C.S. Lewis Roars Again

Jul 10, 23:06 by IROSF
A thread to discuss C.S. Lewis or Ryder W. Miller's discussion of two works on Narnia's creator.

The article can be found here
Jul 13, 10:58 by Matthew Rees
"The Chronicles of Narnia tales are certainly fun reads, with good guys and (usually) bad girls ... The book does not fully deal with Lewis's issues towards women, who are sometimes depicted as evil, in the shape of witches."

There's an article in The Chronicle of Higher Education that debunks this better than I could, but let's take a brief look at the evidence:

Of the major villains in the Chronicles (Uncle Andrew, Jadis, Radabash, Miraz, the Green Lady, and Shift the Ape), four are male and two are female.

Of the ten young protagonists (five boys and five girls), two of the boys (Edmund and Eustace) are rather despicable to start out with, whereas the girls are admirable in almost every respect (although a passing remark in the final book indicates that one of them has turned her back on Narnia).

So... "good guys and (usually) bad girls"? I think not.
Jul 13, 16:50 by Lois Tilton
I think so.

Of the villains, there is really only one that counts as evil, and this is The Witch. The Witch appears repeatedly, under several different guises or perhaps even avatars, but it's clear that this is the same person. The other antagonists in the books are bad, are mean and selfish persons, but only The Witch is evil, and other evildoers are often her dupes or under her influence.

And while it is true that Lewis's ideal protagonists are the girls, Lucy in particular, the girls are not women. They are pre-sexual and "pure", precisely the antithesis of what a woman meant to Lewis, which is to say: The Witch. The Fall Of Susan was no more than the fact that she grew up, that she left the state of purity and innocence that Lewis imagined as the condition of young girls and not only became that sexual thing, a woman - she willingly grew up.

Of all the other female characters, the talking animals clearly don't count - they are not sexually threatening. But iirc there are no adult female humans of any importance in the series who are not The Witch.

Jul 17, 10:20 by Matthew Rees
Of the villains, there is really only one that counts as evil, and this is The Witch.

The Wicked Witch is a common and potent folkloric archetype that goes back at least as far as Homer, and I hardly think it's fair to paint Lewis as a misogynist because he used it when writing a children's fairy-tale.

The Witch appears repeatedly, under several different guises or perhaps even avatars, but it's clear that this is the same person.

That's an exaggeration. There are, to be precise, two witches (who don't have much in common aside from the fact that they both fit the archetype of Wicked Witch), one of whom appears in two books and the other in one.

And while it is true that Lewis's ideal protagonists are the girls, Lucy in particular, the girls are not women.

Well, Mr. Miller referred to "bad girls", and since the "good guys" presumably refers to the youthful male protagonists, I don't think he was just being figurative.

The Fall Of Susan was no more than the fact that she grew up, that she left the state of purity and innocence that Lewis imagined as the condition of young girls and not only became that sexual thing, a woman - she willingly grew up.

Again, others have done a better job debunking this than I could, so allow me to quote a few:

In truth, Lewis was portraying Susan making the same mistake he had made as a boy: throwing out the good of childhood with the bad for lack of understanding what it really means to grow up. When he turned 10, Lewis once wrote, he "would have been ashamed" if he had been found reading fairy stories. "Now that I am 50 I read them openly. When I became a man I put away childish things, including the fear of childishness."
- Michael Nelson, "For the Love of Narnia" in The Chronicle of Higher Education

[Nylons and lipstick] are not necessarily symbols of female sexual maturity, but more symbols of commercialism and materialism, both of which Lewis, with his close friend JRR Tolkien, saw as evils.
- from the Wikipedia entry on The Last Battle

The sin of "liking nothing except lipstick..." has become the sin of liking it too much, which has become the sin of liking it at all... Pullman, to be fair, is trying to make a sophisticated point. He doesn't say that, in the story itself, Susan's sexual maturity causes her to stop being a friend of Narnia. Rather, he thinks that the story allows us to to infer things about C.S Lewis's unconscious attitude to sex. This game - discovering feelings that writers didn't know they had on the basis of things they didn't say - is great fun, and anyone can play it...

But Rowling and the two journalists have not understood Pullman's subtle point about Lewis's unconscious motivations. They've reproduced his comments without going back and checking the book. As a result "Susan is sent to hell as a punishment for her sexuality" has become one of those things which "everybody knows"...

Granted, Jill says that Susan is "too keen on being grown up." (Not "grown up" or "keen on being grown up" but too keen on being grown up.) But Jill is herself still a child. Polly, a very old lady, corrects her immediately and says Susan's problem is not maturity but immaturity. ("Grown-up, indeed... I wish she would grow up.") Polly thinks that Susan was the kind of school girl who would rather have been in her 20s, and will carry on behaving like a 20 year old when she is 50.

So, we are left with the actual reasons that Lewis gives for Susan's absence from Aslan's country:
1: She denies that she ever really came to Narnia; she says that her experiences there were only part of a game that she and her siblings used to play as children.
2: She is interested in consumer beauty products and parties to the exclusion of everything else.
3: She is an air-head, fixated with staying at a "silly age", probably 21...
- Andrew Rilstone, "Lipstick on my Scholar"

"it is telling that in seeking a character to be an apostate and so denied Heaven, he choses to damn a woman"

No more telling, surely than that it is a boy he chooses to betray Aslan? Or that Caspian has a wicked uncle rather than a wicked aunt?

He had a 50/50 chance of picking a woman as every book has a balance of male and female earth characters - and does that not in itself tell you something? Or, indeed, that usually it's the female characters who come out better than the males - Lucy, Jill, Polly?

No, no, we'd rather focus on one line in one book and claim that it's 'telling'.
- "SK", in a comment on "Lipstick on my Scholar"

There's a lovely bit of eroticism in "Ministering Angels" (which I wish I could quote) that makes it hard for me to swallow the idea that Lewis was afraid of sex. However, the claim I'm disputing here is not "C.S. Lewis had issues with women in his personal life," or "Lewis' attitude towards women was not progressive by modern standards," but the impled claim that "The Chronicles of Narnia are sexist." Sure, if you're looking for evidence of sexism in the Chronicles, you can find it. You can also find it in Roald Dahl, and Shakespeare, and Jane Austen, and The Wizard of Oz, and Arthurian legend...
Jul 17, 11:03 by Bluejack
It's also worth noting that in The Great Divorce Lewis imagines a heaven and hell in which the residents of hell are welcome to come to heaven at any time... but choose not to. In this imaginary afterlife, sexual sin is considered the least of all sins, and the problem that those in hell are most likely to be able to deal with in order to find joy in heaven.

I do think it is interesting that there aren't really any major male villains in the Narnia books to balance out the female ones, but I would suggest that C.S. Lewis chose this course in order to portray evil as a spiritual seduction.
Jul 17, 17:29 by Lois Tilton
Certainly The Witch is a figure of seduction. And not necessarily sexual seduction. Even childhood isn't entirely proof against it, as Edmund proves with the Turkish delight.

The typical witch of folklore is a quite different character - old, crabbed, ugly. Lewis's Witch has little in common with her but the name. She is much closer to a goddess, in fact.

I see no real distinction between the witch of The Silver Chair and The Witch of the first three books, who is explicitly the same character. For she also appears in Prince Caspian.

"... The Witch is dead. All the stories agree on that. What does Nikabrik mean by calling on the Witch?"


Jul 17, 17:29 by Lois Tilton

Jul 17, 17:29 by Lois Tilton
Certainly The Witch is a figure of seduction. And not necessarily sexual seduction. Even childhood isn't entirely proof against it, as Edmund proves with the Turkish delight.

The typical witch of folklore is a quite different character - old, crabbed, ugly. Lewis's Witch has little in common with her but the name. She is much closer to a goddess, in fact.

I see no real distinction between the witch of The Silver Chair and The Witch of the first three books, who is explicitly the same character. For she also appears in Prince Caspian.

"... The Witch is dead. All the stories agree on that. What does Nikabrik mean by calling on the Witch?"

That grey and terrible voice which had spoken only once before said, "Oh, is she?"

And then the shrill, whining voice began, "oh, bless his heart, his dear little Majesty needn't mind about the White Lady - that's what we call her - being dea. The Worshipful Master Doctor is only making game of a poor old woman like me when he says that. Sweet Master Doctor, learned Master Doctor, who ever heard of a witch that really died? You can always get them back."


So there it is clear that this is the same Witch only disguised as a witch in the folkloric sense, and undoubtedly behind the evils that befell Narnia during this episode. And since a witch never really dies, it is not surprising that she is able to return in yet another form.


I don't think this implies that Narnia is explicitly sexist, but I do think Lewis views evil in a feminine form, as a seductive force. I note that Edmund was often weak, his sin was susceptibility to seduction, but he was redeemed in the end. Susan, however, whose sins were less while a child in Narnia, was cast into the Outer Darkness because she rejected the status of a child and yearned for the status of a woman - for precisely those aspects of womanhood [lipstick] that are implements of seduction, of The Witch. Susan turned away from Narnia because for her it was a childish thing, and this is what Lewis found unforgivable. But only one of the girls could have rejected Narnia in exactly this way.





Jul 19, 11:38 by Matthew Rees
The typical witch of folklore is a quite different character - old, crabbed, ugly.

The majority, perhaps, but Lewis' witches were hardly unprecdented. What about Circe, Medea, Morgan le Fay, Snow White's stepmother, the Snow Queen? And those are just off the top of my head; I'm sure a serious student of folklore could come up with more examples.

I see no real distinction between the witch of The Silver Chair and The Witch of the first three books, who is explicitly the same character.

Why is it relevant whether there is or is not a distinction between them? I'll grant you that the two witches are more memorable than the male villains -- they're more archetypal, more charismatic, more powerful and effective (especially compared to bunglers like Uncle Andrew). If you're going to say that makes the Chronicles sexist, then you'd have to say the same of many of the other works I previously mentioned.

For she also appears in Prince Caspian.

That's really stretching it. It'd more accurate to say that she fails to appear in Prince Caspian. Or are you claiming that since the Hag says that the Witch isn't really dead, it shows that the Hag is the Witch? Because if you're going to employ logic that twisted, I see no point in even trying to debate the issue with you.

I don't think this implies that Narnia is explicitly sexist, but I do think Lewis views evil in a feminine form, as a seductive force. I note that Edmund was often weak, his sin was susceptibility to seduction, but he was redeemed in the end.

Now this actually makes a kind of sense. However, I could counter it by noting that a) most of the villains in Lewis' other fiction are male, and b) seduction in the broad sense is simply the nature of sin. Just look at Perelandra.

Susan, however, whose sins were less while a child in Narnia, was cast into the Outer Darkness

Say what? Lewis never said anything about casting Susan into Outer Darkness. Susan turned her back on Narnia by her own choice, and her ultimate fate is left unresolved.

because she rejected the status of a child and yearned for the status of a woman - for precisely those aspects of womanhood [lipstick] that are implements of seduction

Talk about making a mountain out of a molehill! You're seizing on one word in one book and attaching all kinds of significance to it. If you're determined to believe that Lewis felt threatened by women, it's doubtful that anything I can say will change your mind. However, I think I've demonstrated that there are reasonable grounds for disputing your interpretation of "the Fall of Susan".

In any case, my intent in posting was not to discuss the psychology of dead authors, but to counter Mr. Miller's characterization of the female characters in the Chronicles as "(usually) bad girls". Arguing about the significance of the Witch in Lewis' mind doesn't change the fact that his statement is inaccurate.
Jul 20, 12:19 by Lois Tilton
This discussion seems to be breaking up like a bad cell phone connection, with all sorts of accusations [sexist, misogynist] creeping in through the cracks, as well as assumptions about Lewis's psychology and his other works.

My comment is related entirely to the issue of Lewis's characterization of evil and wickedness in Narnia in terms of women, as opposed to girls. And in particular that there only one primary figure representing evil, who is a woman, as opposed to the minor, secondary villains, who may be male. And further that she is the only adult human woman of any real significance in the story.

And that the goodness of the girls - the Daughters of Eve - is irrelevant to this identification of women with evil, as they were children, not women, but the "Fall" of Susan involves her desire to be a woman, and her rejection of childhood.








Jul 22, 14:20 by Matthew Rees
This discussion seems to be breaking up like a bad cell phone connection, with all sorts of accusations [sexist, misogynist] creeping in through the cracks, as well as assumptions about Lewis's psychology and his other works.

Well, what did you expect when you responded to my post with statements that were, at best, tangentially related to what I was talking about? As I've said repeatedly, the sole purpose of my original post was to dispute Mr. Miller's statement that "The Chronicles of Narnia tales are certainly fun reads, with good guys and (usually) bad girls." If you're trying to refute my refutation, you can't just exclude the girls. They may not be relevant to your point, but they're entirely relevant to mine.

My comment is related entirely to the issue of Lewis's characterization of evil and wickedness in Narnia in terms of women, as opposed to girls.

If you're going to insist on characterizing the Witch as showing that "Lewis views evil in a feminine form," then it's certainly relevant to look to his other works to confirm or refute that statement. And don't blame me for making assumptions about Lewis's psychology; you're the one who said this:

They are pre-sexual and "pure", precisely the antithesis of what a woman meant to Lewis, which is to say: The Witch. The Fall Of Susan was no more than the fact that she grew up, that she left the state of purity and innocence that Lewis imagined as the condition of young girls...
Jul 22, 17:30 by Lois Tilton
Oh, I rather expected something like a reasonable discussion on the issue of female villains in Narnia.

Had you restricted your remarks to the question of the actual girls, ie Susan, Lucy, Jill and Polly as children, I would not have taken issue with your comment. But you went on to claim that Lewis practiced equal-opportunity villainy, adducing this in support of your position that the girls -- the children -- were not bad.

Me, I rather figured that Miller was speaking figuratively, and that by "bad girls" he meant the Witch and her incarnations, not the children. That is: Narnia has characters representing good, of whatever sex, and characters representing evil, who tend to be female.


Jul 24, 11:44 by Matthew Rees
Oh, I rather expected something like a reasonable discussion on the issue of female villains in Narnia.

Is that not what we've been having? What have I said that you consider unreasonable?

Had you restricted your remarks to the question of the actual girls, ie Susan, Lucy, Jill and Polly as children, I would not have taken issue with your comment. But you went on to claim that Lewis practiced equal-opportunity villainy, adducing this in support of your position that the girls -- the children -- were not bad.

My point was that there are more bad males in the book than bad females, of any age. Period. I see no reason to restrict myself either to discussing only the children or only the adults. Now if you want to focus only on the adults, that's your prerogative -- but your first post started off as though it directly countered mine, which it doesn't.

Me, I rather figured that Miller was speaking figuratively, and that by "bad girls" he meant the Witch and her incarnations, not the children.

I'll grant you that he was probably using "bad girls" figuratively to include adults as well as children, but I don't see how you can stretch that to say that "bad girls" refers only to adults and excludes children. If "bad girls" refers only to adults, to whom does does "good guys" refer? And if "guys" includes the young male protagonists, how can "girls" exclude the young female protagonists? You can't have it both ways.

There's no question that there are "bad girls" in the Chronicles. However, I object to Mr. Miller's statment that the "girls" in the Chronicles are "usually" bad. That's a selective reading of the text intended to support his claim that Lewis had "issues towards women".

That is: Narnia has characters representing good, of whatever sex, and characters representing evil, who tend to be female.

No. This is categorically incorrect. As I pointed out in my first post, the male villains in the Chronicles outnumber the females (especially if you insist on lumping the two witches together as variations on a single character). Your entire argument seems to be that, because the two witches are more memorable and more Eeeevil than the male villains, it shows that "Lewis views evil in a feminine form". I contend that it shows no more than the fact that he employed folkloric archetypes in the Chronicles. Any attempt to attach greater significance to it requires assumptions about Lewis's psychology, which you claim is not your intent (despite the fact that you've been making assertions from the very beginning about how he thought).
Jul 25, 07:31 by Lois Tilton
You have it entirely backwards. It is not that there are more male villains than female villains. It is that females - adult human women - are almost entirely figures of evil, worse than mere villains. It is the absence of women in any important positive role. Indeed, women are almost entirely absent altogether in Narnia, except for the Witch.

If, in Narnia, you encounter a woman, she is probably the Witch. If, in Narnia, you encounter a woman, she is probably evil. If, in Narnia, you encounter a woman, she is probably lying, she is probably trying to seduce you, and if you believe her, you will end up enslaved to her, drugged, bound, turned to stone - or one of the minor, usually male, villains who serve her.

Jul 25, 10:26 by Matthew Rees
I still think you're reading too much into Lewis's use of fairy-tale archetypes -- but as I said before, if you insist on looking at it that way, I can't stop you.

Not to prolong the argument any further, but I managed to get my hands on a copy of "Ministering Angels", so here's that quote I was talking about (the one that makes it hard for me to believe that Lewis felt threatened by female sexuality). Here, the viewpoint character of the story is daydreaming about his wife:

Hands...his own hands...his own hands, hands, he felt, with eyes in them, travelling over all the warm-cool, soft-firm, smooth, yielding, resisting aliveness of her.
- C.S. Lewis, "Ministering Angels"
Jul 25, 13:18 by Lois Tilton
I'm pleased for Lewis, that his sexuality wasn't warped, but then I've never had an opinion about this, only the attitude that is present in the Narnia series. I don't think it's never a good idea to identify the author with his characters, or assume they share the same attitudes.
Mar 22, 10:26 by Ryder W. Miller
If you think C.S. Lewis is still P.C. you may want to read a story by him called "The Shoddy Lands".
May 10, 20:02 by Stephen Clark
Lois Tilton said "If, in Narnia, you encounter a woman, she is probably the Witch. If, in Narnia, you encounter a woman, she is probably evil."

This is simply not true. Caspian's Nurse; the Star's daughter who marries Caspian; Aravis in The Horse and his Boy - who grows up happily; Lucy and Susan in the same book; the Cabman's wife in The Magician's Nephew; Polly as she appears in The Last Battle. And Mrs Beaver if we're allowed to add the animals. Any other women to mention? Ok, there's a hag, balanced by a werewolf, in Prince Caspian - if I were going to nitpick about the sequence I'd mutter about Lewis's attitude to wolves, but I won't.

Nor is it true that only the Witch is (or the two witches are) "Evil" or "more evil" than other baddies (incidentally, Pullman has an utterly wicked beautiful woman in his trilogy too). The Ape in The Last Battle earns the same accolade.


May 10, 22:13 by Lois Tilton
The distinction between girls and women is a key one. Characters who are introduced as adult female humans are rare in the series, and those who are not merely placeholders [ie, the somebody's wife or nurse] are probably the witch. Those are the odds.
May 11, 15:35 by Bluejack

So... next question: is this a bad thing? Should we require our authors to embrace statistical diversity? Or can we let them create within the energy of the archetypes that move them, and appreciate the creation?

Implicit in this thread is a notion that C.S. Lewis was scared of women. Maybe true, maybe not. Narnia, if I recall, was written fairly early in his career, and later works--and later events in his life--probably changed that. But even if it were profoundly, universally, and eternally true, does that mean the works are crippled--or given living energy by the power of his fear?

Personally, I'm not comfortable judging an author by the fiction, nor do I think it's wise to judge fiction by the standards of ephemeral social norms.

Was Mark Twain a racist?

Was Nabokov a pedophile?

Is Brett Easton Ellis a serial killer?

Ok, scratch that last one, American Psycho did make me sick to my stomach, and gave me a deeply uneasy feeling about its author. So, I may not always follow my own guidelines! But I still think it's worth keeping in mind.

May 11, 16:50 by D. Nicklin-Dunbar
And there is always this:


Political correctness has so warped our lives that many
are appalled when someone stands up and states the obvious.

--G. Gordon Liddy

I don't mean to give offense, but there has been a trend in lots of post-post-modern (and feminist) literary criticism that desires the vilification of authors because of perceived prejudices in their works, even when such prejudices exist only within the mind of the critic. The debate over the role of women in Narnia or Lovecraft's racism are prime examples of this effect.

While the debate may be valuable, we should also be asking "So what?". So what if all the adult women characters in Narnia are evil. What does that really matter? Outside the rarified field of S/F literary debate how does this detract from the novels or add to our body of knowledge? Does anyone really think that such portrayals harm the self esteem of young girls today? Would those girls even understand what the whole argument is about?

As BlueJack asks above, should we require authors to conform to our modern and artificial political correctness experiment? Must art serve the whims of people who don't want to be offended by anything? Not to mention the 'freedom of speech' can of worms.
May 11, 19:41 by Lois Tilton
I think that criticism not only can but must note the role of women in the Narnia books. It is there.

This doesn't mean that any particular conclusion must be drawn from what is there. The critic may but need not speculate about the author's personal feelings on the subject. The critic may but need not draw conclusions about the place of women in the culture of the day.

The only thing the critic shouldn't do is look away and pretend that what is there is not there.
May 13, 00:35 by Bluejack
Intriguingly, I think both Lois and (of all people!) G. Gordon Liddy are saying something similar:

We should not subject reality to the influence of social norms. Obviously, Ms. Tilton and Mr. Liddy have somewhat different senses of which social norms are preferable, and which might be influencing people's vision. But set that aside and these two statements are pretty close:

"Many are appalled when someone stands up and states the obvious."

"The only thing the critic shouldn't do is look away and pretend that what is there is not there."


May 13, 02:09 by Lois Tilton
Well, I'll amend that. I think there are a lot of other things a critic shouldn't do.

May 13, 15:03 by D. Nicklin-Dunbar
This doesn't mean that any particular conclusion must be drawn from what is there. The critic may but need not speculate about the author's personal feelings on the subject. The critic may but need not draw conclusions about the place of women in the culture of the day.


I will entirely agree with this. The danger is not in noting, say the role of women in Narnia, but in using that argument to make claims outside of the context of the time and the work. That is what I object to. As an example I submit the example of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn being pulled from school libraries simply because of Clemen's use of the word "nigger". Do some people find that word offensive, most certainly, but does that offense give a select group of people the right to impose their version of morality on the rest of us? I know that this has gone beyond the original argument, but it does speak to the problem of some modern critics.

In this, I think we are all in agreement.
May 13, 15:40 by Lois Tilton
Criticism is a process of accretion. At the foundation is the text. Then there are the layers of commentary that attach to it. Often the criticism begins to refer more to some other layer of criticism than the text itself. Sometimes it can be a refreshing novelty to return to the text itself as if the intervening commentary had never occurred. Each generation, each culture brings new perspectives, sees the same text from different angles.

Still, in general, I think an informed criticism of, say, Narnia should possess awareness of the previous discussion of "the Susan problem", which has been accreting a history of its own. It's pretty evident that a lot of commenters on this subject have come to it armed with their own ideology and agenda, determined to read into it what they want to find, whether it's there or not.

This is another one of those things I think that critics shouldn't do.

May 18, 19:07 by Ryder W. Miller
Literature can be holy and critics, who can be activists, especially these day, can help safeguard readers from hate speech. I think women can be annoyed by some of the depictions of them in Narnia, but so can men who are usually quiet about such things.

The amount of recent scholarship for C.S. Lewis would be a good place to start looking for answers, but because there is so much, it is making it very hard for anyone but the scholars to speak knowledgeably about the man and his friends, hence the rationale for the review below. Critics do not merely document and explore, they also react, especially for the beleaguered, unrepresented, and impatient.

Below is an addition to thoughts about Lewis and some of the new scholarship available:

Tales Before Narnia. Edited by Douglas A. Anderson. Del Rey: Ballantine. (2008) 339 pages. $15.00

Reviewed by Ryder W. Miller

Due to the recent J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis movies there has been a voluminous amount of new public C.S. Lewis scholarship available, as if there had not been enough at the library and in the journals already. Walter Hooper has made three large volumes of C.S. Lewis letters available. From Narnia to Space Odyssey, by myself, argues that C.S. Lewis was inspired by a dialogue with Arthur C. Clarke sending him in a new direction (reread the forward to That Hideous Strength, ie. the scientific colleague referred to may have been have been Clarke or a like minded colleague). Allan Jacobs points out in his biography that C.S. Lewis was also a Narnian. Michael Ward claims to have a discovered an astrological/astronomical underpinning to the Narnia series in the scholarly and intriguing Planet Narnia. In Narnia and the Fields of Arbol, The Environmental Visions of C.S. Lewis, Mathew T. Dickerson & David O’Hara argue that C.S. Lewis should be considered a modern and influential environmentalist based on his science fiction and fantasy books which almost everybody has encountered. Equally brilliant is Tales Before Narnia, The Roots of Modern Fantasy and Science Fiction which includes many classic stories and writers that inspired C.S. Lewis.

Here one will find works by the likes of George McDonald and G.K. Chesterton who Lewis read avidly and apparently studied, emulated and served. There are also poems and stories by fellow Inklings J.R.R. Tolkien and Charles Williams, and lesser known Inklings such as Owen Barfield and others. One will be surprised by these stories that show that there was a rich fantastical legacy, not just a mythological legacy, before the Inklings. C.S. Lewis in some people’s opinions will be elevated to the position of someone who could reach the masses, for others he will be appear as not quite so original and like Tolkien, maybe even grubby, to put it kindly.

But neither man was shy about sharing with their fans their literary debts.

The included stories do not have the drive or adventurousness as Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia, but they do work as parts of a jigsaw puzzle, Narnia and Lewis being the constructed image showing what Lewis had made public by his fame and success. The book also serves as revenge for the loyal or weird reader, against the know it alls and scholars, who also encountered Lewis along their vicarious adventurous travels. One could better say what else should have been in here or what was missing or why something was missing, but there is also a list of recommended writers at the end.

Here one will find the continuity which Narnia was a part of, but these are not the type of stories that one will sit on the edge of their seats to read. Tolkien was called “cruelly suspenseful” by a critic, while Lewis was not known for writing stories merely to entertain. They both sought to fill a void that was missing, ie. fantastical stories for those who did not want to be “jailed” by the modern realism, but Lewis also turned to fantasy as a means to expound upon theological issues.

One will find here all sorts of components to Lewis’s Chronicles (White Witches, magic wardrobes, magical beings, talking animals, kings, battles, magical woods, etc…. ), but not necessarily the continence of a theological argument. The lion, Aslan, is missing, but Lewis at times was also Aslan. In the minds of many Lewis elevated fantasy by infusing it with a coherent moral philosophy, others are detractors because they would have preferred to have just been entertained.

Anderson, as with Tales Before Tolkien, does a fine job of showing that we were not quite as weird as we thought we were reading all those fantastical tales. Many well established writers contributed to this rich legacy of writing. There were many readers before us and there is a tradition of doing so. Because of Lewis and Tolkien we are even less weird then we were in times past.

Because of Anderson, the loyal fantasy reader still has something to add to the discussion, some insights that were gained more enjoyably.


May 18, 23:34 by Lois Tilton
Could you mention a few representative works and their influence?
May 19, 14:36 by Ryder W. Miller
The book which still should be on the bookstore shelves does a good job of doing so. His fellow Inklings and the names George McDonald and G.K. Chesterton come to mind.
   

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