Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Those Darn Duffers

As we discussed in class, one of the great things about C.S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia series is it can be read as a child, when you can appreciate the fantasy and use your imagination, and again as an adult, when you can understand a deeper political, emotional, or theological meaning. In the second half of the book, I felt a strong sense of empirical attitude in the basically “good” characters and it seemed unsettling to me that the heroes of the book could be seen as arrogant and simply out to conquer “inferior” nations.

I tried to imagine reading "The Voyage of the Dawn Treader" as if I was a child and the chapters when the Narnian travelers come across the Duffers, I think, would send a somewhat negative message. The background of the situation turns out to be that the Duffers were very conceited even though they were quite ugly to begin with so they were improved upon by the Magician, who turned them into Monopods. After the Narnians meet the Duffers, Reepicheep teaches them how to sail around on water, like “little canoes” or a “natural raft or boat” (186; 185). The paragraph goes onto say that with the help of the Narnians, the Duffers “settled down to calling themselves the Dufflepuds” which is what they will “probably be called for centuries” (186). Even though it is obvious these people struggled on many accounts, Lewis made it seem as though Reepicheep teaching them how to “sail” bettered their species so greatly that it was obvious they needed help in the first place. In reality, it was Aslan and the Magician who changed their lives by giving them a leader who is not their own kind and then performing magic on them.

I find it hard to believe that a child should be taught that as long as you are more intelligent than someone else, you have the right to impose your own beliefs or cultural structures on them. I believe (and hope) that it wasn’t Lewis’s intent to corrupt children and turn them into arrogant adults, but this particular situation can, at times, come off that way.

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