Chronicles of Narnia: An uncomfortable reminder

I know my next blog was supposed to be on my trip to Bangladesh but once again there is something that I just couldn’t get of my mind. My blog on Bangladesh, though there isn’t much, will be up by sometime late next week, as I will be travelling this week to Bhopal.

Last week, I finished reading the seven books that make the Chronicles of Narnia. Yes, I am a 25-year-old, who read a book that I probably too young for my 10-year-old niece. I read it because a very dear friend of mine (who is an english major by the way) recommended it. She felt that since I had loved Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings, I would love Narnia as well. Since she is my oldest friend, I am willing to forgive her. I regretfully say that I seriously did not like the books. This was not just because the books were written for kids but also because I felt they were extremely high-handed in some of their lessons and some lessons were downright wrong.

These books, were published in the years 1950-1956 and were written by Lewis for his god-daughter, who also happens to be named Lucy. I will not give a summary of these books, since I am sure all book readers or movie watchers are aware of this book.

I like the fact that Lewis wrote these books to impart certain valuable lessons to his god-daughter in a fun and exciting way. For that he gets my appreciation. However, there are a lot of things I didn’t like about these books. The biggest problems I had with these books was the creation of the bad guys, the Telmarines.

The Telmarines, were first introduced in the book Prince Caspian, and were obviously fashioned around Arabs. All throughout this book and the subsequent books, the association with the Arabs is obvious in the architecture, and dressing sense described. Yes the Telmarines are the bad guys, yes this is a kids books so subtlety really wasn’t an option and yes these books were written in a time when racial discrimination was rampant but come on!!!!!!!!! I had a serious problem with the manner in which the Telmarines were painted, and only half of it was because I too am part of a race/skin color that was called “Darky” by the Caucasians.

Lewis’s prejudice towards the darker skin colors was very obvious and disappointing, as I don’t know why but I have expected writers to be more open-minded. As the books progress the manner in which the Telmarines are painted as bad becomes more and more high-handed and eventually took a religious turn. Even the Telmarines who are the ‘good guys’ such as Caspian, are good only because they believe in Aslan and not the Telmarine God Tash. Aslan, who is the representation of the Biblical God, is the only true God, and those who don’t believe in him were destined for hell, as happens in the last book, the Final Battle.

I shudder to think, how many children have read these books, and how many have come to associate or have their thought process re-inforced that dark skin people are bad, or even those who don’t believe in your religion or belief are bad. As a dark toned person and a Hindu by religion I would take offence, had these books not been written so long ago. However, yes I will probably not read these books to my children, and if I do, I will do some serious editing, and will not read the last one for sure.

Oh well, I am now reading Anna Karenina, and have liked it so far so hopefully if I do have something to say on that it will be positive. Until next time.

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