Reading with Little Bit: A Critical Look at The Chronicles of Narnia
By Alexis Record
“Why do all the animals have to fight in a war for some human?”
“I’m sure some didn’t.”
“But when they don’t they’re called the bad ones.”
Male Humans First
“Narnia was never right except when a son of Adam was King,” says the Badger during Caspian’s subsequent campaign for allies. Little Bit and I both groaned at this statement. When one of the others asks if he is suggesting they give Narnia to humans, he clarifies, “It’s not Man’s country, but it’s a country for a man to be King of.” What? That makes no sense.
Little Bit suggests that maybe the land was magically created that way for some reason we don’t know about, but she does concede it was bad design to have a human represent animal interests, especially since it comes out that Caspian kills animals for sport. Nikabrik is incensed about this revelation, but it is quickly dismissed as clearly not the same thing. The animals Caspian killed were dumb, and talking animals are smart after all. (By this logic, could they rightfully kill those with intellectual disabilities?) Also, we learn in the later books, like A Boy and His Horse that some talking animals don’t talk in front of humans and play dumb. Now take the current situation where Old Narnian animals are driven underground, and imagine how many of them would have played dumb if caught by humans. Is it likely that some of the creatures Caspian had fun killing were sentient?
I get that Lewis most likely abhors vegetarianism, so in his world a real king wouldn’t be one. He would also do “manly” things like killing animals. Okay fine, but why create a world of talking animals where killing animals for sport is ever okay?
Even More Racism
On the campaign trail Caspian meets more Black Dwarfs and it’s made clear that they are also all bad. We see that, like Nikabrik, they are slow to take up Caspian’s cause, but finally relent, not because of any noble reason, but because of their hatred of Miraz. They also helpfully suggest getting an ogre or a hag to join the cause. (By the way, a hag is an old woman who does magic. There are plenty of old men who do magic, like Cornelius, who are good, but when a woman does it…) At this Caspian and his cohorts (except Nikabrik) clutch their pearls and shut that business right down. “We want none of that sort on our side.”
Caspian is shocked that those kinds of “horrible creatures” had descendants in Narnia. Maybe he was confused because the last book said they were all hunted down and killed by Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy. I guess not.
It’s also clear that making friends with the wrong race of creature would mean Aslan would not be on their side. Aslan does not want the wrong kinds of allies, but what makes them right or wrong seems to be their race or species. Aslan’s alter ego, Jesus in the Bible, had the same thinking when he claims God sent him only for the Jews (Matthew 15:24) and tells his disciples to initially avoid Gentiles (Matthew 10:5-6) as he wouldn’t want any of those people in his new kingdom before the better people had the chance to get in. There’s “us” and there’s “them.” Don’t mix the two. While Gentiles are welcomed under Paul’s efforts, Jesus found it acceptable to call them dogs.
Finally Caspian prepares for war with his uncle. Their plans up until this consisted of, I kid you not, raiding and pillaging human farmers. All is fair in war, I guess. Even if the farmers don’t know you’re at war because everything you’re doing is in secret. Again, Caspian and his efforts are painted in the book as righteous.
A Centaur prophet tells Caspian, “[A] Son of Adam has once more arisen to rule and name the creatures.” This is a reference to the Genesis passage where Adam was put in charge of the animals. I guess that’s all the justification they needed.
As we meet more creatures, and they are invited to join the war party, we get descriptions of them based on their species. The giants are all stupid; we only meet one and he’s referred to later as a “true giant” referring to his poor intelligence, not his height. The squirrels are all impulsive. The mice are all brave. I was less offended at these physical generalizations based on species than I was the moral generalizations. I’d rather a characteristic like sleepiness be applied to bears, than one like evil applied to all hags and witches. (Most of the time, if you are a woman with a name in these books, you are evil. Girls are sometimes alright, but women are not.)
We also meet Reepicheep for the first time, the fierce mouse who is a descendant of the mice who cut the ropes off Aslan after the White Witch momentarily killed him. Reepicheep is described as a foot tall at what is assumed full grown, but in the next book is described as two feet tall. Racism, misogyny, bloodshed, and contradictions? Wow, my Christian school was right! The Chronicles of Narnia are a true way to introduce the Bible to children!