Feb 3, 2016

The Chronicles of Narnia

When I was in high school, the neopagans, anarchists, stoners, and dungeons-and-dragons players all read The Lord of the Rings.  The fundamentalists, Young Republicans, cheerleaders, and Junior Achievers all read The Chronicles of Narnia.  

C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien were friends, but Tolkien never let his Roman Catholicism intrude into Middle Earth, while Lewis was a conservative Christian apologist whose Chronicles of Narnia (1950-1956) was distinctly theological, even though it was set in a Medieval fantasy world with swords and dragons.

I liked the first four books of the series, which starred the Pevensie children, Peter, Edmund, Susan, Lucy, and eventually their cousin Eustace.  They enter Narnia in various ways to deal with the crisis at hand -- usually an evil woman who has wrested the throne from its rightful male heir -- and  on the way one or the other experiences a personal redemption.

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe: the White Witch, who has made it "always winter and never Christmas"


Prince Caspian: Caspian's evil uncle.
The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. Caspian (played by Ben Barnes, left, in the movie version) leads a quest for the end of the world.
The Silver Chair: a witch with a subterranean lair, who tries to convince them that there is no world outside.

I didn't like the last three:
 The Horse and His Boy: anti-Muslim prejudice.
The Magician's Nephew: a silly tale of the creation of Narnia
The Last Battle: everybody dies!

Unlike Tolkien, C.S. Lewis was aware that gay people exist.  One of his works (I forget which) discusses the proliferation of "the third sex" as a problem of modern culture, and in another, he states that maybe they don't all, necessarily, choose their "disability."

Maybe for that reason, there is no buddy-bonding or male-male rescueing in Narnia. The adventurers come in boy-girl pairs, which effectively eliminated buddy-bonding. Edmund (played by Skandar Keynes, left, in the movie version) and maybe Eustace  are gay-vague: soft, prissy, non-athletic, beset-upon by allergies and the other problems of modern culture -- but they are redeemed, and become exact replicas of the other boys in the series.

But there is no hetero-romance either.  The children -- and most of the adults -- remain blissfully asexual, lacking romantic or erotic interests of any sort.  Marriages sometimes occur in afterthoughts ("And later he got married"), but in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, the four Pevensie children grow into adults, and become co-rulers of Narnia, without ever experiencing or desiring romance.

Those few people who are attracted to someone are evil --in  The Magician's Nephew, evil Uncle Andrew finds the Witch "a dem fine woman."  Or doomed -- in The Last Battle, Susan's interest in dating and romance bars her from Paradise.






The first few of the Chronicles have been filmed twice.  The 1988-89 BBC series starred Richard Dempsey, Jonathan R. Scott, David Thwaites, and Samuel West.  I didn't see it.



The 2005-2010  movie series starred William Moseley (left), Skandar Keynes, Will Poulter, and Ben Barnes.  Executive producer Perry Moore (who died in 2011) was gay, and added some buddy-bonding between Eustace and Caspian.  Not enough to incite audience interest.

See also: Shocking the Nazarenes with C.S. Lewis