Tuesday, December 06, 2005

The Subtexts of Narnia

The film version of The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe hits the big screen soon. Do I want to see it? Watched the trailer on TV and thought it had been very Lord-of-the-Ringsified. The version in my head is much gentler, painted in softer colours. And as I've said before, watching the film of the book often destroys my own vision of it.

C.S. Lewis was vehemently opposed to his books being filmed, particularly as he felt that "Anthropomorphic animals, when taken out of narrative into actual visibility, always turn into buffoonery or nightmare ...". Does Aslan keep his Christ-like dignity in the Disney version? We'll see.

When I read the books (at 11 or 12) I was unaware of the Christian subtext - they were just excellent stories. But Lewis was a committed Christian and did intend the tales to be allegorical.

Polly Toynbee in the Guardian points out that in the US the born-agains are using the film for their own ends, and suggests that this approach will backfire in more secular (atheistic) Britain.


Anonymous said...


As you know I love Narnia and I share your observation on the trailers. Narnia is gentle, and so is Aslan (whom I've pointed out before is one of my favourite fictional characters). I was alarmed at seeing Aslan roar in the trailer and wonder whether this will be a real lion or a CGI animated lion (oh no!!).

The illustrations in the books are so powerful and 2 always resonate strongly with me - the one where Aslan lays dying with Lucy and Susan crying over him, and the lantern that Lucy first sights in the snow.

I wonder whether the film can stay true to these illustrations. Yet I am looking forward to the film, have already booked my viewing companion, the only one who may understand my "issues".

Oh another trivia - you mentioned Lewis's strong sense of Christianity. Did you know that Tolkien played a major role in converting him?

Another thing, I am amazed at Narnia peeking through everywhere now - bookshops of course and even, get this, even Coco Crunch! What would Lewis think?

In the law of intellectual property, there is this concept known as an author's moral rights. This means that the original author, who may have given away all his IP, will always retain moral rights over his work - i.e. it cannot be tampered with in such a way as to lessen the integrity of the original work - that's the basic premise, but it gets abused again and again.

Oh and I bought the Coco Crunch for my daughter so that I would get the free magic wardrobe that came with it.

menj said...

I followed the Narnia books between the ages 10 - 15. I love the storyline and magic behind it. Nevermind that C.S. Lewis was a Christian missionary and his stories were "allegories" to Christianity (in fact I only knew about that much later) I never cared about that, always took Narnia to be a fantasy story anyway.


Anonymous said...

Believe it or not, I'd never heard of C S Lewis until I was pretty old. As for Aslan roaring, IIRC he does that sometimes in the books as well. Personally I've always thought of Aslan as being somewhat imperious -- I mean you can be all-powerful and all that, but do you have to act like everyone needs permission to look at you ? sheesh :P

I've only read a few, and only really like Horse and His Boy. Did anyone noticed that one character said the tea prepared by Tumnus was "thick and very sweet" ? does that sound familliar or what ? :)

Anonymous said...

and Lewis appears to be right.. the lion the poster does look somewhat dopey to me.

FBT said...

I like The Magician's Nephew best because it explains things ie that the wardrobe is made from the wood the apple tree that grows from the apple that Diggory brings back from Narnia etc.
I find the Christian allegory a bit heavy-handed now - never noticed it when I was a kid.
On the other hand I do not like the Philip Pullman His Dark Materials trilogy at all. I find the ideas naff and derivative, particularly the idea of God as this decrepit senile creature - this is the kind of idea that strikes 14-year old boys as entertaining and original.

dreamer idiot said...

Yah...I read most of the Narnia books quite a long time back and seem to remember a softer (gentler?) tone, although there were the really dark and scary parts.

I guess most things gets lionised on the screen...however, one might take a diff view, that the movie is a diff version of the books all together,

starlight said...

yes, i'm rather apprehensive about watching the movie too. was very excited until i saw the trailer and aslan lunging ferociously forward. without thinking, i said out loud, "but he's not supposed to act like that." but will watch it anyway so i can partake in future discussions comparing book and film.

and yes, anonymous and sharon, lewis was a staunch but rather confused christian. and tolkein was instrumental in narnia's christian influence. i wrote a short piece on lewis, his christianity and his writing in my blog if you feel like reading. cheers!

Anonymous said...

Blah.. anyway I'm not sure if he wouldn't act like that. In HAHB he was pretty aggressive.

Cheeky Monkey said...

Didn't want to read the posts above too much cause I've not read the books nor have I seen the movie (of course). I've already booked tickets and seeing from new eyes, I must say the movie adaptation seems impressive. The poster is nice if not better. Book wise, from what I briefly flipped through, seemed kinda Enid Blyton like (sorry C S Lewis fans...)

And lions (Aslan I presume) are suppose to roar. Then what? Purr???

Anonymous said...

Oops missed out my name, I put up the first posting, but not the other "anonymous"s.


bibliobibuli said...

it gets confusing with all these anonymice! yes, animah i worked out that the first one was you ... and the others was ... the legendary mr. anonymous himself ...

Anisah said...

I agree with Toynbee on the (horrors of) film being 'adopted' by the born-agains in the U.S. I don't know whether the evangelical twist will back-fire in Britain though. People might just take it in stride and treat it as what it is, a film to be enjoyed with older children. People like me will also take it in stride and stick to the book version.

In Britain, from what I've observed, people whether irreligious or C of E don't wish to display religion in a slapstick way, which is the way we think born-agains tend to be. I must give born-again credit though; they don't see their acts as slapstick, but an emotional interpretation of their faith.

bibliobibuli said...

yes anisah - i think our british reserve and stiff-upperlipness extends to religion too!