Friday, June 13, 2008

25-31. The Chronicles of Narnia

The title: The Chronicles of Narnia (The Magician's Nephew; The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe; The Horse and His Boy; Prince Caspian; The Voyage of the Dawn Treader; The Silver Chair; The Last Battle)
The author: C.S. Lewis
Publication: HarperCollins, 2001 (this edition)
Got it from: UNBSJ bookstore, 2002

D. and I saw Prince Caspian a few weeks ago and have been making jokes about Prince L'Oreal of the Prettiest Hair ever since. I will refrain from this. Okay, just one: his hair is purtier than mine!

To be fair in judging these books, I've decided to break them down into my brief feelings on all of them. Overall, I'd probably give the series a B. They were entertaining and I found that they raised some interesting concepts and had some memorable characters. But get ready to shoot me: I didn't like Aslan. I know, I know. How could I dislike the all-knowing, all-wise, all-good God figure of the book? For the same reason I hate it when people try to shove their "disappointed patriarch god" into my face to make me feel guilty about something. Every time Aslan came into the picture, the story suddenly became weighed down the same way church weighs Sunday down.

The Magician's Nephew: Most people dislike this book the most in the series, but I personally think it's far and away the best. I loved Polly and Diggory as the adventurers - I wish Polly had her own book. I thought Uncle Andrew was a scream as the bad guy and I'd have loved to hear more about his evil studying of magic. Most of all, I have always been fascinated by the rings and the idea of the Woods Between the Worlds. And the Queen is fantastic. She's even more interesting than in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. In fact, the only place I stop loving the book so much is when the Narnia section begins.

As a matter of fact, from now on, you can pretty much assume that any section with Aslan I'll dislike, and any book that's heavy on Aslan I'll enjoy far less than the Aslan-light ones. (Heh heh. Aslan-light. Sounds like imitation butter. "I can't believe it's not Aslan!")

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe: The grandma of the series, of course, the one that everyone just looooves, because Lucy and Peter are so brave and noble and Aslan sacrifices himself, just like Jesus! Okay, okay. I didn't actually mind it all that much, except for the Aslan-sacrificing bit. It was pretty good with the Edmund and Turkish Delight bit, and the beavers and all that. It was a really good story until you-know-who shows up. Then it's all, "For Narnia!" this and, "Epic CGI battle!" that.

The Horse and His Boy: My second favourite story of the series, mostly because of the hilarious non-veiled racist attack on Muslims. (Not that I find racist attacks on Muslims funny. What I find funny was how obvious Lewis was about it.) But it is an excellent adventure story on top of it, and Aravis was definitely the most kick ass of all the females in the series, and in particular she definitely beat the crap out of Shasta.

Prince Caspian: Mostly, too me, this story felt like filler. The first half with the fleeing from the evil uncle was pretty good, but the second part was highly forgettable. I mean, I've just read it and seen the movie version and I can barely remember what happened. Oh yes, some battle. Yawn.

The Voyage of the Dawn Treader: This one was quite good, although it was a little slow getting started. I kind of got bogged down at about the fourth chapter and didn't have the heart to pick it up for about two weeks. It picked up more momentum towards the end. The whole thing kind of reminded me of the Odyssey, which I suspect Lewis lifted from heavily (and even mentions in the text). I liked how each chapter was a mini-adventure. The introduction of Eustace was brilliant. I would have liked to have given that stupid mouse a good kick, though.

The Silver Chair: Again, the first part was kind of dull and dreary. It picked up somewhere in the middle when they got to the giant's castle and the whole thing turned Alice in Wonderlandish. I wish Jill could have been a better-written character, though. And Lewis just had to put that last dig in about how the female headmaster was so incompetent and was to blame for all the supposed problems of "Experiment House."

The Last Battle: Okay, could you hit me over the head with Christian end-of-the-world allegory a little harder? I wish this book had never been written. Seriously. Couldn't there have been a better way to tie up "loose ends?" All the characters seemed like such self-righteous prigs and the whole thing turned into a guilt-tripping sermon. I wanted to smack Prince Tirian for being such a cardboard character and a patronizing ass. I can't count the number of times he referred to Jill or Lucy as "sweetheart" or "little lady" or something equally eye-rolling. And then there's the whole, "Susan doesn't care about Narnia anymore, she just cares about boys and parties now" and that's soooo bad. (Read: "Susan doesn't come to Narnia anymore because she's conforming to patriarchal standards of womanhood and that makes her TEH EVIL and unworthy of the glory of Narnia, even though she'd be punished in our world for not conforming." If you ask me, I'd rather hang out at parties in England than spend eternity romping through fields with such smug little beasts. But I'm trying not to analyze these books too much with my feminist eye.

And what the hell is with that ending? (SPOILERS)

Aslan: "Oh yes, you all died in a horrible trainwreck. Now you're dead and living with ME!"
Everyone: "Hooray!"

WTF? Thanks, but no thanks.

Yes, 'twould have been better to end with The Silver Chair, methinks. But I'm glad I finally finished the series after having read only the first four when I was a child. Someday my kids will want to read them and I want to be able to help them understand what they're reading.


Anonymous said...

I'm so glad you finally read them!

I love the series in general but after re-reading Prince Caspian recently (I haven't reread them in a long time) I realized WHY the series took Lewis only a year or so to finish. There's nothing in Prince Caspian. Nothing happens. Mostly, it's a lot of talk about the trees.

I loved The Magician's Nephew. That's one of the seven books I recall the best.

The Last Battle is weird, yes. I guess that Narnia must be heaven, then? And yet, there are different countries near Narnia and people are born and grow up there? Odd.

I was irked about Susan not being in the end of the Last Battle even when I first read it when I was 11. I didn't quite understand what horrible thing she had committed to prevent from being with Aslan. And just think..."boys and parties" were what girls her age in Lewis's time were SUPPOSED to be interested in!!! So is that an indication that Lewis did not care for women in general and what they stood for? Or is it his anger at what they were supposed to be like? any rate, how can boys and parties be so evil?.....if memory serves me, I inferred in 1980 that the problem wasn't so much that Susan liked boys and parties but that she was putting them ahead of Aslan aka Christ.


KJH said...

I'll say this for Lewis though: at least he had women/girls in his books. In Tolkien, it was like women just didn't exist, or he didn't want them to exist in his "utopia." Barf. I see Lewis' portrayal of women as sort of old-school, medievalist, "fair damsel"-esque. Yes, he's a chauvanist, but at least there's female characters we can relate to who go on the adventures.

Anonymous said...

Well, on the other hand...

While I do agree that Tolkein could have included more major female characters (why on earth didn't he put at least a couple of females in The Nine?!~~)....both Eowyn and Arwen rebel against their own patriarchal influences. Eowyn's uncle demands her to help the women and children, despite the fact she can (and eventually shows) she can fight among the men. And Arwen's father wants to keep her safe and do the acceptable "Elf" thing, but then ends up doing what SHE wants.

On the other hand, both women end up being married..nothing else. I guess there weren't many occupations for women after the Ring was destroyed.

Amalia said...

I love the magician,s nephew, I agree that Lion witch wardrobe is overrated and caspian is filler. I LOOVE dawn treader cuz I love any travelling the world story. And I actually like the solemnity Aslan brings. I also found the silver chair dragged on a bit.