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Tenth Anniversary of Walden’s The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

By Always Narnian

Today marks ten years since the release of the Walden Media/Disney film The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe in the United Kingdom. For Narnia fans, it may seem hard to believe that a decade has already passed for the beginning of this franchise. Unfortunately, I was not active on the big Narnia sites at the time of the first film. However, if you were, you may recall some of the facts and rumors that were floating about online concerning this film. In honor of this anniversary, I thought it would be enjoyable to share some of these memories.

  • For a little while it was rumored that Nicole Kidman, an Australian actress, was chosen to play the role of the White Witch. This was not in the slightest bit true, as she was never offered the role. [1]
  • Aslan was originally to be voiced by Scottish actor Brian Cox. Though this itself was not a rumor, a story was started that Cox’s voice had altered due to some weight loss, most likely making his voice unacceptable for the part of Aslan. This, of course, was the false part of the story – Brian had to cancel the role due to his scheduling. [2]
  • The first actor to be revealed for the project was Tilda Swinton, starring as the lead villain, the White Witch.
  • The first trailer for The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe was released on May 7th, 2005, nearly 7 months before its theater debut. These days we expect new trailers to be uploaded to YouTube, but this was a brand new site at the time, and still in beta testing, so it was on another website (moviefone.com) that the trailer was first made available on the web. [3]
  • Liam Neeson was not announced for the role of Aslan until July of 2005, though they had already recorded his lines. [4]
  • It was said that various actors including Gerard Butler, Ian McKellen, Timothy Dalton, Ralph Fiennes, Jason Isaacs, and Sean Bean had auditioned for the role of Aslan. According to IMDb, Gerard Butler had said during his audition, “ This isn’t going to be like the BBC puppet Aslan, right? Because, if so, I’m leaving right now.” [5]
  • While in the theater, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe fought especially with King Kong (directed by the Lord of the Rings directer, Peter Jackson) for the top place in the box office. [6]
  • In June of 2004, it was already being said that work was starting on the next Narnia script. Prince Caspian was officially confirmed in February of 2006. [7]
  • Grant Major, the Production Designer of The Lord of the Rings films, was at first to be involved in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe[8]
  • John Howe, the artist well known for his Tolkien illustrations and work on The Lord of the Rings films, was also originally involved in the art-work for The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. At the time he was forced to keep this secret and even denied his involvement. He eventually wrote a confession on his own website after having left the project:

“From February through May I didn’t do much else except work my fingers to the bone drawing lions, witches and wardrobes pretty much full time. And last but far from least, apologies to all those who asked if I had indeed stepped through the wardrobe, and to whom I either lied or artfully dodged the question. Sorry about that, I hope you’ll forgive me. It won’t happen again (until next time). Now that the production has moved to New Zealand I’ve wandered out of the wardrobe and shut the door carefully behind me. I can at last mention the project, but of course five months of hard sketching will have to wait for an eventual ‘Art of’ book…” [9]

  • In March of 2005, Narniaweb confirmed that there was a scene that had not yet been shot—the scene at the end of the film in which the Pevensies are no longer children. Mark Wells, the actor for the grown-up Edmund, was the first of the four to be announced for the Pevensie’s adult roles. [10]

What are your own memories of this film? Do you remember your reaction to this classic tale being adapted into a film? Do you remember what your thoughts were on the first trailer? Or do you remember any speculations you had concerning this film? I’d love to hear your own memories of the film’s release in the comments below!

Thanks to Narniaweb’s News Archives for much of the information above.

(Caution is advised in following any of the outgoing links in this article. TLC is not affiliated with IMDb or Narniaweb.)

 

Cultural Influences in the Narnia Series

By Always Narnian

C.S. Lewis’ world in The Chronicles of Narnia is a fantastical one, though in several ways it was inspired by actual countries and cultures. The two stories that really allow you to see these cultural influences are The Horse and His Boy and The Last Battle. As a result of this, we shall mostly be focusing on the lands of Narnia and Calormen, though we shall briefly touch on a few others.

Narnia is a land seemingly influenced by European history and culture. The fact that King Frank and Queen Helen (the first rulers of Narnia) were an English couple may explain why Narnia reminds one greatly of England. However, many of the creatures in Narnia are based off of characters in Greek Mythology.

Calormen, a land south of Narnia, is very much like a Middle-Eastern country. Calormen’s greatest city, Tashbaan, rests next to a great expanse of desert. In a letter to his publisher, C.S. Lewis said of Pauline Baynes’ inspiration for illustrating The Horse and His Boy: “As to realism in the new one, Miss Baynes may base her ideas of Calormene culture either on the picture of the Arabian Nights world, or on her picture of Babylon and Persepolis (all the Herodotus and Old Testament orient) or any mixture of the two.” [1] Persepolis was the capital of the ancient Persian Empire around 515 B.C. Also known as Parsa, Persepolis was a city built on terraces— the same fashion in which Tashbaan is built. [2]

The people of Narnia are often fair-haired and white, whereas the Calormenes are dark. A description is found in The Horse and His Boy, commenting on how even the characteristics of Narnians were different from that of the Calormenes: “…instead of being grave and mysterious like most Calormenes, they walked with a swing and let their arms and shoulders go free, and chatted and laughed.” The Calormenes have rigid ceremonies and elaborate gear, and also speak with eloquence, as seen in The Horse and His Boy, where story-telling is nearly considered an art to be learned by all Calormenes.

Persian shamshir

Persian shamshir

The straight swords used in the land of Narnia are broadswords, which were often used in Europe during the Middle Ages. Calormenes carry scimitars, swords with curved blades. Curved swords were used by cultures such as the Turks, Persians, and Arabs. These swords likely began with Turko-Mongol sabers. The word ‘scimitar’ could possibly be a derivation of the word ‘shamshir,’ a sword of the Persians. [3] Scimitars are often used on horseback— an interesting fact considering the importance of war horses in Calormen.

Kulah khud helmet

Kulah khud helmet

Calormenes wear turbans while Narnians either uncover their heads or wear metal caps. Pauline Baynes even drew the Narnian’s helmets in The Last Battle very alike to European skullcap or cervellière helmets. Calormenes wear spiked helmets, oftentimes surrounded by a turban. Aravis is illustrated with a helmet that resembles an Indo-Persian helmet called a kulah khud.

In The Horse and His Boy there is a man, Ahoshta Tarkaan, who becomes the Grand Vizier. ‘Vizier’ was a word used for an officer of the Ottoman (Turkish) Empire. The title ‘grand vizier’ was also used in the Ottoman Empire a little later for the representative of the sultan. [4] Cair Paravel, the main castle of Narnia, where Peter the High King and his siblings ruled, has an etymology of British, Old French, and Latin words. Another fascinating thing to note is the money of Calormen is called ‘crescents.’ This is significant because the symbol of the Ottoman Empire became the crescent after their conquest of Constantinople.

Although there is much information to reasonably verify that Narnia is based off of Europe and Calormen off the Middle East, there are a few other cultures in Narnia where speculation is the only tool we can use. An example of this would be the Telmarine people. Though we know that the Telmarines were a piratical people from the South Sea in our world, were transferred into the land of Telmar, and from there went on to conquer Narnia, little is known about their culture or fashion. They have a fear of the woods and the sea— this fear having arisen from the tales they heard of Aslan coming over the sea.

Another land to consider is Archenland, where King Frank and Queen Helen’s second son became king. This land appears to be much akin to Narnia, as seen in Bree saying of Shasta: “…he’s certainly either a Narnian or an Archenlander.” Thus, making it most likely that Archenland is also a land of European influence, and that the people of Narnia and Archenland are similar in appearance.

Charn is a kingdom only briefly visited in The Magician’s Nephew, but a few things are said about it that we could theorize upon. There is a scene that describes Charn as having “temples, towers, palaces, pyramids, and bridges” and that “Once a great river had flowed through the city…” Jadis also describes the city as “the wonder of the world, perhaps of all worlds.” Chariots are mentioned, as well as the river running red (likely from blood) during the disastrous last battle of Charn. Jadis is also depicted in the drawings with a band around her arm which appears to be made in the likeness of a coiled snake. All these things seem to point to an Egyptian influence, though this cannot be completely proven, and in some places Charn could also be thought to take after ancient Persia, as to Jadis’ mention of Charn being “the city of the King of Kings” (a title of Kingship Darius of Persia took as well).

Existent cultures can either be a richening addition to fantasy realms, or else a distraction. C.S. Lewis’ incorporation seems to work well, adding variety and depth to his stories— realism, as Lewis said in his letter about Pauline Baynes’ work on The Horse and His Boy. This type of realism mixes history with fiction, allowing the reader to relate with the story in a familiar way. What are your thoughts on this technique and what are some influences you may have observed in the Narnia series?

[1] The Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis, Volume III: Narnia, Cambridge and Joy 1950-1963
[2] Ancient History Encyclopedia
[3] Weaponry: An Illustrated History by Chuck Wills
[4] Encyclopædia Britannica

(photo sources: Wikimedia Commons)

Things Revealed by CS Lewis’s Letters

By Tenethia

Warning: Minor Spoilers may be accessed by reading this.

C.S. Lewis told us much about Narnia when he wrote his seven books, but there are several things his readers were not told that they wondered about. When Lewis was alive, his fans had the option of sending their questions to him to get answers. Lewis wrote many letters during his lifetime, and several volumes were published. C.S. Lewis’s Letters to Children reveal five things about The Chronicles of Narnia that we would not know without reading the letters.

1. We learn where Aslan’s name came from. In a letter to Carol, he reveals that Aslan means lion in Turkish, and that the way he meant for it to be pronounced was “Ass-lan.”

2. Phyllida sent Lewis a letter, wondering if the party in the woods in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe had been turned right again. Lewis responded by saying: “I thought people would take it for granted that Aslan would put it all right. But I see now I should have said so.”

3. We learn that Lewis considered two other names for the seventh book in the Chronicles before he settled on The Last Battle. These names were The Last King of Narnia, and Night Falls on Narnia.

4. Lewis reveals in a letter to a girl named Marcia that he intended all through the books to have Susan lose her way in The Last Battle. He said it this way: “Haven’t you noticed in the two you have read that she is rather fond of being too grownup? I am sorry to say that side of her got stronger and she forgot about Narnia.”

5. We also learned that Lewis didn’t intend for The Last Battle to shut Susan out of Aslan’s country forever. Lewis told us in a letter to someone named Martin that “There is plenty of time for her to mend, and perhaps she will get to Aslan’s country in the end – in her own way.”

While Lewis has written these letters (and there are others!) explaining bits of The Chronicles, he has left some things to our imagination. Lewis has purposely left us tid-bits about Narnia that aren’t explained, so that we can continue writing them ourselves. He even mentioned one in particular in one of his letters: Lucy and the Unicorn speaking in The Last Battle. While Lewis has answered some of our questions, he has left us to answer some of them ourselves.

C.S. Lewis on War

As we commemorate today what is known in various parts of the world as Veterans Day, Remembrance Day or Armistice Day (a celebration of the end of World War I and a time to reflect on the sacrifices of all soldiers), it seems fitting to take some time to consider what C.S. Lewis, a man who served in both World Wars, thought on the topic of war. This is especially fitting in as we look back on the centenary since the start of the first World War.

By Oresen

CS Lewis is one of the most influential writers of the 20th century. His wise mind and linguistic skill have garnered a following of millions of readers around the world even today. As such, it is no surprise that many have wondered what his views on war were.

There is no shortage of places where we can find war in his writings and from which we can draw reasonable conclusions on what he thought about war. We will focus on just two examples, and briefly discuss certain passages and themes within them. However, first it is important to note Lewis’ background as a British soldier.

Lewis was conscripted as a 19-year old and stationed in France during WWI. He survived it with only a shrapnel wound to his chest, but the experience was nonetheless horrible. [1] He described it as memories of

the smashed men still moving like half-crushed beetles, the sitting or standing corpses, the landscape of sheer earth without a blade of grass, the boots worn day and night till they seemed to grow to your feet. [2]

He then served in WWII, but this time domestically as a Home Guard at Oxford. [1] How then did Lewis’ opinions, having experienced first-hand two World Wars, manifest themselves in his books?

About a third of the way through The Screwtape Letters, an experienced demon, Screwtape, mentors a newbie, Wormwood, on how to use a new, upcoming “European war”; Lewis meant WWII.

Consider whether we should make the patient [a young Christian man Wormwood wants in hell] an extreme patriot or an extreme pacifist. All extremes, are to be encouraged…Whichever side he adopts, your main task will be the same. Let him begin by treating the Patriotism or the Pacifism as a part of his religion. Then let him, under the influence of the partisan spirit, come to regard it as the most important part. Then quietly and gradually nurse him into the stage at which religion becomes merely part of the “cause” and his [faith] is valued chiefly for the excellent arguments it can produce in favour of the British war effort or of Pacifism.

It seems that Lewis saw that war was breaking out whether Christians would accept it or not, and the proper response was to still keep the faith’s values with utmost allegiance, yet join the fight for the cause of the country. Don’t let Patriotism consume to the point where fighting fueled with hatred and bloodlust, but don’t use religion to condemn those breaking the creed of Pacifism, either.

Another place war shows up in Lewis’ books is within The Chronicles of Narnia. All but The Magician’s Nephew and The Silver Chair have at least a couple of battles, after which Aslan usually appears to commend the various protagonists for their sacrifice and bravery on behalf of Narnia. In The Last Battle, Aslan even credits Emeth, a soldier from the enemy country Calormen, as being a seeker of good.

To those familiar with Narnia’s allegorical nature it may seem that Lewis is condoning war as some sort of test of allegiance to one’s country. Indeed, the land of Narnia, in its fight against neighbors who seek to subjugate it, represents the Kingdom of God on earth and the Christian’s fight to remain loyal to God and His commands whilst everywhere else society now ridicules the Bible and those who live by it. In The Screwtape Letters Lewis also writes that war is a very powerful reminder to all humans that death is coming, that the self is not omnipotent, and that focusing only on this life is foolish because of how short and uncertain it is. So did Lewis condone war over peace?

Lewis lived in a time probably all of us reading this can’t even imagine – a time where a dozen countries sent soldiers and bombs to fight and kill as many people as possible, twice! Based on the books of his that I’ve read, my conclusion is that Lewis, the author who came up with beloved fantasy worlds, was also a realist, and when and where he was born made it impossible for him not to see war as unavoidable, as being upon humanity whether or not anyone wants it to be. What he thought about how Christians should fight, however, is a whole other discussion.

You can find out a bit more on what Lewis thought of War in his essay “Why I’m not a Pacifist” published in The Weight of Glory and Compelling Reason.

Author’s note: I do know I’ve picked two examples of Lewis’ that happen to shine a pro-war light on him. There are surely works of his against fighting and against war, and if you know of any feel free to mention them below.

Sources:
[1] CS Lewis Institute
[2] ABC Australia

The Mythological Creatures of Narnia

When you think of Narnia, you might picture creatures of all shapes and sizes that live within that world. But where exactly do these beings originate? Unlike some authors who design their fictional worlds around just a single mythology (e.g. the Middle-Earth of Tolkien) or their own unique ideas (Aewiar from the Wingfeather Saga anyone?) Narnia is an amalgam of fantastical creatures not contrived from C.S. Lewis’ imagination but, rather, taken from the myths that he read and enjoyed.

 

Dryads, centaurs, and fauns! Oh my!

Many peoples you’ll encounter while reading the Chronicles belong to the Greco-Roman mythologies. In fact, the first Narnian you meet is a faun, Mr Tumnus. He even plays a flute-like instrument just like Greek god Pan, who is often depicted as a faun. [1]

Centaurs, a rowdy folk in Greek mythology, became the wise star-gazers who were greatly respected by all. Interestingly, Chiron, (the only true noble Centaur in the Ancient world), embodied many great traits identified with Lewis’ own centaurs and was a great healer like Cloudbirth from The Silver Chair. [2]

Mythical gods such as Silenus and Bacchus are mentioned by Tumnus in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, and they, along with the River God, make an appearance in Prince Caspian.

In almost all of the books, there are references to many different types of Nymphs, the semi-divine spirits of the trees and waters that can embody themselves in the form a woman. [3]

Although inspired by ancient mythology, with many of these beings, Lewis decided to change some of their characteristics, in order to better suit his narrative and also, perhaps, his younger audience.

 

Narnia and the Norse!

Lewis loved the Northern myths as he grew up and he continued to love them even long afterwards because of the fleeting Joy it had given him – “ Jack threw himself into studying Norse mythology, hoping to experience Joy again.” [4] It is no wonder that he would bring the giants, dwarfs, and dragons of such legends into his own grand tale.

Tall and fierce and perhaps a bit dull-witted, the giants you may imagine could hardly be classified with the Nordic “giants” called jötnar. [5] Rather, Lewis derived his giants from the Anglicized derivation of the jötunn. [6]

The mining “Sons of Earth” have always been associated with good craftsmanship beyond any other being. Despite being the probable origins of Lewis’ dwarfs, those of Norse stories are not quite alike with his. Especially considering the small stature of his own dwarfs compared to the possible human-height of the Nordics’. [7]

 

Full of greed, Fafnir changed into a dragon to guard his treasure…” [8] Sound a little familiar? Dragons and greed have almost been synonymous, starting with this Norse legend; therein was the idea of Dragon-Eustace and the Lord Octesian’s selfish lusts for the hoard of wealth.

 

Others

Originally considered a real animal, recorded in histories by the Greeks, the unicorn made its way into medieval stories and legends. [9] While an indigo horn may have been C.S. Lewis’ preference for the beast, horn colour does not seem to be specified.

 

The sea-people or merpeople have very murky origins. Originally without a tail in Northern European folk-lore, just as Lewis described the Sea People Lucy sees while aboard the Dawn Treader, it was adopted later as an influence of the Greek mythos’ Siren. [10]

 

One of the most interesting creatures are the Monopods/Dufflepuds which were not invented by Lewis at all. Single-legged creatures with one giant foot (called skiapods or monocoli) had been described first by the Greeks and later in Medieval bestiaries. [11] It can only be assumed that Lewis found one of the entries and decided to use this odd little creature in his own work.

From the Greek and Nordic myths that Lewis enjoyed to the more obscure fantastical creatures this mixture he provided makes Narnia a unique world that will likely stand the test of time.

References

[1] Greek Mythology. Pan.

[2] Pantheon. Chiron.

[3] Etymonline. Nymph.

[4] BBC Religions Christianity. C.S. Lewis.

[5] Norse-Mythology. Gods and Creatures: Giants.

[6] Etymonline. Giant

[7] Norse-Mythology. Gods and Creatures: Dwarves.

[8] Britannica. Fafnir.

[9] Wikipedia. Unicorn.

[10] Etymonline. Mermaid.

[11] Mythical Creatures List. Mythical Creature: Sciapod.