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The Children's Parents

HelenP
(@helenp)
NarniaWeb Regular

One of the oddest things for me about the Chronicles is that the children (especially the four Pevensies) are away from their families for days if not years, yet do not seem to be overly concerned about this.  We know that no time elapses in our world whilst they are in Narnia but the children don't know this until they get back.  Surely they would miss their parents and be worried about them missing them.

By the way I love Lewis' description of Eustace's parents - it makes me laugh every time I read it!

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Topic starter Posted : May 22, 2024 12:51 pm
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Courtenay
(@courtenay)
NarniaWeb Fanatic Hospitality Committee
Posted by: @helenp

We know that no time elapses in our world whilst they are in Narnia but the children don't know this until they get back.  Surely they would miss their parents and be worried about them missing them.

I would think that's only true (that they don't know about the "no time elapses in our world" thing) the first time one of the Pevensie children — Lucy — enters Narnia. As she returns through the wardrobe, she calls out to her siblings, "It's all right... I've come back... haven't you all been wondering where I was?" When Peter points out she'll "have to hide longer than that" if she wants people to start looking for her, she insists she's "been away for hours and hours", and the others are dumbfounded — "We've only just come out of that room [with the wardrobe in it] a moment ago," Susan tells her.

So it's established by the start of the third chapter of the first book Lewis wrote in the series, that time spent in Narnia doesn't take up any time in our world. Peter and Susan take up this puzzling topic quite emphatically with the Professor when they speak to him some days later:

"But there was no time," said Susan. "Lucy had had no time to have gone anywhere, even if there was such a place. She came running after us the very moment we were out of the room. It was less than a minute, and she pretended to have been away for hours."

"That is the very thing that makes her story so likely to be true," said the Professor. "If there really is a door in this house that leads to some other world... I should not be at all surprised to find that the other world had a separate time of its own; so that however long you stayed there it would never take up any of our time...."

Therefore, even before all four of the children have entered Narnia, they're aware that this other world has "a separate time of its own", and that no matter how long they spend there, when they go back to their own world they'll find that no time has passed since they left. They go there with that understanding almost from the outset.

That to me explains perfectly well why they never seem to be concerned about their parents missing them — because they already know that they'll arrive back at the same time they left, so nobody in this world will even be aware that the children had gone anywhere. And since the four Pevensies have that understanding from early on in the first book, and all or some of them return to Narnia in the next two books, they would have told Eustace about this, and he would have told Jill in the following book (The Silver Chair).

The only book in which we have main characters who travel to Narnia without that prior knowledge is The Magician's Nephew. In that case, possibly both Digory and Polly might have wondered about their families worrying about them (especially Digory, of course, whose mother is terminally ill), but Lewis doesn't tell us so. I get the impression the two of them were so caught up in the excitement of their adventure — which takes place over only a couple of days, really — and in the urgency of the quest that Aslan sends them on, that they didn't spend much time worrying. In any case, they too, when they arrive back in London, discover that their whole adventure has taken "no time at all" in this world. But that's the only one of the books where it would even be a concern in the plot, and since it was one of the last ones Lewis wrote, maybe he was assuming that most of his readers, by this time, would have read the earlier books in the series and would already know about the "separate time" thing, so he didn't bring it up until near the end. (And of course, Digory goes on to become the Professor who, to Peter and Susan's amazement, is so unsurprised about the prospect of "other worlds" and the idea that they might have a different time of their own.)

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

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Posted : May 22, 2024 3:00 pm
DiGoRyKiRkE
(@digorykirke)
The Logical Ornithological Mod Moderator

At the end of LWW, Lewis also has this to say:

"And if every they remembered their life in our world, it was only as one would remember a dream."

Member of Ye Olde NarniaWeb

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Posted : May 23, 2024 4:38 am
coracle
(@coracle)
NarniaWeb's Auntie Moderator

@digorykirke true, although that's a different situation, like remembering our earthly lives, once we're in heaven.

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."

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Posted : May 23, 2024 5:19 am
Col Klink
(@col-klink)
NarniaWeb Junkie

In addition to what other people here have said, C. S. Lewis may have just not bothered to write much about the heroes' parents because (with a couple of exceptions) they're just not important to the stories. He also wanted the Narnia books to be fun adventure stories for kids. Having the main characters be worried about never seeing their parents again might not have fit in with that very well. (Of course, there are some Narnia books that get genuinely angsty, mainly The Magician's Nephew and The Last Battle.)

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!

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Posted : May 23, 2024 9:03 am
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Courtenay
(@courtenay)
NarniaWeb Fanatic Hospitality Committee
Posted by: @col-klink

In addition to what other people here have said, C. S. Lewis may have just not bothered to write much about the heroes' parents because (with a couple of exceptions) they're just not important to the stories. He also wanted the Narnia books to be fun adventure stories for kids. Having the main characters be worried about never seeing their parents again might not have fit in with that very well.

There's a good point — in a lot of adventure stories for children (probably most of them!), whether they're set in our world or in a fantasy world, it's standard to have the main child characters' parents, and/or any other potentially interfering grown-ups, removed from the story before the real action starts. Sometimes the children are orphans with only uncaring guardians at most, sometimes they're holidaying somewhere away from their parents, sometimes, as in LWW, they're separated from their parents by circumstances like the evacuation of children during WW2. However it's framed, that's a basic trope in children's adventures — get the grown-ups conveniently out of the way, so that the kids are the ones who brave the dangers and overcome the challenges and succeed in the quest, or solve the mystery, or save the kingdom (etc. etc.), out of their own courage and determination. (Sometimes with the help of some wiser and more powerful being — like Aslan — but the children are still the central figures in the story and it's their actions that carry the plot along.)

So I agree, that's a big part of what Lewis is doing in all the Chronicles and it really would spoil the tone of the story if the children spent any time missing or worrying about their parents. But still, as I said before, in most of the books that factor is removed, anyway, by the children's awareness that they'll arrive back in their own world (when they do eventually go back) at the moment they left it.

Posted by: @digorykirke

At the end of LWW, Lewis also has this to say:

"And if every they remembered their life in our world, it was only as one would remember a dream."

Yes, there's that too — I think we're given the impression that that's the effect that the "air of Narnia" has on the Pevensies over the long period of time they stay there. Mind you, Lewis also contradicts this in one of the later books. That last part of the Pevensies' time in Narnia is written with a dream-like, fairy-tale-like quality, even in the way Lewis narrates it, as well as the way the four Kings and Queens speak to each other in very formal "courtly" language, and the fact that they've forgotten what the lamppost is ("I seem to see a tree of iron") and what the significance of it is and what will happen if they go past it. And yet, when we meet the adult Pevensies in HHB, towards the end of that story Lucy tells everyone "the tale of the Wardrobe and how she and King Edmund and Queen Susan and Peter the High King had first come into Narnia." This is supposedly set towards the end of the Pevensies' reign — Lewis in his later timeline puts the action of HHB only a year before the four of them return to England — and yet here Lucy and her siblings obviously remember quite clearly that they came from another world and how they got into Narnia, and it's indicated that they've told this tale many times before. There's just no way I can see of reconciling this with the atmosphere of the last chapter of LWW, but there it is.

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

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Posted : May 23, 2024 12:39 pm
icarus
(@icarus)
NarniaWeb Guru
Posted by: @courtenay

There's a good point — in a lot of adventure stories for children (probably most of them!), whether they're set in our world or in a fantasy world, it's standard to have the main child characters' parents, and/or any other potentially interfering grown-ups, removed from the story before the real action starts....

...However it's framed, that's a basic trope in children's adventures — get the grown-ups conveniently out of the way, so that the kids are the ones who brave the dangers and overcome the challenges and succeed in the quest, or solve the mystery, or save the kingdom (etc. etc.).

 

I was just.going to make the same.point.

It's like how in Star Wars when Luke Skywalker returns home to find his Aunt and Uncle have not only been brutally murdered, but also horribly burnt to death into a pair of charred corpses.... And yet Luke is pretty much just like "oh well, might as well just go on that adventure Obi Wan was talking about" without even shedding a tear.

Sure it's completely unrealistic that he doesn't spend weeks and months on end grieving terribly for his Aunt and Uncle's demise, but there is an inherent acceptance from the audience that it's a necessary contrivance for the plot to happen, so we just roll with it, mostly because the alternative would be really boring and irrelevant.

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Posted : May 23, 2024 12:50 pm
Col Klink
(@col-klink)
NarniaWeb Junkie

It's also possible that children wouldn't miss their parents as much as adults might assume. Who knows? Some might be glad to be free of them. Remember Peter Pan. "Children are gay and innocent heartless." Of course, every kid is different. Realistically, some (like Susan) would worry about their parents, and some (like Jill) wouldn't. I gravitate towards my original explanation for why C. S. Lewis didn't explore this more. (Which is also Courtenay's and Icarus's explanation.) He felt it just wouldn't fit in with the conventions of the genre in which he was writing. You could argue he was wrong and exploring how the main characters felt about being separated from their parents, possibly forever, would have added emotional depth to the Narnia books. I won't make that argument though because I love the books as they are. Giggle  

This post was modified 4 weeks ago 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 check out my new blog!

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Posted : May 23, 2024 7:52 pm
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Courtenay
(@courtenay)
NarniaWeb Fanatic Hospitality Committee

A recent post in the discussion on Typos and Variants in the Books reminded me of something at the very end of the series, where all the good characters find themselves in Aslan's country and Lucy discovers that her parents are there too, waving to her from the "real England", which is part of Aslan's country as well. (Except in an earlier German translation of the Chronicles, as we English speakers have just learned from that other discussion!)

As I said in my reply in the other thread, I've always felt Lewis most likely included the Pevensies' parents among those who died in the railway accident, and are reunited in Aslan's country, so that his young readers wouldn't be upset at the thought of Mr and Mrs Pevensie grieving for three of their four children. I know that's what came to my mind when I first read the book as a seven-year-old — I certainly would have found that very sad. So it seems Lewis wasn't completely insensitive to the idea of the children missing their parents and/or the parents missing their children, at least once they've made the journey from which they won't return.

Mind you, of course that plot twist means that poor Susan is left completely alone in our world, losing her parents as well as all three of her siblings at the same time, which some might argue is worse. But I also felt right from that first reading that Lewis wanted us to understand that Susan still has her life ahead of her in this world and she may still find her own way to Aslan's country in the end. (Lewis himself confirmed, in some of his letters to young fans, that that's what he intended.) And perhaps, although the loss of her entire family might at first have turned her completely off whatever thoughts she had of religion and faith, that tragedy could ultimately have driven her to seek deeper answers than worldliness can ever provide for the deepest questions. I do believe that she would eventually stop kidding herself that Narnia (where she was once, and always, a Queen) was just a silly game she and her siblings used to play as children — and she'd realise at last that, no matter how long she'd wilfully denied or ignored Him, Aslan had never given up on her.

Sorry that's gone a bit off topic, but I hope it's still closely related enough! Giggle  

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

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Posted : May 24, 2024 1:55 pm
Col Klink liked
coracle
(@coracle)
NarniaWeb's Auntie Moderator

I agree about the convention of (especially mid-century) children's stories, where the home left behind, and the parents in it, are barely missed.

Many of those stories had the children tell their parents of the adventure, and weren't believed (it was a lovely dream) while the children secretly retained some item or memento of the adventure. The need for parents occurs in  LWW when Peter and Susan take their concern about Lucy to the Professor. In this case, it's the older children who don't believe a younger child's adventure, and the Professor's (book) response surprises them by not agreeing. 

The Walden LWW has the sisters pause and think about their mother, just before the wolf attack. But with Narnia being so beautiful, exciting and wonderful, they don't miss wartime England, even the beautiful countryside where they've been evacuated.

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."

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Posted : May 24, 2024 2:50 pm
Courtenay liked
Jasmine
(@jasmine_tarkheena)
NarniaWeb Guru

Given that Narnia has been known to be children's stories, perhaps the children's parents don't have as much as a large role.

As for Mr. and Mrs. Pevensie being among those who died in the railway accident, as others on here have said, CS Lewis may have done that so that they would not grieve the loss of three of their children.

"And this is the marvel of marvels, that he called me beloved."
(Emeth, The Last Battle)
https://escapetoreality.files.wordpress.com/2010/03/aslan-and-emeth2.jpg

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Posted : May 25, 2024 8:26 am
Col Klink
(@col-klink)
NarniaWeb Junkie
Posted by: @courtenay

As I said in my reply in the other thread, I've always felt Lewis most likely included the Pevensies' parents among those who died in the railway accident, and are reunited in Aslan's country, so that his young readers wouldn't be upset at the thought of Mr and Mrs Pevensie grieving for three of their four children.

I also suspect he wanted to make it clear that people from this world who have never even heard of Narnia could get to Aslan's Country. It really would be interesting to know why the original German translator cut the Pevensie parents from The Last Battle's last chapter. (Did he feel like they were too irrelevant? There are actually a handful of references to the characters, mostly the father, throughout the books about their children even if they're not as important as Eustace's or Digory's parents.) But it was probably so long ago that there's no hope of us learning. 

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!

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Posted : May 25, 2024 3:38 pm
coracle liked
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