In the previous installment of this occasional series, I wrote about Rudyard Kipling’s Puck of Pook’s Hill, and mentioned the influence I perceived it had on later works. Today, I’m going to focus on its influence on one series: C.S. Lewis’s Narnia books.
‘Ah, but you’re a fairy,’ said Dan.
‘Have you ever heard me use that word yet?’ said Puck, quickly.
‘No. You talk about “the People of the Hills,” but you never say “fairies,”’ said Una. ‘I was wondering at that. Don’t you like it?’
‘How would you like to be called “mortal” or “human being” all the time?’ said Puck; ‘or “son of Adam” or “daughter of Eve”?’
‘I shouldn’t like it at all,’ said Dan.Puck of Pook’s Hill, Rudyard Kipling
“Sons of Adam” and “Daughters of Eve”, of course, is how Aslan, the Christ-figure lion in the Narnia series, refers to the children Peter and Edmund, Susan and Lucy.
“Down at Cair Paravel there are four thrones, and it’s a saying in Narnia time out of mind that when two Sons of Adam and two Daughters of Eve sit in those four thrones, then it will be the end not only of the White Witch’s reign but of her life.”The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, C.S. Lewis
Yes, but, you may be saying – it’s coincidence. It could be, except for something else: the Narnia’s children’s last name is Pevensie. In Puck of Pook’s Hill, Pevensey – the Pevensey Levels (which is a real place, and Pevensey a real town), the Manor of Pevensey, and the Lord of Pevensey – are an important part of the story.
Why? Pevensey is referred to as ‘England’s gate’ in Kipling’s story (it’s where William the Conqueror landed in 1066), and perhaps it was nothing more than the idea of the wardrobe in Narnia also being a gate between countries (or worlds.) You could perhaps argue that Lewis was attempting to replace Kipling’s ‘People of the Hills’ as the oldest, lost mythology of England with Christianity. Or maybe it was completely unconscious. Writers borrow, often without knowing they are.
I was – full disclosure here – never a fan of the Narnia books. I was not fond of Charles Kingsley’s The Water Babies, or the child’s version of A Pilgrim’s Progress I had, either. I didn’t like being preached at as a child (or adult), even subtly. What I did – and do – like is the continuity, the fantasy stories of one generation influencing the next, and the next.
Next time, a look at Susan Cooper’s The Dark is Rising series, which I still re-read every few years.