Tag Archive for: Middle Grade

There are spoilers for THE LAST BATTLE in this post.

The Last Battle: A Discussion

THE LAST BATTLE is the final book in the Narniad (in both published and chronological order). I finished reading it for the Narniathon21 a little over a week ago. (The Narniathon’s hosted by Chris at Calmgrove.)

When I first read THE LAST BATTLE back in 2007, I hated it. I gave it only one star. I’ve stated in previous discussion posts that the main reason I decided to participate in the Narniathon was because I wanted to see if my feelings for THE LAST BATTLE changed upon rereading it.

As I reread THE LAST BATTLE, I tried to keep an open mind. I’m glad I did because I enjoyed it much more this time around. I do still have a couple of problems with it, though. The first problem is with some of the allegory and the second is the same problematic language regarding the Calormenes that I noticed in THE HORSE AND HIS BOY.

I didn’t have a problem with all of the allegory in THE LAST BATTLE. In fact, I truly enjoyed the allusion to Moses and the staff with the serpent on it as the characters saw or didn’t see what was really past the door in the stable. I also loved the allusions to the second coming of Christ and what’s written in Revelations regarding the wars, false Christs, and the coming of the Beast. The way Lewis tied them all together as a coherent story was phenomenal.

The part of the allegory in THE LAST BATTLE I had a problem with is regarding Susan and Puzzle. I still don’t agree with how Lewis treated Susan nor do I think that she shouldn’t be “redeemed” when Puzzle, who imitated Aslan, was. I know Puzzle was tricked by Shift. However, before Puzzle agreed to go along with Shift, Puzzle actually said that he knew it was wrong to impersonate Aslan. To me, this means he went along willingly. Don’t get me wrong. I’m glad Puzzle was “redeemed;” I just think if he was, then Susan should’ve been as well as she only liked nylons, lipstick, and invitations more than Narnia.

By mixing a little truth with it they made their lie far stronger.

I thought the problematic language of the Calormenes in THE LAST BATTLE was far worse than what I read in THE HORSE AND HIS BOY. Every time the dwarfs called a Calormene “Darkie,” I cringed. As I stated in my discussion post for THE HORSE AND HIS BOY, I try not to cast judgment on people in the past using today’s lenses. I also think it’s better to learn from our past mistakes than to condemn a man for participating in socially “acceptable,” albeit reprehensible, behavior at the time. Because of this language, though, I didn’t enjoy THE LAST BATTLE nearly as much as I could have.

I can’t believe we’ve reached the end of the Narniathon. I’m glad I decided to participate in it. I have a new found appreciation for the Narniad. Thanks, Chris, for hosting!

Have you read THE LAST BATTLE? Did you like it? Why? Why not?

There are spoilers for THE MAGICIAN’S NEPHEW in this post.

The Magician’s Nephew: A Discussion

THE MAGICIAN’S NEPHEW is the sixth book in the Narniad (in published order). I finished reading it for the Narniathon21 a little over a week ago. (The Narniathon’s hosted by Chris at Calmgrove.)

I didn’t remember much from my previous read 14 years ago, but I knew THE MAGICIAN’S NEPHEW followed the Professor as a young boy during the creation of Narnia. As I started rereading it, I realized that I’d forgotten or missed a lot of the story that first time through.

When I first read THE MAGICIAN’S NEPHEW back in 2007, I didn’t know there was a published order and a chronological order to the Narniad. I made the mistake of reading THE MAGICIAN’S NEPHEW first and I didn’t enjoy it very much. I thought it was slow and boring. I also didn’t really get much out of it other than the origin of Narnia, the White Witch, and the wardrobe.

As stated above, we’ve been reading the books in published order for the Narniathon. I wasn’t sure if that’d make a difference or not. However, I’m now a believer that everyone should read the Narniad in published order. I enjoyed THE MAGICIAN’S NEPHEW so much more with the background of all that had already happened in the previous books. I also got more out of the allegory this time around.

As I’ve mentioned in previous discussion posts, the allegory’s my favorite part of the Narniad. I love trying to find meaning and connections with Christianity while reading each book. The allegory in THE MAGICIAN’S NEPHEW aligns so much with my own beliefs that it made it a joy to read and it’s now one of my favorite books in the Narniad.

The obvious connection in THE MAGICIAN’S NEPHEW to Christianity is the creation, the Garden of Eden, and the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. I also thought it was interesting that Lewis alluded to the worlds without number that God has created in the Wood Between the Worlds.

I think this quote from THE MAGICIAN’S NEPHEW sums up my reading experience quite nicely:

What you see and what you hear depends on where you are standing. It also depends on what sort of person you are.

Anyway, after reading THE MAGICIAN’S NEPHEW, I found myself looking forward to reading THE LAST BATTLE for the first time since I started the Narniathon.

Have you read THE MAGICIAN’S NEPHEW? Did you like it? Why? Why not?

There are spoilers for THE HORSE AND HIS BOY in this post.

The Horse and His Boy: A Discussion

THE HORSE AND HIS BOY is the fifth book in the Narniad (in published order). I finished reading it for the Narniathon21 on April 30. (The Narniathon’s hosted by Chris at Calmgrove.)

When I first read THE HORSE AND HIS BOY 14 years ago, I really loved this installment of the Narniad. During my reread, I didn’t enjoy it as much as I did the first time I read it. I also feel like I don’t have as much to say about this book in general so I’ll focus on answering Chris’ questions instead of pointing out my own observations.

  1. THE HORSE AND HIS BOY has a distinctive ARABIAN NIGHTS feel which some have found problematic. Has this aspect, and its cultural or racial resonances, been an issue for you or not?

I did notice the problematic language and descriptions of the Calormen. I’m sure many readers pictured characters that look Arabic or Muslim in appearance because of Lewis’ descriptions. He may have, as Chris suggests in his post (link above) drawn inspiration directly from ARABIAN NIGHTS, which feels like cultural misappropriation.

While I think a book written like this today would be extremely inappropriate, I do try not to cast judgment on people in the past using today’s lenses. Yes, racism and cultural misappropriation was just as wrong in CS Lewis’ time as it is now. And, I think it’s better to learn from our past mistakes than to condemn a man for participating in socially “acceptable,” albeit reprehensible, behavior at the time. It’s the same reasoning I don’t think we should throw out Mark Twain’s books either. One of my least favorite books illustrates this principle perfectly:

Colored people don’t like LITTLE BLACK SAMBO. Burn it. White people don’t feel good about UNCLE TOM’S CABIN. Burn it. Someone’s written a book on tobacco and cancer of the lungs? The cigarette people are weeping? Burn the book.

FAHRENHEIT 451, Ray Bradbury

For this reason, just like I have done with Dune, I can acknowledge the cultural misappropriation for what it is AND help society do better by also supporting Muslim authors and authentic Muslim stories.

  1. Unlike the previous four titles, this book has the formerly young visitors to Narnia, the Pevensies, more as bit players than as protagonists. Have you found this a disappointment or did you happily adjust to the new points-of-view provided by Shasta, Aravis, and the others?

I was fine with reading the story from other POVs than the Pevensies. I’m not necessarily attached to them (maybe Lucy). I’m most attached to Aslan and some of the woodland creatures, like Reepicheep (too bad he’s only in like 20% of Narniad). If Aslan weren’t to show up, then I’d be disappointed.

  1. As a boy Lewis loved to imagine talking animals, and that love permeates all the chronicles, including here with Bree, Hwin and, of course, Aslan. How did you feel about the interplay between the young protagonists and their mounts? Did you spot the literary allusions? And how did you react to Rabadash’s punishment?

I really liked how Aslan shows up in this book. It’s one of the things I like about this book. It reminds me of what in Narnia, Christians may term as the “Holy Spirit.” I feel like Aslan manifests this way in Narnia often. Instead of simply telling the characters he’s there to guide them, he leads them through other means that they often don’t know about. He helps them very mysteriously. (See what I did there. )

I didn’t spot the literary allusions, I don’t think. I think this may be why I’m not sure how it relates to Rabadash’s punishment. As far as his punishment, it reminded me a bit of PINOCCHIO. Even without thinking of Pleasure Island, I thought his punishment was just.

To be quite honest, I’m not really looking forward to reading the last two books in the Narniad. They’re my least favorite of the seven books. Hopefully, I’ll feel differently this time around. I am trying to keep an open mind even if it’s not working very well. Anyway, THE MAGICIAN’S NEPHEW and the creation of Narnia is next.

Have you read THE HORSE AND HIS BOY? Did you like it? Why? Why not?

There are spoilers for THE SILVER CHAIR in this post.

The Silver Chair: A Discussion

THE SILVER CHAIR is the fourth book in the Narniad (in published order). I finished reading it for the Narniathon21 I’m participating in on Thursday of last week. (The Narniathon’s hosted by Chris at Calmgrove.)

This is the only book in the Narniad that I remembered nothing from my previous read 14 years ago. Okay, I remembered that Eustace Scrubbs was one of the main characters, but that’s it. Other than that, I was basically reading this installment as if it were my first time again. I thought once I started rereading THE SILVER CHAIR, the story would come back to me–it didn’t.

I really liked THE SILVER CHAIR. It was a lot different than the previous three books, which I found kind of refreshing. I did get annoyed by the owls “tu-whoos” and Puddleglum’s negativity, but not enough to make me hate the story. There were also a couple of times I was frustrated because I understood what was happening a lot sooner than the characters did (e.g. Autumn feast, Rilian’s enchantment). I had to remind myself that these are children’s books so I wouldn’t get too mad, lol.

I thought the allegory was more subtle in THE SILVER CHAIR than in the previous installments of the Narniad until the end, anyway. Then the allegory is obvious when Aslan asks Eustace to pierce his paw with a thorn. Even though the imagery’s unmistakable, I thought how Lewis tied it in with Caspian’s death was beautiful. It’s my favorite ending so far in the series.

The more subtle parts of the allegory are the four signs that Aslan gives to Jill to follow so she and Eustace can find Prince Rilian. Aslan tells her to recite them when she wakes up in the morning and before she goes to sleep at night so she doesn’t forget them. Over on Chris’ blog, he commented:

I think Aslan’s insistence that Jill repeat the Four Signs rubric morning and night is deliberately redolent of saying prayers before and after sleep.

I agree that by having Jill recite the signs like Aslan asks, the signs are reminiscent of morning and nightly prayers. And, the fact that Jill, Eustace, and Puddleglum don’t recognize the signs before they come upon them reminds me of the “signs of the times” that Christians look for as signals of Christ’s second coming. As a Christian, I’ve been brought up to believe the “signs of the times” can help me prepare and be ready for when Christ comes to reign again on the earth.

I also think, and I don’t think I’m alone, that there are many interpretations of the signs. Look at the book of Revelations, for example. Scholars and theologians can speculate what they think John the Revelator meant by what he wrote. And, I think we’re all going to be surprised as to what he meant by what he wrote when everything happens. (This is, of course, if you believe like I do that the book of Revelations is a book of things to come.)

I also thought of the signs in conjunction with following Christ’s commandments. Jill and Eustace do their best to follow the signs. They try to keep their minds from getting confused as Aslan warns. They, as Jill puts it, “muff it up” a few times. Aslan is gracious and forgiving and gives them many chances to follow the signs as Christ does with us. I believe as long as we’re trying to follow Christ and do good, He will give us as many chances as we need to follow Him and do as He asks.

I’m looking forward to reading THE HORSE AND HIS BOY this month. It’s one of my favorite installments in the Narniad.

Have you read THE SILVER CHAIR? Did you like it? Why? Why not?

There are spoilers for THE VOYAGE OF THE DAWN TREADER in this post.

The Voyage of the Dawn Treader: A Discussion

THE VOYAGE OF THE DAWN TREADER is the third book in the Narniad (in published order). I finished reading it for the Narniathon21 I’m participating in on Monday. (The Narniathon’s hosted by Chris at Calmgrove.)

This is my favorite installment of the Narniad. I love how Edmund, Lucy, and Eustace get to Narnia, and I love reading about their adventures while sailing the Dawn Treader with Caspian and his crew. I think all of the different circumstances they find themselves in on each of the islands are interesting. My two favorite islands are Dragon Island and the one with the Dufflepuds.

I’m glad Dragon Island is one of the first islands they sail to. I don’t think I could’ve taken Eustace’s constant nagging, complaining, conceitedness any longer. The interesting thing is that Eustace actually becomes one of my favorite characters in the Narniad after his time as a dragon. I love getting more of Reepicheep in this adventure. He’s such a fun character. If I had a chance of meeting him, I’d be exactly like Lucy, wanting to pick him up and cuddle him. I him so much.

I said this with LWW and PRINCE CASPIAN, but I think every one of these books in the Narniad ends kind of abruptly and a little bit weirdly. THE VOYAGE OF THE DAWN TREADER is probably the least out of the three so far because it at least winds down unlike the previous two.

As with the previous two, a few things regarding the allegory stood out to me during this read. I thought the way Eustace explained how he transformed back into a human with Aslan’s help was really interesting. It was almost like he was baptized and had his sins washed away. And, instead of Aslan bleeding like Christ did in the Garden of Gethsemane, CS Lewis turned it around by making Eustace hurt and bleed after Aslan cut through his dragon skin with his teeth or claws (I can’t remember which).

The other thing I noticed about the allegory is how Aslan was really only in THE VOYAGE OF THE DAWN TREADER via second-hand accounts and the characters seeing visages of him when they were in danger. It was almost like CS Lewis was trying to portray Aslan as those of us who believe in Christ talk to Him through prayer.

I do like the ending when Aslan tells Lucy and Edmund the reason the Pevensies came to Narnia in the first place was so they’d recognize Him in their own world. It helps me make sense of why Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy are now too old to return to Narnia, even though in my mind no one is too old to be in Christ’s presence since, you know, Aslan is Christ.

Also, over on Chris’ blog, he asked what we thought the significance was of the characters sailing east. I think the significance is part of the allegory. There are many scriptures that say when Christ comes again, He’ll appear in the east. Chris commented:

“I’ve no doubt that the journey to the east is meant to allude to Eden. Most medieval graves and many modern ones are literally oriented towards oriens, the ‘rising sun’ so that on the Day of Doom the faithful are facing the Second Coming. Lewis signals the symbolism very strongly with his references to the sun getting bigger, and the very name of the ship alludes to the theme.”

I didn’t even think of the name of the ship alluding to the theme of going toward the rising sun or pointing toward Christ, if you will. I think THE VOYAGE OF THE DAWN TREADER has a lot about it that is very interesting to think about in terms of the allegory, again making it my favorite installment of the Narniad.

I’m looking forward to reading THE SILVER CHAIR this month. I don’t remember anything about it, except that Eustace returns to Narnia.

Have you read THE VOYAGE OF THE DAWN TREADER? Did you like it? Why? Why not?