Wednesday, October 19

Harold and Alberta and Bill and Judy

This is about two children who call their parents by their first names. I finished reading Bridge to Terebithia for the first time yesterday. I thought for years that I’d read it before, but I believe for some reason I was thinking of A Door in the Wall. I was also sure the title had an ‘n’ in it–Terebinthia–and was shocked to discover that it did not! This quote from author Katherine Paterson made me feel better:

I thought I'd made up "Terabithia". I realized when the book was nearly done, that there is an island in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C. S. Lewis called Terebinthia. I'm sure I borrowed that unconsciously, but, then, so would Leslie who loved the Chronicles of Narnia. And, by the way, Lewis got Terebinthia from the Biblical terebinth tree, so it wasn't original with him either.

Leslie Burke, who names the magical land she and her friend Jesse Aarons rule as king and queen, calls her parents “Bill and Judy.” Ms. Paterson’s, Leslie’s and my imagination have all been informed by the Chronicles of Narnia.

But with the approach of The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe movie, Philip Pullman is once again spitting his vitriolic comments. He calls the chronicles "a peevish blend of racist, misogynistic and reactionary prejudice" in this BBC news article. I wrote a paper in college defending the chronicles against some of his specific criticisms, but honestly, it’s very tiresome to try to argue with someone so obviously without a sense of humour or healthy perspective. Pullman doesn’t give much reason for his comments in this article, but I had to laugh at some of the remarks from readers below it. One says that Lewis was derisive toward “vegetarianism and liberal education.” He’s referring to the beginning of The Voyage of the Dawn Treader:

There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it. His parents called him Eustace Clarence and masters called him Scrubb. I can't tell you how his friends spoke to him, for he had none. He didn't call his Father and Mother "Father" and "Mother," but Harold and Alberta. They were very up-to-date and advanced people. They were vegetarians, non-smokers and teetotalers and wore a special kind of underclothes. In their house there was very little furniture and very few clothes on beds and the windows were always open.

Does it not seem very insecure to let that be offensive to you? Just listen to the man and you can tell he probably liked his beer and sausages. So what? If you want to be a vegetarian, go for it! Don’t let C.S. Lewis stop you. And when you read the Chronicles of Narnia, remember that he was a middle-aged university professor in England in the 1950’s. Smile over his personal preferences if you don’t share them, sit back, and enjoy the story.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This sounds like a solid perspective to embrace.