The Guardian has a thoughtful article about CS Lewis and the Chronicles of Narnia, titled His dark materials after Philip Pullman’s trilogy. Why Alison Lurie titled the article about Lewis after Pullman’s trilogy is a bit of a mystery; yes, Pullman is quoted on the controversies around Lewis’s sexism, racism and “muscular” Christian propaganda, but is Lurie suggesting Pullman (another Oxford fantasy writer) has special authority? Or it is just a good title for a story on the a series we loved as kids and now find distasteful for their incoherence and racism. See also Pullman attacks Narnia film plans on Pullman’s critique and The Narnia Skirmishes on the controversy around the release of the Disney version.
I personally stopped reading the second time around to my kids when I hit The Horse and His Body with its stereotypical presentation of Good Northerns against Bad Southerners (who smell of garlic, have dark skin and live in the dessert.)
Now a Disney version is coming out of The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe, still the best of the series, and we will see how they have handled the Christian mythology. I never really saw the Christian side of Lewis in the Narnia series when I read them as a kid, but then again, I wasn’t interested in such things. The whole series struck me as Swallows and Amazons meets Tolkien.
Pullman and Lurie’s mention of “muscular” Christianity, strikes me as worth thinking through more carefully in light of what is happening in the U.S. and Iraq. To what extent is America playing again with forms of crusading Christianity? There is much that is seductive to a form of Christianity that celebrates health, fitness, the outdoors and manliness, especially in imperial times. See Clifford Putney – Muscular Christianity for a short summary.