It’s one of childhood’s great narrative shocks. Susan Pevensie is no longer a friend of Narnia. The bad news comes, almost offhandedly, as the series ends amid the cheerfully eschatological curtain-calls of The Last Battle. How could he—C.S. Lewis, Aslan, maybe God—do that to dear old Su? To Queen Susan the Gentle, Susan the sure-sighted archeress?
I did not know this was a controversy, but a quick internet search shows that it is a BIG THING. More than a few bloggers have also expressed thoughts on the issue, ranging from disappointed to outraged. Contemporary children’s authors have weighed in, from Philip Pullman:
. . . Susan, like Cinderella, is undergoing a transition from one phase of her life to another. Lewis didn’t approve of that. He didn’t like women in general, or sexuality at all, at least at the stage in his life when he wrote the Narnia books. He was frightened and appalled at the notion of wanting to grow up. Susan, who did want to grow up, and who might have been the most interesting character in the whole cycle if she’d been allowed to, is a Cinderella in a story where the Ugly Sisters win.
to J.K. Rowling:
“There comes a point where Susan, who was the older girl, is lost to Narnia because she becomes interested in lipstick. She’s become irreligious basically because she found sex,” Rowling says. “I have a big problem with that.”
These charges seem to be a bit overwrought. Seriously, lipsticks and nylon = sex? What do they teach them in these schools?
Matthew Alderman answers these charges and more most ably. Happily, he does it by referencing the books, not the *wretched movies.
Even then, Lewis indicates, it’s hardly hellfire for Susan. He wrote to a young reader in 1957: “The books don’t tell us what happened to Susan. She is left alive in this world at the end, having by then turned into a rather silly, conceited young woman. But there’s plenty of time for her to mend and perhaps she will get to Aslan’s country in the end . . . in her own way.” Continue reading at First Things
*Oh okay, the first one was sort of passable. The others made me want to spit nails. But that’s another rant for another day. Except, perhaps just this small protest?