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The Narnia books - oh my goodness

(133 Posts)
BellaBear Thu 10-Jul-08 09:22:35

I've just read the whole set of them and I am shocked at how racist they are - and also I never realised what a blatant christian analogy they are.

Anyone have any thoughts?

Is it acceptable as they are of their time?

The language is also hilarious (eg a Calormene (pretty obvioulsy meant to be Turkish) using the expression 'He's a brick' in praise of someone made me laugh out loud)

Psychomum5 Thu 10-Jul-08 09:25:58

I thought the same actually.

on 'the last battle' now, and they keep calling the calormenes 'darkie'....shock.

they are a book of their time tho really.....they were written in the 50's which was a very racist time from what I have been told (and learnt from my aunt and uncle who were very racist).

it is a shame in some ways as they are very popular again and of course todays children will be subjected to it a little.

mind you, it is only now as an adult that I can see them all several times as a child and it went straight over my head then!

BellaBear Thu 10-Jul-08 09:30:19

the calormenes are described, by the narrator, as being a cruel race. they are obviously muslims

dh really looking forward to reading them to ds when he is older and it makes me feel uncomfortable (not the christian stuff, btw, even though I am not and it does lay it on very thick)

shelleylou Thu 10-Jul-08 09:31:35

i read them several times as a child and didnt really get some of the comments too much. Then worked out what it was but didnt find it overly racist. <<<>makes note to get the collection out and read them again>>>

Psychomum5 Thu 10-Jul-08 09:33:47

shelly....I never got it at all when I was young, and TBH, it has taken me two reads to see how christian they are....

Rhubarb Thu 10-Jul-08 09:34:35

"obviously muslims" how so? Don't you think you might be reading too much into it. I have 2 Asian brothers and didn't find anything remotely racist about the books. I found it old-fashioned certainly, but I don't think it is intentionally racist.

I do think that once you are told something like that, you start reading the racism into things that are not necessarily racist.

edam Thu 10-Jul-08 09:34:54

Gosh, I read the whole series again and again as a child and didn't notice any racism at all. And I came from a left-wing politically active family who explained things like graffiti about Blair Peach!

I thought the Christian theme was very clear but maybe that was going to a CofE school. Can't remember if C S Lewis was ordained (think so) but he was certainly a theologian. The Screwtape Letters are definitely worth reading whether you are religious or not.

BellaBear Thu 10-Jul-08 09:35:16

the whole heaven thing at the end of the last battle with a 'sorting' was a bit much actually.

and poor susan, dismissed! Don't think CS Lewis liked girly girls much!

Rhubarb Thu 10-Jul-08 09:37:35

Ah but his female characters are very strong.

BellaBear Thu 10-Jul-08 09:38:47

I don't rmemeber being told they were racist though.. yes christian, but not racist. It's mainly in one book - The Horse and His Boy. It made me feel really uncomfortable. But you are probably right - it is easy to say things like that reading them in 2008.

'obviously muslim' lots of the language the calormenes use and the description of the country and practices made me think that. But I suppose again, I could be reading too much into it!

BellaBear Thu 10-Jul-08 09:39:29

last post was to Rhubarb

yes, you are right about strong female characters

throckenholt Thu 10-Jul-08 09:39:52

I read them all as a kid and the racist and religious stuff passed me by completely.

Rhubarb Thu 10-Jul-08 09:42:35

Tbh, attitudes back then were very poor towards any other race and we are much more politically correct these days. But even in the 80's I was using the terms "coloured" and "retarded" and "half-caste" to describe my brothers and no one ever took any offence. They were just words. Now I know they are offence and I don't use them. But someone could have easily labelled me as racist in the 80's when that was far from the truth.

Ignorant perhaps, but not racist.

BellaBear Thu 10-Jul-08 09:44:44

yes. Still surprised me! But I completely get your point.

I liked the Voyage of the Dawn Treader, thought it was the best by far.

edam Thu 10-Jul-08 09:45:09

Oddly enough The Horse and His Boy was the one book I disliked and never read again. Maybe I did realise it was racist and have just forgotten?

BellaBear Thu 10-Jul-08 09:46:21

It's the one between TLTWATW and Prince Caspian - am not surprised it hasn't been made into a film in the current series!

BellaBear Thu 10-Jul-08 09:47:30

That said, there is a lovely feminist bit about why Aravis (the femal character in the Horse and His Boy) does;'t want to sett;e for marriage! And a good point about pride.

MarsLady Thu 10-Jul-08 09:48:45

I really enjoy the Narnia books and my children have read them and also enjoyed them.

I've always known about the Christian message in them (CS Lewis makes no apology for that). Never found them racist but then I think I'm rather too busy combating it in RL.

[nb:the combating doesn't mean that I'm surrounded by racism and racists all the time]

tortoiseSHELL Thu 10-Jul-08 09:48:57

I read a fab book about Tolkien, and there was a lot about C S Lewis - notably about how he was atheist, and derided Christianity/religion etc. Then in the pub I believe Tolkien said something that got him thinking, and he almost overnight became a Christian. This apparently irritated Tolkien, because not only did he become Christian (which was a good thing in Tolkien's eyes) but he started writing in a very evangelical way about Christianity - and Tolkien thought perhaps he ought to discover his own faith, and settle before lecturing others about theirs.

I think Tolkien also had problems with Lewis' relationship with a married woman...

But Tolkien most of all didn't like the Narnia books because he despised allegory, and although Lewis denied any Christian allegorical writing in Narnia (er, yeah, right), it is blatantly allegorical.

I am definitely a Tolkien not a C S Lewis fan! smile

stitch Thu 10-Jul-08 09:49:46

rhuby, i think 'retard' is a general all purpose adjective for brothers everywhere grin

BellaBear Thu 10-Jul-08 09:50:40

Allegory! THAT's the word I was looking for. Thank yoU!

Rhubarb Thu 10-Jul-08 09:51:53


You'll get pulled for that one!

stitch Thu 10-Jul-08 09:52:16


shelleylou Thu 10-Jul-08 09:52:57

I must have read far to much as a child

seeker Thu 10-Jul-08 09:53:50

I can't bear them - and I have not brought them into the house for my dcs. I don't like the Christian propaganda, the racism (he may not have meant to be racist, in fact, I'm sure he didn't, but just because language and attitudes were acceptable then it doesn't mean they are now) and the appalling representation of girls. Women are either evil witches ensnaring innocent men in their web or home makers. Lucy, for all the "queen" title is a glorified homemaker with her magic potion, and Susan is obviously destines to be a real life innocent man ensnarer because of her unhealthy interest in lipstick and nylons.

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