Monday, June 20, 2005


I read Ursula V.'s livejournal pretty much daily. She's makes great art with a wonderful sense of humor, and her descriptions make me laugh more than the art, most times.

The other day, she made a post related to a discussion (scroll way down to see her comment) that started over at Pharyngula related to Narnia. For those of you that don't click links, the discussion centered on Ursula's disappointment that Narnia turned out to be a Christian allegory. For this statement, she received much grief, and at last count that post has over 200 comments on it.

I have to agree with her. I read Narnia at a pretty young age, but I don't remember exactly. Nine or ten, or something like that. Then, a few years later I learned that Lewis intended Aslan to be Christ. I didn't have a problem with Christianity at twelve, but this struck me as a crappy thing to do to a kid, and like Ursula I felt betrayed.

Here I was, reading a great, wonderful story about a group of kids in a fantasy world, only to find out later that the adult who wrote it had to sneak his agenda into MY* world.

I don't know if I'd have had the reaction had the message been about Buddha, but frankly that's an irrelevant line of thought. It wasn't, and thinking about that won't change the feelings that I had at twelve.

So I have a question for you: Did you read Narnia knowing that it was about Christ, or did you not know and have a similar reaction?

*Because don't we love these worlds we discover and come to feel we own them?


sxKitten said...

I read the Narnia series when I was 8 or 9, but didn't discover it was a Christian allegory until I was in my 20's. I wasn't disappointed particularly, but it did explain, at least to me, why the death of Aslan bothered me so much.

As a child, I found it very disturbing, and always skipped that chapter when I re-read the book. As an adult, my biggest problem with Christianity is the concept of someone else suffering for my transgressions. I prefer to accept responsibility for my actions myself - I don't want someone else, even a historically questionable man 2000 years ago, to take the fall. Getting a ticket to heaven because someone else suffered and died for it seems wrong.

Howard Muhlberg said...

I did not know that Narnia was Christian allegory when I read the books the first time, I did know when I read them the second time, and I don't care.

I don't understand this feeling of betrayal. If the stories didn't brainwash you when you were a kid, why the heck should it matter? If your parents brainwashed you, I'd think that would be the more serious issue.

An artist really doesn't have any obligations to the people who buy their work. The contrary notion is a HUGE misconception that makes life a living hell for many artists. If C.S. Lewis wanted Narnia to be Satanic allegory, that would have been his perogative. So, where does the betrayal come from?

Anonymous said...

EVERY book you read will have some agenda. This one just happens to clash with your belief system. If you had never known it was Christian-backgrounded, it really wouldn't have mattered, would it? You would still have enjoyed it, no? Do people really need to reach so far for something so insignificant to whine about?

Kate said...

Let me see if I can articulate this more clearly. I felt that the author had pulled a bait and switch. He'd made this great world and then shoved all this hidden religious meaning into it, evangelizing. I don't agree with evangelinzing/proselytizing. I think that people should be able to find religion on their own terms.

I think that I'd feel the same sense of "Hey, what'd you go and do that for?" if it were an Islamic, Hindu or even Buddhist sensibility, but it happened to be Christian. Plus, I was twelve.

Besides, I wasn't reading the bible or the koran or a holy book or book of myths, but a novel. I like to read stories about other religions, but this wasn't that. I wasn't informed ahead of time that the book was about Christ, so I had an adverse reaction to that.

I never said I wasn't Christian or that I don't agree with their ideas.
Go somewhere else to call people whiners. I didn't go on your blog and insult you and the topics you choose to write about.
If you can't be civil, consider yourself uninvited.

Apathy Bear said...

Like sxkitten, I also read the Narnia stuff at 9 or so. I didn't have any idea the books were Xian propaganda... Of course, that does explain why my mom (a devout Xian) was very, very happy to discover I was reading the books.

I agree with Kate that it's pretty lame to have Xianity concealed within the pages of an otherwise innocuous fantasy. It's a little deceitful, but most of all it's just bad form. How... tacky. Ya know? Still, I don't think I feel all that betrayed. I was probably pretty much of an atheist by that age, so I was impervious to the Jeebus-fellating aspect of the books.

And now for "anonymous." EVERY book has an agenda? Really? Oh my. I do believe I'm gettin' the vapors. *swoon* I-I... I had no idea. You mean even my chemistry text? Statistics? Alegebra? They're all pushing an agenda? "Noooooooooooooooo!" (/Vader) You have completely rocked my safe little world.

Thank the Invisible Sky Daddy (tm) you arrived, anonymous poster. Know that your wise words are cherished and appreciated. Well, except for "backgrounded." That's not a real word. Sorry.

Howard Muhlberg said...

Kate, sorry, but I have to continue to disgree with you.

C.S. Lewis did not invent allegory, it's a very old literary tradition, and it's not meant to be deceptive. It's simply a literary device used to transmit certain themes and concepts in an elaborate metaphorical way.

Listen, I'm a Jew who has had Christians try to convert me more times than I care to think about. (Of course, I have also had my share of Jews insist that I'm not Jewish enough. Damned religious fanatics!)

Allegory in and of itself is not proselytizing. It's what people do with the allegory that could be considered proselytizing. I suppose some authors have used allegory to proselytize, but from everything I read about C.S. Lewis, he was not an evangelical and was not out to convert people.

Kate said...

Don't forget, I was twelve. Not all things fall to logic, especially when you're twelve. I just felt deceived, like he wasn't playing straight with me. A purely emotional reaction, from an emotional attachment to a fictional place.

I do understand allegory, and don't have a problem with it, in theory. I just didn't like its practice in the Narnia books.

And, you're right, artists don't have an obligation to their fans, they're free to create whatever they feel moved to create. But emotions don't work in a strictly logical fashion. A + B = C. Correllation can mean causation when speaking of the feelings of a pre-teen.

Thanks for making me think about this to help clarify it to myself.

Anonymous said...

Oh huh! It is too a word!!! Or should it be hyphenated?

Trillian said...

I'm so uninformed. I had no idea that the Narnia books were an allegory for Christianity. It does explain all the strange stuff that happens, though.

I read them when I was 9 or 10 too. While I enjoyed the books, I always found them somewhat creepy, though. I remember that the cartoons were even creepier than the books.

Anonymous said...

You know, there's a movie coming out. About the Narnia book.

narniafan123 said...

Just found some interesting stuff on the upcoming Chronicles of Narnia film. c.s. lewis