[DWJ] Pullman v Narnia (was Re:Farah Mendlesohn's book - blatant commercial plug)

Minnow minnow at belfry.org.uk
Tue Sep 12 15:26:45 EDT 2006

Otter wrote:

>I remember reading an article about Pullman in which
>he vents at Lewis for not allowing Susan to go back to Narnia
>because she had conventional pubescent interests.

I've argued this one with him (without success).  What Susan has done is
not just have other interests: she has *denied* Narnia.  She has refused to
talk about it, and said "Fancy you still thinking about all those funny
games we used to play when we were children" and not acknowledged that she
herself spent many years there *and grew up there past the age she now is*
and so presumably had the experience of having got past adolescence and
noticed that it isn't really the only interesting part of one's life.   She
doesn't want to know about Narnia.  That's a far cry from merely being a
bit preoccupied with "nylons and lipstick and invitations" and wanting to
be a "grown-up".  It seems quite fair that she should have what she wanted:
not-Narnia, lots of lipstick.  It's a shame for her that her whole family
has been wiped out in a train-crash, of course, but she chose not to be
with them.  (Doctrine of free will probably cuts in somewhere about that
point, and I do hope that Philip isn't indulging in some sort of
predestination kick: it seems very unlike him.)

What's more, it is at no time suggested by Lewis that Susan cannot come to
Narnia in the end.  She just hasn't got there yet: the others have been let
in early, as it were (apart from the Professor and Aunt Polly, who are
presumably nearing the end of quite long lives), but there is nothing
whatever in the book to suggest that she is forever barred.  After all,
Lewis would be the last person to want to think that having once denied
Aslan/Christ/GodOfChoice one would then be damned eternally: for the first
half of his life he'd been denying the God who finally "reeled him in", and
he certainly still hoped for heaven in spite of that denial.

>A friend of
>mine says it sounds to her like the reaction of someone deeply
>involved and deeply disappointed.  That is, Pullman is deeply
>involved and feels deeply betrayed by Lewis.

And hasn't read *The Last Battle* with quite enough attention to what is
*there* as opposed to what he assumes is there or has been told is there,

(Hey, I'm biased about some of his views anyway: you should have heard him
on the subject of texts in Old and Middle English.  He said they have
nothing at all to say except that blokes bash each other with axes and then
get drunk and boast about it in the mead-hall afterwards.  I washed my
hands... and went away and re-read Wiglaf's comments on the boasts one
might utter in the mead-hall, and how one really ought to live up to them.)


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