Sunday, January 2, 2011
There once was a boy name Eustace Clarence Scrubb...and he almost deserved it.
I think The Voyage of the Dawn Treader is mostly about Eustace, and unfortunately, we're all a bit like him. So...you may turn into a dragon. (I always envied him that bit.)
At the beginning of the movie, Eustace and his cousins Lucy and Edmund are staring at a picture of a fantastical ship on a tossing sea. Lucy and Edmund think the ship looks Narnian.
Eustace thinks they're nuts. His words to his cousins: "It's people like you, reading fairy tales, that end up becoming awful burdens to people like me, who read books of actual facts."
Then the picture on the wall starts to move. To drip. Then to pour. And skeptical, factual, sarcastic, ridiculing, pansy little Eustace is in for the ride of his life. If you've read it or seen the movie, you know that he reforms, but I'm going to stop right there.
Besides going to movies, I'm also reading Madeleine L'Engle's book about faith and art, Walking on Water. Among other things, she talks about the lie that stories aren't true. On the contrary. They are. Not in the factual sense, but in the sense that they remind us of truth, retell the stories our overly practical, factual, naturalistic world squishes out of us. We are like Eustace. We refuse to believe what we cannot fully understand. And then, guess what? We're unhappy. Not for that reason alone, but partly, partly because we aren't purely factual creatures. The very existence of inumerable "untrue" stories attests the fact. See? fact. I do it too. Don't get me wrong. I love facts. Try me. I am good friends with a lot of facts. But that's only half of me. The other half of the iceberg likes mystery, loves paradox, relishes what you cannot put into words.
There is another part in that movie that struck me very deeply. Lucy is standing, looking in a mirror, talking to Aslan. Her character throughout the movie is self-doubt personified. Aslan tells her "They never would have found Narnia without you. Don't run from who you are." I felt like he was talking to me. I am, whether I like it or not, an artist. I tend towards creative insanity, or just insanity, when nobody's looking. And then it spills over, and it's not just in private, and the looks and comments start. What do you do with that? I think, if it is ridicule or teasing and not affectionate banter, you should both ignore it and take it as a compliment. Don't let it sink in the way they want it to. Weirdos who tell stories are deeply, thanklessly necessary. Take care that you tell your stories with others and the truth in mind as well as your own pleasure, but don't ever listen to the lie that the things you can't explain are somehow inferior. LIES ALL LIES. The great Storyteller made you, and He makes no mistakes. You've got to help people "find Narnia", be it in a movie, a book, a picture, a song, whatever thing you make.
And for the folks who worried, as I did, that my favorite Narnia story would be ruined, fear not and relax. Making movies out of books is like translating poetry from other languages. If you go word for word, often you lose the rhythm of it. It takes serious skills to translate a book like that, particularly a rambling book like Dawn Treader, but they did a bang-up job. It didn't follow the book exactly, but they caught the soul of the story.