Slavery in VDT [and other books]

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Slavery in VDT [and other books]

Postby 220chrisTian » Oct 24, 2009 5:03 pm

Many of you want the anti-slavery theme to be present in Voyage of the Dawn Treader, the upcoming Narnia movie. But what's so special about this theme? What is its significance?

What are some similarities and differences between how slavery is addressed in VDT and how it appears in other Narnia books?

Finally, does slavery as Christian servanthood appear in the Narnia series? If so, how does Lewis address this theme?

Discuss away! :)
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Re: Slavery in VDT [and other books]

Postby waggawerewolf27 » Oct 24, 2009 8:25 pm

In some countries there are strong historical reasons why people would love to keep the anti-slavery theme in VDT. To use fellow humans in this way, as a commodity to be bought and sold, flies against human rights, it flies against Jesus' command to love neighbours as oneself, and it also contradicts the idea that all people are born equally. Slavery has taken many forms, not only the Atlantic trade of the American civil war, from the ancient slavery to repay debt to prisoners taken in wartime. Slavery also includes the idea of transportation of convicts to colonies to work, not unlike the feudal idea that the poorer classes should work for the upper classes for little more return than their upkeep.

No wonder then that many people would want to see the anti-slavery message of VDT kept in the movie. ImageEveryone knows about Abraham Lincoln, but is it as well known that William Wilberforce also worked against slavery, which was outlawed in UK in 1833? C.S.Lewis may also have been aware of slave raids on the coast of Ireland which removed entire villages of people into slavery at the hands of pirates like Jan Janszoon van Haarlem.

The pictures of slavery shown in VDT reflect some traditional aspects of the slave market. We actually see a slave market in operation, the sorts of people who might take slaves, the sort of economic thinking Governor Gumpas shows, and we see how the enemies of Narnia might get involved with such a trade.

I think the most important bit of the Lone Island episode is the differing reactions to being enslaved, of Caspian's companions, and how it shaped their subsequent thinking. None of them like what is happening, and of course Pug's actions are monumentally unfair in capturing innocent passers-by.

Caspian, who hadn't been taken in a fair fight or because of his debts, knows not to say too much about who he is, lest he endanger not only himself but also his friends and country. In contrast, Reepicheep shows exactly why he is a prized exhibit. Lucy and Edmund know they must patiently bear their fate for the moment and that they can only hope for an opportunity to get free.

Eustace's reaction is most telling, as he still does not realise that there are no British consuls available to help out. Nor would it have helped much even if there were. The sovereign lord of the Lone Islands had been taken captive along with him, and Gumpas would not intervene at a consul's behest when he is doing so nicely from the slave trade. Chances are, in a world where consuls exist, there is also paperwork to attend to. Gumpas, who knows this, would force any available consul to see Caspian and co as trespassers who arrogantly entered Lone Islands without passports or any sort of documentation at all, and who therefore have broken the law of the Lone Islands.

That Lord Bern is one of the Seven Missing Lords, as well as the bloke who buys Caspian - and Caspian's story - should emphasize just how important this episode and its anti-slavery message is. I don't think it is only Lord Bern's timely intervention, which enables Caspian to overturn Gumpas and free Lucy, Edmund, Reepicheep and Eustace, that is the key point.

I think that Caspian in being taken captive has a real reason in a nutshell to understand the evils associated with this practice, and to take a firm stand against it. However, in doing so, he still has much to learn about how he has to treat his subjects and his responsibilities to them and to others as King of Narnia which is illustrated in the Dawn Treader's subsequent adventures.

When Aravis is scratched by Aslan, in HHB, a similar lesson to Caspian's is being taught. Aslan tells her later that stripe for stripe and throb for throb, she had suffered exactly what her slave maid had undergone when Aravis drugged her to escape. I don't think it was the actual treatment of the maid which showed how wrong Aravis was; it was Aravis' entire attitude to slaves that Aslan deplored. What I mean is that perhaps Aravis could have knocked out the maid some other way to show that it was not her fault that Aravis escaped.

Sometimes the burnt hand teaches best.
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Re: Slavery in VDT [and other books]

Postby 220chrisTian » Oct 26, 2009 4:59 pm

waggawerewolf27 wrote:I think that Caspian in being taken captive has a real reason in a nutshell to understand the evils associated with this practice, and to take a firm stand against it. However, in doing so, he still has much to learn about how he has to treat his subjects and his responsibilities to them and to others as King of Narnia which is illustrated in the Dawn Treader's subsequent adventures.

When Aravis is scratched by Aslan, in HHB, a similar lesson to Caspian's is being taught. Aslan tells her later that stripe for stripe and throb for throb, she had suffered exactly what her slave maid had undergone when Aravis drugged her to escape. I don't think it was the actual treatment of the maid which showed how wrong Aravis was; it was Aravis' entire attitude to slaves that Aslan deplored. What I mean is that perhaps Aravis could have knocked out the maid some other way to show that it was not her fault that Aravis escaped.

Sometimes the burnt hand teaches best.
Great examples! :) But you know what I thought of when I read this? Something slightly different.
Hebrews 2:9-10 wrote:But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone. In bringing many sons to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the author of their salvation perfect through suffering.
Hebrews 4:15 wrote:For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin.
Jesus knows our suffering because He suffered. He became one of us. He took the lowest place on the cross. He endured the wrath of God on the cross--what we should have suffered [but couldn't]. Caspian is similar in a way. In order to teach, to understand, he must suffer what his subjects do. And this is why I compared Caspian to Christ in this scene--in another N&C thread. ;)
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Re: Slavery in VDT [and other books]

Postby waggawerewolf27 » Oct 27, 2009 4:18 am

Yes, Hebrews does mention that aspect of Christ's ministry. But I was thinking of the many verses which mention proper conduct between slaves and masters, which you can find on http://www.religioustolerance.org/sla_bibl2.htm, such as St Paul's advice to his followers in Ephesians 6:5-9, Colossians 4:1, Colossians 3:11, 1 Timothy 6:1-3, or 1 Corinthians 12:13. The verse I am most familiar with is this one from Galatians: Galatians 3:28: "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus."

I agree that the site might be a bit biased and reproachful of the Bible for not taking a stand against slavery. But as even it recognises, slavery was a fact of life in Biblical times, and there wasn't much that ordinary people could do about it at the time. That sort of change would have to come at the top, such as is suggested in VDT when Prince Caspian takes action.

I'm also aware of this tale, on display at the Fremantle National Maritime Museum: ImageThe idea of kings being taken into slavery is not a new one.

But Caspian, the King who was taken captive, is not the only Narnian sovereign to have experience of being enslaved. There is Shasta, who escaped Arsheesh and Anradin to find out later he was the heir of the Archenland throne. And there is also Rilian, enslaved or imprisoned for some decades by LOTGK.

Why would Shasta make a better king just because he has had experience of what it might be like to be sold into slavery? Are there aspects of Kingship which are hardly different to being a slave? And how could Rilian still be described as a slave, when for much of his sojourn with LOTGK, he remained unaware of the predicament he was in?
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Re: Slavery in VDT [and other books]

Postby 220chrisTian » Oct 28, 2009 12:26 pm

wagga wrote:But as even it recognises, slavery was a fact of life in Biblical times, and there wasn't much that ordinary people could do about it at the time. That sort of change would have to come at the top, such as is suggested in VDT when Prince Caspian takes action.
Good point! Many people had slaves, including Abraham. It was a "fact of life." Joseph served as a slave for Potiphar in Egypt. And Jacob was a virtual slave to his uncle Laban. I was surprised not to see any Old Testament passages in your list above. Check out Exodus 21:1-6 [6-year term, 7th year he goes free], Leviticus 25 [50th year: Jubilee], Deuteronomy 15:12-18 [when he goes free in the 7th year, give him liberally from your stores]. God cared about how the Israelites treated slaves. And I think there's a passage in Jeremiah where God tells King Zedekiah "that every man should let his manservant, and every man his maidservant, being an Hebrew or an Hebrewess, go free, that none should serve himself of them, to wit, of a Jew his brother" [34:9]. Read the chapter, because I think the same applies to Pug's treatment of the Narnians. Don't treat your brethren as slaves. :(

At the same time, I see a spiritual parallel in this scene--when Caspian is put in slavery, freed, and later returns to free his English friends. I'm thinking of Isaiah 61:1 [and Luke 4:18]: "The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon Me, Because the LORD has anointed Me to preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives, And the opening of the prison to those who are bound." ... And Psalm 68:18 [and Ephesians 4:18]: "You have ascended on high,You have led captivity captive; You have received gifts among men, Even from the rebellious, That the LORD God might dwell there." How did Jesus do it? By becoming the perfect offering for sin, a slave if you will, on the cross. :)

Michael Card, "Jubilee" /Lyrics
The Lord provided for a time for the slaves to be set free
For the debts to all be cancelled so his chosen ones could see
His deep desire was for forgiveness, he longed to see their liberty
And his yearning was embodied in the year of jubilee

Jubilee, Jubilee
Jesus is the Jubilee
Debts forgiven, Slaves set free
Jesus is our Jubilee

At the Lord’s appointed time, his deep desire became a man
The heart of all true jubilation and with joy we understand
In his voice we hear a trumpet sound that tells us we are free
He is the incarnation of the year of jubilee

Jubilee, Jubilee
Jesus is the Jubilee
Debts forgiven, Slaves set free
Jesus is our Jubilee

To be so completely guilty and given over to despair
To look into your Judge’s face and find a Savior there

Jubilee, Jubilee
Jesus is the Jubilee
Debts forgiven, Slaves set free
Jesus is our Jubilee
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Re: Slavery in VDT [and other books]

Postby waggawerewolf27 » Oct 30, 2009 5:57 pm

220christian wrote: I was surprised not to see any Old Testament passages in your list above.


Er no, because as relevant as they certainly are to slavery - and the site I linked to earlier actually pointed out that the Deuteronomy verses were a bit kinder than St Paul or St Luke's reporting, permitting runaway slaves their freedom - I did think that quoting entire masses of Old Testament references might not be so relevant to Christianity, let alone what is said about slavery in Narnia. Suffice to say, that I do agree with you that 'God cared about how the Israelites treated slaves'.

Speaking of Zedekiah, he was a king who met a most horrible fate. He was forced to watch Nebuchadnezzah's Babylonians execute all his sons before his eyes and then they blinded him. Before they led Zedekiah and the Judeans into the Babylonian captivity, from which they were released some 50 years later. So the Israelites, who were delivered from Pharaoh's captivity, or most particularly, the Judeans, had a real reason to treat their slaves kindly, having experience of being slaves themselves. If there was one reason about which prophet after prophet railed against the Israelites it was the social stratification and injustice, the departure from the ethics of their beliefs and the exploitation of others which had been allowed to drift in to the running of the two kingdoms.

And for what it is worth, that Josiah, Zedekiah's father, found a copy of the book of Deuteronomy in the Temple, is internal evidence that at least that part of Old Testament was definitely in existence before the Babylonian captivity. So is the fact that in Kings and Chronicles, Pharaohs of Egypt, after the kingdom of Israel was established, were called by their names, like Shishak or Necho, and not by their generic title of Pharaoh.

In the Narnia stories those ethical practices concerning slaves are reinforced in chronicle after chronicle. Jadis, who treats everyone as her slave, is already a fallen woman, as C.S.Lewis states in his 'Letters to children', and we see how she also behaves in LWW. In Charn she is disastrous, in Narnia an eternal evil to be opposed at all costs. But in London, she merely looks like a criminal. Aslan specifically lays down how he wants fellow creatures treated in both books, most notably at King Frank and Queen Helen's coronation. In the Horse and His Boy, Aravis is chastised for her treatment of her maid, and also has to learn something important about her attitude to both Shasta and Ahoshta. Base birth isn't the problem, really. It is base attitudes.

Getting back to those people who took so much trouble to ban slaves in UK, I was struck by what the likes of William Wilberforce discovered about the greed and avarice displayed by planters who did employ slaves. And I know that this greed, to have people working for next to nothing does little for the community, since ordinary people then find it hard to get jobs in competition with slaves, one reason why transportation was abolished in Australia.

This economic aspect of slavery is dealt with in VDT when Caspian tells off Gumpas at Narrowhaven. Why is Calormen then run on slavery, in HHB or in LB?

Getting back to the Christian life and servitude, the only way I see a comparison, is when King Lune describes the duties of a King to Shasta, in one of the most memorable bits of the series.



Although it isn't the last book to deal with slavery, Caspian
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Re: Slavery in VDT [and other books]

Postby 220chrisTian » Nov 02, 2009 1:34 pm

wagga: check out the passage below. I found it yesterday while looking for another verse. :)

Deuteronomy 23:15-16 ~
"You shall not give back to his master the slave who has escaped from his master to you. He may dwell with you in your midst, in the place which he chooses within one of your gates, where it seems best to him; you shall not oppress him." :)

wagga wrote:This economic aspect of slavery is dealt with in VDT when Caspian tells off Gumpas at Narrowhaven. Why is Calormen then run on slavery, in HHB or in LB?
Good question. But I can't answer it right now. I'm taking a break from Narniaweb this week. :(
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Re: Slavery in VDT [and other books]

Postby TheGeneral » Nov 21, 2009 1:12 pm

220chrisTian wrote:What are some similarities and differences between how slavery is addressed in VDT and how it appears in other Narnia books?

Well in MN it was mentioned being active in Charn, and the arrogant view of some of the wealthy people comes through in jadis' reaction when the kids brought up how it was wasn't fair to the ordinary people when she killed them all. In HHB the same attitude is kind of seen in Calormen (especially Aravis not caring that the servant was beaten). And of course in VDT is really apparent. So overall I would say the Narnia books are pretty consistent in how they portray slavery and those who don't find anything wrong with it.

Finally, does slavery as Christian servanthood appear in the Narnia series? If so, how does Lewis address this theme?

I have never thought of this possibility. Slavery is portrayed as very wicked in the books (in my opinion), certainly not something to compare to your relationship with God.
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Re: Slavery in VDT [and other books]

Postby 220chrisTian » Nov 21, 2009 1:41 pm

TheGeneral wrote:
220chrisTian wrote:Finally, does slavery as Christian servanthood appear in the Narnia series? If so, how does Lewis address this theme?
I have never thought of this possibility. Slavery is portrayed as very wicked in the books (in my opinion), certainly not something to compare to your relationship with God.

When I said "slavery as Christian servanthood," I was thinking of the following...
Romans 6:16-19, 22 wrote:Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one’s slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness? But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered. And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness. I speak in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh. For just as you presented your members as slaves of uncleanness, and of lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves of righteousness for holiness. ... But now having been set free from sin, and having become slaves of God, you have your fruit to holiness, and the end, everlasting life.
1 Corinthians 7:22-23 wrote:For he who is called in the Lord while a slave is the Lord’s freedman. Likewise he who is called while free is Christ’s slave. You were bought at a price; do not become slaves of men.

We are slaves or servants of God, and of righteousness. We have been "bought at a price." That is what redemption is all about. We must all answer to someone. We are not our own masters, whatever we may believe otherwise. :)

In LWW, Edmund goes from serving the White Witch to serving Aslan. In the rest of the series, whom do the Pevensies, Eustace, and Jill obey? Aslan. They are therefore his servants. They must answer to him for their actions. This is why the Dwarfs' behavior in LB is so odd. They refuse to answer to anyone. They want to serve themselves, to be their own masters. So, how is this theme of "Christian slavery/servanthood" represented in VDT, and in other books in the series?
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Re: Slavery in VDT [and other books]

Postby waggawerewolf27 » Nov 21, 2009 3:41 pm

The main context for the theme of "Christian slavery/servanthood" is that of the relationship between leaders and their followers. To be a good leader one must also serve. True Christians are expected to set an example to others, following Christ's examples of hospitality to His followers, including washing their feet, His participation in their activities, his gracious forgiveness of sinners and his kindness to the afflicted.

Matthew 25 has a lot to say about the sorts of activities we are suggested to implement as Christ's followers:

1. Feed the hungry
2. Give drink to those who are thirsty
3. Give clothes to the naked
4. Shelter the homeless
5. Visit the sick
6. Visit those in prison

And there is a seventh added on to these things: Bury the Dead. According to the Catholic Church, there are also 7 spiritual acts of mercy we are to carry out as Christ's followers:

Admonish the sinner
Instruct the ignorant
Counsel the doubtful
Comfort the sorrowful
Bear wrongs patiently
Forgive all injuries
Pray for the living and the dead

Again there is backing for this selection in the Beatitudes, derived from the Sermon on the Mount, which can be found in Matthew's gospel.

The relationship between leading and slavery is found in all the Narnian books. Not only is there Jadis' deplorable example in Magician's Nephew of her ideas of leadership, and how she enslaves everyone else to serve her selfish wishes. There is also Aslan's appointment of King Frank and Queen Helen to lead Narnia, and his questions to the Cabbie on what he expects of him as King.

The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe show how Aslan as leader takes upon himself the consequences of Edmund's treachery, and how deliverance from Jadis' tyranny is in obeying Aslan and not in imposing a second tyranny. We see the relationship between slavery and leadership most clearly in HHB, when the runaway slave, Shasta, turns out to be the next King of Archenland. Compare the differing attitudes to slavery and leadership of the Tisroc and Rabadash on one hand, and that of King Lune on the other hand. King Lune's idea of Kingship is that he is under the law which made him king and he must be a slave to his duties as King.

Prince Caspian also gives a contrast between good government and bad, between Government meant to free its subjects from Tyranny and Government meant to gratify the King's pleasure. In Voyage of the Dawn Treader, the best example we have in the book of the importance to everyone on board of everyday conduct, we get to see what King Caspian, Edmund, Lucy and Eustace must learn about governing themselves as well as governing those around them. The actual threat of them all being sold into slavery is what introduces King Caspian to the concept of treating others as one would want to be treated. And over and over again there is the feeling that being a King is no pleasure cruise. It is as much a job and career as Drinian being the Captain of the Ship.

This theme is reinforced in Silver Chair as Eustace, Jill and Puddleglum seek the missing Prince Rilian. Had Rilian remained a slave to the White Witch, it is very clear that he would not have been much of a leader and King of Narnia. It is no accident that unlike his son, Caspian the Seafarer was too busy on matters of state to go on his Queen's fatal picnic. And in the final book, it is the Calormene slavery inflicted on the Narnians which triggers off King Tirian's resistance to them, and the subsequent catastrophe which ends Narnia.
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Re: Slavery in VDT [and other books]

Postby TheGeneral » Nov 26, 2009 12:24 pm

220chrisTian wrote:In LWW, Edmund goes from serving the White Witch to serving Aslan. In the rest of the series, whom do the Pevensies, Eustace, and Jill obey? Aslan. They are therefore his servants. They must answer to him for their actions. This is why the Dwarfs' behavior in LB is so odd. They refuse to answer to anyone. They want to serve themselves, to be their own masters. So, how is this theme of "Christian slavery/servanthood" represented in VDT, and in other books in the series?


I know what you mean now, I was confused at first because the question made me think of the literal slavery in the books.
I still never thought of that theme in the books, however. It's true that the kids 'serve' Alsan in a way, but it's just not the best word to describe their devotion to him in my opinion.
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Re: Slavery in VDT [and other books]

Postby 220chrisTian » Nov 30, 2009 5:47 pm

TheGeneral: what word would you use? We are Christ's servants, His slaves. Both words are used frequently in the New Testament. :)
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Re: Slavery in VDT [and other books]

Postby TheGeneral » Nov 30, 2009 9:21 pm

Ok, I'll try to explain myself a little better here. ;)

As far as whether or not the two words appear in the new testament doesn't really matter because I'm quite certain there was only one Greek word (doulos) with the same meaning, no difference between the two words in those days.
Today however, there's a big difference. Servants actually chose their position. Going even further, I think sometimes it serves better as an analogy of just how much better God is than us (he's master, we're servants). But true, followers of God are sometimes referred to as servants more literally, but here I think it's just serving the purpose of trying to get as many people as possible from many backgrounds to understand the relationship between God and Christians (Christians and God are compared to a lot of things after all).
The verse that I'm thinking about throughout all of this is in John 15:15 and part of 16:

I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master's business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you [..]


I guess all I'm sayin is when Christians are mentioned as the Lord's servants, the idea they are trying to convey is very different from the actual slavery in practice in those days.
I see devotion and servanthood from the kids towards Aslan throughout the books. They don't serve him like slaves, but like dedicated followers who love him.
So the only reason I don' prefer the word servant is it's connection to the word slave back in the day. I guess it just comes down to my opinion. :)
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Re: Slavery in VDT [and other books]

Postby waggawerewolf27 » Dec 04, 2009 2:42 am

TheGeneral wrote:I know what you mean now, I was confused at first because the question made me think of the literal slavery in the books.


That is what I thought also. We were taught that in Ancient Greece it was considered the mark of a free Citizen of say Athens that they would work for themselves, using slaves as employees. Slaves could be anyone who owed money or else who had been captured in wartime. In Sparta, the neighbouring Messenians were made into Helots, and much they resented it.

Today it isn't slavery to work for someone else. That is what pay and conditions are for, and trade unions to see that such conditions are adhered to. Although C.S.Lewis' classical education would make him aware of the niceties of Ancient Greece and Rome, and how it contrasts with the situation today, I'm not so sure that he would have meant anything other than the literal meaning when he wrote about slavery in the Narnia series.

Service is a different thing. An employee serves his boss, but freely. Just as servants performed duties for the master and mistress of the house in Victorian England, the so-called 'Upstairs and Downstairs' people. They might have been indentured in some way, but they weren't slaves.

I like to think of service to God as something done freely, of our own free will, because we love to do what is right. It doesn't leave an unpleasant taste in our mouths. Unlike the apple Jadis took at the MN garden. Slavery is to my mind coerced in some way, not free.
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Re: Slavery in VDT [and other books]

Postby HighQueenofNarnia » Mar 09, 2010 6:57 pm

This is very not related to slavery, but I noticed that waggawerewolf27 wrote a bit about William Wilberforce. Am I the only one who thinks it ironic (simply because I can't think of a better word) that Michael Apted, who directed Amazing Grace (a movie about William Wilberforce and his push to end the slave trade and ultimately outlaw slavery in Great Britain), is directing VotDT?
Now for the topic addressed. I don't believe that the people who obey Aslan are his slaves, per se. They do serve him, and they revere him greatly, but they still have free wills and are able to do wrong (obviously). Aslan doesn't force them to do right or even stop them from doing wrong. But they do care about his opinion greatly, and it seems to me that anyone who isn't on the side of Aslan ends up very bad off.
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Re: Slavery in VDT [and other books]

Postby skilletfreak291 » Oct 07, 2011 10:42 am

i learned about slavery in america history
but in narnia? no offense but narnia slavery is bad as american history
slavery
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