The thing that really gets to me is that when I’m sick, it comes on top of the various things that are already wrong. So, when I get (again) a strep infection in my lungs, it’s not just strep, it’s also headache/migraine, chronic pain, and the fatigue from immune issues. Consequently, I spend a significant amount of time on the sofa, reading.

(sudden segue goes here.)

When I was young, I spent a lot of time investigating the backs of wardrobes (you guys call them something else, sometimes, but they’re the thing you hang clothes in when you live in a house built before closets were common ).  I refuse to admit how embarrassingly old I was before I admitted that Narnia was a fictional creation, and I have to say that I only really admitted it under duress. I really hoped it was real, because my actual life was sadly wanting in awesomeness, mostly because I was fat, weird, and bullied. I wanted options, and (let’s be honest, here) magic.

I had not actually read the Narnia books for many years, though I own a set, so last week I thought I’d read the entire series, seeing as how I was on the sofa anyway.

It was *excruciating*.

I remembered that there was casual racism, but I had forgotten how pervasive it was, and just how absolutely stupid. The “bad” guys are not only dark-skinned, but they’re brutal slave-owners.

(Meanwhile, back in reality, white Europeans have won the “brutal slave-owners” cup hands down, and I don’t believe C.S. Lewis was unaware of that.)

And then there’s the casual sexism,    where the girls don’t get swords, nor do they actually fight in any of the battles. And one of the girls doesn’t even get to go to heaven, apparently for the mortal sin of… lipstick.

(It’s the rare book in which “rocks fall, everybody dies” is the *happy* ending; Bob points out that Susan is the only person left alive of all the main characters, therefore she actually wins.)

I never thought I was the princess; I was too fat and way too interested in weird things. If I ended up in a tower, being rescued by a prince, I’d drive him insane, telling him how everything he knows is informed by outmoded patriarchal mores. No, what I wanted was to be a warrior; if there was no way anyone would mistake me for the pretty girl, then maybe I could be useful. But when I was little, there weren’t any fighting girls, not cool ones, anyway. My choices were Princess or witch.

Neither fit.

The thing about being female and wanting to be “one of the guys ” is you find out eventually that no matter what you do, the guys will never let you in. It’s a bitter lesson; you can’t be the princess, and you can’t be the hero. The Fellowship of the Ring will never let the chicks belong.

Modern movies and fiction are way more healthy for girls; Wonder Woman and Dora the Explorer both show women who do things, and don’t wait around for men to do it for them.

I think it’s a good idea for us put writers like C.S. Lewis up on a high shelf marked “Classics: DO NOT READ”.  It’s time to close the wardrobe door and go looking for a world where women are treated like human beings, and not delicate fragile flowers too precious to wield a sword.

Or maybe a flamethrower…

One thought on “I No Longer Look for Narnia

  1. I agree with a lot of what you said. I would add, that we should not discount the entire princess concept, but embrace writers like Tamora Pierce and Patricia C. Wrede who write princesses that are warriors or at least the makers of their own destiny. If you haven’t read them, as a fat, weird girl in the 80s and 90s, I recommend most “Dealing With Dragons” by Wrede. “Alanna: The First Adventure” and the sequels do fall into the tropes of women pretending to be men to be warriors, however, Pierce offers non-traditional resolutions to those tropes and showcases women being respected warriors in their own right as the various series progress.


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