Tag Archives: Narnia

Story Pile: Narnia, Pt 4 — The Magician’s Nephew

Before there were Pevensies, there was Digory and Polly.

Before there was Narnia, there was the endless forest.

Before there was a White Queen, there was Jadis.

I give prequels a bit of a beating, on principle, which I think is incredibly fair because largely, a prequel is about making the world smaller and more boring. It’s about stepping to a point in a story where we know the conclusion and trying to find stuff in that experience that needs explaining, and is interesting to explain. It’s also often a cynical effort to keep using characters you like in a way that doesn’t require you to confront how they’ve changed by the story that people liked (Man, Obi-Wan Kenobi was such a dickhead and then the prequel series he was in made him so much worse). I am, simply put, not a fan of prequels.

But this prequel rules.

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Story Pile: Narnia, Pt 3 — The Last Battle

With the core books that detail what we will gently refer to as the plot of the Narnia universe already laid out, a steady ramp upwards from dull to decent, it seems only fitting now to discuss the way that the series became actively traumatising.

For those not familiar, The Last Battle, the seventh book and last chronologically, is the next book in a series of honestly fairly inoffensive storybook fantasy stories. These stories have followed the lives of a handful of children, so far; The Pevensies, Lucy, Peter, Backup Peter, and that whore, and Eustace Scrubb and his unassumingly decent friend Jill Pole. There’s also another pair, Digory and Polly, and you’ll be left going ‘wait who?’ because they don’t show up until you read the last (first) book, but I’ve said too much.

Point is, if you were like me, you were reading these adventure stories that teased at the ideas of spaces of Narnia, of cultures and nations and magical powers and interesting questions, and each time you got a new book, you learned something new and had more of this beautiful country spread out before you. So often these stories would reward you not with some great accomplishment or demonstration of physical power, some great or heroic badass fight, but instead a bucolic, Hobbit-style scenario of going home and putting things in a tidy position. This was a world where great travails and missing heirs happened, but where the grand battles were often narrated over rather than experienced, and a late book narrative could divert into a conversation about how much centaurs liked porridge (a lot).

The narrative payout of Narnia was always dialled in to ‘oh, well, that’s alright then.’

This book, which you may as a child have picked up and read with the unassuming idea of oh, I like these, this is another one, I wonder which new human friend will learn about Narnia, kills literally everyone you know and destroys Narnia down to the very base foundations of the whole world, leaving behind nothing but a vast expanse of soulless, empty ice.

Then it tries to act like it’s a happy ending.

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Story Pile: Narnia, Pt 2 — The Eustaciad

Last week I wrote about the fantastically dull, chorishly written, monarchist crap that was the genesis of the Narnia series, where a twee fairy tale about how great it was to be a divinely ordained king and disposing of foreigners who weren’t adequately Christian. I lumped these stories together as ‘the Pevensiad’ because they were the stories primarily focused on the character of the Pevensies, four ‘characters’ deviating primarily from a mean of dishwater by dint of how they didn’t live up to the moral and ethical standards of that dishwater.

The start of Narnia was very much about Lewis talking it seemed to his vision of a specific kind of child who he wanted to give a good example of christian childhood behaviour, while offering them what we can modestly call ‘adventure,’ but it was in these books that the conventional isekai narrative of Narnia actually hit its stride and seemingly had some ideas. This is expressed in how the story introduced a character who actually had the room to develop and do something interesting, in the form of the best earth-native Son Of Man character in the entire series, the one, the only, Eustace Clarence Scrubb.

That is literally his name.

And he almost deserved it.

I’m not joking.

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Story Pile: Narnia, Pt 1 — The Pevensiad

There are seven books in the Narnia series of books, created by one C S Lewis. The books have a narrative order and a publication order, and they have a clear distinct arc from the beginning and creation of the world of Narnia and the eventual end of that world. They are profoundly Anglican stories, focusing on an alternate world, one of many, alongside our own, which is meant to have many of the same constants as ours.

Like our God and his incarnation, Jesus.

In this, he’s a lion, named Aslan, who is also sometimes God. Like I said, it’s very Anglican.

Odds are good that you haven’t thought much about Narnia much at all, as an adult. They’re works that have a lot of cultural presence and their metaphors and references work as sort of background radiation for my generation, especially thanks to them being widely distributed public library style books which even got TV Adaptations and big-name Disney movies (remember those).

They’re fantastically twee books, children’s books from a particular era of storytelling that kind of … don’t… like… children?

When you view the books series as a whole, I see five basic groupings in the story, starting with The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe, and the book that follows directly upon the end of that one, we have the first predominant chunk, The Pevensiad.

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