Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Susan

We finally went to see the Narnia movie yesterday. What with all our travels, etc. we just hadn't made it to the theater yet. I'd say it was pretty well done, though not knock-your-socks-off fantastic.

It did bring back to me my one BIG quarrel with the CofN, the fate of Susan. If you've read the whole series, you'll recall that in The Last Battle it turns out that Susan has turned her back on Aslan and Narnia. She's into nylons and lipstick and says that Narnia was all a children's fantasy that they must get past now that they are on their way to full maturity.

This infuriated me as a young adolescent girl who was just getting interested in nylons and lipstick myself when I first read TLB. Susan was my hero! The big sister just as I was the big sister. The cracker jack archer. The brave warrior. The wise queen. It seemed to me the height of cruelty to set her up as a heronine and then yank the rug out like that.

It turns out that I'm not the only one who noticed this problem. Apparently someone has written an "alternative" story in which Susan becomes a feminist professor of the shrill. politically correct sort and Aslan has rip roaring good sex with the White Witch.

Well. That probably works just fine for those who don't like the CofN much anyway and are only too willing to see C.S. Lewis as a stodgy old Victorian Fart with nothing of value to say to anyone about anything. But what about those of us for whom the CofN were a valuable part of our formation as children, who still count ourselves Christians, who are willing to take a critical look at C.S. Lewis but aren't ready to toss him onto the trash heap as totally worthless?

I'd like to read a story that takes a look at what happens with Susan after her whole family is killed in that train wreck. How do her experiences in Narnia come into play as she wrestles with devestating loss? I can't believe Aslan would let go of her completely.

After all, Once a king or queen in Narnia--always a king or queen in Narnia.

9 comments:

Quotidian Grace said...

I have read that C.S. Lewis intended the character of Susan to represent the Christian who leaves her childhood faith behind as an adult. She sees it as part of her childhood that has no relevance to her adult life. Maybe that explains the ending?

Songbird said...

Although I was an older sister, I had a strong identification with Lucy. It shocked me that Susan had turned away, but it didn't surprise me. Thinking on it now, however, it's disturbing.
Seriously, Aslan and the White Witch? Eww.

Kathryn said...

I KNEW I loved you, pcit :-)...It's always worried me too, as I was devoted to Susan in my childhood...and as you say, after that train crash her life must have been so utterly undone, so surely she must have wanted to revisit those times when Aslan breathed on her and she became as brave as a lioness.

Anonymous said...

Dear All--
I'm almost certain that quotidian grace is correct. Lewis is portraying Susan as making the same mistake he made as a youth, which led directly to his years of atheism. Lewis thought that to grow up and be an ‘adult’ he had to give up his belief in supernatural good and evil—i.e. in fairy tales. He wrote that as an adolescent he became ashamed to be found reading fairy stories. "Now that I am 50 I read them openly,” he said. “When I became a man I put away childish things, including the fear of childishness." That is why Jill Pole says Susan’s spiritual mistake was to be ‘always a jolly sight too keen on being grown up.’ It has nothing to do with her being a woman or —Peter and Edmund could have done the same thing. But don’t fear. I agree with Kathryn, that the train crash would have awakened Susan. Remember, Aslan says, “once a king or queen in Narnia, always a King or Queen in Narnia.” I’m sure Susan makes it there at last. –Tim Keller

Purechristianithink said...

I can buy that C.S. Lewis was using Susan as an example of those who, like himself, mistakenly feel they must jettison the faith of their childhood to reach maturity. However, I still think it was badly done. In a seven book series to take an important character whom readers have, up until that point, been encouraged to love, admire, even revere--and then turn her out as a silly twit in one half of one page in the last half of the last book--I'd just say that's bad writing. Especially in a book for children. Also unfair, if he is using his own experience as his basis for Susan's downfall, to finish the narrative with no hint of the possibility of redemption for her. Badly done.

Mary Beth said...

Don't you imagine that Susan ended up in Aslan's Country after her eventual death in our world? I do.

When I die, I'm going to Aslan's Country. Just because I wasn't on that train won't stop me. :)

SpookyRach said...

Interesting. I think you should right an alternative story of your own, PCIT. But maybe without the weird sex.

Meckhead said...

Hi -- We haven't met but I couldn't resist responding. I've also fretted over Susan...but does it mean something, I wonder, that in the discussion, it's never Aslan who pronounces any sort of final separation between Susan and Narnia...it's mostly the others' perspectives, isn't it? As a Christian with a significant number of nonreligious family and friends, I recognize the reality that not everyone raised with Christian faith chooses it as an adult. I'm glad, even, to see that Lewis acknowledges that reality. I'll out myself as a Lutheran here and say it makes sense that Susan is "always a queen in Narnia." Her identity as one chosen by Aslan remains, whether or not she always turns to it...and it will still be there when she realizes being too adult for Narnia isn't all it's cracked up to be. If I had never studied theology, I'd probably be a Susan. I'm so thankful to God that I found a way to bring my own struggles and questions and doubts into my relationship with God instead of seeing them as a barrier.

Purechristianithink said...

Meckhead,
You're right. It's her "brothers and sisters" who condemn Susan, not Aslan. I hadn't noted that before and it is significant.