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New Era, New Wardrobe?  

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Col Klink
(@col-klink)
NarniaWeb Nut

I've felt like I should be posting in this thread because the wardrobe is such a big part of the most famous Narnia story...but I really don't feel like I have an interesting opinion. The wardrobe is described in the big book as a plain, ordinary wardrobe and it's hard for me to get excited about seeing a new version of something that's plain and ordinary. As a fan of the book, I'd like to see the looking glass because it hasn't been in any other visual adaptations and it's the only significant detail Lewis gives about its appearance. But I expect Netflix's DP won't put up with it any more than Walden Media's did. 😆 

 

I agree that it'd be nice not to have the wardrobe look ornate at all but I'm not expecting that to happen. On the audio commentary for the movie, Nicholas Nickleby, the director describes the original idea for the villain's office was that it'd be very stark and bare. But in practice, that just looked like the movie had no budget or no creativity. So instead they had the office be filled with stuffed (as in bagged, not toys) animals, which didn't fit in with the villain's personality nearly as well as the original idea. 😆 He wasn't a big game hunter or anything like that. While a plain wardrobe would serve the meaning better, I'm guessing they won't be able to convey that meaning to a viewing audience so they're not going to bother trying.

For better or worse-for who knows what may unfold from a chrysalis?-hope was left behind.
-The God Beneath the Sea by Leon Garfield & Edward Blishen

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Posted : June 15, 2020 3:05 pm
icarus
(@icarus)
NarniaWeb Junkie

I'd be all for seeing a different interpretation of the Wardrobe's design, especially one that is less ornate and more unassuming, since I feel that sort of design choice can have a fundamental impact on the way the scene is presented - as mentioned, the elaborate design of the Walden Wardrobe pre-supposes that the wardrobe is significant in the story and that it has a greater meaning to the characters, whereas in other adaptations the wardrobe is just a regular wardrobe, and we the audience are just as surprised as the characters that it has any magical properties.

However adding a mirror to the door just seems like such an unnecessary design choice to try and incorporate. If the only justifiable reason to do so is out of slavish adherence to a throw-away detail in the book, that's a poor film-making decision in my opinion. Mirror's by their nature are highly symbolic, and I just don't know what a mirror in the door would be trying to say to the audience? Why would you include such an obvious visual element, to such a critical prop in your story, if it had absolutely no relevance to the themes you were trying to communicate?

Maybe that's just me, but it feel like without a compelling thematic or cinematic reason to do so, I wouldn't bother.

 

 

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Posted : June 16, 2020 11:02 am
Courtenay
(@courtenay)
NarniaWeb Junkie
Posted by: @icarus

I'd be all for seeing a different interpretation of the Wardrobe's design, especially one that is less ornate and more unassuming, since I feel that sort of design choice can have a fundamental impact on the way the scene is presented - as mentioned, the elaborate design of the Walden Wardrobe pre-supposes that the wardrobe is significant in the story and that it has a greater meaning to the characters, whereas in other adaptations the wardrobe is just a regular wardrobe, and we the audience are just as surprised as the characters that it has any magical properties.

Hmmm, I recall in the BBC version of LWW, the wardrobe is fairly ornate — not given the same "revelatory" emphasis as the Walden version, but it certainly has quite elaborate carved doors in a dark-coloured wood (no mirror, though). I'm now thinking ideally the wardrobe shouldn't be too plain — we do learn it's made from the wood of a Narnian tree, and although Digory might not have been into ornate furniture, I'm sure he'd want to treat that wood with reverence — but not too ornamental either.

Taking a different tack, I just had the thought — the tree from which the wardrobe is made was an apple tree, so what is apple wood like for furniture making? I'm not a woodworker myself, so I did a bit of Googling. This site is quite interesting. Here's an excerpt:

Apple trees were common sources of wood for the immigrants who colonized North America. Today, apple wood is typically harvested from trees that have outgrown their usefulness as fruit producers.

Because the majority of today’s apple trees are dwarf varieties (they produce the same amount of fruit on a much smaller, more manageable tree), apple wood is not available in massive quantities. In addition, apple wood takes a long time to dry out enough to be useful for furniture, and has a tendency to warp and crack. This produces lumber that is relatively expensive, commanding $2+ more per board-foot than other fruit woods, such as cherry.

The wood from slow-growing apple trees is notoriously dense and heavy, making it a good choice for pieces that must be durable. Its hardness allows screws and nails to grip very effectively. Like most fruit woods, apple is a good choice for turning; simple curves greatly enhance its grain. Apple can easily be burnished to a high polish.

The color varies depending on the soil it is grown in, ranging from yellow to orange to pink when fresh. Once dried, the color becomes lighter, creamier, and browner. In fact, some woodworkers call apple wood “tan cherry” because of their similar grain patterns.

So it sounds like the quite dark colour of the BBC version wasn't accurate for apple wood! You can see some photos in the link above and it's overall a light-coloured wood — and the webpage notes that it doesn't absorb stain well, so that's not an option for how it came to be dark. Tongue  

I'm guessing the tree itself, growing from a Narnian seed, probably wasn't a modern dwarf variety, but now all this has also got me to wondering... would there be enough wood in one single apple tree to make a whole wardrobe?? Would Digory, realistically speaking, have needed to make the body of the wardrobe out of some ordinary wood and only the doors out of Narnian apple wood, or to use the Narnian wood as a veneer over the whole thing? All right, yes, I'm probably over-thinking this, but it is intriguing to ponder... Are there any expert carpenters in the community here who might have a view on this? Grin  

"Now you are a lioness," said Aslan. "And now all Narnia will be renewed."
(Prince Caspian)

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Posted : June 16, 2020 1:52 pm
coracle
(@coracle)
NarniaWeb's Auntie Moderator

Good information, thank you! 

If Digory planted it when he was a boy, and it grew into a young tree overnight (still had creation magic), then it could have grown into a decent sized tree in 20 or 30 years. By the time Digory had inherited the property and made the wardrobe, there was plenty of wood. 

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Posted : June 16, 2020 2:10 pm
daughter of the King
(@dot)
Princess Dot Moderator
Posted by: @courtenay

So it sounds like the quite dark colour of the BBC version wasn't accurate for apple wood!

I think it's likely the BBC wardrobe design was based on the Lewis family wardrobe. It's much darker than apple wood and the carvings are very similar.  I'm not sure if they are exactly the same, but after seeing the Lewis wardrobe in person I immediately noticed the similarities the next time I saw the BBC. The major difference is that the BBC wardrobe had full-length doors, presumably to make it easier to get in and out of.

Lewis wardrobe:

Lewis Family Wardrobe, Wade Center, Wheaton College, Wheaton, IL

 

BBC:

 

As for a mirror, I love the idea of it because of the interesting things they could do with it. If the mirror is inside the door a reflection of Narnia could be visible. If it's on the outside there could be great shots of the kids looking out the wardrobe door while showing the door to the room and hearing MacReady getting closer for added tension. Or for more story purposes it could be a way to get Lucy to stay with the wardrobe while everyone else moves on. She could try on the fur coats and have some fun playing in front of the mirror and then when she hears someone coming (perhaps MacReady? It could be an established story point that she is consistently spoiling the fun they have in the house and they don't want to get caught by her) she climbs all the way in.

Unless the mirror is used in some way to enhance the story it's not the worth the trouble it would take to film it.


Narniaweb sister to Pattertwig's Pal

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Posted : June 16, 2020 4:03 pm
The Rose-Tree Dryad
(@rose)
Secret Garden Agent Moderator
Posted by: @icarus

Mirror's by their nature are highly symbolic, and I just don't know what a mirror in the door would be trying to say to the audience? Why would you include such an obvious visual element, to such a critical prop in your story, if it had absolutely no relevance to the themes you were trying to communicate?

Aren't mirrors often symbolic for a portal to another world? I know I've often associated them with alternate realities, and when I (finally) took proper notice of the looking-glass door in LWW, I immediately thought that Lewis included the detail as a subtle nod to the concept of a fantasy portal. (Alice Through the Looking-Glass, after all, had been a popular children's novel since before Lewis was born.)

And then, in The Last Battle, there's also the mention of a looking-glass reflecting of deeper world:

You may have been in a room in which there was a window that looked out on a lovely bay of the sea or a green valley that wound away among mountains. And in the wall of that room opposite to the window there may have been a looking glass. And as you turned away from the window you suddenly caught sight of that sea or that valley, all over again, in the looking glass. And the sea in the mirror, or the valley in the mirror, were in one sense just the same as the real ones: yet at the same time they were somehow different—deeper, more wonderful, more like places in a story: in a story you have never heard but very much want to know. The difference between the old Narnia and the new Narnia was like that. The new one was a deeper country: every rock and flower and blade of grass looked as if it meant more. I can't describe it any better than that: if you ever get there, you will know what I mean. 

I think it's kind of interesting that the story begins with the mention of a looking-glass and ends with a metaphor of one. Obviously, Lucy didn't take much notice of the looking-glass in LWW, but I think the above quote does illustrate that Lewis thought of mirrors as portals in some sense.

And while it may not be a necessary element from a filmmaking standpoint, I do think that it would offer a lot of cinematographic possibilities (as well as challenges Tongue ), and it would be good for branding, too. It's also a way to make a relatively "ordinary" wardrobe look a lot more interesting or inviting. Personally, I think it could be really neat if they shot the scene in such a way that it felt like a bit of a nod to the metaphor from LB — that there is something about the reflection that is deeper, more wonderful, than the surroundings.

Posted by: @courtenay

So it sounds like the quite dark colour of the BBC version wasn't accurate for apple wood! You can see some photos in the link above and it's overall a light-coloured wood — and the webpage notes that it doesn't absorb stain well, so that's not an option for how it came to be dark. Tongue  

Ooh, that lighter applewood color would be different indeed! Although I suppose we can't really know exactly what color wood a Narnian apple tree would have. Giggle

Twitter: Rose_the_Dryad

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Posted : June 16, 2020 4:52 pm
The Rose-Tree Dryad
(@rose)
Secret Garden Agent Moderator

Y'ALL!

I was listening to The Lamp-post Listener podcast (highly recommended) and the episode was an interview with Lina Maslo, who recently just published a picture book about C. S. Lewis's childhood called Through the Wardrobe: How C. S. Lewis Created Narnia. Anyway, she was talking about going to the Marion E. Wade Center at Wheaton College to take pictures of Lewis's childhood wardrobe so she could recreate it in her illustrations, and she mentioned that Westmont College in California also laid claim to having "the Narnia wardrobe" because it matched Lewis's description more closely. Lewis had this particular wardrobe when he was an adult and lived at the Kilns.

So I looked it up, and bingo: there's the looking-glass!

It's really different from Lewis's childhood wardrobe and the one in the Walden versions, but I really like it! It's plain and simple and unassuming, but the mirror gives it a soulful, beckoning quality, especially depending on what it's reflecting. It's also quite a bit more similar to those applewood tones that @Courtenay linked!

Twitter: Rose_the_Dryad

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Posted : June 19, 2020 5:09 pm
Courtenay
(@courtenay)
NarniaWeb Junkie

Oh wow! I really like that one too, @rose.

I'm sure I read somewhere that Douglas Gresham, during one of his early visits to The Kilns as a boy, noticed a large wardrobe and asked Lewis if it was "the Wardrobe", to which Lewis simply replied smilingly "It might be..." I wonder if it was that one?

"Now you are a lioness," said Aslan. "And now all Narnia will be renewed."
(Prince Caspian)

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Posted : June 19, 2020 5:31 pm
decarus
(@decarus)
NarniaWeb Junkie

I don't really care if it has a mirror. I think the idea of the Walden wardrobe was good, but it didn't look old enough, though i guess it was not old actually because the tree would have to grow and then be destroyed and then turned into a wardrobe. It was also slightly too ornate. I think they could do less pictures on it. Simpler would probably make it feel less like a prop which is really what it felt like in the Walden movie just because it was the only thing in the room.

There are no clouds in the sky. There is only the open sun and the Lord watches.

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Posted : June 30, 2020 4:16 am
icarus
(@icarus)
NarniaWeb Junkie
Posted by: @rose
Posted by: @icarus

Mirror's by their nature are highly symbolic, and I just don't know what a mirror in the door would be trying to say to the audience? Why would you include such an obvious visual element, to such a critical prop in your story, if it had absolutely no relevance to the themes you were trying to communicate?

Aren't mirrors often symbolic for a portal to another world? I know I've often associated them with alternate realities, and when I (finally) took proper notice of the looking-glass door in LWW, I immediately thought that Lewis included the detail as a subtle nod to the concept of a fantasy portal. (Alice Through the Looking-Glass, after all, had been a popular children's novel since before Lewis was born.)

 

So that was kind of my point - Mirrors are often symbolic of a portal to another world (particular world's which are thematically opposite to our own world). But the children don't go through a mirror to reach Narnia, they go through the Wardrobe.

Having the mirror there just confuses the issue in my opinion without adding any real value,

It is also not like Narnia is in any way a mirror-universe to ours in any thematic sense, though I think i've seen stage shows where the Professor doubles as Father Christmas, Mrs Macready doubles as the White Witch, etc. However that's pure artistic interpretation and not anything that is present in the text.

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Posted : June 30, 2020 7:49 am
Wanderer Between Worlds
(@wanderer)
NarniaWeb Nut
Posted by: @icarus 

So that was kind of my point - Mirrors are often symbolic of a portal to another world (particular world's which are thematically opposite to our own world). But the children don't go through a mirror to reach Narnia, they go through the Wardrobe.

Having the mirror there just confuses the issue in my opinion without adding any real value.

It is also not like Narnia is in any way a mirror-universe to ours in any thematic sense

     While Narnia is not a “mirror universe” or an opposite universe in the traditional sense (evil universe/versions of people vs. good universe/versions of people), I think that there are many elements in the books that do point to it being a reflection of our world.  For example, animals can talk, man is a myth (at least in LWW), and many of the mythical creatures in our world (dryads, naiads, dwarves, gnomes, spirits, unicorns, giants, werewolves, gods and goddesses, fauns, etc.) are abundant in Narnia.  Narnian stars and celestial bodies are actual people, and precious metals/gemstones are alive as well.  Even the overarching “story” that Lewis wrote into Narnia as his “supposal” of another world needing saving is, I would argue, a reflection of his faith through a Narnian lens.  

     Although I can see how having a mirror in the wardrobe door (and then doing nothing with it) might be confusing, I think that a mirror would add an extra layer to the discovery of Narnia.  

Edit: I moved the latter half of my original post to a new discussion here.  

 

"I am,” said Aslan. "But there I have another name. You must learn to know me by that name. This was the very reason why you were brought to Narnia, that by knowing me here for a little, you may know me better there.”

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Posted : June 30, 2020 10:40 am
Col Klink and Ryadian liked
mm1991
(@mm1991)
NarniaWeb Junkie

Does anyone remember the scene with the bogart in the wardrobe in Happy Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban? It's here on YouTube. It was cleverly done. Obviously I wouldn't want Narnia to do the same thing because I don't want them to be copy-cat (especially concerning another fantasy franchise), but this goes to show - while yes, exceedingly difficult - it is possible to use mirrors in a really cool way. As other posters have already pointed out, mirrors often are seen as portals, and I could see the filmmakers doing something with that....if they wanted to....

"Today you are you, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is youer than you!"
- Dr. Seuss

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Posted : July 3, 2020 10:53 pm
The Rose-Tree Dryad
(@rose)
Secret Garden Agent Moderator
Posted by: @icarus

So that was kind of my point - Mirrors are often symbolic of a portal to another world (particular world's which are thematically opposite to our own world). But the children don't go through a mirror to reach Narnia, they go through the Wardrobe.

Having the mirror there just confuses the issue in my opinion without adding any real value

Hmm, that's a good point. Hmmm Although I might challenge the idea that Narnia is thematically in sync with our world Earth tends to be far too much like Shift's idea of Narnia, imo. There was a reason why the children loved Narnia by comparison! Giggle But I definitely wouldn't like it if it encouraged the interpretation that the White Witch was Mrs. Macready, Aslan is the Professor, et cetera.

I actually quite like the picture I shared above of Lewis's wardrobe from the Kilns at Westmont College if it's not photoshop, it looks like they positioned it in a room with a door that opens to a porch that looks out on a grassy space with trees. If the filmmaker showed the wardrobe reflecting light streaming in through a window that is otherwise unseen in any of the shots, I think that could feel magical and Narnian and inviting, but still in a relatively subtle way. (A little bit similar to when Jill and Eustace open the door in SC, and instead of seeing a heathered moor, they're met with sunshine and birdsong.)

 

Twitter: Rose_the_Dryad

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Posted : July 6, 2020 3:55 pm
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