is like changing one bully for another.

Griffle was not necessarily a bad dwarf, either. He was well aware he had been lied to, and so he was so afraid of being taken in that he could no longer appreciate what was good and what wasn't. You might say the 'black' and 'red' dwarves represent two different shades of opinion: Black and white versus well-read and informed. ;)

Seems to me reminiscent of something you see today, sometimes people of one race wanting to emulate characteristics of another, even if there is some contempt by the emulator toward the emulated
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The sort of contempt you mention is probably typical of racism, I agree. Racism has been around for centuries in many societies whenever there has been conflict and rivalry, plus people who are vain and arrogant for one reason or another, and however such an opinion is justified. Darwin visited Australia in 1835, in his great voyage in the Beagle. His findings explain a good deal about why Australia has such a hugely different flora and fauna from anywhere else. Some rejected the implications of his findings when he published them, but that did not stop those people engaging in slavery, or treating badly those people whom they regarded their inferiors. It took people like William Wilberforce in UK and Abraham Lincoln in USA for slavery to be abolished, for instance.

Others thought that Darwin was 'onto' something, and so some people engaged in science and medicine in the late 19th century thought it was okay to seek out characteristics that 'proved' how less 'evolved' people from Asia or Africa were. Thus medicine and science as practised by some colonial powers became tainted with prejudice, despite the undoubted gains made against disease. Such unethical behaviour also heralded the atrocities of WW2 under the Nazis and explains the dislike shown to such colonial powers, especially after the war. I also think that at the time of WW2 that even people on the Allied side of WW2 did not really appreciate what exactly they were fighting for, apart from everyone's survival, until events like the trial of Eichmann in 1962, or the USA civil rights movement in 1964 and subsequently, opened their eyes.

HHB is my favourite Narnian story. I do not accept that C.S.Lewis was intending to be racist in his depiction of Calormen, whatever any of his critics say. I don't think it is racist to dislike HHB characters like Anradin, Arsheesh or the Tisroc. Or Shift, Rishda and Ginger in LB.
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Re: why do people hate narnia?

Postby PhelanVelvel » Feb 01, 2013 12:03 am

Trust me, I'm on your side! I'm the last person to cry racism for no reason, I think the word is thrown around far too often nowadays. I should have clarified better in my first post. I don't honestly know whether he was racist or not, because I can't get inside his head and find out. I don't know what he thought, unfortunately. However, to me, it did not seem that he had racist intent. I do think he was subconsciously influenced by certain ideas floating around during that time, but I don't think he was trying to be hateful.

Nowadays, however, people read it and interpret it as racist more easily because of the world we live in now. Today, the idea of "well this nation is generally evil and militaristic and they happen to be dark-skinned" kind of sticks out badly among all the "politically correct" stuff you typically see. I don't think that makes Lewis racist, I just think it seems racist to a lot of people. Even though there is Aravis and Emeth, I think some people still kind of see it as "Okay...so 98% of the good guys are white...and there's a whole nation full of dark-skinned people..." Because they aren't getting into the story enough to see that it's not really like that. Frankly, the fact that Lewis actually made Aravis a hero is pretty forward-thinking of him, isn't it? How many white authors of the 1950's had genuinely heroic characters who weren't white?

A lot of people are probably used to a cast of characters having people of diverse skin colours, races, cultures, etc., so getting into this book series may come as a shock. It just comes off as "Here are the white English heroes...oh yeah there are also Calormenes, they're like arabs and they're bad." It's a lot for some people to accept. I also see it as "This kingdom just so happens to be full of bad guys, has nothing to do with what they resemble culturally." But putting all in one paragraph that they have "dark faces and long beards" and also "they wear robes and turbans" and also "wise, wealthy, courteous, and cruel", and then on top of it we learn that they're in the slave trade... I'm just saying, read that given the current cultural climate, and it's kind of...questionable, at least for someone who isn't familiar with Lewis or the stories. I wouldn't throw a book away over something like that, but there are people who would just be too busy being offended to research it. Even if there are things elsewhere in the series, and details and things that are obvious if you take a close look, that's not what a lot of the "Narnia-haters" are seeing. They're just seeing one basic idea: dark-skinned people are the bad guys.

Never knew that bit about the coal-miners in Wales...that's interesting. I wonder if he was alluding to that with the dwarf pairs?
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