Thursday, February 14, 2013

Janet Croft and Chronicles of Narnia

Tonight's lecture by Janet Croft was enlightening and great clarification regarding several of the topics we touched on in class this week.  What I found most helpful was her discussion of the necessary elements for Faerian drama.  Here they are, paraphrased (and I may have missed one or two):

1)  The dramas don't take place in the realm of everyday life.
2)  The senses are satisfied, and the experience feels real (i.e. the happenings in Faerie are not "irrational" for that world)
3)  The participant in the drama joins a world already in progress.
4)  The participant must enter with the correct mindset, the right frame of mind.
5)  There is a clear before and after of the drama.

Another intriguing point made by Ms. Croft was her observation that often in Faerian drama, the protagonist/participant seems perfectly fitted to the trials and temptations throughout the stories which serve to mold him and grow him in his apparent weaknesses.

So following these given elements - and likely spurred by the Tolkien/Lewis friendship - I think the Chronicles of Narnia fits the Faerian drama bill almost perfectly.  Obviously, the stories take place in Narnia, this mysterious, alternate world.  The experience feels real (at least to me): nothing that happens seems out of the ordinary for the world of Narnia.  The children dropped into Narnia always enter in medias res - the action is already underway.  For example, Eustace, Edmund, and Lucy drop into the ocean next to the Dawn Treader as it embarks on its voyage.  Most of the children involved enter Narnia with a perceptive and understanding mindset.  For example, Lucy finds Aslan most often when she completely believes in his existence. And finally, there is definitely a clear before and after to these stories.  Kids change, lives are saved, evil is overthrown, the children return to our world.

Then, of course, C.S. Lewis seems to mold the trials and tribulations specifically to grow his characters in their weaknesses.  I see this most obviously in Eustace in the Voyage of the Dawn Treader.  He's a brat from the beginning of the story - entitled, snobby, refusing the help of others - but after his stint as a dragon, when he sees what a burden he is to the others and finds ways to help the group, Eustace is a changed boy at the end of the story.

Feel free to disagree with me, but I want to know what you all think. And what other stories/movies, etc. can you think of that fit these requirements of Faerian drama?


Richard Wentworth said...

I've never read Chronicles of Narnia, and unfortunately I wasn't there to hear Janet Croft. But given what you said, I thought of Pan's Labyrinth. Mostly because of the trials and temptations bit. But then the story takes place partly in the real world, although I wouldn't call it everyday life.

It's clearly got a lot to do with fairy stories, but is it not one? I don't know.

sworland said...

Someone at the lecture actually mentioned Pan's Labyrinth, I think, and Janet Croft was pretty positive regarding its being a Faerie story! Anybody else who was there, correct me if I'm wrong.

Lorin said...

Okay, correct me if I'm wrong, but was Janet Croft taking these elements of Faerian drama directly from "On Fairy-stories"? Cuz then it makes me smile that the Chronicles of Narnia pretty much perfectly fits this bill, despite Tolkien's (I think?) overall dislike for it (with the talking animals, the stories often being obviously allegorical, etc.). The only way that I'm not sure CON fits is in regard to #4. I keep thinking of Edmund and how he ended up in Narnia pretty much by accident and, before that initial experience, not believing at all in its existence. That, to me, can maybe be contrasted to (I think it was) Nokes from Smith of Wootton Major - in his case, it was *because* he didn't believe in Faery that he was pretty much never going to get there. So, maybe in that sense, CON doesn't necessarily perfectly fit into Faerian drama? I'm not sure.