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The Feminine Ethos in C. S. Lewisʼs «Chronicles of Narnia»

Preface by Elizabeth Baird Hardy


Monika Hilder

C. S. Lewis, fantasy novelist, literary scholar, and Christian apologist, is one of the most original and well-known literary figures of the twentieth century. As one who stood at the crossroads of Edwardian and modern thinking, he is often read as a sexist or even misogynistic man of his time, but this fresh rereading assesses Lewis as a prescient thinker who transformed typical Western gender paradigms. The Feminine Ethos in C. S. Lewis’s ‘Chronicles of Narnia’ proposes that Lewis’s highly nuanced metaphorical view of gender relations has been misunderstood precisely because it challenges Western chauvinist assumptions on sex and gender. Instead of perpetuating sexism, Lewis subverts the culturally inherited chauvinism of «masculine» classical heroism with the biblically inspired vision of a surprisingly «feminine» spiritual heroism. His view that we are all «feminine» in relation to the «masculine» God – a theological feminism that crosses gender lines – means that qualities we tend to consider to be feminine, such as humility, are the qualities essential to being fully human. This book’s theoretical framework is Lewis’s own, grounded in his view of biblical thinking, as he was informed by writers such as Milton, Wordsworth, and George MacDonald, and in terms of the uniquely progressive implications for twentieth-first century cultural studies. This highly insightful and entertaining study of theological feminism in Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia will be compelling for anyone interested in children’s and fantasy literature, Inklings scholarship, gender discourse, ethical and spiritual discourse, literature and theology, and cultural studies in general.


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Chapter Five. Flying to Freedom in The Horse and His Boy 98


Chapter Five Flying to Freedom in The Horse and His Boy “Off we go. Narnia and the North!” (Ch. 9) he Horse and His Boy (1954), the fifth of the Chronicles of Narnia to be published, takes place during the Pevensie children’s first journey into Narnia. Prince Rabadash, the son of the Calormene Tisroc, is the suitor of Queen Susan, and for this reason she and King Edmund with other Narnians are visiting the Calormene capital, Tashbaan. But the Pevensies’ roles are secondary to the main story which is about two young people who flee enslavement in Calormen in quest of freedom in Narnia: the boy Shasta, who is the lost Prince Cor of Archenland, and the girl Aravis Tarkheena, a noble-born Calormene. Together with their talking horse companions, Bree and Hwin, Narnians captured and taken to Calormen at a young age, Shasta and Aravis escape their different forms of captivity, spurred on by Bree’s characteristic rallying cry, “Off we go. Narnia and the North!” (109). The informing metaphor of this novel is fugitiveness, not only physical flight but a flight from mental and spiritual bond- age. In their race against deadly enemies to find their true homeland, the four companions discover that they must face the more difficult challenge of leaving behind inner enslavement. Their life and death struggle to escape Calormen is a journey of discovery into what true liberty means and requires of them. In this story, C.S. Lewis subverts the “masculine” classical heroic ethos of the...

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