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No Sex in Narnia? How Hans Christian Andersen's "Snow Queen" Problematizes C. S. Lewis's the Chronicles of Narnia (Critical Essay)

Mythlore 2009, Fall-Winter, 28, 1-2

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C. S. LEWIS'S THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA (1950-1956) are remembered by many adults as favorite books from their childhood. The excitement of finding a hidden world in a wardrobe, the possibility of being a king or queen in a fantasyland, the existence of fauns, dryads, and unicorns--all of these create a sense of magic and wonder that is nearly impossible to resist. The recent successes of the movie adaptations of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (2005) and Prince Caspian (2008) show that these stories continue to appeal to readers and viewers today. When the Chronicles are read with a more critical eye, however, the reader will notice a marked lack of sexuality and treatment of sexual desire in all the stories, particularly when compared with some of Lewis's other writings such as Perelandra, The Pilgrim's Regress, and Surprised by Joy. Although this lack of sexuality and erotic love is consistent with Lewis's desire to create a world of innocence for children, it is also problematic in that it allows others to write the themes of sexuality and desire into the story in ways that Lewis cannot control. One of the most obvious ways this happens is through Lewis's use of characters and imagery from other authors, most notably Hans Christian Andersen's "The Snow Queen." These outside influences not only bring sexuality into Lewis's narratives, but the desire they portray takes on several non-traditional forms as well, including desire by a boy for an older woman. Even for those who are not familiar with stories such as "The Snow Queen," the language that Lewis uses to talk about joy and desire, as well as his inclusion of familiar mythological creatures such as satyrs and incubuses, introduces the possibility of deviant sexuality into his world of innocence. Recent movie adaptations of Lewis's Chronicles, as well as works by contemporary fantasy authors Philip Pullman and Neil Gaiman, further compound the question of sexuality introduced by such imagery, revising the image of Narnia or writing other fantasy worlds as places in which sexuality, sometimes joyful, but sometimes unnatural and disturbing, can exist. All of these images--both those used by Lewis as well as those created by others--work together to bring sexuality and desire into The Chronicles of Narnia, calling into question the innocent world that Lewis worked hard to create and valued so highly. From the very beginning of C. S. Lewis's The Chronicles of Narnia, the major relationships between males and females are defined by friendship or by family, rather than through sexual desire. The most obvious example of this is the four Pevensie children from The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, who are all siblings. As Shasta realizes in The Horse and His Boy [HHB], "Although they're king and queen, they're brother and sister, not married to one another" (61). Significantly, however, this is not the only male/female relationship in Lewis' Chronicles that is defined through friendship or familial ties; these ties are the rule, rather than the exception. Polly and Digory in The Magician's Nephew are neighbors, not brother and sister, but there is no sexual relationship between them: "Polly and Digory were always great friends and she came nearly every holiday to stay with them at their beautiful house in the country" (184). Similarly, Jill and Eustace in The Silver Chair and The Last Battle are classmates, but not sexually linked: they "were always good friends" (Silver Chair 216). Therefore, while all of the pairings of children visiting Narnia include both a boy and a girl, these relationships are either familial or amiable--never sexual.

No Sex in Narnia? How Hans Christian Andersen's "Snow Queen" Problematizes C. S. Lewis's the Chronicles of Narnia (Critical Essay)
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  • Category: Language Arts & Disciplines
  • Published: 22 September 2009
  • Publisher: Mythopoeic Society
  • Print Length: 35 Pages
  • Language: English
  • Requirements: To view this book, you must have an iOS device with iBooks 1.3.1 or later and iOS 4.3.3 or later, or a Mac with iBooks 1.0 or later and OS X 10.9 or later.

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