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Re: [mythsoc] Lucy, Galadriel, and Temptation

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  • Diane Joy Baker
    Look what happened to Nebuchudnezzar. God took his reason, and he ate grass for seven years. Now, THAT s a spell. Much worse than giving a man an asses
    Message 1 of 15 , Dec 7, 2007
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      Look what happened to Nebuchudnezzar. God took his reason, and he ate grass for seven years. Now, THAT's a spell. Much worse than giving a man an asses' head, no? ---djb

      ----- Original Message -----
      From: Jason Fisher
      To: mythsoc@yahoogroups.com
      Sent: Friday, December 07, 2007 11:00 AM
      Subject: [mythsoc] Lucy, Galadriel, and Temptation


      Jef,

      > First, regarding Lucy and Galadriel, I agree
      > that there are similarities. However, I'm not so
      > sure that I agree that Galadriel has fought
      > her inner battles _entirely_ without help.
      > See below.

      Well, I didn't say she fought them entirely without help. :)

      > W.r.t. your second point, about why an
      > evil spell would be in a "good" wizard's book,
      > I'm reminded of the oft-heard comment that
      > technology is neutral...that is, it can be used
      > for good or evil, but that it, by itself, is neither
      > (pace, Tolkien!).

      I anticipated this as a possible response, but it just doesn't satisfy me. Technology may be neutral, and so may be (possibly) a spell of eavesdropping, but I'm not sure I see how a spell making the caster the most beautiful person in the entire world could be neutral. By its very nature, it's all about extremes, superlatives. So too, a spell "to give a man an ass's head (as they did to poor Bottom)". Perhaps this is just in the book for levity, but if we take it seriously, is there any possible "good" use to which such a spell could be put? I guess you might call it "good" in a case where the (temporary) transformation was aimed at teaching an overly proud person humility, say, but you'd have a difficult time convincing me that this would be a genuinely "good" use. In fact, such transformations, well, don't they border on "miracle", and as such, should they be regarded as appropriate for mere mortals (or even former stars, hahae) to invoke? The
      deployment of such lessons should be left to the infallible, no? Which gets back to the question of why they are in the book to begin with.

      Though, again, maybe I'm just taking this too seriously. I'm not sure how assiduously Lewis worked at fully integrating a consistent moral underpinning to the Chronicles. Some of it, surely, is just in "fun". Still, I think the questions are worth posing, even if they are quickly dismissed.

      > And I expect the same applies to a spellbook [...]
      > So, I assume that for _some_ people and in _some_
      > circumstances, the "beauty" spell might be used
      > for good.

      Can you actually think of such a scenario? Perhaps it's a limit to my imagination, but I can't.

      Jason

      [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]





      [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
    • John D Rateliff
      ... Maybe it s simpler than that. If people wish upon a star, in a magical world that star has to be able to grant their wish, right? And fairest in the land
      Message 2 of 15 , Dec 7, 2007
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        On Dec 7, 2007, at 8:00 AM, Jason Fisher wrote:
        >> So, I assume that for _some_ people and in _some_ circumstances,
        >> the "beauty" spell might be used for good.
        >
        > Can you actually think of such a scenario? Perhaps it's a limit to
        > my imagination, but I can't.

        Maybe it's simpler than that. If people wish upon a star, in a
        magical world that star has to be able to grant their wish, right?
        And 'fairest in the land' is a pretty standard one. So it's not
        surprising an ex-star would know how to do that.
        That said, the whole thing of letting Lucy misuse the spellbook
        and only intervening when she thinks about doing so again has always
        been one of my least favorite scenes in the book. I can try to
        rationalize Aslan's behavior, but in the end it always comes across
        as arbitrary to me. One of the reasons I can read the books as
        fantasy but not as allegory.

        --JDR
      • Marc Drayer
        I ve been thinking about this, and it prompted me to come out of lurkdom. It has occured to me that the beauty spell wasn t evil of itself, but in the way Lucy
        Message 3 of 15 , Dec 7, 2007
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          I've been thinking about this, and it prompted me to come out of
          lurkdom. It has occured to me that the beauty spell wasn't evil of
          itself, but in the way Lucy originally wanted it. In the book, it
          showed Lucy standing before the book with a terrible expression on
          her face, reciting the spell, then all those horrible things
          followed. Lucy had wanted the beauty for herself in the wrong way.
          In The Magician's Nephew, when Aslan tells Digory to get a magic
          apple for the protection of Narnia, Digory comes to the gate with
          this inscription:

          Come in by the gold gates or not at all,
          Take of my fruit for others or forbear.
          For those who steal and those who climb my wall
          Shall find their heart's desire and find despair.

          Aslan later explained to Digory that this magic works according to
          its nature, but if taken at the wrong time in the wrong way,
          disaster follows. The fruit is good, but they loathe it ever after.
          As Aslan said "All get what they want: They do not always like it."
          If any Narnian, unbidden had stolen an apple, it would have
          protected Narnia, but only by making it into a strong and cruel
          empire like Charn.

          Lewis gives another hint to what he is saying in That Hideous
          Strength, when Jane Studdock reads this mysterious passage:

          "The beauty of the female is the root of joy to the female as well
          as to the male, and it is no accident that the goddess of Love is
          older and stronger than the god. To desire the desiring of one's own
          beauty is the vanity of Lilith, but to desire the enjoying of one's
          own beauty is the obedience of Eve, and to both it is in the lover
          that the beloved tastes her own delightfulness. As obedience is the
          stairway of pleasure, so humility is the---" Then Jane is
          interrupted, and we never see the end of the passage.

          Used wrongly, the beauty spell leads to the horror Lewis spoke of in
          his short story "The Shoddy Lands," where nothing is real to this
          Peggy in her world except the things she cares about, and the center
          is a "swollen image of herself, remodelled to be as much as the
          girls in the advertisements as possible." And so, when Lucy attempts
          to do the spell in that way, she sees Aslan growling at her.

          But used rightly, the beauty spell does great good. We see this when
          after Lucy gives the spell to make invisible things visible, she
          turns and sees Aslan, and now the beauty spell works in the right
          way:

          "Then her face lit up, till, for a moment, (but of course she didn't
          know it), she looked almost as beautiful as the other Lucy in the
          picture, and she ran forward with a little cry of delight and with
          her arms stretched out. For what stood in the doorway was Aslan
          himself, the Lion, the highest of all the High Kings. And he was
          solid and real and warm and he let her kiss and bury herself in his
          shining mane. And from the low, earthquake-like sound that came from
          inside him, Lucy even dared to think he was purring."

          Of course, why Aslan allowed her to fall for the lesser temptation
          to magically eavesdrop on her friend, I don't know.

          Under the Mercy,
          Marc Drayer





          --- In mythsoc@yahoogroups.com, Jason Fisher <visualweasel@...>
          wrote:
          >
          > Janet,
          >
          > Thanks for the great comments! That Tanith Lee story sounds
          wonderful. And I like the idea of the "faerian drama" here, too. So,
          if this is the case, do you think that the outcome Lucy sees -- war,
          jealousy, desolation, etc. -- is unique to her? That is to say,
          others might see different "stories" unfold in the illustrated
          manuscript? I suppose I assumed Lewis was indicating that war and
          desolation were the *inevitable* outcomes for anybody using the
          spell; but alternative readings are certainly possible. Also, we
          don't know whether the spell is permanent. Or whether it
          even "works" at all; perhaps the "spell" is simply the lesson one
          learns in the pictures, and could never actually be effected? I
          hadn't thought of that before ...
          >
          > Interesting conversation! Dawn Treader is probably my favorite of
          the Chronicles. :)
          >
          > Jason
          >
          >
          > ----- Original Message ----
          > From: "Croft, Janet B." <jbcroft@...>
          > To: "mythsoc@yahoogroups.com" <mythsoc@yahoogroups.com>
          > Sent: Friday, December 7, 2007 10:34:44 AM
          > Subject: RE: [mythsoc] Lucy, Galadriel, and Temptation
          >
          > Just something that sprung to my mind from your mention of
          Bottom's re-education - spells to create surpassing beauty or give
          someone an ass's head might be elements of "faerian drama" - as in
          Christopher Garbowski's article in Mythlore #90 where he sees It's a
          Wonderful Life as a faerian drama staged to teach George some home
          truths about his life - and therefore their proper uses might be
          outside the sphere of human understanding. In this way A Midsummer
          Night's Dream and A Christmas Carol can also be read as faerian
          dramas. I'm also reminded of a short story by Tanith Lee, set in
          India, in which the rather plain and dumpy newlywed partners in an
          arranged marriage see each other for a short time as celestially
          beautiful beings, and this mutual vision of their radiant internal
          souls stays with them throughout their lives and blesses their
          marriage and children. In that situation, at least, the spell of
          beauty has a good effect. Is a retired star the
          > sort of entity who might have authority to stage a faerian drama?
          Well, the whole exposure of Lucy to the temptation of the spell-book
          strikes me as staged this way.
          >
        • Ernest Davis
          ... E. Nesbit did this (sort of) in Five Children and It, chapter 1, Beautiful as the Day . But makeovers, some of them pretty extreme, are mundane enough
          Message 4 of 15 , Dec 8, 2007
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            Diane Joy Baker writes:

            > I suppose good could be accomplished by making a woman the most beautiful
            > woman in the world; just am not sure what would happen afterwards. Lovely
            > women are definitely treated more positively, but unless one is already a
            > confident and wise-souled woman, I would think the result would be a
            > lifetime's worth of major temptations.---and I don't just mean sexual (tho
            > it's also true that beauty intimidates many men. Note, I did not say ALL
            > men.)
            >
            > It would make for an interesting fantasy tale: what would be the
            > out-working of that kind of spell?---djb
            >

            E. Nesbit did this (sort of) in "Five Children and It," chapter 1,
            "Beautiful as the Day". But makeovers, some of them pretty extreme, are
            mundane enough that I don't think you have to resort to fantasy to find
            out how it works out; that's described at length in half the magazines at
            the supermarket counter.

            -- Ernie
          • Lynn Maudlin
            CSL wasn t writing allegory but trying to imagine Christ coming to a world in which the animals could talk - the king of the beasts being the lion, etc. -
            Message 5 of 15 , Dec 10, 2007
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              CSL wasn't writing allegory but trying to imagine Christ coming to a
              world in which the animals could talk - the king of the beasts being
              the lion, etc. - Lewis was trying to make Aslan as much like Jesus as
              he could imagine, Jesus in the form of a great Lion in a land of
              talking animals. That was a point that escaped me for quite a few
              years; you probably know it but just in case you didn't... {grin}

              -- Lynn --

              --- In mythsoc@yahoogroups.com, John D Rateliff <sacnoth@...> wrote:
              >
              >
              > One of the reasons I can read the books as
              > fantasy but not as allegory.
              >
              > --JDR
              >
            • Lynn Maudlin
              De-lurking Marc, I think there are many situations in which *most* of us learn better the hard way. I ve often admired those rare humans who can learn from the
              Message 6 of 15 , Dec 10, 2007
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                De-lurking Marc, I think there are many situations in which *most* of
                us learn better the hard way. I've often admired those rare humans who
                can learn from the mistakes of others; for myself, I tend to be the,
                "what do you mean, 'the stove is hot'? OUCH!!!" type.

                Allowing her to experience the sadness of indulging in that spell may
                have been the 'least expensive' way for her to learn a solid lesson.

                imho, of course, ymmv.

                -- Lynn --

                --- In mythsoc@yahoogroups.com, "Marc Drayer" <mdrayer2001@...> wrote:
                >
                > I've been thinking about this, and it prompted me to come out of
                > lurkdom...
                >
                > Of course, why Aslan allowed her to fall for the lesser temptation
                > to magically eavesdrop on her friend, I don't know.
                >
                > Under the Mercy,
                > Marc Drayer
                >
              • John D Rateliff
                ... Well, all I can say is that for me he failed utterly. I can only read the books if I suspend disbelief and treat Aslan as a purely fictional character,
                Message 7 of 15 , Dec 11, 2007
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                  On Dec 10, 2007, at 2:58 PM, Lynn Maudlin wrote:
                  > Lewis was trying to make Aslan as much like Jesus as he could imagine

                  Well, all I can say is that for me he failed utterly. I can only
                  read the books if I 'suspend disbelief' and treat Aslan as a purely
                  fictional character, like Manwe or Mana-Yood-Sushai or Koshchei the
                  Deathless (i.e., as god, not God).
                  I suspect others have the reverse problem with Pullman; they read
                  his fantasy as if he were writing a realistic novel about our world,
                  and react accordingly.
                  --JDR
                • alexeik@aol.com
                  ... From: John D Rateliff To: mythsoc@yahoogroups.com Sent: Wed, 12 Dec 2007 1:29 am Subject: Re: [mythsoc] Re: Lucy, Galadriel, and
                  Message 8 of 15 , Dec 13, 2007
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                    -----Original Message-----
                    From: John D Rateliff <sacnoth@...>
                    To: mythsoc@yahoogroups.com
                    Sent: Wed, 12 Dec 2007 1:29 am
                    Subject: Re: [mythsoc] Re: Lucy, Galadriel, and Temptation







                    On Dec 10, 2007, at 2:58 PM, Lynn Maudlin wrote:
                    > Lewis was trying to make Aslan as much like Jesus as he could imagine

                    Well, all I can say is that for me he failed utterly. I can only
                    read the books if I 'suspend disbelief' and treat Aslan as a purely
                    fictional character, like Manwe or Mana-Yood-Sushai or Koshchei the
                    Deathless (i.e., as god, not God).
                    I suspect others have the reverse problem with Pullman; they read
                    his fantasy as if he were writing a realistic novel about our world,
                    and react accordingly.
                    <<

                    Are they entirely unjustified in this, though? Not all of Pullman's story takes place in a fantasy world: parts of it are anchored in the primary world as well (or a world so similar to ours that its precise identity?makes no difference), and in those parts it does try to convince the reader directly about issues in the primary world. My impression has been that the aspect of the story that offends Christian readers most?is not so much the "death of God" theme as the subplot involving Dr. Mary Malone, the ex-nun-turned-scientist who jettisons both her religious vocation and her faith in general as a result of tasting marzipan. If this took place entirely in a fantasy setting, it could be taken as a clever reversal of the "Turkish delight" theme in _LWW_, and appreciated on the same?level, mythopoeically. But Pullman clearly presents it as his own judgment on Christianity in our world -- a judgment he wants his readers to share. In the process he shows himself incapable of imagining what a religious vocation would feel like (a serious lack in an imaginative writer), and also suggests that he has an extraordinarily shallow?understanding of this-worldly Christianity, seeing it as having no spiritual dimension beyond a simple denial of the body and its pleasures. Whether one agrees with him or not, it turns his story into a primary-world polemic rather than a mythopoeic statement. This is what terminally ruined _The Amber Spyglass_ for me, although I really enjoyed?most of the two previous books.
                    Alexei
                    ??





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                    [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
                  • Lynn Maudlin
                    Interesting. I have no problem reading Aslan as CSL s concept of Jesus interacting in a world of talking animals. I don t expect it to be *my* concept of Jesus
                    Message 9 of 15 , Dec 13, 2007
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                      Interesting. I have no problem reading Aslan as CSL's concept of Jesus
                      interacting in a world of talking animals. I don't expect it to be
                      *my* concept of Jesus interacting in a world of talking animals (!!)
                      but it's close enough to be recognizable.

                      I've not read Pullman; I guess anybody who proudly trumpets himself as
                      the anti-CSL is just not very appealing to me. Don't know if I'll see
                      the film or not.

                      -- Lynn --

                      --- In mythsoc@yahoogroups.com, John D Rateliff <sacnoth@...> wrote:
                      >
                      >
                      > On Dec 10, 2007, at 2:58 PM, Lynn Maudlin wrote:
                      > > Lewis was trying to make Aslan as much like Jesus as he could imagine
                      >
                      > Well, all I can say is that for me he failed utterly. I can only
                      > read the books if I 'suspend disbelief' and treat Aslan as a purely
                      > fictional character, like Manwe or Mana-Yood-Sushai or Koshchei the
                      > Deathless (i.e., as god, not God).
                      > I suspect others have the reverse problem with Pullman; they read
                      > his fantasy as if he were writing a realistic novel about our world,
                      > and react accordingly.
                      > --JDR
                      >
                    • John D Rateliff
                      Two interesting pieces of news out of the U.K. today, one happy news, the other sad. First, a J. K. Rowling manuscript just sold at auction for a children s
                      Message 10 of 15 , Dec 13, 2007
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                        Two interesting pieces of news out of the U.K. today, one happy news,
                        the other sad.

                        First, a J. K. Rowling manuscript just sold at auction for a
                        children's charity. They were hoping it'd go for about fifty thousand
                        pounds; instead it went for two million (over four million dollars).
                        Wow.

                        http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/entertainment/7142656.stm

                        Second, Terry Pratchett, author of the DIscworld series (among
                        others), has just revealed that he has early onset Alzheimer's. He's
                        planning to keep writing while he can.

                        http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/entertainment/7141458.stm

                        --JDR
                      • John D Rateliff
                        ... It starts out presenting it as if it s the real world, but since fantasy events begin to happen in it it s revealed as just another fantasy world by that
                        Message 11 of 15 , Dec 13, 2007
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                          On Dec 13, 2007, at 12:25 PM, alexeik@... wrote:
                          > Are they entirely unjustified in this, though? Not all of Pullman's
                          > story takes place in a fantasy world: parts of it are anchored in
                          > the primary world as well (or a world so similar to ours that its
                          > precise identity makes no difference)

                          It starts out presenting it as if it's the real world, but since
                          fantasy events begin to happen in it it's revealed as just another
                          fantasy world by that very fact. And it's not the portrayal of
                          religious figures in Will's world that upsets the people calling for
                          boycotts of the film or removal of the books from libraries but how
                          they appear in Lyra's world and the fantasy worlds of the third book.

                          > . . . the subplot involving Dr. Mary Malone, the ex-nun-turned-
                          > scientist who jettisons both her religious vocation and her faith
                          > in general as a result of tasting marzipan. If this took place
                          > entirely in a fantasy setting, it could be taken as a clever
                          > reversal of the "Turkish delight" theme in _LWW_, and appreciated
                          > on the same level, mythopoeically.

                          I like the idea of the two scenes being inverse of each other; I'd
                          not thought of that before. It struck me as the most trivial possible
                          reason to lose yr faith; I hope for her sake it was at least good
                          marzipan, just as I've always hoped it was a pretty good apple.

                          > Whether one agrees with him or not, it turns his story into a
                          > primary-world polemic rather than a mythopoeic statement. This is
                          > what terminally ruined _The Amber Spyglass_ for me, although I
                          > really enjoyed most of the two previous books.

                          I thought the first book was brilliant. The second was an interesting
                          attempt to start from a different point and work to the same place;
                          didn't quite come off, but worth reading. The third was a terrible
                          hash, both polemic (which was annoying) and mythopoeic (mainly I
                          think derived from Blake's prophetic books). I've always wondered
                          what the original version of the third book, which he took back from
                          the publisher and extensively rewrote, was like.

                          --JDR
                        • John D Rateliff
                          ... In that case, I wouldn t recommend your reading the books. You might still enjoy the movie, which strips out all the parts of the story I think you d find
                          Message 12 of 15 , Dec 13, 2007
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                            On Dec 13, 2007, at 1:15 PM, Lynn Maudlin wrote:
                            > I've not read Pullman; I guess anybody who proudly trumpets himself
                            > as the anti-CSL is just not very appealing to me. Don't know if
                            > I'll see the film or not.

                            In that case, I wouldn't recommend your reading the books. You might
                            still enjoy the movie, which strips out all the parts of the story I
                            think you'd find objectionable, but it's pretty lightweight as a
                            result and shd be enjoyed (or not) pretty much just as entertainment.

                            --JDR
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