Notes on Narnia

For Aslan

C.S. Lewis’s world of Narnia is amongst my favorite ‘Neverlands’. There is very little about these stories and characters that I do not love. I own the giant anniversary edition with all of the novels in it, as well as the original, color illustrations. My husband bought me the BBC series as a Christmas gift when we were dating. I also own the new movies done by Walden Media, which I adore. These are stories and a world that I intend on sharing with my daughter. I want her to imagine Aslan walking beside her, cuddling her, encouraging her. I want to gift her with that “tangible” image of God that comforted me marvelous much as a child.

However, I have noticed something very interesting in the Walden Media movies’ treatment of nationality. Now, it may not be a big deal to…well, anyone but me, but I found it intriguing. In “Prince Caspian”, Ben Barnes stars at the title character in his first mainstream leading role. As Caspian X, son of the Telmarian Caspian IX, Barnes is depicted as swarthy, with an olive complexion and longish, dark, almost-black hair. The Telmarines, who invaded Narnia after the disappearance of Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy, came from across the sea and were sons of Adam and Daughters of Eve themselves, happening upon Narnia by accident years ago. They have now been ruling over Narnia for centuries, and Caspian is the latest heir in a string of Telmarine conqueror kings. The Walden Media movies depict the Telmarines as swarthy, dark of hair and eye, with an accent that can be described as Spanish or Latin.

Now, fast-forward three Narnian years: Edmund and Lucy return to Narnia, accidentally bringing their odious cousin Eustance with them. Landing in the sea, they are picked up by the Dawn Treader, captained and crewed by none other than Narnians and led by their dear friend Caspian, King of Narnia. Now, as soon as Caspian (once again played by Barnes) begins to speak, we notice something different about him. Gone are the swarthy skin and deep-dark hair, as well as the Spanish/Telmarine accent. He has been transformed into a “proper” Narnian with a pointedly British accent, skin that is slightly paler than when we last saw him, and hair that has been lightened to a warm brown (presumably by the sun), as has his facial hair.

Like I said, this may not seem important to anyone aside from me, but I find it intriguing that Walden Media chose to represent Caspian’s separation from his Telmarine heritage and his integration into the traditional Narnian culture through his appearance and accent. He seems older (as he is, truthfully) and more mature than the boy who squabbled with Peter and trembled before Aslan, but is still filled with awe at all he is continually learning about Narnia and the lands beyond it. One has to wonder, though: why not just leave him as he was in the previous film?  Why choose this particular method of visually representing growth in addition to the mental and emotional evidence? Don’t get me wrong, I thoroughly enjoy it. Few actors are more adorable to me than Ben Barnes, especially when he’s playing my favorite prince. But the idea still intrigues me, and I count it a very clever writing and filming device.

If you’ve seen the films, what is your opinion?

November 27, 2010 – “The Wonders of Imaginary Places”

Narnia isn’t the sort of place that you find when you are looking for it. It’s always there, on the edge of your sight, in the corner of your eyes, ready to surprise you when you aren’t expecting it. When I was a child, I used to dream and wish and hope that, some day, I would open a door and find myself in a world where Animals talked, trees walked, and a giant lion would love and guide me. I fantasized about running my fingers through a mane that would be surprisingly soft and smell of sunshine and clear air and warmth. I watched the old BBC version of The Chronicles of Narnia and marveled at the walking, talking lion they used. Ah, the magic of animatronics.

The Chronicles of Narnia is still one of my favorite series. The deep magic of the world, the lessons taught and learned, and especially the sheer expanse of Narnia. Absolutely wonderful. Whenever I read the stories, the characters greet me like old friends and, when I see them brought to life on the movie screen, I have found myself crying out of sheer love for those characters, those friends, and that world that I loved so as a child.

I am one of those people who buys wholly into some of these worlds of imagination, even if for a little while. The Chronicles of Narnia, The Lord of the Rings, The Elemental Masters, Harry Potter’s Wizarding World…all of these worlds draw me in, draw me close, and fascinate me. The imagination and knowledge (even if it is indeed borrowed) that it took to create them delights me. I love to fall into those worlds, to get to know the characters, imagine their deeper personalities, conflicts, brightness, darkness. As my father says, I get myself into a situation that I have to write myself out of.

People think I’m odd, weird, crazy perhaps, but this is my love, my joy: to build castles in the sky, worlds out of thin air, to fall happily tumbling into worlds that others have created. It’s why I love larping. I adore creating characters, building my “liar’s house”, and slipping into and occupying it for a while. What can I say? It’s fun, and it feeds my drama addiction.