I loved the Chronicles of
Narnia when I was a kid. Loved, loved, loved. The real thrill of
them—the beautiful strange access he had
to magic, is and was amazingly powerful. I still long for those bright green and yellow rings in
The Magician's Nephew, they seem altogether real to me.
So it was with great pleasure that I watched my children, both of them,
begin on that voyage. The Elder has read them all, the Younger has only
gone through The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe thus far but already
And no, it's not the religion.
a certain mean-spiritedness that I never noticed when I read these as a
kid, but that comes flashing up at inopportune spots. I recognize that
there is a certain good versus evil framework to these books, and I
appreciate it, but the whole introduction of "The Voyage of the Dawn
Treader," in which we are introduced to poor Eustace Scrubb, and told,
in clearly pleased tones, about his awful vegetarian parents, well, it
pricked at me.
" I can't tell you how his friends spoke to him, for he had none. He didn't call his father and mother "Father and "Mother," but Harold and Alberta. They were very up-to-date and advanced people. They were vegetarians, nonsmokers and teetotallers and wore a special kind of underclothes. In their house there was very little furniture and very few clothes on the beds and the windows were always open."
I don't know if it's because so often the targets of his
sniping are clearly somewhat like me (though we're not vegetarians); I hope that's not it, though it's hard not to suspect myself. But Lewis seems so smug and unpleasant about his dislike for them, so cozy with the reader, so…mocking? Unkind? I don't know exactly what it is, but I know that it seems to call to a part of my children that isn't the part I want to help flourish—the part that's all "Look at how bad they are, we're not like them, they're not like us, let's mock them." It's true that later he gets down on Eustace for his being spoiled, unkind, bossy etc, but that's not what this first part is. And this is only an easily visible example: it's sprinkled through the books, and it's hard to take. Why didn't I notice this when I first read them? I suppose it's so nice to have someone, even a writer who doesn't know you at all, say that you're part of the good group, the ones who get it, not like those others…. Ah well. They're still really wonderful.