The significance of Fur coats in adaptations of LWW
If we trace the use of fur throughout the LWW we begin to see some patterns. Aslan has fur - the Witch wears fur. Fur comes to have an association with sacrifice - something must die for there to be fur. The fact that most readers completely overlook the fact that the children are likely wearing beaver fur while talking to .... beavers - is EXACTLY the point. It is sacrifice taken for granted.
That is a beautiful and compelling argument in its own right. But that said, when I'm reading the Chronicles (or any fictional works that obviously have some level of symbolic meaning), I try to remember what Lewis himself famously said somewhere, possibly more than once. I don't have the exact quote — can anyone help me out here? — but I know he remarked that whenever he encountered people who claimed to have figured out what he or his other author friends really meant in their books, those commentators never got it right.
To me, that doesn't mean "don't ever try to look for a deeper significance", just "don't ever treat your own interpretation as what the author truly intended, unless you have really solid evidence from the author him/herself"! (Michael Ward, I'm looking at you... )
Has anyone mentioned in the last few posts that the story is NOT an Allegory?
We are not supposed to find meaning in every aspect. It's a bit like "Peter, you have forgotten to clean your sword" was a blind alley for discussion, as it was simply a practical part of battle that Peter needed to learn.
Seeing fur coats hung in a wardrobe, and loving the feeling of fur attracted a child to climb in and rub her face against them, and thus to get into Narnia for the first time. If Lewis hadn't used fur coats, why would Lucy have climbed into the wardrobe? It is a practical thing. Don't look for other meanings in everything.
There, shining in the sunrise, larger than they had seen him before, shaking his mane (for it had apparently grown again) stood Aslan himself.
"...when a willing victim who had committed no treachery was killed in a traitor's stead, the Table would crack and Death itself would start working backwards."
Thank you for the compliment! And also - thank you for the thought provoking response. When you find the quote from Lewis about finding symbolic meaning - please update your post. You know that Lewis gave a sermon called "Transposition" which became a part of one of the last things he published in his life (“Transposition.” They Asked for a Paper Papers and Addresses, by Clive Staples Lewis, Geoffrey Bles, 1962.) Do you think it is at all relevant?
"The strength of such a critic lies in the words 'merely' or 'nothing but'. He sees all the facts but not the meaning. Quite truly, therefore, he claims to have seen all the facts. There is nothing else there; except the meaning. He is therefore, as regards the matter in hand, in the position of an animal. You will have noticed that most dogs cannot understand pointing. You point to a bit of food on the floor: the dog, instead of looking at the floor, sniffs at your finger. A finger is a finger to him, and that is all. His world is all fact and no meaning. And in a period when factual realism is dominant we shall find people deliberately inducing upon themselves this dog-like mind… As long as this deliberate refusal to understand things from above, even where such understanding is possible, continues, it is idle to talk of any final victory over materialism. The critique of every experience from below, the voluntary ignoring of meaning and concentration on fact, will always have the same plausibility. There will always be evidence, and every month fresh evidence, to show that religion is only psychological, justice only self-protection, politics only economics, love only lust, and thought itself only cerebral biochemistry."
I agree with you that if you look for meaning beyond fact - and find it - then is helpful and interesting to support that finding with evidence found in Lewis' other works. But - in a way - that does a disservice to The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe (for example) as an integrated work of art – capable of conveying meaning – within the broader culture in its own right. Put simply – if you want to read and understand Virgil’s Aeneid is it more important to have read everything Virgil wrote or to have read Homer? When Lewis wrote LWW – did he assume his readers had read his three volume collected letters? Or did he assume his adult readers had read Virgil?
We are not supposed to find meaning in every aspect.
I agree with you, @coracle.
Don't get me wrong. I love finding discussion, depth and meaning in the Narnia books/movies , but somethings are just as it is. Like you said, not all things have secret meaning behind them. For example, fur coats are just fur coats. The children were cold, so they wore coats to keep warm in the winter. The Narnia books are full of hidden meanings all the same but this is just logic, not really something to go so in depth on. Though this may have been overlooked in the movies, none of the animals are in fact bothered by them wearing the coats, and they even took off the coats by the time they met Aslan, maybe understanding the realization.
"But even a traitor may mend. I have known one that did." - (King Edmund the Just, Horse and his Boy)
I don’t know how Lewis felt about trapping animals, which in many cases involves cruelty. One wonders why fur was the material of which the coats were made. I don’t think Lewis was against hunting or fishing for food, which was necessary in Narnia as in our world. But he was against cruelty towards animals and inappropriate exploitation of them, e.g. he didn’t want Reepicheep to be used in a circus in our world. So the treatment of animals was important to him— whether they could talk or not. The Narnian talking beasts were intelligent and he regarded them in the same way as people.
I don’t think Lewis was against hunting or fishing for food, which was necessary in Narnia as in our world. But he was against cruelty towards animals and inappropriate exploitation of them, e.g. he didn’t want Reepicheep to be used in a circus in our world. So the treatment of animals was important to him— whether they could talk or not.
I'm under the impression he was against using animals for science experiments, like Uncle Andrew's guinea pigs. Which doesn't really make much sense when you think about it since animals could theoretically survive being experimented on-Uncle Andrew's guinea pig even ended up happy in the Wood Between the Worlds-but animals that are eaten or skinned definitely wouldn't. I suppose he felt eating meat and wearing fur clothing was natural and science experiments were unnatural.
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 check out my new blog!