BBC Radio discussion on LWW — well worth a listen!

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BBC Radio discussion on LWW — well worth a listen!

Postby Courtenay » Jan 01, 2020 2:43 pm

The link below was originally posted in the "Lewis and Mythology" thread here — I hope no-one will mind me starting a new thread on it, but having listened to the radio programme, I really think it deserves a specific thread so that hopefully more people will notice it:
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

Although it was written nearly seventy years ago, ‘The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe’ still appears in the top ten favourite children’s books and has sold over 100 million copies in 47 different languages... For some readers, ‘The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe’ is an allegory of the story of Jesus. Many others view it simply as a good yarn. To discuss the religious message behind the book – and whether or not it really matters – Ernie is joined by three authors: Lucy Mangan, Frank Cottrell-Boyce and Francis Spufford. Extracts are read by Julie Hesmondhalgh.


I was a bit wary when I started listening — the BBC isn't always kind to either religion or classic children's books (they recently did yet another hatchet job on another favourite of mine, Enid Blyton X( ) — but this whole discussion is very positive and really brings out why this is a special book and why its popularity continues. I would disagree with the claim that the child characters are "one-dimensional", but that's about the only assertion in there that I would call questionable! (And the point they're making is that this allows young readers to imagine themselves into the story, so it's not presented as a bad thing.)

All the speakers are very positive about the Christian basis of the story, too, which is one of the main themes of the discussion. They explain why it's not really "allegory" and do a great job of refuting critics' claims that the book is "propaganda" and "manipulative". They also really bring out a key element of what makes Narnia work for so many readers: it's so full of all the kinds of things Lewis himself took delight in (even if some of them are a bit incongruous!) and he draws us as readers in to take delight in them too. I'd never quite thought of it that way before, but that's so true!

In short, highly recommended for any Narnia fans who'd like to listen — it's about 28 minutes long and definitely worth the time. :ymapplause:
"Now you are a lioness," said Aslan. "And now all Narnia will be renewed." (Prince Caspian)
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Re: BBC Radio discussion on LWW — well worth a listen!

Postby Col Klink » Jan 01, 2020 5:02 pm

IMO, when people, religious or secular, call something "propaganda," it usually just means that the thing advocates something they believe is wrong. It isn't really propaganda in the technical sense at all. 8-| Anyway, it's nice that this radio discussion avoids that. Thanks for the recommendation, Courtnay. Do you know how long it will be available for listening? I don't really feel like listening to it right now but I would sometime.
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Re: BBC Radio discussion on LWW — well worth a listen!

Postby Courtenay » Jan 01, 2020 5:37 pm

Col Klink wrote:IMO, when people, religious or secular, call something "propaganda," it usually just means that the thing advocates something they believe is wrong. It isn't really propaganda in the technical sense at all. 8-|


Yes. Actually, the critic they were quoting specifically there was Phillip Pullman, who of course is a very successful fantasy writer in his own right, but an outspoken atheist. I gather one could likewise make a case for the His Dark Materials trilogy to be labelled atheist propaganda, but that's obviously different... :p

Anyway, it's nice that this radio discussion avoids that. Thanks for the recommendation, Courtnay. Do you know how long it will be available for listening? I don't really feel like listening to it right now but I would sometime.


It says it's available for over a year, so take your time! Not absolutely sure it'll be available outside the UK, though, now I think about it.
"Now you are a lioness," said Aslan. "And now all Narnia will be renewed." (Prince Caspian)
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Re: BBC Radio discussion on LWW — well worth a listen!

Postby coracle » Jan 01, 2020 8:54 pm

Francis Spufford is famous only for writing Narnian fan fiction and self-publishing his illegally-used work. A friend who has read his other work says it's not very good at all, but that he is good at self-promotion!

I've not heard of the others.
Pullman, of course, hates Narnia and Lewis, and wrote that set of books to oppose Narnia's message. Sad man.
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Re: BBC Radio discussion on LWW — well worth a listen!

Postby Courtenay » Jan 02, 2020 3:40 am

coracle wrote:Francis Spufford is famous only for writing Narnian fan fiction and self-publishing his illegally-used work. A friend who has read his other work says it's not very good at all, but that he is good at self-promotion!


Hmmm, now that's interesting. I hadn't heard of him at all, but I've now looked online and found the NarniaWeb article about his self-published "new Narnia novel", as well as the report on it in The Guardian and another from the Oxford Mail. Obviously many people here will have read about this already, as it came up less than a year ago, but it flew under my radar (I didn't know about NarniaWeb at the time!).

Interesting that Frank Cottrell-Boyce, also featured in the radio discussion, was the person who promoted Spufford's fan-fic by tweeting excerpts from it. However, I must say in the whole of the discussion there is absolutely no mention of any of that — in fact, it's not made clear what connection any of the speakers have with Narnia or with each other, except that they all love The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. So there's no sneaky self-promotion in there at all, which is something.

As for my own thoughts on Spufford's sequel, I actually wouldn't mind reading it to see how good, bad or indifferent it is — and I wouldn't object to it being published IF it could be done legally. I don't think it's a threat to the integrity of Lewis's work, since it's obviously not by the original author and fans can decide for themselves whether to accept it as "canon" or not.

As far as I can make out from the reports, he had it privately printed and has given it to friends, but it doesn't sound like he has actually been trying to sell it for money — that would no doubt bring HarperCollins and the Lewis estate down on him like a ton of bricks. There's a hint at the end of the Guardian article that he might be approaching them about it, but there doesn't seem to have been any more recent news than these articles from March last year. So I would guess that if he did talk to them at all, HarperCollins most likely gave him a polite but firm "no" and Mr Spufford is now just having to keep very quiet about it and wait another 14 years till Lewis's copyright expires and he can publish whatever he likes. :p

Back to the radio discussion, I should add that the only let-down for me was that they only mention right at the very end that Lewis published seven Narnia books in total but none of the others have achieved the iconic status of LWW. I thought that was a bit unfair. The first book published in that series is definitely the most famous, but I should think all of us here who've read the rest would agree that the other books are every bit as good and they all deserve a bit more promotion!!
"Now you are a lioness," said Aslan. "And now all Narnia will be renewed." (Prince Caspian)
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