I’ve been rereading the Narnia books lately- they help me to sleep (in a good way) and I’ve been thinking that C S Lewis doesn’t get enough credit. He gets a lot of flak for misogyny and rightly so in many ways: there’s often a hag or an evil witch trying to destroy Narnia, the head of Estate and Jill’s dysfunctional school is “by the way, a woman” and don’t even get me started on the problem of Susan, the poor young woman who at the end of the series loses her entire family and is excluded from Narnia just for the crime of being a bit trivial.
And yet. Whereas many, if not most children’s adventure books of that time were written for boys and if they featured girls at all showed them in a very passive role, girls take an active and almost equal part in the Narnia adventures. Not only that, they are often wiser than the boys: in both The Magician’s Nephew and The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe he subverts traditional theology by making boys the villain of the piece. In TMN it’s Diggory who brings the witch into Narnia and thereby becomes the agent of original sin, and in LWW it’s Edmund who betrays his siblings to the witch.
Compare and contrast with the Ladybird books I grew up with. ‘Look, Janet, look! I can climb a tree!’ And so on. I happen to have ended up in the home of Ladybird books, and in recent years some ‘book benches’ have been made to commemorate their centenary. These crop up in all sorts of places and are surreptitiously moved during the night.
I think I blogged about these at some point but I can’t find it.