The Narnian Tarot

My nine-year-old daughter absolutely adores the Chronicles of Narnia. Nothing unusual about that, really — lots of kids do — but why?

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After all, isn’t Narnia Christian allegory? It’s blatantly obvious to anyone who gives it a moment’s thought. But I’ve argued elsewhere that children are natural born pagans. So what’s the attraction? Does Christianity touch something in children, after all? Or is Narnia not wholly Christian?

Is Narnia Really Christian?

Some parts are, and very obviously so. Elements that are commonly cited (just from The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe):

  • The themes of betrayal, death, resurrection, & redemption;
  • The presence of a heavy-handed State that martyrs the hero;
  • The humiliation prior to death;
  • The martyr who sacrifices to save a sinner;
  • Women tending the body are the first to see him resurrected;
  • Aslan suffering Edmund’s penalty, and buying him back from the White Witch, who was entitled to him by reason of his treachery, thus paralleling the Christian theories of satisfaction and ransom;
  • Aslan asking the children to comfort him, as Jesus asked of his disciples;
  • The Stone Table shattering when Aslan is resurrected, just as the curtain in the Temple is rent at Jesus’s resurrection.

However, The Wardrobe can’t be an allegory in the strictest sense. You can’t line up the characters and events precisely and get a nice picture. Why are there four children (and not, say, twelve)? Who is Mr. Tumnus, the faun who tries to seduce Lucy, and then repents and tries to save her? How about the Beavers and Father Christmas? Assuming the White Witch is some kind of amalgam of the Devil and Pontius Pilate, what can we say about her servants, the wolf and the dwarf?…

Lewis himself said that The Wardrobe was no allegory:

“Some people seem to think that I began by asking myself how I could say something about Christianity to children; then fixed on the fairy tale as an instrument; then collected information about child-psychology and decided what age group I’d write for; then drew up a list of basic Christian truths and hammered out “allegories” to embody them. This is all pure moonshine. I couldn’t write in that way at all. Everything began with images; a faun carrying an umbrella, a queen on a sledge, a magnificent lion. At first there wasn’t even anything Christian about them; that element pushed itself in of its own accord.”

— CS Lewis, Of Other Worlds

As he worked with these images, another idea came to him:

“Let us suppose that there were a land like Narnia and that the Son of God, as He became a Man in our world, became a Lion there, and then imagine what would have happened.”

Aslan, then, is a sort of alternate-world Jesus.

The Character of Narnia

What kind of alternate world is Narnia? It wasn’t constructed like Middle-Earth — designed and redesigned over decades, carefully made consistent in history and atmosphere, rich in detail. No, Lewis threw the kitchen sink at Narnia. Mixed up in it are:

  • Tons of overt pagan imagery. On practically every page you can find the reverence for the natural world, the awe in the turning of the seasons, polytheism (Greek and Norse gods actually appear in the books), animism, and nature spirits.
  • Martial heroism. Most of the books culminate in a great battle, in which militarism is praised, despite some of Jesus’s important teachings about peace.
  • The divine right of kings. Peter is planted as the High King by Aslan, and it’s made clear in subsequent books that the King of Narnia always serves at Aslan’s pleasure.
  • Anti-feminism. Just about everyone in Narnia is male, except some of the human children from our world, and of course the Witch. The roles of the male and female children are always carefully kept separate and different.
  • The place of the child’s imagination in the real world. The question of how “real” Narnia is comes up again and again in the books.
  • And possibly Lewis’s ideas about alchemy and astrology. Recently, scholar Michael Ward has suggested that the books are meant to reflect the attributes and symbolism of the seven planets of medieval times: The Wardrobe is Jupiter, Prince Caspian is Mars, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader is the Sun, The Silver Chair is the Moon, The Horse and His Boy is Mercury, The Magician’s Nephew is Venus, and The Last Battle is Saturn. If this is true, the polytheistic character of the books is even more plain.

The Call to the Heart of the Child

So where is the attraction for our pagan children? Well, the pagan elements I listed above are extremely obvious, and that’s got to be part of it. Lewis’s sympathy for his heroes and heroines is also compelling, and on top of that, he’s an engaging author. But take these all together, and you still don’t necessarily have an enduring classic.

I think what’s going on here is that Lewis is channeling not only the Christian story, but the Universal Story — the one echoed in Gilgamesh, the life of the Buddha, King Arthur, Star Wars, and the Tarot. This is the story of the hero who leaves the ordinary world, encounters a place of marvels and tests, achieves a new level of spiritual insight, and returns home again. This, I think, is the story that children connect to when they read the books, and the reason for their enduring popularity.

Rather than belabor the point, I’m going to present an outline for a Narnian Tarot. I can’t think of a better way to show how all the crucial elements of the universal monomyth appear in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.

The Narnian Tarot

TRUMPS

  • Edmund = The Fool; entering the Wardrobe. The adventure begins with the steps into the unknown. More than anyone else, the whole book is Edmund’s journey.
  • The Professor = The Magician Digory Kirke. The hero of The Magician’s Nephew, and the maker of the Wardrobe.
  • Lucy = The High Priestess. Lucy serves to initiate the other children into Narnia by leading them into the Wardrobe. Also, through her good sense, grounded yet sensitive personality, and healing powers (through the vial given to her by Father Christmas), she continues to guide and support the group.
  • Susan = Empress. Headstrong and commanding, but also nurturing.
  • Peter = Emperor. The High King himself, and war hero.
  • Aslan = Heirophant. The spiritual leader of Narnia, even in absentia.
  • The Beavers = Lovers. This one was hard, given the nature of the book — the Lovers theme simply is not well developed. But the love between the Beavers, and their love for Narnia and Aslan, are essential parts of the story.
  • The Sleigh = Chariot. This represents both the Witch’s Sledge and Santa’s sleigh, which are contrasted sharply in the book.
  • Deep Magic from the Dawn of Time = Justice. This is the unbreakable law that Aslan and the Witch must both follow.
  • Mr. Tumnus = The Hermit. Another hard one, but it seems to fit, given the fact that he lives alone at the edge of Narnia, and his singular emotional journey.
  • The Wardrobe = The Wheel of Fortune. It is both the container of the world, and the doorway that leads to changes in fortune.
  • Strength = Strength: Lucy and Susan on Aslan’s back. Not only does this nicely match the original Tarot image, but the scene in which they ride him is a celebration of Aslan’s strength and power.
  • The Stone Table = The Hanged Man. No one is on the table in the card, since Edmund should be on it, but Aslan takes his place.
  • The Stone Knife = Death. The ritual object to be used with the Stone Table, the Stone Knife is a primal tool.
  • Deeper Magic from Before the Dawn of Time = Temperance. Transcending justice and earthly law, the Deeper Magic allows Aslan to save Edmund’s life.
  • The White Witch = The Devil. All traitors “belong” to her, and it is clear she is unmitigated evil.
  • The Wand = The Tower. In the final battle, Edmund breaks the Witch’s wand, destroying her power.
  • The Lamp Post = The Star. Appearing at the beginning and end of the book, leading the way to the next stage of life.
  • Winter = The Moon. Narnia lies asleep, preparing to be awakened by the Sons of Adam and the Daughters of Eve.
  • Spring = The Sun. All of Narnia comes alive under Aslan.
  • The Breath of Aslan = Judgment. Aslan returns and nature spirits from sleep by breathing on them.
  • Cair Paravel = The World. The final goal; the place from which the characters rule all of Narnia.

SUITES

  • Vials. Representing water; from Lucy’s Christmas present of the vial of healing potion.
  • Swords. Representing air; from Peter’s Christmas present of a sword and shield.
  • Arrows. Representing fire; from Susan’s Christmas present of a bow and arrows.
  • Stones. Representing earth; from the Stone Table and Stone Knife, the implements of Edmund’s present, redemption.

One day it might be neat to make this deck. I’d definitely choose illustrations from Pauline Baynes for the cards…

However, since the book reflects Lewis’s worldview, it doesn’t provide a full, three-dimensional exemplar of each of these archetypes. Edmund the Fool, for example, is already flawed and in need of redemption when the book begins; and other trumps are similarly incomplete in character, as noted above. I find myself wondering what it would take to “flesh out” these archetypes, to bring them more closely in line with the universal story. For example, suppose Edmund were a girl. Would that make his struggle with the Witch even more meaningful? Should Kirke, the Magician, have played a more overt role? How could the Lovers have been better represented in the story?…

And then there are the other six books. Working with them is left as an exercise for the reader…

80 Comments Add yours

  1. Aja Calhoun says:

    I have to say I first read the Narnian Chronicals when I was 8 or 9 and I was deeply touched by them. The land of Narnia was a land that I wanted to go to it was a place I deeply believed in and it still effects me to this day. I recieved an illustrated color edition of the books when I was 20 and I still go back to them every couple of years. Especially to book three The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, its my favorite book. (I also liked the movie The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe that Disney produced a few years ago, but I have to admit I’m waiting till movie three comes out before I pay 10.00 bucks at the theater again!)

    Now when it comes to Christian overtones I honestly didn’t get it until a freind of mine pionted it out in highschool. I mean Jesus is Aslan! Now way. Well he did come back from the dead that should of been my first tip off. It might of crossed my mind at one time in my pre-adolescent days, but I just said Nah that’s one of those things where I as the reader infer my own knowledge onto the work that’s not what is at the core of the work. And I just kept reading. Boy was I wrong!

    Yet I still do love the Narnian Chronicals they just mean that much to me. I did spend one disasterous year at Christian High School and while I was there I found C. S. Lewis’ Peralandra books on the reading list. (Basically think of Paradise Lost in Space.) I didn’t understand why they were on the list until someone explained it to me. Tried Peralandra didn’t make it. Instead I tried to tackel Pilgrims Progress. I can’t wait for the day we have Pagan Schools!

    Sorry for the mini-bio. I just have to say there is much more to the man, than just being labeled a Christian and writing off is work. His body of work is impressive from religious, fiction, to scholarly works. I didn’t read anything else by C.S. Lewis for a long time, because of what I thought were Christian overtones. But that like most narrow beleifs and urban legends are complete bunk! So I’m going to look into his critiques of literature now.

    I’m happy to of read the Narnian Chronicals so young. It led me onto Ray Bradbury, then onto Frank Herbert. I’m happy to be a little different from my freinds. I read Dune first and The Lord of the Rings when the movies came out. I also read all the books (I mean pre-quils and everything afterwards.) Take that 18 books of the Simarilion!

    Dune. Fiction. Pagan yes or no? When it comes to philosophy and morality it has taught me a lot.

    Love, Life the Universe and everything,
    aja

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  2. Erik says:

    Aja,
    Dawn Treader was always my favorite as well. Reepicheep forever!

    Jeff,
    Intriguing idea. Somehow I doubt the Lewis estate would license it… although I suspect the man himself might at least have given it some thought. I’ve always found Lewis unconvincing as a Christian apologist; by which I mean not just that he doesn’t convince me of the Truth of Christianity (which he doesn’t, obviously), but that I’m not convinced of his absolute convincement.

    This may be due partly to the unorthodoxy that Kullervo wrote about the other day, but I think it has more to do with his obvious love for all things mythological. Even as a child being raised in a highly Christian environment, I “believed” his satyrs, centaurs and dryads much more than I did the whole Jesus-lion bit – and I felt like they came more from his heart than he would admit. I think that’s why I felt so betrayed when I finally got to The Last Battle and realized he was indeed going to throw all that away for a “pot o’ message”.

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  3. Jeff Lilly says:

    Ok, I admit: I’m a Dawn Treader guy myself. πŸ™‚

    Aja, I definitely agree there’s a lot more to Lewis than just the label “Christian apologist”, and I agree with Erik that his descriptions of pagan elements were moving and believable because he himself believed them and was moved by them. I think he recognized this, though, and admitted it. From what I’ve read, Lewis would never have become Christian if Tolkien hadn’t shown him that you didn’t have to give up all your pagan friends to be Christian. πŸ™‚ They’re quite open-minded in that way…

    Apparently Lewis was fascinated by all things medieval, so I hope he’d be open to the idea of a Narnian Tarot. Certainly he wouldn’t equate it with Witchcraft and the Divvil, as some of his online critics do.

    Aja, you brought up Dune and wondered how pagan its themes might be. I haven’t read as much of it as you have — I’ve only read Herbert’s original stuff, none of the prequels and such — so you’re probably in a better position to say, but offhand I’d say the Christian (and Muslim and Buddhist) elements are much more in evidence there, given its focus on messianic themes. There’s also the pervasive Individual-Vs.-Powerful-State theme, which isn’t often dealt with in pagan myths because they’re generally older than states. Neat question!

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  4. Jeff Lilly says:

    Oh yeah, Erik — “Pot o’ message!” I laughed my head off!!

    The ending of the Last Battle is really forced. I wonder what he would have written if he’d thrown away the script and spoken from the heart. What should the ending have been?…

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  5. Erik says:

    I don’t think Dune is particularly pagan (not intended to be, anyway), but there’s certainly an environmentalist message in there. That may be what we’re picking up on…

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  6. Erik says:

    Lewis was more than “fascinated” by the Middle Ages, actually – it was his academic specialty. He was true Medievalist, and some of his scholarly work on the subject – “The Allegory of Love” from the 1930s and “The Discarded Image” from the 1960s are the ones I have read – is still relevant.

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  7. Jeff – if you make THE NARNIAN TAROT, I aim to buy it. (Its mere existence should royally “tee off” those folks who regard Narnia as primarily/solely something for “pushing” Christianity: a sort of “kiddie Bible” with different miracles and characters.)

    You correctly see a need (in a Narnian Tarot) to “flesh out” themes not fully expressed in THE LION, THE WITCH, AND THE WARDROBE … and also a need to cover more than one book of the series. May I suggest that the second need answers the first? As “The Lovers,” for instance, a Narnian Tarot could present a couple from VOYAGE OF THE DAWN TREADER: Prince Caspian and the daughter of Ramandu the fallen star — whom I must refer to by such awkward periphrasis, because Lewis nowhere bothers to give her a name!

    Regarding Narnian Tarot suit-assignments: Vials = Water, Stones = Earth seem logical … but dare I suggest that you interchange the suit-assignments for Arrows and Swords? You have Arrows = Fire and Swords = Air … but that sort of thing has always seemed, well, backwards to me: because arrows fly through air but swords cannot exist without fire. (So why not Arrows = Air, Swords = Fire? Does some good reason command *not* doing it that way?)

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  8. Clare says:

    Great post! I’m 21 and still adore the Narnia series, despite the Christianity and anti-feminism–and you’ve mentioned some of the reasons why, such as the strong pagan presence. And THANK YOU for mentioning that Aslan is an alternate-world Jesus. From many of the things that he says to the children, that’s made abundantly clear. In one book (I think it must be Dawn Treader) he says, “In your world I am called by a different name, and you must learn to know me better there.” (I’m sure that’s not an exact quote, but it’s the gist.) I recently had to roll my eyes at a MAD magazine mocking of the series, in which they said that some think Aslan is a replacement Jesus. He’s not a replacement at all!

    Sigh. Anyway, I also wanted to say that if you were to make that deck, I would buy it in a heartbeat πŸ˜‰

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  9. Sarah Watts says:

    At first guess, Jeff, I believe Mr. Tomnos (and yes, I do think I’m misspelling, forgot to go character by character with the screen reader…) may well be Peter- The one who denied Jesus three times then came with him to the cross, or perhaps Judis who betrayed him, then threw the money at those who pade him to do the deed. And the more I think about it, the more I like that senario. Having read the Bible and grown up under it, that would be my take. But not having read it in a few years, my memmory’s just a bit rusty. πŸ™‚

    It’s od to think that during my college years, and maybe even a little before, I would have taken offense to this deck-making, but now I wouldn’t be adverse to buying it, even as a gift for someone. πŸ™‚ I rather like the idea, actually, it’s entriguing.

    Someone baught me the entire series on CD, and I’ve yet to sit down with it. Though like C. S. I think I’ve always believed in things unseen in some form or other since I can remember, even if I had no true conscious knowledge, and no true speech for what they were; I just knew somewhere in me that they were there-always there.

    Sarah who very much enjoys reading these entries! πŸ™‚

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  10. I think that your Hanged Man/Stone Table card should show Aslan bound onto the table, alone just after the stabbing after the Witch has pulled out the knife. Show Edmund silhouetted as a tiny figure in the distance, lying asleep among his siblings in the same position as the bound Aslan.

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  11. Or you could show Aslan with the knife still stuck in him (instead of just after the Witch finished cutting) — I think the image would work either way, but I suggested showing the wound with the knife removed so that people don’t mix it up with the Knife/Death card.

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  12. Jeff Lilly says:

    You know, I had not even considered making this deck — but the response here is so encouraging, I wonder if I should?

    Presumably these characters are not in the public domain, i.e. they are copyrighted. However, (a) there’s always the “parody” defense, and (b) I wouldn’t be “selling” them, since I would give them away, and folks could give a donation if they wanted. I think my legal ground would be pretty solid.

    Hmmm….

    Kate, these are lots of neat ideas! If I sit down to make the deck, I’ll have to make sure I blog about the process, so that I can get more ideas from you — and anyone else who’s struck with inspiration! For the Stone Table, I was actually thinking of showing the Table cracked.

    Sarah, that’s an excellent interpretation of Mr. Tumnus. Which means I may need a different character for The Hermit. I bet there’s a good character in one of the other books… Perhaps I should try to work Eustace, Jill, and Polly among the other trumps, as well.

    As for the Lovers — you know, the Horse and his Boy might make a fine pair. (I know they’re both guys, and not even the same species, but the card isn’t really about physical Love anyway. πŸ™‚ )

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  13. Jeff, I do hope you make the deck … and blog about it! For now …

    /1/ To my mind, representing the Hanged Man by a cracked Stone Table would seem as odd as representing the Hanged Man by a broken and empty gallows … UNLESS … hmmm, what if you showed the Stone Table cracking with Aslan still on it? Now, THAT would mean much!

    /2/ For the Hermit — how about the hermit in THE HORSE AND HIS BOY?

    /3/ I would very much like to see the trumps include Eustace, Jill, and Polly. There or elsewhere, I think you also need to include Frank and Helen (the first King and Queen of Narnia, according to THE MAGICIAN’S NEPHEW).

    /4/ When you get to the Swords suit, one of the cards should show the scene in THE SILVER CHAIR where Rilian chops up the chair with his sword — another card should show the scene where Jill, Eustace, _et_al._ cause a commotion at that rotten school which eventually gets things changed for the better.

    /5/ Some card in (probably) either the Vials or the Stones suit should show the wild pagan revel (Maenads,, turning priggish boys into pigs, etc.) in PRINCE CASPIAN — especially since the movie (predictably!) trimmed this down to a talking tidal-wave followed by a rather staid cheers-and-flowers victory procession down one street of Beruna.

    /6/ The Lovers could reasonably show Shasta and Bree — though doubtless this inevitably and lethally pegs your deck, in the nasty-minded media, as “the gay bestiality Tarot.” (Folks *do* say “any publicity helps, if they don’t misspell your name,” but I wonder … ) What about representing The Lovers as Shasta and Aravis? (almost as improbable yet well-suited a pair, in many ways … ) Perhaps show their wedding …
    ALSO: Having Shasta and Aravis as The Lovers frees Ramandu’s nameless daughter to portray The Star, where I think she would fit very well.

    /7/ Some card in the Stones suit should represent Charn’s Hall of Images (before Digory awakens Queen Jadis)

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  14. Sarah Watts says:

    I love these ideas, Kate!
    Yes, perhaps, but I still think Mr. Tumnus should be in there somewhere, if only to show that despite mistakes people can still have good in them no matter what others say. Didn’t he become a rather important part of that particular story?

    Ok think I’d better go, woke up a bit earlier than planned. πŸ™‚

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  15. Yes, definitely the NARNIAN TAROT should include Mr. Tumnus. … though I haven’t a clue where he would fit best!

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  16. Jeff Lilly says:

    Kate, more thoughts:

    1: I don’t think that my artistic skills would be up to rendering the very moment of Aslan’s resurrection! The idea of the cracked Stone Table is that it symbolizes the moment of resurrection.

    2: I don’t even remember the Hermit in The Horse and His Boy! Obviously I’m going to have to re-read these books before I start this project!

    3: Frank and Helen: absolutely. Perhaps among the suites, as King and Queen of … something. πŸ™‚

    4-7: Excellent ideas!

    Perhaps Mr. Tumnus would do well among the suites. He might make a great Page of the Fire suite (whatever symbol that ends up having).

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  17. Thanks for your comments; so now I get your rationale for the cracked Table.

    Frank and Helen strike me as very down-to-earth folks, so could it work to make them King and Queen of Stones? (NOTE: I think that Frank’s card should show him feeding his now-winged horse Fledge — perhaps with a dim backdrop showing their old lives back on Earth, by having Frank’s and Fledge’s shadows form a black-on-gray silhouette of Frank in the old days giving the horse a rub-down.)

    And I can certainly see Tumnus as Page of whatever-will-represent-Fire.

    Mr.

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  18. Jeff Lilly says:

    Kate, these ideas of yours are inspired. Are you sure YOU aren’t the one that should be making this deck??

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  19. Sarah Watts says:

    Hmm….

    I like the fire idea. However, if you would like to keep the elemental things as they are, satyrs/fawns are usually of the earth element- From what I’ve read anyway.

    But seeing Mr. Tumnus’ personality, I Think he might be an acception; wasn’t he one of the more tenacious fighters later on in the movie? It’s been a while since I’ve had a chance to sit down for it. πŸ™‚

    Sarah

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  20. Jeff Lilly says:

    I definitely associate Mr. Tumnus with fire, probably because of (a) we first meet him by the Lamp-Post, (b) he has that wonderfully warm fire in his home, (c) his naturally bouncy personality, and (d) he’s associated with Lucy, and the name Lucy is one of fire/light. (Maybe the Vials should be associated with Fire?)

    In the book, he isn’t mentioned during the fighting.

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  21. Jeff, thanks for praising my ideas! As to whether I, not you, should make the deck … well, I draw/paint noticeably less well than I type. What if I leave the artwork to abler hands, and keep on confining myself to giving descriptions?

    And … I definitely agree with you on Tumnus’ fiery nature.

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  22. I should add, Jeff, that seeing any notion of mine called “inspired” (with emphasis, no less!) feels a bit odd to one who has good reason to regard herself as spiritually crippled (and it seems ineluctably so, barring some miracle[s[ involving time-travel).

    If you ever want to know more about how a person gets to that point, let me know (the series of events/observations would fit very well into your “religion-as-language” metaphor, to the point that you could use them as clear examples of applying this metaphor) … but brace yourself if you decide you do.

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  23. Re:

    “(Maybe the Vials should be associated with Fire?)”

    Good point! After all, the healing liquid in Lucy’s vial comes from the juices of fire-flowers that grow on the Narnian Sun. So illustrate each vial as containing (and glowing with) a tiny flame,

    This means selecting something else for water, so … I suggest:

    WATER = Tears
    (of Aslan or of other beasts or humans:
    this DOES NOT make the suit all sad,
    as tears of joy can appear in joyful scenes)
    FIRE = Vials
    AIR = Arrows
    EARTH = Stones

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  24. Erik says:

    Jeff and Kate,
    Perhaps you should just give up now and realize that you ought to collaborate! πŸ™‚ I’d love to contribute myself somehow, but “I don’t know nothin’ bout no tarot.”

    Now you just have to find an artist and a really good copyright lawyer…

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  25. If Jeff asks me to collaborate, I will — if he tells me what cards he needs ideas for, I’ll suggest the ideas and he can draw the ideas he approves. Jeff, do you know of any reliable on-line guide to Tarot card meanings?

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  26. Jeff Lilly says:

    Hmm… I was originally thinking that making the decks available would not violate copyright law, as long as they weren’t sold. However, looking over Wikipedia’s article more carefully, copyright seems to preclude anyone from creating derivative works. If anyone has any insight on that, I’d be very grateful.

    Kate, I think Erik is right: collaboration is the only way to go. πŸ™‚ I had planned on doing the art myself — something simple and stylized (since that’s what I can handle πŸ™‚ ).

    Regarding the elements/suites: I’d wanted to pair up each suite with one of the children in The Wardrobe, specifically with their gift. If Susan’s Arrows are Air, and Lucy’s Vials are Fire, and Edmund’s Stone (Table & Knife) is Earth, that leaves Peter’s Sword as Water, and that seems very unintuitive. I’d be inclined to move Swords back over to Air, but Arrows don’t make very good Water either. πŸ™‚ Perhaps this pairing of children/gifts/elements is misguided in any case…

    …In which case we can look further abroad for good symbols. For Air, for example: Mercury is associated with Air, and Planet Narnia suggests that The Horse and His Boy is associated with Mercury. That book might be a rich source of Air symbolism. I think Tears is a fantastic idea for Water, though…

    By the way, Erik, I looked into the Buddha Tarot, and I got the deck, and I have to say I am totally blown away! It’s really fantastic. I need to get the book, too…

    And Kate: you say you’re spiritually crippled. If by that you mean you have no connection to the Otherworld, well, that’s obviously false. πŸ™‚ I would be interested in hearing your story, but your decision to share it is a personal one and I’d never ask you to do that.

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  27. Erik says:

    Jeff,
    Yes, I’m finding the book vitally important to getting deeper into that deck. Glad you like it!

    Kate,
    http://www.learntarot.com looks like a good place to start – they have an online tarot course. Based on the little I know about it, they don’t seem terribly “out there”…

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  28. Erik says:

    I’m not sure that this tarot deck would qualify as a “derivative work”, since except for the names of characters themselves, and references to the story lines, it consists mainly of original work… but I’m not a lawyer.

    There’s a Lord of the Rings Tarot – it might be worth trying to find out how that happened, and if the Tolkien estate had anything to say about it.

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  29. Jeff Lilly says:

    According to Forbes (http://www.forbes.com/2002/08/12/0812deadintro_print.html), Tolkien’s estate gets a percentage on the Tarot decks. I know that Tolkien’s estate has been especially vigorous in making sure that copyrights are protected and all sorts of names are trademarked and so forth. Has the estate of CS Lewis trademarked “Aslan”? I have no idea (the word is actually Turkish for “lion”, I believe, but I think it can still be trademarked). In one spot I found a forum where someone said she’d made a deck inspired by Dune (wouldn’t that be something!) and she’d been warned by the lawyers of the Herbert estate that she couldn’t do that. So she removed the “inspired by Dune” comment, and they didn’t bother her anymore.

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  30. Jeff — about my own background, I’ll tell you sometime later (but before the end of this year, I hope) /a/ because the story will take a while, and /b/ because I hope first to see whether any of my own background appears in the “inner landscape” that I know you still aim to draw for me from your intuitive perception of What I’ve Got Inside.

    Re: “copyright seems to preclude anyone from creating derivative works. If anyone has any insight on that, IÒ€ℒd be very grateful.” —

    You may need to find out (and adopt/adapt) whatever arrangement allowed the legal existence of a Tolkien Tarot, and/or get yourself a good lawyer ASAP — as it happens, I married a good lawyer who has recently retired, but who remains willing to discuss matters of potential interest (He doesn’t specialize in intellectual property law, but he seemed intrigued by the notion of a Narnia Tarot. He might at the least help you find a lawyer specializing in intellecual property, so let me know if you want me to privately send you my husband’s name and e-mail address.)
    You may find it useful to name the deck something other than “Narnia Tarot” — just to keep you from getting sued over Narnia. What about calling it “the Wardrobe Tarot” and following the DUNE deck’s lead by NOT saying, anywhere, “Inspired by Narnia”? Further, for the same reason, you may want to keep specific Narnia references out of card-names: e.g., call Frank’s card “the King of Stones” instead of calling it “King of Stones: Frank” — the guidebook could similarly describe rather than name the characters (“the Lion” instead of “Aslan,” and so forth).

    Re:
    “Erik is right: collaboration is the only way to go. πŸ™‚ I had planned on doing the art myself … ”
    Okay — let’s collaborate! You list for me what cards you need ideas for, I’ll give you ideas, you do the art.

    I agree with you on the problems if you pair up the children with the elements/suits, unless you move Lucy’s Vials back to Water.

    I’ll leave it entirely to you which way you want to go on this: keep the children/suits relationship which allows Vials to equal Water, or go with Vials = Fire, perhaps Tears = Water, and discard the children/suits relationship. (I can very easily collaborate using either approach, but for obvious reasons I’d need ASAP to know which approach you decide on).

    If you go with the children/suits relationship, then I entirely agree that Edmund must get Stones which must stand for Earth. As you say, neither Swords nor Arrows could reasonably stand for Water, so it looks as if you would indeed need to go with Vials for Water: the children=suits idea appeals to me enough that (given this rationale) I would say “Why not go with it?”
    Peter’s sword would then reasonably go with Fire (this fits his temperament) and Susan’s arrows would therefore reasonably go with Air (which likewise suits her temperament).

    I’d consider it extra-good if we can even work in the “Planet Narnia” scheme somewhere (HORSE AND HIS BOY = Mercury, LAST BATTLE = Saturn, and all the rest). E.g., cards showing HORSE AND HIS BOY scenes would have their scenes drawn to include color-schemes/geometrical shapes/objects related in some way to Mercury.

    So, if you list for me (via e-mail?) what cards you need ideas for, I’ll start reading the LearnTarot site to see what I need to know to generate ideas that make sense.

    Like

  31. Jeff Lilly says:

    Ok, Kate, sounds like we have a plan! I will email you soon. I will gather together my ideas and get back to you as soon as possible.

    There is no way I can afford a lawyer. πŸ™‚ Perhaps it would be safest to simply go with the “Wardrobe Tarot” idea…

    Like

  32. Jeff — since you have no way to afford a lawyer, my husband has agreed to advise you for free: for a time, at least, and quite possibly for longer. (I’ll privately send you his name, e-mail address, and phone number)

    His first word of advice: Don’t charge a cent for this item! (advice I know you had already determined to follow) Offering the item for free demonstrates that you do not make money off of it and do not intend to make money off of it.

    Like

  33. Steve Hayes says:

    Very interesting post. I’m glad you point out the error of calling the Narnian stories “allegory”, which so many people seem to do. They have Christian (and pagan) symbolism, but there is a difference between symbolism and allegory.

    While some of your correspondences fit quite well, especially Susan and Peter, others don’t.

    Edmund, from your description, seem to fit the Juggler rather than the Fool.

    Prof Kirke is not the Magician, but the Magician’s nephew.

    I don’t think a Narnian Tarot would be a good idea. It seems to me that that would just be another way of trying to “zllegorise” it, and, as you say, it doesn’t exactly fit.

    It might be better to recognise that some of the themes in Narnia are also symbolised in the Tarot, and that each can illiminate and be illuminated by the other, but trying to force exact correspondences would distort both.

    Like

  34. Jeff Lilly says:

    Thanks for your comments and suggestions, Steve.

    I agree Edmund isn’t a great fit for the Fool; maybe it would be better to show Polly and Diggory jumping into a pool in the Wood Between the Worlds. πŸ™‚ And I’m sure someone better could be found for the Magician. (I don’t think “the Magician” himself would be a good choice; he’s more of a Shadow Magician, in a Jungian sense.) But in this example, I was only working with the first book.

    I don’t think a Tarot of Narnia would be forcing the books into an allegorical relation. I think the relation already exists, and creating a Tarot version would only serve to illuminate that relation. The Tarot, I think, is a framework of a universal story — perhaps the universal story — and immortal tales tend to match up with it.

    Like

  35. Having read Steve’s post and thought about the matter a bit, I entirely agree that Polly & Digory jumping into the pool in the Wood between the Worlds would make an unsurpassable WARDROBE TAROT representation of The Fool.

    For The Magician/Juggler, I can see a bit of sense in picking Edmund (in any scene where he lies to someone … or lies to himself) … BUT I think it’d make far *more* sense to set the Magician/Juggler as Digory’s Uncle Andrew.

    Uncle Andrew’s character traits entirely fit him for the role —

    willingness to deceive others —

    very strong notion of his own superiority to the people he deceives — he believes that he possesses a superior knowledge/power/etc. that entitles him to pull scams on others whom he regards as his rightful victims (the way that a con-man regards the “chumps” who watch & volunteer for his tricks) —

    amoral attitude: Uncle Andrew says more than once that he believe that rules and moral principles apply only to others, not to those of his own high intellect and ambitions.

    And —
    Lewis very explicitly identifies Uncle Andrew (more than once, and VERY prominently!) as a magician.

    Given a series with a book actually titled THE MAGICIAN’S NEPHEW, I can’t see *not* making that book’s magician The Magician.

    Like

  36. If you see a reason for *not* having Digory’s Uncle Andrew as The Magician … how about portraying The Magician via a close-up of Queen Jadis offering the magical Turkish Delight? … filling the card with just Jadis’ face and her hands holding the tray, drawn from Edmund’s point of view, and therefore offering the tray to the person who sees the card (for that person — standing in Edmund’s place — to accept or reject).

    Like

  37. Jeff Lilly says:

    Hey Kate,

    I think your conception of the Magician must be different than mine. πŸ™‚ I tend to equate the card with the Jungian archetypal magician, which I discussed in this old post. To quote from that:

    “This is the archetype of knowledge and mind, esoteric power, time and space. Nature is bound to the will, and the secrets of the universe are known. Language and thought are the magicianÒ€ℒs province and strength… In actuality, the magician archetype has two subtypes: the magician and the shadow magician. The shadow magician uses power for his own ends, in immature ways. In Norse mythology, Loki is the shadow magician; Odin is both the king and the mature magician.”

    I think that Uncle Andrew is a magnificent example of the Shadow Magician. However, I think the Tarot card really represents the mature Magician, and as such it requires someone who uses esoteric power for selfless ends…

    Like

  38. Okay, got it! If we need someone who uses esoteric power for selfless ends, I see three possibilities here:

    Professor Cornelius (in PRINCE CASPIAN)
    or
    Ramandu (in VOYAGE OF THE DAWN TREADER)
    or
    Aslan himself (especially in THE LION, THE WITCH, AND THE WARDROBE but, of course, in all the other books too).

    One could argue for, or against, any of these as the best choice for a “Magician” WARDROBE TAROT card. Which seems best to you?

    Like

  39. Jeff Lilly says:

    I suppose there is also Coriakin, the wizard/star in charge of the Duffers, who also appears in the Dawn Treader?

    My gut says Cornelius, though. In the Campbell version of the Journey of the Hero, one of the first things encountered by the hero is “Supernatural Help”, frequently in the form of a magician or witch who gives the hero a magic sword or something similar. In Star Wars, the role is played by Obi-Wan, who gives Luke the light saber. Cornelius definitely plays this role in Prince Caspian. And I think the Magician card in the Tarot partly represents this character.

    Like

  40. Yes — I’d forgotten about Coriakin, because (as you say) he appears in the same book as Ramandu. And he certainly did use his powers to help the folks that Aslan set him to care for … little though they valued his help!
    But Professor (Doctor?) Cornelius, I agree with you, would fit the Magician card even better than anyone else you or I named. So in what scene shall we show him? The obvious one — on top of the tower with Caspian at night, looking at the stars and explaining their portents to the Prince — unfortunately comes much too close to some of the earliest Tarot decks’ picture for another card (The Star — some early decks illustrate The Star with robed men, presumably astronomers/astrologers, looking at the night sky).

    And the other obvious possibility — the first that we see of Cornelius, telling Caspian to open to a certain page in the grammar textbook — seems …

    /a/ not sufficiently related to the card’s meaning (even if we give full weight to the history of the words “grammar” and “glamour”: which we cannot expect all our customers to think about in any case),

    and /b/in any case rather boring — particularly when we consider that Lewis has made it plain that Caspian gets his lesson from a most unglamorously boring grammar-text indeed (Lewis names the textbook’s author by two Latin words which literally translate as “Dusty Dry.”)

    So what should “The Magician”/Doctor Cornelius depict? I suggest that this card should show the moment when Cornelius gives Caspian the magic horn of Queen Susan, with warnings to use it only at the greatest need. This definitely fits the theme of “Supernatural Help” that you mention (old, wise guide conferring magical item upon young hero).

    By the way … since you mention STAR WARS (and Obi-Wan giving Luke the lightsaber), if you google “star wars” + “tarot” you’ll note that this search yields links including one to somebody’s STAR WARS Tarot in progress.

    And I keep thinking that somebody somewhere should do a STAR TREK Tarot: with Kirk/Spock/McCoy/Scott as kings of the four suits, for example.

    Kirk for Fire … Spock for Air … McCoy for Water … Scott for Earth —

    or perhaps call the suits Plasma, Gas, Liquid, and Solid in a futuristic deck … hmmm …

    seventy-eight STAR TREK Original Series episodes *and* seventy-eight Tarot cards — coincidence?)

    πŸ˜‰

    Like

  41. Jeff Lilly says:

    I love your idea for Cornelius’s card, Kate. (Notice that his name is related to the word “horn”, too!) The Star Wars Tarot… That just might be a must-buy. For a while, when I had disposable income, I collected Tarot decks. I adore the things…

    Star Trek: I read a fascinating article long ago talking about the character structure of the original Star Trek crew. This person said that the three characters Kirk, Spock, and McCoy showed different combinations of Emotion (McCoy), Logic (Spock), and Emotion+Logic (Kirk). Of course, there’s a fourth possible permutation: neither one. That would be the Enterprise. If you add another feature (Service), you get the supporting characters: Scotty (Logic + Service), Sulu (Emotion + Service), Uhura (Logic + Emotion + Service), Chekov (pure Service). I think that rounds out all the possible permutations of those three features. I think it’s pretty elegant, and it would be neat to see that in a Star Trek Tarot.

    As for the coincidence of cards and episodes: I bet something could be said about the number of weeks in a year (x3 years) and the number of cards in the deck. Something that could be said by someone rather cleverer than me. πŸ˜‰

    Like

  42. I actually knew about the name “Cornelius” relating to the English “horn” … and I imagine that Lewis did, too!

    I’d love to see a STAR TREK Tarot that enacted the permutations you’ve laid out … and I assume that someone, somewhere, has indeed also laid out seasonal/calendar correlations with Tarot, given that people have found an abundance of these and similar correlations (as well as religious/spiritual correlations) for ordinary playing-cards: see http://www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Deck_of_Cards
    for a sampling of typical material and links.

    Like

  43. For further details about various deck of cards/calendar connections, plow through this (I say “plow through” because some of the most interesting stuff appears in the middle/end of the piece … ) — http://www.snopes.com/glurge/cards.asp

    Like

  44. Jeff Lilly says:

    Awesome links, Kate. Thanks!

    Like

  45. For Jeff and others to comment on:

    all Major Arcana card suggestions for THE WARDROBE TAROT —

    FOOL – Digory and Polly jump into a pool in the Wood Between the Worlds

    MAGICIAN – Doctor Cornelius gives Caspian the horn of Queen Susan

    HIGH PRIESTESS – Lucy leads her brothers and sister into the Wardrobe

    THE EMPRESS – close-up of Susan as hostess at a Narnian royal ball

    THE EMPEROR – close-up of Peter having won the fight with King Miraz

    HIEROPHANT – Aslan at Cair Paravel

    LOVERS – Shasta and Aravis at their wedding

    CHARIOT – a silhouetted sleigh with occupant/contents visible but not identifiable: we cannot tell who steers it — the White Witch, or Father Christmas?

    STRENGTH – Lucy and Susan on Aslan’s back as the sun rises after his resurrection

    HERMIT – the hermit who shelters Aravis, Shasta, Hwin, and Bree on their way northward in THE HORSE AND HIS BOY

    WHEEL OF FORTUNE – the Wardrobe

    JUSTICE – the White Witch plunges the knife into Aslan’s heart

    THE HANGED MAN – the (empty) Stone Table

    DEATH – the Stone Knife

    TEMPERANCE – probably your original suggestion (Deeper Magic from Before the Dawn of Time) — illustrate this by a single ray of light beaming *up* from the surface of the Stone Table and *through* Aslan’s body lying on the table.

    DEVIL -the Lady of the Green Kirtle (who kidnapped Prince Rilian in THE SILVER CHAIR) in the scene where she drugs/hypnotizes Rilian and the travelers to believe the non-existence of the sun, the upper world, and Aslan

    TOWER – I suggest showing a scene from PRINCE CASPIAN that the movie trimmed beyond recognition: the incidents in the reclaiming of Beruna where Aslan and his Greek-mythology allies destroy some architecture that had oppressed the locals (a misguided school & the bridge that had held captive a river-god). You could make the school look like a tower, and/or put towers on the bridge: show the architecture collapsing as the captives run free.

    STAR – Ramandu’s daughter, when first caught sight of by Caspian and his crew as they approach Ramandu’s island in VOYAGE OF THE DAWN TREADER.

    MOON – Winter in Narnia, as you suggest: deep, frozen, arctic, bluish, and apparently unchangeable: snow and ice everywhere: show it in the dead of night, under a chilly full moon.

    SUN – Spring in Narnia, with the sun rising high in the sky and everything in vivid springtime colors. If possible, show spring *advancing* through the card (as the sleigh-riders see it advances through the land in THE LION, THE WITCH, AND THE WARDROBE) — do this by having just a little ice-turning-to-thaw at the bottom-and-left of the card, having spring in full May/early June bloom at the top-and-right, and intermediate stages of spring going on in between (February-merging-into-March-merging-into-April-[etc.])

    JUDGMENT – as you suggest: Aslan re-awakening the White Witch’s stone “statues” (good animals/creatures/spirits) by breathing on them

    THE WORLD – as you suggest: Cair Paravel. I suggest showing the four children enthroned in the castle (if possible, arranged to suggest a mandala) — perhaps show, to left and right of the castle (just at the edges of the card), two gigantic, golden, but stylized and not-quite-substantial lion-paws: drawn so as to make it difficult to know for sure whether they are stylized paws or stylized bits of landscape (summer/autumn landscape, to make the gold appear plausible?) or paws-blending-into-landscape? (Or leave out the lion-paws altogether, if you find that part of my notion insufferably corny.)

    Like

  46. Re:

    “Just about everyone in Narnia is male, except some of the human children from our world, and of course the Witch.”

    … and of course the other Witch (the green witch in SILVER CHAIR) and Mrs. Beaver and the dryads and mermaids and Aravis and …

    Leaving that aside, we cannot necessarily blame any lack of female characters on Lewis’ Christian beliefs: I would rather blame it on his British boarding-school childhood (boys-only school where he lived for his formative years) and his earlier home-life with a domineering father and a mother who died very early in his life.
    Note that many among Lewis’ critics and admirers (Christian and non-Christian alike) have pointed out that his female characters increase in quantity and quality in those works written after he met the woman who became his wife. One of Lewis’ stepsons (the one helping Disney write the movies) has said somewhere that he believes the infamous “Wars are ugly when women fight” line (and other similar statements/attitudes) would not have appeared if Lewis had written those particular books before meeting his Joy. (And note how often Lewis, writing about Joy, has admiringly described her personality in very martial terms that would not seem out of place for describing a Narnian prince or king — e.g., the passage in A GRIEF OBSERVED where he likens her to a sword-blade.)

    Like

  47. Jeff Lilly says:

    Re: Kate’s Big List of Tumps. Whew! Lots of these make me wonder if I’ve got the artist chops to do these visions justice… Because visions is what they are. Marvelous!

    Where did you get the idea for the light coming from the Stone Table? What do you think the Table “represents” for Lewis, if anything? What does it represent for you? I have read analyses suggesting that the Table represents the Old Testament Law (eg the stone on which the Ten Commandments were written), and it breaks because Christ’s “Deeper Magic” supersedes it.

    The four children as a “mandala” for the World works well especially if we try to maintain the matchup between the children and the elements, since the four animals in the Rider-Waite Tarot also represent the elements.

    I like the others, too, but I’m going to reserve more judgment until I’ve had a chance to finish reading the Buddha Tarot book, which arrived a couple of days ago (Rapture!), and review the Narnia series again… πŸ™‚

    Like

  48. Jeff Lilly says:

    I thought the green witch in the Silver Chair was Jadis?… My only point in calling attention to the number of important female characters was that if you counted up the places where Lewis could have used a female character, and didn’t, I think you’d get a much lower total than would be optimal — especially if you look for strong role models for girls. He’s not the only one, of course. Tolkien similarly offends (though he makes up for a lot with Galadriel), and even J. K. Rowling…

    Rowling I’m particularly disappointed in, actually. I mean, here she can create a whole new world, and there’s no reason to perpetuate sexist stereotypes into it. But if you look at the powerful decision makers in her books, they are all male, except Hermione Granger and that Umbridge beast. And even Hermione basically always did what Harry said, even though she was ten times smarter, ten times better at magic, and every bit as brave. *Fume!*

    Anyway. I didn’t want to suggest that Lewis’s anti-feminism came from his Christianity; as you say, it goes back far into his childhood, long before he was Christian. But I hadn’t heard that about his attitudes changing over time; I’m very glad to hear it!

    Like

  49. Thanks, Jeff, for praising my notions! I suspect you’ll find some simple ways to draw them.

    Re:

    “Where did you get the idea for the light coming from the Stone Table?”

    This just seemed like a natural way to represent what I had in mind: something coming from “deep down somewhere” and bringing about unforeseen but most welcome consequences that temper an earlier harsh decree.

    I don’t understand what grudge many Christians (including Lewis before he married a Jew) seems to have against the Hebrew Scriptures — the same set of books which includes all sorts of things that Christians love to quote:

    such as “The Lord is my Shepherd” and other psalms,

    the famous “love your neighbor as yourself” (appears in Leviticus 19:18 over a thousand years before Jesus said it — yet Christians ask us to regard Jesus as the first person to ever say this),

    the Ten Commandments that Christians apparently regard as important enough that at least some Christians lobby to have these displayed in public places) …

    but the same Christian people who quote all this stuff will then, often, turn right around and (for instance) tell a Jew that “the Old Testament is horrible and bloody and never says a word about love or forgiveness — the New Testament is all love and forgiveness, not scary like the Old” (and, yes, I have seen Christians literally close their eyes and turn their heads away when someone questions this by pointing to the love-and-forgiveness parts of Hebrew Scripture and/or pointing to the hellfire-and-damnation stretches of reputedly “nice” Gospel passages like Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. One of my Christian roommates at college used to do this turn-away-and-despise-the-facts act when she asked questions like “Why does the Old Testament nowhere mention love?” and any Jew actually familiar with the books in question showed her that, well, sorry, but her question had no basis in reality.)

    Back to Lewis and the Stone Table and Knife:

    To me, it seems that Lewis meant the Table and Knife to mean something like “scary, horrible forces that could and would spell your doom — that have every right to spell your doom — EXCEPT that even greater power[s] can and will overrule these horrors. The system of the universe has lots of Scary Destructive Stuff built into it, BUT also has even more powerful Good Stuff built into it at an even deeper level.”

    More particularly, I admit that Lewis may well have used the sacrificial table and knife to symbolize “icky-bad-scary OId Testament” as opposed to “wonderful-good-forgiving- New Testament” … but then again, he wrote THE LION, THE WITCH, AND THE WARDROBE before he married a Jew.

    Letters/essays he wrote before he courted Joy Davidman Gresham include some material which shows a strong fear/hatred of Jews & Judaism — one letter of his actually calls the Jews “class-A primitives after all” … afterwards, this mellows and eventually disappears, to the point where he actually says good things about Jews/Judaism and the importance of Judaism for Christianity — and explicitly rejects his older Judaism-and-Jews-are-barbaric views — in his later non-fiction writings.

    Also, right at the end of the Narnia series, he named one of his most famous good characters with the Hebrew word for “truth”: Emeth, the Calormene who (against all expectations including Emeth’s own!) qualifies to enter Aslan’s Country in THE LAST BATTLE.

    Far too few people know that, when Joy’s second son David Gresham decided in his teens to become a strict, ritually observant Orthodox Jew

    (something which David decided DURING the writing of the last few Narnia books: quite possibly as a rebellion against these books and against his strange new step-dad in general),

    Lewis paid for David’s Hebrew lessons/private tutoring with a rabbi/yeshiva studies, and in fact made the family home strictly kosher (and kept it so for years until David finally grew up and left home) — not an easy thing to do in that time and place, particularly for a dad making a local and national reputation as a teacher of Christianity!

    David Gresham (who later changed his surname to the Hebrew “Gershom”) in fact remains alive and Orthodox Jewish to this day, and receives a generous share of Lewis’ estate:

    in his college/postgraduate years, he in fact undertook advanced Jewish studies at a couple of colleges and graduate/post-graduate schools including well-known Orthodox yeshiva in Brooklyn, NY (about a mile from my childhood home in Brooklyn) — all of which, Lewis or his estate apparently paid for.
    I can, if needed, provide documentation of at least some of the above: a recent bio of Lewis gives a lot of the details.

    Re:

    “I thought the green witch in the Silver Chair was Jadis?Ò€¦ ” —

    The book explicitly identifies the Green Witch as NOT Jadis, but someone else on the same team — when Prince Rilian and the children tell their adventures so far to the Narnian beasts and dwarves they’ve surprised during the snowball festival, Lewis says that:

    “they all saw what it meant: how a wicked Witch (doubtless the same kind as the White Witch who had brought the Great Winter on Narnia long ago) had contrived the whole thing … ‘And the lesson of it all is, your Highness,’ said the oldest Dwarf, ‘that those Northern Witches always mean the same thing, but in every age they have a different plan for getting it.’ ”

    Therefore, the dwarf (and presumably Lewis) distinguishes between the Green Witch and the White Witch. If Lewis had intended us to identify the two witches as actually the same person, the dwarf would have said “that witch” instead of “those witches.”

    Re:

    ” … if you counted up the places where Lewis could have used a female character, and didnÒ€ℒt, I think youÒ€ℒd get a much lower total than would be optimal Ò€” especially if you look for strong role models for girls.”

    I agree: though Narnia fanfic more than makes up for the imbalance! Still, I think kids can take in stride that a given author doesn’t have equal numbers of boys and girls. (I noted the fact as a child — in Lewis and in other books I enjoyed — and didn’t feel offended even though a couple of my teachers and classmates [at a school very like Experiment House] actually tried to convince me that I ought to feel offended and therefore to stop even wanting to read such “male chauvinist pig propaganda”!)

    Re:

    “Rowling … here she can create a whole new world, and thereÒ€ℒs no reason to perpetuate sexist stereotypes into it.”

    I think she herself doesn’t notice the predominant maleness of her world, any more than many of its readers would have noticed (before Book Seven) its predominant “cultural Christianity” (Hogwarts enthusiastically celebrates Christmas, but no one at Hogwarts celebrates or even mentions Chanukah or Buddha’s Birthday or Eid-al-Fitr or … even though the school has a fair number of Hindus, none of them does a darned thing for Diwali!)

    In any case, the overall “boys’ club” vibe (and even “Christian boys’ club” vibe) of Rowling’s world doesn’t bother me partly because Rowling makes very clear (almost from Book One) that the wizarding world perpetuates a great deal of entrenched racism, classism, and other evils. In that context, other social inequities look realistic and very much expectable! (It would have seemed very, very strange — in the racist, classist wizarding world that Rowling’s plots require — to see the folks in charge nevertheless scrupulously gender-fair.)

    Re:
    “And even Hermione basically always did what Harry said, even though she was ten times smarter, ten times better at magic, and every bit as brave. *Fume!*”

    Hmmmm … Hermione and Harry disagree on the proper place of house-elves. (She founds and runs an organization to free them — while Harry and most other wizards feel that, likely enough, the house-elves WANT to remain slaves.) To me, this makes up for a lot.

    In any case, I think that the world of children’s literature owes Lewis a tremendous debt for an odd thing: presenting appealingly-beautiful-yet-untrustworthy characters (such as the Green Witch) As Tolkien points out in ON FAIRY TALES, modern children’s literature tends to include physically-appealing-and-good characters (such as Aslan or Galadriel), physically-unappealing-and-evil characters (monsters of all sorts, in Lewis and Tolkien and elsewhere), physically-unappealing-yet-good characters (again, these abound in fairy tales: humble peasants, people under some uglifying enchantment, etc.) … but seldom the fourth category. (Disney, for instance, would NEVER dare make a film in which the villain had long golden hair, freckles, and big blue eyes.)

    The lack of nice-looking-but-evil folks (which Lewis has to some extent filled, through his Green Witch) has — I think — had the sad effect of increasing the natural tendency of children (and the adults they become) to regard nice-looking people as better and more trustworthy than the rest of us: so I have to say I applaud any work in which someone who seems at first a nice-looking-and-hence-trustworthy hero[ine] — as the Green Witch does — proves the villain of the piece after all.

    Like

  50. One professional Christian apologist’s interesting response to those who discern paganism in the NARNIA books:

    http://tinyurl.com/CSLewisPaganism

    Like

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