Elizabeth Scripturient (the delinquent, ecumenical (hermionesviolin) wrote,
Elizabeth Scripturient (the delinquent, ecumenical
hermionesviolin

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Narnia, Susan, growing up

Contains spoilers for The Last Battle and sheldrake’s Narnia fic “Growing Up” (which i really recommend you read before i start talking about it -- warning: not a happy fic).


The Final Judgment with some saved and some destroyed is one of my prime complaints about The Last Battle because it’s not a theology i agree with. And it seems particularly odd after we have the lengthy Universalist passage of Emeth the Calormene narrating his encounter with Aslan.
So I went over much grass and many flowers and among all kinds of wholesome and delectable trees till lo! in a narrow place between two rocks there came to meet me a great Lion. The speed of him was like the ostrich, and his size was an elephant’s; his hair was like pure gold that is liquid in the furnace. He was more terrible than the Flaming Mountain of Lagour, and in beauty he surpassed all that is in the world even as the rose in bloom surpasses the dust of the desert. Then I fell at his feet and thought, Surely this is the hour of death, for the Lion (who is worthy of all honor) will know that I have served Tash all my days and not him. Nevertheless, it is better to see the Lion and die than to be Tisroc of the world and live and not to have seen him. But the Glorious One bent down his golden head and touched my forehead with his tongue and said, Son, thou art welcome. But I said, Alas, Lord, I am no son of thine but the servant of Tash. He answered, Child, all the service thou hast done to Tash, I account as service done to me. Then by reason of my great desire for wisdom and understanding, I overcame my fear and questioned the Glorious One and said, Lord, is it then true, as the Ape said, that thou and Tash are one? The Lion growled so that the earth shook (but his wrath was not against me) and said, It is false. Not because he and I are one, but because we are opposites, I take to me the services which thou hast done to him. For I and he are of such different kinds that no service which is vile can be done to me, and none which is not vile can be done to him. Therefore if any man swear by Tash and keep his oath for the oath’s sake, it is by me that he has truly sworn, though he know it not, and it is I who reward him. And if any man do a cruelty in my name, then, though he says the name Aslan, it is Tash whom he serves and by Tash his deed is accepted. Dost thou understand Child? I said, Lord, thou knowest how much I understand. But I said also (for the truth constrained me), Yet I have been seeking Tash all my days. Beloved, said the Glorious One, unless thy desire had been for me thou wouldst not have sought so long and so truly. For all find what they truly seek.
However, it does fit the mythos of the series reasonably well, and it’s a theology i’m used to finding myself at odds with. What i have a much harder time with is “My sister Susan is no longer a friend of Narnia.” There will be a lengthier post on Peter Pan once i’ve read the source texts, but as we began watching the most recent movie, i was reminded of how fond i am of growing up being a grown-up, how i don’t think i was ever particularly keen on staying a child, and i realized how much that distanced me from so many of the stories that idyllize childhood in whatever fashion.
“Sir,” said Tirian, when he had greeted all these. “If I have read the chronicle aright, there should be another. Has not your Majesty two sisters? Where is Queen Susan?”

“My sister Susan,” answered Peter shortly and gravely, “is no longer a friend of Narnia.”

“Yes,” said Eustace, “and whenever you’ve tried to get her to come and talk about Narnia or do anything about Narnia, she says, ‘What wonderful memories you have! Fancy your still thinking about all those funny games we used to play when we were children.’ ”

“Oh Susan,” said Jill. “She’s interested in nothing nowadays except nylons and lipstick and invitations. She always was a jolly sight too keen on being grown-up.”

“Grown-up indeed,” said the lady Polly. “I wish she would grow up. She wasted all her school time wanting to be the age she is now, and she’ll waste all the rest of her life trying to stay that age. Her whole idea is to race on to the silliest time of one’s life as quick as she can and then stop there as long as she can.”
The exclusion of Susan from Narnia harkens back to the Final Judgement motif and i like to think that when she does die, Aslan welcomes her into Narnia, especially because, i didn’t jot down the citation as i read, but i think it’s in The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe that Aslan says, “Once a King or Queen in Narnia, always a King or Queen in Narnia.” And Aslan can’t go back on his word, can’t break his own rules.

So anyway, i couldn’t sleep, and penknife had recced this with the summary More Narnia: Lucy and Susan and growing up, with no easy answers. so with The Last Battle still on my mind, i read it.
"It's funny," said Lucy after a while, "how when you're here, Narnian things seem so far away and hard to get hold of. And when you're in Narnia, things from here hardly seem real at all. When I was in Narnia--" she stopped.
That’s one of my favorite bits of the fic, because it makes so believable and understandable and excusable Susan’s growing away from Narnia.
"Do you remember being grown-up?" asked Lucy earnestly. "I mean really grown-up? Do you remember being a queen and what that was actually like? Sometimes I'm so afraid that I'll forget."

"I remember," said Susan. But it was a faint and distant kind of remembering, like remembering a film you'd seen, or a wonderful book you'd once read.

"When I was in Narnia -- the last time -- Ed and I... well, we felt grown-up again, a lot of the time. And that was good, because it meant we could do all sorts of things, and help Caspian, and. And sometimes I looked at Ed and he seemed like a man, and then again sometimes he didn't. And that made me wonder how I seemed ... to other people. And being grown-up ... there are other things..." Lucy's voice died away.

"I don't understand," said Susan. But a part of her did, and does.

"It's hard," whispered Lucy. "Being grown-up, and not being."
And truly it is. Transitioning into being an adult is a difficult and sometimes lengthy process.

I think it was when i was skimming Lewis’ essay on writing for children at the bookstore that i read him saying something along the lines of “And when I became an adult, I put away childish notions, including the notion that children’s stories were silly and only for children” but certainly there is that time when one thinks that everything associated with one’s childhood is to be put away in the attic of childhood past.

And there is the theme of change.
Other days she will stand for longs swathes of time in front of the full-length mirror in her bedroom, fascinated by her own face and body, the shapes her flesh and muscles make under the skin. She is changing all the time. Even when Susan stops, she thinks, the changes will not. (emphases mine)
I think i was crying by this point, but then we get to the very end
Once she saw seven wild swans flying eastwards, high up above her. She smiled, and thought of Lucy, and wondered where they were going.
and i’m sobbing. Yeah i’ve cried at lots of stories recently -- quiet tears trickling down my cheeks -- but this was noisy nose-blowing shaking crying like i haven’t done in a long time.
Tags: narnia
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