Reading with Little Bit: A Critical Look at The Chronicles of Narnia
By Alexis Record
“Is Father Christmas a bad guy?”
Disgusted by the blatant racism and prejudice of the previous chapter, Edmund sneaks off. Actually he was just going to betray them all, but I’m kind of with him at this point. Mr. Beaver says he could totally tell by Edmund’s eyes that he was treacherous and had the look of someone who had been with the Witch and eaten her food. (So you told him critical information that would benefit the Witch and put your lives in danger because…?) What good is judging books by their covers if you have to wait for their actions before condemning them? It seems like a lot of wasted hatred before the fact.
Now Edmund is off to the Witch to get what’s coming to him. No one feels sorry for him.
It’s quickly explained that Edmund’s motivation for the betrayal was that he was so dumb he believed things he didn’t really believe. (Yes, it’s confusing.) The book describes it as a belief “deep down inside him” where “he really knew that the White Witch was bad and cruel.”
Romans 1 claims people who aren’t convinced that there is a supernatural deity or deities due to the lack of evidence actually (surprise!) do believe in God “deep down.” So according to Christian thinking, atheists don’t really exist, and are really apostates.
Why would atheists claim not to believe? Well, it’s because they want to sin without consequence. According to this offensive belief, atheists end up being just as illogical as Edmund. Do believers understand how dumb that sounds? Why would anyone think this would work? Oh hey! I’m not going to pay my taxes because I’m going to stop believing in the tax laws in order to keep my money. That should work out great!
It betrays a complete ignorance of those outside the believer’s insular group. Of course the point of Romans 1 was to convince people to become believers by saying God was obvious, that godlessness was next to wickedness, and that atheists are “suppressing the truth.” I truly believed this when I was younger, so it was very surprising to me when my honest quest for truth led me away from religion.
Edmund goes back to the Witch to rat out his family and is treated badly. (Big surprise.) Back at the Beaver home, they all make ready to run for it. Everyone gets mad at the stupid Mrs. Beaver who has the stupid idea of stupidly bringing food for the journey because that’s stupid even though they literally live off what she stupidly brought in the next chapter. She actually does all the packing while they stand there lecturing her about how they have to leave now. When she wonders if she can take her sewing machine—what I imagine is Lewis’ way of showing that women are ridiculous instead of practical—Mr. Beaver puts his foot down so they can leave.
“That’s sad. It was like her best thing she owned probably,” adds Little Bit compassionately.
They make it to a cave to hide in and Mrs. Beaver gets upset that she didn’t pack pillows. She then hands around what is either whiskey or cough syrup (it makes the children cough and burns their throats) and they are all out like a light. (Underage drinking is also a theme in later books.)
The children awoke the next morning to Father Christmas! He gave Peter a sword for killing people with. Susan got a bow and arrows (also, for killing people) and a horn to call for help. For Lucy, Father Christmas handed her a dagger (yay killing!) and a healing potion.
“I don’t mean you to fight in the battle,” says Santa Clause only to the girls. When Lucy protests that she’s brave enough to fight, Father Christmas replies, “That is not the point. Battles are ugly when women fight.”
“He did NOT just say that!” Little Bit says in slight shock.
“They took that part out when they made the movie in 2005,” I assured her.
Mrs. Beaver lectures Peter and Mr. Beaver about playing with the new sword (“just like men,” she sighs) and makes sure everyone knows how wise it was of her to bring the butter knife. Her emphasis on the over importance of kitchenware is a joke, because we all are supposed to know that the realm of womanly responsibility is not really all that important compared to men’s.
Meanwhile Edmund and the White Witch set out to kill Edmund’s siblings, which horrifies him but also, we’re led to believe, is what he truly deep down thought would happen? (Those crazy unbelievers and their logic.)
On the way, the Witch ends up turning children to stone for celebrating Christmas, which has been illegal. Why does Santa gives the people of Narnia gifts that makes the Queen furiously kill (er, stone) them? What did Santa think was going to happen? I assume Aslan did not save those stone creatures as it describes one sitting with “its stone fork fixed for ever half way to its stone mouth.” Unless “for ever” is code for “a few days” when the others are turned back to normal by Aslan.
In the meantime, the other children reach the Stone Table and meet Aslan. “People who have not been in Narnia sometimes think that a thing cannot be good and terrible at the same time,” the author repeats as if this is not utter baloney. The children were so frightened upon seeing Aslan that they trembled and couldn’t look at him.
Peter asks Mr. Beaver to go first, but Mr. Beaver answers, “No, sons of Adam before animals.” The hierarchy at play again.
Aslan finally welcomes them each by rank and gender, first sons of Adam, then daughters of Eve, and lastly “Welcome, He-Beaver and She-Beaver.” (Getting tired of the hierarchy.)
Aslan asks where Edmund is, and is disappointed in the children for letting their brother betray them. (What?) While in later books Aslan is said to read minds, here he doesn’t seem to know what’s going on around him, since in the next minute he sends the girls off to be tended to by the ladies only to send them directly to wolves lying in wait to kill them.
When Susan calls for help with her horn (which is said to sound like a bugle, but in the next book becomes way more fierce sounding and awesome in the hands of a prince instead of a girl), Aslan actually says for the warriors in the party to stay back and let Peter fight alone and earn a knighthood while Susan is in mortal danger and forced up a tree. (Gee, thanks for that Aslan. Girls must be so important to you.)
Peter kills the wolf and gets covered in its blood and fur.
“Is this book appropriate for children?” Little Bit asks. She is not okay with violence, and I failed to recall just how violent these books are. Speaking of violence, the White Witch is making plans to kill Edmund to thwart the prophecy, but she’s sad she can’t do it on the Stone Table as that’s the table’s “proper use.” I declined to go into animal sacrifice in the Bible with Little Bit as she detests cruelty to animals and I try not to poison her against her extended family’s religious beliefs, but it’s clear this Stone Table is supposed to be like the Old Testament Temple Alter. What makes it more hideous is the fact that it seems to be sanctioned by Aslan and his father, the Emperor (our stand-in for the Christian God). Oh yeah, and THE ANIMALS ARE PEOPLE IN THIS WORLD. As if sacrificing them to a deity wasn’t yucky before, now it’s downright immoral.
Well, the animals save Edmund and bring him to Aslan. The lion and boy have some wonderful conversation no one is to ever know about because it was that special. Then Aslan informed the other children that there was no need to bring up the past with Edmund. This was probably an allusion to Jesus’ forgiveness of sins blotting them out, never mind the consequences, or trying to understand why the betrayal happened in order to prevent it in the future.
The White Witch shows up and meets with Aslan, demanding she get her prisoner back. The law Aslan’s father, the Emperor (God!), put in place when he first created magic in the land is on her side. Aslan feigns ignorance of his own father’s laws and magical rules, and invites the Witch to set him straight.
At this point Little Bit has a theory that the White Witch is married to the Emperor or works for him. I corrected her, but agreed that they are at the very least on the same page as far as evil laws go. The Emperor gave the Witch “a right to a kill” if a person is a traitor. Fun guy, the Emperor. (What’s next? Letting one of your fallen angels lead people to Hell for all eternity?)
“Unless I have blood as the Law says, all Narnia will be overturned and perish in fire…” the Witch explains. “It is very true,” Aslan confirms. So the Emperor decided that one person breaking the law should mean all their neighbors should burn in fire. Gosh, at least the Witch only turns them to stone. She’s kind by comparison.
When Susan (of course Susan) asks if there is anything that can work against the Emperor’s magic, Aslan snaps at her and “nobody ever made that suggestion to him again.” Sure, let’s not discuss that the Emperor’s magic is immoral or unjust. That’s off limits apparently.
Finally the White Witch and Aslan haggle over who gets to kill/control Edmund, and they come to a secret agreement.
(To be continued…)