Narnia's Popularity -- Messiah Narrative?

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Narnia's Popularity -- Messiah Narrative?

Postby 220chrisTian » Feb 28, 2010 1:59 pm

I read the following on Yale Daily News Online while going through Narnia news last week. The writer, Stephen Marsh, was commenting on someone else's review of his Feb 16 letter to the editor, "Critically Reading."
Construction of a narrative, regardless of how complicated or well-done it is, even if that narrative is plot-driven on surface, is still critical because of the underlying assumptions and arguments it makes.

Narnia's actually a good example. The reason Western society reacts so favorably to Narnia and to messiah narratives in general is because of the historical influence of the Jesus myth. Perhaps you can write out a descriptive plot summary or whatever of what happens in Narnia, but that's not how anyone actually functions and that's not how anyone reads. We read, knowingly or unknowingly, profoundly influenced by the Judeo-Christian narrative, and that influences how much we either like or dislike a book, how we think about the characters or whatever, the list goes on.


So, what are your thoughts? Are the Narnia books and movies popular right now because they contain a Messiah narrative [at least LWW] or is this incidental?

Let the discussion begin!
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Re: Narnia's Popularity -- Messiah Narrative?

Postby Aravis Narnia » Feb 28, 2010 3:16 pm

I have watched and read other works where the main characters are Messianic figures. I have come across works where a character's secret identity is that of a historical figure.

None of them as clear and obvious as Narnia.

Personally speaking, it is the Messianic/Christian aspect what made me love/adore/cherish/relish Narnia so much. I have always liked fantasy...but none I love as much as Narnia because of Aslan's secret identity.

Not trying to get controversial here. But in an age where political correctness and diversity are pushed so much that they are pushing Christianity away, Narnia being Christian fantasy is a welcome relief.
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Re: Narnia's Popularity -- Messiah Narrative?

Postby 220chrisTian » Mar 06, 2010 2:12 pm

in an age where political correctness and diversity are pushed so much that they are pushing Christianity away, Narnia being Christian fantasy is a welcome relief.
Full agreement, Aravis. :D

I'm wondering about the writer's choice of words, i.e. "Jesus myth." I expect as much from Yale. /:) Still, is it true that people are attracted to Narnia's Messianic narrative, even if they're not Christians? Is there something to be said for a "Messianic" thread in Western literature and culture, whether or not it's modern? And is Western society the only one with a Messianic narrative at all? I think it both interesting and disturbing that Marsh connects "Messianic" with "Western." /:)
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Re: Narnia's Popularity -- Messiah Narrative?

Postby Dr Elwin Ransom » Mar 10, 2010 8:14 am

220, I think most of us like the idea of a Messiah or hero-type figure. This seems clear from the most popular of films and books. Superheroes, for example, are almost always "messianic" in their roles.

And almost all of the animated features (except Pixar) have similar themes -- although it gets more than a little annoying. Recently I saw a trailer for a movie that proudly proclaimed it was about Finding the Hero Inside. Stunning, I thought, as opposed to all those other movies about learning you're not a hero and you don't need to follow you dream! Ha ha!

But what we don't like to think about as often is what exactly a hero is saving us from. I put myself in this category, even as a Christian: by default, because of the leftover traces of my sin nature (the old man, as the Apostle Paul called it), I would drift toward thinking I'm a basically good person who just needed a "leg up" to God because of the sacrifice of the ultimate Hero and Messiah, Jesus Christ.

Or I'd like to think my salvation is primarily from other people's mistreatment of me, or the snares of the Devil (though these things are true as well). But I'd rather not think that apart from Him, my rebellion would result in my rightful doom in Hell!

If that's my default religion, as a Christian, how much more is it with those who are not Christians? Most of them want heroes, yes, but they'd rather have heroes who would save them from Oppression and The Badness of Others, not their own sinful actions.

That's why I like it more when a superhero, say, Batman -- or even Spider-Man in the mostly regrettable Spider-Man 3 -- works to save the bad people, not just the Mostly Good People Who Are Oppressed.

That's also why I find more Biblical parallel in Aslan's sacrifice for Edmund, who did not deserve it, than in Aslan's work to save the other Narnians, such as the Fauns or the Beavers, who one could say do "deserve it" because of their selfless nature and virtue.

So it's an odd paradox: cultures want "Messianic" figures and stories, but most often only to save people from other people's sins -- not their own. Scripture is clear otherwise. And it makes the story a lot better, too.
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Re: Narnia's Popularity -- Messiah Narrative?

Postby Faolchú » Mar 11, 2010 3:22 pm

Hey Doc. I think what you said made a whole lot of sense. It is funny to think about people not realizing that they need saving from themselves, they completely skip the whole concept of "I am my own worst enemy." I agree with Aravis too, it is nice to have something that is openly Christian to enjoy. By the way, I just love how this Marsh guy says "whatever" twice in a comment to the Yale Daily...I mean really? I think I would have tried to be a bit more sophisticated.
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Re: Narnia's Popularity -- Messiah Narrative?

Postby 220chrisTian » Mar 12, 2010 9:35 pm

@Doc Ransom: good point on wanting a messianic figure to save us from others instead of ourselves. And I like how you brought in Edmund, who didn't deserve salvation. :)

At the same time, I think you missed my point. You say "most of us like the idea of a Messiah or hero-type figure." So is such a figure universal, or just Western -- as Marsh implies? He seems to see Messianic figures and narratives the way C. S. Lewis did as an atheist ... before his 1931 conversion. And it never occurs to Marsh that the Messianic narrative's universality says something about human nature. /:)
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Re: Narnia's Popularity -- Messiah Narrative?

Postby Elluinas Mirion » Jul 18, 2010 10:35 pm

The messiah narrative is the least of it. "The Matrix" had it, and is not nearly as enduring!

No, it is because Narnia echoes some part of reality as we believe it OUGHT to be. A part of reality that our culture DENIES and HIDES from whether you sit in the Pew, or the Lab.

Why is it that Narnians' dont keep pets? The answer is at the tail end of "Out of the Silent Planet". (I'll post this in a different thread). It is because, like the malacandrians, narnians taste the experience of meeting other sentient beings different and like themselves. They dont need pets in order to know and enjoy the great chain of being, from which Man (well, Western Civilised Man at least) has severed himself and in so doing from both the earth and from heaven - from both his "sulfur" and his "mercury".

BTW, the last page of OSP also reminds us that in addition to sentient "animals" lewis also populated Narnia with sentient beings of the "subtle" body type. Creatures that can endure the vacuum of space, the fires of the sun, or the crushing pressure of Jupiter, as well as our own temperate realm- yet another "thing" that we rarely come into contact in our world ("Africanus" , and other crazies being the rare exception).

Lewis' work is rare in the literature of the West - It is more than a mere "beast fable." The idea of non-human sentient life is anathema to western thought, to roman thought, and, regretably, to a large part of christianity- Man is at the Apex, and God is faaar above the clouds. But in Narnia, God's spirit pervades both animals and trees and even stars. That's not what most of us hear from the pulpit.

The closest thing I've seen in the last 30 years is a movie by Dreamworks about a Stallion, and the one human who could reach into his heart far deeper than Monty Roberts ever will. The one says "I will break you" the other says "great Stallion," I will win your heart. Which reality would we choose?

Or rather, which reality have we chosen? This latter question is the subject of Wolf's Rain (japanese anime, Bones Studio 2003) It is no idle question, and the horror of the west is that too few of us (christian or otherwise) are able to properly pose the question - having become like Uncle Andrew.

As long as this cancer endures, Narnia will remain popular, until the west destroys itself or heals itself.

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Re: Narnia's Popularity -- Messiah Narrative?

Postby Lady Haleth » Jul 19, 2010 11:13 am

Yes, I remember that part in Out of the Silent Planet when Ransom is talking about how the Malacandrians don't need pets. I think people do like Messiah narratives, but its rather paradoxical--we want a rescuer, but we also want to be independent.
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