Children's Fantasy from Two Sides of the Atlantic: Mythmaking by Madeleine L'Engle and C.S

1.5.06

To sum up the course....I will say that I enjoyed the readings, even when at times I found myself trudging through them. In many of the classes I’ve taken, we always try to end on a So now what? or a What next? note. So with that I’d say yes I enjoyed the readings, even when I was filled to the brim with fantasy and things not of the world I know. I suppose I don’t understand the connection between Lewis and L’Engle though. I realize that both authors had a lot in common, they were Christian, they were brilliant, they wrote about children, but not necessarily for children, and many similar and identical themes were present in both of the authors’ works. But to an extent, I think that’s really the extent of their connections. In only having read three books by L’Engle and two by Lewis, perhaps this is why I fail to see how one author influenced or was influenced by the other. But it seems like at times Lewis had more in common with Tolkien and L’Engle with Baum, and even Asimov. I also don’t know how much I would call L’Engle a Christian writer, or at least I don’t know how much I would place Lewis and L’Engle in the same category of theological authors. I think they both used Christian symbolism, but not in the same way, Lewis is obviously saying something about Christianity, but L’Engle I think she is saying more about morality and right and wrong, including just a bit of Christianity here and there. And again maybe I’m wrong about that because I don’t possess a wealth of knowledge about the Bible or Christian religions. It is simply an observation I’ve made. Overall, I like both authors, and I like them for different reasons, but I think that this course would be more interesting if it compared two writers who were a bit more alike or who had a bit more in common, like Tolkien and Lewis, that would be very interesting. I just found it hard sometimes to draw comparisons because many of their disparities stemmed from the obvious, he is man and she is a woman, he is British and she is American, he was born in the 1800s and she was born in the 1900s, a lot of things are going to be different in the way they write because of the apparent differences in background, upbringing, beliefs, life experiences, etc. So what next?....I have a newfound appreciation for writers of children’s literature, because I do think it takes a special kind of person to be able to think creatively on a level that young readers will understand. Its not easy. And as adults, its not easy to read children’s literature, so my assumption is that is must not be so easy to write it. I am excited about one day reading Lewis to my children. And I am definitely going to take the time to go back and re-read some of the children’s masterpieces that I haven’t touched since grade school, think it will be really interesting to see my interpretation of them now, in light of taking this class, and also of being an adult.

26.4.06

I really enjoyed how L’Engle introduced and played with the idea of what is real, in A Wind in the Door. Essentially, nothing is real, its only how our minds interpret it, and the closest we get a collectively shared and understood reality, the more we lean towards one idea of what real is and is not. But L’Engle really challenges readers to think in a Wind in the Door, in a very abstract way, or least what I would consider abstract for a children’s book. I suppose she did this a bit in A Wrinkle in Time when we met the inhabitants of Aunt Beast’s planet as she says some to the extent of we feel things as they are, not what they appear to be. That somewhat correlates to the theme of reality, and perceptions of reality, but it is much stronger in A Wind in the Door. She does it with the multiple Mr. Jenkinses, and I think this is more obvious, but with the cherubim, I just found it interesting that she took an entity that most are familiar with as being this heavenly, celestial creature, and basically said, no!, our reality of a cherubim not correct, as a cherubim isn’t actually any one thing. And also with the idea of a wind in the door, is it really just a gust of air, or a spirit in passing, or some multi-winged and multi-eyed creature unlike that of any that we are aware exist on this planet?

In comparing A Wrinkle in Time to A Wind in the Door, I think there a few very important differences. Both works are obviously children’s literature, but there are episodes when I’m reading L’Engle, and I can’t help but feel that I am reading (adult) literature with characters who happen to be children. Never was this feeling so subconsciously profound as it was throughout A Wind in the Door. I also don’t know how much I would call A Wind in the Door a “companion to A Wrinkle In Time.” It seems to me like these two books could be mutually exclusive, with the exception of a few small things, for example Mr. Jenkins, and the disparity in character flaws we’ve seen in the first book versus the second; like how antagonistic he is in A Wrinkle in Time, versus how we see a very different person in a Wind in the Door; Mr. Jenkins the principle to Mr. Jenkins the human. On a slight tangent – the shift Mr. Jenkins makes from the first to the second book reminds me of the shift we see in Edmond in the Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, and more strikingly in pre/post-dragonized Eustace in the Voyage of the Dawn Treader. But at the same time, I completely see this theme of time that L’Engle is using in A Wrinkle in Time and a Wind in the Door, and presumably in the last two books in the series. I think that even though one calendar Earth year has passed between the first book and the second, we as readers can sense the growth and maturity of Meg, Calvin, and Charles Wallace. Maybe its because they have already battled evil firsthand in A Wrinkle in Time, that they seem much more mature, and prepared to bear the crosses they’ve been give in a Wind in the Door. Its just an observation I’ve made in reading the two books, but its not something I can pinpoint, they simply seem to have matured from the first book to the second.

I have to say that I am very disappointed in the Disney corporation, after having viewed A Wrinkle in Time from beginning to end. I’m also beginning to appreciate books more, since I see they are always better than their dramatized motion picture counterparts. This is possibly the first time I can say that “the book was better than the movie” does not even begin to express this idea. I’m shocked, because Disney has always had this knack for making the best film adaptations, but they seriously failed in the film A Wrinkle in Time. Maybe too much creative leeway is a bad thing, because its almost like Disney took L’Engle’s original story, and just decided to write a new A Wrinkle in Time, essentially. Now ordinarily when Disney does this, its fine, because it least comes out being entertaining, at the very least; case in point: Pocahontas. I’m not sure under what provisions was Disney allowed to almost completely ignore the script of the original A Wrinkle in Time, but I think they did Ms. L’Engle a tremendous disservice, in making that film. There was so much symbolism in a Wrinkle in Time, or at least there were so many element of that were open to interpretation, that aren’t even approached in the film. The biggest example of this I can see is the omission of Christian overtones and references, this is disappointing, after having read the book, because it seems to me as though it was very important to L’Engle, since so many Christian/religious themes were presented in the book. While at the same time I understand Disney’s obligation to stay somewhat secular and thus approachable by all audiences, but the shift away from the Christian themes really changed the meaning of the film I think. I didn’t think the Aunt Beast in the film was nearly as nurturing and welcoming as she was in the book, and that whole part was important to the book because it reinforces what L’Engle continues to say about love, and how she shows in the book that without the love and support of the other protagonists, Meg would not have been able to save Charles Wallace. This is one of recurring themes in the book, but its not as apparent or significant in the film, and I think thus changes the entire meaning. Otherwise, I don’t mean to completely rip the film apart, its just like I said, I’m disappointed that this particular film really did not enhance the experience of reading a Wrinkle in Time.

20.4.06

I finished the last few chapters of A Wrinkle in Time, and I have to say, it was an overall enjoyable read. The IT brain, was a little spooky, but I’m not quite sure as to how I should interpret it. In reading L’Engle and comparing her work to Lewis’, she doesn’t strike me as a lesson-implying writer, unlike Lewis who I think sometimes makes obvious statements about morality, right and wrong, etc. With that, I don’t think she used the IT brain creature thing, to teach any cliché thing such as “think for yourself,” or anything like that. I think it’s a bit deeper than that. Perhaps it is that most of the people in the society she observes really do just live these mundane, routine, somnambulist lives, and this is how she portrayed them on the Camrazotz planet –a dramatized form of earth. She supports my idea by using humans, or at least creatures that appear to be human; Charles, Meg, and Calvin seemed to believe they were human. In retrospect, I really like her idea…maybe we are all just walking around our earth, entranced in our lives “gotta go to work” “gotta pick up the kids” “gotta do this” “gotta do that” to the point where we really aren’t even using our full brain capacity, we’re just doing things for the sake of doing things. Whether this is the image L’Engle was trying to create in her readers’ minds, I don’t know, but it is the image she successfully created in my own. Additionally, I couldn’t help but think, when she first introduced Camarzotz and its human-like inhabitants, that she was making some sort of communist analogy, “we are all equal, and we are all the same,” the same houses, clothes, dress, ideals, values, beliefs, fear of the same omnipotent leader/ruler (IT), etc. I was immediately reminded of Orwell’s Animal Farm, the idea of we are all equal, except whoever, or whatever is IT – a big evil brain in the centre of the center, horses, whatever. Again, just a thought…

18.4.06

Off the bat, I really like the characters in this book. I almost felt like I could relate to Meg, Charles, and Calvin, in different ways. And again, like in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, children who are not child-like, children who are as mature, if not more than most adults. I think that this is important for some children’s literature to have characters who not so childish, for more advanced young readers, and also because readers can look up to the characters they read about; and I think that makes readers excited about reading. I’m excited about reading this book, and I’m almost an adult. I can already point out the Christian overtones, overt and covert, exemplified when Calvin reads Charles the book of Genesis as a bedtime story, and with the translated song of Mrs. Whatsit, “Sing unto the Lord a new song…” I wonder if I am missing some biblical and Christian allegory because I don’t know so much about the Bible and Christianity. This is one concern of mine in reading the works of these authors. But at the same time, I appreciate how both Lewis and L’Engle still don’t dumb down the messages they wish to convey. I realize I’ve only read one-third of A Wrinkle in Time, but at this point I find it less challenging than The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. But that just makes me think that I think differently, and so does everyone else, so the way I interpret and understand the literature, is not the same as he who finds A Wrinkle in Time more challenging. Just a thought…I appreciate the compassion, we as readers can sense, that Calvin, Charles, Meg, and Mrs. Murry have for each other. Its funny how we connect to characters in the stories we’ve read, because I can recall now sensing the selfishness and lack of compassion the Eustace, and Pevensie children had for each other, particularly Eustace and Edmond before their transformations. A Wrinkle in Time challenges me think, about what L’Engle is saying, and what she is implying, and I suppose I could not ask for much else in a children’s book.

17.4.06

I suppose i'm not certain as to why my experience reading The Voyage of the Dawn Treader is so different from The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. Its funny because I really enjoyed reading The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, and reading The Voyage of the Dawn Treader was more like a task or chore. I was actually thinking about this earlier, the difference between escapist, leisurely reading, and the other kind, reading we do because we have to. I suppose my reason is because the Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe had so much symbolism and allegory that I really found myself thinking about the symbolic undertones, and the VDT is more like a never-ending story-- basically it wasn't so challenging, and it didn’t make me think. I was a more passive reader with the VDT. But that is not to say I didn't enjoy certain parts of the VDT. Sometimes I think Lewis is speaking about certain human faults, such as the ill-effects of vanity is the chapters about the Dufflepuds, greed on the island of Deathwater, and the importance of fulfilling one's responsibilities is alluded to throughout the book.
I thought the symbolism of Aslan portrayed as a lamb in the last chapter was interesting – it was the only obvious biblical allegory (to me, based on my own limited knowledge of the Bible) in the entire story. Aslan did save the characters in the story several times, but not in the sense of “coming to the rescue.” – rather he saved Lucy, Caspian, and Eustace, in the sense that he opened their understanding. Lucy, that she need not ask so many questions, instead let time tell what will happen, and similarly not to worry so much about what others think of her, as illustrated when she used a spell and discovered her friend’s true feelings about her. Caspian, Aslan helped because at several points in the story we Caspian becoming a bit cocky, even overzealous, but we also see a shift in him after speaking with Aslan. And lastly, with Eustace, when Aslan helped Eustace understand that everyone isn’t “treacherous” and out to get him, when he was a dragon.

15.4.06

I’m beginning to have a few issues with Lewis’ The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. In reading the chapters, if feels less like reading a continuous story, and more like reading several short stories. I wouldn’t go as far to say that the chapters lack coherency, but he doesn’t really transition very well from one chapter to the next. Perhaps this was his intention, as they are the chronicles of Narnia, and use of the word chronicles suggest news or stories compiled into one entity. So I don’t know. Otherwise, I did enjoy reading these chapters…I don’t feel as though there is as much underlying themes, messages, or lessons to be learned from The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, at least not in comparison to The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. From what I have read, there are points when he’s making moral arguments or attempting to convey some lesson, but there is so much fantasy, that for me personally its really hard to look beyond that. That said, I don’t know if it is me, or if is the book, because I found it easy to really escape and enter the world Lewis created in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, that was fun, almost nostalgic, and my imagination seemed to create images much like those of when I read children’s literature as a child. But for some reason, I cannot say the same for The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. Its odd, because Lewis is just as descriptive in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, as he is in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, if not more so. This makes me think that he has to explain and describe so much, things that are not important to understanding the plot, but we as readers need to understand it to avoid confusion. The best example of this is when he describes the ship, the poop, deck, starboard, tiller, the underdeck, etc. Again maybe this is just me and my own critical interpretation, everyone is not going to enjoy everything they read. In class I think it was said that The Voyage of the Dawn Treader was not meant to be a children’s story, and I think that must be true…I would not have enjoyed reading this book as a child.

I’m beginning to have a few issues with Lewis’ The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. In reading the chapters, if feels less like reading a continuous story, and more like reading several short stories. I wouldn’t go as far to say that the chapters lack coherency, but he doesn’t really transition very well from one chapter to the next. Perhaps this was his intention, as they are the chronicles of Narnia, and use of the word chronicles suggest news or stories compiled into one entity. So I don’t know. Otherwise, I did enjoy reading these chapters…I don’t feel as though there is as much underlying themes, messages, or lessons to be learned from The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, at least not in comparison to The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. From what I have read, there are points when he’s making moral arguments or attempting to convey some lesson, but there is so much fantasy, that for me personally its really hard to look beyond that. That said, I don’t know if it is me, or if is the book, because I found it easy to really escape and enter the world Lewis created in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, that was fun, almost nostalgic, and my imagination seemed to create images much like those of when I read children’s literature as a child. But for some reason, I cannot say the same for The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. Its odd, because Lewis is just as descriptive in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, as he is in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, if not more so. This makes me think that he has to explain and describe so much, things that are not important to understanding the plot, but we as readers need to understand it to avoid confusion. The best example of this is when he describes the ship, the poop, deck, starboard, tiller, the underdeck, etc. Again maybe this is just me and my own critical interpretation, everyone is not going to enjoy everything they read. In class I think it was said that The Voyage of the Dawn Treader was not meant to be a children’s story, and I think that must be true…I would not have enjoyed reading this book as a child.

12.4.06

In the group I selected, we are reading the fifth Chronicle of Narnia, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. The opening chapters don’t contain much action, it is primarily an introduction of the characters and setting, Eustace and Edmond and Lucy, whom we now know of from having read The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. The first chapters are incredibly descriptive, and contains dialogue that reinforces Lewis’ attempt (in my opinion) to portray Eustace as this obnoxious, unusual, weak, cowardly, haughty, foolish, boring child. At this point in the story I would say he is a complex character because he embodies so many personality traits, and he is not a very childlike child.

Eustace doesn’t possess the most positive personality traits, yet he is still drawn into the realm of Narnia. I recall from the end of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, that one cannot enter Narnia the same way twice, and one only finds the way into Narnia when she or he is not looking. So with that in mind, I wonder if the entrance of Eustace, Lucy, and Edmond into Narnia (the picture on the wall) is for Eustace or Lucy and Edmond. Perhaps it is more because of Lucy and Edmond’s presence, or perhaps it is because Eustace is due to experience some life changing and character-altering events, that I do not know. But that part of the book just made me ask, what is Lewis going to or trying to do here?

The second chapter goes on the introduce (0r reintroduce) Caspian, and the other shipmates, Drinian, Reepicheep. There is peace in the Kingdom of Narnia, and because of that, King Caspian has decided to take a small ship and crew, and set sail in search of the Lone Islands and the country of Aslan. This reminded me of both the stories of seaman who sailed in search of foreign countries, treasures, and also to see if the world was really flat. Its not something that I dwelled on, simply it was just something that came to my mind as I read.

In chapter three, the Dawn Treader, reaches the first of the Lone Islands, Felimath, and Caspian, Edmond, Lucy, Eustace, and Reepicheep decide to get off the ship for a while, to walk on land again. It is there they encounter a man, who befriends them, and then captures them, to sell them in a slave trade. The last class I took was A Comparative History of Slavery, and we discussed the British’s role in the slave trade quite a bit. In reading The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, I recalled a few references Lewis made to slave ships, the slave trade, and British superiority. Several points in the story Eustace says things like “in my civilized country,” or “no proper saloon, radio, bathrooms, deck-chairs,” etc. one thing or another about the British council, and he compares the Dawn Treader to the Queen Mary, calling it a toy boat. Another reference, in describing the Dawn Treader,“Of course Caspians’s ship was not that horrible thing, a galley rowed by slaves” (435). Actually, this phrase is a bit of foreshadowing, because in the following pages, we discover there is slavery in Narnia. And lastly, we come to find that slavery exists on some of the Lone Islands, Doorn, Narrowhaven, and possibly others. Lewis takes parts of history, either past or current, and incorporates them into his writings, which is really interesting, because adult readers can point these things out. It was just an interesting observation, and again while reading along, I ask myself, what is it that Lewis is going to, or trying to express?

11.4.06

There were several themes that I thought I noticed as I read The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, for instance, the idea of things either not appearing to be what they seem, or not appearing to be what they are expected to be. The first example I noticed was Faun Tumnus, hooved, goat-like creatures are often associated with the Devil, an obviously evil being, yet Tumnus has a good heart; he befriends Lucy, and rather than betraying her to serve the evil White Witch, he assists her in safely making it back to her world. Another example is the White Witch, white is typically a color associated with purity, virtue, and good, but the White Witch is far from pure, virtuous, or good, she is evil. Another example is when the White Witch uses her magic to make her the Dwarf look like, a stump and a boulder. Lewis explains "in reality the stump and the boulder were simply the Witch and the dwarf. For it was part it was part of her magic that she could make things look like what they aren't... (174)" And the last example of things not appearing to be what they are expected to be occurs at several points throughout the story, when creatures that are normally bad are good, ie: the good giant Rumblebuffin (189), the "good centaurs, and the good dwarfs... (194)."

10.4.06

Okay, so I took a personality test and discovered the following:

I am...

40 % Left-brained and 54 % Right-brained

Down to Earth Well-Balanced Harmonious

I am more introverted than extroverted.

More intuitive than observant.

More feeling based than thinking based.

Prefer to go with the flow rather than having a plan.

My type can best be summarized by the word "Healer", which belongs to the larger group of idealists.

I have a capacity for caring that is deeper than most.

I strive for unity, am fascinated by the battles between good and evil, and can be something of an idealist.

Only 1% of the population shares my type.

I have a high need for individuality.

Harmony is extremely important to me as I am very affected by conflict and tension.

I can also be stubborn and unyielding when I feel I am being criticized or mistreated.

I feel the most appreciated when others listen to me carefully.

I need to be understood.

My group summary: idealists (NF)

My type summary: INFP

So that's me in a nushell, and for the most part, this test was fairly accurate. Concerning specifics, my name is Ashley Jelks. One day, not too terribly long ago, I decided that I really like my middle name, and that its a shame I don't get to use it so often, so I decided to start using it all the time, and now I'm Ashley Renee Jelks. I was born and raised in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA, and currently attend Saint Louis University where I am a junior studying International Studies, American Studies, Sociology, French. I'm 20 years old, a pisces, and the youngest of three children. I don't really ever want to grow up, but when I do I want to live in large city, be fluent in English, Spanish, and French, and be a professor of Cultural Anthropology. I also have no idea what else I should put here, so I would say that I have sufficiently introduced myself.

Thank you, and goodnight.