Tag Archives: The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe

Session 23: March 10th, 2010 – The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, chps 3-6

Arthur Rackham, illustration to Hansel and Gretel
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Today, we summarized chapters 3-6 of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.

We discussed archetypes – the witch is an archetype. This character exists in many different cultures. Does it not also exist in Japan? Some people thought not. Later, I got this comment from a participant:

today’s talk on the archetype and the witch made me rethink about the difference between Western and Japanese culture. And it also reminded me of my childhood when I was always wondering if there are any witches in Japan. It might be difficult to find an exact image of “witch” in Japan, but “yamanba” may be the closest.

I have to correct what I have said when you have mentioned about “noh” masks. There is a “hannya,” who turns into an “oni” due to her jealousy, but perhaps you were suggesting “yamanba” instead? (In Japanese here).

Update: It might be interesting to compare Lewis’ White Witch with the Japanese character “Yuki-Onna“. Or perhaps also with Andersen’s Snow Queen. That would make a good essay for students, don’t you think?

What interests me in the idea of archetype is that there are similar types that exist in the minds and cultures of human beings who live in very different places. Dragons, for instance, are found in the myths and legends of China and Japan. This is understandable, as the two countries are close geographically and culturally. Perhaps the notion of dragon came to Japan from China. However, dragons also appear in Norse, Celtic and Indian myths.

A New York Times article (2003) about dragon is titled From Many Imaginations, One Fearsome Creature. It suggests that the origin of the dragon idea was the bones of dinosaurs, particularly of pterodactyls. However, dragons exist in Inuit mythology, yet no dinosaur fossils have ever been found where the Inuit live:

For thousands of years, cultures across the globe have feared different versions of overgrown reptiles. GREEK MYTHOLOGY — Perseus fought to spare Andromeda from a sea dragon, perhaps inspired by sightings of oarfish (right), which grow up to 30 feet long. THROUGHOUT EUROPE — Roman accounts of dragons spawned many legends; biblical dragons gave them credibility. THE INUIT — They had visions of dragons in a region where no reptiles exist. This one, confronting a caribou, was carved in bone. MT. PILATUS, SWITZERLAND — Pterodactyl fossils (below) are plentiful in this area. CHINA — Flying dragons could be harnessed for transportation. THE AZTECS — Their serpent god Quetzalcoatl had various guises and was seen as a protector usually.

Peter Schaker writes of the White Witch,

She is, of course, the evil force in the traditional fairy-tale separation of good from evil… She is simply the archetypal figure of the temptress witch, whom we respond to quite directly as “bad.” And that is how Lewis himself viewed her: “The Witch,” he wrote in a letter, “is of course Circe, . . . because she is . . . the same Archetype we find in so many fairy tales. No good asking where any individual author got that. We are born knowing the Witch, aren’t we?” [In a letter to a friend, 1954.]  Circe, in the Odyssey, tempted men with magical food and turned them into animals. The Witch, by her affinities with Circe, fits the same pattern, or archetype, as the witch who caught Hansel and Gretel, the old witch in Grimm’s “Sweetheart Roland,” and the Wicked Witch of the West in The Wizard of Oz: each tempts its prey, hates human beings, and epitomizes selfishness, cruelty, and desire for control. Each suggests to children the nature of evil..

Lewis seemed to believe that the witch was an archetype, in other words, a universally recognized figure.  However, if the witch archetype, for example, does not exist in Japanese culture, that would suggest that the witch archetype is not universal. Perhaps some archetypes are universal and some are not? What are some Japanese archetypes?

Finally, the differences between Japanese and Western culture are obvious and easily explained – geographical distance, and historical isolation. What, to my mind, are more surprising than the differences are the similarities. Dragons, for example, are part of both Japanese AND Western cultures. Isn’t this odd!

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Session 22: Feb. 24th, 2010 – The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Ch. 2

Domenico di Michelino, La Divina Commedia di D...
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Dear Readers,

Thanks for attending the Feb. 24th session. How did you find the pace? Was it too slow? Too fast? As always, I will be glad to receive your comments.

In this session, we touched on a number of topics:

  1. CS Lewis’ philosophy (his Christianity, his idea of “reality” and heaven and hell – a big thanks to Yoko for her report on The Great Divorce),
  2. the Scandinavian mythology, properly called Norse mythology (or in Japanese 北欧神話here)
  3. fauns and
  4. dryads
  5. and nyads (or naiads)
  6. Silenus (Silenus appears as a character in a later Narnia story, Prince Caspian)
  7. and Bacchus or Dionysus http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dionysus
  8. allegory; famous allegorical stories in Western literature are
    1. Dante’s Divine Comedy,
    2. John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress,
    3. and a modern one for children (fun and easy to read, and I warmly recommend it) called The Phantom Tollbooth (and on Amazon Japan here http://snipurl.com/uiob3 [www_amazon_co_jp] )

The next session will be Wednesday, March 10th, 3-5 pm. Your homework is to finish reading Chapter 2, and read chapters 3-5. In the next session, we will not read all the text, but only read some excerpts. I will ask you to give short summaries of the chapters.

If you find some interesting or useful articles or books in Japanese about CS Lewis, either general ones, or ones about the Narnia or other stories, please pass them on to me.

Also, I encourage you to try and read some other works by C.S. Lewis. If his adult fiction sounds too difficult, then how about trying another Narnia story? Although the one we are now reading is the most well known, I think some of the other Narnia stories are even better and more satisfying.

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Session 21: February 3rd, 2010 – The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

C. S.
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The next session will be on February 3rd, 2010, 3-5 pm. The text will be chapter 1 of C.S. Lewis‘   The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, the first in the “Narnia” series.

I will provide copies of chapters 2 and 3 for the following session (February 24th), but after that you will be expected to obtain your own copies of the book. (My copy cost just 840 yen from Amazon Japan; I recommend you buy second-hand from Amazon Japan: they are good quality and often much cheaper.)

In the first session, we will read the text together and discuss it, as we have done in previous sessions. However, in future sessions, I would like to spend less time reading the text, and instead discussing certain questions or themes.  In order to discuss these themes or questions, you will need to do some extra reading. This will of course be optional, and perhaps we can find a way to share the work.

The themes and questions: some I will suggest, but I expect some questions or themes will be suggested by you, the readers.

I look forward to seeing you on Wednesday, Feb. 3rd.

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