Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

You can probably guess the impression the book of this made upon me when you consider the name of Ambel’s ship in The Skinner. I called it the Treader, because that seemed like a good name for a somewhat weird ship undergoing a weird journey and, remember, Ambel’s ship even had a talking animal aboard…

However, if we are to judge by the way the last two books have been portrayed in film, I was missing the somewhat unsubtle message and the indoctrination bounced off my thick skin. When I read the books as a youngster I enjoyed the magic, swords, talking animals and not for one second did I think that I had ‘nothing without belief’ or that I had to ‘have faith’, nor did I notice that in our reality Aslan went under a different name. Even then I was realizing that suspension of disbelief was what I wanted, between the covers of a book.

The film was visually gorgeous and I would have enjoyed it immensely but for those two comments above dropped in like a roast pig in a mosque. From the first of them it lost me and I was sitting there with a bit of a sneer on my face, which became more pronounced at the end with all that Aslan’s kingdom nonsense.

Where the books so unsubtle? I don’t remember, maybe because as a youngster, having been brought up in an agnostic then firmly atheist household, I was making no connections at all. If they were then I find it surprising that my mother, a school teacher, used to read them to the kids at her school. One would suppose that they were, since in his other works C. S. Lewis was loudly banging his tambourine and arguing for belief, for faith. Or is it the case that those making these films too firmly bought into the idea of the Narnia books as a Christian allegory?

Where the books this loaded with doctrinal cudgels? Or were the products of this member of the Inklings not quite so consciously didactic? I don’t remember being quite so annoyed by the first film, The Lion, the Witch & the Wardrobe. Different directors, producers?

9 comments:

Andrew said...

The books were heavily loaded with it and get worse as the series progresses.

C S Lewis was a deeply religious man. He wrote the space trilogy, which is SF with veiled religion mixed in.

He also wrote The Screwtape Letters which is about christianity, devils and temptation.

The books are really well written when they focus on the fantasy, but the religious stuff is crap and really grates with me.

Neal Asher said...

Ahah, yes I knew that C. S. Lewis was heavily religious, but it's been such a long time since I read the Narnia books. In that case the film-makers were being true to the work.

Friso said...

I was annoyed with the overtly Christian message of the first two films as well, at one point the professor in the first film even trots out the trilemma as if it is somehow convincing. I'll be skipping this one.

Jebel Krong said...

the books got more religious and less subtle as they went along. when my mother first read them to me when i was very young i enjoyed them, but as soon as i was old enough to understand the christian allegories, it turned me right off (going to sunday school was an awkward time for me/them, whenever i asked difficult questions). i guess i have been an atheist since i was about 6...

Chris said...

The original books really were that heavy-handed, from the Old Testament pastiches of "The Magician's Nephew" right through to the shoddy Revelation fanfic that was "The Last Battle". I could tell I was being preached at by the author when I was ten.

About the only Narnia book that wasn't tediously didactic was "The Silver Chair". That's the one where (IIRC) Aslan only appear briefly as 'questgiver' at the start of the story and then lets the characters get on with it.

alibaba said...

I agree with Chris - I started off with The Silver Chair and thought it a great book. Reading the rest gave me the feeling of being at a Sunday School lesson; particularly the final scenes in The Last Battle, where all the unworthy Narnians were turned away at the doorway.

Even as a pre-teen I could spot a god-botherer!

Graeme said...

As I remember from reading the blog, you came back from seeing the first Narnia movie in an apocalyptic rage and wrote pretty much the same (but more ranty).

You should pootle back through your posts. Then give yourself a slap for forgetting and remind yourself that if there are anymore Narnia films you will boycott them.

I was quietly amused, when I saw the post saying that you were off to see Dawn Treader and thinking to myself, he'll be cross when he writes it up.

Neal Asher said...

You have to remember that I read these books 35 to 40 years ago so my memory of them is a bit hazy. I suspect that because I was lucky enough to have never been subjected to religion I just didn't recognize it. At that age, if someone had shouted at me, 'Jesus saves!' I would have asked which building society he used.

Graeme, that wasn't the first Narnia movie, which was The Lion, the Witch & the Wardrobe, but the second, Prince Caspian. I was just hoping there wouldn't be so much of a 'message' in this one. Idiot optimism, I guess.

Graeme said...

Twas one or tother. On the upside, you approached it with an open mind, not idiot optimism, so don't knock yourself.