I don’t like the Narnia books. They are sexist, racist, dull, full of the worst type of dangerous moral messages, and Narnia itself doesn’t make any sense. I can suspend disbelief enough to accept magic and fantastic creatures, but giant talking beavers eating sausages? ‘Alice in Wonderland’ works, and Tolkien’s books work, but Narnia hangs somewhere inbetween.
Of course, you could (and should) point out that HP Lovecraft’s works are racist, sexist, and so on, and I couldn’t really disagree, but I enjoy them all the same. Something shines through. Narnia doesn’t shine for me at all.
Anyway, my dislike for Narnia means that “Narnia” is one of the trigger words that can set me off on a rambling bore session:
Today we saw Chronicles of Narnia. It literally made my stomach sick. Christian movies equal much violence. I want peaceful Buddhist movies. Violence makes me ill
The funny thing is that although the Narnia books are commonly thought to have a Christian theme, they might not…
CS Lewis was a Christian, but was also interested in ancient Roman history. Mithraism was a very popular pre-Christian religion in the Roman Empire. Mithras was known as “The Lion”, “The Untamed Lion”, and “The Lord of the Wide Pastures”. Mithra dies and rises from the dead. Mithraism originated in Persia.
“Aslan” is Persian for ‘lion’. Aslan is killed and rises from the dead. In the Narnia books he is referred to as “not a tame lion” and “Lord of Open Pastures”*. Mithraism had many similarities to early Christianity, and as Christianity grew it ate Mithraism and absorbed many of its beliefs and festivals, including one on 25 December ;-)
Aslan might be a fictional Christ, but his character is nicked directly from another religion altogether.
I can see what you mean about the violence. Have you seen ‘Princess Mononoke’? It presents conflict from a very Buddhist-influenced perspective; evil things happen (and plenty of violence) but there are no evil villains at all. The hero begs people not to fight him and runs away whenever possible. The cursed scars in the hero’s arm symbolise how hatred and aggression can eat away at people from inside. Maybe if kids were raised on films like Princess Mononoke, rather than all the crude “Good Triumphs By Slaughtering Evil” stuff, adults might be a bit smarter.
On the same theme (I’ll shut up in a moment) I have to recommend the “His Dark Materials” trilogy. The author describes them as “anti-Narnia”, and they are absolutely superb.
- that last quote might not be correct but I can’t check as I’ve not got the Narnia books due to their general crapness. That’s the trouble with trying to validate stuff you remember vaguely. Use a pinch of wikipedia brand salt.
Article on Lewis: http://www.newyorker.com/critics/atlarge/articles/051121crat_atlarge
Article on Pullman: http://www.newyorker.com/fact/content/articles/051226fa_fact