Reading with Little Bit: A Critical Look at The Chronicles of Narnia
by Alexis Record
“Dying is good if you do it for Aslan because then he can bring you back to life in his land.”
“I wonder why he makes you die at all, or suffer at all, to get there.”
“Yeah I guess dying hurts. But Aslan isn’t nice so you have to do what he says or he’ll be mean.”
“Is that someone you’d want to live with forever in his land?”
“Once I got there I’d run far away from him!”
Ding dong the Witch is dead, and the party is drinking. They bandage up Puddleglum’s burnt foot with butter (don’t do that) and plan their escape when suddenly they notice a lot of commotion outside. There’s a giant red glow (a world below them has opened up) and the underground sea is rising to drown the city. The city itself, which was once silent, is now loud and panicked. There are even fireworks going off!
Prince Rilian takes his black shield and notices it now magically has the image of the lion on it.
“This signifies that Aslan will be our good lord, whether he means us to live or die.”
Sorry, you don’t get to be known as a “good” lord if you mean someone to die in your service. But whatever, they all kiss the image on the shield and they say goodbye to each other since once again they think they need to go out and die for their lion. When Jill and Eustace say goodbye to each other, they use each other’s first names.
“And this was the first time they had ever used Christian names, because one didn’t do it at school.”
Remember Experiment House where everything is wrong? They didn’t beat the students, and they talked to the bad kids instead of hurting them, and they didn’t study the Bible? Well, since a first name was known as your “Christian name” from the tradition of being named during baptism, of course the evil school would have none of that! Secular people hate Christians! (I heard it on Fox News!)
Anyway, they grab the horses and ride out of town. They are followed by a bunch of Earthmen. I’m guessing all Earthmen are men since everything is male pronouns. We’ve already talked about how entire groups of all men are Lewis’ specialty. (Hello Dawn Treader.) Lewis likes men in the world running things and women in the home.
Rilian says to catch one of the Earthmen to question him. Jill thinks stopping to snatch a person from a group that’s hostile is a bad idea, and she’s not wrong. The others are bound to attack at that point. Rilian replies, “Then, Madam, you shall see us die fighting around you, and you must commend yourself to the Lion.” In other words, who cares if it’s a bad plan and everyone dies. I’m in charge and there’s nothing you can do about it. (Plus dying for our lion god is a great option!)
I’m getting sick of how death is presented as this honorable thing as long as it’s in a prince’s or lion’s service. Now, dying for others can be heroic, and I know I would die for my children. (But I wouldn’t look forward to it!) Dying for a master, on the other hand, is a much darker business. It comes down to a matter of choice and freedom and consent. I don’t like stories where dying for a master’s interests is not only acceptable, it’s expected. Even honored!
Puddleglum slips off his horse into the dark alley to catch a random Earthman and learn why they are being followed. This most random Earthman is caught. This completely random Earthman will only be around for a few minutes (literally a few pages) and is just a plot device so our heroes can learn some information. He is not important. He is not around long. He is just some guy. Some random guy!
SO OF COURSE HE GETS A NAME!
The Earthman’s name (which no one cares about) is Golg (dumb). This name is so obviously half-witted it was probably pulled out of Lewis’ butt while drunk. Why couldn’t he put half that effort into the literal main evil character? It’s not hard! Golg could have been the Witch’s name for all I care! WOMEN ARE PEOPLE. (Must breath. Breathing now.)
Stupid Golg (sorry, Golg, it’s not your fault) learns that Rilian killed the Queen. In a Wizard of Oz twist, the minions of the Witch are all on the side of our party now. They had been enchanted this whole time. The fireworks going off and all the noise is them celebrating their freedom. Learning this makes Rilian stop pointing his sword at the poor Earthman’s neck. Such a great guy, this Rilian. (He did have a father keen on battle axing people.) The Earthmen are also all rushing towards the red glow which is an entrance to their home, a lower world called Bism.
Golg (who gets a name because he’s a boy… no I’m not over it yet!) welcomed them to follow him to Bism before he jumped in there. Rilian was tempted, but didn’t follow. Eventually the opening to Bism sealed itself shut. That is the entire story of Golg… who got a name… because he’s male.
The party instead follows the green lamps that led to the part of the overworld the Witch was going to conquer. (Spoiler: It’s Narnia.) The flood waters followed them close behind, but they began to climb high above it. (Jill wonders about Father Time and the dragon-looking creatures sleeping in the caves until the end of the world and is assured they are fine. So random!) Jill then screams when she notices the lamps going out. This prompted Rilian to say, “Courage, friends. Whether we live or die Aslan will be our good lord.” So that’s a super comforting and completely helpful thing to say in some universe somewhere.
The good thing was that they were very near the surface, and they were facing a wall of earth, not stone. And at the top was a small patch of blue moonlight.
Jill was lifted up to the opening and found herself looking down from a hill on a Narnian winter party and dance. The Narnians helped her out and then tried to dig out Eustace (who shoved a sword in their faces until they could explain who they were and what they were doing… boys and their swords) and finally Puddleglum and their prince emerge.
Everyone was excited about the prince’s return. He told them the story of the wicked Witch (“doubtless the same kind as that White Witch who had brought the Great Winter on Narnia long ago”), her plan to use him to rule his own kingdom, and how he had been saved in the end. The wisest Dwarf among the Narnians said in response, “And the lesson of it all is, your Highness, that those Northern Witches always mean the same thing, but in every age they have a different plan for getting it.”
They always want power. In the first Narnia book, Mr. Badger tells Eustace’s cousins that the White Witch came from Lilith. The story of the demon Lilith is an old Jewish story that explains the two creation accounts in Genesis, as we’ve discussed. In the first account both the woman and man are created together, equally on the same day. So they say this was Lilith and Adam. That equality means Lilith doesn’t submit to Adam, and it turns out Adam cannot handle powerful women. So Lilith leaves to become a demon. (You go girl.) She is mentioned by name in the book of Isaiah.
In the second creation account in Genesis, the woman is created last, like a bunch of animals are created between Adam and Eve, she is such an afterthought. This time, Eve was created from Adam’s body to be more tied to him. The humans in Narnia are called “Daughters of Eve” and are considered good. Lilith is considered bad. The White Witch being a descendent of Lilith is then proof she is evil and untamed.
Now let’s go to Genesis 3:16 where Eve gets cursed for eating the forbidden fruit: “Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.”
Part of the curse of women was that they would want power (some interpret “desire for your husband” being desire for his position of power) and instead of ever getting that power, the men “will rule over” them. The curse was, in essence, powerlessness, and unfulfilled potential. This is also why many many many religious men throughout the centuries have denied women’s rights. This demand that women be subjugated came directly from their god. (Conveniently written down and taught by men in power.) We can’t go against that!
“Thus the woman, who had perversely exceeded her proper bounds, is forced back to her own position… she is cast into servitude.” ~John Calvin, founder of Puritan movement.
“Do not any longer contend for mastery, for power, money, or praise. Be content to be a private, insignificant person.“ ~John Wesley, founder of all modern evangelism and the Methodist movement, to his wife.
So when every Witch in every age wants “the same thing,” that is power. Notice how Narnia is always ruled by a king, never a queen. If Narnia has a queen, which it often does, the queen can’t rule. Even our Lady of the Green Dress slash Snake knew this. That’s why she needed Rilian. In Lewis’ world you always need a man to rule. The Eves will be good because they won’t try to claim power. The Liliths will be bad because they will. When we discuss the sexism of Lewis, it’s not so different than the sexism embedded deeply in all Abrahamic religions. As a child I just absorbed these ideas, but as I read these books to my own child, I know we have to yank up these ideas by the roots and examine them closely before consumption.
After this discussion about the Witch, Rilian leaves to greet his father, King Caspian, who had been tipped off by Aslan to return to Narnia and see his son. King Caspian dies like two seconds after getting off the ship. (Aslan didn’t mind telling him to return at the very last second I guess.) While Rilian starts crying and grieving his loss, Aslan decides the adventure is over and takes Eustace and Jill back to his magical land that’s supposed to be Heaven.
Caspian is also there, but dead. In order to wake him up, and this is weird, Aslan asks Eustace to stab him in the paw. Eustace doesn’t want to, but Aslan makes him. The blood that comes out wakes Caspian up. Gross. I know this is an allusion to the cross and how Christians need to be covered in Jesus’ blood, but ewwwwwwwwwwwww. Ew. Eww eww eww.
Eustace and Jill haven’t died yet and can’t stay there so they are sent back to school… with weapons! To beat children! The end!
And that is the story of The Silver Chair. Although the chair didn’t appear much in the story. What exactly is the chair? Where did it come from? Maybe Lewis should have named the book The Stupid Signs instead. Heh.
Now if you’ll excuse us, Little Bit was promised a story about horses next. She’s been very patient. So horses (and racism!) coming next week as we continue the Narnia series with A Horse and His Boy!
January 13, 2018