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.
“I wrote this story for you, but when I began it I
had not realized that girls grow quicker than books. As a result you
are already too old for fairy tales, and by the time it is printed and
bound you will be older still. But some day you will be old enough to
start reading fairy tales again. You can then take it down from some
upper shelf, dust it, and tell me what you think of it. I shall probably
be too deaf to hear, and too old to understand a word you say, but I
shall still be. ― your affectionate Godfather, C. S. Lewis.”
Hey, not sure if you are still doing requests, but will you pretty please do #2 for Nicky and Erik. Like maybe early on during the exchange program maybe?... I really love your writing sooooo much.
(This was sent a million years ago but I loved writing them and I hope you like it too!! You’re too goddamn kind wth)
02: “I think I’m in love with you and that scares the hell out of me.” nicky/erik
Their routine is pretty simple, now that he’s settled in. Make breakfast with Erik’s mom (the only morning person in the house), try not to burn things when Erik walks in with the sun on the hem of his smile. Go to the airy Stuttgart high school and text Erik under the desks, feel German in his mouth like something God put there directly, something his parents never touched. Wander home past palace square and pretend it’s the fresh, sunny air making him feel untouchable, not Erik’s fingers brushing his knuckles.
They sleep in the same room, three feet apart, until the house takes soft breaths and the clock is the loudest sound on the air. The hardwood is cool when Nicky climbs out of bed and Erik lifts his duvet for him.
The whole thing is indescribable. The way coming to Germany felt like breaking out of prison, and Erik Klose at the arrival gate had felt like instantly stumbling upon a five star hotel with his name on the guest list.
Every day he spends watching Erik get teased about his sexuality by his mother with a pat on the cheek and a shared laugh, every time their now mutual friends nudge him and Erik together, every church service he spends staring at the rainbow flag peeking innocently out from the decor, is another day that he can’t stop gulping in the freshness of the air.
He dreams about the conversion camp, and he wakes up in his maybe boyfriend’s arms. He falls in love with how easy it is and cries when he thinks of how easy it wasn’t and can’t always be. English rusts in his mouth.
Erik doesn’t label the thing they have, but sometimes they sit in the family’s garage on their sixth or seventh beer (eighteen Nicky. You’re legal. Stop trying to smuggle six packs past my mother like she doesn’t know what we’re doing) and they bet on how many cars will go by. Erik holds Nicky’s hand to his own heart and counts off all the verses in the bible that preach unconditional love.
“You know that whole ‘love is patient, love is kind’ thing? That’s for you too,” Erik says, tugging the hair out from behind Nicky’s ear so it curls around his face.
“Mmm. I don’t think my love would be patient. My love would get shit done.”
Erik laughs, leaning back and cradling his beer to his chest. “I don’t doubt it.”