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Is anyone else tired of the 'problem with susan'  

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bardiafox7
(@bardiafox7)
NarniaWeb Regular

I love Narnia. I love it to the gills. I think it's one of the greatest examples of children's literature. But there are two criticisms about Narnia that I'm over: 1. That is nothing more than mere allegory(which CS Lewis denied) 2. That leaving Susan out of the LB is sexist. The latter criticism is laughable to me. Yes I know the whole women shouldn't fight in battles line in LWW was rather sexist, but I feel on the whole that Lewis created his female characters with respect.
Many times they come off as sensible, intelligent, brave and (in the case of Lucy) the model of faith and honesty. But at the same time he never presents them as perfect. He always have them have flaws to be overcome. He does this with his male characters too. After all, Lewis was a Christian and firmly believed in the sinfulness of man and the need of someone greater than us to be our salvation. People who rave that Susan wasn't in the LB selectively forget that there were 3 women present in the story.
Susan being left out in LB was part of her arc. Her tendency to want to behave in silly grown up manner was established in LWW and the wardrobe. Lewis narrates that Susan was annoyed by Professor Kirke's defense of Lucy because he wasn't "acting the way she thought adults should act like" She was the last person to see Aslan in PC. Also, Mr and Mrs Pevensie took Susan to America with them because she acted like "a grown up". It makes sense that once she returned to our world that she would deliberately forget about Narnia and behave like a shallow adult. In many ways, she's what Eustace would've become if he hadn't been turned into a Dragon and learned humility. It was all a part of Susan's arc and the people who criticize the end result were not paying attention. Maybe CS Lewis was far too subtle.
Some critics chide Lewis for leaving Susan out because she embraced s*x---that whole nylons and lipstick line. The fact that Aravis and Cor have a son should in itself debunk that. It's not as if Lewis would put implicit or explicit s*x in a work for kids. If he had they would be rightly calling him perverted. They merely take the line out of context. It seems to me Susan became what we label as pretentious. She was interested in nothing more than invitations and parties: which means she was obsessed her status and being in the inn crowd. CS Lewis wrote an essay about not trying to insinuate yourself in the Inner Ring. Mark Studdock in That Hideous Strength also had that same flaw. The lipstick and nylons line probably means she was materialistic and too worried about having what the other girls had. He might have written the line as interested in nothing but iPhones and cars today. TAKE NOTE OF THE FACT HE NEVER WRITES THE CHARACTERS CRITICIZING HER ON HER INTEREST IN MEN. That fact alone should CS Lewis make it clear he wasn't calling her out for her sexuality. I see Susan as a cross between Hyancith Bucket from Keeping Appearances and Frasier Crane from Cheers and Frasier; just someone to focused on living her life according to the likes of the elite and popular to the detriment of living an authentic life. If Susan was real and alive today, she'd be obsessed with celebrity culture and trying to emulate famous people like Ariana Grande.

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Posted : November 12, 2019 9:13 am
Courtenay liked
Cleander
(@the-mad-poet)
NarniaWeb Junkie

Totally agreed! I think there is a trend right now to sift through older literature in deliberate search of racism, sexism and the like. J.K. Rowling got a little too excited with her claims that Lewis sent Susan to hell for... uh, "maturing." What Susan did is not a normal or good thing, It is not that she discovered s*x, nor that she is trying to be more realistic- (after all, in the story's universe, there is no room for doubt that Narnia is a reality)- she has simply become a vain, selfish, insipid person. I suspect that some of those (not all, mind you) who take issue with her behavior being condemned are maybe guilty of something along those lines (maybe they even try to emulate Ariana Grande all the time, idk :D )
I'm probably as sick of hearing about "Susan's shocking fate" as you are, but I suspect that people are still going to talk about it. People are going to want to know what the whole Susan thing means, so I guess it's up to Narnia fans to explain why it isn't misogynist. (-|

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Posted : November 12, 2019 2:56 pm
Courtenay liked
Courtenay
(@courtenay)
NarniaWeb Junkie

I totally agree too, bardiafox7. I remember when I read the Chronicles for the first time (around the age of 7), I picked up on that aspect of Susan's "character arc", as you say — I was saddened, but not at all surprised, at what happened to her in the end. It's definitely foreshadowed. The problem is, so many critics seem to pounce on that scene and completely misread it, then attack Lewis for all sorts of things that he never actually said or even suggested. For example, the claim that Susan was "sent to hell" just goes to show that they've either never read The Last Battle themselves (just read other people's criticisms of it), or else only skim-read it, possibly with their own prejudices already firmly in place, and totally missed what actually happens in the story.

I could go on — I'm sure we all could!! — but there's a really good article on this same website that deals with the claims of sexism and racism in the Chronicles in much more depth, starting off with the "problem of Susan": Are the Chronicles of Narnia Sexist and Racist? Really worth reading.

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

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Posted : November 12, 2019 8:46 pm
JFG II
(@jfg-ii)
NarniaWeb Regular

I’m sort of tired of this controversy too. (Just feels so 90’s in its shallowness.) But I think I know why some people hate Lewis for this.

My own personal connection to this Susan issue is complicated. When I first absorbed the final Narnia book as a child, I felt livid anger towards Lewis for getting rid of Susan, and for never mentioning her again; Susan never even appears in TLB. I was a sensitive kid who took that as a personal insult to me for liking Susan in the previous books.

But now I think it really comes down to how you deal with Lewis’s choices in storytelling: Susan does not have much to do in the series other than be a foil for her 3 far more interesting siblings, and be there to even out the 2 genders. In my opinion Susan could have easily have been cut from the PC book and it would not have changed her eventual arc, if anything, it would have made her arc less out-of-the-blue to readers.

Still I find it painful that Susan is just GONE from the series. She felt like an older sibling and it hurt for her to be just... GONE. I did like her overall. Those scenes in LWW where she fussed over her younger siblings. Her graceful cameo in HHB. Her surprisingly tender moment with Peter after he kills the wolf (let’s not forget she saved Lucy from Maugrim to begin with). She was like a big sister you have a love-hate relationship with, and she usually has got your back. That’s what I thought... until the final book.

That’s all I have to say about the books, but the movie adaptations made Susan a stronger character and I applaud them for that. Anna Popplewell was wonderful and beautiful and did Susan justice I think. My one complaint is that Queen Susan the Gentle isn’t meant to be a killer/warrior during battle. And it’s sad that we’ll never see her story arc conclude, because Narnia is being rebooted.

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Posted : November 14, 2019 6:28 am
Meltintalle
(@mel)
Member Moderator

I ran across the thought today--unsourced, so a grain of salt is advised--that Lewis wrote Susan the way he did because he saw himself in her arc. It was pointed out that he himself lost many of his age-mates at a similar age, and he did not become the Christian apologetic we think of when we think of C. S. Lewis until later in life.

So instead of condemning the Susans, the ones who know what is right but are too afraid to speak up, he gives her more time. I know that argument has been trotted out multiple times, but the thought that Susan echoes Lewis' journey made it a little less speculative and more, OH, for me.

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Posted : July 26, 2020 4:41 pm
coracle and Courtenay liked
coracle
(@coracle)
NarniaWeb's Auntie Moderator

Oh, that is wonderful!
I know someone who might be able to comment on that, but not immediately.

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Posted : July 27, 2020 3:43 am
Col Klink
(@col-klink)
NarniaWeb Nut

Honestly I feel like the character of Susan gets way more attention than she deserves. 😆 Whenever people criticize the Narnia books for being sexist, they always make a big deal about Susan because Susan is the easily the most stereotypical Narnia girl character in both her virtues (maternal, doesn't want to hurt people's feelings) and her vices (not much in the way of stamina, fixated on clothes and material things.) But this ignores the fact that Susan is not the most prominent feminine character in Narnia. Even in the books in which she appears, she has a minor role. (The one in which she's the most important to the plot, The Horse and his Boy, she actually appears in for only one scene.) If you count all the prominent girl characters who aren't particularly stereotypical (Lucy, Jill, Aravis, Polly), she really seems insignificant in a final analysis.

And even as far as feminine stereotypes go, she's not that outlandish. (Her claiming that Narnia doesn't exist admittedly sounds crazy but keep in mind that there's a literary tradition of child characters who forget about or refuse to acknowledge their past magical experiences upon reaching adulthood. You could argue it's more notable that Digory, Polly, Peter, Edmund and Lucy, two of whom the record will show our female, don't do this.) Plenty of works that are considered feminist feature women or girls with stereotypically feminine traits. I don't think there's any reason in the books themselves to see Susan as the "typical" girl and the other girl characters as atypical. 

P.S.

I'm sorry if it sounds like I'm bashing all people who criticize the portrayal of gender in the Narnia books. I'm just bashing the ones who obsess about Susan specifically. 😉 Seriously, everyone's entitled to their opinion and sorry if my word choices are overly harsh. 😔 

 

This post was modified 2 months ago 2 times by Col Klink

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 : July 27, 2020 9:38 am
Glenwit
(@glenwit)
NarniaWeb Regular

I was going to add my thoughts to this issue,

but then I think @col-klink hit the nail on the head.  

Love can save a life like music warms the night
Everything is beautiful
So open up your eyes, fall into the light
Everything is beautiful now

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Posted : July 28, 2020 6:44 am
icarus
(@icarus)
NarniaWeb Junkie

So just as a preface, I don't think there is anything wrong with observing that elements of a book written 70 odd years ago perhaps no longer reflect modern values - I don't think that means you have to disown the entire book series, or denounce the author. It simply is what it is. Equally though, I don't think there is any reason to defend outmoded values due to any sense of loyalty to the book or the author if you genuinely find that they no longer reflect your own current values. Again, each to their own, whatever your own personal values are on the matter, that is fine....

However, what really irritates me about this entire plot point is just how poorly executed it is.

If Susan growing up and moving away from the childish notion of Narnia was such an important plot point to include, then why not make that an actual character arc within the book? There are so many interesting dramatic moments you could explore along that theme, and so many interesting character dynamics and potential conflicts, that it would undoubtedly make for an utterly compelling story in its own right.

As it is, it feels like the character of Susan just gets thrown under the bus, with barely a couple of lines of text to explain why.

It feels like the sort of lazy writing that a TV Show has to come up with to quickly explain away why a certain character is no longer going to be around, as a result of some off-screen issue with the actor in question. The book essentially offers no opportunity for the reader to try and understand Susan's character choice, and the narrative offers her no chance at redemption (say in the same way as Eustace gets in VoDT) nor does it allow us to explore any sense of the tragedy in her decision.

It all comes across as such a bland, emotionless "by the way" moment, despite the fact that it has such a huge impact on such a beloved character of the entire series. Granted this isn't something which keeps me awake at night, but its still just such a poor storytelling decision that it inevitably bugs me.

 

 

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Posted : July 29, 2020 1:20 pm
Arwenel and Perla liked
Varnafinde
(@varna)
Princess of the Noldor and Royal Overseer of the Talk About Narnia forum Moderator

I think some of the reason for missing character arcs and such is that Lewis was not trying (or wanting) to write a psychological novel, he was basically writing a fairytale. (I think he even comments on that difference in a letter somewhere, but I haven't got it right with me.) It's probably more than just a fairytale, and perhaps that makes us expect too much from it.


(avi artwork by Henning Janssen)

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Posted : July 29, 2020 8:06 pm
Courtenay liked
icarus
(@icarus)
NarniaWeb Junkie
Posted by: @varna

I think some of the reason for missing character arcs and such is that Lewis was not trying (or wanting) to write a psychological novel, he was basically writing a fairytale. (I think he even comments on that difference in a letter somewhere, but I haven't got it right with me.) It's probably more than just a fairytale, and perhaps that makes us expect too much from it.

 

To most extents I would agree with you. I've always felt Lewis' whimsical style of narration is akin to a grandfather reading the kids a bedtime story, and half making it up as he goes along, with all the little "asides to the reader" adding to the charm. As you say, it gives the stories a fairytale like quality, as much as a high fantasy one.

However, in this instance i feel that the magnitude of the reveal (Suasn's fate) is disproportionately consequential to the manner in which it is delivered, which is why it jars so much as a plot point.

As an experiment, lets imagine that the character in question is Peter (to remove any notion of Sexism from the equation) and lets imagine that the reason for him not being there is something we can all unequivocally agree on the value judgement for - lets say that Peter has turned to a life of crime (therefore removing any discussion of differing morality or competing values from the equation).

As a reader, you would therefore get to the same point in the story, and find out that all the friends of Narnia from all of your favourite books have been reunited, except for Peter who has turned to a life of crime. I think the reader reaction for a lot of people is likely to be exactly the same:

  • Why is this suddenly happening to Peter our of nowhere?
  • What did he do to deserve it?
  • Why isn't the story allowing us to try and save Peter?
  • Where is the scene where his siblings beg him to see the error of his ways?
  • Where is the scene where Peter has the choice to follow the more righteous path but does not?

I think that a common reaction to these sorts of questions would be exactly the same as the one most critics observe with Susan - it feels like the character is being randomly and unfairly "punished" for reasons which are entirely outside the scope of the story. It feels unfair, and it feels unjust.

I think if the story even made the slightest effort to try and expand upon this plot point, and give us some degree of emotional context in which to try and understand the characters motivations and decisions, this would probably not be the controversial moment that it is. As it is, it feels like such a hugely unfair outcome to inflict upon such a beloved character, because it is cheap and un-earned within the context of the story.

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Posted : July 30, 2020 4:20 am
Courtenay
(@courtenay)
NarniaWeb Junkie
Posted by: @icarus

However, what really irritates me about this entire plot point is just how poorly executed it is.

If Susan growing up and moving away from the childish notion of Narnia was such an important plot point to include, then why not make that an actual character arc within the book? There are so many interesting dramatic moments you could explore along that theme, and so many interesting character dynamics and potential conflicts, that it would undoubtedly make for an utterly compelling story in its own right.

As it is, it feels like the character of Susan just gets thrown under the bus, with barely a couple of lines of text to explain why.

Although there's nothing in The Last Battle itself to foreshadow or explain Susan's rejection of Narnia, I've always felt there IS plenty of foreshadowing of it in some of the previous books. I remember I wasn't a bit surprised when I first read The Last Battle (at the age of 7, after having read all the other Narnia books) and learned how Susan had turned out as a young adult. It's not spelled out blatantly, but the warnings are definitely there in the earlier books and are quite clear if you're alert to them.

Right from the start, in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Susan is shown as the least adventurous of the four children. Once they're all in Narnia and they find out that Tumnus has been taken away by the White Witch's secret police, Susan's instant reaction is "I don't know that I'm going to like this place after all... What about just going home?" It's natural for her to be concerned about their safety and the cold weather and the fact that they've got nothing to eat — Peter echoes the same concerns a few paragraphs later — but Susan comes across as the one most inclined to lose heart and back off at the first sign of danger. This is in total contrast to her little sister Lucy, who sees at once that it's because of her that Tumnus has been captured and they have a moral obligation to try to rescue him. Susan's lack of courage isn't a huge flaw — not in comparison to Edmund's selfishness and greed and treachery — but it's still a flaw that could do with correcting before it grows, and unlike Edmund's flaws, it doesn't get corrected as the series goes on.

In Prince Caspian, this comes out a lot more strongly. We see a fair bit of Susan's reluctance to kill or harm anything or even make someone look bad (like Trumpkin when she beats him in the archery contest), and this isn't a bad trait in itself — in fact, it's a very positive one under the right circumstances. But as the story goes on, it becomes clearer that Susan's gentle nature isn't tempered with courage and resilience and willingness to stand firm for what's right, again in contrast to Lucy. Lucy herself is too timid to argue back, let alone to go off on her own, when she briefly sees Aslan at the gorge and the others don't believe her, but when she does meet Aslan again, he gives her the inner strength she needs to be able to wake the others and persuade them to follow her. This is where I think we most clearly see Susan's own lack of a deeper courage and the biggest hint that she may one day reject Narnia altogether.

It's heavily implied that in this instance, their ability to see Aslan depends on their degree of faith and trust in him — Lucy first of all, then Edmund (the only one who was willing to believe Lucy at the gorge), then Peter, but Susan and Trumpkin don't see him until they're nearly at the end of their journey. Trumpkin of course has been a sceptic all along, but he's never met Aslan before and his doubts are honest; Susan DOES know Aslan and has far less excuse for her lack of faith in him here. Her admission to Lucy, after she does see Aslan, is very telling:

"But I've been far worse than you know. I really believed it was him — he, I mean — yesterday. When he warned us not to go down to the fir wood. And I really believed it was him tonight, when you woke us up. I mean, deep down inside. Or I could have, if I'd let myself. But I just wanted to get out of the woods and — and — oh, I don't know. And whatever am I to say to him?"

There's even more foreshadowing in what Susan does say to Aslan when he speaks to her:

Then, after an awful pause, the deep voice said, "Susan." Susan made no answer but the others thought she was crying. "You have listened to fears, child," said Aslan. "Come, let me breathe on you. Forget them. Are you brave again?"

"A little, Aslan," said Susan.

Aslan doesn't blame Susan or show any anger at her weakness at all, just points out that her fault was to have "listened to fears" and offers her the strength to forget them. He's already taken away Lucy's timidity and given her "lion-strength" when, in her own moment of weakness and doubt, she buried her face in his mane. Aslan's breath, as we see in other books, has the power to bring stone statues back to life and to carry Eustace and Jill safely over the sea to Narnia. But when he offers that same breath to Susan, all she can say is that it's made her "a little" braver. Right where her lack of moral courage could really have started to be healed, it's almost as if she isn't letting it be healed. It's that resistance, that refusal to let go of doubts and fears and the tendency to think more of her own comfort than of doing the right thing, that I think really signals that Susan is already in danger of falling away — that being in Narnia, being in the presence of Aslan, isn't having the effect on her that it could and should have, if only she would let it.

There are also hints already that Susan has a tendency to try to be "grown-up" that doesn't always reflect well on her spiritual maturity. It's quite natural that, as the oldest girl and the second-oldest of her siblings, she tries to take on a motherly role towards the others at times. Again, that's a good trait if it's done wisely. But it's implied that Susan is already developing an idea of being "grown-up" that means not believing things that, based on her own previous experiences in Narnia, she really should believe, or at least be open to believing. When Lucy sees Aslan and the others don't, Susan's rather sceptical "Where did you think you saw him?" is immediately countered by Lucy with "Don't talk like a grown-up." When Lucy tries to wake her siblings that night to tell them Aslan is here and they need to follow him, we're told:

Susan did really wake up, but only to say in her most annoying grown-up voice, "You've been dreaming, Lucy. Go to sleep again."

To be fair, Susan has just been woken up unexpectedly after a very long and hard day, but if rejecting Lucy's talk of Aslan as "dreaming" — and "in her most annoying grown-up voice" — isn't another foreshadowing of what we learn of her in The Last Battle, I don't know what is! (And it's in total contrast to Edmund, who is very grumpy at being woken up, but as soon as he hears what Lucy has to say, his reaction is "Aslan!... Hurray! Where?" Again, Edmund has had far worse moral failings than Susan has ever shown, but the difference is that he has let Aslan redeem him fully. Susan hasn't.)

There's one more serious hint I can think of, in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, in which we don't see Susan in person, but we do hear a bit about her having "always been the beauty of the family" — to the point where Lucy is actually jealous of her, as we realise when she nearly casts that spell from the Magician's Book. That's Lucy's own moral weakness showing through there, of course, but it does suggest strongly that as the two girls grow older, it's Susan who's being admired more and more for her looks, to the point where that's becoming more significant to her than anything else. We've already been told at the start of the book that the reason Susan has gone to America with her parents is that:

Grown-ups thought her the pretty one of the family and she was no good at school work (though otherwise very old for her age) and Mother said she "would get far more out of a trip to America than the youngsters."

So, given all these forewarnings, I honestly have never found it shocking or even surprising that the last we hear of Susan, in the last book, is that she's "no longer a friend of Narnia":

"Yes," said Eustace, "and whenever you've tried to get her to come and talk about Narnia or do anything about Narnia, she says 'What wonderful memories you have! Fancy your still thinking about all those funny games we used to play when we were children.'"

"Oh, Susan!" said Jill. "She's interested in nothing nowadays except nylons and lipstick and invitations. She always was a jolly sight too keen on being grown-up."

"Grown-up, indeed," said the Lady Polly. "I wish she would grow up. She wasted all her school time wanting to be the age she is now, and she'll waste all the rest of her life trying to stay that age. Her whole idea is to race on to the silliest time of one's life as quick as she can and then stop there as long as she can."

It's a very sad twist in the story — and one that could have been avoided if only Susan had let Narnia have as much effect on her as it had on her siblings — but I honestly don't think we can say we (and she) were never warned.

Sorry to have made this so much of an essay! I hope no-one minds, but it IS interesting to talk about as one of the most controversial aspects of the books — needlessly controversial, I would argue, but there's a lot of misunderstanding about it and I do think it's worth looking at in more depth.

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

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Posted : July 30, 2020 4:46 am
Wanderer Between Worlds
(@wanderer)
NarniaWeb Nut

@courtenay

At the name of Aslan each one of the children felt something jump in its inside.  Edmund felt a sensation of mysterious horror.  Peter felt suddenly brave and adventurous.  Susan felt as if some delicious smell or some delightful strain of music had just floated by her.  And Lucy got the feeling you have when you wake up and realize that it is the beginning of the holidays or the beginning of summer.

     It should also be noted that when Mr. Beaver first mentions Aslan’s name, all the children have a reaction to it, but Susan’s is less intense and visceral.  Her reaction is the most passive and surface-level, whereas all the others are a reaction to something stirring within them, Susan’s is a reaction to something external.  And while music and food can provoke decidedly intense responses, it just doesn’t seem to have the depth that the others experience.  Additionally, Susan is the one who quenches Lucy’s desire to inform Edmund about what Aslan has done for him, showing that while her concern for Edmund’s feelings is valid, she doesn’t quite understand the power and importance of Aslan’s sacrifice (though it is assumed that Edmund does find out eventually). 

     I also wonder if, that by having Susan’s grow-up-ness and shallowness be the basis for her rejection of Narnia, Lewis was referencing Matthew 8:18, which says, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”  Even if this isn’t the case, I think his reasoning for Susan’s rejection of Narnia is also is a reflection of his own journey in life (not necessarily his Christian walk, as @mel pointed out, but his literary one): 

“When I was ten, I read fairytales in secret and would have been ashamed if I had been found in doing so.  Now that I am fifty, I read them openly.  When I became a man I put away childish things, including the fear of childishness and the desire to be very grown up.”

     Perhaps this is where the unwritten end of Susan’s journey lies.  

     I think that leaving her story open to speculation adds realism and nuance that would not be there had he tied it up in a neat bow with everyone living happily ever after, and it becomes a problem for some because she is a girl seemingly condemned for liking girlish things.  Would there have been an outcry if Edmund or Eustace had been given the same ending?  Definitely, but for entirely different reasons.  And I think that is where the tragedy of Susan’s fate is overlooked because we are so caught up on the “lipstick and nylons” part.  She is the one of the ones who stayed with Aslan on the walk to the Stone Table, she was there to watch him die, she was one of only two witnesses to the resurrection of Aslan and the cracking of the Stone Table, and yet she still turns her back on Narnia.  We should be sad and disturbed not because she is a girl and not because she is too interested in lipsticks and nylons and parties—we should be unsettled because she witnessed something so powerful, something that saved her brother’s life, yet unlike Edmund, she rejected it.  However, while Lewis writes Susan as rejecting Narnia, he also gives her hope because Aslan has power in her world, too.  Lewis received a letter from a child asking about why he wrote Susan the way he did, and he responded: 

Not because I have no hope of Susan ever getting to Aslans's country, but because I have a feeling that the story of her journey would be longer and more like a grown-up novel than I wanted to write. But I may be mistaken. Why not try it yourself?

       With this quote in mind, I think it is also important to remember that Narnia was not C.S. Lewis’s only work, nor the one he was most focused on.  He spent about ten years writing the entire series, then finished it and moved on to other things.  He wrote what felt he had to write, and it is amazing that we ended up with seven books, as he almost declared the series “finished” several times (once after LWW and then after PC and VDT).  Lewis is known for several other works beyond Narnia (Mere Christianity, The Screwtape Letters, Till We Have Faces, The Space Trilogy).  Tolkien, by contrast, spent nearly twenty years on the LotR and The Hobbit, which are full of beautiful writing and rich, and extremely detailed, intense world building—the result of almost a whole life’s work.  Taken collectively, it is also Tolkein’s most famous work, and rightly so.  However, one wonders what Lewis could have and would have done with Narnia, Susan’s story, or the stories of other characters had he spent fifteen or twenty years on Narnia instead of ten.  
     C.S. Lewis also died at age sixty-four (one week away from turning sixty-five) while Tolkien lived to be eighty-one, continuing to expand his world.  I read somewhere that Lewis was working on revisions to the Chronicles at the time of his death.  One wonders what other revisions Lewis would have made and what other works he would have written had he lived longer.  Perhaps he would have found the motivation to write a redemption story for Susan, or perhaps he would have continued to leave it open-ended. As someone who likes to write, I can sympathize with Lewis not feeling that he had the ideas, the plan, or the motivation to write such and in-depth novel.  I certainly wouldn’t have wanted him to force himself to finish Susan’s story and turn out a trite, half-baked story that would not do her justice (and potentially miss out on writing Till We Have Faces or other works).  

This post was modified 2 months ago 5 times by Wanderer Between Worlds

"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 : July 30, 2020 8:10 am
Courtenay liked
Varnafinde
(@varna)
Princess of the Noldor and Royal Overseer of the Talk About Narnia forum Moderator
Posted by: @wanderer

Lewis received a letter from a child asking about why he wrote Susan the way he did, and he responded: 

[...] have a feeling that the story of her journey would be longer and more like a grown-up novel than I wanted to write.

This is actually the quote I was referring to above, the one I didn't have handy then. Lewis did not want to write a grown-up novel, and I think he's right that treating Susan's story adequately would have needed that.

 
Posted by: @wanderer

Lewis is known for several other works beyond Narnia (Mere Christianity, The Screwtape Letters, Till We Have Faces, The Space Trilogy).  Tolkien, by contrast, spent nearly twenty years on the LotR and The Hobbit, which are full of beautiful writing and rich, and extremely detailed, intense world building—the result of almost a whole life’s work.  Taken collectively, it is also Tolkein’s most famous work, and rightly so.  

Not to mention all the years, both before and after LotR, that Tolkien spent on The Silmarillion, which was even more the result of almost his whole life's work. He tried to revise some of the world building details in it, and didn't manage to finish it, but his son Christopher finished it after his father's death (and also managed to get it published, which Tolkien himself had tried unsuccessfully for years). It is less famous than LotR, because it is a very different style, and less accessible. (I would have been able to buy a first edition the week it came out, but I flicked through it and put it back ...)

Lewis regarded Till We Have Faces as his best work of fiction. That's one book we wouldn't have had if he had kept to expanding the Chronicles, as it was written after they were finished. I find it a bit inaccessible, but that's probably my own fault.

This post was modified 2 months ago by Varnafinde


(avi artwork by Henning Janssen)

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Posted : July 30, 2020 4:40 pm
King_Erlian
(@king_erlian)
NarniaWeb Guru

One thing that puzzles me is that, whenever Aslan tells a character from our world that they will not return to Narnia, he also says that he exists in our world and has another name - but this is never followed up. I think it was quite deliberate that Lewis did not spell things out with no room for interpretation, otherwise he would have been accused (quite rightly) that he was using his stories to preach. But there's no indication in what the Seven Friends of Narnia say that when they got together to talk about Narnia, Aslan-With-Another-Name was with them. What if Susan had been with them to begin with and was expecting Aslan-With-Another-Name to be there, and when he wasn't, that fuelled the disenchantment and doubt?

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Posted : July 31, 2020 2:26 am
Glenwit liked
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