helen frank

I always kind of laugh when people get into the “Susan’s treatment is proof that C.S. Lewis was a misogynist” thing, because:

Polly and Digory. Peter and Susan. Edmund and Lucy. Eustace and Jill. 

Out of the eight “Friends of Narnia” who enter from our world, the male-to-female character ratio is exactly 1/1. Not one of these female characters serves as a love interest at any time. 

The Horse and His Boy, the only book set entirely in Narnia, maintains this ratio with Shasta and Aravis, who, we are told in a postscript, eventually marry. Yet even here, the story itself is concerned only with the friendship between them. Lewis focuses on Aravis’ value as a brave friend and a worthy ally rather than as a potential girlfriend–and ultimately, we realize that it’s these qualities that make her a good companion for Shasta. They are worthy of each other, equals. 

In the 1950s, there was no particularly loud cry for female representation in children’s literature. As far as pure plot goes, there’s no pressing need for all these girls. A little boy could have opened the wardrobe (and in the fragmentary initial draft, did). Given that we already know Eustace well by The Silver Chair, it would not seem strictly necessary for a patently ordinary schoolgirl to follow him on his return trip to Narnia, yet follow she does–and her role in the story is pivotal. Why does the humble cab-driver whom Aslan crowns the first King of Narnia immediately ask for his equally humble wife, who is promptly spirited over, her hands full of washing, and crowned queen by his side? Well, because nothing could be more natural than to have her there. 

None of these women are here to fill a quota. They’re here because Lewis wanted them there. 

Show me the contemporary fantasy series with this level of equality. It doesn’t exist. 

Gary Cooper and Helen Hayes in a publicity photo for the pre-Code drama A Farewell to Arms  (Frank Borzage, 1932)

“Not only the best film version of a Hemingway novel, but also one of the most thrilling visions of the power of sexual love… No other director created images like these, using light and movement like brushstrokes, integrating naturalism and a daring expressionism in the same shot. This is romantic melodrama raised to its highest degree.” - Time Out London

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“These two were King Frank and Queen Helen from whom all the most ancient Kings of Narnia and Archenland are descended.” ~ LB

Headcanon: The Pevensies are related to Frank and Helen on earth. That’s why they were the ones who could step through the wardrobe and become the next monarchs. Also why Digory, Polly and Jill didn’t become the new kings and queens. Eustace was related to the Pevensies but not on Frank and Helen’s side of the family. (Eg they’re descended on their mother’s side but Eustace is their cousin on their father’s side.)

The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis

Someday you will be old enough to start reading fairytales again

okay but guys, narnian fashion. as someone who’s studying history (alongside civil engineering) and adores fashion, i love narnian fashion but i wonder as to how the fashion in narnia began.

like, guys, think about it. when narnia was created, the first human inhabitants were a middle-class couple from the late 1800’s. it’s only natural that helen and frank would have tried to adapt the fabrics they would have been able to conjure over in narnia into the english fashion of their time. imagine seeing dwarfs and centaurs and fauns in bustles and corsets and waist coats with chain-watches. the narnians would most definitely have accomodated to the king and queen’s fashion with their own narnian twists to them, of course, but still not too far from what would have been seen in late-19th century england.

the narnian films depict a mix of different fashions from different time periods but the costume designers remained in the 9th to 15th centuries taking clothing styles from all socio-economic classes and i understand it’s just for the sake of the films, but the illustrations in the books also hold a similar fashion for the characters with the exception of the boys actually wearing hose instead of breeches like they do in the films.

my thoughts are that helen and frank originally began with the clothing of their time period, even going so far as to try to emmulate the fashion of the english aristocracy now that they were monarchs. but narnia didn’t have the technology to create sewing machines, weaving looms were as technologically advanced as they could get. so, realizing how difficult it was for seamstresses and weavers to create all those fabrics and detailed patterns that had to be hand-stitched, helen and frank began to simplify their clothing. helen would use less and less lace, frills, ruching, and flouncing on her gown and quickly made away with the bustle as it required too much fabric. frank stopped using suit jackets and waistcoats, utilized collar-less shirts that were less body-adhering and pants that he would have been able to move easily in. and by doing so they had unknowingly gone backwards with their fashion.

i don’t know, guys. it’s definitely not something i’m complaining about lewis not explaining but something that’s interested me and it’s strange if you think about it. any thoughts? this is definitely something up for discussion.