Guest Post: Narnia, Hogwarts, and Fantastic Beasts

All Star HogPro All-Pro on deck! Pay Attention! Thank you, Prof. Hardy, for sharing this brilliant survey of magical animals in the Hogwarts Saga and the Narniad.

Fantastic Beasts: C. S. Lewis, J. K. Rowling, and the Menagerie of the Imagination

by Elizabeth Hardy, author of Milton, Spenser and the Chronicles of Narnia: Literary Sources for the C.S. Lewis Novels

Every author is influenced by what he or she experiences, believes, or learns. Authors are also profoundly affected by what they read. All authors weave into their own work that which they have read, from the great stories of the Bible or classical mythology, to the poems of childhood songs or nursery rhymes, to phrases or words caught in passing. Far from indicating plagiarism or unoriginality, such connections rather display the variety of influences, often unconscious, that an author may have had, while allowing the reader to notice the ways in which an author, both subtly and overtly, uses material from other sources, often by twisting it into strange and wonderful new forms. [Read more…]

The Personal Heresy: A Case Study

Last weekend I attended Book Expo America (BEA) at New York City’s Javits Center. One of the more interesting panel discussions I went to was on Book Clubs. I went to it, embarrassing full disclosure here, because I hoped I might learn how to get Zossima Press titles picked up by Book of the Month Club or Quality Paperback Book Club.

Whoops! The discussion was about neighborhood reading clubs, which proved to my delight to be much more interesting than what I expected to be hearing.

The relevant and disturbing thing I picked up that I’d like to offer here for your reflection and comments was the consensus of the five women on the panel and the moderator that what Book Club members really want to know — and what book club leaders are obliged to provide — is information about the author of the work the club is reading. Knowing that s/he lives in Long Island, is married with two children, graduated from Kalamazoo U, and has a dachshund and pet tortoise is not enough; a discussion leader is obliged to search and find personal data well beyond book cover blurbs. The home run is scheduling an appearance by the author at the club date — so members can ask him or her how much of the story reflects their personal lives.

These Book Club pundits weren’t uneducated women or desperate housewives, believe me. When an author in the audience pointed out, though, that better writers weren’t writing autobiographies in story they wanted readers to pick apart to discover the ‘real world’ referents, the panel seemed non-plussed. They weren’t endorsing or arguing that interpreting the books readers gathered to discuss in the light of an author’s personal history was good or bad; they were just saying it was certainly what members wanted to do, would do, and it was the business of the Book Club sponsor to foster this sort of literary gossip if s/he wanted a successful Book Club.

We see a lot of this in Potter Fandom, alas. [Read more…]

The Divine Mirror in Pilgrim’s Progress

Mirrors are a big part of fantasy literature in the English tradition. It starts in a big way with the Alice classics by Lewis Carroll (Charles Dodgson), an Oxford Platonist, Anglican clergyman, and mathematician, when he sends his heroine Through the Looking Glass and it echos through Goudge’s work (as we saw yesterday), Tolkien’s Mirror of Galadriel and Frodo’s Light which is essentially a phial of water taken from the pool-mirror, up to the Godfather mirror fragment that plays such a large part in Deathly Hallows.

The tradition of mirrors in fantasy fiction and its origin in the natural theology and logos epistemology of Samuel Taylor Coleridge is discussed at length in The Deathly Hallows Lectures, chapter 5, ‘The Seeing Eye,’ so I won’t beat that to death again here. What I want to share today is what I think may be the first and what is certainly the most important pre-Coleridge use of a mirror that reflects the ‘I’ that is, as Lewis says, “a sacred name.” [Read more…]

Salon: ‘A Spy in The House of Narnia’

Certainly it would take days to unpack all the upside-down and almost exactly backwards ideas in this Salon article, A Spy in the House of Narnia, an interview with the Salon founder and author of the new title, The Magician’s Book: A Skeptics Adventures in Narnia. Long story short: child loves the Chronicles of Narnia until she learns they are largely allegorical. She returns to them years later to demonstrate they really aren’t Christian books but works of remarkable imaginative artistry.

Two quick notes: [Read more…]

C. S. Lewis: Requiescat in Pace

Saturday is the 45th anniversary of C. S. Lewis’ death. I can count on my ten fingers the writers and individuals who have most shaped my thinking and beliefs. What is good and true and beautiful in my life, what I learned from these men and women, though, is largely attributable to what I learned first from reading Lewis or what he confirmed or helped me understand in a different light.

I am out the door, if you will, for my dates in McKeesport this weekend (see below) or I would write more. Please share here, if you have a moment, how Lewis helped you understand or appreciate Ms. Rowling’s books in the boxes below. I know one man, for instance, who told me that he didn’t get literary alchemy until he read Lewis’ Perelandra on my recommendation. Lewis’ artistry, which this friend understood more clearly than I had, opened up the alchemical scaffolding and subtext of Rowling’s Hogwarts adventures for him.

Maybe for you it was one of the ideas we throw about here as ‘givens’ for conversation about literature, Potter, and thinking in general, say, chronological snobbery, instructing while delighting, training in the stock responses, sneaking past watchful dragons, baptizing the imagination, or “the Seeing Eye,’ the universe being mental via our participation in the cosmic Logos. Just writing out that list, it’s hard to miss the centrality of Lewis and his genius in our discussions of Ms. Rowling’s books’ meaning.

As an extra, here is Peter Kreeft discussing the three men who died on 22 November 1963, CSL, JFK, and Aldous Huxley, and the important differences in how each understood the world. Enjoy.

And don’t forget the three CSL book special offers at Zossima Press! Black Friday savings without the post Turkey Day blues, crowds, or driving through the woods in a one horse open sleigh…