Why Narnians dont Keep Pets - and why it matters

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Why Narnians dont Keep Pets - and why it matters

Postby Elluinas Mirion » Jul 19, 2011 11:19 pm

I wonder if anyone has any comments on the following as it relates to Narnia in general, and in particular its enduring charm and appeal.

From the afterwords in Out of the Silent Planet (p156):

For example, can I even make you understand how I know, beyond all question, why it it is that the Malacandrians dont keep pets, and in general, dont feel about their lower animals as we do about ours? Naturally, it is the sort of thing they themselves could never have told me. One just sees why when one sees the three species together. Each of them is to the others both what a man is to us, and what an animal is to us. They can talk to each other, they can cooperate, they have the same ethics; to that extent a sorn and a hross meet as two men. But each of them finds the other different, funny, attractive as an animal is attractive. Some instinct staved in us, which we try to sooth by treating irrational creatures almost as if they were rational, is really satisfied in Malacandra. They dont need pets.


Part of me wants to put this as an answer to DestrierDragon's earlier topic because he also had some very good Lewis citations that are relevant, however, I'd like to give this excerpt special focus. Lewis has several like it elsewhere, in MN, also in That Hideous Strength, and so on. I'm being selective here so as not to cast too wide a net.

(Sorry if this is even more inscrutable than the above.)
They [the Sorns] were astonished at what he [Ransom] had to tell them about human history- war, slavery, and prostitution... things that particularly stuck in their minds about our world... the fact that we had only one kind of hnau: they thought this must have far reaching effects in the narrowing of sympathies and even of thought.
"Your thought must be at the mercy of your blood," said the old sorn, "for you cannot compare it to thought that floats on different blood."


7/22 very interesting comments, I see the cuetlaxmeh have weighed in. I'll link my earlier comments in a few days after I pick my cousin's brain on a point or two.

7/24 - BTW, the Sorns kept livestock (for cheese)... that's really a side issue...

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Re: Why Narnian's dont Keep Pets - and why it matters

Postby Berserker » Jul 20, 2011 9:14 am

And yet, for the sake of appeal to the reader, Lewis maintains anthropocentrism throughout the series by ensuring that only sons of Adam and daughters of Eve are gifted enough to be Narnia's messiahs. Aslan's ethics aren't those of lions, but those of humans: thus, when looking into Aslan's eyes, we don't feel a connection to the interwoven fabric of creation, but rather we only recognize him as a symbol of human superiority. (Thus why Aslan is a clearly patriarchal figure and not one of ambiguity.)

As much as I would like to believe Narnia's enduring charm was due to its unique hints at an underlying cosmological truth, I believe it falls flat in that regard by dressing itself in the garb of popular religion. Modern audiences want something cute and safe, something that doesn't challenge their perceptions and cultural mores. THAT is Narnia's charm.
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Re: Why Narnian's dont Keep Pets - and why it matters

Postby Ithilwen » Jul 20, 2011 2:10 pm

Berserker wrote:As much as I would like to believe Narnia's enduring charm was due to its unique hints at an underlying cosmological truth, I believe it falls flat in that regard by dressing itself in the garb of popular religion. Modern audiences want something cute and safe, something that doesn't challenge their perceptions and cultural mores. THAT is Narnia's charm.


Actually, what I love about Narnia is that it did challenge my perceptions, and altered my views on life. I wouldn't understand half the things I know today if it weren't for Narnia; if it hadn't challenged me to stop and think about things in a way I never thought of before.

That's what I love about Narnia. :)


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Re: Why Narnian's dont Keep Pets - and why it matters

Postby Warrior 4 Jesus » Jul 21, 2011 9:25 pm

Complete bunk, Berserker. Narnia is not cute and safe. There are plenty of people who find the books dangerous because of their Christian ideas, suppoused sexism, racism, milatrisim etc.
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Re: Why Narnian's dont Keep Pets - and why it matters

Postby waggawerewolf27 » Jul 22, 2011 2:07 am

Of course it matters that Narnians don't keep pets! Which pet would they keep? A pet that talks back at you? You read the books, you saw the movies, or what there was of them. How could Reepicheep be at any time a pet? Aslan was beautifully lionlike, fair and authoritative - would he be a pet lion? Of course not! That was the point made over and over again in the Narnia stories - Aslan wasn't a tame lion.

Prince Caspian, in the book of the same name, spent some time trying to get his pet cats and dogs to talk, without success. Any lonely child might do the same. :ymhug: On meeting the Old Narnians he had a much different relationship with them. As Doctor Cornelius and Trufflehunter would have both said, Narnia was a place for a human to rule, as first among equals, but it wasn't a place for humans to assert ownership over animals. It was the most magical cinematic moment when in LWW the beaver first talked to Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy. Whiilst in VDT (the film) Eustace also has to come to terms with talking animals, and there is at least one reference to Reepicheep's inability to shut up. ;)

Now it seems I have a pet cat or two like that. It is said that if dogs have owners, cats have staff. They are part of the household and contribute according to their ability to do so. And they are given to expressing opinions. The more vocal cat was once a kitten, whose affectionate jumping onto laps, enthusiastic purring and warm, soft, presence made a great difference to the man of the house, when he was recuperating from a triple bypass. There have been also times when I could swear that cat was trying to hold a conversation with me.

Now animals are living, sentient beings. You really shouldn't adopt pets without realising that it is a commitment and a responsibility for the rest of that animal's life. In Narnia, animals such as these were given the chance to talk and express themselves so that humans were quite able to understand them. I am really looking forward to see old Strawberry's performance in any future MN movie, especially as I'd like some thought given to why he was one of the animals Aslan chose to have the power of speech. Because Fledge, as he was to become, had previous experience of what it could be like being servant to humankind? Compare his lovely world of Narnia, where he was at last free, and his changed relationship with King Frank and Queen Helen with the dreadful experiences of the talking horses at the hands of the Calormenes in LB!

And let's get it straight. Animals are also God's creatures, as much as Sons of Adam and Daughters of Eve. Narnians wouldn't keep pets because the animals we call pets are their equals. They aren't slaves. Not in the Animal democracy known as Narnia. [-( That is why it matters that Narnians wouldn't keep pets, in a series which abhors slavery.
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Re: Why Narnian's dont Keep Pets - and why it matters

Postby Berserker » Jul 22, 2011 5:25 pm

Warrior 4 Jesus wrote:Complete bunk, Berserker. Narnia is not cute and safe. There are plenty of people who find the books dangerous because of their Christian ideas, suppoused sexism, racism, milatrisim etc.


You must be referring to a distant fringe of critics. I'm referring to the masses, for whom the Chronicles of Narnia are benign children's fantasies with a faint Christian metaphor. This is not Paradise Lost we're talking about here. Mainstream audiences wouldn't touch a Paradise Lost adaptation with a 10-meter cattle prod, but Narnia is about as inoffensive to the unwashed masses as you can get. It doesn't raise any new or interesting questions about morality, ethics, the afterlife, etc... it's the same easy-to-digest Christian good-and-evil story that everyone loves and everyone is familiar with. It was there first along with Tolkien's work, and that's why it endures in an ocean of stagnant, derivative fantasy.
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Re: Why Narnian's dont Keep Pets - and why it matters

Postby Ithilwen » Jul 22, 2011 5:54 pm

Berserker wrote:You must be referring to a distant fringe of critics. I'm referring to the masses, for whom the Chronicles of Narnia are benign children's fantasies with a faint Christian metaphor. This is not Paradise Lost we're talking about here. Mainstream audiences wouldn't touch a Paradise Lost adaptation with a 10-meter cattle prod, but Narnia is about as inoffensive to the unwashed masses as you can get. It doesn't raise any new or interesting questions about morality, ethics, the afterlife, etc... it's the same easy-to-digest Christian good-and-evil story that everyone loves and everyone is familiar with. It was there first along with Tolkien's work, and that's why it endures in an ocean of stagnant, derivative fantasy.


Compare Narnia with a lot of other Christian books for kids. You'll definitely see a difference, both in message and quality (especially the latter). The Narnia books have helped many people see Christ in a completely different light. Back before reading it, in the eyes of a lot of children, God and Christ were nothing but vague ideas heard while sitting in stain-glass-window churches, being stuck in stuffy clothes. After reading it, many children found Christ to be something much different -- something more personal; a loving Savior that has little to do with sitting quietly in a pew, or reciting verses.

And it did teach new things about morality and ethics and the afterlife. At least, to the audience it was aimed toward.

For example, with morality and ethics. While most children were told to "be good or you'll get it", or to do the right thing "Just because", this taught children to follow God because they love Him and He loves them. It even went so far as to say to do the right thing, even if your family or peers are against it, instead of the normal "Just do whatever your parents and peers tell you to do". Little children such as Lucy in the story are expected to follow Aslan, even when their older siblings won't. Even when it means traveling alone. (I'm surprised some parents didn't have something to say about that.)

And as for the afterlife, most stories give us this vague image that we'll be brought up to heaven, sit in clouds, sing to God while we play little harps. Instead, the children in this story found bits of Narnia, and bits of our own world there. While most people say this world of ours is evil, worldly, and material -- that we must say goodbye to it -- C.S. Lewis put entire places of our own world into his afterlife. I'd say that makes people think a few things over.

Narnia is a Christian series. If you don't like Christian things or stories, then of course you won't like Narnia, or view it as the kind of story you'd want to read. But that doesn't mean Narnia is bad, or useless, or silly, or forgettable. It just means it's not the type of story you like. Which is fine. You certainly aren't forced into liking, or expected to like, a sort of story that goes against your beliefs. The same with me. for example... Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy goes against my beliefs (even runs down my beliefs), but it is still very well-written, and I'm certainly not going to say anything against it.

That being said, Narnia is very controversial, to more than just a small group. A lot of people (In the masses, I mean. Not critics.) debate over the use of myth and pagan elements. Plus the things Warrior 4 Jesus mentioned. I hear these things discussed a great deal, by more than just a few people.

Plus, I know a lot of people who are rooting for a Paradise Lost adaptations without any reservations at all toward it.

Back on topic, with Narnian pets, I can see why Lewis would not include pets in the story. Unless they were a sort of dumb beast. That might be okay... maybe... Certainly not a talking beast though, since, in that world, talking beasts are on a similar level as people. :)


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Re: Why Narnian's dont Keep Pets - and why it matters

Postby Graymouser » Jul 23, 2011 10:40 am

Elluinas Mirion wrote:I wonder if anyone has any comments on the following as it relates to Narnia in general, and in particular its enduring charm and appeal.

From the afterwords in Out of the Silent Planet (p156):

For example, can I even make you understand how I know, beyond all question, why it it is that the Malacandrians dont keep pets, and in general, dont feel about their lower animals as we do about ours? Naturally, it is the sort of thing they themselves could never have told me. One just sees why when one sees the three species together. Each of them is to the others both what a man is to us, and what an animal is to us. They can talk to each other, they can cooperate, they have the same ethics; to that extent a sorn and a hross meet as two men. But each of them finds the other different, funny, attractive as an animal is attractive. Some instinct staved in us, which we try to sooth by treating irrational creatures almost as if they were rational, is really satisfied in Malacandra. They dont need pets.


Part of me wants to put this as an answer to DestrierDragon's earlier topic because he also had some very good Lewis citations that are relevant, however, I'd like to give this excerpt special focus. Lewis has several like it elsewhere, in MN, also in That Hideous Strength, and so on. I'm being selective here so as not to cast too wide a net.

(Sorry if this is even more inscrutable than the above.)
They [the Sorns] were astonished at what he [Ransom] had to tell them about human history- war, slavery, and prostitution... things that particularly stuck in their minds about our world... the fact that we had only one kind of hnau: they thought this must have far reaching effects in the narrowing of sympathies and even of thought.
"Your thought must be at the mercy of your blood," said the old sorn, "for you cannot compare it to thought that floats on different blood."


7/22 very interesting comments, I see the cuetlaxmeh have weighed in. I'll link my earlier comments in a few days after I pick my cousin's brain on a point or two.


Yes, but then Lewis also clearly states in "Perelandra" that after the Incarnation there can be no sentient beings in non-Human form (though Perelandra does have non-human sentiences in its bowels- inconsistency, or have they been there for more than 2000 years? (Sorry, I don't have access to the books, so am going on memory)
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Re: Why Narnian's dont Keep Pets - and why it matters

Postby Graymouser » Jul 23, 2011 10:49 am

As for animals in general, Lewis had some rather...distinct views on them.

In "The Problem of Pain" for example, he says that animals will only exist in the Afterlife on the basis of their symbolism- i.e. (male) lions will be there to represent Courage, Majesty etc. (even though we know that male lions are actually lazy murderous thieving creatures).

The exception he gives is for animals that through association with humans have come to partake of our human life and whose existence is therefore necessary for the completion of our happiness- so yes, Spot, Prince, Snookums, or Ole Blue will be with you in Heaven.
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Re: Why Narnian's dont Keep Pets - and why it matters

Postby Graymouser » Jul 23, 2011 11:05 am

waggawerewolf27 wrote:Of course it matters that Narnians don't keep pets! Which pet would they keep? A pet that talks back at you? You read the books, you saw the movies, or what there was of them. How could Reepicheep be at any time a pet? Aslan was beautifully lionlike, fair and authoritative - would he be a pet lion? Of course not! That was the point made over and over again in the Narnia stories - Aslan wasn't a tame lion.


Though of course Narnians keep Dumb Animals for work and other uses- though the only ones specifically mentioned are horses, Narnians eat meat (presumably beef, pork, mutton, chicken and other domestic animals)- and use leather and wool



Now it seems I have a pet cat or two like that. It is said that if dogs have owners, cats have staff. .


A dog says, "this person feeds me, houses me, looks after me...he must be a god."
A cat says, "this person feeds me, houses me, looks after me...I must be a god."

Or, in my favourite quote from Winston Churchill: "I like pigs. Dogs look up to us, cats look down on us, but pigs treat us as equals."

And let's get it straight. Animals are also God's creatures, as much as Sons of Adam and Daughters of Eve. Narnians wouldn't keep pets because the animals we call pets are their equals. They aren't slaves. Not in the Animal democracy known as Narnia. [-( That is why it matters that Narnians wouldn't keep pets, in a series which abhors slavery.


Talking Animals, yes; Dumb animals, no. Again, we only know there are dumb horses in Narnia- though we do know that prior to LWW, mice were dumb.
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Re: Why Narnian's dont Keep Pets - and why it matters

Postby waggawerewolf27 » Jul 24, 2011 3:38 am

Graymouser wrote:Though of course Narnians keep Dumb Animals for work and other uses- though the only ones specifically mentioned are horses, Narnians eat meat (presumably beef, pork, mutton, chicken and other domestic animals)- and use leather and wool


Well yes they might. But to what extent? You don't have to kill a sheep to get wool from it, and even a talking sheep might like getting a haircut and trading the wool for other benefits in his or her life. What I do notice is the highly different ways in which animals are treated in Narnia (except under Miraz) and how the Calormenes treated all animals. Bree and Hwin tell us the difference in treatment in HHB, and this is reiterated in LB.

There are two dumb bears in the Narnia chronicles. One is the dumb bear of Prince Caspian which Trumpkin shoots. Maybe it was originally a talking bear that went wild, but Trumpkin didn't think so. Hesitating to see if it was a talking bear nearly put Susan and Lucy at risk of being killed. Another is the lapsed bear of Stormness that Prince Corin boxed untill he became a reformed character and started talking again. A talking bear features in the Last Battle and is on the good side.

Ithilwen wrote:Compare Narnia with a lot of other Christian books for kids. You'll definitely see a difference, both in message and quality (especially the latter). The Narnia books have helped many people see Christ in a completely different light. Back before reading it, in the eyes of a lot of children, God and Christ were nothing but vague ideas heard while sitting in stain-glass-window churches, being stuck in stuffy clothes. After reading it, many children found Christ to be something much different -- something more personal; a loving Savior that has little to do with sitting quietly in a pew, or reciting verses.

And it did teach new things about morality and ethics and the afterlife. At least, to the audience it was aimed toward.


You are right. Some of the ethical behaviour you find in the Narnia series is about slavery and other ethics is about animals. The talking animals were enjoined to look after their dumb companions and were told that if they misbehaved they would become dumb animals themselves. Ginger the LB talking cat was turned into a dumb animal when he entered the Stable door and saw Tash. On the other hand, LOTGK mentions she loves cats in Silver Chair and admits to having a pet cat. And in the same book Puddleglum sees eating talking beasts as tantamount to cannibalism.

In HHB, Bree tells Aravis and Hwin that you could say that Bree stole Shasta, rather than the other way around, whilst Hwin tells Aravis it is her escape as much as Aravis'. Aravis has to face the situation in which her horse owns her as much as she owns the horse.

Getting back to pets, it can be a great comfort to people to have pets, and often the pet is the only creature there to talk to. But once an animal can talk and hold a conversation, they are really the equivalent of the humans missing in such a person's life. You can't have human pets.....can you? :-o
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Re: Why Narnian's dont Keep Pets - and why it matters

Postby Tesseract » Jul 28, 2011 12:35 am

Graymouser wrote:The exception he gives is for animals that through association with humans have come to partake of our human life and whose existence is therefore necessary for the completion of our happiness- so yes, Spot, Prince, Snookums, or Ole Blue will be with you in Heaven.


That line of reasoning doesn't make sense. What if some Christian was addicted to black OPS and it was therefore necessary for the completion of their happiness? :p

In a serious tone, though, I'm sure there are many Christians who have very good non-Christian friends. I don't see how a Christian would be able to properly enjoy heaven with the knowledge that their dear friends were suffering in the nasty place, even if they had Fido up there with them to pet and play ball with.

waggawerewolf27 wrote:You can't have human pets.....can you? :-o

Our problem is that humans do not have a "dumb human" equivalent like the Narnian creatures do. We don't know what the ethics would be in such a situation. Do we treat the dumb humans like slaves? (Treating dumb animals as such is perfectly acceptable in Narnia, so long as the "masters" aren't overly harsh.)
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Re: Why Narnian's dont Keep Pets - and why it matters

Postby Aravis Narnia » Jul 31, 2011 5:40 pm

If they could eat non-talking animals, why could they not have some of them as pets?

Do the Narnians engage strictly in hunting and fishing in order to obtain meat? If they have botanical agriculture- or at least horticulture on a small scale- why can they not have animal farming? If they ride non-talking horses, they clearly have domesticated them. And I am pretty sure they have domesticated various kinds of cattle for dairy, as well as birds for eggs and bees for honey. Do they not wear wool? So what would prevent them from raising animals to be pets either?
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Re: Why Narnian's dont Keep Pets - and why it matters

Postby Conina » Aug 01, 2011 9:34 pm

I agree that the practice of keeping pets speaks to a collective loneliness in humanity. Its interesting that the hint at keeping cats as pets comes from the LOTGK. That she would take care of a cat while turning the sentient underground people into slaves and plotting to end so many lives is disturbing. I've been thinking a lot lately about what exactly differentiates humans from other animals.

Humans sometimes see each other as less than human and that thinking can lead to horrific deeds (slavery, torture, genocide). I think many instances in Narnia warn against such dehumanization.

I was reminded of the scene in SC when Jill, Eustace and Puddleglum are sickened to discover that they are eating a talking stag. The three of them come to be seen as pets to a few of the giants who wish they weren't going to eat them (the queen and the cook).

Some other examples are at the slave market when the buyer convinces himself that Reepicheep is parroting speech and not actually communicating despite all evidence to the contrary or when Uncle Andrew convinces himself that he can not hear Aslan or any of the animals speaking until his mind is so warped that he couldn't understand them even if he tried.


Probably the closest thing to a "dumb human" would be fellow primates such as gorillas. Although there is Koko who has allegedly mastered 1,000+ words in sign language. And has kept and cared for several pet cats herself. So how dumb animals really are is worth looking into. http://www.koko.org/foundation/

There are people with severe medical conditions or mental illnesses who are sometimes treated cruelly and shunted out of mainstream society. I think based out of fear and self-deceit by other people. I have been reading an account of the "Elephant Man." He had a rare medical condition that enlarged his head and nose, making him look like an elephant from some angles. His mother abandoned him when he was four. He was sold to a work camp and then to a traveling circus where he was gawked at and tortured. His mouth was warped and he could not speak. A doctor took an interest in his medical condition and let him live in the attic of a hospital. He later fixed his mouth and the elephant man began to speak. The doctor and hospital staff were surprised to find out that he was not an "imbecile" as they had assumed but a thoughtful and intelligent being who was well-read. He had read the Bible and many Shakespeare plays among other works. His utterances was a request was to be sent to an asylum for the blind. He had read about such places and thought it wanted to not be gawked at all day. He became an artist and a poet before his death in a countryside cottage.

So how humans treat those that they deem as less than human is disturbing. I for one am glad that there are not "dumb" humans (who look like humans on the outside but lack speech etc). Based on how such people as the "elephant man" were treated I think that they would be treated abysmally. As "Narnians", we ought to fight against dehumanizing attitudes that occur in real life and the cruelty that spawn from those thoughts.
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Re: Why Narnian's dont Keep Pets - and why it matters

Postby Dernhelm_of_Rohan » Aug 06, 2011 8:54 pm

Conina wrote:...how humans treat those that they deem as less than human is disturbing. I for one am glad that there are not "dumb" humans (who look like humans on the outside but lack speech etc). Based on how such people as the "elephant man" were treated I think that they would be treated abysmally. As "Narnians", we ought to fight against dehumanizing attitudes that occur in real life and the cruelty that spawn from those thoughts.


Spot on, Conina!

But I think we may be over-analyzing this. Aslan himself adresses this issue-

The Dumb Beasts whom I have not chosen are yours also. Treat them gently and cherish them, but do not go back to their ways, lest you cease to be Talking Beasts. ~ MN, Chap. 10: The First Joke


While this is clearly a symbol of the saving grace of God, it can also be argued that Aslan is giving the Talking Beasts stewardship of nature, just as God gave it to Adam and Eve. Take a look at the context.

I give to you [Creatures of Narnia] forever this land of Narnia. I give you the woods, the fruits, the rivers. I give you the stars and I give you myself. The Dumb Beasts whom I have not chosen are yours also. Treat them gently and cherish them, but do not go back to their ways, lest you cease to be Talking Beasts. ~ MN, Chap. 10: The First Joke


And personally, I doubt if Lewis meant the NC to be a lecture on how to treat your dog. ;)
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Re: Why Narnian's dont Keep Pets - and why it matters

Postby wolfloversk » Aug 22, 2011 11:55 pm

Dernhelm_of_Rohan wrote:While this is clearly a symbol of the saving grace of God, it can also be argued that Aslan is giving the Talking Beasts stewardship of nature, just as God gave it to Adam and Eve.
I'd agree with some underlying themes like this in the Chronicles (stewardship of nature that is) especially given the events of PC and LB.

Also it seems to me that the talking Narnians almost consider themselves seperate (almost as seperate species except they can be reverted back, like Ginger) from their simpler mute counterparts... which makes sense... I think... but I've always found that at least intriguing.
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