the lion, the witch and the wardrobe: propoganda posing as fantasy

two words: anglo-christian bollocks

The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe is a fantasy parable for children, written by English novelist and lay theologian, C.S. Lewis. Four young siblings in wartime England access a parallel and fantastical world though a mysterious wardrobe found in a safe-home they’ve been relocated to in the country. In this parallel world, with the help of the lion, Aslan, they must defeat the tyrannical White Witch, Jadis, and fulfill a prophecy of a peaceful Narnia under their reign.

It should have been a charming story about the redemptive qualities of imagination during war. C. S. Lewis, however, was a zealous christian apologist.

In full disclosure, I’m an atheist, but I can still like a good story. A more pertinent preexisting condition is, I just came off reading The Painted Bird, and after Kosinski, Tumnus the faun, made my skin crawl. But I accept that as my problem. Clive Staples Lewis’s problem was his lack of imagination.

I can understand how a book like The Lion The Witch and the Wardrobe gets written – the inscription to his god-daughter, whom he wrote it for, is the sweetest thing – but how it remains relevant outside England and among non-Christians is baffling. The Sons of Adam and Daughters of Eve references are heavy-handed and insular at best. Then there’s the Lilith reference in his Jadis description,

She’s no daughter of Eve. She comes from your father Adam’s first wife, her they call Lilith and she was one of the Jinn… There isn’t a real drop of human blood in the witch. p.73

The White Witch is his only original character and he manages to be gender and culture-insensitive (I’m still being kind) in one fell swoop, not to mention the “There’s no use frightening the girls,” and “Battles are ugly when women fight,” comments. But just when you think the story can be redeemed beyond its insularity, here comes Santa Claus, I kid you not. It is a transparent play for feel-good points, and as tired a character as one can steal from a coke ad.

bayne is renowned for her beautiful depictions of people and animals

Audibly groaning, I persevere, if only for the wonderful illustrations by Tolkien-recommended Pauline Baynes (at least he used his close friendship with the high-fantasy phenom for some good) and, since this is a moral tale, surely the moral of the story will be worth wading through the muck.

Even if you are a Christian, it is not. Aslan tricks the White Witch to get what he wants. He, more like a rabbit and less like a lion, withholds knowledge of ‘deeper magic’ and only pretends to sacrifice himself for Edmund. I cannot reconcile his benevolence with this obvious ruse. It also inadvertently sheds negative light on Jesus’s sacrifice, so, well done, Clive!

Surprisingly, since they typically hedge their bets, Disney adapted the novel to film.  It is a faithful adaptation, and as a result I kept falling asleep.

Disney didn’t lose money, but it wasn’t a resounding commercial success either, despite being star-studded – James McAvoy plays Tumnus and Tilda Swinton plays the White Witch. (Tilda can be forgiven since Isis Mussenden’s costumes are stunning and she’s a notorious fashion whore – she is fabulous but have you seen some of the shit she wears?) Georgie Henley, playing Lucy, is as cute as a button, but she over-acted the bejesus out of that role – she cries in every single frame… and I’ve already forgotten all the other characters. It’s safe to say I won’t be bothering with either of the sets of sequels/prequels.

I feel like I’m attacking Lacayo and Grossman for their nostalgia, but how The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe ends up in a Top 100 and Middlesex doesn’t boggles the mind.

This List has served to fill some major holes in my reading experience, but this isn’t one of those instances. I was perfectly whole with my unpretentious Anancy stories.

possession-sarah mclaclan


Though still a work in progress, here are the novels that I’ll be reading in 2011.

Struck through titles have been completed.
Bold titles are presently being read.
* indicates reread.

  1. 1984-1948-George Orwell
  2. The Adventures of Augie March-1953-Saul Bellow
  3. All The King’s Men-1946-Robert Penn Warren
  4. American Pastoral-1997-Philip Roth
  5. An American Tragedy-1925-Theodore Dreiser
  6. Animal Farm-1946-George Orwell*
  7. Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret-1970-Judy Blume
  8. At Swim-Two-Birds-1938-Flann O’Brien
  9. Atonement-2002-Ian McEwan
  10. Beloved-1987-Toni Morrison*
  11. The Big Sleep-1939-Raymond Chandler
  12. The Blind Assassin-2000-Margaret Atwood
  13. Blood Meridian-1986-Cormac McCarthy
  14. Catch-22-1961-Joseph Heller
  15. The Catcher in the Rye-1951-J.D. Salinger*
  16. A Clockwork Orange-1963-Anthony Burgess
  17. The Corrections-2001-Jonathan Franzen
  18. The Death of the Heart-1958-Elizabeth Bowen
  19. The French Lieutenant’s Woman-1969-John Fowles
  20. Go Tell it on the Mountain-1953-James Baldwin
  21. The Grapes of Wrath-1939-John Steinbeck
  22. The Great Gatsby-1925-F. Scott Fitzgerald
  23. A Handful of Dust-1934-Evelyn Waugh
  24. The Heart is A Lonely Hunter-1940-Carson McCullers
  25. The Heart of the Matter-1948-Graham Greene
  26. Herzog-1964-Saul Bellow
  27. Housekeeping-1981-Marilynne Robinson
  28. I, Claudius-1934-Robert Graves
  29. The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe-1950-C. S. Lewis
  30. Lolita-1955-Vladimir Nabokov*
  31. Lord of the Flies-1955-William Golding
  32. Lucky Jim-1954-Kingsley Amis
  33. The Man Who Loved Children-1940-Christina Stead
  34. Midnight’s Children-1981-Salman Rushdie
  35. Mrs. Dalloway-1925-Virginia Woolf
  36. Naked Lunch-1959-William Burroughs
  37. Never Let Me Go-2005-Kazuo Ishiguro
  38. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest-1962-Ken Kesey
  39. The Painted Bird-1965-Jerzy Kosinski
  40. A Passage to India-1924-E. M. Forster
  41. The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie-1961-Muriel Sparks
  42. Snow Crash-1992-Neal Stephenson
  43. The Sound and the Fury-1929-William Faulkner
  44. The Sun Also Rises-1926-Ernest Hemingway
  45. Super Sad True Love Story-2010-Gary Shteyngart
  46. Things Fall Apart-1959-Chinua Achebe*
  47. To the Lighthouse-1927-Virginia Woolf
  48. Ubik-1969-Phillip Dick
  49. Ulysses-1922-James Joyce
  50. Under The Net-1954-Iris Murdoch
  51. Under The Volcano-1947-Malcolm Lowry
  52. Watchmen-1986-Alan Moore & Dave Gibbons*
  53. White Teeth-2000-Zadie Smith*
  54. Wide Sargasso Sea-1966-Jean Rhys*